The late Professor Henry Sidgwick as celebrated for the rare mixture of ardor and critical judgment which his character exhibited. The liberal heart which he possessed had to work with an intellect which acted destructively on almost every particular object of belief that was offered to its acceptance. A quarter of a century ago, scandalized by the chaotic state of opinion regarding the phenomena now called by the rather ridiculous name of "psychic" -- phenomena, of which the supply reported seems inexhaustible, but which scientifically trained minds mostly refuse to look at -- he established, along with Professor Barrett, Frederic Myers, and Edmund Gurney, the Society for Psychical Research. These men hoped that if the material were treated rigorously, and, as far as possible, experimentally, objective truth would be elicited, and the subject rescued from sentimentalism on the one side and dogmatizing ignorance on the other. Like all founders, Sidgwick hoped for a certain promptitude of result; and I heard him say, the year before his death, that if anyone had told him at the outset that after twenty years he would be in the same identical state of doubt and balance that he started with, he would have deemed the prophecy incredible. It appeared impossible that that amount of handling evidence should bring so little finality of decision.
My own experience has been similar to Sidgwick's. For twenty-five
Reprinted from William James, Memories and Studies ( New York: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1911), pp. 173-206.