Guy Christian Barnard

Literary critic and little-known writer on mediumistic and psychical phenomena. His most famous work on psychical research, "The Supernormal," was published in 1933. In it Barnard attempts to establish a strong case for the extension of the living personality to explain the apparent evidence for survival. 

Personality and the Unconscious Mind

 - G. C. Barnard -

          F. W. H. MYERS began his great work on Human Personality by pointing out the fundamental disagreement between two schools of thought - on the one hand that which regarded the personal ego as an indivisible entity which has thoughts, desires, etc., and on the other hand that to which experimental psychologists commonly belong, and which regards the apparent unity of the personality as the result of a "co-ordination of a certain number of states perpetually renascent and having for their sole common basis the vague feeling of our body" (Ribot). And Myers argued that both schools were in some degree right, and that their reconciliation was brought about through the introduction of a subconscious self, wider than our conscious personality. In a sentence pregnant with meaning he says: "And I conceive also that no self of which we can here have cognisance is in reality more than a fragment of a larger self-revealed in a fashion at once shifting and limited through an organism not so framed as to afford it full manifestation." The concluding words of this sentence are of the highest importance.

Now we too must, if we are to avoid endless confusion, begin by trying to indicate our general conceptions, and in particular our use of such words as self and personality. We will admit that, behind every individual, there is a constant integrating principle or entity which unifies all the psychological components; and we must also admit that what we apprehend as a personality is analysable into psychological constituents, many of which are not present to the consciousness of the individual. The personality of any individual may justly be regarded as the co-ordination of innate instincts and tendencies, together with acquired habits, memories and dispositions, into a synthetic whole which expresses itself by means of his organism. The conscious personality is that fraction of this system of which he is aware. It is clear that this definition makes of the personality something which in the first place is a complex structure, amenable to analysis; which in the second place is obviously ever-changing; and in the third place something which is necessarily incomplete at any moment since the instincts, acquired dispositions, and habits must always conflict to a greater or lesser extent, and there is no one point in time at which all the memories and habits exist together.

But beyond the constituents of the personality, unifying and transcending them, we may postulate a Self, or Ego, or Soul. This entity, however, is not a subject for psychological analysis, nor can we treat of it in any scientific way, but only intuitively. Psychology can no more interpret the Psyche than Biology can interpret Life - it can only analyse its manifestations. When we study personality, therefore, it must clearly be grasped that we are not in any way analysing the Soul, or the Ego, for that transcends our thought, as the whole transcends its parts. It is the failure to recognize this distinction which leads both materialists and spiritualists into such confusion. The former demonstrate that personality is of the earth earthy, and then write paeans in praise of the pursuit of "Truth, Beauty, and Goodness" (as Haeckel did); and the latter, while proclaiming the ideals of spiritual existence, attribute the most mundane thoughts and desires to the departed, even finding it necessary to give an entirely materialistic picture of the next world lest they should be reproached with unreality! Indeed, a good case might be made out for calling Vale Owen a complete materialist and Haeckel something of a spiritualist - his Monism really approaches the mysticism of Shelley, who said that:

"Throughout this varied and eternal world Soul is the only element ... 
And the minutest atom comprehends 
A world of loves and hatreds."

Our task here is the study of the personality, not of the soul, and we must begin by considering the chief facts relating to what is now commonly called the Unconscious. The conception that mental processes might go on without our being aware of them is not entirely new, although the experimental study of, and the accumulation of evidence for, such processes (whose outstanding pioneers have been Edmund Gurney, Pierre Janet, Binet, Freud, and Morton Prince) are the work of the past forty years.

The first important fact which was revealed in this study was the apparently limitless Memory of the unconscious mind. We all know that there are many facts in our memory which we can recall at will, or which come again into our consciousness when some associated idea is aroused; and we have the general idea that these were somehow conserved somewhere. But it would appear from the evidence that there is no assignable limit to our memory, that every single fact and impression we have received is still preserved, somehow, though we may be totally unable to recall it. Of course, one cannot prove that everything is preserved in memory, but one can certainly not say of any given item that it is not. Many striking instances might be given of the extent of memory (the whole interpretation of psycho-neuroses, and their cure by psycho-analysis depends upon the conservation of apparently forgotten experiences), but we will confine ourselves, for the present, to the case given by G. Lowes Dickenson in P.S.P.R., Part 64. A certain Miss C, while in hypnotic trance, related a fictitious story in which many recondite details about people in the reign of Richard II were given. It was found that these details, genealogical data, etc., were correct, but were far beyond the normal knowledge of Miss C. Later, however, it was discovered that fourteen years previously, when she was only a child of eleven, her aunt had read a book to her, entitled "The Countess Maud", in which these points were contained. Although she had completely forgotten all these facts, yet they emerged during hypnosis. It is part of the technique of psycho-analysis to recall to mind forgotten experiences which usually date from early childhood, and a study of the "automatic scripts" of a medium shows the most extensive conservation of trivial experiences, sufficient to justify the practical hypothesis that everything is conserved in memory, and could be recalled if the right stimulus and conditions were present.

But the Unconscious is far more than a storehouse of memories, and we can in no wise think of it as a static repository. It has dynamic, purposive elements, as Freud, in particular, has shown. This is hardly the place to dilate on Freud's interpretations of mistakes in speech, of dreams, or of hysterical symptoms, but we must mention them in passing. With the intuition of a true genius Freud discovered that at any rate dreams, mistakes, and hysterical symptoms have a psychological meaning, and are not purely accidental or wholly explicable in terms of physiology. Perhaps his finest example of the significance of errors is the ease of a murderer, H., who, by representing himself as a bacteriologist, obtained dangerous germ-cultures with which he killed his victims. Once he wrote complaining of the ineffectiveness of one preparation, and instead of the expression: "in my experiments on mice (Mausen) and guinea-pigs (Meerschweinchen)," he put, for the last word, "'men' (Menschen)!"

Of Freud's theory of dreams much has been written, for and against. What seems indisputable, however, is that a dream is frequently a hallucinatory wish-fulfilling phantasy, made up of elements of the previous day's experiences, which are used as symbols of other, more significant ideas. The difficulty of Freud's conception of a "Censor" who normally inhibits the expression of undesirable tendencies and wishes, and allows them during sleep a partial gratification by intricate symbolical phantasy, the difficulty, that is, of realizing that the incoherent and inconsequential episodes of the "manifest" dream are but substitutes for other ideas which constitute the real, latent dream, disappears when we realize the complexity of a personality.

"Do I contradict myself? 

Very well, then, I contradict myself. 

(I am large, I contain multitudes)."

Whitman's utterance is simply the first elementary truism about the Unconscious. In dreams we see the distorted results of psychological processes (mainly simple desires) of whose presence we are unaware in our waking life.

Part 2

The Unconscious mind has been shown to possess an extraordinarily complete memory, and to have volition and purpose. It can also be demonstrated that it can reason and think imaginatively and constructively, not merely in a manner which reflects palely the powers of conscious thought, but to a degree that altogether surpasses them. Psychologists tend to use the term "automatism," implying that memories, etc., associate themselves automatically in new forms, and thus produce, by a sort of psychological reflex action, some utterance such as a delirious patient might produce. But, as a general rule, Unconscious thinking is by no manner of means analogous to any automatic process. As Geley has observed, an automatic action must be either innate (like the circulation of the blood) or acquired by constant repetition, forming a habit. In neither case does such a process innovate, or initiate new actions; and yet it is this innovating, creative power which characterizes unconscious thinking. Moreover, the powers of the unconscious mind do not in any way correspond with the powers or development of the conscious mind, and they manifest themselves sporadically, and with a spontaneity which contradicts any notion of the origin in habits.

Perhaps the best example, out of many possible ones, which illustrates these points is that given by Myers, of the calculating prodigy. The gift of solving almost instantaneously complex arithmetical sums, without any conscious reasoning or calculation, occurs sporadically and quite at random, amongst stupid and non-mathematical children as well as amongst the intelligent. It usually shows itself between the ages of three and ten years, and it has no relation at all to previous arithmetical training. Generally it disappears again after a few years, though in a few men it persists. Dase was a good example of the calculating prodigy. His gift was shown in childhood, and he was a great dunce, even in mathematics, for "on one occasion Peterson tried in vain for six weeks to get the first elements of mathematics into his head. He could not be made to have the least idea of a proposition in Euclid. Of any language but his own he could never master a word." Yet this ignoramus made out tables of all the prime numbers and factors of the numbers between six million and nearly eight million, "a task," says Myers, "which probably few men could have accomplished without mechanical aid in an ordinary lifetime." Of Mr. Bidder, who was an intelligent man, it was said (by Mr. W. Pole, F.R.S.): "He had an almost miraculous power of seeing, as it were, intuitively what factors would divide any large number, not a prime. Thus if he were given the number 17861 he would instantly remark that it was 337 times 53. He could not, he said, explain how he did this; it seemed a natural instinct to him." (See Myers, Chap. 3.)

The unconscious mind, then, may have mathematical, or at any rate computative powers which considerably outrange those shown by any known conscious mind for we must not forget that the speed with which these calculations are done counts in our estimate of the calculating ability. Nor is it only the calculating boy who can unconsciously compute figures, for many experiments with hypnotized persons show that they too can reckon accurately and swiftly, without the least conscious knowledge of the process. As an illustration we may cite one of Dr. Bramwell's experiments. While Miss D. was hypnotized he told her (at 3 p.m.) to make a cross on paper in 8650 minutes, and again in 8680 minutes and again in 8700 minutes. Six days later she spontaneously did this at 3.10 p.m. (correct), 3.40 p.m. (correct), and at 4 p.m. (correct). To complicate the arithmetic he again hypnotized her and said, "You are to repeat (all these experiments), but to-day you are to start from 2.55 instead of from 3 p.m. and to each suggestion you are to add 1440 minutes." That is, the arithmetic was made slightly harder, since she had to add 8650 plus 1440 minutes to 2.55 p.m. (Wednesday, May 13th); nevertheless she made the cross spontaneously at the correct time, 3.5 p.m. on Wednesday) May 20th.

But unconscious thinking is by no means limited to the calculation of arithmetical sums; far more is it characterized by imagination, and the dramatist's power of creating fictitious characters and scenes, as we quickly see when we consider the "automatic" writings or speeches of mediums. Certainly it does not always, or even often, produce work better in quality than that produced by a good conscious intelligence, but these cases are the best to study at first, and the most interesting. Everyone knows of some instances of the unconscious creation of works of a very high order - Coleridge's "Kubla Khan", and large portions of William Blake's works, for example. And, though these have a marvellous degree of artistic value, they are no more wonderful than some of the by-products of pathology when considered from an intellectual point of view.

Myers quotes a fine example of imaginative constructive thought occurring in a normal man during sleep.(1) Dr. Hilprecht, professor of Assyrian at Pennsylvania University was much occupied with the question of the nature and meaning of two fragments of agate, which were of different colour, and inscribed with defaced remnants of characters which he could not decipher. He had never seen the original fragments, which were found in a temple of Bel at Nippur, but worked from a sketch of them. One night, after correcting the proofs of a book in which he described them, he dreamt of a priest, who led him to the treasure chamber of a temple and told him that these two fragments were not really separate, nor parts of finger rings, as he had supposed, but that they were pieces of a votive cylinder offered by King Kurigalzu to Bel, and that this cylinder had subsequently been cut to make earrings. When he awoke, Professor HiIprecht found that the two pieces did belong together, and he deciphered the inscription thus: "To the god Ninib, son of Bel, his lord, has KurigaIzu, pontifex of Bel, presented this." Subsequently Professor Hilprecht saw the actual fragments, and verified the fact that they did belong together, although they had been so cut that one fragment was grey while the other was whitish. On a careful analysis it appeared that all the items of information given in the dream (I have only quoted the salient ones) were explicable as products of subconscious reasoning on the data present in Professor Hilprecht's mind, together with observations which he probably made, without realizing them consciously, as to the features of the two fragments. His subconscious mind, during sleep, put the various data together in a way that his waking mind had failed to do, and thus arrived at an interpretation which it proceeded to embody in an hallucinatory phantasy. It is important to notice that the information was conveyed, during his dream, under the form of a little story related by the priest; one more example of the propensity of the unconscious mind to personify and dramatize everything. It is this propensity, of course, which makes people interpret the results of subconscious activity as being the work of demons, spirits, etc.

(1) The original account is given in P.S.P.R., Part 30.

Part 3

The study of the unconscious, whether in dreams, in hysteria, in "automatic writing," or in the trance utterances of spiritualistic mediums, shows that there are numerous mental processes at work of which we are not aware. In extreme cases these unconscious elements, if they are powerful and insufficiently expressed in our waking life, may associate together to form one or more separate complex systems sufficiently coherent and stable to be recognized as distinct personalities. The ordinary man is aware of having different moods at different times, so that on one day he will behave and feel quite otherwise than he does on another day. There is no line of demarcation to be drawn between this normal phenomenon of alternations of mood and the abnormal one of alternations of personality, unless one takes the rather arbitrary criterion of memory as a test; otherwise, it is only a difference of degree, not of kind. The classical cases of multiple and alternating personality are those of Miss Beauchamp and of "B.C.A." studied by Dr. Morton Prince; of Leonie, by P. Janet; of Felida, by Dr. Azam; and of Helen Smith, by Prof. Flournoy. They are all cases of Dissociation; that is to say, certain memories, feelings and desires have been shut off from the conscious mind, and have grouped themselves together, growing and working without the patient's knowledge until (usually at the instance of some shock) they suddenly emerge and temporarily replace the normal personality, which in its turn is relegated to unconsciousness and displaced from its control of the organism.

Dr. Morton Prince studied Miss Beauchamp for a number of years, and noted the occurrence of three distinct personalities in her waking state, and two more in her hypnotized condition. Referring to these numerically for short, B1 was the Miss Beauchamp who came to Dr. Prince to be cured of her neurasthenic troubles. When hypnotized she changed to the personality B2. Spontaneously, after a time, a new personality, B3, appeared, and gave herself the name Sally. Again another, B4, appeared at intervals, while B5 was produced by hypnotizing B3 (Sally). As these various personalities, B1, B3, and B4, appeared spontaneously at odd times, and pursued different aims, each having its own separate self-consciousness, many complications arose. Dr. Prince found that B1 and B4 represented two different portions of the original normal conscious personality (which he had never seen) and that they had many elements in common. Each, when hypnotized, passed into the state B2, and hence he succeeded in re-integrating Miss Beauchamp by hypnotizing her when she was B4 and suggesting that she should, on awakening, know all about B1, and vice versa.

But B3 (Sally) was the most interesting personality, and had quite a different character, being very lively and childish, and inordinately fond of teasing B1. One of her jokes was to go out for a long ride into the country, and then "disappear" as Sally, and wake B1 up, who would then find herself without a penny and with six miles to walk home. She used to torment Miss Beauchamp in all manner of ways. One day, for example, she collected some snakes and spiders in a box, did them up in a parcel, and addressed them to Miss Beauchamp (B1); when the latter opened the parcel she had a terrible shock as may be imagined! It must be realized that Miss Beauchamp as B1 knew nothing about Say and her doings; whereas Sally knew the whole life of B1, and all her thoughts, and was able to influence her actions at times to a certain extent - for example, she forced the very serious and prim B1 to sit with her feet on the mantelpiece, and B1 could not, in spite of herself, take her feet down! Sally co-existed with B1, and was conscious of B1 as of another person whom she disliked intensely, and her whole life ran parallel, though on entirely different lines, to that of B1 (and, later, of B4). But it was only occasionally that Sally got control of Miss Beauchamp's organism and displaced B1 or B4, who on these occasions became unconscious. Sally, in short, was a highly developed subconsciousness of Miss Beauchamp, which, at a certain date, awakened into independent life.

This case of Miss Beauchamp is exceedingly interesting, but very long and complex to outline here. We have said enough, perhaps, to show the points essential to our purpose; namely, that groupings of desires, interests, and memories may take place subconsciously and may constitute a separate self-conscious personality which can replace the ordinary one.

A well-known case of duplication of personality is that of Felida X(2). In what appeared to be her normal primary state (but what was probably in reality an hysterical modification of it) Felida was intelligent but melancholic and hypochondriacal. At the age of fourteen she occasionally felt pains in the head, fainted for a few minutes, and woke up in a new secondary state. In this state she was cheerful and healthy, behaved energetically, and seemed quite normal. Moreover she remembered all the events belonging to her primary sick state. But after a time she would relapse into the primary state, in which she was melancholic, and would have no memory for the events of her healthy secondary state. After marriage her "attacks" became more frequent and lasted for longer periods, until eventually the secondary state became the predominant one and the primary state recurred for a few hours only at intervals of a month or more. In this case the second personality was in reality a more normal one, and more complete than the so-called primary one; but whether it had ever really existed before she was fourteen - i.e. whether it was in truth the original personality - is conjectural.

(2) See Binet's "Alterations of Personality", pp. 6-21.

One of the most interesting cases is that of the Rev. Thomas Hanna,(3) a capable young man who, at the age of twenty-five, was knocked unconscious by a fall. On awakening he had lost all his personality, and was like a newly born infant. He had no knowledge at all, either of things or words or the functions of his own body; even distance and time had ceased to mean anything. But he learned anew very quickly, and thereby acquired a new personality with a totally fresh mental content. After a while the old personality of before the accident reasserted itself and began to alternate with the new one, which by now was quite well-developed and complete in itself. Mr. Hanna was born again, and born different; and had he died at this stage it would puzzle one to decide which personality had earned immortality as a spirit. Fortunately, however, the two personalities were synthesized, so as to form a third and stable one which had all the memories of both the alternating ones.

(3) See Sidis and Goodhart, "Multiple Personality".

These three cases of alternating personality are spontaneous ones, and, moreover, are unusually complete and have fortunately been well observed. But slighter examples of the same thing, and examples in which the two personalities co-exist and manifest simultaneously, have been artificially produced by suggestion, more especially with hysterical patients. One of the characteristic features of hysteria is insensibility over a certain region, often an arm or hand. Binet has well shown the purely psychological nature of this insensibility, and its dependence upon mental dissociation. Suppose that we have a patient whose right arm is insensible, and that we screen this arm from his view, and also engage him in conversation to distract his attention. If now a third person places a pencil in the insensible hand, and whispers some questions which the patient does not consciously hear, the hand may write answers; and those often show that they arise in a system of memories, ideas, wishes, etc., of which the subject, who is meanwhile talking of other matters, is entirely unaware. Usually this system speaks in the first person, and refers to the patient as some stranger, and often claims to be another person with another name. This phenomenon of automatic writing can be easily cultivated by many people who are not obviously hysterical, by distracting their attention in one way or another while they hold a pencil to a piece of paper. It is in this manner that the majority of spirit communications are obtained, and although such a method of semi-involuntary writing must appear very like the intervention of external spirits to people who are ignorant of the phenomena of hysteria and mental dissociation, it is clear that such an interpretation can only be justified when the nature of the message itself is inexplicable otherwise.

A classical case of aiding and abetting in the creation of an elementary secondary personality is quoted by Binet (p.147). Pierre Janet was studying the hysterical patient Lucie, and, while her normal self was conversing with a third person, Janet whispered: "Do you hear me?" The insensible hand at once wrote "No." The conversation continued thus. - J: "But you must hear me in order to reply." - "Yes, of course ... Then how is it?" - "I do not know." - "There must certainly be someone who does hear me?" - "Yes." - "Who is it?" - "Someone else, not Lucie." - "Ah, indeed, another person? Do you want to give this person a name?" - "No." - "Yes, it will be more convenient." - "Very well - Adrienne." - "Then, Adrienne, do you hear me?" - "Yes."

In cases of insanity we see more radical examples of dissociation with the creation of co-existent personalities. The secondary personality created, so to speak, out of the repressed desires and aims of the patient, may get control of certain parts of his organism, and may cause auditory and visual (or even tactile) hallucinations, in which it conveys its thoughts and purposes to the primary personality. A fine picture of this is given in "The Brothers Karamazov", in the chapter where Ivan converses with the devil, whom he half recognizes as being only an hallucination, a projection of part of himself - the worst and stupidest part - and yet cannot obliterate or treat as being unreal. Ivan, however, was not then definitely insane, and consequently was not entirely convinced that the phantom was a separate entity. I cannot help feeling that Dostoevsky, by reason of his own personal experiences combined with his intuition and power of description, has as much right to be cited as an authority on insanity and allied conditions as anyone else; but for the sake of orthodoxy I will also quote B. Hart ("Psychology of Insanity", p. 125): "Thus one patient, whose mode of life had wrecked both himself and his family, discussed his former experiences with revolting complacency. He complained bitterly, however, of the system of persecution to which he was subjected; people concealed themselves in the ceiling and under his bed, and poured upon him a flood of abuse and threats, which rendered existence almost insupportable. Hallucinations of this kind may be regarded as literal examples of 'the small voice of conscience' distorted by repression. It will be observed that such a patient has successfully avoided the sting of remorse, but he has exchanged Scylla for Charybdis and has sacrificed his mental integrity to obtain the hardly more desirable alternative of a constant persecution."

We thus see that it is by no means psychologically impossible for one personality to divide into two, each of which acts independently of and simultaneously with the other. Many Spiritualists urge that if the soi-disant spirit acts simultaneously with the medium it must be a separate entity, and not a sub-division of the medium's personality. Thus Bozzano in his recent criticism of Sudre's "Metapsychique Humaine" makes much of a case where four spirits and the medium were all manifesting intelligently together, and challenges his opponents to cite a single pathological example of dissociation into four simultaneously acting personalities. Such a thing, he declares, is a psychological impossibility, and every such case is therefore an incontrovertible proof of spiritism. Yet we have given examples of dissociation into two divisions, which in the case of the hysterical patient and of the insane patient manifested simultaneously, either by automatic writing or by auditory hallucination. The number two is not magical, and there is no theoretical limit to the possible personalities, but only a practical difficulty in obtaining them. A medium may have more opportunities than an hysterical patient in manifesting more than two subsidiary personalities; the power of materializing a phantom or of speaking by the "direct voice" adds to the possibilities in this direction. There is also the question of incentive. Spontaneous dissociation occurs as a rule simply on account of mental conflict between two opposing tendencies and their associated system of ideas. The repressed system may organize itself into one new personality, but there is usually no cause for it to make more than this one. But a spiritualistic medium has an obvious motive to cause multiple and simultaneous personalities to be produced, and to manifest together, since this is considered a definite proof of the independent reality of spirits.

We may pass on now to the artificial alterations of personality produced by suggestion during hypnosis. These have been known for long enough, and Richet's cases will perhaps serve as a suitable illustration. I quote from Binet's book, as being the handiest reference. Richet hypnotized a patient, telling her with some decision that she was such and such a type of person. She at once adopted this suggestion and began to act, or rather to live, the part, losing entirely her own personal characteristics, memories, etc., and acquiring a fresh disposition, which was revealed not merely by speech and gesture, but also by an alteration of handwriting. As a sample we will quote the patient B ... in two roles:

"As a General. She goes, 'Hum, hum!' several times, assumes a severe manner, and speaks in an abrupt way. 'Let us go and have a drink! Waiter, an absinthe! Who is this coxcomb? Here, let me pass. What do you want?' A piece of paper is handed her, which she seems to read. 'Who is it?' Answer: a man of the First. 'Ah, good! There!' She scribbles something illegible. 'You will hand that to the Adjutant Major. Now make yourself scarce. Well, that absinthe?' He is asked if he is a member of the Legion of Honour? 'Of course!' Answer: 'There are stories abroad about you.' 'Ah, stories! But! But! Sacrebleu, what stories? Take care how you provoke me! Who dare call me lazy?' She flies into a rage which almost ends in a nervous attack."

"Again, as an old woman. Someone said to her 'How do you do?' She bent her head and said 'Eh!' 'How are you?' Again she said, 'Eh! Speak louder. I am a little hard of hearing.' She seated herself, still complaining, coughed, felt her chest and knees, saying to herself: 'Such pains! O dear, O dear! Ah! bring me your child. She is a nice child. Kiss me, darling, and go and play. Have you a little tobacco?'"

We are now in a somewhat better position to understand the psychological problems presented by hypnotism. It is clear that, in general, the process of hypnotizing a person thereby alters his personality for the time being, to a greater or less extent. As a rule this change seems one of diminution, as it chiefly involves a temporary loss of various factors which are normally active, without there being any corresponding appearance of new characteristics. To this extent it is analogous to sleep. But it would appear that the hypnotized subject is actually dimly conscious of all that is said or done, only that he does not pay any attention to anything except what he wishes - this usually being what the operator tells him to attend to. The subject usually retains his sense of identity, and also very often shows as good a memory of the events of waking life as, or even better than, his normal one. A patient of Bramwell's described the hypnotic condition thus: "I feel a kind of restfulness which I do not get in any other condition of life. I feel no fatigue. External sounds, other than your (the operator's) voice, I hear vaguely, as if in a dream, but pay no attention to them. I still feel that I am myself, and can reason just as well as if I were awake." On the other hand, the numerous experiments in which a suggestion given during hypnosis is afterwards "automatically" fulfilled during waking life prove that a subconscious layer has been reached, and that the self-consciousness of the waking personality is not identical or congruent with that of the hypnotized person. And in numerous cases a manifestly different personality creates itself in hypnosis; for example, B2 and B5 in Morton Prince's case, and Janet's Leonie 2 and Leonie 3. The Leonie 1 of Janet's case was a timid, serious, sad peasant woman. When hypnotized lightly she became Leonie 2 and was noisy and impudent, but cheerful. On deeper hypnosis she became Leonie 3, who again was grave and serious. Leonie 3 knew all about the other two personalities, and felt them as being strangers, having nothing in common with her. She thought L1 was a good, stupid creature, and considered L2 a mad woman. In the same way L2, while ignorant of L3, knew all about L1, whom she regarded as a different person, just as Sally regarded Miss Beauchamp as another woman, and (like Sally) she apparently disliked L1 and used to find ways of tormenting her. Leonie 2 had her own "stream of consciousness," giving her the sense of identity, which was made up of the experiences and events of this state; for the L2 condition occurred spontaneously, as well as during hypnosis, and that fairly frequently.

Of course a case of this sort is an extreme and abnormal one, and not typical of what occurs in hypnosis. But, taken together with the fact that fictitious personalities are so easily created at the suggestion of the operator, it suggests that the state of hypnosis is one in which the bands of waking personality are considerably loosened, so that psychic elements are set more or less free and are thus enabled, at the instance of suitable external or internal forces, to rearrange themselves, so that what was formerly latent becomes manifest, and what was consciously held by the ego is now held unconsciously. Hypnosis, then, involves a partial dissolution of the personality.

Part 4

The tendency of dissociated groups of feelings and thoughts to integrate into a personality is one of the primary factors in life. On a small scale it is shown universally in children, who constantly occupy hours at a stretch in personificatory games in which they play fictitious parts. Why do children derive such enormous satisfaction out of pretending to be another personality - even a railway engine or a motor car? A boy of five is hardly ever himself for long; he is a Red Indian, a captain, a tram-conductor, a clergyman, a motor lorry - almost anything but himself! And, on a larger scale, we find the phenomenon of "spirit controls"; often perfect pieces of acting, involving a high degree of histrionic ability, vast stores of memory, unconscious perceptions, etc. It is not often that we can definitely trace the origin of the "spirit control" or demonstrate its real nature, perhaps, but in simple instances the thing has been done, and I will outline Flournoy's case of M. Til as an example.(4)

(4) See "Spiritism and Psychology", p. 194.

M. Til, who was a normal man, tried automatic writing, and having asked some questions of the spirits relative to his children was informed by them that his son Edward had stolen some cigarettes from his employer's box, had been detected, and was in danger of dismissal, and he was ordered to go to his employer at once. M. Til was greatly perturbed, went to the office and saw at first only an official, who gave him a very good account of his son's conduct. "I am wounded to the core at the duplicity of this man," wrote the spirit! Finally M. Til saw the employer, who assured him that Edward was perfectly satisfactory. Thereupon the spirit wrote: "I have deceived you. Michael, forgive me!" What M. Til found most puzzling was that this false spirit should not only make a false accusation, but should insist on his seeing the employer, who should prove that it was false! But Flournoy notes some important points. In the first place, two or three weeks before the automatic writing experiments, M. Til had noticed that his son smoked much, and had reproached him with it. Edward replied that all the others did the same, and that their employer allowed them to use his cigarettes in the office. M. Til hoped at the time that Edward would not be indelicate enough to help himself. Further, on the day of the automatic writing, a friend casually said to M. Til: "By the way, has your son left the bureau? I heard that M. Dupain was looking for another employee?" M. Til, perplexed, asked if M. Dupain was dissatisfied with Edward. Returning home, he told his wife of the conversation, and an hour later the "bad spirit" wrote out the accusation.

"In this case of M. Til," said Flournoy, "we see an example of a sort of small romance, subliminally elaborated from memories and perceptions, under the impulse of an emotional condition more or less intense, by means of that curious faculty of dramatization and personification which we see every day in the phenomena of dreams."

It is, indeed, a very pretty example because it is simple and typical, and it demonstrates the insufficiency of a considerable portion of the evidence adduced for spiritualistic beliefs. There is, for example, no ground for postulating the action of spirits merely to account for the production of messages, etc. which seem independent of and alien to the medium's mind, and a case like that of Stainton Moses, who held long theological arguments with "Rector" and "Imperator," is sufficiently explained by dissociation, except in so far as the messages show definite instances of supernormally acquired information; it is only this latter point which remains at present a plausible argument for Spiritualism, and we shall see later how far this argument will hold good. Meanwhile the mention of "Rector" leads us to a discussion of the subject of "Spirit Controls" in more detail; for the spirit who misled M. Til, though undoubtedly of the same essential nature as, say, "Rector," would hardly be accepted as a sufficient example of the phenomenon. On the other hand it would be difficult to find a more adequate "control" than "Rector," who worked not only through Stainton Moses but also through Mrs. Piper, and shewed considerable consistency all the time.

Almost all mediums have their habitual "Controls," or particular "spirits" who manifest themselves whenever the medium is in trance. These controls are, of course, taken by the medium and other believers to be genuine spirits who have formerly lived on earth; and their main functions are firstly to act as guide and protector, as guardian angel, to the medium, and secondly to act as intermediary between the consultants of the medium and the various spirits of departed friends with whom they wish to get in touch. That is to say, these various spirits (Communicators) inform the Control of what they wish him to make the medium say or write. To a spiritualist the Communicators are genuine spirits who cannot manifest themselves directly; the Control is another genuine spirit who has obtained control over part or all of the medium's body and can thereby manifest himself by speech, writing, or gesture.

From the point of view of modern psychology, however, the Control is only a secondary personality of the medium's, and the Communicators are mere fleeting figments, fragmentary reconstructions based on hints given by the Consultants, on telepathic impressions, and occasionally on more recondite information obtained clairvoyantly. It is obvious that a medium gains greatly by a system which allows only one personality (or at most a very few) actually to manifest itself at the seances, especially if, as is so often the case, this Control is a person about whom there is little or no external information (e.g. "Rector," "Phinuit," or any of the numerous Oriental controls which are so popular). By this means (on our view) the medium in trance only acts one part, playing a role which suits him, and which he can elaborate and perfect, instead of having to enact on the spur of the moment the roles of all the deceased friends of his consultants. Moreover, as Mrs. Sidgwick has pointed out: "Less is demanded from a spirit friend limited to communicating through another spirit, who may misunderstand what he is supposed to repeat, than from one purporting to talk with the sitter directly. As a matter of fact, the difficulty of this indirect communication is constantly adduced as an excuse for failure or confusion in the records before us."

The above passage occurs in Mrs. Sidgwick's masterly analysis of Mrs. Piper's trance Phenomena (P.S.P.R., Part 71). In this lengthy work she has successfully shown the inherent improbability that any of Mrs. Piper's Controls were other than subconscious creations of her own mind. In great detail she has traced the rise and fall of various Controls, and set forth their errors, their common memories and associations of ideas, etc. A few examples may cast light on the subject.

1. On January 19, 1897, the "George Pelham" control wrote: "Yes, they two too. The verb too bothers me at times. - to two too."

Next day, January 20, a totally different control, "George Eliot," wrote the line: "Spirits are not finely touched but to two too fine issues."

Now neither the real George Pelham, nor George Eliot, would ever confuse the words to, two, and too; nor, if one of them as a Spirit had lost some of his former facility for our grammar, would we expect the other one almost immediately to copy the error; for G.P. and G.E. were supposedly totally separate and unconnected spirits. But Mrs. Piper herself was not a good grammarian, and it looks as if the two controls had her grammatical equipment in common.

2. A second grammatical error; January 26, 1897, the Control G.P. said: "I am plain George Pelham, and no angel as I know of"; and on March 30, 1897, the control "George Eliot" said, "I hardly know as there is enough light."

In both cases the use of "as" for "that" is characteristic of Mrs. Piper, and of her Controls, but not of the real persons in their lifetime.

3. The various Controls constantly protest against sitters using words denoting periods of time, such as a week, saying that they do not understand them, having lost all sense of time in their new life. On the other hand the same Controls frequently use these very expressions, showing that they know their meaning precisely. It seems, therefore, to be an adopted pose, which is frequently forgotten in the excitement of communication.

4. An early Control, "Phinuit," who last appeared in 1897, had a special nickname, "The Captain," for Sir O. Lodge. Now on November 22, 1905, Hodgson, speaking to the Control "Rector," said: "I have an earnest request from Lodge, the friend of Myers and myself." Here "Rector" interrupted him saying: "One moment, friend. We were told to give a message to you from Mrs. H. so called on our side, from a former reigning spirit known to us as Phinuit. The message was '- that I send my love to my old friend, the Captain   ."'

Clearly, therefore, when the name Lodge was mentioned it "reminded" Rector of a message to "The Captain " - i.e. Rector associated the two names together, just as Phinuit had done. And yet, later on, in 1906, "Sir Oliver had been present at a good many sittings before, on his inquiring about Phinuit and saying he was a friend of his, Rector asked: "Could you by any possibility be the friend on earth whom he called Captain?" Therefore it seems improbable (to say the least!) that Phinuit had, in 1905, told Rector that he called Lodge the Captain. And hence it looks as if it were all the time an association of ideas in Mrs. Piper's mind, and that she simply never thought that Rector ought not to see the connection between Lodge and the Captain.

Mrs. Sidgwick concludes that Mrs. Piper's hypnotic self, or some part of it, successively personates a number of different characters; "but I think that there is no divided-off part of Mrs. Piper which has assumed and permanently retains the character of, say, Rector, and is in that sense a secondary personality. Rector has no more persistent existence than Hamlet has. When the part of Rector is not being played he has no existence, just as Hamlet, however well the part is acted, ceases to exist as soon as the actor leaves the stage. That part of Mrs. Piper's mind which is used in acting as Rector may act as a different Control when Rector's part ends, and is doing something else when the trance is over."

As the subject of Controls and the question as to their authenticity are of supreme importance I will mention one other case where some analysis has been undertaken. Flournoy devotes a chapter of his book "From India to the Planet Mars" to a consideration of Helen Smith's control Leopold, who also claims to be Cagliostro (Joseph Balsamo). Leopold manifested himself first in August 1892, but did not reveal the fact that he was really Cagliostro until later, and then under the following circumstances. It appears that a certain Madame B. was one of Helen Smith's circle (called the N. group) and that she also frequented seances at another house, where the spirit of Cagliostro had appeared previously. Madame B. once invited Helen to private seances at her house.

"At one of these, Helen having had a vision of Leopold, who pointed out to her with a wand a decanter, Mme. B. suddenly thought of a celebrated episode in the life of Cagliostro, and after the seance she proceeded to take from a drawer and show to Helen an engraving taken from an illustrated edition of Dumas, representing the famous scene of the decanter between Balsamo and the Dauphin at the chateau of Tavernay. At the same time she gave utterance to the idea that the spirit who manifested himself at the table by means of Helen's hands was certainly Joseph Balsamo; and she expressed her astonishment that Helen had given him the name Leopold, to which Helen had replied that it was he himself who had given that name. Mine. B., continuing her deductions, told MIle. Smith that perhaps she had formerly been the medium of the great magician, and consequently had been Lorenza Feliciani in a former life. Helen at once accepted the suggestion, and for several weeks considered herself to be the reincarnation of Lorenza, until one day a lady of her acquaintance remarked that it was impossible, Lorenza Feliciani having never existed save in the imagination and the romances of Alexandre Dumas pere. Thus dispossessed of her supposed former existence Helen was not long in declaring through the table that she was Marie Antoinette. As to Leopold, a short time after Mme. B. had hypothetically identified him with Cagliostro, he himself confirmed that hypothesis at a seance of the N. group, dictating to the table that his real name was Joseph Balsamo."

Of course no analysis of this sort can prove for a certainty that a given control is not a genuine spirit; and in few actual instances has a laborious psychological analysis been made at all, since it demands great patience, much time, and rare insight. But what has been done will, I think, convince most sensible people that the very great weight of probability is against the spirit theory, and on the side of the view which regards these controls as more or less habitual personations, or secondary personalities, of the medium.


F. W. H. MYERS "Human Personality" 
S. FREUD "Introductory Lectures on Psycho-analysis" 
M. BRAMWELL "Hypnotism" 
M. PRINCE "Dissociation of a Personality" and "The Unconscious"
T. FLOURNOY "From India to the Planet Mars" and "Spiritism and Psychology"
A. BINET "Alterations of Personality" 

B. HART "Psychology of Insanity"
W. McDOUGALL "Abnormal Psychology"
MRS. SIDGWICK "Psychology of Mrs. Piper's Trance Phenomena", P.S.P.R., Part 71.


More articles by G. C. Barnard

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