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The History of Harvard's Commencement, Explained

A WEIRD SISTER

NO WRITER ATTRIBUTED

The good lady who sought to win the Scientific American prize for ghost raisers by making the quickness of the hand deceive the eye was put to ignominious rout by the forces of science. The fact that William James, the great philosopher and psychologist, sent through her a message to the world written in heliotrope-colored ink was enough to raise some doubt. Furthermore that this message was only a sigh--"How happy I should have been for such an opportunity as this"--instead of further elaborations of his stratum-of-energy theory or his plans for prevention of war must have made anyone nose a rat. Evidently the scientists did, for by measuring and weighing the cards they soon brought her trickery to light.

It must have been a relief to the judges, however, to find a medium with such gentle methods. No tipping over of tables, no twanging of banjoes by inexpert toes, no roaring of megaphones, no clatter of ghostly hammers and malles Mrs. Stewart only played a quiet game of cards. But those who were encouraged to hear of William James' interest, must have had their soaring hopes dampened. Since even James did not really speak, what chance is there of hearing from Professor Royce and Professor Agassiz, or perhaps John Harvard himself from a possible bench in an aerial Mermaid Tavern?

Yet the perennial interest which is manifested in all attempts at true spiritualism, in face of thousands of false alarms such as this seems to indicate some basic truth. Even the juggernaut of science cannot crush man's propensity to be metaphysical, for hope is as much a part of human nature as is trickery. Then, too, the presence of such sincere men as Conan Doyle and Sir Oliver Lodge in the field has added an air of genuineness to the discussions. Perhaps the very philosophy of William James gives the answer to the problem. All that is necessary is "the Will to Believe."

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