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Second Sight

Second Sight
  • Second Sight in Daily Life (by )
  • Witchcraft & Second Sight in the Highlan... (by )
  • The Portent: A Story of the Inner Vision... (by )
  • Second Sight Secrets and Mechanical Magi... (by )
  • Second Sight Explained : a Complete Expo... (by )
  • The Delphic Oracle : Its Early History, ... (by )
  • Oracles of Nostradamus (by )
  • The romance and prophecies of Thomas of ... (by )
  • The Prophecies of the Brahan Seer (Coinn... (by )
  • A Practical Guide to the Prophecies : Wi... (by )
  • Miraculous Prophecies and Predictions of... 
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From ancient myths to fairy tales to religious prophecies to tales of the occult, literature revels in exploration of psychic powers, also known as the second sight or farsight.

This form of extrasensory perception has, by turns, invited fear and awe throughout history. Many bearing the ability met horrible ends, executed for witchcraft or demonic proclivities. Less judgmental cultures celebrated those who appeared to be in deeper touch with the world beyond contemporary sight and sound. Ancients, who may have suffered persecution for their extraordinary abilities, have been canonized as saints and revered as prophets--long after their deaths, of course, when the decades past perspective lends a hazy respectability to the martyred.

In the late Victorian Age, the occult fascinated the public. To that effect, psychics and con artists commanded popularity and high fees to demonstrate their supernatural abilities. Public fascination with the topic generated scholarly and philosophical works, such as Second Sight in Daily Life by W. H. W. Sabine (1951). This reasoned tome explores extrasensory perception, precognition, dreams, clairvoyance, mesmerism, and telepathy, illustrating the discussion with anecdotal and empirical examples, such as:

In France, in particular, the study and practice of mesmerism as a curative agent was zealously pursued by some, and roundly condemned by others. The Marquis de Puységur, the Abbé Faria and others, having observed what succeeding practitioners called "community of sensation," the French Academy of Medicine appointed a commission to investigate the subject. After five years’ work the commission presented its report in 1831. This affirmed, amongst other matters, the reality of "l’'action à distance;" but the Academy, rendered fearful by the findings, obstinately refused to publish the report. In the same spirit the British Association of 1842 was to refuse to listen to James Braid's paper on hypnotism, and that of 1876 was to omit Barrett's paper from its printed Transactions.
Certain cultures and countries either had a great acceptance of paranormal abilities or enjoyed the notoriety of having such abilities attributed to them. In the Western Hemisphere, the Scottish Highlands were reputed as a wellspring of individuals with such uncanny talents. Witchcraft & Second Sight in the Highlands & Islands of Scotland: Tales and Traditions Revisited by John Gregorson Campbell (1902) and The Portent: A Story of the Inner Vision of the Highlanders, Commonly Called the Second Sight by LL. D. George Macdonald (1864) catalog such suppositions, superstitions, and anecdotal evidence. 

Less credulous and more opportunistic individuals relied on the public’s willingness to believe in supernatural powers, such that they cultivated the magician’s skills and wrote instruction guides, such as Second Sight Secrets and Mechanical Magic by Dr. Herman Pinetti (1905). Books such as Second Sight Explained: A Complete Exposition of Clairvoyance or Second Sight, as Exhibited by the Late Robert Houdin and Robert Heller: Showing How the Supposed Phenomena May Be Produced by Washington Irving Bishop (1880) joined the opposition in debunking claims of supernatural ability by telling how to perform psychic feats to awe and impress gullible audiences:

The moral to be drawn from the mystery which has hitherto enshrouded the exhibition of Clairvoyance entertainments, coupled with this explanation of " how it is done," should warn people not to be too ready to ascribe to the supernatural that which they do not understand. The fact that a person does not comprehend the cause of a given result is evidence rather that he does not know everything, than that the cause is supernatural or even abnormal.

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