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Inquiries into Human Faculty
noted, the visions are found out and discredited, and are no further
attended to. In this way the natural tendency to see them is blunted by
repression. Therefore, when popular opinion is of a matter-of-fact kind,
the seers of visions keep quiet; they do not like to be thought fanciful or
mad, and they hide their experiences, which only come to light through
inquiries such as these that I have been making. But let the tide of opinion
change and grow favourable to supernaturalism, then the seers of visions
come to the front. The faintly
perceived fantasies of ordinary persons
become invested by the authority of reverend men with a claim to serious
regard; they are consequently attended to and encouraged, and they
increase in definition through being habitually dwelt upon. We need not
sup pose that a faculty previously non-existent has been suddenly evoked,
but that a faculty long smothered by many in secret has been suddenly
allowed freedom to express itself; and to run into extravagance owing to
the removal of reasonable safeguards.
Man is so educable an animal that it is difficult to distinguish between
that part of his character which has been acquired through education and
circumstance, and that which was in the original grain of his constitution.
His character is exceedingly complex, even in members of the simplest
and purest savage race; much more is it so in civilised races, who have
long since been exempted from the full rigour of natural selection, and
have become more mongrel in their breed than any other animal on the
face of the earth. Different aspects of the multifarious character of man
respond to different calls from without, so that the same individual, and,
much more, the same race, may behave very differently at different
epochs. There may have been no fundamental change of character, but a
different phase or mood of it may have been evoked by special
circumstances, or those persons in whom that mood is naturally dominant
may through some accident have the opportunity of acting for the time as
representatives of the race. The same nation may be seized by a military
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