What proof can be brought to show that a man is just what he thinks he is? My answer is: his works. Man is known by his works, for they are the fruit of belief and where there is no fruit there is no belief; and in that case man is either perfectly ignorant or perfectly wise, and stops work because he is God and God has finished His work. Now man is not supposed to be either of the two, God or an idiot. So he must be a being between both. That makes him a man of opinions and belief. To show whether the works are of God or error is the great aim of each kind of man. Both cannot be of God, for one reasons from what he believes and the other from what he knows.
I will introduce a man of error who bases his knowledge on others' belief, still thinking he has an opinion of his own. The effect of his wisdom or belief is seen by its fruits. The younger son is he who listens to the reasoning of his brother and sees him contradict himself and shows him his absurdity. This is the scientific man and he is not known, for when the man of opinions is destroyed by the scientific man, he is not seen at all. Take two persons talking about mesmerism; one never heard anything, the other is posted in all things pertaining to the law of mesmerism. Let A be the wise man and B the ignorant man. A sits down and expounds the principles of mesmerism. He reads from those who have written on the subject, how a man sits down, takes hold of another's hand, looks him in the eye, and at length the man is affected; his eyes close and he goes to sleep. Then B asks how this is done. Here comes the mystery or science of A.
A, not knowing what to say, commences to tell that the mesmerizer has more electricity than the subject; and the former being positive and the other negative, B receives from A this electric fluid till he is charged and is perfectly under A's control. This story is unintelligible to B so A proceeds to convince B of the truth of his reasoning. A subject is obtained and A sits down and takes hold of him. I will call him C. Shortly C is fast asleep. A commences to show B the science. He takes up a book and asks C what he sees. C answers, The book. B asks him how he sees the book. A says the electricity passes from me to C and I impress on his mind the book. B says he understands this though he cannot explain it to himself but admits what A says.
Another experiment is tried to prove it is by a magnetic principle. A magnet is placed close to C's hand which immediately moves, proving that the magnet moves the hand.
Another is tried, the magnet is concealed and A says to C, Go and get the magnet. C, being blindfolded, starts off and returns with the magnet. B is surprised and says he would like to hide the magnet. A is a little disconcerted but yields to B so he hides the magnet; then A sends C to find it and he does so. Here is A's explanation: when I hid the magnet, C read by thoughts but when you hid it, he was clairvoyant. This is a higher state. B, being unable to explain the phenomenon, admits this explanation and these experiments go to establish the science of electricity and magnetism. So machines are made to take the place of mesmerism and persons are put into a mesmeric state.
Some time after these experiments A asks B, What do you think of mesmerism? B, I do not know. I cannot account for it but I cannot help thinking that there is something in it, though I do not believe anyone knows what it is. A, Why, don't you see it must be electricity. B, I do not see how that made him find the magnet. A, Well, there is a great deal you cannot understand, but when you have seen as much as I have, you will believe it. I want to show you something far beyond what you have seen. B: Well, I will go.
So they obtain the subject C. A says, I have learned that the subject can go to a distance and tell what you know to be true. B, I should like to have him tell what I have in my parlor and then I will believe. C is thrown into a trance and is put in communication with B who takes C to his house. C describes all the family and says, I see a man with spectacles sitting and reading a newspaper. He is a stranger. B, that is a mistake, there is no one in my house but my family. A, That is strange but sometimes I do make mistakes and imagine what is not true. Here they stop and each leaves for home.
When B gets home, he finds Mr. H. reading the newspaper just as C described. Here comes the mystery. All night the phenomenon runs through the head of B and A is in the same state, for his science had not explained this phenomenon. In the morning B starts off for A and meets him. Then he tells him that C was correct and asks A to explain. Another explanation is given and B becomes a perfect believer in mesmerism.
Experiments are tried to prove if the subject can penetrate the earth and find treasure, so they put C to sleep and send him to look for treasure. He finds a great many. B carries him to the moon to see if he can tell what kind of inhabitants live there. All these experiments prove their own belief and a little more.
Finally it enters the head of A to go to the world of spirits. Here is a large field for operation. C finds the dead and explains about them to A and B. By this time they have become so wise that their light has lit up the whole world of spirits so that everything is perfectly plain. Here is as far as they can go, for the whole world stops here and here ends mesmerism according to the world's belief. At last there comes a report that spirits made their appearance at Rochester, and raps and table tipping take place. Then B asks A how he explains these things. A: “It is by the power of electricity.” B: “I cannot believe that, I want to see something of it.” So they go to a medium and everything goes to prove the belief of the medium that it is spirits. One rap means “yes” and two means “no,” and these prove the spirits. B asks A what he thinks of that. A says, it is a development of animal magnetism. B says, No, I believe it must be spirits. Here is a difference of opinion. B is as well posted as A. The medium agrees with B and so does another person whom we will call G. B believed A till A showed his ignorance; then B embraced the opinion of the medium and G. So it goes on. One opinion is believed till some other phenomenon comes up that cannot be explained; then someone states an opinion and the multitude follow.
Like the rest of the world I began with no belief or opinion. Like a child I went to see. I did as B did and asked A's explanation and took it; then I went to work to prove it and did prove beyond a doubt it was governed by electricity. At last I ran against a stumbling block which upset all my theory and left me without anything but the bare experiments. I then went to work to prove my belief, and my experiments proved anything I believed, and I concluded that man is to himself just what he thinks he is. I have waded through the mire of ignorance, crossed the river of superstition, have walked on the water of my belief and at last landed on the shores of wisdom, where I have found the olive branch of truth that tells me that the water or error has dried up so that the dry land of reason is ready to receive the seed of wisdom into the earth or mind of man. As I have passed through the fire of superstition and been baptized in the water of error and belief, I have come up out of the water and the heavens or wisdom are open to me and I see the wisdom in the form of a dove or sympathy saying to everyone, “Behold, the truth hath prevailed to open the book of superstition; it hath broken the seal and introduced a new form of reasoning.”