Dr. Raynor C. Johnson

Obtained a First Class in the final Honour School of Natural Science, then worked under Professor T. R. Merton, FRS, in the field of spectroscopy, and continued this research at the Queen's University of Belfast, where he was appointed Lecturer in Physics in 1923. In 1927 he left Belfast for a Lectureship in the University of London, King's College. He was awarded the Doctorate in Science of this University. In 1934 he was appointed Master of Queen's College in the University of Melbourne.

Materialisations, Psycho-Kinesis and Poltergeist Phenomena

 - Raynor C. Johnson -

"And behold, there arose a great tempest in the sea, insomuch that the boat was covered with the waves: but he was asleep. And they came to him and awoke him saying 'Save, Lord: we perish'... Then he arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. And the men marvelled saying' What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him?"
Matthew VIII, 24-7

"... The super-normal means to us no more than the extension of the [actual] world beyond the point to which we are able to see. The boundary of the world of sense is to us a subjective barrier, whereas to the materialist it is an objective barrier."
G. N. M. Tyrrell

"It is no longer possible to consider the human being as an aggregate of thought-producing mechanism. The evidence compels admission that we are in presence of a dynamo-psychic focus whence emanate manifestations of a power whose limits we cannot define."
Eugene Osty

          THE EARLIER chapters of this section have been concerned with psi-faculty on its cognitive or receptor side - i.e., with knowledge which the mind could acquire or experience other than through the channels of sense. In the present chapter we have grouped together three types of phenomena which all have this in common: that they exhibit psi-faculty on its motor or active side - i.e., they exhibit mind moulding or moving matter without the use of muscles. The phenomena of apparitions, on the theory which we have advanced, have, indeed, introduced us to the possibility of this.

The term "materialisation" is used to describe the appearance of matter of some kind, capable of scattering light, and thus being perceptible to the eye, and capable of a measure of resistance to touch. Such matter may apparently originate from the body of a certain type of medium and can be moulded by mind into forms, or used to carry out movements of an intelligent kind. The term "psycho-kinesis", or briefly the P.-K. effect or telekinesis, is used of controlled experimental work in which material objects are caused to move by mental means. The so-called poltergeist phenomena are spontaneous uncontrolled examples of objects being thrown about senselessly, disturbing noises produced, and so on, without a known physical cause. We shall consider these phenomena in the above order.

1. Materialisation: Physical Mediumship

There is not, I think, anything inherently impossible in materialisation or psycho-kinesis. Thouless and Wiesner recognised the existence of psi-kappa as well as psi-gamma, (vide p. 134), the former representing the function by which mind impresses the brain to move the body's musculature. We have made frequent use of the concept of a psychic aether through which mind has presumably its modus operandi - and we have moreover looked at the evidence for apparitions. It is not, then, on a priori grounds that we need approach this field of enquiry with some reserve. The reserve which most observers and students undoubtedly do feel is due to the large amount of fraud which has been associated with so-called physical mediumship. We must not allow ourselves on these grounds to be prejudiced against reliable evidence obtained under rigorously controlled conditions by competent observers. If even 99% of supposed data were proved fraudulent, the 1% which was true would remain of profound importance for our understanding of the kind of world we live in. This field of enquiry is certainly not one in which the ordinary person can experiment to any advantage. All the resources of a suitably equipped laboratory, which include infra-red cameras and telescopes, wire-recorders and electrical controlling circuits, should be available to the investigator. Despite all the fraud which has been reported, there can be no reasonable doubt that some most extraordinary para-normal physical phenomena have taken place. Competent observers, such as Dr. Schrenck-Notzing, Dr. Osty, Dr. Geley, Sir William Crookes, Mr. Harry Price, Professors Flammarion, Richet and Driesch, have expressed their conviction of this - and none of them was easy to convince. They were fully alive to the possibilities of fraud, and took most stringent precautions to circumvent it. It would be impossible, nor is it necessary here, to present at length the findings of these investigators. It is proposed to select a few illustrations and comments from half a dozen sources as a sample of data derived under reliable conditions(1). References to original sources will permit the reader to study the field fully if he so desires.

(1) I am indebted to A. W. Osborn's The Superphysical, Chapter XIII, where more detail is given, for much of this information (Ivor Nicholson & Watson, 1937).

Eusapia Palladino. Of this famous medium, who lived in Naples, Dr. Hereward Carrington says: "Every group of scientific men that ever experimented with Eusapia knew very well that she would defraud them if the chance were given her to do so." The phenomena which took place seemed largely beyond her control, and, when at their best, were so completely beyond all possibility of normal production that Richet says: "All the men of science without exception, who experimented with her, were in the end convinced that she produced genuine phenomena." Dr. Carrington says, "I had sat with dozens of 'physical mediums', every one of whom had turned out to be fraudulent. Yet I became thoroughly convinced of the genuineness of her phenomena, and so stated." He has given an account of them in several books(2). Take, for example, this fragment:

(2) Eusapia Palladino and her Phenomena; Story of Psychic Science, pp. 206-21, etc.

"Eusapia being securely held, hand and foot outside the cabinet, I have gone into the cabinet during the height of the séance and taken hold of the small séance table... I could see across the table - see that nothing was visible there - yet an invisible being of some sort wrestled with me for the possession of the table, and finally succeeded in throwing myself and the table completely out of the cabinet."

Billowing curtains, levitations, floating objects in the air, and other such phenomena were obtained under conditions precluding fraud.

Rudi Schneider. Mr. Harry Price made a very rigorous examination of this Austrian medium in his own well-equipped laboratory of psychical research in 1929-30(3). Under rigid test conditions, of which he says, "No one could possibly give a valid unfavourable report of any séance - no one can say the phenomena are produced fraudulently", extraordinary para-normal phenomena were observed. No less than ninety-nine persons, including professional magicians, philosophers, scientists and others, witnessed these things at various times. Mr. Price says:

(3) Harry Price: Rudi Schneider: a Scientific Examination of his Mediumship (Methuen, 1930).

"Cold breezes were felt by everyone; violent movements of the pair of curtains (hung separately, weight 9 lb. 14 oz.) which billowed and waved over the sitters' heads from time to time; movements and levitations of the luminous waste-paper basket (weight 71 oz.) and the coffee table (weight 7 lb. 10 oz.); the ringing of bells and twanging of a toy zither even in mid-air; ... the emergence from, and withdrawal into the cabinet of 'hands' and 'tubes', some perfectly formed."

The medium occupied a chair outside the cabinet, about five feet distant, and was immobilised by mechanical and electrical means.

Osty's Experiments with Rudi Schneider. In 1932, in Paris, Dr. Osty made experiments in his own laboratory to test Schneider's ability to move an object by para-normal means. The object to he moved was protected by an infra-red beam falling on a photoelectric cell, and it was arranged that if this beam were obscured through any cause, a bell would ring. The bell did ring, sometimes for half a minute or more, and when this happened flashlight photographs showed the medium sitting in the usual position, fully controlled. They also showed nothing visible in the path of the infra-red beam. Whatever obstructed the beam was not a solid obstacle - and whatever its nature, it faded away under the influence of ordinary light, for lateral illumination of the beam stopped the bell ringing. The object was not often moved, and the researches were concentrated on the obscuring factor. The bell was replaced by a quick-period galvanometer and photographic recording drum, so that detail of the obscuration could be observed. A very significant fact was observed. When the beam was partially obscured, the galvanometer spot of light moved in sympathy with the respiratory rate of the entranced medium. These were recorded on the same photographic drum. The correlation was checked again and again. Some invisible substance with appreciable infra-red absorption appeared to be produced - and its production was shown to be associated with the physiological process of respiration in the medium.

Anna Rasmussen. Professor Winther of Copenhagen studied this medium for fifteen years and published a monograph on the subject(4). Mr. Harry Price had no doubt of the genuineness of her phenomena, which took place in full daylight or bright electric light. In Professor Winther's laboratory a specially stout concrete pillar on a concrete floor supported a glass chamber in which were suspended a number of pendula of different lengths, the bobs being made of different materials. Price said(5):

(4) "Experimental Enquiries into Telekinesis", Jour. Amer. Soc. P.R. Jan-May 1928.
(5) Quoted from A. W. Osborn: The Superphysical, p. 184.

"I have seen Anna Rasmussen's externalised energy move these pendulums at my request, although no person was less than a yard distant from them. These pendulums would swing or stop to order; would change their course; swing at right angles to one another, and announce the time of day by tapping the glass, etc. No ordinary external physical force could have affected these pendulums, and a steam roller crossing the concrete floor would not have moved them by vibrations set up."

Marthe Beraud. Professor Richet investigated this medium with considerable thoroughness(6). Later, Baron Schrenck-Notzing(7) conducted independent experiments with the same medium over a period of four years. The most thorough physical examination of ,the medium was made, and under conditions precluding fraud, clothed in a special close-fitting garment from head to foot, a white-looking substance (so-called "ectoplasm") which became moulded intelligently into forms and figures, exuded from the medium's mouth in a deep trance. Photographs of these will be found in both books. In 1910, Dr. Gustave Geley(8) had investigated the same medium with similar results. He affirmed, "I do not say there is no trickery. I say there was no possibility of trickery. Nearly all the materialisations took place under my own eyes and I have observed their genesis and development."

(6) Professor Richet: Thirty Years of Psychical Research (William Collins & Sons, 1923).
(7) Schrenck-Notzing: Phenomena of Materialisation (Dutton, 1920).
(8) Dr. G. Geley: Clairvoyance and Materialisation (T. Fisher Unwin, 1927).

Franek Kluski was a non-professional Polish medium, of good education, who was investigated by Richet and Geley jointly. The so-called ectoplasm issuing from his body was moulded into the forms of hands, feet, etc., by unknown forces, and the idea was that irrefutable proof of this would be obtained if the "ectoplasmic limb" dipped itself into a bath of molten paraffin wax. A waxen glove could thus be made and if the ectoplasmic limb then de-materialised, .the wax glove would remain behind intact as evidence. Richet's account is as follows:

"Geley and I took the precaution of introducing, unknown to any other person, a small quantity of cholesterol into the bath of melted paraffin wax placed before the medium during the séance. This substance is soluble in paraffin wax without discolouring it, but on adding sulphuric acid it takes a deep violet-red tint: so that We could be absolutely certain that any moulds obtained should be obtained from paraffin provided by ourselves... During the séance the medium's hands were held firmly by Geley and myself on the right and on the left so that he could not liberate either hand. The first mould obtained was of a child's hand, then a second of both hands (right and left) and a third of a child's foot. The creases in the skin and the veins were visible on the plaster casts made from the moulds.

"By reason of the narrowness of the wrists, these moulds could riot have been made from living hands; for the whole hand would have had to be withdrawn through the narrow opening at the wrist. Professional modellers secure their results by threads attached to the hand which are pulled through the plaster. In the moulds here considered there was nothing of the sort; they were produced by a materialisation followed by a de-materialisation."

If the reader desires further evidence, he might care to study the reports of F. W. H. Myers on the scholarly Stainton Moses, which were only published after the latter's death(9). If he is not by this time thoroughly bewildered, he might care to read the extraordinary account of "Rosalie", a little girl who materialised apparently in flesh and blood at a séance. If Harry Price(10), who had as much experience of mediumship as any man living-and knew all the tricks-had not himself vouched for it, few people would, I think, be able to accept it.

(9) Proc. S.P.R., Vols. IX and XL
(10) Harry Price: Fifty Years of Psychical Research (Longmans, Green & Co., 1939).

2. Discussion of the Data

No one surveying the records of these experiments and observations for the first time - especially the complete original accounts can feel other than a sense of extreme bewilderment. In everyday life we know well that these things do not happen, and it is hard to bring our minds to accept such data even though obtained by men of exemplary character and great experimental competence, under the strictest conditions. Personally, I think we have no option: we must accord to these men the same confidence which we give to astronomers, atomic physicists and others, whose careful observations we shall never have the opportunity of verifying for ourselves. The fact that these physical phenomena are not commonplace does not in any way diminish their importance for our understanding of the nature of the world. Let us therefore try to fit them into our thinking.

The phenomena of materialisation are not, I suggest, different in kind from those of apparitions. In the séance room, in the presence of a medium who has a loosely-knit type of aetheric body, such forms constructed or moulded by mind in the extracted aetheric material assume a "density", so to speak, which attracts a sufficient amount of ordinary chemical matter to enable them to scatter light and become clearly visible. The measure of solidity or impenetrability which such forms possess - as shown by the formation of wax moulds - need not imply the presence of much chemical matter. It can be accounted for by fields of force such as we know the psychic aether in the aetheric body can sustain. (We must remind ourselves again that even when an ordinary object is held on the hand, the pressure sensation arises from the inter-action of electromagnetic fields between two almost "empty" structures.) I venture to suggest that if ever some "ectoplasm" is placed in a test tube it will collapse when the medium emerges from trance, as a child's balloon does when the string is loosened, and will leave behind nothing but the merest film of body proteins. The psychic aether which was the vehicle of the mental forces which sustained and moulded the form presumably finds its way back largely into the medium's body. There is no doubt that Mind is both creator and artist, expressing itself through what it creates; but, as we saw in Chapter 9, these forms lack permanence; they can be sustained only for a limited time. It is not at present of importance to know which mind is the operative one. It may be the mind of the sitter, the mind of the medium, a discarnate mind, or the combined effort of more than one mind.

Remembering that the psychic aether is a bridge between mind and matter, that it is the medium through which psi-kappa is operative, we here have the basis of psycho-kinesis - i.e., the movement of objects. By such means we can conceive of material objects being lifted into the air or thrown about, or floating down gently, of curtains billowing out as though in a wind, and of levitations. We have at least in the psychic aether a medium capable of sustaining mental-cum-physical forces and operating on matter in a "para-normal" manner. The aetheric forms may not always have enough chemical matter associated with them to be visible (as in Dr. Osty's work with Schneider), although the infra-red absorption may still be appreciable.

It has been suggested by Geley, Osborn and others that the process of construction of materialised forms in the séance room, while a little amateurish, is not substantially different from that associated with creation and growth in Nature. How do we suppose a physical body is built? Why does a leaf or flower grow to the size, shape, colour and symmetry-pattern which in fact it does - and to no other? When repair of a wound takes place, why are the form and outline of the original pattern so closely followed?

Perhaps the so-called "astral" body is a dynamic, precise and persistent thought-form, which, through the medium of the aetheric body-structure which it directly creates, in turn moulds the body of ordinary matter to its form. The difference between the normal processes of growth in Nature and these para-normal processes may be only a difference of degree. The normal process is comparatively slow, and the resulting material form has a considerable measure of persistence in time: the para-normal process is. comparatively rapid and the resulting forms contain relatively little matter and are evanescent. Geley(11) has drawn a number of analogies between these two fields, and it may be that in some distant future the problems of biology will be illuminated, if not solved, by research in this strange psychophysical region.

(11) Loc. cit., pp. 180-1.

It is easy to speculate. Every thoughtful investigator in this field must realise that we are only at the beginning of our enquiry. It is all too easy to endow this tertium quid, which we have called a psychic aether, with all those qualities which will account for observed data. What we need is a programme of research to secure that a minimum is postulated and a maximum correlated. I think it is also clear that we shall not get very far until a number of well-educated, scientifically trained persons develop their own clairvoyant faculty. If a number of competent clairvoyants independently observed the same phenomenon - e.g., a séance or a living organism - and their testimony agreed, we might begin to collect a body of reliable information on a more significant level than that of ordinary physical observation.

3. Psycho-kinesis. Dr. Rhine's Work

The laboratory over which Dr. J. B. Rhine presided began its earliest experimental work in P.-K. in 1934, but, with considerable wisdom, his experimenters refrained from announcing their results until 1943, when they believed their accumulated data had established the effect beyond question. Rhine has given an interesting account of the development of this work in a recent book(12), and D. J. West(13) has made a critical survey of these results. While critical of specific points, West's conclusion is "the case for P.-K. does not seem to be challengeable: it is probably even more clear-cut and conclusive than the case for E.S.P. itself". In the simplest and earliest experiments the procedure consisted in willing a randomly thrown dice to come to rest with a chosen face uppermost. Assuming no bias in the dice, the probability of any face appearing is 1/6, and the results of a large run of throws are thus capable of statistical evaluation. By making each face in turn the target for an equal number of throws, the effect of possible bias can be eliminated. Sometimes a pair of dice were thrown simultaneously, and a large number of throws with the aim of a high score (eight or more) was followed by an approximately equal number of throws aimed at a low score (six or less). The probability of each of these is 5/12. It is obvious that the dice could not possibly be biased so as to give an excess of both high and low scores unless the score of sevens was appreciably deficient. I shall quote only one experimental result to illustrate the kind of results obtained. (The score of sevens was not below expectation.)

(12) The Reach of the Mind, Chapters VI, VII, and VIII (Faber & Faber, 1948). 
(13) Proc. S.P.R., Vol. 47, p. 281 (1945).

Aim of Experiment Number of Throws Dice Score Deviation Critical Ratio
High Score... 5,904 290 7.65
Low Score... 5,220 -140 3.92

The third column shows the actual deviation was 290 more than it should have been (namely, 2,460 on the laws of chance) when the aim was a high score; while it was 140 less than it should have been (namely, 2,175) when the aim was a low score. The critical ratio is a mathematical factor which estimates the significance of the result and it is customary to assume that when it exceeds about 3, the deviations are quite beyond such as it would be reasonable to ascribe to chance. Incidentally, the difference of the two deviations gives a critical ratio difference of 8:26, a result of extremely high significance.

I shall summarise below with brief comment some of the interesting results of investigation of the P.-K. effect by Rhine and his colleagues.

1. Marked and very characteristic "decline" effects were invariably found. Thus in a given run of twenty-four throws of a dice, the scoring was highest at the beginning of a run. In second and third runs it also markedly diminished. To maintain a good scoring rate some change in conditions was necessary - either a different person, different dice, a different manner of throwing, or some other factor. Although the reason for the decline effects is not understood, they are an invariable characteristic of the P.-K. effect, and their demonstrable presence is regarded as a strong part of the evidence for P.-K. It will be recalled that similar effects were found in E.S.P.

2. By the use of mechanical devices for throwing, the possibility of human manipulation was eliminated without interfering with the P.-K. effect.

3. Experiments with the number of dice thrown together, ranging through 1, 2, 6, 12, 24, 48 to 96, showed that the best rate of scoring was with the largest numbers. If the causation was a physical force we should have expected this effect to be the opposite - i.e., we should suppose that the larger the mass to be moved the less effective would be its control. Experiments with dice of varying size do not show that the smaller dice were more effective. The provisional conclusion must be that mass and volume are not determining factors - but it is the mental factors of novelty and interest which are important.

4. Tests with dice of varying shapes, sharp corners, round corners, etc., worked equally well, again supporting the view that the controlling force is not physical.

5. Tests on the effect of distance from the dice up to 25 feet show no change. The attitude of the person towards proximity or distance - i.e., his expectation of success or otherwise - was found to be important.

6. The effect of mental distraction is pronounced. In one experiment of sixty runs (each of twenty-four dice) an investigator scored a deviation of fifty-eight above the chance expectation. In a subsequent sixty runs, when deliberately distracted by another person, he went below chance expectation.

7. Drugs appear to have the same general effects as were found in E.S.P. (see p. 140).

8. Hypnotic suggestion directing concentration on the target face of the dice sent the scoring rate down, but suggestions of relaxation and making the test playfully improved the scoring above the pre-hypnotic level.

Clearly research in the field of P.-K. is only in its infancy, but it seems possible to draw some tentative conclusions. The two most obvious ones are, first, that P.-K. does not appear to be physical in its character - i.e., the causative forces do not act as we should expect physical forces to do, whereas mental factors, such as interest, novelty, distraction and mood, on the other hand, do seem significant. Secondly, all the evidence about E.S.P. and P.-K. is so similar as to suggest that they are very closely related phenomena. They may, indeed, be two aspects of the one process, as the notation psi-gamma, and psi-kappa implies. In the one we have the sensory type of phenomenon of matter affecting mind (clairvoyance); in the other the motor-type of phenomenon of mind affecting matter (P.-K.).

Rhine has argued that one implies the existence of the other. Thus to influence the fall of the dice by bringing a force to bear on it at a point of space and time, he suggests E.S.P. must be used to provide knowledge of its correct application. The visual sense is obviously inadequate to this task. It seems, therefore, that E.S.P.: P.-K. (or psi-gamma: psi-kappa) is the mode of inter-action of Mind with the material world. When it happens indirectly but precisely through a physical body, we call it normal; when it happens directly but with far less precision, we are surprised, and call it para-normal. If it seems strange that Mind can influence the fall of a die, let us remind ourselves that every time we move an arm or a leg, Mind influences a lump of physical matter. One may be more highly organised than the other, but in principle is there any difference?

Our postulate of a psychic aether is of a medium or structure through which the above functions operate in the matter-mind relationship. It may be an organised "world" of comparable complexity in its organisation to the world of matter or the world of mind, even though functionally it is only a bridge between the two latter. To its many other properties it looks as though we must add the possession of forces and a type of energy of its own. Or is it a transformer of some unknown Energy of Mind into the Kinetic Energy of the physicist? We shall leave the further discussion of this until we have surveyed the dramatic and spontaneous phenomena classified as "poltergeist".

4. Poltergeist Phenomena

The term "poltergeist", which has passed into ordinary English usage, comes from the two German words: polter, to knock, rattle or bluster, and geist, a ghost or spirit. The sense of the word is thus "a boisterous, noisy, racketing spirit". The phenomena - like those of haunting, for example - are fortunately not common but are well attested. The reader who desires to assess for himself how good the evidence is, should read a book such as that compiled by Harry Price(14). He will find gathered together documented evidence and reports covering well-known cases over a period of some centuries. After vigorous criticism and discounting as much as possible, I think the evidence is good enough to establish this strange group of phenomena which it is natural to regard as a spontaneous uncontrolled form of psycho-kinesis. The accounts of the happenings each have their own peculiar features, but in general they show a remarkable similarity: unexplained noises, such as footsteps in empty rooms and corridors, loud bangs upon doors, sounds as of furniture being dragged about, blows or raps upon the floors or beds, objects inexplicably flying about and breaking. There are, however, a number of other effects which have been witnessed by responsible persons - such as the controlled type of flight of the objects, the appearance and disappearance of objects in locked and sealed rooms, the production of heat and cold and incendiary effects, etc. - which are of importance in relation to any theory of the phenomena.

(14) Harry Price: Poltergeist over England (Country Life, Ltd., 1945).

As regards the acoustical phenomena, it is obvious that they fall into two classes - para-normal and normal. Thus if a loud noise appeared to originate from an empty room, we should count it as the former; but if it came from a locked room where a bed was found overturned, we should count it the latter. Our problem is then what overturned the bed? As an example of para-normal noises, we take an extract from the accounts of the haunting of the Epworth Parsonage in Lincolnshire (Dec. 1716 - Jan. 1717), occupied by the famous Wesley family. I extract the following from Mrs. Wesley's written account to her son John:

"Once coming up after dinner, a cradle seemed to be strongly rocked in my chamber. When I went in, the sound seemed to be in the nursery. When I was in the nursery, it seemed in my chamber again. One night Mr. W. and I were waked by someone running down the garret stairs, then down the broad stairs, then up the narrow ones, then up the garret stairs, then down again, and so the same round. The rooms trembled as it passed along, and the doors shook exceedingly, so that the clattering of the latches was very loud.

"Mr. W., proposing to rise, I rose with him, and went down the broad stairs hand in hand to light a candle. Near the foot of them a large pot of money, seemed to be poured out at my waist, and to run jingling down my night gown to my feet. Presently after we heard the noise as of a vast stone thrown among several dozen of bottles which lay under the stairs; but upon our looking no hurt was done. We returned up into the nursery where the noise was very great. The children were all asleep, but panting, trembling and sweating extremely."

Our view is that all this type of para-normally produced noise comes under the same explanation as that of apparitions and hauntings, the phenomena are of the auditory instead of the visual type, and this is the only difference. Harry Price makes the interesting statement that "nearly half of all reported cases of hauntings exhibit poltergeist characteristics". We therefore invite the reader to look again at Chapter 9, Sections 7 and 8. All that is said there can be applied directly to the understanding of these para-normal auditory phenomena. I have no doubt that a wire-recorder or tape-recorder would demonstrate the same physical characteristics in para-normally produced, as in normally produced, sounds. In the diagram of Section 6, a would be a subsistent "event" and d the perceived noise. In Section 7 the equation we wrote down would become: Physical Event = Subsistent Event + Sense-Data. In Section 8 all that we said of haunting is immediately applicable, and need not here be repeated. We may adopt the purely psychometric theory - that a persistent dynamic memory or a focus of bottled-up energy in the psychic aether is the proximate cause, but that the phenomena can only manifest through the release of this energy when a person of the right telepathic affinity comes into the neighbourhood. As previously indicated, a very simple extension of this view takes us to a "spiritistic" theory, if we suppose, for example, that the original agent's mind maintains this focus of bottled-up energy. It is difficult to see, however, what purpose could possibly be served, or what advantage gained, by the monotonous repetition for months of useless noises by a surviving intelligence. This repetitive, almost mono-ideistic type of action suggests rather the activity of a broken-off fragment of Mind - if such a concept may be allowed. For the present we will defer discussion of the essential nature of the "poltergeist" to consider other significant phenomena apart from the auditory ones.

The most characteristic and dramatic of these are the psychokinetic group. I quote by way of illustration a few lines(13) - they are typical of all the accounts.

(13) Poltergeist over England, p. 150.

"Then went candle-sticks and other brasses: scarce anything remaining in its place. After this the glasses and china were put down on the floor for fear of undergoing the same fate, they presently began to dance and tumble about, and then broke to pieces. A teapot that was among them, flew to Mrs. Golding's maid's foot and struck it... A ham that hung in one side of the kitchen chimney raised itself from the hook and fell down to the ground... All the family were eye-witnesses to these circumstances as well as other persons, some of whom were so alarmed and shocked that they could not bear to stay."

There is one significant observation - for which the evidence seems good - that projected objects do not necessarily move in the sort of trajectory to be expected under the action of an initial impulse and a gravitational pull. Price himself was a witness in the Borley Rectory phenomena of the flight of a red glass candlestick down the well of the staircase, the candlestick having been just previously seen by him on the mantelpiece of the Blue Room upstairs. Needless to say, no person was upstairs. This flight must have involved at least two turns round corners. There is also the observation of Dom Richard Whitehouse and two other witnesses in Borley Rectory, of a bottle "poised in mid-air within a foot or so of the kitchen ceiling. It remained there for a second or two and then fell with a crash on the floor before us"(14). Such observations, if we accept them, suggest that the psycho-kinetic activity is at times more one of transport than projection, or shall we say of guided rather than free flight. The importance of the effect is obviously this: that we are not dealing merely with the effects of a simple mechanical impulse, such as the explosive release of an initial amount of energy might cause; we are dealing with some force or energy directed spatially with a measure of intelligence or purpose - however primitive.

(14) Loc. cit., p. 20.

Associated with the projection of objects from one place to another there is the so-called phenomenon of "apports". By this is meant the passage of one object through the supposed impenetrable matter of another-such as the appearance of objects in, and disappearance of objects from closed and sealed rooms. Cases of this were reported by Rev. L. A. Foyster, who with his wife and family occupied Borley Rectory for five years and witnessed many hundreds of para-normal events. I do not think the evidence for this is as good as for most of the other things. If, however, it should prove to be an absolutely authentic phenomenon, I do not think it should present us with any problem of a radically different kind from those already discussed. We should bear in mind, for one thing, the equivalence of matter and energy-and the evidence we already have of remarkable energy production, under conditions precluding a normal physical explanation. On the other hand, we should remember that apparitions (interpreted as physical), and discussed in Chapter 9 (7), pass through other physical objects and appear and disappear in closed spaces. The evidence we have already discussed in the earlier part of this chapter for temporary materialisation, followed by de-materialisation, should also prepare us to consider as equally possible - if equally mysterious - de-materialisation followed by re-materialisation. From the viewpoint of common sense such doings are incredible because they are not a part of familiar experience. We are concerned, it is true, with an unfamiliar field, but it is one which is likely to be of the greatest importance in understanding the real nature of the familiar. Our primary concern should therefore be not with beliefs, however widely held, but with evidence.

It is true that the properties of a four-dimensional space would account immediately for the possibility of appearance and disappearance of objects from enclosed three-dimensional space. This type of explanation, by invoking the geometry of a space of higher dimensions (as Dunne did in another connection), is not, I think, at all helpful: indeed, it may be misleading if it causes us to suppose that in a generalisation of physical concepts, rather than in penetration to a higher level of significance, is a clue to understanding of the world. On the other hand, the kind of sketch of the nature of the material world presented in Chapter 9 (6) suggests that the function of Mind is so all-embracing, as far as so-called Matter is concerned, that such questions as materialisation and de-materialisation are aspects of one of its most basic activities. Happily for mankind, the knowledge necessary to achieve this consciously is not generally available, but the a priori possibility seems indubitable. We have seen Mind in its cognitive aspect unfettered by Space and Time: is there reason to suppose that it is wholly a prisoner in its creative and kinetic aspects?

Apart from the kinetic effects, there are very well-attested thermal effects associated with some poltergeists. Price has devoted a chapter of his book(15) to "Poltergeist Incendiaries". In the famous Borley Rectory case, the Rev. L. A. Foyster reports in his diary a visit one day from his neighbours, Sir George and Lady Whitehouse. While they were there a fire broke out in an unused bedroom. The skirting-board at one place was described as "glowing red". Another peculiar feature of the Borley case was the existence of a cold spot apparently at times some 10oc. below its surroundings, according to investigations by a Cambridge group of observers. These thermal effects are of particular interest from the standpoint of the energy production involved.

(15) Loc. cit., Chapter XXVII.

Auditory phenomena can, as we know, be very impressive, and "leave nothing to the imagination". This is primarily, however, because the human ear is a superlatively sensitive instrument. In point of fact, sound is a very "attenuated" form of energy. I do not suppose that all the sound emitted by enthusiastic crowds at a football final would provide enough energy to make a cup of tea. As regards potential energy, I calculate that the work required to lift a ton weight through about 30 feet against gravity would just about make a cup of tea. In other words, the special interest of the thermal phenomena arises from the fact that heat is a "concentrated" form of energy. The existence of a "cold spot" offers no solution of the problem of the origin of the energy involved in poltergeist effects. For obscure reasons, it may be that some of the effects are most easily produced by heat energy abstracted from the air, but of course the production and maintenance of such a cold spot require the constant expenditure of an equivalent amount of energy by the poltergeist. The problem of the source of this energy remains on our hands. The production of heat required to create incendiary effects is considerable: where does it come from? It is probably wisest to say simply that we do not know. I propose, however, to make the not unreasonable assumption that every level of significance (i.e., each world of phenomena) whether physical, aetheric, or mental, has its own type of energy, and that under certain circumstances transformation from one level to another may take place. I think there are some pointers in this direction, which I shall proceed to discuss.

1. One of the most striking features of the poltergeist phenomena is that in an overwhelming majority of cases a young person seems to be the unconscious agent of the effects. In 95% of cases it is a young girl; in 5% a boy or youth, says Price. Moreover, sexual change or shock seems to be frequently associated either with the beginning or the cessation of the phenomena. Puberty and adolescence are thus the periods favourable to the effects. Price(16) informs us that Eleonora Zugun's power vanished overnight with the first appearance of the menses; that the Schneider brothers were brilliant about puberty, but the effects waned as adolescence advanced; conversely, that Stella C.'s power became marked with sexual maturity; that in the case of Esther Cox, the phenomena which lasted a year were initiated by nervous shock following attempted sexual assault, and that moreover they attained their greatest strength every twenty-eight days. He quotes Professor Thirring of Vienna, who experimented with Willi Schneider, and remarked that the psycho-kinetic phenomena were always much stronger when a sympathetic female was the principal controller. Price also tells of an interview with the husband of Frieda W, a young Austrian medium, who informed him that at the height of his wife's sexual excitement in their early married life, ornaments would sometimes fall off the mantelpiece in their bedroom; also that during menstruation the physical phenomena of mediumship did not occur. I think we may conclude that there is strong evidence of some relationship between poltergeist phenomena and physiological activity - especially the activity of sex, in which physical and emotional factors both play a part.

(16) Loc. cit., Chapter XXX.

The phenomena of physical mediumship, as we have suggested in Section 2, arise from some peculiarity of state or structure of the medium's aetheric body. It may be that this particular state is accentuated at or about the time of puberty or adolescence, when the aetheric body is probably in a phase of change and development, just as is the physical body. We do not suggest that the young person is the originating cause of the poltergeist effects, but rather is the possessor of an aetheric body by means of which a dammed-up reservoir of psychic energy can find release and discharge. The young person chances to be the temporary possessor of a means of converting the psychic energy (whether mento-emotional or aetheric, we do not know) into physical energy which is dissipated in the kinetic effects we have discussed.

2. The remarkable poltergeist phenomena associated with Jean Baptiste Vianney, Cure d'Ars, 1786-1859, are, I think, another pointer in the same direction. Gerald Heard(17) describes him as an "innocent, powerful, unintellectual saint". He was for many years given to extreme ascetic practices: fasting, self-scourging and allowing himself very little sleep. On the mental and emotional side of his nature, he gave himself to intense prayer for his "flock", believing that in this way and through his physical sufferings he was atoning for their sinfulness. For years, then, his aetheric body was being subjected to a "battering" from both the physical and mental sides. Poltergeist phenomena began to make their appearance: loud noises were heard, his furniture moved round the room, and all the familiar effects were found. In addition, he developed a marked extra-sensory faculty. He remarked to a friend about raising money for charitable purposes, "One can get anything one wants if one fasts and watches enough". Gerald Heard comments, "He was generating an immense force, as a dynamo generates power out of the otherwise imperceptible continuum". Heard also says with considerable insight of this phenomenal outpouring of excess energy, "The source of the 'leakage' must be looked for in what we may call the psycho-physical belt of the mind-body, and not in the specifically spiritual". This harmonises with the general picture we have formed. It may well be that there is a natural energy circulation in the aetheric body as various clairvoyants have described(18), and that the austere practices of the Cure d'Ars stimulated the intake of such energy to a degree that it had to find release beyond its natural function. This it did by a process of conversion into physical energy and dissipation of the latter through the movement of objects.

(17) I am indebted to Gerald Heard's Preface to Prayer, pp. 68-76 for this information (Cassell & Co., 1945).
(18) E.g., Payne and Bendit: The Psychic Sense, PP. 79 ff. (Faber & Faber, 1943).

3. I find another pointer in a paper of Dr. John Layard(19), which describes from the standpoint of Jung's psychology the cure of a psychopathic case by Dr. C. A. Meier, who was Jung's chief assistant. The view which Layard puts forward is that poltergeist phenomena may sometimes subserve a definite purpose-which is curative-by release of the energy created by tension of conflict in the deeper levels of an individual mind. (Here again we have the conception of a transformation of energy from one level to another.) Moreover, just as it is characteristic of psi (that is of certain mental levels), that to convey information to consciousness it uses symbols - visual, auditory, etc., so in some circumstances, Layard's view is that it may use objects to convey a message. Hence arise poltergeist effects. The conditions in a personality which necessarily precede such phenomena are, according to Layard, "situations of extreme tension when the two poles of the personality are trying to join, but cannot". Of the Cure d'Ars, Layard remarks that he was well aware of the message contained in the Poltergeist phenomena which assailed him for over thirty-five years and which he interpreted as a conflict between powers of good and evil in his person - a conflict he never fully resolved. We shall not discuss further this fruitful Jungian hypothesis, but return to the specific case recounted of which the climax was as follows. The patient had, in a trance-like state of mind, been making a journey through the city, each phase of which was for her the symbolical unravelling of her conflict. At a certain time, just when the patient in her wanderings had penetrated to the centre of her conflict, a very loud report was heard by the doctor in his consulting-room. He left his dining-room and rushing over to investigate the noise, he discovered that a Gothic wooden bench nearly 500 years old, had split down its entire length. It had a massive seat (150 cm. by 3 cm.) and the smooth clean split was 2 to 3 cm. in breadth. This case and its interpretation gave rise to much critical and sceptical comment, into which it is not necessary to enter here. I present it only as another pointer towards the view that poltergeist phenomena provide a mode of release of accumulated energy on the mento-emotional level through its transformation into physical energy.

(19) Psi-phenomena and Poltergeists: Proc. S.P.R., Vol. 47, p. 237 (1944).

As to the nature of the poltergeist, there is no sound reason for supposing that a malicious or boisterous "spirit" is involved. The data are consistent with the view that the entity involved is a mental fragment expressing a group of primitive ideas or actions, but associated with a bottled-up reservoir of emotional energy. This seems to have a persistence in time - attached frequently, as in hauntings, to some building or locality. Only a person of the right telepathic affinity can become aware of it, and only a peculiar type of aetheric body can become the means of release of this pent-up energy by transforming it into physical energy. When this energy is completely discharged, the "poltergeist" is no more. In the case of the Cure d'Ars, the psychic reservoir was constantly being recharged by his ascetic practices.

5. Some Speculations

The hypothesis we have advanced to account for psycho-kinesis and its dramatic uncontrolled form in poltergeist phenomena is that we have a transformation of energy from one modality (psychical) to another (physical). It is a tempting starting point for many speculations. Tile sporadic, uncontrolled form seems generally to depend on a chance peculiarity of the structure of the aetheric body of an adolescent. It seems at least possible that some individuals of an advanced type may have knowledge of how to effect this transformation of energy at will in a controlled manner, and we do not know what limits, if any, there are to such a process. I took the liberty of prefacing this chapter with a very remarkable example of this. Such powers have generally been attributed to persons of outstanding spiritual achievement, and in the light of our present knowledge - fragmentary though it is - we may be less disposed to regard them as wholly legendary than did our scientific predecessors. Through much ancient philosophical literature - Kabbalistic, Hermetic and Indian - persists the traditional belief that if the real "name" of a thing is known to a man, the powers inherent in that thing are under his control. It is a strange idea, very persistent, and perhaps by its very nature one that cannot be precisely expressed in words. It may, however, be another way of saying that an individual who has at his disposal the immense creative energies of the mental level and knows how to use his aetheric vehicle as the transformer and channel of these energies, can control in no small degree the physical world. As we have several times mentioned, the theoretical possibility of this should occasion no surprise to the person whose philosophy sees the material order as derived from, and an expression of, Mind in action.

I venture also to refer to a particular form of Indian yoga known as kundalini yoga. It appears to be a psycho-physical technique, involving certain breathing rhythms and forms of mental concentration, the aim of which is to arouse the so-called kundalini power. According to its exponents, this power lies latent at a centre near the base of the spine, but when aroused effectively it vivifies certain chakrams or centres in the aetheric body which are the keys to well-developed psychical faculty. (In our terminology this means psi-faculty would become fully accessible and controlled by the will.) In addition, the individual is said to experience an enormous vitalising of the physical body to a degree which, if not properly prepared for, may be dangerous and destructive. Our Western physiology and psychology of course know nothing as yet of these matters: they are consigned, if they have been heard of at all, to the realm of superstition (along with psychical research and other such questionable matters). It seems to me probable that in this particular form of yoga the East has developed a technique of effecting the transformation of energy from one modality to another. The result is not, however, primarily the development of power over inanimate Nature, but the development of the fullest potentialities of the physical and aetheric bodies.

I venture also to comment on a matter which comes much nearer home: the maintenance of the physical health of the body and the modus operandi of certain types of healing. I shall do so very briefly and categorically - for it is a vast subject - in order to make one or two points relevant to the subject of psycho-kinesis. The preservation of the body in health as a smoothly working machine is certainly achieved through a large number of inter-related physiological and biochemical mechanisms, but behind these, and controlling them through the aetheric structures, are certain levels of the individual mind. The mind is kept informed by psi-gamma, (or E.S.P.) and controls the physiological mechanisms through psi-kappa (or P.-K.). When things go wrong and physical symptoms appear, we are beginning to realise that the cause of the dis-function may be on any level of the self. The causation may be on the physical level (e.g., a bacterial or virus invasion), on the aetheric level, or on several different sub-levels of the mind. Although in the present state of our knowledge, alleviation of the physical symptoms may be the most that can be done (i.e., by therapy on the physical level), there can be no doubt that in the future a more fundamental therapy will always treat the patient on the level of the causes-not of the symptoms. It is, for example, a noteworthy achievement of medicine to maintain the diabetic in good health by the administration of insulin which his pancreas fails to secrete. It will be for the future to discover at what level of the patient (aetheric, mental, buddhic, etc.) control and direction of the responsible cells in the pancreas has failed. When this is known, a radical therapy will be possible. All this is a preliminary to comments which I desire to make about two different types of healing associated with these deeper levels.

There is some extremely good evidence, which it is quite impossible to disregard(20), that a certain type of prayer of an intercessory kind may have extraordinary therapeutic power. I suggest for consideration that what may be happening in cases of this kind, is akin to the building up of telepathic. rapport between the minds of the agents (i.e., persons praying) and the mind of the patient, resulting in sufficient stimulation of the latter to undertake with renewed energy the processes of healing and repair. The patient is helped on the mental level to help himself - and in some cases there may even be a transmutation of mental energy into physical.

(20) See, for example, Alexis Carrel: Man the Unknown, Chapter IV; Howard Somervell: After Everest, Chapter XXVIII (Hodder & Stoughton, 1936); L. D. Weatherhead: Psychology, Religion and Healing (Hodder & Stoughton, 1951).

There is a rather different kind of healing involving physical contact of the hands of the healer with the body of the patient. I suggest here that the healing forces are operative at the aetheric level, which becomes now the level of rapport. The mind of the patient is not now involved, but the mind of the healer acts psychokinetically through the aetheric body of the patient to stimulate the body of the patient towards health.


The article above was taken from Raynor C. Johnson's 1953 book "The Imprisoned Splendor" published by Hodder & Stoughton.


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