THE MENTAL phenomena of psychic science all relate to the gaining of knowledge otherwise than through the recognized channels of sense perception; hence the general term
cryptaesthesia, used by Professor Richet, is a suitable one to cover the field, meaning as it does a hidden mode of perception. We may divide most of the phenomena of cryptaesthesia into three main groups, according as the thing which is known exists located somewhere in space without the range of the knower's senses, or is placed in Time differently from the knower, or, finally, exists solely in the Mind of some other person, as an idea or an emotion. Thus we have, in the first place,
clairvoyance, covering all those cases in which a material object is perceived (otherwise than through the five senses); in the second place,
prevision and retrocognition of events which are to come or are already past; and in the third place,
telepathy, the perception of ideas, etc., in another's mind, or the transmission of ideas from one mind to another. We shall find that in many, if not in most, cases of cryptaesthesia it is not easy to determine which mode is operative, and that in many cases there may be a combination of two or even all three modes. Moreover, when we have studied Clairvoyance and Precognition in the chapters devoted to them, we shall, I think, begin to feel that they are only apparently different, in that their content is in the one case a present material object, and in the other case objects existent in the future; but that, considered as modes of perception, they are identical. Moreover, the trend of modern physics, as expressed for example in Jeans'
"Mysterious Universe", is to regard all material objects as essentially mental phenomena, although their substantiality is not in any way negatived by this conception.
"The old dualism of mind and matter ... seems likely to disappear not through matter becoming in any way more shadowy or insubstantial than heretofore, or through mind becoming resolved into a function of the working of matter, but through substantial matter resolving itself into a creation and manifestation of the mind."
Now if this is a tenable view in physics it suggests that pure telepathy, or the perception of ideas in another's mind, is not radically different in kind from ordinary perception of material objects. In other words it becomes quite reasonable to say that Clairvoyance, Precognition, Telepathy, and normal perception of the material world round us, are so many forms of one and the same thing, namely, perception in general, and differ, not in themselves as attributes of the percipient's mind, but merely in their application to things perceived. We thus differentiate between them merely for our own convenience in describing and classifying their effects, just as we make arbitrary classifications in other sciences, such as physics or botany, and study under separate headings things which really are but different forms or actions of something identical in each.
Cryptaesthesia then, is probably at bottom one thing, a generalized Perceptivity. But in order to discuss its modes we must separate them, and study the evidence for each one by itself. This means that we must exclude all but one mode at a time, which is a very hard task to accomplish. For example, consider the Queen Draga case, given by Richet, which is one of the most interesting examples of cryptaesthesia recorded; though whether the mode operative is one of Clairvoyance in space, or Precognition in time, or of Telepathy in pure mind, seems impossible to determine. Richet says (p. 166):
"The third fact, which on thinking it over appears to me one of the most striking examples of cryptaesthesia yet obtained, is the following: I give the details, for it shows astonishing lucidity acting at a distance of 1200 miles, and exact notes were taken. In June 1906, at 10.30 p.m., in the presence of my friend Octave Houdaille, Mme. S., Mme. It., and her twelve-year-old daughter, after some incoherent phrases, we got the following sentence by raps, more distinct than ever before. (In the whole course of my experiments with Mme. R. the raps were unintelligible only twice or three times.) 'BANCALAMO.' I could not refrain from saying, 'O, it is Latin! Calamo.' But the dictation continued imperturbably, 'BANCA LA MORT GUETTE FAMILLE.' Thence onwards the answers were incoherent. I thought at first that the first word must be Italian - Bianca-Blanche; but no one present could interpret the words.
"The next day, Thursday, at 2 p.m., the news of the assassination of Queen Draga of Serbia was received at Paris. Some Serbian officers, having bought over the palace servants, entered at midnight and assassinated King Alexander, his wife, and her two brothers; her two sisters escaped by a miracle. Not for a moment did I connect this tragedy with the previous evening's
"On Friday, reading in the paper some details relative to the crime, I learned that Draga's father was named Panka, and this came as a ray of light.
1. The word BANCA is very near PANKA. (I will return to this later.)
2. The time at which the message was given, 10.30 p.m., is, to the minute, the time at which the assassins left the Hotel de la Couronne de Serbie; correcting for Belgrade time which is one and a half hours in advance of Paris time.
3. The words apply with startling exactitude to the peril menacing the whole family of Panka; the words 'Death lies in wait family' could hardly be more appositely chosen in view of the situation at midnight in Belgrade."
In the first place we might suppose that Mme. R. had clairvoyantly perceived for an instant some of the assassins' preparations; but then we should not understand how she knew what these imported, unless perhaps she saw some written plan or heard the discussions. This would seem to involve either the hypothesis of the projection of an ectoplasmic body, or of the fourth dimension, and in view of the distance involved the latter seems more probable.
Secondly, however, we might consider the time at which the message was given, namely, when the assassins left the hotel in order to go out and commit the murder. Mme. R. did not say, "Death
has overtaken the family," but, in view of other cases of undoubted prevision, it is quite reasonable to suppose that she saw the event before it occurred, and, realizing its still futural character, expressed herself in prophetic form.
Finally, and no doubt most readers will instinctively tend to prefer the hypothesis, the message may be wholly telepathic in origin; the thoughts of the assassins, highly charged as they must have been, with emotion and concentrated purpose, may have impressed the sensitive medium in Paris. But for none of these explanations have we any shred of definite evidence; we only have evidence for the fact of the occurrence of a supernormal event of the kind we call cryptaesthetic.
There is a special class of phenomenon, the so-called psychometry, in which the medium is enabled to acquire a great deal of miscellaneous knowledge apparently through mere contact with an object, which is probably due to an admixture of clairvoyance, retrocognition, and telepathy; but it is quite impossible to disentangle the factors which may be at work, so that our best course is to consider psychometry as a form of general cryptaesthesia, and not try to pigeon-hole it. Examples of psychometry are quite numerous, as it is a common mode of mediumship, but in comparatively few cases do we have the attendant circumstances so arranged as to preclude fraud (through previous study of a person's history) or telepathy.
Nevertheless, although fraud can conceivably be postulated for any one single case taken out of a large number, it cannot possibly be postulated for a whole batch of cases with a fertile medium (e.g. Mrs. Piper); because no medium could spend the time or money required for elaborate and clandestine researches into the history and relatives of all the possible or likely sitters who may come to consult the psychometrist.
A good case of psychometry, involving the possibility of telepathy and one definite instance of clairvoyance, is that given by Drs. Dufay and Azam. I will summarize it briefly here. Dr. Dufay of Blois was interested in a clairvoyant named Marie, with whom he did several experiments. On one occasion Marie spent the night in prison (she was acquitted) and in the morning Dr. Dufay was sent for on account of a suicide which had occurred in the prison. The prisoner, who was accused of murder, had strangled himself with his neckerchief. Dr. Dufay obtained the magistrate's permission to question Marie about this man, of whom she was not supposed to know anything, and of whose suicide she also can be presumed to have been entirely ignorant, since prisoners are naturally not told these things, and Dr. Dufay says that even the sister of the women's department had not yet been told of it. Accordingly Dr. Dufay wrapped a piece of the kerchief up in paper, had Marie fetched, hypnotized her, and put the packet containing the piece of kerchief in her hands, without having spoken to her at all up to this point.
Marie started up and threw the packet away, declaring that it was something that had killed a man. On being questioned, she said that it was a neckerchief, that a man had hanged himself with it, and that he was a prisoner who had assassinated someone with a cooper's
gouet, or kind of hatchet.
This much information might conceivably have been acquired normally (though this seems unlikely) or else telepathically during the hypnotic state. But the magistrate then whispered to Dr. Dufay that the
gouet had never been found, so the latter asked Marie where the instrument was. She quickly "saw" it, at the bottom of a pool, which she described sufficiently for the police to recover the
gouet there that day.
The question arises whether she actually saw the gouet in the pool (clairvoyance), or whether the spirit or mind of the recently deceased murderer informed her of it (telepathy from the dead), or whether in some way the past history of the murderer was carried by the neckerchief! In any case, what sort of stimulus or action is it that a material object is capable of giving to a psychometrizing medium?
Dr. Rudolph Tischner did a series of psychometric experiments during the War. Out of about a hundred experiments with two mediums, about forty gave good positive evidence of supernormal knowledge - probably involving an indeterminate mixture of clairvoyance, telepathy, and retrocognition. One interesting case is that in which the medium, H., described the picture on a hundred rouble note inside a box (expt. 157). In another, when H. was given a spectacle case containing a rosary which had been blessed by the Pope, he said at once:
"I think I am worried by the spectacle case - I see the Pope-they call to me 'You must say, I see the Pope' - I saw a brilliant white form" (expt. 110). The former experiment reads like direct clairvoyance, but in this case H. did not see or describe the rosary instead, he got the one important idea connected with it, namely, the Pope. Probably, then, since Dr. Tischner knew all about the object, telepathy is the most reasonable hypothesis here. But experiment 155 is more interesting and more convincing still. In this case, an unknown object, securely wrapped up in a box, tied, and sealed, had been sent by Mr. Dingwall to Dr. Tischner, to be presented to H. Mr. Dingwall and his immediate friends were the only ones who knew what the box contained, and no one at the seance knew what it was. (Dr. Tischner was in Germany, it must be remembered, while Mr. Dingwall lives in England, and is a prominent member of the S.P.R.)
Amongst other remarks, having no very great relevance, H. said of this object:
"The object must come from a foreign land - I can feel the cold-Siberia-primitive it points to a primitive country - something made in a foreign country - the East - the Stone Age-something 'versteint' (stoned) - came in a ship across the sea."
Much of this might be random, vague guessing, applicable to many objects, but the definite associations with cold, the Stone Age, a primitive country, and something "stoned," are not likely ideas for an object that might well be a tie-pin or ring or pencil or other personal belonging. As a matter of fact, the box contained a flint axe-head, dating from the Achulean period, which Mr. Dingwall had found in the New Forest. The associations with cold, Siberia and the East, are explained by the observation that the axe-head dates back from a period when the climate of England was probably much like that of the colder parts of Siberia to-day. Altogether, then, the experiment is highly evidential of cryptaesthesia, and exclusive of probable telepathy, unless one is prepared to admit that H. had access to Mr. Dingwall's memory. Ordinary telepathy is excluded by the fact that, of the people present during the experiment, none knew what the box contained, while of the people who knew its contents, none knew when the experiment was taking place, and therefore (unless they thought of nothing else for days!) may be presumed not to have been thinking of it at the time.
An exceedingly interesting case is given by Dr. Osty ("Supernormal Faculties in
Man", pp. 34-38) which apparently involves psychometric retrocognition of an unusual power. Briefly, an engineer, M. Galloy, gave Dr. Osty a photograph representing an ill-defined eggshaped object, saying that the contents of the object were unknown to anyone. Dr. Osty gave the photograph to Mme. Morel when she was in an hypnotic trance, and thereupon Mme. Morel gave a long description of a man dying a violent death, a strange funeral scene, in which uniforms and brightly coloured garments were conspicuous, and a tomb like a small underground house. She saw that the object was shut up with the body in the tomb. She described how the object was filled with blood, and then hermetically sealed.
As a matter of fact, the photograph represented an ancient Ampulla, found in a necropolis near Baalbec, which is probably unique of its kind. It is conjectured by the owner to contain some very rare and precious liquid, and to have belonged to some important person, dating from the Roman occupation of Egypt, shortly before the Christian era. But, as the owner asked £5000 for it, Dr. Osty could not buy it and ascertain whether the contents really were blood. It is interesting, however, to see what a circumstantial story, all of it quite probable, Mme. Morel at once delivered on being given a very poor photograph of an object at whose nature she certainly could not guess.
Dr. Osty, whose researches in psychometric clairvoyance are as valuable as those of Schrenck-Notzing on ectoplasm, does not satisfactorily solve the mystery which attaches to the use of an object. He establishes the fact that it materially assists a medium at the start to be given, though but for a moment, some object which has recently been touched by, or has often been in the presence of, the person who is to be the subject of the medium's clairvoyance. But if the object is removed after the medium has got in touch with the personality, the flow of information is not inhibited. Moreover, as one of his best cases, that of M. Lerasle, proves, the medium can give information about a person, relating to events which have happened
since that person has touched the psychometric object. M. Lerasle disappeared from home one day, and did not return. The family eventually gave Dr. Osty a neck-tie from his wardrobe, and with this to establish contact, Mme. Morel found the man, tracing his path from the house through a wood, and indicating where the corpse was for M. Lerasle had gone out to die alone, as old men sometimes do.
It cannot be supposed that the object used for psychometry really carries with it the memory-traces of all the persons who have touched it; but what is the exact nature of the link which such an object establishes? For there can be no doubt that to touch some personal object, such as a neck-tie or pencil or anything else, does facilitate or promote clairvoyance on that person for some mediums, just as the process of telling the cards, or gazing into a crystal will stimulate and provoke clairvoyance in other mediums. The only attempt at an explanation of this interesting fact which I can offer is based upon the hypothesis of a fourth dimension, and will be dealt with when we discuss Precognition. (See p.
Amongst all the cases of psychometric clairvoyance we find, of course, more error than truth, as well as much that is more or less probable guesswork rather than supernormal information. Many people conclude from this that the successes of mediumship are due to chance, and that the errors show that no supernormal faculty exists. This, of course, is childish, since we are dealing with a faculty which is highly fugitive and frail, not under conscious control, sporadic and untrained - indeed, at present untrainable, although we may perhaps be able to train suitable persons to inhibit conscious thought and so allow any supernormal faculties which are there to emerge and discover themselves. But the question of error is very important, since unless we appreciate its prevalence and find some means of discriminating between the information which is probably true and that which is probably false, we may be led astray with disastrous consequences.
It appears from the whole weight of evidence, though crucial proof is lacking, that a medium is even more sensitive to telepathic impressions from the mind of a consultant than he is to supernormal impressions from actuality. Moreover, whether the impression comes from one source or the other, it is rarely received integrally and definitely, but comes as a sort of "feeling of thusness" which must be interpreted and expressed by the medium. At first the medium may be conscious of a visual or other sensorial image, which symbolizes the idea, and which he has to translate. For example, Osty's medium, M. Fleuriere, says:
"The vision of a dead man, instead of presenting itself under the natural form of a corpse in a coffin, may appear under twenty different forms. Sometimes I have the impression of a branch which cracks, breaks and falls ... occasionally I have this vision of death under the form of a black line cleaving a grey crystal, or extending into a cloudy sky. Or it may be a light which is slowly extinguished, or a meteor vanishing on the horizon."
In fact, M. Fleuriere sees a great diversity of symbolic visions corresponding to the circumstances or states of the person whose life he delineates, and these visual symbols are the forms under which his supernormal information presents itself to his mind. But the interpretation of symbols is notoriously an unsure process, and lends itself to much fabulation. Incidentally, this symbolism raises interesting questions. It is curious how the religious and other mystics, the poets, and the subconscious minds of us all, require symbolism to convey their thoughts; curious that a mode of mentation which is conspicuous in savages should also be found necessary whenever we deal with the transcendental. All the more curious because it seems psychologically to involve a previous rational idea, of which it is a picturesque translation. Thus we can understand that a man who harbours a repressed wish for his father's death might dream that he saw the king depart from the station in the royal train. His unconscious mind says, "I wish my father would die," and then, in order to pass the Freudian Censor, translates this into the conventional symbols: father=king, and dying=going away on a journey. But this symbolism, understandable enough if we start with the ideas of father and death as original thought-contents, would be inexplicable without them. So M. Fleuriere's symbolism necessitates the conclusion that he first of all (unconsciously) has the idea "this man will die," and then symbolizes this, and sees a visual image of a branch cracking, and lastly translates this symbol with his conscious mind. But why should there be this intermediate stage of symbolism at all? Or is it only a secondary accompaniment, an hallucinatory overflow, as it were, of the idea?
Be this as it may, the interpretation of symbols is by no means the only source of error. Telepathic impressions of conjectures and hopes in the sitter's mind seem even more numerous and serious. A medium may simply act as an unwitting mirror to his consultant. A painful, but instructive, example of this is given by Osty (p. 215). In March 1916, Louis M. received a letter from the front, telling him that his son Jean was seen to be wounded in the head during an attack, but, as the Germans occupied the ground, the body had not been recovered, though death was certain. In his sorrow and anxiety M. went to a medium (M. Fleuriere), to whom he was unknown, and, without revealing anything, had his life delineated. The medium said,
inter alia, "I see one of your two sons seriously wounded in the war, in the forehead, on the right and across - perhaps also in the left shoulder - I do not see death, perhaps he may be a prisoner."
This, be it observed, gives an example of definite cryptaesthesia, probably telepathic. But M. now began to think that, since the letter had only inferred death because his son was seen to fall wounded in the head, perhaps the medium was correct in his suggestion that Jean was a prisoner. Accordingly, he went to another medium, giving her a letter written by Jean, to establish contact. She promptly saw him, wounded and bandaged in the head, and predicted his recovery and return. This strengthened M's. hope, and, when he heard later that all the other dead had been recovered but Jean's body had not been found, he may naturally be held to have more than half believed his hope. After this he, or his friends, obtained psychometric clairvoyance about Jean on sixteen occasions and each time got some piece of information showing that he was alive, a prisoner, well cared for, suffering from loss of memory, would write soon, would return eventually cured, etc. Only one medium, to whom Osty had given one of Jean's letters, said "There is no future for this person; he is dead."
And yet the truth was that Jean was dead; or, at any rate, that no trace of him has been found, and no record of his treatment in the hospitals of Germany or Switzerland; nor has any news ever come of him. Undoubtedly he was killed outright at Verdun, and probably buried by a shell.
All these mediums, in fact, had simply echoed back the hopes and convictions which existed unexpressed in M's. mind; so that their very sensitiveness to telepathic impressions destroyed their value in this case as informants. This, indeed, is an example which should be studied, because it reveals the extent to which an honest medium may unconsciously dupe us, or, perhaps we should say, to which we can dupe ourselves. And it makes us realize the almost insuperable difficulty of proving any one mode of cryptaesthesia to the complete exclusion of the other modes; which is the task to which we must address ourselves in the next three chapters.
RICHET Thirty Years of Psychical Research.
TISCHNER Telepathy and Clairvoyance.
OSTY Supernormal Faculties in Man.
DUFAY AND AZAM Paper in P.S.P.R., Part 16
"The Supernormal" by G. C. Barnard (London: Rider
& C0., 1933).