Rosalind Heywood

Member of Council, Society for Psychical Research. Was interested in documenting different attitudes towards ESP research. Koestler dedicated his book "The Roots of Coincidence" to Heywood, 'catalyst-in-chief'. Her books included "ESP: A Personal Memoir", "The Sixth Sense" (London, 1959), "Beyond the Reach of Sense" (E. P. Dutton, 1974) and "The Infinite Hive" (Pan, 1966). In the latter book she documented her own psychic experiences.

The Willet Scripts

 - Rosalind Heywood -

         THE CONSTANT insistence in the cross correspondence scripts that Myers and his friends were striving to find some means to establish their own identity was rendered more impressive to contemporary investigators by the startling fact that their material did appear to be experimenting on itself. This it continued to do in another equally ingenious fashion in some scripts written by Mrs Willett. They became known as the Statius and Ear of Dionysius cases and in the second it was claimed that instead of messages from one discarnate entity being sent through several automatists, joint messages from two together were being sent through one. The two senders purported to be Mrs Verrall's husband, Dr A. W. Verrall, and a friend, Henry Butcher, Professor of Greek at Edinburgh, both of whom had recently died, and the scripts certainly indicate the common interests and inter-relationship of these two personalities and also give apt references to their past careers. An American psychologist, Professor Gardner Murphy, has said that to devise a more adequate or a more beautiful instance of co-operative thinking on the problem of survival evidence would indeed be difficult.

Whatever their authorship, these scripts are an interesting contrast to Mrs Willett's surface personality and they also seem to transcend her intellectual attainments. She was a cultivated woman, much interested in English literature but not at all in scientific evidence - in no way an academic or professional type. Nor was she a classical scholar. Yet both scripts are concerned with recondite classical subjects, known but to few even among scholars. The type of knowledge involved can be brought out in a summary of the Ear of Dionysius case - the full report takes forty pages - but unfortunately the characterization and indications of joint authorship cannot(1).

(1) Proceedings SPR, Vol. XXIX, p. 197 et seq.

The bare bones of the case are these. Between 1910 and 1915 Mrs Willett's scripts constantly referred to the following subjects:

The Ear of Dionysius (this was the name of a grotto in Sicily)
The stone quarries of Syracuse
The story of Polyphemus and Ulysses
The story of Acis and Galatea
Something to be found in Aristotle's Poetics

The investigators could find no common link between these subjects, and the scripts insisted that until the experiment by Dr Verrall and Professor Butcher was over Mrs Verrall must on no account hear anything about it. The final script, which was written in 1915, said that the subject had been chosen as giving evidence of identity, and was 'a fine tangle for your unravelling'. It also gave the clues to the tangle. These were the words Cyclopean, Cythera, Philox and Jealousy, and the phrase: 'He laboured in the stone quarries and drew upon the earlier writer for material for his Satire.'

Once the scripts said that the experiment was completed Mrs Verrall was able to join in the search for a connecting link between them. Among her husband's books she found a little-known American textbook entitled Greek Melic Poets, which he had made use of in his work. This book contained an account of an equally little-known Greek poet, Philoxenus of Cythera, of whose writings only a few lines remain, and this is the only source so far discovered in which the story of Philoxenus is given in a form containing all the references contained in Mrs Willett's scripts. Here then, once more, we have classical knowledge beyond that possessed by the automatist being woven into clues in a subtle manner characteristic of the purported authors. Mrs Willett, who had not known Professor Butcher personally, also had a vision of him which was found to correspond with his personal appearance, but this is not evidential as she may have seen a photograph of him and forgotten it.

Lord Balfour was able to watch the development of Mrs Willett's automatism at first hand and he made a detailed report on it(2). Unfortunately, most of her scripts were considered too private for publication, so to form our judgements we have but a fraction of the testimony which finally led him to the belief that they were inspired by the Myers group. For this reason his published report is deliberately made from the psychological angle rather than offered as evidence for survival, even though Balfour himself was strongly inclined to accept the scripts as a whole as such. But he considered that the published scripts were quite enough to prove Mrs Willett's gift of ESP.

(2) Gerald, Earl of Balfour. A Study of the Psychological Aspects of Mrs Willett's Mediumship, Proceedings SPR, Vol. XLII pp. 41-318.

Testimony for survival apart, Mrs Willett's automatism is of psychological interest for two reasons. First, she never, as is usual with mediums, lost consciousness of her own personality or handed over to a Control. On the contrary, her consciousness appeared to be balanced on a knife edge so that she seemed to communicate alternately with the investigator and with a small group of discarnate entities. Secondly, these alleged entities put forward elaborate theories about the methods and processes of communication which were almost, but not quite, in accord with the views of the living Myers, and such theorizing was in no way characteristic of Mrs Willett's surface personality. Although she was well read and exceptionally intelligent, said Lord Balfour, the psychological aspects of psychical research had singularly little interest for her. Also, to judge from her casual remarks, her normal understanding of them appeared to him much below the level on which they were treated in her scripts. In his view these showed a power of thought on difficult and abstruse subjects which he would not have expected from her normal self.

The Balfour report makes use of three types of material: first-hand observations by the investigators, Mrs Willett's own descriptions of her experiences and statements by the communicators. As a child, Mrs Willett had already discovered her gift of automatic writing but she had dropped it owing to lack of guidance. In 1908 she again became interested in the subject and began to correspond about it with Mrs Verrall. Later in the year she read a report by Alice Johnson on Mrs Holland's scripts and this impelled her to try once more herself. In October she wrote of her own first scripts to Mrs Verrall:

'After a few feeble attempts the script seemed to come very rapidly, but it is too definite and therefore I distrust its being from an external source... What worried me was that the words seemed to form in my brain before the pen set them down a sort of hair's breadth beforeness. Most are signed Myers or F. W. H. M., but I can't say I think them of value...'

From this time on, regular records of her scripts were kept. The process of obtaining them developed further than with the other cross correspondence automatists and took about three years to reach its final form. According to the scripts themselves it was guided by the Myers group, who claimed to be making use of Mrs Willett to study new methods of communication with incarnate persons. Whatever their origin, whether they were dramatizations by Mrs Willett's subconscious self, or came from other living minds or from their purported authors, they portray with dramatic intensity intelligent beings seeking to break through a barrier. Only direct quotations can convey their vivid quality and the extent to which the communicators took charge and for the sake of clarity these will be given as if they came from the source they claimed, but without prejudice as to their real origin.

The plan to experiment with Mrs Willett as what they called a channel was first mentioned by her 'Myers' in scripts written when she was alone in late 1908 and early 1909. Here are a few statements he made at that time.

'Experiments are necessary here as on earth, constant experiments with machines no two of which are alike ...'

'I am now going to begin fresh experiments you might tell Mrs V when opportunity occurs that the need for experiment on our side has not been sufficiently grasped on your side ...'

'Much is unknown to us even here and you are all far behind us in knowledge.'

Soon after this written script came the first hint of a modification in Mrs Willett's method of reception. At the end of January she wrote in her script handwriting, which differed from her normal one:

'Gurney ... I am always keeping in close touch with you try for a minute in your own hand to set down thought only...' She now wrote in her normal hand: 'Try to set down thoughts can't you hear me speak it saves trouble I want to say something Gurney Yes...'

'Here,' Mrs Willett recorded, 'I left off writing and held a sort of imaginary conversation with E. G. ... I was perfectly normal.' A fortnight later her 'Myers' wrote: 'I am trying experiments with you to make you hear without writing therefore as it is I Myers who do this deliberately do not fear or wince when words enter your consciousness or subsequently when such words are in the scripts. On the contrary it will be the success of my purpose if you recognize in your script phrases you have found in your consciousness ... and do not analyse whence these impressions which I shall in future refer to as Daylight Impressions come from, for they are parts of a psychic education framed by me for you...'

A few days later Mrs Willett had a Daylight Impression of this type, about which she wrote to Mrs Verrall:

'Last night ... I was sitting idly wondering at it all ... when I became aware so suddenly and strangely of F. W. H. M.'s presence that I said Oh! as if I had run into someone unexpectedly. During what followed I was absolutely normal. I heard nothing with my ears, but the words came from outside into my mind as they do when one is reading a book to oneself. I do not remember exact words but the first sentence was: "Can you hear what I am saying?" I replied in my mind: "Yes".'

'I get no impression of appearance,' she wrote in a subsequent letter, 'only character, and in some way voice or pronunciations (though this doesn't mean that my ears hear, you know!) ... I don't feel a sense of "seeing" but an intense sense of personality, like a blind person perhaps might have - and of inflections, such as amusement or emotion on the part of the speaker. If you asked me how I know when E. G. [Gurney] is speaking and not F. W. H. M. [Myers] I can't exactly define, except that to me it would be impossible to be in doubt one instant, and with E. G. I sometimes know he is there a second or two before he speaks ... it is as "minds" and "characters" that they are to me, and yet not at all intangible or not-solid realities.'

A few months later, in May 1909, came another advance in the process. This was a triangular conversation between Mrs Verrall, Mrs Willett and the communicators. Such conversations became known as Spoken DI's (Daylight Impressions) and in them, of course, Mrs Willett had to pass on the communicator's remarks to the investigator. The communicator appeared on the whole to be aware of his replies.

The day following the DI at which Mrs Verrall was present, a written script signed 'Myers' said that he was satisfied with these first attempts at DI's but did not intend to renew the experiment for some time. From the beginning he and the other communicators treated Mrs Willett as a piece of extremely sensitive mechanism which could easily be thrown out of gear. Rest and peace were essential, they often insisted, if she was to attain the delicately poised condition they sought, in which she could communicate alternately with incarnate and discarnate experimenters without, so to speak, tipping over her own consciousness on either side. Her 'Gurney' once wrote, 'I can't do much here today, she needs solitude and rest, and the life of confused and jarring elements in which she has been breathing is a bar...'

The training towards the poised consciousness necessary for this dual task of grasping and giving out could not apparently be pressed, for it was not until nine months after the first Spoken DI with Mrs Verrall that the written script said the time had come for more. It also asked for Sir Oliver Lodge to be present. At the second DI with him, 'Gurney' said: 'Tell Lodge I don't want this to develop into trance. You have got that, we are doing something new. Then he says telepathy.' (The words 'he says' are always, of course, interpolated by Mrs Willett.) The sitting ended:

'You can tell Lodge that you are not unconscious or too dazed to know who you are, what you are, and, as each word comes, what you say. That's all. Goodbye.'

Then, after a moment's pause:

'Pull yourself together and open your eyes and wake yourself up.'

About this time a 'Myers' script said:

'Are you clear we wish to avoid trance?'

The communicators appeared to be trying to find the point of balance of consciousness. In May 1910 'Myers' wrote:

'Try for a DI and come back to script if I tell you,' and in May 1911, 'Gurney' wrote: 'Tell Gerald [Lord Balfourl I want to experiment upon one point. I want to find the proper balance between Sc. and DI proper... What amount of script facilitates the emerging into the secondary stage, viz. DI...'

There was always the danger, apparently, that Mrs Willett would tip over too far to be able to report back. In March 1912, her 'Gurney' warned the investigator of this.

'Lodge ... did you notice just now that she was so completely over the border that though in those instants things swept into her consciousness, she couldn't pass them back? He says I want Gerald to be fully told of this because he says it throws light upon the methods... She projected herself in a rush of sympathy ...'

Again in 1917, 'Gurney' said:

'Today one touch would draw you so deeply within our influence that you would be unable to record or carry back ... I want them to understand that I purposefully hold you away ... so that you may record.'

The communicators insisted that Mrs Willett's 'self' was never out of the picture and that telepathy was the basic process by which their communications were made. This was said at least nineteen times in the scripts. In April 1911, 'Myers' wrote:

'Let me again emphasize the difference that exists between Piper and Willett phenomena the former is possesion the complete all but complete withdrawal of the spirit the other is the blending of incarnate and excarnate spirits ... it is a form of telepathy the point we have to study is to find the line where the incarnate spirit is sufficiently over the border to be in a state to receive and yet sufficiently controlling by its own power its own supraliminal and therefore able to transmit ...

A month later 'Gurney' asked urgently for a sitting with Lord Balfour, who had been great friends with the living Gurney, but Mrs Willett was at first reluctant to sit with a stranger. Professional mediums are accustomed to a procession of unknown sitters and communicators, but Mrs Willett's only sitters had been Mrs Verrall and Lodge and her only communicators the Myers group and two other persons who purported to be co-operating with them. The names of these two she did not know. One of them she called the Dark Young Man - he was easily recognized by the investigators - and the other, the Young Lady in the Old-fashioned Dress. She too was recognized as someone who had died in youth fifty years earlier, but Lord Balfour says that her family name never appeared in the scripts and that the normal Mrs Willett had probably never heard of her existence.

In spite of her reluctance to work with a stranger, Mrs Willett finally agreed to try and sit with Lord Balfour, and this was the beginning of a fruitful partnership. In a script written shortly after their first sitting, when Mrs Willett was alone, her 'Gurney' said:

'I wish I could get you to understand why I wanted to speak to Gerald ... You don't understand his point of view. But it is completely intelligible to me. He is interested in the process as distinct from the product. And it was about the process I wanted to speak. And the less you know of the process the better ... because the recipient is best left in ignorance of the method. But it does not follow that the investigator need be...'

This interest in the technical side of the problem was quite foreign to Mrs Willett's surface temperament and leads to the speculation whether, if the scripts were indeed the product of her own subconscious self, such analytically minded experimenters lurk in the bosoms of other poetical women.

Although in the many comments on process scattered throughout the scripts it was always insisted that communication was basically telepathic, in 1911 the communicators went on to say that for certain kinds of scripts this might be supplemented by two other processes. One of these was direct extra-sensory perception by Mrs Willett of discarnate conditions, including ideas in the minds of the communicators, and the other was the use made by the communicators of material already in her mind. They called this mutual selection, and it demanded, they said, of the sensitive 'a capacity for excursus allied to a capacity for definite selection'. (By excursus they meant the power of passing outside herself into their conditions.) The surface Mrs Willett, apparently, was vague about the meaning of this word, for on coming to herself at the end of a sitting in 1930, she said to Lord Balfour:

'Everybody gone! What is excursus?'

'Going out to meet someone else,' he replied. 'It's the opposite to invasion.'

'Well,' she said, 'it's the way I do these things.'

The theory of mutual selection is developed at length by 'Gurney' in a spoken DI of June 1911, when Lord Balfour was the sitter. Here are a few extracts:

'Oh, he says, well, then I look over the available factors - oh, and see what will serve... Oh, he says, it isn't only I who select. Oh, he says, now you've got it. There's another field for selection - and its such part of my mind, I, Gurney, as she can have access to. Oh, he says, what part? Why? Oh, I've missed a word - something something limited to - then I've skipped something, but I hear him say thoughts potentially.

'Oh, he says, put it another way. Having access to my mind her selection is chiefly limited to that which can naturally link on to human incarnate thought. Oh, he says, I wish I could get the word potential rightly used. I'm not saying it's limited [i.e. the material she has access to] to the actual but to the potential content... Oh, he says, does he see what I am driving at.'

In this sitting, which was very long, Mrs Willett was obviously trying hard to express ideas that were largely meaningless to her, and it is full of suggestive remarks. At one point she said rather pitifully:

'And all things he says like that, he says I don't repeat. I thought I'd said it, I wonder where I am...'

This last comment is a reminder that, thought not in trance in the Piper sense of having lost consciousness, her attention was not focused in a normal way on her physical surroundings. She went on, as if Gurney were speaking:

'That's where the gamble comes in. How will it be used, the knowledge supernormally gained? Now then you have present in the whole self the matter from which I selected plus the matter supernormally acquired from me. Now comes the weaving. Oh, he says, that's where subliminal activity comes in. Oh, he says, it's a dangerous weapon, yet we can't do without it.'

(This seems to be a reference to the tendency of the subconscious self to run away down any chain of associations and mingle them with the subject in hand.)

She went on:

'Often there is a fairly long period of - don't get that word - it contains a g and an s and a t and an n.' (Lord Balfour suggested gestation, but she did not notice this.) 'Say incubation he says - and then comes the uprush. And then he says, now I must bring in telepathy as the guiding influence. He says this process is only one among a great variety. Oh, he says, we must experiment he says, so much is unmapped.

'Oh, and he says, the waste of material when we keep on hammering at one point - approaching it from every can't read that word - point of the compass - only to find that the point has been grasped and that we might have passed on to new matter.

'Oh, he says, I can't see your mind, Gerald, but I can feel you in some dim way through her. He says, it's a sort of lucky bag, her mind to me - when I'm not shut out from it.

'He says I think I got some things I wanted said about selection. It's the thought of its being as it were a mutual process that I want driven home.

'Oh, he says, now say this for me. He says you want to foster in sensitives a sort of dual attitude, belief in their capacity - Oh! say it slowly - Oh, I'm so tired, I'm so tired - Oh, I'm climbing. Oh, I'm climbing - belief, Oh, I will say it, I will say it - belief in their capacity to have access to the mind of the communicator, together with a wholesome sense of discrimination in regard to the expressions - not right - regard to something to which that access leads - productions.

'Oh, he says, you mayn't know it, there's a natural bent to extreme scepticism here...'

Her 'Gurney' apparently meant that the scepticism was in Mrs Willett. Her scripts, like those of Mrs Holland, insisted several times that acceptance and reciprocity are essential to real communication and that the automatist's belief in the personality of the communicators is an absolutely vital part of the conditions which make it easy for them to work.

'The response', said her 'Myers', in June 1909, 'to some extent - how large an extent I do not yet exactly know - the response conditions the power of transmission...'

In a DI, with Sir Oliver Lodge present, in May 1910, 'Myers' lamented the confusion and mistakes and apparently negative result.

'Yes,' said Lodge. 'But I think we also are aware of the difficulties.'

'He says it is far worse for him,' answered Mrs Willett. 'He is trying to make himself real to people who are not only conscious of their own reality, but are also among people who admit their reality.'

Then, speaking as if directly from Myers:

'How much of your sense of reality is due to that? Think that over. There is a paralysing sense of isolation in the experience of coming back ... 'one needs something reciprocal...'

In another DI a few days later, she said on behalf of her 'Myers':

'He says that ... the study of new sensitives would never lose interest for him. There are so many varying conditions and so many self-induced difficulties. Many of these really come from self hallucination of individual minds, who would stereotype the phenomenon, but it's best to let it go its own way unhampered, free serene and calm; above all calm and free...'

The amount of attention the communicators expected Mrs Willett to pay to her script varied, says Lord Balfour, with the 'style and subject matter of the communication itself. Sometimes a concentrated effort of attention on her part is called for; at others she is instructed deliberately to relax and "let the pen run free". The minimum of effort is apparently required in scripts of an allusive and disjointed type which are not intended to convey any connected meaning to her... In other scripts, and especially in spoken DI's, the degree of effort required seems to depend very much on the difficulty of the subject matter and to reach a maximum when that is highly abstract and beyond the automatist's ordinary powers of comprehension.'

Mrs Willett's surface self was often frankly resistant to abstract subjects whose terms she did not understand.

'Oh, Edmund!' she exclaimed when her 'Gurney' spoke of the transcendental self. 'You do bore me so!'

And again:

'Oh! Edmund says powder first and jam afterwards. You see it seems a long time since I was here with them. [She means with the Myers group] - and I want to talk and enjoy myself [spoken querulously]. And I've all the time to keep on working, and seeing and listening to such boring old - Oh! Ugh!'

The subjects discussed by the communicators must certainly have been trying at times to Mrs Willett's non-scientific and non-philosophical temperament. In May 1911, Gurney apparently referred to a passage in Hegel's Phanomenologie des Geistes.

'He is trying to explain something that I don't understand,' said Mrs Willett. 'What is the process necessary for self-realization? It's a German word and I can't see it. Welt something or other.'

The context suggests that she was trying for Weltgeist.

In May 1912, after Lord Balfour had been giving a philosophical lecture at Cambridge, her 'Sidgwick' tried her high by discussing three conflicting theories of mind-body relationship, parallelism, epiphenomenalism, and interactionism, about which her normal self knew little and cared less.

'Sounds to me very stupid.` she said at one point. 'What does it mean? It's only words [gesticulating with both hands]... There, just like that - is - then there's a word that long - consciousness. I've got it - oh, it's disappointing when my lips won't say it ... Epiphenomenal - that's the last of the three words.'

She coped better with what the communicators called 'the specious lure of the parallelistic phantasy', though later on, oddly enough, she had great trouble with the comparatively simple word 'interaction'.

'I've got it,' she cried at last, triumphantly. 'Oh, but now I've got to give it out. Oh, I'm all buzzing. I can't think why people talk about such stupid things. Such long stupid words.'

Then she sighed and stretched herself. After further efforts, including an attempt to draw a symbol of interaction, 'Gurney' helped her with a joke, which Lord Balfour considered was characteristic of the living Gurney.

'Edmund makes me laugh,' she said. 'He says, "Well, think of Ur of the Chaldees." He's making a joke and they're very angry with him, but the point of it is the terrible effect of disembodiment in one singularly sensitive to shades of sound. He says that Ur [for er] would make Fred shudder. I must try it you know, it's perfectly ridiculous.'

She then printed INT UR AC SHUN at the foot of her drawing.

Later in the DI she asked with great disgust:

'What is the parallelistic theory? To have to come all the way to talk about these things.'

Finally, having lamented that the pressure in her head was full to painfulness, she achieved some verbal triumphs on 'Gurney's' behalf.

'You can't make parallelism square he says with the conclusions to which recent research points. Pauvres parallelistes! They're like drowning men clinging to spars. But the epiphenomenalistic bosh [pronouncing with difficulty] that's simply blown away. It's one of the blind alleys of human thought. Oh! I don't want to hear any more. I'm tired.'

In January 1922, her 'Gurney' tried her yet higher by discussing the origin of the individual soul, which he attributed to the process of the Absolute on its way to self-consciousness.

'So far as I can recollect,' says Lord Balfour, 'nothing quite like this is to be found in Human Personality. [Mrs Willett had read an abridged edition of this.] It seems to me to bear the mark of derivation from post-Kantian idealistic speculation, of which, curiously enough, a good many traces crop up in the scripts. Here again, if they are the work of the automatist's subliminal self, from what source were the ideas expressed in them obtained? The normal Mrs Willett is unable to throw any light on this question.'

The difficulty of transmitting subject matter which is above the head of an automatist seems to be increased when the actual words are meaningless to her, as in the case of Mrs Piper's Tanatos, Sanatos, Thanatos. Proper names always seem to be particularly hard, perhaps because, unlike the names of objects, they are not automatically linked to an image. Mrs Willett was seldom able to get a Greek or Latin word correctly and her communicators would sometimes try to help her. In a lone script of 1912 she had trouble in writing the name Deucalion, the Noah of Greek mythology, of whom she afterwards said she had never consciously heard.

'Now another thought
No no try again
                    Dewacom [this word ended in a scribble]
The sound is DEW
                    LION not Lion

Write it slowly

I want that said. It has a meaning. The stones of the earth shall praise thee that is what I want said. It is I who say it and the word is Deucalion. That was well caught Good child That sort of thing makes one feel out of breath doesn't it on both sides - I am going Say too this word He set his bow in [illegible] in the clouds.'

On all this Mrs Willett commented:

'This part of the script was very odd. Though there was a great deal of effort about it, it was extremely interesting in the same sort of way that it is interesting to get a Patience out. It was written rather like this, as near as words can describe it: After "now I want another thought" there was a pause, the Doocalon written slowly and very deliberately, then No No written impatiently but good temperedly. This leads me to suppose that it was not Fred who was writing, because I get a sense of irritability and grumpiness when I am trying to catch a word in this sort of way and he is writing.'

Mrs Willett and the other automatists suffered from one difficulty which is similar to experiences - under mescaline. This was a sense of too much flitting past.

'I'm so confused,' she said during a sitting in 1914 when she was trying to give fragments in the Ear of Dionysius case. 'I'm all with things flitting past me. I don't seem to catch them... That one eye has got something to do with one ear. [This was one of the Ear of Dionysius allusions.] ... That's what they wanted me to say. There's such a mass of things you see running through my mind that I can't catch anything.'

Her 'Myers' once confessed:

'In my eagerness ... the thoughts. come so quickly they slip past you.'

At another time he said that he could not get through a series of questions because:

'they jostle each other and I stand speechless and impotent from the very force of my longing to utter.'

Of this her 'Gurney' commented:

'Myers doesn't manage things as well as I do. He takes more out of her. He doesn't shield off from her sufficiently; he lets the whole blaze come out in his impatience.'

Whatever the cause of Mrs Willett's changes of focus of consciousness, they were clearly a great joy to her.

'I must come back, you know,' she said in 1913, as she finished a written script. 'It's just like waking up in prison from a dream when one has been at home. Don't you ever walk out of yourself? It's so heavenly to be out of myself when I'm everything, you know, and everything else is me.'

On another occasion, when she had again been describing a visionary journey, she was disturbed by noise and wrote:

'I've lost the thread, it's all gone. I was seeing visions and I did not ever want to leave. Fred [Myers] was with me F. W. H. M. I also saw Henry Sidgwick. He had a white beard... How nothing time is. All human experience is one...'

The second Lord Balfour's study of the voluminous scripts from which these extracts are taken is a cautious document. He had been in the Cabinet as Chief Secretary for Ireland for five years and President of the Board of Trade for another five, he knew something about evidence and about human nature. Also he was a Balfour, and inclined, like his brother, Arthur, and his sister, Mrs Sidgwick, to be a little remote, detached and dispassionate. It took a long time, therefore, for him to accept the claim that Mrs Willett's communicators were indeed the Myers and Gurney he had known in life, but in the end he was convinced of it, though he did not, of course, consider it proven. He makes an interesting point of the differences in thought between the living Myers and Mrs Willett's. Not that he looked on the two as contradictory; the views of the Willett 'Myers' seemed to him a reasonable development of Myers' own. But from wherever Mrs Willett drew these views, it does not seem to be from Balfour himself, since both her Myers and her Gurney differed from him about the essential nature of human beings. Balfour, for instance, thought that the surface and subconscious selves of one individual might communicate with each other by telepathy. The Willett 'Myers' would have none of this. Balfour, again, had a tidy mind and he wanted a plain yes or no to the questions: Are the various currents of consciousness below the threshold separate selves? - as he himself was inclined to think - or are they fragments of one unitary self? But the communicators would not be pinned down to a definite answer. 'Gurney' once said:

'Yet they are not two but one - put in for G.'s [Balfour'sl benefit this. He tried to get me on the horns of a duality which would almost amount to a conception of the selves as separated in such a way as to amount to two entities but I was not to be impaled.'

On another occasion, when Balfour once more suggested that the surface and subconscious selves were separate as two persons are separate, he was firmly put in his place. 'BOSH!' replied 'Gurney' 'Different aspects of the same thing.' Yet the communicators obviously admitted some kind of separation. It is as if human nature as seen by them was not explicable in definite terms of either/or.

It is to be hoped that one day it will be possible to publish more of the Willett scripts, for the published part already contains material of a higher intellectual quality than scripts from other sources and yet it appears to have been the unpublished part which most impressed Lord Balfour.


"The Sixth Sense" by Rosalind Heywood (1959, Chatto and Windus Ltd).


More articles by Rosalind Heywood

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