Wild Talents

A Hypertext Edition of Charles Hoy Fort's Book

Edited and Annotated by Mr. X

Chapter Twenty-Three



DEAD MEN in a Harlem park -- and houses are torn by explosions, of unknown origin -- the sneak of an invisible clipper of hair -- vampires and murder -- theatrically a girl is stabbed, on a staircase, in the presence of a large audience -- the internal organs of a woman are burned into unrecognizability --

And the stoutest opponents of witchcraft, one with persecutions, and the other with denials, have been religion and science --

And more power to them, for it --

Except that witchcraft is appalling.

In our existence of the hyphen, the appalling can be only one view of a state that combines the direst and the most desirable.

Religion is belief in a supreme being. Science is belief in a supreme generalization. Essentially they are the same. Both are the suppressors of witchcraft, and I shall take up these oppositions together. But, in a state of realness-unrealness, there can not be real opposition. In our exist- [249/250] ence of the hyphen, what is called opposition is only one view of the state of opposition-stimulation.

There is no way of judging anything, except by its manifestations. Just as much as it has been light, religion has been darkness. Today it is twilight. In the past it was mercy and charity and persecution and bloody, maniacal, sadistic hatred -- hymns from chapels and screams from holy slaughter houses -- aspirations going up from this earth, with smoke from burning bodies. I can say that from religion we have never had opposition, because there has never been religion -- that is that religion never has existed, as apart from all other virtues and vices and blessings and scourges -- that, like all other alleged things, beings, or institutions, religion never has, in a final sense, had identity. An atheist, of zeal, may be thought of as religious. Or I can take the unmonistic view, and accept that there is, or used to be, religion, just as, practically, I ignore that all things and beings of my daily experiences are so bound up with one another that they have not identities, and go about my daily affairs as if things and beings really were entities.

New York Sun, March 26, 1910 -- eruption of Mt. Etna -- people of Borelli praying -- the oncoming lava.(1) The molten flood moved onward toward a shrine. Here the praying ones concentrated. The lava reached the shrine, and suddenly changed its course.

New York Times, July 27, 1931 -- "A revival of the ancient rain dance of Northern Saskatchewan Indians, despite the ban by government agents, is reported to have occurred recently. Fields were parched and cattle were [250/251] suffering, when Chief Buffalo Bow, head of the File Hills Reserve, decided to invoke the Great Spirit. The forty-eight-hour dance, led by six singers in relays, centred about a great tree, on the bark of which a petition for aid had been carved. The Great Spirit seemed to answer, for soon after the mystic rites had been performed, the rain began and continued for two days, July 14 and 15, bringing relief all over Saskatchewan."(2)

If, according to the views of the majority of the inhabitants of this earth, both Jehovah and the Great Spirit are myths, lava, if it would not have changed its course anyway, and rain, if it would not have fallen anyway, were influenced by witchcraft, if there be witchcraft. My general situation is that of any mathematician. Consider any of his theorems. The parallelogram of forces. In the text books, this demonstration works out -- if the incident forces be without irregularities -- if resistances be unchanging -- if the body acted upon be changeless -- if the student has no awareness of the changes and the irregularities that are everywhere.

In the London Daily Chronicle, July 7, 1924, was reported a case of an English girl, who had come back from Lourdes, cured, she thought.(3) It is not often that the doctors will have anything to do with one of these cases; but it was arranged to investigate this case. At the Hospital of St. John and St. Elizabeth, St. John's Wood, London, the girl was examined by 50 doctors. She had gone, with a nurse, to Lourdes. The nurse was questioned, and testified that the girl's hand had been covered with sores, from blood poisoning, and that she had been cured, at Lourdes. [251/252] The diseased condition of the girl, when she arrived in Lourdes, was certified by three doctors, of Lourdes. The sores had disappeared, but some contraction of the hand remained. The official decision of the 50 doctors, who were not of Lourdes, was: "On the evidence submitted, the cure is not proven."

I should like to come upon a record of the opinions of 50 drivers of hansom cabs, as to automobiles, when automobiles were new and uncertain, but were of some slight menace to the incomes of hansom cabbies.

In the New York World-Telegram, July 24, 1931, there is a story of a boy, who, at the Medical Center Hospital, New York, was cured of paralysis by the touch of a bit of bone of St. Anne, taken to the hospital from the Church of St. Anne, 110 East 12th Street, New York City.(4) The boy was the son of Hugh F. Gaffney, 348 East 18th Street, New York City.

If, according to the views of the majority of the inhabitants of this earth, there is no more divinity at Lourdes, or at 110 East 12th Street, than anywhere else, there are reasons for thinking that it is witchcraft that is practiced at these places.

The function of God is the focus. An intense mental state is impossible, unless there be something, or the illusion of something, to center upon. Given any other equally serviceable concentration-device, prayers are unnecessary. I conceive of the magic of prayers. I conceive of the magic of blasphemies. There is witchcraft in religion: there may be witchcraft in atheism.

In the New York Evening World, Sept. 19, 1930, is an [252/253] account of joy in Naples: the shouts of crowds, and the ringing of church bells.(5) In the Capella del Terosa Cathedral had been displayed the phial containing the "blood of St. Januarius." It had boiled.

It is my notion that, if intenser than the faith in Naples, had been a desire for a frustration of this miracle, the "blood of St. Januarius" might have frozen.

Upon the 5th of March, 1931 -- see the New York Herald Tribune, March 6th -- 15,000 worshipers were kneeling, at a pontifical high mass, in the Municipal Plaza, at San Antonio, Texas.(6) Considering the intense antagonism to Catholicism in Mexico, at this time, one thinks of the presence of some of this feeling in San Antonio. From a palm tree, the topmost tuft fell into the kneeling congregation. Six persons were taken to the hospital.

My general expression is that some of the reported phenomena that are called "miracles" probably have occurred, but have been arbitrarily taken over by the religionists, though they are the exclusive properties of priests no more than of travelling salesmen -- that scientists have been repelled by the reported phenomena, because of a fear of contamination from priestcraft -- but that any scientist who preaches the "ideals of science", and also lets fears of contaminations influence him is as false to his preachments as ever any priest has been.

See the New York Herald Tribune, Dec. 6, 1931 -- an account of the opening, in Goa, Portuguese India, of the coffin of Saint Francis Xavier.(7)

"A special emissary, sent by Pope Pius XI, led the ceremonial procession, in which marched three archbishops, [253/254] fifteen bishops, and hundreds of other members of the clergy. A throng of ten thousand persons heard the papal mass and benediction, in the Church of Don Jesus.

"The congregation passed before the coffin, and kissed the dead saint's feet."

But there have been scientists, especially medical scientists, who, in spite of contaminations, have not been held back from investigations.

In January, 1932, the New York newspapers told that many miracles had been reported in Goa.

There is no opposition, as sheer, to witchcraft, by religionists. It is competition. [254]

1. "Lava threatens tourists." New York Sun, March 26, 1910, p.1 c.3.

2. "Indians do 48-hour rain dance; then it pours in Saskatchewan." New York Times, July 27, 1931, p.16 c.2.

3. "Lourdes cure not proven." London Daily Chronicle, July 7, 1924, p.3 c.3.

4. "Miracles a daily routine here." New York World Telegram, July 24, 1931, p.19 c.6-7.

5. "Boiling blood miracle." New York Evening World, September 19, 1930, p.A3 c.2-3. The location was the Cappella del Tesoro Cathedral.

6. "Palm tree falls on worshippers at mass led by Cardinal Hayes." New York Herald Tribune, March 6, 1931, p. 1 c. 5-6. The mass too place at Military Plaza, (not Municipal Plaza); and, it is not stated that any of the six injured persons was taken to a hospital, for none was "seriously hurt."

7. "St. Francis Xavier's coffin is opened for 13th time." New York Herald Tribune, December 6, 1931, s.1 p. c. 5. The mass was held at the Church of Dom Jesus, (not the Church of Don Jesus).

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