The Soul of Things
Theosophist, July, 1883
Ten years ago, Professor William Denton, an Anglo-American geologist and a man of marked intellectual capacity, issued in collaboration with his equally gifted wife, a work in three volumes, bearing the title which heads the present article. It is a record of extensive researches into the origin of things visible, or the world noumenal. No laboratory instruments or processes were employed in this research; there was neither furnace, nor crucible, nor flask, nor chemical, nor lens availed of, and yet this book contains facts with respect to the hidden half of nature which equal, if they do not outvie, in interest and suggestive importance any discovery in the science of objective phenomena reported to any learned association. The researches of the Dentons have done especially much good to students of Aryan science, for they link in with, and give the key to the previously puzzling mysticism of the Atharva Veda and subsequent works on occult science. The agency employed was Psychometry, and Psychometry (soul-measuring) is a Greek word to express the faculty—natural, but ordinarily latent in us—by which the inner self cognizes the things of the spiritual (or, if you please, dynamic) world of causes. This faculty was strong in Mrs. Denton, her son, and members of Professor Denton’s own family, and the two former especially developed their psychometrical powers to a marvellous degree. If any object—a letter, bit of clothing, fragment of stone or other material from a building, or of a geological specimen, etc., were given them to clasp in their hands or hold against the middle of their foreheads—an inch above the line of the eyebrows—they would at once come into sympathy with the Akâsa, or soul, of the person or thing with whom or which the object had been in relation, and describe the same. Step by step, these researches proved the truth of the old Aryan dogma that the Akâsa (Ether) is the cradle and grave of objective nature; and that it holds imperishably the records of everything that ever existed, every phenomenon that ever occurred in the outer world. The hypothesis of physical science was thus endorsed and enlarged, and a bridge of one span flung across the “unfathomable chasm” seen by the great Tyndall to lie between the visible and invisible worlds. Prof. Denton was not the modern discoverer of Psychometry; that honor is due to Professor J. R. Buchanan, M.D., an American anthropologist of eminence and a fellow of our Society. It is one of the great merits of this science that its researches may be carried on without risk to the “patient,” and without throwing him or her into the state of Mesmeric unconsciousness. “At first,” says Prof. Denton in his book.1
“The sensitive, or psychometer, is generally a merely passive spectator, like one who sits and observes a panorama; but in time he becomes able to influence the visions—to pass them along rapidly, or retain them longer for a close examination. Then the psychometer, at times, dwells in that past whose history seems to be contained in the specimen . . . At least he becomes released even from the specimen. At will he leaves the room, passes out into the air, looks down upon the city, sees the earth beneath him like a map, or, sailing still higher, beholds the round world rolling into darkness or sunlight beneath him. He drops upon island or continent, watches the wild tribes of Africa, explores the desert interior of Australia, or solves the problem of the earth’s mysterious poles. He can do more than this: he becomes master of the ages. At his command the past of island and continent come up like ghosts from the infinite night, and he sees what they were and how they were, what forms tenanted them, and marks their first human visitants; seeing the growth of a continent, and its fruitage in humanity, within the boundary of a little hour . . . the universe scarcely holds a secret that the freed spirit cannot behold with open eye.”
Prof. Denton estimates that the psychometric faculty is possessed by at least one white female in ten, and one man in twenty. Doubtless the percentage would be even greater among Asiatics.
The Psychometer, as we have remarked, does not have to be mesmerized for the exercise of the power. His eyes should be closed, the better to help concentration of thought upon the psychic observations. “Otherwise,” says Prof. Denton,
“. . . he appears to be in a perfectly normal condition during the time, and can readily notice what takes place in the room; frequently laying down the specimen, joining in the conversation, or drawing objects seen and then going on with the examination. When the specimen is in powder, it is merely necessary to stroke the forehead with as much as will cling to a damp finger; and where heavenly bodies are examined the rays are allowed to shine upon the forehead.”
Thus it will be seen that with a copy of Prof. Denton’s book in hand, a committee of a Branch Society has the means of easily pursuing research of the most interesting and profitable kind into a domain where not merely the secrets of Aryan history, but of the history of our planet and all its mutations are recorded imperishably. Says Professor J. W. Draper, one of the ablest scientists and most brilliant writers who have adorned our present age: “A shadow never falls upon a wall without leaving thereupon a permanent trace—a trace which might be made visible by resorting to proper processes. . . . Upon the walls of our most private apartments, where we think the eye of intrusion is altogether shut out and our retirement can never be profaned, there exist the vestiges of all our acts, silhouettes of whatever we have done.2 It is a crushing thought to whoever has committed secret crime, that the picture of his deed and the very echoes of his words may be seen and heard countless years after he has gone the way of all flesh, and left a reputation for “respectability” to his children. To members of our Society the idea should come home with peculiar weight, since they live, act, speak, and even think under the observation of these Masters from whom no secrets of nature can be hidden if they choose to explore her arcana. There have been several cases among us of self-reformation due mainly to the conviction of this fact, and if the resources of Psychometry were but suspected generally there would be many more. For it is proved that not only are the images of the Past in “the fadeless picture galleries of the Akâsa,” but also the sounds of past voices, even the perfumes of archaic flowers, withered ages ago, and the aromas of fruits that hung on trees when man was but a mumbling savage, and polar ice, a mile thick, covered what are now the fairest countries under the sun. We have been the means of putting more than seventy copies of The Soul of Things into circulation in India and hope to put seven hundred more. And we also hope to be soon able to introduce to the acquaintance of our Indian friends the author himself, who has just completed a highly successful lecturing season in Australia and will take India on his way home to America. Among his lectures was one on Psychometry, a condensed report of which we find in the Liberal (Sydney) of February 10th, and which we copy, as follows:
[Here follows the report mentioned above.]
1. The Soul of Things; or, Psychometric Researches and Discoveries. By William Denton. Vols. I, II, III.
2. The History of the Conflict between Religion and Science, p. 133.