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Never in the history of human thought has the interest in the soul and its immortality been greater and keener than now. The leading investigators of the Society of Psychical Research have taken up the problem of enquiring into the facts of spiritual experiences, telepathy, forebodings and kindred phenomena. The result has been rather negative, for, while we have received innumerable single facts, they all suffer from the common fault that they are too subjective in their nature to furnish a proof that could be objectively valid. Moreover, many reports come from witnesses whose mental constitution is under the suspicion of being pathological, and so their value is practically null.Of much greater importance would be an investigation as to the possibility of immortality on the basis of scientific data, but, strange to say, this method has been almost entirely lost sight of by leaders of the S. P. R. If we could form a definite theory as to the nature of the soul based on exact observation, we would be enabled, first, to explain man’s instinctive yearning for immortality; and, secondly, to form a definite idea of the condition of the soul after death. Thus we could exclude all the many mistakes which are now made, and which originate through an erroneous and partly superstitious notion of the relation of the dead to the living. The result is shown in the reports of the S. P. R., abounding in statements of ghost stories, which can be regarded only as a continuation of folk-lore. As a matter of fact, the work of the S. P. R. has so far provided very little help toward a better comprehension of immortality.Among the men who have done the work of a sympathetic reconstruction of the idea of immortality on the basis of science, there is to be mentioned, next to Fechner, Gustave Björklund, a Swedish scientist who is well known in his own country, but who has been almost entirely ignored in other lands. The obvious reason of this is the inaccessibility of his writings, which have not yet been translated into English.We do not believe Björklund’s solution is the right one, but we do believe that he has made a contribution to the philosophy of religion which ought not to be ignored. His case is similar to Fechner’s. We have published Fechner’s book On Life After Death and we are glad to present the views of Björklund on Death and Resurrection.Dr. Carus has sketched his views repeatedly in The Soul of Man, in Whence and Whither, and two articles published in The Monist, with special reference to Fechner. They show also why Björklund’s belief is unacceptable.Nevertheless we publish Björklund’s book because we heartily sympathize with his endeavor to justify those sentiments which instinctively point out that death is not a finality, and that the purpose of life is not limited to the span of our days between the cradle and the grave, but that it has a further and fuller significance.We hope that Björklund’s book will be welcomed as the contribution of an earnest and prominent scientific thinker on the important question, “If a man die, shall he live again?”
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