IN 1900 a work appeared, From India to the Planet Mars, stirring the spiritist milieu at the start of the century and capturing the attention of some
scholars interested in psychology and linguistics. It was written by a Genevan,
the doctor and psychologist Théodore Flournoy, with a subtitle that indicates
more precisely its contents: "A Study of a Case of Somnambulism with Glossolalia."
 T. Flournoy, Des Indes à la Planète Mars (Paris: Seuil, 1983) [new edition].
 See M. Cifali, "Théodore Flournoy, la découverte de I'inconscient," in
Bloc-Notes de la psychanalyse 3 (1983): pp. 111-31; "Les chiffres de l'intime" (postface)
in Flournoy, Des Indes, pp. 371-85.
Catherine Élise Müller - named Hélène Smith in this work - said to be glossolalic,
considers herself to be a medium capable of conversing with the dead. She
pretends to have been, in a previous life, a princess of ancient India with the
name of Simadini and married to prince Sivrouka, sensibly reincarnated in the
person of Théodore Flournoy. Moreover she knows how to speak Sanskrit and proves
it by pronouncing it before an audience of credulous admirers and incredulous
examiners. She was also Marie-Antoinette and speaks a royal French. But above
all, perniciously, she has the privilege of transferring herself onto distant
planets from which she brings back the language of the inhabitants, notably
Théodore Flournoy, the psychologist, and eminent linguists - Ferdinand de Saussure for example - were struck by the linguistic marvels that Élise Müller
produced. They scrutinized with the greatest care the linguistic corpus
furnished by the young lady. Their results were recorded in From India to the
Planet Mars. Did Élise know Sanskrit - she who had not studied? Certain people
confirmed it. But must one then believe in the immortality of the soul and in
the reality of the phenomenon of reincarnation? The Martian language that she
claimed to know, could she not just have made it up? How would she go about it?
We could take recourse to this book and, from the glossolalic text, seek to
provide further interpretations. A modern linguist might without any doubt find
in it various linguistic curiosities. Such, however, is not our purpose.
 See for example M. Yaguello, Lunatic Lovers of Language: Imaginary Languages
and their Inventors, trans. C. Slater (London: Athlone Press, 1991).
Auguste Lemaître is one of the principal participants in the mediumistic séances
convened around Élise Müller, whom he calls "my" medium. It is he who draws up
the records of each of the séances when they are held at his residence, and who
copiously writes them out with his school-masterish handwriting in exercise
books. The records, which we have had the luck to retrieve at the descendants'
of Lemaître, are a literal account of the séances. They are signed each time
by all the participants. Flournoy used them to construct his book, but he never
published them as such. He merely provides summaries and only extracts certain
passages useful to his argument.
 Private archives of the descendants of A.
We now have the complete text of around sixty séances spread very unevenly
between October 24, 1894 and May 18, 1901: two hundred and sixty pages in seven
notebooks. As regards the meetings that took place in Théodore Flournoy's
apartment and from which he made records, we unfortunately have not discovered
the slightest trace. This is so much the more regrettable since it was at these
meetings that Élise Müller spoke Sanskrit in the presence of Ferdinand de Saussure, who had been invited for the occasion.
We have studied the records of Auguste Lemaître for a long time in an attempt to
understand the reconstruction carried out by Théodore Flournoy throughout the
writing of his work. It seemed important to us to reconsider the question of the
Martian language, not so as to restore the text, but in order to determine the
conditions of its enunciation. It will be, we hope, from another vantage point
that we shall be able to reveal the procedure which permitted the fabrication of
Martian. The present approach in no way renders null and void the study of the
Martian articulation undertaken by Flournoy or by the linguist Victor Henry;
it Simply wishes to recreate the theatre that saw it take place and unfold.
 V. Henry, Le langage martien (Paris: Maisonneuve, 1901).
The Martian adventure begins on November 25, 1894 - with an important detail:
Théodore Flournoy does not yet figure among the participants in this séance,
from which the following extract is taken:
From the beginning, Melle. Müller senses a vivid gleam at a distance, high up.
Then she feels a swinging that goes to her head after which it seems to her as
if her head is empty and that she no longer has a body. She finds herself in a
thick fog which changes gradually from blue to bright pink and then to grey and
black. She floats, she says; and the table resting on only a single leg begins
to take on a very strange floating movement, like whorls constantly repeating
the same turning. Then Mlle. Müller sees a star that continually grows and grows
and becomes "larger than our house." Melle. Müller feels that it rises. Then the
table conveys through spelling:
- Lemaître, this is what you would like so much!
Melle Müller who was ill at ease feels better. She discerns three enormous
spheres, of which one is very beautiful. "What is it that I walk on?" she asks
herself and the table answers, On land. Mars. (Laughing): "How funny, these
cars! Hardly any horses or people that are on the move. Imagine different kinds
of armchairs that slide but don't have wheels. It is the tiny wheels that
produce the sparks. People sit in their armchairs. Some of them, the larger
ones, hold four to five people. To the right of the armchairs a kind of handle
stick is at tached, fitted with a button that one presses with the thumb to put
the vehicle in motion. There are no rails. One also sees the people walking.
They are built like us and hold onto each other with the little finger. The
clothing is the same for both sexes: a long blouse tight around the waist, very
large trousers, shoes with very thick soles, no heel and of the same colour as
the rest of the outfit which is in shammy, white with black designs."
Thus begins the Martian voyage. Lemaître does not know "how to explain" Élise's
first words: "Lemaître, this is what you would like so much." Someone reminds
him of a conversation during the summer of 1893, in the course of which he is
supposed to have said: It would be very interesting to know what happens on
other planets!" And here it is granted: If this is the response to the wish of
last year ... then well and good!" he rejoices. One must note that all his
listeners at that moment are given over to the spiritual powers of Élise Müller
Moreover she provides what is expected, i.e., to see, hear and explore. She
excels in painting with words. The text of the séance continues. It is a kind of
canvas Élise Müller paints before a blind public.
Théodore Flournoy gains admission to the séances on December 9, 1894 and his
presence transforms their style as well as the minutes. The new reporter
constantly breaks the thread with his countless suggestions. Élise's monologue
is interrupted by the incessant questioning that names and determines the
answers. Another change due to the presence of Flournoy: the Martian visions are
suspended for fifteen months. It is only on February 2, 1896 that the traveller
resumes her voyage, a fact for which Flournoy provides two possible
explanations. Firstly he holds himself to be the involuntary cause-the Hindu
romance in which he plays an essential role having completely occupied the
spirit of Élise Müller. In the second place, he invokes "a period of latent
incubation necessary for the perfection of the Martian dream and for the
preparation of the new language which was to reveal itself".
 This volume, p. 295.
These two explanations are plausible. But one needs to spell out that the birth
of Martian follows the "battle" that was joined around Sanskrit, the language of
the transference, which allowed Élise to converse passionately with Sivrouka-Flournoy.
The distinguished scholars, gathered to determine whether this is really
Sanskrit, doubt its purity. Élise does not fail to take notice. Hence the
hypothesis that she takes recourse to Martian as a new linguistic marvel.
Besides, she has discovered that the scholars are particularly interested in the
production of language. The advent of Martian is in some way the response to
their scientific interest.
 See M. Cifali, "Une glossolalic et ses savants: Élise Müller alias Hélène
Smith," in La linguistique fantastique (Paris: Clims-Denoel, 1985), pp. 236-44.
Is it Hungarian?
Between November 25, 1894 and February 2, 1897 - the date of the first Martian
words - Élise Müller above all speaks Sanskrit, above all in the course of her
Hindu "romance." We do not have in our possession the records of the séances
that would allow us to know which questions were put to her and which commands
were addressed to her, so we can only infer from two sources: the work of
Flournoy and an article which Lemaître wrote in 1897.
 A. Lemaître, "Contribution a l'etude des phenomenes psychiques," in
des sciences psychiques 7 (1897): pp. 65-88.
By comparing the two linguistic productions, Flournoy proposes the following:
"The nature of Hélène's Hindu language," he writes, 'Is less easy to bring to
clarity than that of Martian, for it has never been possible to obtain neither a
literal translation nor written texts of it." And he continued by another route,
There is not even left to me the resource of placing the parts of the process as
a whole before the reader, as I have done in the case of the Martian, for the
reason that our ignorance of Hélène's Hindu, added to her rapid and indistinct
pronunciation - a real prattle some times - has caused us to lose the greater
part of the numerous words heard in the course of some thirty Oriental scenes
scattered over a space of four years.
 This volume, above, pp. 193-194.
These few words cause us to think, without great risk of being mistaken, that
Hélène-Élise is pressured to translate and write, but that she resists it, that
she is urged to pronounce with care in order to facilitate a transcription,
known to be difficult.
Auguste Lemaître speaking of his medium - we emphasize the use of the masculine
gender - never cites the name, and much less does he indicate that it is a
woman. Of the Sanskrit which she speaks, he also points out its basically
 [Son médium, médium being masculine in French. -Trans.]
There were also incarnations and sayings pronounced in a language similar to
Sanskrit, with a melodious accent, which permits me to contend that had Greek
not existed, then Sanskrit would have been the most beautiful language ever to
have come from human lips.
 Lemaître, "Contribution," p. 83.
Élise's prowess to which he bears witness to the reader does not fail to amaze:
Try, you who have learned foreign or ancient languages, try to learn Sanskrit
and to speak it, try above all to place the accent, the harmonious intonation
which characterizes it, then apply yourselves to acquire it with no wavering,
with volubility. Well! The medium from whose mouth these amazing words flowed,
like as many pearls, had no knowledge at all of languages, it had never been
taught the Greek and Latin roots, and still less those of Sanskrit.
There is, however, no doubt that the entire Hindu romance feeds on the play of
questions and answers into which Élise is dragged. Here is a brief example of it
to do with the séance of March 10, 1885. The meeting began at 8 p. m., and it is
Mademoiselle gets up. Will she go towards Flournoy? (Always the little finger:)
Yes. Must Flournoy get on the sofa? Yes. M. Flournoy sits there. Does
Mademoiselle see the funeral pyre? Yes. She walks backwards in the direction of
the dining room door. Is Mademoiselle on the verge of a precipice? No. Are men
there, like the other day, that push her towards the pyre? Yes. Is it the
messieurs present here? No. M. Flournoy: Can 1 go to meet her in order to
protect her? No reply. Is there a body on the funeral pyre? Yes. Is it lit? No.
Will it be so soon? Yes. Will the widow throw herself onto it? No. Will they put
her there by force? Yes. Mademoiselle joins her hands. Does she supplicate? Yes.
Will she die? Yes. Soon? Yes. Will Mademoiselle fall? Yes. Is it necessary to
let her fall? Yes. Will she fall backwards? No. Forwards? Yes. M. Flournoy: Must
I lay down on this funeral pyre? No reply. Is my [Flournoy's] anteriority there?
Yes. Mademoiselle retreats again, and we ask why? It is because they lay hold of
The dance of questions is irresistible. She lets herself be taken there and the
gentlemen participate in the choreography. We may suppose that during the entire
Hindu romance she is requested, in the same fashion, to render her Sanskrit
accessible to the ear, then to translate it so that it could be committed to
writing. It is in this context that the birth of Martian is prepared, finding
its "incubation," as Flournoy writes, supported by the sustained interest among
the scholars in the phenomenon of language.
We can catch a glimpse of the direction of their questioning regarding the
language at another séance. On May 26, 1895, Élise speaks the first words in a
foreign language, and here is how her tentative report is welcomed by Auguste
At 8:50 Mademoiselle experiences a heartbeat that, so she says, she has never
felt. At the same time she has allochiria, but she distinguishes perfectly
between tokens in different colors that Flournoy presents to her. Mademoiselle
experiences an unknown trembling from top to toe. The table expresses the wish
to speak and Mademoiselle being a bit tired asks me [A.L.] to spell. We get:
Koos ... Is it Hungarian? [Table:] Yes. New sign from the table; I [A.L.] spell
Oluu ... and after a short silence: opoq ... Are these three words? [Table:]
Yes. She continues: Unly. Does this sentence: "Koos oluu opoq unly" have a
meaning? [Table:] Yes. Is it Léopold who has dictated it? Yes. Is he alone? Yes.
Is the sentence addressed to Mademoiselle? Yes. Have we too much light? Yes. We
turn down the lamp. Will Mademoiselle have a vision? Yes. Related to someone
"Are these three words? Does the sentence have a meaning? Is the mother tongue
of Élise's father Hungarian?" The scholars want her to reflect on language. In a
manner they impose a school exercise upon her. The important thing certainly is
that she speaks, but above all that she translates, divides up into segments,
pronounces clearly, corrects herself Martian is evidently Élise's response to
the prearranged frame of questions. The participants will get what they require,
even if they should have to wait a little to obtain it. And what they collect no
longer depends on the spirit but on a scientific context. The articulation of a
melodic sentence does not satisfy them. However, the production of Martian seems
really to be nothing but that, initially. Proof is provided by the famous scene
from February 2, 1896 concerning which Flournoy writes:
We are constrained to believe that these first outbursts of Martian,
characterized by a volubility which we have rarely met with since then, were
only a pseudo-Martian, a continuation of sounds uttered at random and without
any real meaning, analogous to the gibberish which children use sometimes in the
games of "pretending" to speak Chinese or Indian.
 This volume, above, p. 97.
But in turn we hear:
I don't understand this language ... You are not too warm in this dress? (Little
finger: She will speak a language to us, not a terrestrial one, but a language
spoken on Mars) ... I don't understand ... You want me to get in there, oh no!
... Speak French to me! ... I don't understand anything! ... Speak so that I
understand you! You call yourself that! ... Is it easy to learn? ... In the name
of Heaven, where are you coming from? ... I seem to have seen it ... Not a hat,
it is like a plate! . . . You believe that I shall learn easily; I don't like
learning foreign languages ... Is there another coming? Then I'll hardly
understand anything at all ... What is this stick doing? ... I won't get over
there, you get over there ... It is soft! ... Ah! I understand, it is only that
which causes movement. (She steps back to let him pass.) Do you understand me
when I chat to you? ... How do you understand me when I don't understand you!
Speak to me in French all the time ... I shall never be able to retain all that.
What does that mean? ... I need to tell them this entire story, that will
interest them ... Well then! (Mademoiselle proceeds towards the dining room)
Careful! You will get yourself wet, how will you get in, it's full of water! ...
It's an impossible language! ... Speak, what do you call it? ... What language!
Is it Chinese? If at least I could comprehend what you're telling me here! ...
Sure, I shall speak, but on one condition: you tell me what that means! ... You
know French well, you have spoken French on two occasions! ... What are you
saying there? You are only a person here ... a woman! ... There is someone who
speaks French, but where is he? Go find him! ... Speak slowly, I shall repeat
... Michma mitchmou minimi tchouanimen minatchineg masichinof mezavi patelki
abresinad navette naven navette mitchichenid naken chinoutoufiche ... (These
words were pronounced roughly with the sounds transcribed here; but in the quick
conversation which followed, it was impossible to grasp anything; I noted in
passing some words and here they are separately: teké- ... katéchivist ...
magetch or méketch (several times in the course of the dialogue) ... kéti ...
On that day Élise Müller refused to provide the translation which was demanded
of her. She even remained deaf to Flournoy's suggestion: "After your awakening,
when I knock three times on the table, you will remember all that you have said
in Martian and you will repeat it in French to Madame Mégevant". One needs to
resort to trickery for her finally to deliver. At the end of the séance in fact:
Mademoiselle hears our questions with a natural charm, answering us in Martian.
I [A.L.] profit from posing the following questions to her, to which I already
knew the answers in French. Quest: Which persons were present at the séance on
Wednesday at M. Cuendet? Rep. Métich Cuendet, Médache Cuendet, Metich Senn,
Métaganich Müller. So you weren't that many, how many were you? Reply (smiling):
Kintch (that which should mean four) and a moment later Mlle. repeats in the
following order: Métich Cuendet, Senn, Médache Cuendet, Métaganich Müller. Note
that one does not repeat Metich in front of a series of names.
We thus have four Martian words with translation.
The encounter here is exemplary. Mademoiselle says that she does not like to
learn foreign languages, but she produces a melodic sentence, and Auguste
Lemaître underscores "the great volubility," "her complete lack of
hesitation." To them what matters is the translation, and their triumph
consists in having been able to get four of these words with their French
equivalent out of her. On our part, we do not remain insensitive to Élise's "monologic
dialogue." These sentences are truncated, the text is chopped up, the dialogue
with an absent interlocutor is constantly interrupted by silences. The points of
suspension, exclamation marks, and question marks are mixed up. We are a
thousand miles from the descriptions and narratives which would have flourished
in the initial mediumistic séances.
 Lemaître, "Contribution," p. 87.
Silence, Writing, and Production
After this first attempt on February 2, 1896, the participants are evidently in
a hurry "to know more." Théodore Flournoy now laments that "the following
séance, unfortunately, did not fulfil the promises with which it began." It is
even "almost entirely deficient" - which is to say that Élise expounded neither
her Martian language nor her translation as she had announced; she is content,
according to Flournoy, with chatting "in French with the sitters, but mingling
with it here and there a strange word (such as méche, chinit, chèque, which,
according to the context, seem to signify 'pencil,' 'ring,' 'paper')." In
fact, here is how that happened:
 This volume, above, p. 98.
8:59 "Oh! such heat!" she exclaims. is it better like that? we ask her. She
replies: "Who was unwell?" She seems to have come to her senses. But turning
towards M. Roch, she kneels before the table where he writes and says to him
laughing: "What is this stick (it is about a pencil)? One doesn't write like
that!" I [A.L.] bring a table towards her to ask her to show us how one should
write, and quickly she shouts: I don't want this mèche! While laughing all the
time she calls M. Flournoy and says to him: Come and see how he writes! And
catching sight of her ring which she had deposited at the beginning of the
séance she says: Help, chinit! Her amazement before the pencil continues. We try
to give her a long one, a short one, but she turns them over in her hand and
throws them away. I present her with a feather dipped in ink. She removes this
ink with the tip of her index finger which she runs over the paper making blobs.
We insist that she should write, but she replies: I can't, everything has been
taken away from me! She crumples the paper between her fingers and with her nail
she cuts out a very regular square from the rectangular sheet. At a point where
we have hidden away the paper which she had she says: My paper is not this one,
this is another small chèque!
Disappointment, most certainly, for the audience: Élise does not comply with the
request for writing. Flournoy merely glosses that "the importance of this séance
is in the fact that the idea stands out clearly (which was not to be realized
until a year and a half later) of a mode of handwriting peculiar to the planet
Mars." Whose idea is it of "standing out clearly" and what kind of writing
is actually in question?
The preceding records are dated February 16. The health of Élise Müller has been
seriously jeopardized: struck by long illness, she is kept in bed. Hence the
séances are to be suspended for six months; they resume in the autumn. And this
will be the outburst of Martian and of its translation, which one may think of
as being the unique result of the slow "incubation" of the medium. Nothing, in
effect, within the work of Flournoy permits the denial of this interpretation.
Nothing, except that we suppose it is during this six-month break that Auguste
Lemaître writes his article "Contribution à l'étude des phénoménes psychiques,"
appearing in March-April 1897 in the Annales des sciences psychiques.
Between the summer of 1896 - the presumed date of its composition - and the date
of its publication, the delay is of importance. What makes us believe that it is
during this period that the article was written? Firstly, when speaking of
Martian in his article, Lemaître only refers to the séance of February 2, 1896.
Now if he had written this article in the autumn or even later he would have had
other Martian texts at his disposal and he would have been eager, no doubt, to
provide his reader with them to read. What supports us in this thesis is
furthermore that this first article by Lemaître is to be followed in the
May-June issue of the journal by the "Remarques sur les expériences de M.
Lemaître" by M. E. Lefébure, Professor at l'École Supérieure des Lettres d'Alger,
to which the Genevan replies, indicating with regard to the unknown language
that "he had only been able to capture four words with translation" at the
moment when his first article went to press. On the other hand, Lemaître
points out that since then Martian has reappeared in several séances of which he
"had not been able to transcribe everything - far from it." He adds, that "when
the medium spoke it with speed, it seemed like these animated conversations
which Russian or Romanian students have with each other."
 Lemaître, "Contribution."
 E. Lefébure, "Remarques sur les experiences de M. Lemaître," Annales des
sciences Psychiques 7 (1897): pp. 176-80; A. Lemaître, "Reponse,"
sciences Psychiques 7 (1897): pp. 181-88.
 Lemaître, "Reponse," p. 182.
If we insist on reconstructing the chronology of events, it is because we
suspect that the outburst of Martian came after Lemaître's text. We like
wise measure the impact of this text in the evocation of a "monstrous beast" who
writes. Speaking Martian, its translation, and the announcement of a writing
appear at the same time, in the autumn of 1896. Here is a fragment of the séance
of November 8:
 However, an enigma remains: Lemaître only refers to the séance of February
2 at the moment when his article goes to press. It is hardly plausible that his
article appearing in March-April 1897 was already typeset in the preceding
autumn. On the contrary, one might think that it was already written and that
Lemaître did not complete it with the new séances.
Asténé [a Martian figure], I would like to come often to you. I feel less heavy,
less oppressed, calmer, more peaceful. I feel much better at your place than at
my place. But you will easily carry off this vile beast from here ... Oh no, I
don't think it could be intelligent ... Oh no, I don't want to see it, I don't
want it to come near me. It is very ugly; they have prettier ones at our place
... It is she who knows how to write all that; I will only believe it when I see
it! ... So make her write! ... Ah! she doesn't understand; it is from habit that
she writes! ... Her eyes aren't beastly, when one sees her ... She is sweet,
this beast! ... Is it she who lowers the telescope [lunette]? (I [A. L.] had
written the match [l'allumette])... Does she know how to unscrew it? ... She
gives it to you. Then she deserves hanging. It's crazy! ... But have you taught
her to be intelligent? ... It must have taken you a lot of time ... No? ... It
doesn't matter, it's a pity she should be so ugly! I only like pretty things!
... You will show me your lantern.
Who is the "vile beast" that Élise Müller is afraid of, or jokes about? Who says
one must "be intelligent"? "Make her write," Élise says to the beast. "Write,"
the participants say to Mademoiselle, since one of them is already given the
task, and all the séances are committed to writing.
We are certain that Élise has read Lemaître's article shortly after he has
written it or even during its composition, just as she read the records. She
must have retained the hypothesis expressed in it: "Rigorously, one could
account for this extraordinary language by attributing it to a double of the
medium or, in scholarly terms, a splitting of the personality. Children at times
amuse themselves by fabricating a language from nothing."
 Lemaître, "Contribution," p. 87. Our emphasis.
This hypothesis Lemaître takes-without citing its author-from Flournoy, who
already speaks thus about the first Martian words as being a playful and
childish creation. Élise most certainly knows it-she would either have heard it
from the mouth of Flournoy or have read it in Lemaître. Is it wrong to think
that from then on she will manage to refute it by fabricating a language
according to a model that their questions provide, that is to say, by delivering
a word for word translation and committing it to writing? Flournoy admits to
this when he writes, “It is necessary at the start to render this justice to the
Martian ... namely, that this is, indeed, a language and not a simple jargon or
gibberish of vocal noises produced at the hazard of the moment without any
stability." We are in the presence of "a typical case of 'glosso-poesy,' of
complete fabrication of all the parts of a new language by a subconscious
activity," he concedes. But he maintains his comparison with a children's
 This volume, above, p. 154.
 Ibid., p. 124.
From Word to Word
From the autumn, Élise Müller consequently speaks in Martian. During the séance
of November 2, she herself stages the scenario of the translation. Léopold - her
double patron-gives Flournoy instructions: he is to place his hand on the
forehead of Élise and utter the name of Ésenale, an inhabitant on Mars who is
the incarnation of a son of one of the participants, Alexis Megevand (Mirbel in
From India to the Planet Mars). The submission to this ritual is the condition
for Élise agreeing to translate what Flournoy calls a "long monologue,
constantly interrupted by silences" and whose continuation is only secured
"having constant recourse to the name of Ésenale as the magic word, alone
capable of extracting each time a few words from Hélène's confused brain."
 Ibid., p. 108.
During the séance of November 8 in which Flournoy did not participate, the
scenario repeats itself. Is the young woman on the alert? In effect, she only
resolves to translate by taking even further precautions:
The left index finger then says that we shall have some Martian, since we will
have the translation of it. My [A.L.] left thumb tells me that by uttering the
name of Ésenale I shall obtain the translation, it also tells me that the
Martian will be pronounced sufficiently slowly for me to be able to transcribe
From then on, Élise is no longer satisfied with being voluble and producing
harmonious intonations. She is worried about the transcription of her speech,
concerning which she knows she is being difficult. The séance of November 8,
1896, beginning at 4:40 p.m. and finishing at 6:15, shows this:
5:50 p. m. Mademoiselle gets up and turns towards Mme. Megevand, in front of
whom she genuflects. She takes her right hand and caresses it in a friendly way
several times over. After that she utters a Martian sentence roughly like the
following: Mon déiné cé dji sé vouitch ni évé chéé quiné liné. When the sentence
is completed whilst Mlle. continues to caress the hand of Madame Mégevand, I [A.
L.] say "Ésenale" and we get it word for word. I had not divided the words as
they should be. It is with a low voice that Mademoiselle gives the following
Mondé, Mother - iné, dear - cé (or
si), I - di (or dji), you - séveouitch,
recognise - ni, I - évé, am - ché (or chéé), your - little - Liné.
(One needs to point out that quiné and Liné were not repeated in the word for
The sentence thus translates: Dear Mother, I recognise you, I am your little Linet.
While Élise unfolds the phantasmatic scenario of its translation, the scholars
on their part insist on gaining accuracy. How do they do it? Flournoy gives a
hint in a note:
The "word for word" is not always directly as strict.... Esanale often
interprets several words at a time.... But in instances of hesitation on the
correspondence between the Martian and French terms, he is made to repeat the
doubtful words separately so that at the end of the reckoning one truly
possesses the exact word for word.
 ibid., p. 296.
Each time it is necessary to caress the forehead of Élise and repeat the name of
Ésanale, It is not her who translates, but the young man from whom she repeats
the phrases. When submitting to the demand for rigour, she dissects what she has
just uttered, as Auguste Lemaître points out on November 29, 1896:
Translation: Mlle. sometimes repeats the Martian words, at other times she
continues without repeating them. I [A. L.] make a point of repeating certain
words in order to know how to separate them. The sentence in French becomes ...
Most often, one has to wait for some hours to reach that point and so be able to
undertake an analysis of the text at which one has finally arrived. A Martian
glossary is built up, and its syntax pinned down. The curious scholars compel
Élise to a difficult exercise concerning the "unknown language." The dialogic
context to which she is subjected strangely resembles the relational structure
belonging to the "schoolmasterish monologue" addressed to disobedient children
to be reared or taught.
Production of Text and Dissociation of Élise
"Mademoiselle" perseveres from séance to séance, and even
outside. Flournoy and Lemaître collect the textual productions. We could confine ourselves to
recalling them without drawing attention to what goes on all around, and notably
the progressive dramatization of the séances. We see, for example, what takes
place on December 13, 1896. Flournoy is absent. Élise complains: they "tear off
her skin in flakes from top to bottom on the back and wrists to the end of both
hands"; "they take away the skin of her eyes"; they "shake her blood"; they
"whip her blood." She comes and goes unflaggingly between the Martian and the
Hindu scene: the name of Sivrouka comes up again on repeated occasions as if a
struggle was taking place to the point where the participants ask themselves "if
by chance M. Flournoy would have made a suggestion to Mademoiselle through
Florrisant or otherwise." We are in the presence of an anarchic succession of
offended monologues. Élise no longer knows who is "I," who is "you," who is
"they," as she addresses herself to Léopold at the time of the séance of
Oh yes, Léopold, life, what a sad comedy! in fact, I am very glad for you to
have ... One never has two happy hours ... always being tormented by a mass of
unpleasant things ... Well, in any case you always look after me. And then one
must believe that it is probably for my own good. One needs to look at things in
that way, we have got to admit it ... with him, that's a totally different
matter ... Yes, I'll go tomorrow, that's it ... At first, yes, it is you who
have gained victory in this matter ... It is you who have made me write it, and
at the moment where I expected it the least, I had to pick up the pen ... First
these utterances, they are not mine ... He seemed satisfied, even delighted, but
I really made him feel it was me ... I have done well, on the whole you have
done well because it was not me who wrote; you have instructed me, thanks! ...
And then you believe that this is not what I think.
Quite often we no longer know who speaks: is it Élise or is it really Flournoy
making suggestions to her? Is it Léopold through the voice of Élise? On January
17, 1897, Élise at last obeys a suggestion of Flournoy's: her voice changes into
"a strong, deep, hollow voice joined by a great laughter, vulgar and prolonged,"
that of Léopold who speaks through her mouth. This scene, which Lemaître
classifies as "grotesque," signifies the slow dispossession of Élise. By being
the object of different suggestions, by being pestered with questions, she is
woman and then man; she is again the other. Nothing stops her in her propensity
for moving on to a third. Flournoy nevertheless multiplies the suggestions, to
which she surrenders, like in the séance of February 21, in order to lose
herself further still.
From then on M. Flournoy made several suggestions to her which she obeyed
exactly. M. Lemaître plays some sad or joyful music on the piano: in the first
instance she goes towards M. Flournoy to cry, in the second she laughs.
Otherwise she beats the time with her left hand or with her head, even with her
eyelids as M. Flournoy has suggested to her. M. F. makes her kneel down in front
of him or beat him, tells her to go and take a rose on the knees of Mme.
Lemaître, to prick herself on the finger on this imaginary rose, etc. The
feeling of being pricked and of blood trickling down is most gripping. On
several occasions Mlle. groans when showing us her finger.
Thus the production of the Martian texts progresses in keeping with the
dissolution of she who, meanwhile, continually attempts to respond to that which
she knows to be the firm belief of Théodore Flournoy. In effect, during the
séance of February 21 she transmits the following, through the table that
dictates her thought: "that which Mademoiselle begins to perceive comes to her
neither from Léopold, nor from her own depths, nor from anybody present."
We have already foreshadowed the fact that the article by
Lemaître was not, from
the time of its writing, without effect on the outburst of Martian in the
autumn. Now we may ask ourselves if the publication of this article in April-May
1897, followed by the reply by Lemaître in May-June, had repercussions on
Élise's production. Between March and May we no longer have any records at our
disposal: two months of interruption, for which nothing gives any hint, neither
Lemaître in his records nor Flournoy in his work. The séances resume on May 9,
1897, and here - could this be mere chance? - Élise's preoccupation with writing
becomes more specific. On May 30, 1897, we can read:
(According to me [A. L.] who writes) I believe that at this moment you fulfil
the position of a writer (Pleasant position, is it not?) Everything depends on
what you write (But who are you then?) Marie! (What is the king doing?) I think
that the king is sleeping at the moment - M. Lemaître, what time do you make it?
Oh! it's not really late. I slept (M. Roch says Madame to her; she responds:) M.
Roch, in treating me like a Madame you make a fool of me, since for the moment I
am really a mistress. I don't know if I've been cold, but it hurts here on my
right side (actually the left) Ah! now it's on the left side (actually the
(With the voice of Léopold:) I don't know what's the cause of it, but I feel
very bad on this side! But what are you then writing, M. Lemaître? Ah! I feel so
bad, I feel very bad on this side. (M. Roch tells her that he will relieve her
of her pain by magnetizing it.) I have never heard it said that you magnetize;
M. Lemaître, M. Roch pretends that he knows how to magnetize. But he hasn't
understood a bit of it, M. Lemaître, put in the biography that you are writing,
that you bore me, also put that M. Roch pretended to know the area where I felt
pain and he placed his finger on the side! At the moment, sure the pain is gone,
but it comes here from the right side (actually the left).
 Our emphasis.
This preoccupation of EIise Müller with writing does not date, as we know, from
this period. it concurred quite exactly with the first words spoken in Martian
during the month of February 1896. And we bear in mind her dialogue, in the
autumn of 1896, with the "nasty beast."
Flournoy very accurately retraces the history of staging the Martian writing: it
"only appeared at the end of a prolonged period of incubation, which betrayed
itself in several incidents, and certainly stimulated by various exterior
suggestions during a year and a half at least." However, he never calls to
mind the public battle surrounding her during the first eight months of 1897. We
resume this chronology.
 This volume, above, p. 126.
In the course of the summer Élise never stops announcing the writing will come
soon. Thus on June 27, 1897:
Come here, Ésenale! ... Ah! There is Asténé! Come close to me ... not behind the
armchair! ... There he is! ... Ésenale is there! They see each other but don't
speak to each other. Asténé is aged, Ésenale is young ... It doesn't absorb -
the ink - this material! it is a material where the ink dries immediately, a
kind of blotting paper! ... A stiffer material ... You are writing on that! Do
they not have paper at your place? ... It is a material you can roll, it dries
immediately ... It is not in ink ... M. Flournoy wants me to write with this
thing (allusion to a kind of pen made from a nib or a pencil attached to a ring
through which one puts a finger, so that it writes in Martian) ... It is heavy,
it is material ... but I can understand this blade, this piece of metal which
marks ... It is movable, one can press at the tip ... It is beautiful this
writing ... All that sums up a long conversation ... Would you teach me to
write? ... They make out that you one day said, I will write, is that true? ...
Yes, I do well believe what one tells me ... Stay a bit, stay Ésenale! Listen,
that's Ésenale who speaks: Modé tatiné cé ké mache radziré zé...
"Soon he will write," Élise confirms during this séance. In July she has a
vision on the tram. Here is how Auguste Lemaître reports it: "Mademoiselle met
Léopold on the tramway who urged her not to obstruct (on the contrary rather)
the work which M. Flournoy considers undertaking with his subject."
 Records from July 11, 1897.
On August 19 Flournoy writes a letter to the Annales des sciences psychiques in
order to indicate that he dissociates himself from the interpretations by his
friend Lemaître and that he is preparing another work:
I am so much more inclined to renounce my responsibility for the ideas raised
in passing by my excellent colleague and friend M. Lemaître, since I hope soon
to return to the curious phenomena of his medium in order to provide a purely
psychological interpretation without recourse to spiritist notions of
incarnation, anteriority, etc.
 Flournoy, "Lettre à I'adresse du directeur,"
Annales des sciences
psychiques 7 (1897): p. 255.
On August 22 Élise Müller supplies a sample of Martian writing. Long after this
date she will still produce texts, with their translation and writing. But while
she had, up to the present moment, succeeded in preserving her everyday life as
a salesperson in a silk shop, she now makes a mistake at her place of work. She
replaces the number ten (the tenth month of the year) with the number three:
"Without knowing why, writes Lemaître, she constantly substitutes the number 3
for the number 10 on the shop's dockets where she should indicate October by its
number in the order of the year (10th month)." Mars [March] is the third
 Séance of October 24, 1897.
The rest we know. In October of the following year, in 1898, Flournoy expresses
his "utter skepticism" to her concerning the area of Martian. This should
not come as a surprise to her. Never mind that, she takes recourse to
ultra-Martian, then to Uranian, and on to Lunarian. She accedes to trilingual
translations: Ultra-Martian text with Martian and French translations. While
Élise Müller is uneasy about responding to Théodore Flournoy's scientific quest,
her linguistic productions do not in fact dry up.
 This volume, above, p. 166.
 Flournoy, "Nouvelles observations sur un cas de sonmambulisme avec
glossolie," Archives de psychologie 1 (1901): pp. 101-255.
The Language of Scientific Illusion
In the phenomenon that occupies us here, Flournoy sees a "infantile travesty of
French." Subsequently, all those who will lean on the glossolalic case of
Élise will undertake, in the same way, to dismantle the mechanics of Martian
which, according to Guilhem Teulie, "from a linguistic point of view is nothing
but a literal translation of French through the aid of neologisms." jean
Bobon, for his part, resumes the appraisals of Flournoy: the glossolalic
productions are "puerile in their form and in their basis, strongly tinted by
affect, varying in their vocabulary and not in their internal structure, they
bear witness to a regression to an infantile stage of personality." Élise's case
"incontestably forms a part of psychopathology," according to the same
 This volume, above, p. 154.
 G. Tenlie, "Une forme de glossolalic," Annales médico-psychologiques
(1938): p. 50.
 J. Bobon, "La glossolalie ludique psychonevrosique," in Introduction historique
à l'etude des néoologismes et des glossolalic en psychopathologie
(Paris: Masson, 1952), P. 64.
How did Élise Müller go about creating Martian? The linguists certainly have
their reasons for arguing that it is only a disguised form of French. It seems
to us that the principal question has to be posed otherwise. The Martian
language is not merely that of Élise. Is it not created by those who are
questioning? When Élise begins to speak it, Sanskrit as well as Martian are
remarkable in their melodic character, their musicality. Élise, Lemaître
stresses, does express herself with "an incredible volubility having a very
exotic, inimitable and never-failing accent." Whereas Sanskrit resists
questioning and remains a language of love in which the name of Sivrouka can be
pronounced with softness and passion, Martian yields to suggestions without
which there would be no construction.
 Lemaître, "Réponse," p. 184.
We know that the phenomenon of glossolalia is always social and needs to be
sustained by others, by ideology - religious or spiritual - which gives it a frame,
authorizes it, valorizes it, and furnishes it with an external meaning. It
requires an Institution that awaits the production by the subject in order then
to interpret it. In a religious context, "speaking in tongues" has its writings,
its masters, and its examples. In the spiritist context, similarly, its
comprehension is of a straightforward nature; it rests on the immortality of the
soul, on reincarnation - that is to say, the capacity for being "other" in another
life, or being visited by someone dead, a spirit, etc., something that makes it
possible. We are each time in contexts where use is made of suggestion.
Élise Müller, by passing from a spiritist to a scientific context, is subjected
to different suggestions, the power of which, however, remains the same. Without
this passage, she would possibly not have developed her speaking in tongues. She
would probably only have achieved through it a "classical" glossolalic
production, a melody coming from elsewhere. In his work From India to the Planet
Mars, Flournoy certainly does not conceal that he multiplies the suggestions. By
reading the minutes from the séances, we are, however, surprised by their
profusion and above all by their steadfastness. And we remain struck with
astonishment when they come close to farce, when they manipulate Élise and make
of her a true puppet, a pure object of observation.
Flournoy takes no account of these suggestions in his analysis: Élise's
"infantile" productions are her own creation. By restoring certain texts from
the séances we have, on the contrary, wanted to show that Martian was at the
least her creation for him, and also the mirror of his conception of language,
the result of his desires, the other side of himself.
The linguist Victor Henry, for his part, ponders judiciously as to why Sanskrit
and Martian do not know, or hardly know, the letter f. Is it because, for Élise,
the f symbolizes the French that she does not want to speak? We could also
very well say that by its absence the f reveals the omnipresence of Flournoy,
whose initial it is.
 V. Henry, Le langage martien, p. 22ff.
A Visionary of Language
We can further show the impact of the scientific context on the production of
Martian through another opposition. Whereas Élise uses Sanskrit in order to
converse directly with Sivrouka, she only speaks in Martian in order to repeat
what she has heard. This enunciation, translated on May 23, 1897, testifies to
this: "Come nearer, don't fear; soon you will be able to write in our writing,
and you will have our language at the tip your fingers."
She is content with repeating fragments of conversations in Martian, audible to
her only: "Speak, I'll repeat it to them, that should interest them." She seeks
to understand, but in a way she remains at a distance in order to prove,
probably, that the foreign language does not come from her, that this language
really exists in the mouth of her invisible interlocutors.
Beforehand, she only depicted Martian landscapes. She now attributes a language
of which she is the interpreter to the people inhabiting these landscapes. She
invites us to the scene provided by actors, evoking for the audience a plot
played out beyond the stage by invisible protagonists with whom she does not
stop conversing. Beforehand, she described landscapes with plenty of detail and
colors; her speech was concerned with representing a reality. The dialogue
turned out successfully. Actually, the texts of the séances take the form of an
endless dialogue, as if dedicated to excess. Élise takes complete part in this
dialogue. But this is not at all the case when she formulates her Martian
In the Hindu romance, the Sanskrit work forms a love transference by Élise onto
Sivrouka-Flournoy. The Martian itself is sustained by their rivalry around
knowledge and observation: in it, Élise is definitively effaced as a subject of
enunciation. Martian is not only the staging of an "ability to speak," as Michel
de Certeau defines glossolalia; it is the caricature of a linguistic
production where the meaning has been reduced to signification, to the
 M. de Certeau, "Utopies vocales: Glossolalie," Le discours psychanalytique
7 (1983): pp. 10-18.
Many have questioned themselves and will still question themselves about the
pathology of Élise Müller. Must one consider her a hysteric, or even a
psychopath? Should one not liken her glossolalic productions to "speaking in
tongues" such as happens in certain deliria? We believe that wanting to pin it
down in whatever classification is to revert to pushing her to the front of a
stage in a role created by her alone, and which varies from one séance to the
other. Without denying her predispositions, it seems more just to us to restore
the theatre of its performance, where the drama is played out; we also owe it to
We shall finish with this: Lefebure asks himself in his article if the medium
spoken about is not a painter. "He sees in pictures, he writes, and if he is not
a draughtsman by profession, he is at least so by instinct," so it seems to
him. Élise's father was a polyglot. Élise Müller always maintained that she
did not like learning foreign languages and after she had come out of the storm
provoked by the publication of From India to the Planet Mars, she became an
inspired painter. The glossolalic production thus only lasts as long as the
time of the prompting observation.
 E. Lefebure, "Remarques," p. 179.
 W. Deonna, De la Planète Mars en terre sainte (Paris: Boccard, 1932).
Translated by Michael Munchow.
The above article was taken from Théodore Flournoy's "From India to the Planet
Mars" (reprint: Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1994.).