“CONTROVERSIES”

Professor Stewart, distinguished member of the SPR, did not believe in coincidences. Gurney used to prod him, commenting on some coincidence that had happened to him. Then Stewart burst into a loud laugh and mocked him for being so gullible. “There is no need to believe in coincidences to explain the phenomena of the universe”, he used to say, “things are much simpler”. According to him, everything obeyed a perfectly structured secret plan and in that plan there was no room for the slightest error. Once, he received a bill addressed to another person and he paid without question. Since then, other people’s bills never stopped arriving. But he could afford it, he was a rich man. The controversy over Destiny versus Chance was one of the highlights of all the after-dinner conversations in the Society for Psychical Research. William James believed that coincidences existed but only by chance. Frederic Myers believed that such statement was a “supreme nonsense” and that James had a stinking breath. James took these hints with philosophy, but when no one saw him, he would sneak into Myers’ room and put pebbles in his shoes. Although Myers spent long hours stalking the culprit, he never discovered it. Prof. Stewart felt that these small rivalries among the members of the SPR also had their place in the secret plan of the Universe and that they should not be underestimated. Myers’ opinion on this statement did not differ from the one he had given about James’s statement, including the breath. Stewart was much less subtle than James and engaged in a bitter dispute with Myers, which invariably ended with Stewart getting some shiner. But that was also part of the Universe’s plan, so Stewart did not hold the slightest grudge. Those occasions were the ones James used to sneak into Myers’ room to put pebbles in his shoes.

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