THE STORE of mediumistic phenomena was further increased some ten years ago by a
new development, hitherto unknown, that of Cross-Correspondence. It was
discovered by the distinguished secretary of the British Society for Psychical
Research, Alice Johnson, who, while studying the automatic writings, of the
different mediums, became aware of a strange relationship between them. In some
cases this consisted of striking allusions made by one written communication to
the other, in the use by both mediums of the same strange expressions, in a
common reference to a certain literary quotation, and so on. This relationship
was of too frequent and systematic a character to be merely due to chance, and
did not necessarily exist between two mediums only, but between several. For
instance, on April 8, 1907, Mrs. Piper
uttered the words "Light in the West" while in a trance in London. On the same
day, three hours later, Mrs. Verrall, a medium in Cambridge, wrote automatically
among other things: "Rosy is the East, etc. You will find that you have written
a message for Mr. Piddington, a message that you have not understood, but that
he has. Tell him this." Moreover, on the same day, a little later, a third
medium, in Calcutta, Mrs. Holland,
wrote: "This exceptional sky, beneath which dusk renders the East as beautiful
and shining as the West, Martha became Mary and Lea Rachel." Closer analysis of
these expressions and of their contrast proved that all three scripts were
related to each other.
A second instance: On August 6, 1906, Mrs. Holland wrote in India at the end of
a fairly long communication, separated by a wider space and in an altered hand:
Two days later
Mrs. Verrall wrote in Cambridge on August 8:
"I have done it to-night y yellow is the written
Say only yellow.'
And her daughter also wrote automatically at the
same time, without her mother's knowledge:
“Camomile and resin the prescription is old on
yellow paper in a box with a sweet scent.”
In other cases automatic writings supplement each
other, and only make coherent sense when added together. It is - to use a
metaphor - almost as though a manuscript had been cut into scraps and handed to
various compositors who would only be able to make sense of the whole after
joining the fragments together. Oddly enough, cross-correspondence first showed
itself suddenly among a number of mediums, including Mrs. Verrall, Mrs. Holland,
Mrs. Piper, and others.
Spiritistic interpretation sees in cross-correspondence the best of all proofs
of its teaching that mediumistic phenomena emanate from spirits, arguing that
the relationship between the various automatic scripts can only be the outcome
of an intelligence beyond the ken of the mediums, which uses the latter to prove
its own independent existence through the cross-correspondences. Only an
intelligence, it is argued, would be capable of meting out a consecutive idea
into distinct parts and then directing the pen of the various mediums so that
each should write separate fragments of the whole. Spiritism further points to
the strange coincidence that cross-correspondence appeared for the first time
after the death of Myers, one of the most eminent scientific English-speaking spiritists, who was expected to furnish a conclusive proof of spiritism. In the
first cross-correspondence, the "spirit" purporting to be Myers draws direct
attention to the new development and the prospect of its further continuance. As
a matter of fact, it is not possible not to regard certain cases of
cross-correspondence as evidence of the most remarkable and difficult
parapsychic phenomena. It is easy to understand that when confronted with
cross-correspondence, scepticism should lose its assurance, and that those
spiritistically inclined should become definite converts. It is obvious that
cross-correspondence must be attributed to a reflecting mind. There can be no
question of chance, for the varied inspirational utterances are too numerous,
too striking in character, and fit into each other too well. Despite this, they
need not be regarded as any incontrovertible proof of spiritism. The hackneyed
contention that the various mediums concerned have come to an understanding with
regard to a common deception cannot, of course, be maintained. There is no cause
for suspicion here. The possibility, however, is not to be denied that there may
be an unconscious telepathic understanding of that kind. We have gradually
collected so many proofs of the highly developed intelligence of the
subconscious mediumistic psychic life that such a hypothesis cannot be excluded.
We know of automatic riddles and of anagrams of such artistic conception that we
cannot reject such possibilities. A certain Mr. A., for instance, while
experimenting with automatic writing, at his third attempt to obtain a reply
from the supposed spirit to his question: "What is Man?" received the automatic
answer, "Tefi Hasl Esble Lies," of which the solution is "Life is the less
It must not be forgotten that the majority of the mediums are confirmed
spiritists, so that a tendency or a desire to testify as to the genuine nature
of spiritism is ever prevalent. In the same way, in the case of
this tendency was concentrated on the invention of faked languages. Mrs. Piper,
however, lacked any such tendency while awake, as her attitude towards spiritism
remained neutral. But it must be noted that in her case, the parapsychic
manifestations were evolved in trance, in a state of transmuted personality. She
was then apparently transformed into other personalities. These "spirits" - i.e.
the somnambulistic Mrs. Piper - were, however, as such, naturally convinced as
to the truth of spiritism, and their whole activity was concentrated on evolving
proofs of their belief. Is it surprising that she was bent on making use of her
telepathic faculties to this effect? Even the fact that the phenomenon of
cross-correspondence was manifested with comparative suddenness by the various
mediums, is no proof for the spiritistic contention that the spirits agreed to
make common use of this new channel. It is a quite sufficient explanation that,
once cross-correspondence has been discovered, innumerable mediums should employ
No difficulty is encountered in interpreting the cases in which the
cross-correspondence confines itself to connexions between automatic script in
the way in which a certain word is repeated or referred to. Such similarities
must be explained as due to the mediums writing being possessed of telepathic or
clairvoyant faculties. It is another matter when one fragment only makes sense
when joined to another, each scrap consisting of one sentence. Then it is
necessary, unless the connexion between the two scripts is to be regarded in the
light of mere coincidence resulting from a purely hypothetical completion, of
one fragment by another, that a mutual understanding or convention should be
assumed to exist between the two mediums to settle which words of the sentence
should be written by either. If, however, telepathic possibilities of
communication actually exists between them, it is equally admissible to contend
that all these various mediums are alike imbued with their desire to add to the
proofs in favour of spiritism. It might also be that one medium simply transmits
telepathic suggestion to another "a distance," in which case there need be no
question of any previous agreement.
A conscious suggestive influence of one trance personality on other individuals
would represent a positive novum. A priori there is no reason why a
person in a somnambulistic state or in a similar condition should not be
subjected to suggestion from others, and also subject others thereto.
Experimentally, we only know at the present time of suggestion "à distance",
(based on the tests of Richet, P. Janet, and others), in the form of suggestions
by a conscious individual.
It would be extremely interesting (if it were possible) to persuade the trance
personalities themselves to make suggestions either to conscious or to other
hypnotized persons. Suggestion on suggestion might also be contrived, by
influencing a person under hypnosis, so that he should distribute his own
suggestions even at a distance.
Cross-correspondences are from the point of view of logical proof at a
disadvantage when compared with other parapsychic phenomena, in so far as we
are, in their case, mainly obliged to rely on the veracity of the mediums
themselves. Many among them, notably those to whom the most important
experiments are due, as also the authors of the reports published in the
"Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research," have themselves supplied
the material in full cognisance of the stage reached in the problem at issue.
The assumption that the writers must be regarded as common frauds is in
contradiction to what is known of their character on the whole; besides which,
in Mrs. Piper's case, the phenomena of cross-correspondence were carried out
under a system of strict control.
In response to several requests I will give below a
few more examples of cross-correspondence.
One of the most famous, which occurred right at the beginning of the
cross-correspondence, is as follows:
Mrs. Verrall, lecturer in classics at the University of Cambridge, writes:
"On January 31, 1902, I had been lunching with Mr.
Piddington in town, and after the arrival of Sir
Oliver Lodge from Birmingham
was about to walk with them to the SPR Council Meeting at 3 p.m., when I felt
suddenly so strong a desire to write that I came down and made an excuse for not
accompanying the gentlemen, saying I would drive later. As soon as they had
started I wrote automatically in the dining-room the following words:
"Panopticon σφαιράς άτιτάλλει συνδέγμα μύστικον τί
ούκ έδιδως; volatile ferrum - pro telo impinget."
A few more words were added, when I was interrupted
by Mr. Piddington, who had returned, in order to drive with me to the meeting.
All the rest of the day I felt a wish to write, and finally, in the train on the
way home to Cambridge, more script was produced. That script contained no
verifiable statement but was signed with two crosses, one of them being the
Greek cross, definitely stated elsewhere in the script to be the sign of
(one of Mrs. Piper's trance personalities).
So far for what happened in England. In Boston, as I subsequently learned, the
following took place. At Mrs. Piper's sitting on January 28, 1902, after the
reference to my daughter's supposed vision, Dr. Hodgson suggested that the same
"control" should try to impress my daughter in the course of the next week with
a scene or object. The control assented. Dr. Hodgson said: "Can you try and make
Helen see you holding a spear in your hand?" The control asked: "Why a sphere?"
Dr. Hodgson repeated "spear," and the control accepted the suggestion, and said
the experiment should be tried for a week. On February 4, 1902, at the next
sitting, and therefore at the very first opportunity, the control claimed to
have been successful in making himself visible to Helen Verrall with a "sphear"
(so spelt in the trance writing)."
This example is also an instance of the curious and baffling confusion which
prevails in much of the automatic writing which contains cross-correspondences.
Instead of an (actively conditioned telepathic?) vision which we might have
expected after the séance with Mrs., Piper, we get at Mrs. Verrall's end (as was
so often the case with her) script mixed up with broken bits of Latin and Greek
(she was a classical scholar), or, as in the present case, so far as it is
published, script consisting of nothing but bits of Latin and Greek, in which
very clear allusions, obvious at once, strike us to the séance in Boston (σφαιρα
= sphere; volatile ferrum, telum = spear).
A second example. On March 11, 1907, at about eleven o'clock, Mrs. Piper, who
was in her normal waking consciousness, said "Violets. Dr. Hodgson (said)
violets." In accordance with previous experience marked utterances of this kind
might be expected to have reference to a cross-correspondence. In fact, on the
same day about the same time Mrs. Verrall wrote automatically:
"With violet buds their heads were crowned.
"Violet and olive leaf purple and hoary.
"The city of the violet―"
It is hardly necessary to emphasize here the marked
way in which the word violet is stressed. The whole script seems really to be
simply built up round this word. (This example is taken from A. Hude's "The
Evidence, etc.," p. 283).
To conclude with an example in which several days elapsed between the
On April 8 the Myers' personality speaking through Mrs. Piper, said to
Sidgwick: "Do you remember Euripides?" "Do you remember Spirit and Angel? I gave
both. Nearly all the words I have written to-day refer to messages I am trying
to give through Mrs. V―.", Mrs. Verrall had already on March 7 done a long piece
of automatic writing in which the word "Hercules Furens," and "Euripides" are
And on March 25 she had written: "The Hercules play comes in there, and the clue
is in the Euripides play if you could see it." Also she wrote on the same day a
separate piece of script in which the word "shadow" occurred several times: "Let
Piddington know when you get a message about shadow. The shadow of a shade. That
is better umbrarum umbras σκιάς έίδωλον was what I wanted to get written." The
word "spirit," however, was not used. On April 3 an effort was clearly made to
reach a satisfactory conclusion, although the word "Angel" could not be reached.
"Flaming swords - wings or feathered wings come in somewhere - Try pinions of
desire. The wings of Icarus - Lost Paradise regained - his flame - clad
messengers (she draws an angel with wings) that is better F W H M has sent the
message through at last."
The cross-correspondence, moreover, was extended to include Mrs. Holland. On
April 16 she wrote automatically a passage in which were found these words: "Lucus
Margaret To fly to find Euripides Philemon." The names Lucus and Philemon seem
to be derived from Browning's translations of Euripides' Hercules Furens. (A.
Hude, p. 285).
Many other cross-correspondences, some of them extremely striking ones, cannot
be quoted here because of their complexity and of the space which they require
for interpretation and comment. The peculiarity of the cross-correspondences
from English sources is that they are mostly of an especially contorted kind.
Some French cross-correspondence to which I am unable to refer, are (as I am
told) much easier to see through. (G. Geley, "Contribution à l'etude des
Correspondances Croisées." Documents nouveaux, Paris, 1914).
The above article was taken from Konstantin Oesterreich's "Occultism and Modern
Science" (London: Methuen & Co., 1923).