Review of Reviews,  7 (1893), 675–78.

"Borderland". A New Quarterly Review and Index



Editorial, Announcement, Literary Notice


Supernaturalism, Christianity, Scientism, Periodicals, Psychical Research, Popularization, Colleges, Scientific Practitioners, Natural Law

People mentioned:

Annie Besant

    After noting that during 'the last eighteen months I have been engaged more or less intermittently in studying the various phenomena connected with what is vulgarly called the supernatural', William T Stead complains that hitherto these 'phenomena of the Borderland have not been subjected to the close systematic and sustained investigation which has been found necessary in the physical sciences'. Indeed, some investigators have sought to 'construct a theory of the invisible, without taking as much trouble as Darwin found necessary to devote to the study of the habits of the earthworm'. (675) It is therefore necessary to 'introduce the scientific spirit into the study of occult subjects' (678). At the same time, 'students of the occult' have to contend with constant 'obloquy and ostracism', as well as a 'public opinion which is as ribald and intolerant of the students of the so-called supernatural as the philosophers of Greece and Rome were of the apparently incredible assertions of the apostles of Christianity'. Likewise, there is 'no money in occultism, and those who believe with Josh Billings that the chief end of man is ten per cent. naturally give the subject a wide berth' (Joseph O Baylen observes that Stead's 'preoccupation with spiritualism decreased the Review's circulation and revenue'; see Baylen 1979, 76). In the face of these 'sneers and persecutions of the less gifted majority', the 'first essential is to establish a mode of communication between investigators of all kinds, so that we may have the field scientifically mapped out, in order that the explorer may know what lies before him'. This consideration, Stead reports, 'has led me to decide on publishing a Quarterly Review and Index of the Periodical Literature bearing upon the Occult World. I cannot describe it better than by saying that Borderland will be a quarterly review of reviews dealing with subjects which are supposed to lie beyond the pale of human knowledge [....] It will attempt to do in a popular and catholic form that which is done in a more or less doctrinaire and exclusive way by the Brahmins of Psychical Research'. (675) Rejecting the 'constant dogmatism and pharisaic intolerance of men of science when face to face with a new truth', the new periodical will 'take nothing for granted' and only when it has 'exhausted every possible explanation that is based upon what we ordinarily call natural laws' will it 'admit the possibility' of 'the presence of invisible intelligences' as 'at least a provisional working hypothesis' (677–78). Also notes that 'the burden and responsibility of the actual production of Borderland will fall exclusively upon the shoulders of Miss X. and myself' (678).

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