This section is from the book "Faith - Healing. Christian Science And Kindred Phenomena", by James Monroe Buckley. Also available from Amazon: Faith-Healing, Christian Science and Kindred Phenomena.
A presentiment in the strictly etymological sense is a previous conception, sentiment, opinion, or apprehension; but its secondary meaning, which has almost supplanted the primary, in both the French and the English use of the word, is an antecedent impression or conviction of something about to happen. Though presentiments of good are common and often fulfilled, as their results are not tragical they are seldom remembered or attributed to supernatural causes; and for this reason the word presentiment is confined almost exclusively to inward premonitions of evil, and is practically the equivalent of " foreboding " in such passages as Dryden's, " My heart forebodes I ne'er shall see you more".
Few would consider general forebodings of evil worthy of special investigation. To some temperaments they are peculiar, and prosperity, however great, cannot dissipate them. They may arise from overwork, old age, or from prolonged sickness of any kind except consumption; and as evil overtakes the majority of mankind, such general forebodings are certain of general fulfilment. It is only when time and events concur with the presentiment that it becomes a phenomenon requiring scientific treatment; and being a product of the mind allied to many other experiences, it is a philosophical problem of the first magnitude.
A writer in the "Cornhill Magazine" for October 188G, attempts to lay down the essence of a true presentiment. He says that " it must be spontaneous; it must come at a time when you have no reason to look for it." He explains these conditions by saying that you must not be ill and think you have a presentiment that you will not recover; you must not be away from home and think that some calamity has happened there; you must not know that a friend is in danger and have a presentiment of his death ; you must not have reason to suspect a man and have a presentiment that he will cheat you.
In laying down these conditions he justifies himself by saying that they are necessary, "because in all these instances there is a simple natural cause for fear or uneasiness." I cannot admit that all these conditions are exact. The person may indeed be sick, yet the illness may be slight, and its seat removed from any fatal possibility; and if in opposition to every indication he have a foreboding that he will not recover, which persists in defiance of reason, and does or does not end in death, it has the mental and emotional characteristics of a presentiment. Of course if a person have yellow fever, and a presentiment of his death, it is in harmony w7ith popular belief; though, according to the statistics of the last epidemic in Jacksonville, the proportion of deaths is but one to ten eases, and the rational expectation would be that an ordinary person attacked had nine chances in ten for recovery. Again, if a person leaves his family in perfect health, knowing no cause of danger either to them or to his property, and has a presentiment impelling him to go back, and on arriving finds his worst fears realized, although his peculiar state of mind arose during an absence from home, it has the characteristics of a presentiment, both in its origin and the relation of time and events.
Conclusions drawn from reasoning and generalizations from data may produce convictions so strong that men would die for them. Under their influence they may risk their lives and fortunes in the pursuit of objects which cannot be attained, if at all, until after many years. These are not presentiments, for the sum of the reasonings and experiences of the man becomes the unconscious test which he applies to everything submitted to his judgment.
But if there be genuine presentiments which foretell future events, they must have an external source, human or extrahuman. That God could produce such impressions none who admit his existence can doubt. Whether other beings, in or out of human bodies, could do so is an improven theory. Clairvoyance and telepathy do not apply to the subject of presentiments in the sense now under consideration. The clairvoyant theory of perception is the power to read the past, discern the present, and forecast the future; that of telepathy, a transfer of ideas and feelings spontaneously or intentionally from a living person called the agent to another called the percipient.
Most persons holding that God could at any time create a presentiment will incline to the comfortable belief that he sometimes does so, and that this is one of the means whereby he cares for those who put their trust in him. But the fact that God can produce presentiments is not in itself an evidence, nor does it even rise to the dignity of a presumption, that he will produce them. He could preserve all his servants from destruction by sea or by land; he could impart to all his people a knowledge of future events; but he does not. The righteous often die in the pestilence and in calamities at sea; the wicked may escape, while those who pray sink.
While it wrould be presumptuous to affirm that no: