A Brief Resume Of The History Of The Study Of Hands Through The Centuries To The Present Day

The success I had during the twenty-five years in which I was connected

with this study was, I believe, chiefly owing to the fact that although

my principal study was the lines and formation of hands, yet I did not

confine myself alone to that particular page in the book of Nature. I

endeavoured to study every phase of thought that can throw light on human

life; consequently the very ridges of the skin, the hair found on the

hands, all were used as a detective would use a clue to accumulate

evidence. I found people were sceptical of such a study only because they

had not the subject presented to them in a logical manner.

There are hundreds of facts connected with the hand that people have

rarely, if ever, heard of, and I think it will not be out of place if I

touch on them here. For instance, in regard to what are known as the

corpuscles, Meissner, in 1853, proved that these little molecular

substances were distributed in a peculiar manner in the hand itself. He

found that in the tips of the fingers they were 108 to the square line,

with 400 papillae; that they gave forth certain distinct crepitations, or

vibrations, and that in the red lines of the hand they were most numerous

and, strange to say, were found in straight individual rows in the lines

of the palm. Experiments were made as to these vibrations, and it was

proved that, after a little study, one could distinctly detect and

recognise the crepitations _in relation to each individual_. They

increased or decreased in every phase of health, thought, or excitement,

and were extinct the moment death had mastered its victim. About twenty

years later, experiments were made with a man in Paris, who had an

abnormally acute sense of sound (Nature's compensation for want of sight,

as he had been born blind). In a very short time this man could detect

the slightest change or irregularity in these crepitations, and through

the changes was able to tell with wonderful accuracy about how old a

person was, and how near they were to illness, and even death.

The study of these corpuscles was also taken up by Sir Charles Bell, who,

in 1874, demonstrated that each corpuscle contained the end of a nerve

fibre, and was in immediate connection with the brain. This great

specialist also demonstrated that every portion of the brain was in touch

with the nerves of the hand and more particularly with the corpuscles

found in the tips of the fingers and the lines of the hand.


The detection of criminals by taking impressions of the tips of the

fingers and by thumb marks is now used by the police of almost every

country, and thousands of criminals have been tracked down and identified

by this means.

To-day, at Scotland Yard, is to be seen almost an entire library now

devoted to books on this side of the subject and to the collections that

the police have made, and yet, in my short time, I remember how the idea

was scoffed at when Monsieur Bertillon and the French police first

commenced the detection of criminals by this method. If the ignorant

prejudice against a complete study of the hand were overcome, the police

would be greatly assisted by studying the lines of the palm, and

acquiring a knowledge of what these lines mean, especially as regards

mentality and the inclination of the brain in one direction or another.

It is a well-known fact that, even if the skin be burned off the hands or

removed by an acid, in a short time the lines will reappear exactly as

they were before, and the same happens to the ridges or "spirals" in the

skin of the inside tips of the fingers and thumb.

The scientific use of such a study could also be made invaluable in

foreseeing tendencies towards insanity, etc.

Sir Thomas Browne, in his _Religio Medici_, after referring to

Physiognomy, says:

"Now there are besides these characters in our faces certain

mystical figures in our hands, which I dare not call mere

dashes, strokes _a la volee_ or at random, because delineated

by a pencil that never works in vain, and hereof I take more

particular notice because I carry that in mine own hand which

I could never read nor discover in another."

But prejudice is a hard thing to combat, and, in consequence, a study

which could render untold aid to humanity has been neglected in modern

times. Yet it cannot be denied that this strange study was practised and

followed by some of the greatest teachers and students of other


Whether or no these ancient philosophers were more enlightened than we

are has long been a question of dispute, but the one point and the most

important one which has been admitted is, that in those days the greatest

study of mankind was man. It is, therefore, reasonable to suppose that

their conclusions are more likely to be correct than those of an age like

our own--famous chiefly for its implements of destruction, its warships,

its dynamite, and its cannon.

This study of hands can be traced back to the very earliest, most

enlightened forms of civilisation. It has been practised by the greatest

minds in all those civilisations, minds that have left their mental

philosophies and their monuments for us to marvel at. India, China,

Persia, Egypt, Rome--all in their study of mankind have placed the

greatest store in their study of the hand.

During my stay in India, I was permitted by some Brahmans (descendants of

the Joshi Caste, famous from time immemorial for their knowledge in

occult subjects) with whom it was my good fortune to become intimately

acquainted, to examine and make extracts from an extraordinary book on

this subject which they regarded as almost sacred, and which belonged to

the great past of the now despised Hindustan.

As the wisdom of the Hindus spread far and wide across the earth, so the

theories and ideas about this study spread and were practised in other

countries. Similar to the way in which religion suits itself to the

conditions of the country in which it is propagated, so has it divided

itself into various systems. It is, however, to the days of the Greek

civilisation that we owe the present clear and lucid form of the study.

The Greek civilisation has, in many ways, been considered the highest and

most intellectual in the world, and here it is that Palmistry or

Cheiromancy (from the Greek [Greek: cheir], the hand) grew and found

favour in the eyes of those who have given us laws and philosophies that

we employ to-day and whose works are taught in all our leading colleges

and schools.

It is a well-known and undisputed fact that the philosopher Anaxagoras

not only taught but practised this study. We also find that Hispanus

discovered on an altar dedicated to Hermes a book on Cheiromancy, written

in gold letters, which he sent as a present to Alexander the Great, as "a

study worthy of the attention of an elevated and enquiring mind." Instead

of it being followed by the "weak-minded," we find, on the contrary, that

it numbered amongst its disciples such men of learning as Aristotle,

Pliny, Paracelsus, Cardamis, Albertus Magnus, the Emperor Augustus, and

many others of note.

This brings us down to the period when the power of the Church was

beginning to be felt outside the domain and jurisdiction of religion. It

is said that the early Fathers were jealous of the influence of this

old-world science. Whether this be true or not, we find that it was

bitterly denounced and persecuted by the early Church. It has always

been, that the history of any dominant creed or sect is the history of

opposition to knowledge, unless that knowledge come through it. This

study, therefore, the offspring of "pagans and heathens," was not even

given a trial. It was denounced as sorcery and witchcraft; the devil was

conjured up as the father of all such students, and the result was that

through this bitter persecution, the study was outlawed, and fell into

the hands of vagrants, tramps, and gipsies. In spite of this persecution

it is interesting and significant to notice that almost the first book

ever printed was a work on Palmistry, _Die Kunst Ciromantia_, printed in

Augsburg, in the year 1475.

In examining this subject it will be found that in the study of mankind

it came to be recognised that, as there was a natural position on the

face for the nose, eyes, lips, etc., so also on the hand was there a

natural position for what is known as the Line of Head, Line of Life, and

so on. If these were found in some unnatural position they would equally

be the indications of unnatural tendencies. It doubtless took years of

study to name these lines and marks, but it must be remembered that this

curious study is more ancient than any other in the world.

In the original Hebrew of the Book of Job (chap. xxxvii., ver. 7), we

find these significant words: "God caused signs or seals on the hands of

all the sons of men, that the sons of men might know their works."

As the student of anatomy can build up the entire system from the

examination of a single bone, so may a person by a careful study of an

important member of the body such as the hand, apart from anything

superstitious or even mystical, build up the entire action of the system

and trace every effect back to its cause.

To-day the science of the present is coming to the rescue of the

so-called superstition of the past. All over the world scientists are

little by little sweeping aside prejudice and beginning to study occult

questions. Perhaps the "whys and wherefores" of such things may one of

these days be as easily explained as are those wireless waves of

electricity that carry messages from land to land.

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