Fragment: Human Personality and its Survival of Bodily Death

[I]n Phantasms of the Living, Edmund Gurney, after subjecting the literature of witchcraft to a more careful analysis than any one till then had thought it worth while to apply, was able to show that practically all recorded first-hand depositions (made apart from torture) in the long story of witchcraft may quite possibly have been true, to the best belief of the deponents; true, that is to say, as representing the conviction of sane (though often hysterical) persons, who merely made the almost inevitable mistake of confusing self-suggested hallucinations with waking fact. Nay, even the insensible spots on the witches were no doubt really anaesthetic [sic] – involved a first discovery of a now familiar clinical symptom – the zones analgésiques of patients of Pitres, or Charcot. Witchcraft, in fact, was a gigantic, a cruel psychological and pathological experiment conduced by inquisitors upon hysteria; but it was conduced in the dark, and when the barbarous explanation dropped out of credence much of possible discovery was submerged as well.

Myers, Frederic W. H. 1907. Human Personality and its Survival of Bodily Death. (London: Longmans, Green, and Co) 5.

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