A British naturalist, Alfred Russel Wallace (1823-1913) was co-originator with Charles Darwin of the natural selection theory of evolution. When Darwin made his conclusions public before the Linnaean Society, London, in 1858, he also presented Wallace's parallel theory. It was Wallace who popularized the phrase "the survival of the fittest." In his younger years, Wallace was a scientific materialist. "I was so thorough and confirmed a materialist that I could not at that time find a place in my mind for the conception of spiritual existence, or for any agencies in the universe than matter and force," Wallace writes in the preface.
Curious as to psychical phenomena, especially mesmeric trance and levitation, Wallace began investigating and soon recognized the reality of the phenomena. "I thus learnt my first great lesson in the inquiry into these obscure fields of knowledge, never to accept the disbelief of great men, or their accusations of imposture or of imbecility, as of any weight when opposed to the repeated observations of facts by other men admittedly sane and honest," Wallace further wrote. He expanded his investigation to include trance mediums, automatic writers, and spirit photographers. The smug whisperings and arrogant guffaws of his closed-minded scientific colleagues did not deter him. "I assert without fear of contradiction, that whenever the scientific men of any age have denied the facts of investigators on a priori grounds, they have always been wrong," he responded. He affirms that he ruled out all possible fraud or deception in his investigations.
A chapter is devoted to discussing the "derisive and unexamining incredulity" of mainstream science. To the religious critics who questioned the value of his investigation, suggesting that faith alone was sufficient, Wallace replied that the evidence "substitutes a definite, real, and practical conviction for a vague, theoretical and unsatisfying faith."
Wallace gathers together the best evidence of the 19th Century and the testimony of many scholars and scientists of the day who had also investigated spirit phenomena. He concludes that there are no real "miracles," per se, that what are perceived as miracles are part of natural law. He refers to modern Spiritualism as a science, "the study of which must add greatly to our knowledge of man's true nature and highest interests."
While Wallace was investigating psychical matters, he continued lecturing and writing as an esteemed biologist, his published work including The Malay Archipelago (1869), Contributions to Theory of Natural Selection (1871) and Geographical Distribution of Animals (1876). In spite of his contribution to the law of natural selection, Wallace believed that man's mental abilities are a result of some non-biological agency.
The words and wisdom of this book are as applicable today as they were 106 years ago. It makes one wonder why mainstream science has made so little progress in awakening to the Truths discovered by Wallace and many other esteemed scientists of that era, suggesting perhaps that Truth is beyond absolute proof and that spiritual evolution requires constant seeking , searching, and striving.
To further quote Wallace: "My position, therefore, is that the phenomena of Spiritualism in their entirety do not require further confirmation. They are proved quite as well as any facts are proved in other sciences."
by Arno Press, 1975, New York, NY, 292 pages, $21.95 (Originally published in 1896
but is now part of the Arno Press "Perspectives in Psychical Research" series, available through Amazon.com).