H. F. Saltmarsh

1881-1943. A lifelong and revered contributor to the Society for Psychical Research. A businessman involved in international shipping before his early retirement because of ill health, he was student of Theosophy, a highly regarded writer on precognition and survival, and an astute investigator of mediumistic sittings. Served for many years as a financial officer of the SPR and contributed numerous articles to its journal.

Summary and Discussion of the Cross-Correspondences

- H. F. Saltmarsh -

          WE MUST now address ourselves to the task of summing up the evidence and arguments on both sides.

I should first, perhaps, explain what I consider to be my position in the matter. I could have approached it from the standpoint of an advocate briefed to argue in support of one particular view - say the hypothesis that the scripts were inspired by, and the information contained therein derived from, the surviving personalities of Myers, Gurney, Verrall, and the others. Had this been so, I should have tried to present the evidence in the light most favourable to that view, although I should not have suppressed any that was unfavourable. As regards the arguments, I should have felt it permissible to put forward only those which supported my case, leaving those against it to 'counsel' on the other side. If I mentioned hostile arguments at all, it would have been only when I considered that I was able to refute them.

But I do not conceive that my duty lies in this direction; my function is more that of a judge who has to sum up the evidence and arguments on both sides, leaving it to the jury to decide.

The judge may indicate his own personal opinion, but if he be truly impartial, he should lay as much stress on those points which tell against it as on those which support it.

In speaking of a jury, I mean, of course, the readers of this book (with my usual caution, I feel bound to put in the proviso, 'if there be any') but the analogy is not quite exact.

A jury in an English Court has to find one way or the other, in a Scottish Court there is a third alternative, viz. 'Not proven,' but the juryman here is not called upon to do this; the utmost that can be expected of him is that he should decide on the relative probabilities of the alternative hypotheses, of which there may, of course, be more than two. It is not at all likely that he will in any case be able to assess these probabilities at a definite figure, and thus give a mathematically exact verdict, the most that he will be able to say is that such and such a view is highly probable. It will be lucky if he can go even as far as this, most likely he will have to be content with finding that the balance of probability lies in a particular direction.

As I said at the very outset, the scientific method cannot yield certainty, and in this matter, as in many others, we have to be, and are, content to act upon probable hypotheses.

The first point to be noticed is that the cases which I have cited are only a sample of a considerably larger number. I think that this sample is fairly representative of the whole, and I have included in it some which appear to me to be of a lesser evidential value than was assigned to them by the original investigators.

I have been most anxious not to overstate the case.

The sample is, in my opinion, sufficiently large to enable the reader to form his judgment, and I doubt whether he would have been aided in doing so had the whole number been put before him, as those which have been omitted do not contain any facts of a different type.

To repeat evidence over and over again increases its weight in one respect only, though this respect is of great importance, viz. as against chance. Were we to find in the scripts of several automatists one or two scattered cases of cross correspondence, we might reasonably attribute them to chance coincidence, but should they occur in large numbers, the tenability of that hypothesis is much lessened. Further, when this large number of cross correspondences is accompanied by definite indications of intention, and indeed, by explicit statements in the scripts that they are parts of a planned experiment, then explanation by chance alone can be confidently rejected.

That the number of cross correspondences which occurred in the scripts of this period is sufficient to exclude chance, is a matter which the jury must decide, and in making their decision they must bear in mind quality as well as quantity.

When the topic mentioned is highly specific and not a mere commonplace, the possibility of chance coincidence is much lessened; thus, though two automatists might very likely make references to the works of some poet, say Tennyson, in their scripts of a particular short period, that they should both refer, not only to the same poem, but also to one particular passage or subject in the poem, is much more unlikely. This, as we have seen, is precisely what happened.

In my opinion the chance hypothesis has very little to recommend it, though it is, of course, abstractly possible. I have little doubt that the jury will be nearly unanimous in their verdict against it. However, it is for each individual juryman to decide for himself.

The next hypothesis is that of collusion or fraud.

Here we are, I think, on even firmer ground. Precautions to avoid any of the automatists acquiring knowledge of the contents of the scripts of others were taken. Where, in any particular case, an automatist was in possession of such knowledge, the fact has been mentioned and allowance made. The reader will doubtless call to mind several instances of this.

But apart from this, the character of those engaged affords an amply sufficient refutation of the hypothesis. I cannot imagine that anyone would seriously suggest that all those engaged in the experiment deliberately set out to deceive. I do not think that I need add anything to the comments which I have already made on this point.

In my opinion the hypothesis of fraud is so fantastic that it need only be mentioned to be dismissed. Of course, anyone is entitled to believe what absurdities he pleases, but there are consequences entailed by doing so; one of these consequences is that no attention need be paid to the judgment of a person who seriously entertains ridiculous beliefs.

The next point to be considered, is the nature of the evidence and the possibility of mistake in reporting. This possibility, which presents a very real difficulty in most spontaneous cases, hardly arises here. When we are dealing with eye-witness accounts of alleged supernormal happenings, there is always a possibility of mal-observation, and - even more important - of bad reporting, exaggeration, lapse of memory, and so on.

But with the scripts of automatists none of these possibilities exists; there is the permanent objective evidence of the documents themselves. They can be examined and studied at leisure. It is true that in a few instances, particularly with Mrs. Piper, there was some uncertainty in reading a word here and there, and, in the spoken matter of the waking stage, difficulty of hearing, but these form a very small proportion of the whole and wherever they occurred they were noted and allowance made.

Thus, it is that, from the point of view of the evidence itself, these cross-correspondence cases stand at a far higher level than the bulk of the material with which psychical research has to deal. The scripts are there for anyone to examine, the only question is their interpretation, and to this question we must now turn.

Even if, in face of the assertions of the automatists themselves, it is denied that they were automatically written in the sense described on page 19, we still have to account for the concordance between them. Conscious collusion would have been fraudulent, and this we have ruled out, chance coincidence we have already discussed; it remains, therefore, to find another hypothesis.

In the case of Mrs. Piper the writing was done in conditions which rendered it practically impossible for her to have known what was being written; with the other automatists I do not think that any reasonable person would doubt their word. I am not, of course, suggesting that Mrs. Piper's word is in any sense untrustworthy, but the professional medium must be prepared to be subject to a type of criticism which is not levelled against the non-professional.

As a matter of personal opinion, I fully accept the statements of all the automatists; whether this opinion be shared by my readers is for them to decide, but even if they disagree it does not materially affect the issue.

The main task is, therefore, to explain how the concordance between the scripts of the different automatists arose.

The first hypotheses to be tested are those of clairvoyance and direct telepathy, or mind reading.

We have other evidence that these phenomena occur, and if it can be shown that either of these hypotheses, or a combination of both taken together, can be made to account for the facts, then, by the canons of scientific method, we must accept that explanation provisionally.

Further, we must be prepared to allow some stretching of the ordinary conception of clairvoyance and telepathy; we know so little of the conditions in which they occur and of their modus operandi, that we cannot lay down any hard and fast limits. Whether the stretching which is required is reasonable or not is a question for the jury to answer.

Clairvoyance has been defined as 'the supernormal acquisition of knowledge about objective concrete situations'.

Let us see what would be entailed by supposing that the cross correspondences were due to the exercise of this faculty by one or other of the automatists. Automatist A writes a script - that is an objective concrete situation - Automatist B clairvoyantly becomes aware of that script and is thus able to make references in her own script to some topic contained therein. Of course this all takes place subliminally.

Moreover, it is quite possible that the script of Automatist B might make the reference oblique and allusive, such a thing is not beyond the powers of the subliminal mind.

To take a specific instance: in the 'Ave Roma Immortalis' case, Mrs. Holland might have become clairvoyantly aware of Mrs. Verrall's scripts, and recognized them as having reference to Roman history; her own script comments thereon as one might say: 'Hullo! - Rome.' The succeeding words: 'How could I make it any clearer without giving her the clue,' are, perhaps, more difficult to account for, but it is not beyond possibility that they arose from subliminal invention, particularly if the writer had knowledge of the cross-correspondence idea.

But when one comes to apply the hypothesis to the more complex cases, difficulties rapidly increase. Clairvoyance would give knowledge only of what had actually been written, so that if the concordance between the scripts is not merely one of identity or simple reference to the same topic, some further amplification of the hypothesis must be made. Where the concordance consists of appropriate complementary quotations, the question whether the clairvoyant automatist had normal knowledge of their source immediately arises. Where this was so we might suppose that the elaboration was performed by her subliminal mind, but when no normal knowledge was possessed, as, for example, in Mrs. Holland's scripts, which appeared to derive from Browning's 'Aristophanes' Apology,' a poem which she had not read, we should have to suppose that a further act of clairvoyance was performed to give her supernormal knowledge of that poem. But in that case, how did she know where the words which she clairvoyantly perceived in the script of the first automatist came from? To recognize the quotation implies some knowledge of the source.

It is quite true to say that actual concrete records, such as books and documents, were in existence in almost all cases, and thus might, in the abstract, be available to clairvoyant perception, but the difficulty is to account for that perception being turned in the proper direction.

Where there are several scripts concerned, or in cases where the cross correspondence involves more than two automatists, a further crop of difficulties arises.

Until we can lay down with some certainty the limits of possible clairvoyance, we cannot say definitely that explanation by that hypothesis is impossible, but if we have to make a large number of unsupported assumptions which ascribe to the faculty powers far exceeding anything of which we have independent evidence, then its plausibility becomes much weaker and we are compelled to test other hypotheses.

If we can find one which covers the facts without entailing similar assumptions, or which involves a smaller number, we must accept it provisionally, provided that its antecedent improbability is not so great as to outweigh its advantages in this respect. Let us, therefore, test the hypothesis of telepathy between the automatists. On this hypothesis simple correspondence is easily explicable, but in the more complex cases, where the corresponding reference in the second script is indirect and allusive, we must suppose that the matter had been previously elaborated in the subliminal mind of the agent automatist, i.e. the one who sends the message. This, in itself, is not impossible, nor, in fact, too improbable to be accepted in most of the cases, and were it not for one or two facts which appear to be incompatible with it, it is the explanation which I, personally, should be inclined to accept.

But these facts must be covered somehow, they cannot be ignored.

For example, in the 'autos ouranos akumon' case, Mrs. Verrall was led by the scripts to discover a connection between Tennyson's 'In Memoriam' and Plotinus, which she had not before suspected. Can we assume that her subliminal mind knew of this connection before, as the result of some study and research, she became supraliminally aware of it? In the 'One-horsed dawn' case, she was normally ignorant of the fact that 'herb moly' had any connection until a long time after it had appeared in the script.

In the 'Lethe' case the appropriateness of the conjunction of the names of Dante, Swedenborg and St. Paul was not recognized until the clue given in the script directed Mrs. Verrall's research.

There is one point on which I have already touched, but perhaps insufficiently stressed. The suggestion that the puzzles were devised and the communications inspired by the subliminal mind of someone living involves the ascription of intent to deceive. We must assume, therefore, that this campaign of deception was carried on consistently over a period years, during which the personnel exceeding twenty of the group of automatists changed from time to time as fresh recruits came in or members dropped out. Several of the recruits were unknown to the members of the group before joining it, and in some cases they never became personally acquainted. Yet the plan of cross correspondences was consistently carried on.

It is true that if it were within the power of a hypothetical disembodied mind, or group of minds, to initiate and carry out the plan, it is, so far as we can see, equally within the power of an embodied mind. There is no reason to suppose that the enfranchisement from the prison of the flesh endows the surviving mind with added powers of telepathy. It may be so, but in the absence of any evidence, we must not assume it.

The point is that the embodied mind must have had the intention to deceive, and it is hard to suppose that this intention would persist over so long a period covering so many changes.

Even more significant, perhaps, than the fact that changes in the group of automatists produced so little change in the character of the communications, is the striking change which followed the death of Dr. Verrall. He had, in his lifetime, taken no very active part in the business, he was interested and gave advice, but was neither an automatist nor an investigator, properly speaking.

But immediately after his death we have two important cases, the 'Statius' and the 'Ear of Dionysius,' wherein he purports to appear as communicator, and in these cases there is exhibited a manifest difference in style which differentiates them sharply from those which purport to come from the Myers group.

On the other hand, the death in 1916 of Mrs. Verrall, one of the principal automatists, made very little difference in the character of the communications.

While these facts are not conclusive as against the telepathic hypothesis, for it is possible that if the subliminal mind of someone living were responsible for the phenomena, that mind might have appreciated the point, and utilized it as an aid in its plan of deception, they seem to me to render that hypothesis considerably less plausible.

Further, some of the most characteristic individual possessions of the human mind are the associations which it makes between ideas. These associations are the result of past history and are as clear an indication of psychical individuality as finger-prints are of physical. No two persons will make exactly the same associations between ideas, because no two persons have ever had exactly the same history.

If, then, we come across peculiar and unusual associations which we subsequently discover to have been made by some particular individual, there is good reason to ascribe to that individual's mind some share in their origin.

In many cases we find associations which had been made by Myers in his lifetime, and were thus normal for him, but which were unlikely to have been made by the automatist; so that unless we can show that they could have been derived from the latter's knowledge of Myers' works or history, it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that his mind was somehow responsible for their appearance in the script.

In the 'Statius' and 'Ear of Dionysius' cases, the knowledge shown and the associations made were all clearly appropriate to the mind of Dr. Verrall, or, in the latter case, to Prof. Butcher's as well. It is not impossible that they might have been derived from the subliminal mind of Mrs. Verrall, but in that case we must credit her with supernormal knowledge of the classical works and books of reference from which alone that knowledge could have been drawn.

That many of the cases are in the nature of literary puzzles can hardly be doubted, and if this be so, some mind or minds must have designed them. It is too improbable to be seriously suggested that the coherence and design which is exhibited in the more complex cases was simply due to chance. It is constantly claimed that these puzzles have been set by that mind which inspired the scripts and the claim seems, on the whole, to be justifiable.

There was no person living who consciously and supraliminally designed the puzzles, so we are left with two alternatives, viz., that they were designed by the subliminal mind of someone living, or by the surviving mind of a deceased person. I think that we may reasonably narrow down these alternatives by restricting the possible authorship to members of the group of automatists and investigators on the one hand, and the surviving personalities of Myers and his associates on the other. It is, of course, possible that the source was quite extraneous to either of these groups, but there is no indication of any evidence that it was so.

Now any mind which possessed the requisite classical and literary knowledge could have designed the puzzles, and there were in both groups persons who fulfilled this condition. It is true that in the case of the living group there are some instances where the knowledge was not supraliminally possessed, as for example, the connection between 'In Memoriam' and 'Plotinus' and the others which I mentioned a few pages previously, but as we have no means of determining the extent of the subliminal knowledge of any person, this cannot be held to be decisive.

In speaking, as I have done, of a group of surviving personalities, it must be understood that I do so only as an hypothesis. Unless such hypothesis is a priori impossible or of so high an antecedent improbability as to be unworthy of serious consideration, it is permissible so to speak. There are those who, on other grounds, have already come to the conclusion that the death of the body entails the final extinction of anything which could be called a personality or mind, and for these no evidence, such as has been here presented, will avail to influence their decision. They are quite right in taking this attitude so long as they remain satisfied that the grounds of their original conclusion are adequate. For them survival is either impossible, or so improbable as to be practically impossible, so there is nothing more to be said about the matter.

However, there are many others, equally competent, who do not accept this conclusion, and for them the evidence of cross correspondences may possess validity. As it is only such persons, if any, who are likely to read this and similar books, it is to them alone that I address my remarks.

We have now arrived at the position that the two most probable hypotheses which we can make to account for the facts are telepathy between the automatists and/or the investigators, combined with subliminal in excess of supraliminal knowledge, and inspiration of some sort from the surviving personalities of Myers and his group. Both these hypotheses, we have agreed, are not so antecedently improbable as to be rejected a priori, and it only remains to weigh one against the other and to make a provisional decision based on an estimate of their relative probabilities.

We have, as I see it, four relevant questions to answer.

First. What is the probability that any member of the living group subliminally invented the plan of cross correspondences, devised the literary puzzles and foisted them on the other members of the group? In considering this question it must be remembered that if responsibility for the invention and execution of the plan be ascribed to the subliminal mind of one of the living group, we must also ascribe to that mind the intention to deceive.

Second. What was the probability that a member of the living group possessed the requisite subliminal addition to his or her normal knowledge? In all cases I think that it may be said that some member of the other group had the necessary knowledge when alive.

Third. Were the associations displayed more appropriate to one group than to the other, and what was the probability in the matter?

Fourth. Was the dramatic personation exhibited by the scripts such as to warrant us in ascribing authorship, and, if so, with what degree of probability?

Regarding the first question, we have independent evidence which tends to show that the subliminal mind may indulge in deception of this kind, although I do not know of any instances where it was carried to anything approaching the pitch and elaboration here shown, nor carried on continuously over so long a period of years.

As a rule these other cases of deception are simple impersonations, as when messages purporting to come from the surviving personalities of deceased human beings are given through a medium or automatist.

Moreover, there is the question of selection of the material for the puzzles and the combination of the various parts into a coherent whole. This represents a formidable task for some of the more complex cases. However, the fact that this task was actually performed by some mind, shows that it is not beyond the powers of the subliminal, for we cannot admit that the supraliminal is necessarily superior in intelligence, if anything the reverse may be true.

But I suggest that it may seem unreasonable to attribute to the same level of consciousness intellectual powers of a very high order and a rather stupid spirit of trickery and deception. One would not expect a scientist of the first rank to publish a set of false statements and fallacious inferences, cunningly designed to deceive, for the sole purpose of bolstering up an erroneous hypothesis.

There is some internal evidence in the scripts which bears on the matter. If we study the 'Statius' and 'Ear of Dionysius' scripts, I think that we get a strong impression that the author of these was well acquainted with the plan but had had no actual experience of carrying it out. This seems to be the obvious meaning of the words used in the first script in the 'Ear of Dionysius' case: 'This sort of thing is more difficult to do than it looked.'[1] If the communications were in some way inspired by Dr. Verrall, this remark is singularly appropriate.

[1] Proc., SPR, Vol. XXIX, p. 199.

The communicator's style and technique in these two cases seem somewhat different from those shown in the cases attributed to Myers. This is what we might expect if they were inspired by Dr. Verrall.

The second and third of these questions have been discussed pretty fully in passing, and it is unnecessary to add much here.

The 'Ear of Dionysius' case is, perhaps, the best evidence on the matter, not only on account of the richness of detail but also of the inaccessibility of the source of the knowledge. That source was a highly technical work by an American scholar, such that it would be read by few even among classical students; the clue was given by the name of Philoxenus of Cythera, a classical poet of whom very little is known.

The answer to the third question depends, of course, upon the attitude taken up as regards the second. If one of the automatists possessed the requisite subliminal knowledge, she might have made the associations. On the other hand, in the absence of such knowledge it is highly unlikely that they would have occurred by mere chance.

It must be remembered that where there are two or more independent conditions of which the probability has been assessed, the combined probability is the product and not the sum of the individual probabilities Thus, suppose that we assessed the probability in Question 1 as 3 to 1 against a member of the living group having devised the puzzles, i.e. probability = 1/4, and in Question 2 as 4 to 1 against such member having the requisite subliminal knowledge, i.e. probability 1/5 the combined probability against assigning authorship to that group is 1/20 or 19 to 1 against.

I do not suppose that any reader will feel disposed to attempt to assign a numerical value to any of these probabilities, such a thing is clearly impossible, but it is well to bear in mind that two independent probabilities reinforce each other to a greater extent than by mere addition.

The conditions contained in Questions 3 and 4 are not wholly independent, so the mode of combination of their probabilities would not be the same as for 1 and 2. However, if they be in the same sense they lend added weight, if they be in the opposite sense they may detract, but not necessarily to the same extent as they would add. For example, if we felt pretty sure that no member of the living group devised the puzzles or had the requisite subliminal knowledge, the fact that the dramatic personation was poor need not seriously upset our confidence. It might be that dramatic personation was not being aimed at.

Common sense is the only guide in this matter, mathematical treatment is not applicable.

Concerning the fourth question, some further discussion is necessary. It must be remembered that some of the automatists, in particular Mrs. and Miss Verrall and all the investigators, were personally acquainted with Myers and other members of the group in their lifetimes; of the other automatists, Mrs. Piper must have known Myers fairly well, for she stayed at his house for some weeks, she was also well acquainted with Hodgson as she had had a long series of sittings with him in America.

It must be admitted that in the case of Myers the characteristics or, as I have called it, the dramatic personation shown in the scripts is very unequal.

But in this connection I would refer to the remarks made by Sir Oliver Lodge, quoted on page 91, wherein he points out that the Myers personalities which come through the different automatists are not all exactly the same; the Myers element is in no case pure and undiluted.

The most striking instance of dramatic personation is in the 'Statius' case, concerning which Rev. M. A. Bayfield, a most intimate friend of Dr. Verrall's, writes[2]: 'These additional reasons for assigning to Dr. Verrall the scripts which we are examining can, I fear, be fully appreciated only by those who knew him somewhat intimately, for they consist in the exhibition in, the scripts of two traits of his personality which, highly characteristic though they are, would not be likely to come under the notice of an ordinary acquaintance, or be known by hearsay to a stranger.' Concerning certain passages in the script, he writes[3]: 'All this is Verrall's manner to the life in animated conversation.' 'When I first read the words quoted above I received a series of little shocks, for the turns of speech are Verrall's, the high-pitched emphasis is his, and I could hear the very tones in which he would have spoken each sentence.'

[2] Proc., SPR, Vol. XXVII, p. 244.
[3] Ibid., p. 246.

He sums up in these words[4]: 'It remains to mention one more point which also impresses me strongly. We have here an extraordinarily faithful representation of Verrall in respect of a peculiar kind of impatience and a habit of emphasis which he had in conversation, and of his playfulness and sense of humour. In what way are these lifelike touches of character introduced? How are they worked into the essential matter of the scripts? Have they the air of being inserted by an ingenious forger (the unprincipled subliminal of some living person) with a purpose, in order to lend convincing uraisemblance to a fictitious impersonation; or do they give us the impression of being spontaneous and genuine? Unless I am inexcusably mistaken, no one accustomed to estimate the internal evidence afforded by a document of doubtful origin could hesitate as to the answer.' 'To me, at least, it is incredible that even the cleverest could achieve such an unexampled triumph in deceptive impersonation as this would be if the actor is not Verrall himself.'

[4] Proc., SPR, Vol. XXVII, p. 249.

It is, of course, difficult for those who have no acquaintance with the dramatis personae to form a judgment in this matter, but I think that the opinion of one who, like Mr. Bayfield, counted Dr. Verrall as his 'oldest and dearest friend' must carry considerable weight.

Mrs. Willett's acquaintance with Dr. Verrall was very slight, far too slight for her to have had so intimate a knowledge of his personality as to reproduce his characteristic mannerisms to the extent shown in the scripts, so that unless we can ascribe the whole thing to telepathy from some living mind, there seems a high probability that it was somehow inspired by the surviving consciousness of Dr. Verrall.

Finally, before submitting the case to the jury for their verdict, there is one general consideration which must be mentioned. We can understand, or at least we think that we can understand, pretty well what is meant by communication from a living person, whether from the supraliminal or subliminal part of the mind. It is true, perhaps, that if we tried to state definitely what is implied by this partition of the mind, we might get into serious difficulties. I, personally, think that we should most certainly do so.

But without going into the metaphysics of the thing, we have a rough idea sufficient for the purposes of the hypothesis.

We have experience of countless instances of supraliminal mental events and we also have experiential knowledge of other events which look as though they were mental yet are clearly not supraliminal. It is these which we call subliminal. We may not understand fully their nature or modus operandi, but they are sufficiently familiar for us to feel at home with them.

The same may be said, though in a somewhat less degree, of telepathy; we do not understand it, but we have come across it sufficiently frequently for us to employ the conception of it in our hypotheses without feeling much discomfort.

Thus it is that we can put forward the explanation of telepathy from the living, combined with subliminal knowledge in excess of the normal, and feel more or less satisfied that we know what we are talking about.

But communication from, or inspiration by, the surviving consciousness of deceased human beings is a very 'different pair of shoes.' I know that many, perhaps most, people would, at first sight, see no particular difficulty in the conception of survival, whether they accept it as fact or not. They might say: 'I know what I mean when I talk about the mind or consciousness of a living human being, I also know what I mean when I talk about his body; the two things are clearly distinguishable. By survival, therefore, I mean that the first goes on existing when the second has been destroyed.'

This attitude, however, involves a good many assumptions, both explicit and implicit, for which we have no sufficient warrant.

The only minds of which we have any experiential knowledge are embodied minds, we have no certain knowledge of a disembodied one. We do not know that the conditions of space and time to which we are accustomed prevail in the state of existence which the hypothetical disembodied mind must occupy; neither do we know that the familiar categories of cause and effect, sameness and difference and of number, apply in that state. They may do so but until we have some definite experience on which to found them, our opinions on the matter can never be more than assumptions, which, however plausible they may be, are not based on experiential knowledge.

Moreover, experience seems to be subject to certain fundamental laws or principles: these have been variously formulated; as an example I would cite the law known as the 'Law of Contradiction.' This states that two contradictory propositions cannot both be true at the same time; or the law of 'Excluded Middle.' A either is B or is not B.

These laws appear to us to be self-evidently true; we cannot conceive an exception. Yet we have no right to assume that they necessarily apply in a state of existence of which we have no knowledge whatsoever: the King's writ may run all over his dominions, but not necessarily across the frontier.

To discuss the matter further, would take us too far out on the perilous waters of metaphysical speculation, but I can give one example. Speaking for myself I think that I have an inescapable conviction of being one and only one person, my moods may vary but behind them all is one and only one 'me.' I cannot conceive myself as being split up into two, or as merging into someone else's self. I am I and no one else. Of course I may be unique in this, but I imagine that most people feel the same.

But Sir Oliver Lodge speaks of the Myers personalities as manifested through the various automatists not being all the same: there is some part of Myers present but the personality of the script is a compound or mixture[5].

[5] It should be noted that this opinion, expressed by Sir Oliver Lodge, is only one possible interpretation of the facts. They may be explained equally well in the following manner. We derive our conception of the communicating personality solely from the internal evidence of the scripts. It is as though we were forming an estimate of the character of someone, of whom we had no other knowledge, by reading letters which he had written. Now, if these letters had been the joint production of two people, say, that they had been written by a secretary, not from dictation, but from notes supplied, they would exhibit a compound or mixture of characteristics. The scripts may be looked upon as being of this nature, the communicator inspires them in some way, but the automatist acts as secretary rather than as a mere amanuensis, and thus contributes a considerable share of the internal characteristics.

We may be unable, with our embodied minds, to conceive how two separate personalities can merge into one, yet if disembodied minds exist at all, the conditions of their existence may, for all that we know, be such that the hard and fast lines of demarcation between individualities no longer prevail. If, while I am in the body, I am I and no one else, it does not necessarily follow that when freed from the body this will remain true. It might be, as some have held, that the disembodied mind or soul is somehow reabsorbed into a cosmic soul and yet retains its personality.

Moreover, the me which I recognize as myself in this life is a composite entity, it is composed of both mental and physical factors. This is immediately obvious if one considers how great is the influence on the self of the state of bodily health, what sweeping change in character may be produced by drugs or injury to the brain. But, although it is generally agreed that there is a factor in the manifested personality due to the physical organism, there is wide divergence of opinion as to its extent and importance.

The tendency of physiologists and some psychologists is to assign to the physical the predominant share in the partnership, many authorities even go so far as to reduce mind to the level of a sort of by-product, an epiphenomenon as it is called, of the working of the cerebro-neural organism. If, however, these extreme views should be correct it is of little use to discuss the question of survival, for, while survival may remain conceivably possible, it seems so highly improbable as to be hardly worth consideration.

To discuss the matter in all its aspects is quite beyond the scope of this book, but I have thought it right thus briefly to mention it, so that, in considering their verdict on the evidence put before them, my readers may avoid falling into the error of assuming that the naive, uncritical hypothesis of survival, i.e. that that which survives is an exact replica of the personality which was manifested in this life, is the only possible alternative to complete extinction.

They are at liberty to hold that evidence establishes a probability that there is some sort of survival of personality, while leaving undefined the exact nature of that personality and the conditions in which it exists.

That so large a tincture of agnosticism should pervade our opinions is, in my opinion, inevitable and not undesirable. Though it may be that the 'me' which I have recognized as myself in this life may cease to be after physical death, there may be a larger 'me' which survives[6].

[6] See last sentence of the passage from Human Personality, quoted on p. 12.

To some this may appear an unsatisfactory conclusion, and extinction of that which they have been accustomed to regard as being their total and only self, an unwelcome thought, but it must be remembered that if that self no longer exist it can no longer suffer any pain or disappointment, while, if there be a larger self which survives, that survival may be far more satisfying to it than would be any continuance of the partial manifestation which played its fleeting part in this life.

This then is the case for survival as presented by the evidence of cross correspondences and automatism, and I leave it to the jury of my readers to form their own opinions.


The above article was taken from H. F. Saltmarsh's "Evidence of Personal Survival from Cross-Correspondences" (London: G. Bell, 1938).

Related Articles

Three Simple Cross-correspondence Experiments by H. F. Saltmarsh
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Cross-correspondences (2) by Rosalind Heywood
Introduction to the study of Cross-Correspondence by Oliver Lodge
Cross-Correspondences by W. H. Salter
Cross-Correspondences: New Evidence by W. H. Salter

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Some parts The International Survivalist Society 2005