THE EVIDENCE which points prima facie to a survival of the personality after death has accumulated so rapidly in the last half-century, largely as a result of the labours of the S.P.R. and similar societies abroad, that its adequate analysis and critique would occupy many large tomes. And yet the quality of this accumulation of testimony is not often sufficiently high to deserve the laborious analysis which is indispensable before we can accept the proffered proof of survival.
The first question to raise is as to the kind of evidence that might conceivably be held to indicate personal survival. Formerly, I suppose, an objective and complete proof of the appearance of a ghost would have been considered satisfactory, but to-day the known facts of ectoplasmic materializations, with their peculiar inherent tendency to dramatic personification, make evidence of this sort quite valueless unless it is associated with some other psychological feature. In many books dealing with supernormal phenomena one finds a separate chapter, or several such chapters, devoted to ghosts, apparitions at or after death, hauntings, and the projection of the etheric body. In fact such things appear to most people to be the essential and interesting phenomena of the science of metapsychics. It is popularly assumed that there is an "etheric" or semi-material body, which is a kind of attenuated double of the ordinary body, and which acts as the immortal vehicle of the personality and soul. At death, or in moments of great stress, this etheric body is supposed to be liberated, and sometimes to be made visible to other people, perhaps a thousand miles away. The etheric body, or soul, may be "earth-bound," and remain after death attached to some house, which it haunts, perhaps to re-enact periodically some crime or act of violence, as if wholly obsessed by one idea. This theory, loosely and variously as it is stated by different schools, seems to derive its support from two directions. In the first place there is the subjective ingrained materialism of people, which leads them to derive satisfaction and comfort from the idea of a quasi-solid soul which can be seen, felt, and weighed; for if the soul is an entirely immaterial entity, which can never be a subject of sense-perception, it can only appeal as a concept to those who have a taste for intellectual abstractions. In the second place there are innumerable stories of ghosts seen and heard, and in addition sonic quite reasonably well-evidenced phenomena, which do, on the face of it, seem to point to some such etheric body as their cause.
Nevertheless, in my opinion, there is no definite ground for supposing that an etheric (or ectoplasmic) double is a permanent constituent of our being, still less for the multiplication of such bodies, each one less material than the last, which seems to be the hobby of some theosophers. We need, in metapsychics, an everpresent sense of the importance of Occam's principle of excluding unnecessary entities. It may be said that I have not excluded enough in this book; that I have admitted an ectoplasm and a fourth dimension, each of which is a new entity. The only reply is that I do not see how you can explain the facts without them; but I may point out that I have excluded the hypotheses of a permanent invariable personality, of a personal "spirit" which survives after death and influences events in this world, of one or more special etheric bodies, and am inclined to merge the various phenomena of telepathy, clairvoyance, retrocognition, and precognition, into one general phenomenon of cryptaesthesia, which again is only a generalized form of something which, in one particular case, we know as sense-perception.
I propose, therefore, to devote very little space to what may be called the ghost department, and merely to suggest that all such (objective) cases may well be explained by the ectoplasmic theory, combined, when it is necessary, with the theory of the fourth dimension. This may seem to many readers to be a deliberate refusal to deal with difficulties and with phenomena which, in their opinion, would disprove my arguments. But this book is as far as possible confined to a discussion of known facts, and the fundamental facts of hauntings are not really known. The multitudinous tales of haunted houses and of ghostly apparitions, of spectres of deceased murderers, and so on, are not well certified as to the essentials, and nothing valuable can be gained from any one of them except by means of an exhaustive and detailed examination of every relevant feature. Such analyses as have been made do not by any means lead one to adopt the popular explanations, and it is fairly safe to say that in any given instance of haunting or of poltergeist phenomena there is present some person who is acting as the agent (as a rule unconsciously) and that the only supernormal actions probably involved are telekinesis and perhaps materialization. In many particular instances the medium has been discovered to be a boy or girl at the stage of puberty - a period of stress which often seems to release mediumistic faculties in slightly hysterical or ill-balanced children. But it is not theoretically necessary (although probably almost always in fact the case) that the effective agent must be actually on the haunted spot while the manifestations occur. There is the possibility of action at a distance, since the ectoplasm may be projected away from the medium; to say nothing of the possible movements in the fourth dimension.
As to other evidences for the etheric double, we may mention that M. Baraduc photographed a white cloud escaping from a body at the moment of death; that Dr. Kilner examined the auras of his patients through a screen stained with dicyanin; that de Rochas and Lancelin made use of hypnotized "sensitives" who observed and described the stages of projection of the etheric double; and that Dr. D. MacDougall weighed his dying patients and discovered that at the moment of death they lost half an ounce or so. But none of these observations are demonstrative of the existence of the supposed vehicle of the soul. It is even highly doubtful how far they correspond with reality at all; but in any case they go no further than showing that ectoplasm may sometimes escape from the body, and perhaps that it normally drapes the body, like a cloak, giving the appearance of an aura.
To return to the ghost-proof, a very good instance which appears on the face of it to be a real visitation from the dead, and which has the kind of additional feature which makes it worth considering as evidence, is given in P.S.P.R., Vol. 6, and quoted again by Myers. The account has been investigated thoroughly and we may take the story as being quite true as to its facts. It is shortly as follows. A man one day saw the phantom form of his sister, who had been dead nine years. Much perturbed he at once went home and told his parents, who were naturally somewhat incredulous. He happened, however, to say that his sister's face appeared to have a bright red scratch on the right-hand side. At this his mother nearly fainted, and declared that this mark identified the phantom as being really her daughter, since no one living but herself knew that there was this scratch; the mother had accidentally made it when arranging the dead body, and had been much distressed by the occurrence, which she had never mentioned to her husband or son, or to any other person. A few weeks later the mother died, happy to think that her daughter was awaiting her in the Beyond.
Myers, whose sound judgment entitles him to our greatest respect, considers that in this case the spirit of the daughter knew of her mother's approaching death, and appeared to the son in order to make him return home and at the same time console the mother's last moments with his testimony as to the survival of her daughter. It is a good interpretation, though a little ingenuous, but we might equally suppose that the phantom was projected by the mother herself. We do not know yet that the personality does survive, or that it can, after death, reappear in phantasmal form, or that it can apprehend coming events. But we do know that the living person may project an ectoplasmic phantom, may foreknow its own demise, and may unconsciously dissociate (temporarily) to enact a dramatic part with its ectoplasmic phantasm. Consequently it is more in accordance with hitherto proven facts to interpret this case in terms of a phantom projected from the mother.
I have given this case as the best example that I know of the evidence for survival based on ghosts. But it is really no evidence at all for survival of the
personality, for in this instance the phantom gave no signs of mental or emotional life at all; a mere physical simulacrum existed for a moment and then vanished. The survival of personality, however, cannot in any case be demonstrated by physical manifestations, for the whole concept is psychological. We are so used in daily life to meeting and recognizing people's bodies and finding that they are vehicles of personality, that we forget that a physical form, however recognizable, is no guarantee for the existence of a psychological personality. The argument for survival must finally be based on purely psychological evidence, and this at once brings the whole discussion on to a plane more akin to that habitually trodden by literary critics and classical scholars than that to which physical scientists are accustomed. It is largely a question, that is to say, of criticizing a given communication, obtained through some medium who speaks in trance or writes automatically, and of establishing that this communication contains internal evidence, in its style and thought-content, that it emanated from the mind of a deceased person. Now, in view of the uncertain nature of all literary criticism, in view of the examples of literary forgeries whose detection has been due to external rather than internal evidence, and especially in view of the known and suspected powers of the mediumistic mind to acquire information by clairvoyance, by telepathy, and by as yet unexplainable acts of retro- and pre-cognition, it is certainly a little daring to assert of any given communication that it must have come from the mind of the ostensible communicator. Dr. Geley, when discussing the spirit hypothesis, says that it should be adopted when the communications and general phenomena of mediumship show direction, knowledge, and abilities beyond those of the medium, either while conscious or when hypnotized. But we can set no arbitrary limits to the medium's powers while in trance; we can simply observe their display. We may take it as established that ectoplasmic projections do occur, that a phantom form is directed and controlled; the question as to how this may be done is not simplified by ascribing it to the agency of spirits. On the contrary, this assumption complicates matters by introducing a new factor. So also we may accept as a fact that mediums do reveal supernormal knowledge of facts, whether these are in the historical past, or in the future, or are merely mental facts such as the thoughts of the sitter. But given the medium and his knowledge of the fact, how does the spirit hypothesis simplify our interpretation? If the medium's mind (which at least is a real known factor) cannot in some obscure way apprehend a future event, how are we any better off in postulating a spirit mind which can apprehend it, and can also pass it on to the medium's mind - not, be it observed, by a normal means of communication like speech, but by yet another supernormal act of telepathy or of possession? Let us insist on this point, even to the extent of giving a prosaic enumeration of the assumptions implied. On the one hand we have a Medium A (given as a fact) and a piece of information B (also given as a fact). Our one solitary assumption - which is really only a statement of another fact - is that A, by some unknown process which at present we cannot understand, apprehends B; or, objectifying this, we say A has the
power (cryptesthesia) of apprehending B.
Our spiritualistic friends, on the other hand, say that A obtains B not directly by his own mental power, but mediately through C, a spirit (1st assumption), who apprehends B directly (2nd assumption) and who conveys B to A by telepathy (3rd assumption), or, alternatively, by displacing A from the control of his own body and speaking or writing with A's organs. As a matter of fact, where we simply assume cryptaesthesia as a function of known real people, spiritualists assume cryptaesthesia of the same people, plus the existence of spirits, plus the cryptaesthesia of spirits, plus the communication of spirits with living people. And with this quadrupling of hypotheses they are absolutely no nearer a satisfactory interpretation of the mystery than we are with our one hypothesis.
The question of course arises as to why an entranced medium should show any powers greater than those of normal waking persons. Whether we answer this question or not does not affect the observed fact that cryptaesthesia is shown during trance, but an answer may make this observed fact more easily digested, and therefore we will attempt one, though it can only be given in quite general terms.
We have seen that the personality is a complex and ever-shifting interplay of mental states and tendencies. Also we have seen that the reality at the back of our physical bodies is a four-dimensional thing, the world-line which is the sum of all our successive three-dimensional bodies at all instants of our lifetime. We have also seen that in the act of living our mind splits up the continuum into three directions which it apprehends as space and one which it feels differently as time. In our normal waking life we are aware of one three-dimensional world at a time (why, no one can tell), we perceive by means of the five senses (how, no amount of knowledge about electrons and photons can explain), and we (whoever "we" may be) achieve a certain degree of self-expression by checking some innate tendencies and giving others regulated exercise. What Life is, what Perception is, and what entity (if any) is behind our mental gymnastics, no philosopher has yet been able to say. But it would appear that during our waking life our perceptions are canalized and limited, in order that we may act efficiently, just as our personalities are canalized and limited for the same reason. The state of trance however, appears to be one in which life is not lived in the same three dimensions and perceptions are not canalized in the same manner. Presumably all the vagueness and incoherence of trance utterances are due to this very fact. It may well be that in trance we return to a primitive original mode of cognition, of which our sense perceptions are only highly specialized forms evolved for the purpose of three-dimensional life and adapted for daily use in the ordinary world. It is only to be expected that as one develops excellence in certain highly specialized forms of perception one should lose the power of exercising other more general, though wider, forms: that acute consciousness of the personal self and its present surroundings should prevent our being conscious of things remote in time and space. So it is not unnatural to find that more extended modes of perception and consciousness present themselves in conditions when self-consciousness and awareness of the immediately external real world are considerably lessened, as for example in sleep, in hypnosis, and in the mediumistic trance.
We asked the question, a little way back, what kind of evidence might be held to demonstrate personal survival? Spiritualists generally seem to accept most of the ostensible evidence at its face value, but when driven to defend themselves against competent opponents they usually limit themselves to a few categories of phenomena which they claim to be absolutely inexplicable on any other hypothesis. We must here hold our ground, however, and point out that if phenomena a, b, c, etc., are produced, and are at present inexplicable by means of known factors, such as general cryptaesthesia, precognition, ectoplasmic projections, and the psychological tendency to assume fictitious personalities, we are not thereby reduced to an acceptance of the spirit hypothesis. We may not be able to prove that a, b, c, etc., are due to such and such causes, or we may even prove that these, and all other known causes, are inadequate to explain the phenomena; and yet the spirit theory is not thereby proved, nor even rendered more probable than before, if we consider it to be in itself an unsound hypothesis. As to the categories a, b,
c, etc., which are in dispute, they are summarized by Bozzano(1) as follows:
(1) Bozzano, "A propos de I'Introduction a la Metapsychique".
(a) Cases of the identification of deceased persons who are unknown to the medium and the sitters.
(b) Cases of the apparition of deceased persons at a death-bed. Special cases of telekinesis at, and after, a death.
(c) Cases of "transcendental music" heard at, and after, a death.
(d) Cases where the medium talks or writes fluently in languages unknown to him, and sometimes unknown to the sitters.
Also cases where a medium writes fluently with the handwriting of a deceased person.
(d) Cases of bilocation just before death.
(e) Cases of materialization of a living, speaking phantom.
(f) Certain cases of "cross-correspondences."
(g) The existence of supernormal faculties, which are independent of the laws of biological evolution.
It will be readily understood that to deal adequately with these various categories a long book would be required. One would have to reproduce many instances of each type of case, giving full details, discussing all the evidence as to the facts, and then critically examining all the data and all the alternative explanatory hypotheses. Here we can only give a few bare general ideas, and cite a few cases which illustrate them.
Let us begin by considering the last category (g). We admit the reality of supernormal faculties, such as clairvoyance and precognition, and we would also admit, though this is by no means so self-evident as is commonly assumed, that these faculties have not been evolved in accordance with any biological law of natural selection. But why should we conclude, with Podmore and Bozzano, and others, that this logically leads us to infer that these faculties demonstrate the existence of a higher, spirit world, in which they are to be freely used? This seems very curious reasoning, for if one accepts the laws of evolution by natural selection, it would be far more logical to regard such a spirit world as being anterior to our life here, and to look on these supernormal faculties as being the residue of those belonging to us before incarnation on earth, instead of as being a sort of magical anticipation of our future life. But I confess that the existence of faculties not produced by natural selection or biological laws does not give me the same difficulty that it appears to present to Bozzano. I think it is hard enough to demonstrate the efficiency of such laws even in purely physiological matters, without going any further; and no one has yet given us any adequate reason for supposing that natural selection has had much to do with the appearance or development of rational thought, of musical appreciation, of literary or artistic abilities, or of moral or religious instincts, among humanity.
With regard to the various classes of phenomena taken to demonstrate the action of spirits, consider first class (a). Cases of the appearance during a sitting with a medium of a spirit who claims to be a deceased person, gives his name and personal details, and is quite unknown (or, at any rate, seems so) to the medium or the sitters, are very common. They are held to constitute proof of survival, and indeed the spirit very frequently appears for the express purpose of convincing one of the sitters that the dead do survive. Usually in such cases the sitter is communicating with some deceased relative, or with the medium's control, and is trying to convince himself that they are not fictitious pseudo-personalities created by the medium. He asks that other inhabitants of the spirit world be allowed to communicate, people unknown to any of those present, so that telepathy may not be introduced. If only some verifiable communication is then produced, how convincing a proof is obtained! But one difficulty in all these cases lies in the proof that these deceased persons who appear are in fact unknown to the medium and sitters. It is easy to say that you have never heard of some obscure person who lived and died in a remote part and with whom you had no conscious contact. But in fact the newspapers make most of your statements a little uncertain. The majority of cases cited enable us to say that there is the distinct possibility of either the sitters or medium having heard, or read in a paper, some details of the decease of the person in question. Occasionally the source of this information has been traced successfully, and the fictitious character of the spirit demonstrated. For example, Mr. Soal's case of "James Miles" (in P.S.P.R., Part 96) is a neat instance of the creation of a fictitious communication as the result of a newspaper paragraph casually read and completely forgotten. But there is a second, more fatal, difficulty for the adherents of Spiritualism, which consists in the fact that it is by no means necessary to assume always a normal source of information, such as a paragraph in a newspaper. It is obvious that telepathy and clairvoyance, and still more, retrocognition, make the possible sources of information far greater, and reduce the strength of this argument for spiritism very considerably.
Moreover, it sometimes happens that a spirit is demonstrably fictitious - for example, the case, previously cited, of M. Til, and Mr. Soal's case of John Ferguson (P.S.P.R., Part 96). In this last case the personality, John Ferguson, who communicated, was invented, unconsciously and piecemeal, by Mr. Soal, the sitter, out of recollections and scenes connected with himself, and was telepathically communicated to the medium, and reproduced by her as a veritable spirit. Towards the end of the sittings in which John Ferguson communicated, when Mr. Soal had realized his fictitious character and had disproved most of his statements, the following instructive conversation took place between Mr. Soal and the spirit of his brother Frank, who also communicated during the sittings, and who took John Ferguson to be a real spirit:
Soal: What do you think of John Ferguson?
Frank: Think he got mixed up, Sam.. Mistook your thoughts for his own.
Soal: How do you mean?
Frank: His mind was blank. He caught at any thoughts flying round - he'd have believed he was Jonah if you had told him so.
Soal: But I didn't tell him he was anything.
Frank: You thought it - no difference ... You see, John had forgotten all about himself - clutched at any straw in the wind . . . couldn't bear to think he was nobody.
It is the last phrase that I would like to emphasize only apply it to the mobile uncrystallized part of the medium's subconscious mind, and we have the clue to all these personifications, their motive power. The comparatively recent "Gordon Davis" case, which bids fair to become a classic example, clearly demonstrates the possibility that the most intricate and ingeniously persuasive "evidential" communication may be fabricated, and that the medium may acquire almost any information supernormally and from it build up a personification which seems, on the face of it, indubitably genuine.
It appears that Mr. Soal, who was sitting with the medium, Mrs. Cooper, had heard of the death of a man whom he had once known slightly, and that during his sittings this man, Gordon Davis, communicated by the "direct voice" (i.e. it was apparently the voice of the spirit which spoke). The mannerism and intonation were convincingly true to life, and many personal statements were made which Mr. Soal verified. It looked, in fact, like one more instance of the familiar type of evidential cases of personal survival. But Mr. Soal discovered, to his astonishment, that Gordon Davis was
not dead, and that at the time of the sittings he had been well, engaged in his business, and blissfully unaware of his supposed communication! When he read the account of the sitting he clearly recognized his own personality therein, the only false item being that he was dead. This idea, however, had been previously in Mr. Soal's mind, so that we must assume that Mrs. Cooper obtained by telepathy the general notion of a dead Gordon Davis, and then, in some hidden manner, got in touch with the real man and "psychometrized" him, and finally (of course unconsciously and in all good faith) manufactured the communication and delivered it with consummate histrionic skill. It is difficult to understand how this might be done, certainly, but it is obvious that the fact that it
was done justifies us in suspecting all the other apparently evidential cases, and withholding, for the present, our assent to their claim to constitute a proof of survival.
A very persuasive case of communication is that contained in Mr. G. W. Balfour's paper (P.S.P.R., Part 69), dealing with Mrs. Willett's scripts, which emanated ostensibly from the classical scholar, Dr. Verrall. By means of apparently disconnected literary allusions involving Gray, Dryden, Dante, and the Roman poet Statius, as well as an obscure (in the sense of being narrowly circulated) essay by Dr. Verrall, a seemingly incoherent script is shown to be the work of a mind which is either Dr. Verrall's own, or else an exceedingly clever imitation of it; and this latter alternative seems improbable by reason of the range of knowledge shown as well as on account of the fidelity to the manner of the original. Mr. Balfour demonstrates at least that the mind which produced the communications worked in the same way, and on the same materials, as Dr. Verrall was want to work in life. On the other hand, the case is made less persuasive when we remember that both Mrs. and Miss Verrall were mediumistic, and wrote automatically, and that they were known to Mrs. Willett. Moreover, they were anxious to get just this complicated type of evidence for survival, and did in fact produce it in their own scripts. Further, when one of Mrs. Willett's scripts was written, Mr. Balfour, a friend of Dr. Verrall, was present, and on another occasion Miss Verrall was present - thus the opportunities and conditions for involuntary telepathic collusion (of the type which produced "John Ferguson" but far more efficient, since the basis was a real and familiar person) were certainly present; and since such collusion is a known possible cause we must suppose it in preference to the hitherto undemonstrated one of spirit action.
The second class (b) of death-bed cases includes four sorts which Bozzano deals with separately, but which I have grouped together, on the ground that it is extremely difficult to get any precise, well-attested evidence, observed by competent persons in a detached frame of mind, to enable us to distinguish between real and hallucinatory phenomena, or to sort out the various possible factors. This may appear to be a shelving of awkward material in order to prejudice the case, but really the material is too uncertain to be of much value until sifted and analysed to a degree which is beyond the scope of this book. The conditions of a death-bed are not conducive to cool judgment and observations of supernormal facts; they allow none of the control which is possible at a seance, and they tend to produce a state of emotional credulity which prevents one from distinguishing what is real from what is apparent. In the same way class (d), cases of bilocation just before death, will not be considered here, because they are not sufficiently well attested by competent persons to be admitted as indisputable facts, and also because (and this applies also to class (e), cases of materializations, as, for example, the case of Katie King), even if the fact of bilocation be admitted, it is equally easily explained as a projection of a materialized ectoplasmic structure - in this case taking the form of the dying
Let us pass to class (c), of cases where the medium talks or writes in a language unknown to him. Let us remark at once that here again much of tie evidence adduced is rather unreliable. However, the mediums Valiantine and Kluski are both quite crediby reported to have spoken to sitters of various nationalities in the appropriate languages, to the extent of a dozen tongues or so, all of which were unknown to the medium. In these cases, however, it is perfectly possible that an unconscious telepathic collusion between sitter and medium is the sole and sufficient cause of this dramatic phenomenon. Consequently the Spiritualists make great play of some cases where the language spoken by the spirits is unknown to the sitter also. But such cases obviously are open to the suggestion that the unknown language is in fact not any language at all! For example, Kluski materialized a phantom of an old bearded man, whom the circle called "The Assyrian Priest." He spoke a guttural language, unknown to everyone, and not yet identified. But then, what evidence have we that it was not mere gibberish, or an infantile language created by the medium, like the Martian tongue created by Helen Smith? In the only case where such an unknown tongue has been carefully examined (at least, so far as I am aware), namely, in the case of Helen Smith's "Martian," the spirit hypothesis has not received much support from the analysis, and the powers of the subconscious mind have been demonstrated to be considerably greater than was formerly supposed.
The Case of Helen Smith.
Helen Smith was a young, intelligent and capable woman, quite normal in health and behaviour, and occupying a responsible position in a business house in Geneva, who held remarkable seances in which, among other things, her spirit was conducted to Mars and there saw many strange sights. She was studied by Professor Flournoy, whose book
"From India to the Planet Mars" is a masterly psychological analysis of her quite typical spiritualistic adventures. Concluding one of his chapters, Flournoy points out one or two striking features of Helen's description of life on Mars. In the first place, the Martian world combines complete identity with our world in all essential points, with puerile originality in a host of minor details. For example, the bridges there slip under the water to allow boats to pass, instead of being drawn up as ours are; and the people there eat off square plates which have a furrow for the gravy. Secondly, the complexions, features, costumes of the Martians, their houses and the vegetation, have a strong flavour of the sham Orient -it is pseudo-Japanese. Thirdly, the Martian language which Helen spoke is found to be an original creation based on French-being, in fact, superficially quite unlike it as to the actual words, and yet identical with it in syntax and grammar. For example, the order of words in the two languages is identical, and idiosyncrasies such as the divided negative (ne ... pas) or the euphonic "t" in
reviendra-t-il are copied faithfully. For example:
ke le nazere ani.
French. je ne me trompe pas.
Martian. kevi berimir-m-hed.
French. quand reviendra-t-il.
The Martian vowels are five and correspond exactly with the French vowels. The Martian c and s have the same character as in French; e.g., s is generally hard, but between two vowels it is soft. Every Martian word corresponds exactly to one French word; so that we have the remarkable fact that the Martians speak a language which, though its words have a certain quasi-Oriental look, yet corresponds more closely with French than do German or English, or other European languages. The following passage will show the close correspondence, especially in the smaller points of the language, such as the omission of "pas" after the verb
Martian. ce ke mache radzire ze tarvini na nini nini-
French. je ne puis prononcer le langage ou nous nous-
Martian. trimeneni ii adzi...
French. comprenions si bien...
There is no resisting Flournoy's conclusion that this Martian language is simply an infantile creation made up by a mind which naively supposed that a new language could be evolved by simply substituting uncouth words for each word of the mother tongue; and that the whole Martian romance is a piece of subliminal imagination, based mainly on childish ideas about the Orient, and fabricated by an infantile Helen Smith who survives in the background of the adult lady, and who comes to the fore when she goes into a trance. This interpretation is also supported by his analysis of her other romances - as when she incarnates Marie Antoinette or a Hindu princess - and of the various spirits who in turn appear in her
sťances. Her spiritualistic incarnations, as a matter of fact, are simply a special and intense form of compensatory day-dreaming, by which she achieves romance and a grandeur which the circumstances of her daily life have denied her.
But the remarkable point which we wish to bring to notice here is that this infantile subconscious personality which enacted these romances was able to invent a kind of language (creating words at first, no doubt, on the spur of the moment, but probably also elaborating it at leisure between the
sťances) and to maintain this language consistently throughout about forty sťances, covering a period of three years, so that words used in the earlier
sťances are used again correctly in later sťances, only very few and small errors occurring. The waking conscious personality of Helen Smith could have had little to do with the language, as it was either spoken during trance, and taken down phonetically by Flournoy, or written by her in trance in a special Martian calligraphy; in both cases the texts were taken away by Flournoy, and the translations, which were given during her trance by her spirit control, were kept out of her sight until practically the end of the series. Then Professor Flournoy, having come to the conclusion that he could prove to her that Martian was really her own invention, discussed the texts with her and criticized them adversely. The result was unexpected, for she shortly afterwards produced an ultra-Martian language, extremely rich in a sounds, whereas Martian had been over-rich in i and c sounds, and having no discoverable grammar or syntax at all! The language, in fact, avoids the charge of earthliness only by becoming chaotic.
A more recent, and well-known, example of the phenomenon of speaking in an unknown tongue is Valiantine's production of the voice of Confucius. At some sittings with him in New York various Oriental tongues were spoken, and so a noted Oriental scholar, Dr. Whymant, was invited to be present. During his sittings a spirit announcing himself as Kung-Fu Tzu appeared, and on being questioned at some length by Dr. Whymant in Chinese he gave various proofs of his knowledge of remote and obscure points - such as the popular name of Confucius when he was fourteen years old, the usage of archaic Chinese phrases and sounds, and the interpretation of a doubtful passage in the philosopher's writings.
Moreover, at later sittings, in the absence of Dr. Whymant, gramophone records of this Chinese voice were made which, in spite of being faint and blurred, were recognizable as the same voice. Nevertheless we cannot avoid recognizing the possibility that all this Chinese was obtained from the mind of Dr. Whymant himself. Mere physical propinquity, though indubitably an aid to the initial establishing of telepathic communication, is by no means essential for, and even perhaps quite irrelevant to, its continuance when once established. Telepathy across six hundred miles is no more difficult to understand than across six feet, since space is apparently quite irrelevant to it. The proximity of the sitter simply facilitates the establishment of "rapport"; it does nothing to facilitate the actual mental exploration or transmission involved in telepathy.
It will, I think, be agreed now, that the phenomenon of writing or speaking in unknown or unfamiliar languages is not so convincing a proof of spirit possession as is commonly assumed, and with this we may pass on to the remaining category of Bozzano's incontrovertible proofs.
Class (f) includes certain cases of "Cross-Correspondences." Evidence based on cases of
"cross-correspondence" is plentiful enough and occupies many parts of the Proceedings of the S.P.R., being perhaps the Society's chief contribution to the subject.(2)
(2) See especially P.S.P.R., Parts 53, 55, 57, 60, 63, 67, and 68.
These cases reveal the general fact that two different mediums may obtain the same message, or that what is said by one automatic writer may be amplified or illustrated by what another writes; so that we are ultimately forced to conclude that one and the same mind is dominating the two mediums. In view of the apparently deliberate concealment of meaning which marks many of these scripts, so that only a person who reads both messages and compares them is able to see any sense in either, we are compelled to admit that if a single mind produces both messages it does so either because it is in a state of helpless oscillation, or else because it wishes to demonstrate the fact that a single mind, above and beyond the minds of the two automatists, is communicating. To take an instance of a simple type. On a certain day a Mrs. Forbes received a script purporting to come from her dead son Talbot. This ended by his saying that he was looking for another medium through whom he could send a message to confirm this one - i.e. to demonstrate that what Mrs. Forbes had written did not emanate merely from her own subconscious mind. Now on the same day Mrs. Verrall, another automatist, wrote of a fir tree planted in a garden, and signed this with a sword and bugle. She could attach no meaning to this, but Miss Alice Johnson, who, as an officer of the S.P.R., read both scripts, found that a sword and bugle were in Talbot's regimental badge, and that Mrs. Forbes had in her garden some fir trees which had been grown from seed given to her by her son. The sword and bugle and the fir trees, then, were identificatory signs of Talbot's personality, given to Mrs. Verrall (who was apparently ignorant of their significance) for the purpose of convincing Mrs. Forbes of her son's present existence. But it may legitimately be objected that here we have another wish-fulfilment phantasy, enacted this time on the mental plane, and through the mechanism of telepathy. I do not say that this must be the explanation; nevertheless, I think it is the correct one. As a matter of fact, Mrs. Verrall was a friend of Mrs. Forbes, and on several occasions her automatic writings corresponded with those produced at the same time by Mrs. Forbes. On October 16, 1909, for example, Mrs. Verrall's script gave details as to what Mrs. Forbes was doing at the time, and these were subsequently verified. On the same day, Mrs. Verrall had a mental impression of Mrs. Forbes and her son standing in the former's drawing-room at Cambridge; at the same time Mrs. Forbes received a message (by automatic writing) from her son, saying he was present, and that a test was being given for her at Cambridge. On another occasion (November 26th and 27th, 1902) Mrs. Forbes obtained references to the Symposium of Plato, which Mrs. Verrall had been reading on those two days. Now all these facts, and countless similar ones, are suggestive, and are certainly likely to constitute in many people's minds the most convincing proof of continued existence after death. Myers, Dr. Verrall, and their circle thought that this kind of evidence excluded telepathy, since the separate parts of a message were unintelligible to each of the recipients, and only achieved intelligibility when put together by some third person. But in the light of what we now know of dissociated personalities, and of fictitious personalities created by one part of the subconscious mind in order to gratify itself or the normal personality, in the light of what we have learned both as to telepathy and as to cryptaesthesia, does it not seem rather that all these cross-correspondences are highly special instances of telepathy? All these recondite classical illusions, so characteristic of Myers and Dr. Verrall, are they not equally within the scope of Mrs. Verrall, herself a scholar, who seems to have been involved in the production of so many of them? It is not a little significant that the chief contribution of the S.P.R. to psychic science, namely, the production of cross-correspondences, should have been something so characteristic of the scholarly minds of their chief leaders, and something, too, which seems to have been practically invented by the fertile genius of F. W. H. Myers. In most departments of thought one runs the risk of finding what one is looking for, but in psychic science the risk is doubly great, for the mere act of desiring a certain kind of evidence sometimes creates that very thing.
In his book "And After" Mr. Dennis Bradley describes a recent case of cross-correspondence which was arranged to occur simultaneously between "Margery" in Boston and Valiantine in Venice. Briefly, the Boston Circle arranged to sit on May 27, 1929, at 5 p.m. (American time), and Mr. Bligh Bond had with him nine leaves tom from a block calendar which, without seeing their faces, he had signed at the back and placed in a sealed envelope in his inside pocket.
During the sťance, in absolute darkness, the spirit control "Walter" told him to take out three leaves and place them on the table, and then to pick them up and put them together in his pocket. At 5.45 p.m. "Walter" said good-bye, and the
Meanwhile, at the same hour (11.30 Italian time) a sitting was in progress in Venice with Valiantine as medium. The control "Walter" appeared here, too, and greeted two of the sitters whom he knew. At 11.45 a luminous clock stopped, and Valiantine woke from his trance and immediately wrote down on a paper three numbers - 3, 5, 10. Finally, the Boston Circle sat again at 9 p.m. (American time) and Margery began to write a short message descriptive of the sitting in Venice, and including the words: "Write 3, 5, 10." At 9.50 the sitting ended, and Mr. Bligh Bond showed everyone the envelope and the three selected leaves bearing his signature on the back. The leaves read May 5, May 3, and May 10.
Now this is not really such a scientific test as it seems at first glance. Many objections might be raised, but I am only concerned here with its use as a proof of the Spiritualist theory, so I am prepared to accept all the facts as given without any dispute, and concentrate on their explanation. The Spiritualist explanation involves (1) the existence of the spirit "Walter," (2) his power of "possessing" or entering into the living medium (alternately, his power to captivate their minds, or some equivalent), (3) his cryptaesthetic ability to read the numbers in absolute, darkness, and (4) his ability to act simultaneously in Boston and Venice; or, alternatively, the existence of a fourth dimension whereby these two places may be brought into immediate proximity. The chief point of the experiment was the synchronization of the times, and Bradley insists that 5.45p.m. in Boston corresponds exactly with 11.45p.m. in Venice.
Thus Cryptaesthesia (of somebody) and something equivalent to a four-dimensional theory of the world are necessary to the spirit theory.
But with them the extra hypotheses of the existence of the spirit Walter and of possession are at once superfluous.
Margery in Boston could read the numbers, and so for the matter of that could Valiantine, although his body was in Venice. We have seen that the world is four-dimensional, and that clairvoyance and telepathy function independently of distance. Perhaps one of them "saw" the numbers (clairvoyance) and communicated them to the other (telepathy); or perhaps both of them saw the numbers. We must remember that the seances were arranged by agreement for the purpose of synchronized cryptaesthesia, so that Margery, or Valiantine, may as well be supposed to pull their weight as "Walter."
Moreover, the conditions were ripe for a wholesale telepathic collusion. Valiantine knew the Americans (being one himself) and the control "Walter" greeted two of the Venice sitters whom he knew - i.e. they had previously sat with Margery. Two of the Venice sitters (Mrs. Hack and Mrs. Bradley) were themselves mediumistic, and may certainly be presumed to act as favourable influences for an unintentional telepathic collusion. When two or three mediums are gathered together, with the express purpose of trying to "get in touch" and obtain cross-correspondences, it is hard to say what limits should be set to the reasonable possibilities of telepathy. Thus while this case is an interesting one of Cryptaesthesia in general it is quite inconclusive as a piece of evidence for Spiritualism, and is more economically interpreted without any reference to spirits at all.
I am aware that it is impossible to prove that all these various categories enumerated by Bozzano are
not due to the actions of spirits. The point, however, is that they do not, either separately or together, compel one to the spirit hypothesis, because in the first place there are alternative hypotheses which at least have the advantage of having been previously demonstrated by other phenomena; and, in the second place, the spirit hypothesis in itself conflicts with our ideas as to the nature of human personality; while in the third place the spirit hypothesis is entirely
additional to the other hypotheses and does not enable us to do away with any one of them, nor does it even make it easier to explain the phenomena - that is to say, it is wholly superfluous.
TO CHAPTER THIRTEEN
Hauntings and Poltergeist Cases
Numerous instances of hauntings and poltergeists are given by Flammarion in his book "Haunted Houses", from which I will summarize briefly one good cue, as follows.
In September 1903 a Mr. Grottendieck was sleeping one night in a jungle hut in Sumatra, accompanied by a Malay boy. The hut was unfinished and "made of beams stuck together and covered with large dried leaves plastered over with
At 1a.m. he was awakened by the falling of black stones, about one inch long, from the ceiling. They fell in a parabolic curve. He wakened the Malay boy, and both went outside to explore with an electric torch, but found nothing. Meanwhile the stones continued to fall. He found it impossible to catch any of them in their descent, as "they seemed to jump in the air as I grabbed at them"
When he examined the roof he found that, though the stones had emerged from the ceiling, yet the leaves composing it had no holes in them
He then fired his rifle five times out of the window, in order to scare away anyone who might be there. The noise had the effect of waking up the Malay boy completely for up to this moment he had been somnolent and abnormally slow in his movements (3). Now, however, he seemed first to notice the stones falling, and was terrified by them and ran away out into the jungle. With his disappearance the stones ceased to fall (4).
Further observations by Mr. G. showed that the stones were in no way abnormal, except that they were rather warm (5). In describing their flight through the air he says:
"The stones fell with astonishing slowness, so that if fraud must be assumed there would still be a mystery to explain. It seemed as if they went slowly through the air, describing a parabolic curve, and hitting the ground with force. Even the noise they produced was abnormal, for it was too loud relatively to the fall" (6).
Now this case is quite typical of scores of others, and we have no reason to doubt the justness and general correctness of Mr. G.'s observations. But at what point does the Spirit hypothesis help us to explain the facts more easily than the more naturalistic theories outlined in this book? Points (1) and (6) show that the stones were carried rather than simply projected, for otherwise they would have had the usual gravitational acceleration, and could not have eluded his grasp by jumping. Point (3) shows that the Malay boy was in a semi or full trance state, and point (4) proves that he was the immediate cause of the phenomenon. Points (2) and (5) both suggest an apport.
We may therefore interpret the whole as a case where a young person falls into a trance (while asleep, in this instance) and projects ectoplasmic structures with which he apports stones into the room. When he is roused by the shock of the gunshots his ordinary personality becomes aware of the unusual fall of stones and he is frightened and runs away and so the phenomenon ceases.
Some of the numbered points in the above account recur in another case given by Flammarion, who quotes it from P.S.P.R., Vol. 7, p. 383. It is an account of spontaneous movements of bits of wood in a carpenter's shop by a certain Mr. Bristowe. Two quotations may be given.
"It is remarkable that in spite of innumerable attempts we could never catch a piece in movement, for it cleverly eluded all our stratagems. They seemed animated and intelligent ... sometimes the direction taken by the projectiles was a straight line, but more often it was undulating, rotatory, spiral, serpentine, or jerky."
"Nobody ever saw a missile at the time it started. One would have said that they could not be perceived until they had travelled at least six inches from their starting-point."
From the first quotation we conclude that the bits of wood were not thrown, but
carried, presumably by an ectoplasmic structure; and from the second that they travelled at first in the fourth dimension, and reappeared in our space, where they were perceived coming as it were from nowhere.
F. W. H. Myers "Human Personality and its Survival after Bodily Death"
BOZZANO "A Propos de I'Introduction A la Metapsychique"
SUDRE "Introduction A la Metapsychique"
SOAL Report in P.S.P.R., Part 96
BALFOUR "Scripts affording Evidence of Personal Survival", P.S.P.R., Part 69
FLOURNOY "From India to the Planet Mars"
Various cases of cross-correspondence are given in Parts 53, 55, 57, 60, 63, 67, and 68 of