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.
Suspicion may arise that this theory places a burden upon the possibilities of fortuitous coincidence which it is not able to support. It is therefore necessary to show that coincidences are far more frequent and astonishing than is generally supposed.
Coincidences in names are of such frequent occurrence as to be familiar; but some of them are surprising. Daniel Webster married Catherine Le Roy. Not very long ago in Boston a suit was noticed, the parties to which were Daniel Webster and Catherine Le Roy. The First Unitarian Church of the city of Baltimore was attended for more than forty years by a gentleman recently deceased. From that pulpit he heard discourses by Doctors Furness, Bellows, Sparks, Burnap, and Greenwood. Two were settled pastors; the others, eminent men who appeared on various occasions. In Guilford, Conn., till within a few years, the Second Congregational Church had had but three pastors in its entire history—Root, Wood, and Chipman. This society resulted from a disturbance in the First Church, and when Mr. Root was about to be installed, one of the members of the First Church, with equal bitterness and wit, suggested a text, "And I saw the wicked taking root." Not many years since the city of New York had attention drawn to the names of four great criminals whose names contradicted their characters — Charles Peace, who had personated a clergyman, was hung for murder in England; Angel was the name of a defaulting cashier ; John Hope, of one of the robbers of the Manhattan Bank; and the Rev. John Love was deposed for crime. On the day that the Hon. John P. Hale died, the schooner John P. Hale ran ashore on a reef called Norman's Woe.
Superstitions concerning dates sometimes exhibit remarkable coincidences. Thirty-three sovereigns have ascended the English throne since the time of William the Conqueror, every month except May witnessing the coronation of one or more; that mouth, not one. In the lives of men extraordinary coincidences often occur on particular days of the week. Friday, commonly counted unlucky, in the early history of the United States seems to be a day of good fortune. The " Norfolk Beacon," many years ago, gave the following list of fortunate events in early American history which occurred on Friday:
On Friday, August 3, 1492, Christopher Columbus sailed on his great voyage. On Friday, October 12, 1492, he first discovered land. On Friday, January 4, 1493, he sailed on his return to Spain, which, if he had not reached in safety, the happy result would never have been known which led to the settlement of this vast continent. On Friday, March 15, 1493, he arrived at Palos in safety. On Friday, November 22, 1493, he arrived at Hispaniola, on his second voyage to America. On Friday, June 13, 1494, he, though unknown to himself, discovered tho continent of America. On Friday, March 5, 1496, Henry VIII. of England gave to John (Jabot his commission, which led to the discovery of North America. This is the first American state paper in England. On Friday, September 7, 1565, Melandez founded St. Augustine, the oldest town in the United States. On Friday, November 10, 1620, the Mayflower made the harbor of Provincetown; and on the same day was signed that august compact, the forerunner of our present glorious Constitution. On Friday, December 22, 1620, the Pilgrims made their final landing at Plymouth Rock. On Friday, February 22,1732, George Washington, the father of American freedom, was born. On Friday, June 16, Bunker Hill was seized and fortified. On Friday, October 7, 1777, the surrender of Saratoga was made, which had such power and influence in inducing Franco to declare for our cause. On Friday, September 22, 1780, the treason of Arnold was laid bare, which saved us from destruction. On Friday, October 19, 1781, the surrender of Yorktown, the crowning glory of the American arms, occurred. On Friday, June 7,1776, tho motion in Congress was made by John Adams, seconded by Richard Henry Lee, that tho United Colonies were, and of right ought to be, free and independent. Thus, by numerous examples, we see that, however it may be with foreign nations, Americans never need dread to begin on Friday any undertaking, however momentous it may be.
Impressive coincidences have occurred in the words of parts performed by actors in their last appearance on the stage previous to death or attacks of fatal illness. The same is true of clergymen whose texts for their last sermons, and frequently the very words which they uttered before being stricken with paralysis or apoplexy, have been singularly appropriate. An appalling instance occurred in a certain church near New York. Nearly fifty years ago, its pastor stood in the pidpit reading the stanza, Well, the delightful day will como When my dear Lord shall take me home, And I shall see his face.
At this point he was smitten with paralysis and soon ceased to breathe. Thirty-three years afterward, another pastor standing in the same pulpit, reading the same stanza, was also smitten and removed to die.
In marriages, both in the beginning and progress of the attachment, opportunities that are called casual, or coincidences in times, places, and circumstances of meeting, have to all appearance in many, if not in most cases, influenced the fate of the " high contracting parties " more powerfully than anything which they had intentionally arranged. Indeed, many persons troubled with misgivings concerning a proposed marriage, encourage themselves, by recalling such circumstances, in the belief that it was " meant to be." or that it was " providential".
How often resemblances of persons in no way related confuse the question of identity! Detectives frequently unravel difficult problems by their skill and sagacity, but owe their success in many cases to chance coincidences. Such happenings are of assistance to lawyers, and by them desperate causes are saved. Every lawyer of large practice has a list of anecdotes of this sort with which he delights young " limbs of the law".
In an unsigned article appearing in the " Cornhill Magazine" in 1872, which is now known to have been written by Richard A. Proctor, from the fact that he incorporated it nearly all verbatim, without quotation, in his last work, is given a case which "relates to a matter of considerable interest apart from the coincidence." I condense the account.
Dr. Thomas Young was endeavoring to interpret the inscription of tho famous Rosetta Stone. Sir George Francis Grey placed in Dr. Young's hands some of the most valuable fruits of his researches among Egyptian relics, including fine specimens of writing on papyrus, which he had purchased from an Arab at Thebes in 1S20. Before this reached Young, a man named Casati had arrived in Paris bringing with him from Egypt a parcel of Egyptian manuscripts, among which Cham-pollion observed one which bore in its preamble some resemblance to the text of the Rosetta Stone. Dr. Young procured a copy and attempted to translate it; then Sir George gave him the new papyri. He discovered that this document was a translation of the enchorial manuscript of Casati, and says: "The most extraordinary chance had brought unto mo the possession of a document which was not very likely ever to have existed, still less to have been preserved uninjured, through a period of nearly two thousand years; but that this very extraordinary translation should have been brought safely to Europe, to England, and to me, at the very moment when it was most of all desirable to mo to possess it, as the illustration of an original which I was then studying, but without any other reasonable hope of comprehending it—this combination would, in other times, have been considered as affording ample evidence of my having become an Egyptian sorcerer".
Mr. Proctor regards this as most extraordinary.
Such coincidences are not uncommon. About fifteen years ago seven old friends, who had casually met, were dining together at a hotel in the city of New York. The subject of spiritualism was introduced; the extraordinary "manifestations" given by Charles Foster were discussed, and one said, " I don't believe in spiritualism, but the blood-red writing which Foster shows upon his arm, in which the name of a deceased friend of the visitor appears, confounds me." Having investigated the subject, I ventured to say that was not difficult to explain; when another said, " Oh, yes, it has been exposed in the United States courts." This excited attention. He then stated that Colchester, a medium, was famous for producing the same phenomenon, and that the internal revenue officers had notified him to take out a license as a juggler. He put in a defense that he was not a juggler,but a spiritual medium; and that those things were done, not by his own personal procurement, hut by supernatural beings. Prior to this time, Colchester had made an arrangement with a famous prestidigitator to travel with him in Europe and give exhibitions in which Colchester was to perform this feat. During their intimacy he explained to the professional wizard how it was done. Afterward Colchester became too intimate with alcoholic spirits, and the tour abroad was abandoned. The revenue officers had become aware of this, and the wizard was summoned as a witness for the Government. He not only explained how it was done, but did it in the presence of the court and jury.
Now comes the strangest part of the story. Three years afterward, while I was in a furniture store in a city which had not been visited by me for several years, a gentleman entered on business and the proprietor excused himself for a few minutes. On his return he said, " That was rather singular business on which I was called away. The gentleman you saw is the famous wizard-. He wishes to rent furniture for use in his performances here." I recognized the name of the man, whom I especially wished to see, to ascertain whether Colchester's methods and those of Foster were similar, and whether the results of my investigation were confirmed. At my request he was recalled and performed the feat — first with such rapidity of action as to invest it with all the mystery which perplexed most and appalled some of Foster's visitors; afterward more slowly, explaining the successive steps.
Such coincidences occur with more or less frequency to every student, investigator, or professional man.
The science of medicine affords many examples. Ancient remedies, deemed of utmost importance, are now utterly discarded ; but they were long supported by coincidences. Men took them and recovered, the seventy guineas to be off the bet. But his opponent declined, though the price offered was far beyond the real value of his chance. He cast yet once more and threw nine, so that Mr. Ogden won his guinea.