Helen Alex Dallas

Spiritualist and Honorary Associate of the Society for Psychical Research. Wrote "Objections to Spiritualism Answered" (London: London Spiritualist Alliance, 1909), "Death, the Gate of Life? A Discussion of Certain Communications Purporting to Come from Frederic W. H. Myers", "Human Survival and its Implications" (London: London Spiritualist Alliance, 1940), "Comrades on the Homeward Way" (London: W. Collins Sons & Co. Ltd., n.d.) "The Victory that Overcometh," "Mors Janua Vitae," and "Across the Barrier".

"Wherein Lie the Dangers [of Spiritualism]?"

 - H. A. Dallas -

          SIR WILLIAM Barrett has pointed out one of the risks which psychical experimenters should be on their guard against:

"Evil as well as good agencies doubtless exist in the Unseen; this is equally true if the phenomena are or are not due to those who have once lived on earth. In many cases, granting the existence of a spiritual world, it is necessary to be on our guard against the invasion of our will by a lower order of intelligence and morality. The danger lies, in my opinion, not only in the loss of spiritual stamina, but in the possible disintegration of our personality, in the liability to lose that birthright we each are given to cherish, our individuality, our true self-hood... Our life on earth appears to be, on the one hand, the upbuilding, strengthening, and perpetuating of our separate and distinct personalities; and, on the other, the awakening and development, in each, of the consciousness of an underlying Unity, which links each person into a larger personal life common to all, 'in whom we live and move and have our being’; in a word, the realisation of the fact that we are integral parts and members of one Body. In so far as Spiritualism aids or warts these objects its moral effect must be judged; like mysticism, I think it aids the latter, but is apt to endanger former.[1]”

[1] "Necromancy and Ancient Magic in Relation to Spiritualism" By W. F. Barrett.

Because there is this possible danger to the integrity of the personal ego, those who are deficient in self-control, and who know that their wills are weak, would do wisely to avoid experiment, and to concentrate their efforts upon acquiring greater centralisation, and consolidating the too fluidic forces of their own personality; otherwise the passivity required for successful experiments may render them liable to "invasion." The attitude of passivity must be balanced by the force of a firm egoism (not egotism). The ego must be capable of asserting its own supremacy at any moment, in order to alter the conditions or to break off the experiment if need be.

A state of passivity need not preclude this vigilance of the will; the will may be functioning as a warden of the integrity of the personality, and may be also operating to maintain the condition of mental passivity necessary for the experiment.

In support of this statement I may refer to an article by Dr. Milne Bramwell[2], in which he quotes a statement of Mr. Myers to the effect that in the hypnotic trance, "while the subject has gained increased power over his own organism he has not at the same time lost his volition," and he then proceeds to quote other authorities whose experiments indicate that the will of the subject does not cease to function in the hypnotic trance.

[2] Proceedings SPR, December, 1896, pp. 246-251.

Hence we may fairly deduce that to be in a condition of passivity, even in trance, does not necessarily involve the impotency of the will. The degree in which the will is operative in the passive state will probably depend largely on the degree of its efficiency in the normal state. A person who does not normally exert his will, will presumably be less able to exercise it in the passive state. Psychical experiment is a means by which the inner conditions of the personality are revealed - it does not create or determine those conditions.

A case in point may be found in a book called The Dangers of Spiritualism. It is the first case cited and, although ostensibly it is used to prove the dangers of experimental investigation, it shows, in my opinion, the benefit which may in some cases result from experiments, by proving that practical investigation may make a man aware of the source of influences, whose danger lies largely in the fact that their source is often unrecognised. In this case the subject, "P. F.," discovered by automatic writing that he was in contact with an evilly-minded discarnate intelligence, a man who, when in the flesh, had a grudge against him, and whose controlling influence was most undesirable. He learned, moreover, by the writing that for two years this personality had been connected with him:

"'P. F.' declared that numerous incidents and occurrences throughout the past two years of his life, which had often puzzled him, were now fully explained. He told me that, contrary to his natural religious temperament and disposition, thoughts had occasionally rushed through his mind the malice of which had quite startled him, and that temptations to which he had all his life been a stranger had again and again been suggested to him. He freely admitted that he had not always resisted these temptations, that he had frequently neglected his accustomed religious duties, and that his moral tone (and all this his family subsequently admitted) had become decidedly lowered."

This intelligence wrote through his hand:

"I have tried all I could to gain control of him, and very nearly had possession. Do pray that I may become happier, and also that I may leave him... I shall be losing my power when his own will becomes stronger. Keep a careful watch over him for a time, and do pray for me - a wretched sinner... I am unable at present to leave him entirely. He must exercise his power of will to resist me! Pray for me!"

After some further experiences it is added:

"'P. F.' soon regained his good health and spirits, and now the memory only of these extraordinary occurrences remains with us."

I have cited this case at length because it illustrates the fact that the mind is liable to be invaded by evil influences quite independently of psychic experiments. There is no intimation that, during the two years in which "P. F." believed himself to have been under influence, there had been any attempt at experiment; indeed, we are told that he had no definite knowledge whatever of spiritualistic phenomena. It seems, then, that in this case the experiments were the means of showing to him both the weakness of his will and the source of the temptations that has assailed him. This instance might be labelled: "The benefit of spiritualistic experiment," and it emphasises the valuable truth that it is only be individual self-control that anyone can avoid the dangers involved in normal existence; for, normally we are compassed by a host of influences - good, bad, and indifferent - which are continually impinging upon out mental and moral atmosphere, and perfect safety in the universe is only to be found by keeping in touch with the Highest. "Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on Thee."

Does this seem alarming? Ought life to make us afraid? Most assuredly it ought not. The of Christ's message, and the appeal of all God's great messengers, have ever been: "fear not." It is "the fearful and unbelieving" who can find no resting-place in the city of God. It does teach us, however, wherein consists the danger of the safety of the soul; the we cannot hope to escape danger simple by avoiding psychic experiment; and that the moral danger may be greater for the main who shuns investigation than for the man who seriously investigates.

The internal proclivities of the soul will determine the extent of its moral security or moral peril. External conditions may stimulate and co-operate with internal conditions; they cannot create or reverse them.

In the above instance there is reason to hope that benefit accrued from the investigation, not only to "P. F.," but also to his "control," who showed evident tokens of desire for prayer and for improvement. It seems as if the discovery of the the bad effects which his influence was producing quickened some compunctions, since we are told that he begged them to pray that he might be able to leave his victim.

Excessive exercise of the psychic faculty is quite as deleterious physically, and perhaps more deleterious spiritually than other excesses. Excess in any direction, involving as it does overstrain and loss of self-poise, must be injurious. The results are often seen in professional life in a "breakdown," sometimes accompanied by recourse to opiates and stimulants. Excess in the use of all or any faculty is a danger to the moral being as well as to the physical; whether this danger is greater in the use of the psychical faculty than in the use of the intellectual and physical, is open to question. It is unquestionably true, however, that there is danger when the sensitive psychic faculties are unduly strained, and this point should be clearly emphasised by all who offer advice to beginners.

"Let him that striveth for the mastery be temperate in all things." Only be a temperate, moderate use of our forces can we become their master and make them serve a high and useful purpose.

Automatic Writing - A Warning

Is there danger in the exercise of this faculty? And, if so, what is the nature of the risk incurred?

There questions ought to be considered. To be aware of the possible risks is the necessary preparation for avoiding them.

The faculty of passive writing, i.e., of the expressing through the hand and pencil thoughts which the writer does not consciously originate, is not a universal faculty. It may perhaps be universal in the senses that it is a potential faculty in everyone; but certainly in present conditions it is not in everyone's power to exercise it.

When exercised wisely in the spirit of service, it has proved valuable, as a means of communication with unseen intelligences, and as a means of obtaining evidence of the existence and nearness of spirit helpers. All faculties need to be exercised with wisdom; the animal instincts are, on the whole, safe for the animal, but man is gifted with reason, and he cannot trust himself to exercise instinctive faculties, or, indeed, any faculties at all, without self-examination, without seeking guidance from the Spirit of Wisdom.

Some persons deprecate the exercise of automatic writing, because they think it places the writer too much at the disposal of discarnate spirits whose purposes and character may be unknown.

This is possible, but the danger may be much exaggerated.

"By their fruits ye shall know them," is a test which may safely be applied.

There is another danger much less obvious, and therefore frequently not recognised.

Automatic processes tap the subliminal deeps of thought and character, and it is from and through these "deeps" - this subliminal region of human personality - that automatic writings and speech proceed.

When the communication is really from an unseen intelligence, other than the medium, it is still through this mental state below the normal consciousness that the message is conveyed, that is to say, when the writing is really automatic.

It should be distinctly recognised that the messages are frequently blended with this region of the mental life of the recipient. Very rarely can they fail to be so; and in many instances what rises to the surface in this way originates in that region, and is the expression of the subliminal self, and not a direct message from an independent source. "By their fruits ye shall know them." Whilst this text may be safely applied to test the moral value of what is expressed, it is not so easy to apply it to discover the source.

There are many communications which bear the hall-mark of being genuine "messages"; there are some which do not bear that hall-mark, obviously, and yet which are genuine messages. But in many cases automatic writing is really self-expression, and danger lies in the fact that it is not recognised to be so. Experience shows that this is a subtle danger, because the writer may accept as from an independent intelligence and a being of a higher order, statements which are actually the outcome of his or her mental and moral character, or personal desires.

Anyone who has been a careful student for many years will be ready to recognise that this is so; but beginners are not likely to do so.

A tendency to conceit or ambition, to suspicion or obstinacy, will probably find expression in flattery, or in remarkable claims, or in self-assertion, or in insinuations against others, which are very misleading, unless the recipient by self-examination has became aware of the weak roots in his character, and is therefore on guard against any automatic scripts which foster the faults which he knows to be latent in himself.

How few really know themselves! It is easy to see how dangerous and misleading automatic writing may prove to be to those who have not this self-knowledge.

Many can endorse this warning from their own observation. If the automatic writer did not too readily assume independent source, there would be less danger; indeed, self-revelation might be salutary. The peril lies in the unquestioning acceptance which might well lead later on to disillusionment and disappointment.

Source: Objections to Spiritualism Answered (London: London Spiritualist Alliance, 1909).


Related articles...

Home | About Us | Latest News | Biographies | Articles | Experiments | Photographs | Theory | Online Library | Links | Recommended Books | Contact Us | Glossary | Search


Some parts of this page The International Survivalist Society 2004