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