Gerald N. M. Tyrrell

G. N. M. Tyrrell

Educated at Haileybury and London University. In 1923 he decided to devote himself entirely to Psychical Research. Wrote several highly acclaimed works. Joined the Society for Psychical Research in 1908 and became President in 1945.


 - G. N. M. Tyrrell -

         SECONDARY PERSONALITIES - The natural tendency of the scientific student of psychical phenomena, and particularly of the psychological student, will be to explain trance-personalities as instances of the dual and multiple personalities met with in abnormal psychology. But (as always in psychical research) there is need for caution. It is possible that such a view may be true up to a point, and yet not cover the whole field. Dr. William Brown(1) speaks of '" Feda," who is apparently of a childish nature, and may psychologically be regarded as a regression in relation to Mrs. Leonard's adult consciousness.' But he goes on to say, 'If I speak there as though I agreed with this theory, I hasten to add that it is only a very superficial way of describing and envisaging the facts, and what we have to consider is the possibility that this relationship is not anything like so close as those who have not made much direct study of mediums are ready to believe.'

(1) 'Psychology and Psychical Research,' Proc. S.P.R., vol. xli. p. 78.

The subjects of 'split' personalities are advanced hysterics but Dr. Brown says, after a study of Mrs. Osborne Leonard, that he is inclined to think that a case of successful mediumship shows very little evidence of hysteria.

There seems to be some evidence, however, for the view that controls such as Feda are secondary personalities of a kind. Mr. Whately Carington, as we saw in Chapter XV, produced evidence by his word-association method tending to show that Feda is 'counter-similar' in her responses to Mrs. Leonard herself.

Control- and Communicator- Vehicles - Mr. Kenneth Richmond, in his notes on Mrs. Leonard, above quoted, introduces the idea that there may be psychological mechanisms in the medium's subconscious which act as vehicles through which there operates a purposive will to communicate. He adopts provisionally the view that 'we are dealing with two chief psychological mechanisms: one an organized and habitual secondary personality, which is usually (I do not say always) the vehicle for the Feda control; and the other, a dramatizing function of the trance-mind, which adapts itself to become the vehicle for the different communicators. In saying "vehicle" I free myself from any suspicion of thinking that "secondary personality" or "dramatic pose" (to adopt Mr. Carington's useful phrase) can explain or characterize the impulses that operate through these mechanisms.'

This conception is, I think, a valuable step towards the understanding of trance-phenomena, because it recognizes that the problem contains depth. 'Flat' explanations, such as that the deceased communicator, substantially as he was before his decease, is speaking through a kind of psychic telephone, or that mediumistic phenomena are merely the result of auto-hypnosis, simply will not do. The problem contains vistas; there is a receding and uncomprehended background. The fruitful idea is that there are psychological organizations acting as 'vehicles,' which are being used by some will or intention behind them. And there seems to be mutual adaptation, each in the process conditioning, and being conditioned by the other. Further, in these control- and communicator-vehicles, Mr. Richmond sees alternative paths of free association, which are utilized by the communicating impulses. Sometimes, he observes, these alternate, 'Sometimes Feda seems to be speaking, sometimes the communicator, sometimes you cannot be grammatically sure which.

The importance of maintaining fluent lines of association is clearly brought out again and again in the trance-sittings. In fact, the possibilities of communication seem to be hedged about by available association-trains. Mr. Drayton Thomas records that a controlling communicator, Etta, once says: 'Feda often takes some important thought from a communicator without his desire and she will use it to fill up and keep things moving; for a long spell of silence would make Feda lose hold of the medium. This accounts for trivial matters being brought in disconnectedly at times.'(2)

(2) Proc. S.P.R., vol. xxxviii. p. 58.

Again, in some book-tests with Miss Radcliffe Hall, occurs the sentence (referring to the books),' You may have to dislodge some of them in order to see the title...' after which the flow of speech was diverted into a new channel and the words, 'Lodge, Lodge, Raymond,' etc., followed. The word, 'dislodge,' slightly unusual in this context, had been inserted by the communicator as a switch-word to lead to the topic of Raymond Lodge. Feda follows this up with:

'You know, Ladye says it's so extraordinary, but she has to act upon Feda sometimes in a way Feda don't understand when she's in the medium, and she was afraid Feda wouldn't take up the reference to Raymond, so she had to worry to get a word that would suggest Raymond to Feda; she says she's done that often and she's wondered if you had guessed she was doing that, and how carefully she has to lead Feda to a new idea. Feda knows that, 'cos when Feda's in the medium she's only got like half of Feda's own sense, she's not half so clever as when she's out of the medium.'

One might have thought that the systems of association belonging to these 'vehicles' would take charge of the communicated material and mould it according to their own natural trends, but this proves actually to be not the case, at any rate where good or fairly good sittings are concerned with a first-class medium. 'Cliches' are surprisingly few.

'Organized routes,' says Mr. Richmond, 'for leading up to a favourite type of subject are certainly present, such as one can observe in the conversational habits of one's friends (these are easier to observe than one's own habits); but I find on careful examination that these stock openings have a remarkable way of leading each to a different track of association which is appropriate to the given communicator. I have tried to interpret this as a process in which the motivation arises in the trance-mind alone, and the deflection towards evidential fact is due to telepathic impacts from the living; but the difficulty of accounting for selection among such impacts is very great...'

Again he says:

'Given a wish on the part of the medium to produce evidence of survival, and long experience in trance, with a multitude of sitters, of the lines of suggestion which are most likely to produce vivid personal associations, it is very possible for systems of safe guesses to be automatically organized, which become endowed with a great appearance of authenticity and individual quality when they are enriched by striking annotations. The intentions manifested at a sitting might be types of intention in the trance-mind alone which have been found to be readily supplemented by the associations of sitters and annotators. I think this machinery certainly exists, though much less pervasively than I imagined when I started the investigation; but I think the most interesting thing about it is the regularity with which it defeats its apparent object. In the best sittings, it is the allusions which the communicator-impulse appears to have forced away from the expected rut that arrive at something specific in the mind of the annotator.'


'The vague forms of organized intention that seem attributable to the trance-mind alone, with its past experience, appear as being quite distinctly manipulated, deflected, and sometimes negatived by another form of intention.'

So that we find that, when trance-material of good quality is carefully analyzed, the psychological organizations in the medium turn out to be by no means dominating the situation; their inherent tendencies and trains of association are being utilized by intelligent effort, which is acting on them from without.

Fictitious Communicators - The fact that entirely fictitious communicators occasionally appear in the trance shows clearly that secondary organizations of some kind exist in the medium. I think that such false communicators are a sign of bad conditions and seldom occur with the best mediums; but Mrs. Sidgwick, in her thorough examination of Mrs. Piper's trance(3), refers to such cases.

(3) 'The Psychology of Mrs. Piper's Trance Phenomena,' Proc. S.P.R., vol. xxviii. p. 176.

A Mrs. E., who had had three sittings with Mrs. Piper in 1902, received the impression that 'some intelligence was impersonating, deliberately and with considerable ingenuity, and yet on the whole doing it so ill that the deception is proved beyond a peradventure.' 'On the third sitting,' she says, 'I asked leading questions which were calculated to mislead; and in every case the communicator fell into the trap, with a result that would have been ludicrous had it not been so disgusting.'

The point is best dealt with by making a rather long quotation from Mrs. Sidgwick's report. She says that the dissatisfaction expressed by Mrs. E. was borne out by the full record of her sittings, and expresses well the impression produced on herself by a good many sittings. She gives the record of one such sitting at which she was present, at which Hodgson-p was the communicator and apparently failed to recognize the sitter, an intimate friend of his in life, or to understand the clues she gave him, thus making it very difficult to suppose that his claim to be Hodgson was justified. Yet, in the midst of the confusion supernormal matter occurred in the shape of part of a cross-correspondence. But, she continues, 'We are not ... limited to inference from the failure of communicators for evidence that they are sometimes not what they profess to be, for Dr. Stanley Hall in 1909 took a short cut to positive evidence by deceiving the control Hodgson-p,(4) and asking for a niece, Bessie Beals, who had never existed, but who was nevertheless produced at several sittings.' The sitting went as follows:

(4) Dr. Stanley Hall, Studies in Spiritism, p. 254.

Dr. Hall. Well, what do you say to this, Hodgson. I asked you to call Bessie Beals, and there is no such person. How do you explain that?

Hodgson-p. Bessie Beals is here, and not the -

(Note by Miss Tanner.)

[At this point we laughed and I made some remark to the effect that that was just what we had said Hodgson would do, and the hand continued thus,]

Hodgson-p. I know a Bessie Beals. Her mother asked about her before. Mother asked about her before.

'Dr. Hall. I don't know about that, Hodgson. Bessie Beals is a pure fiction.

Hodgson-p. I refer to a lady who asked me the same thing and the same name.

'Dr. Hall. Guess you are wrong about that, Hodgson.

Hodgson-p. Yes, I am mistaken in her. I am mistaken. Her name was not Bessie but Jessie Beals.

We can only say about this explanation that it is not plausible. Dr. Hall might accidentally have hit on the name of a previous communicator, but it is very unlikely that this communicator would have had memories appropriate to Dr. Hall's fictions and have admitted him as her uncle.

'It must then be admitted that some communicators are not genuine, while other communicators offer evidence of identity which, if it does not necessarily come from the spirits they claim to be, at least shows knowledge of those spirits which cannot have reached Mrs. Piper's mind by normal means. This being so, is it possible to find a formula which will express the relation to the control of all communicators-both successful and unsuccessful? Are they or are they not essentially different? Is the unsuccessful communicator a figment of the control's imagination, while the successful communicator is an independent entity? If so, can we draw a definite line between them? Are we to judge a communicator representing himself as the same, to be on some days a figment and on others an independent centre of consciousness, according as he is unsuccessful or successful in producing a plausible semblance of the figure he professes to be? And if the communicator is a figment, is the control conscious of it, or is he himself deceived? In other words, what is the degree of independence of control from communicator? Are two more or less independent centres of consciousness involved; whether consciousnesses of separate individuals or different centres of consciousness of Mrs. Piper? Or is the -communicator a dream or hallucination of the control? Or is the dramatic presentation of him pure play-acting by the control?'(5)

(5) Proc. S.P.R., vol. xxviii. pp. 78-9.

Mrs. Sidgwick's conclusion, so far as the Piper phenomena are concerned, has been referred to in Chapter XI. Although she recognizes in the trance personalities a greater capacity in some directions than the normal Mrs. Piper possessed, particularly in the 'G. P.' case, some of whose friends found it easier to suppose that he was not an impersonation but G. P. himself, yet she thinks that these are 'quite as compatible with the hypothesis that the trance-personalities are phases or elements of Mrs. Piper as with any other.' One must not, however, suppose that this was Mrs. Sidgwick's opinion about all trance-phenomena. She allowed it, in fact to be known at a later date, that she accepted the identity of the Willett communicators.

Three cases of a very extraordinary kind are reported by Mr. S. G. Soal(6), in one of which, the case of James Miles, the information supplied by the communicator at the sittings seems to have been derived in some way or other almost wholly from newspaper reports. In another, the case of Gordon Davis, the communicator, purporting to be deceased, was afterwards found to be alive; while in a third, the communicator, John Ferguson, was entirely fictitious. This remarkable trio of spurious cases lacks, however, customary corroboration.

(6) 'A Report on some Communications received through Mrs. Blanche Cooper,' Proc. S.P.R., vol. xxxv. p. 471.

On April 5, 1918, Dr. L. P. jacks had a sitting with Mrs. Leonard in which a young man was described by Feda, his appearance being given in considerable detail(7). The sitter notes: 'I cannot identify him. I thought at first it was my son, Captain S. Jacks, at the front, as the description tallies at several points. I was afraid he might have been killed. I now know he was alive at the time of the sitting.' Mrs. Salter notes, writing in 1921, 'He was, and is, still alive.' Part of the general note on the sitting made by the sitter runs as follows:

(7) 'A Further Report on Sittings with Mrs. Leonard,' by Mrs. W. H. Salter (Proc. S.P.R., vol. xxxii. p. 133).

'The total impression left on my mind is similar to that left by many common dreams. There is the same muddle and incoherency at first, in which definite personalities seem to appear for a moment and then change into somebody else, the facts getting hopelessly mixed up, the action of one person shading off into that of another. And then towards the end the dream becomes more coherent and interesting, keeping up a definite character for a time, with a sudden return to nonsense (the Archdeacon, etc.) and a momentary reappearance of the people first on the scene.'

This seems to have been an instance of a Leonard sitting of poor quality. In the A. V. B. series, quoted above, it will be remembered that Feda was, on the whole, remarkably clear and definite.

Mr. John F. Thomas, in his recently published book, Beyond Normal Cognition, also gives an instance of a living person being represented as being deceased. He says:

'In my own records there is a case that shows similarity to the one just described. A trance-personality purported to communicate in an experiment with Mrs. Soule(8), when I was present. The points from this trance-personality were sufficiently applicable to establish the impression that he was presented as the father of E. L. T. So far as I knew, the father of E. L. T. was living at the time, but his physical condition was such that his death would not have been unexpected. I thought that possibly he was deceased without my knowledge, and I telegraphed a daughter as to the time of his death. He proved, however, to be still living, and he survived until about a year and a half after the date of the "communication."' (pp. 206-7.)

(8) Mrs. Soule is a celebrated American medium.

In 1923, Dr. F. C. S. Schiller reported a curious case(9) of a lady who had taken up ouija board writing, obtaining messages which she believed to come from her stepfather, to whom she had been devoted. She had a nervous breakdown and was warned to give up the writing. In the sequel she became insane and had to be put in a sanatorium. The diagnosis of the doctors was, however, that she was suffering from senile dementia, due to arterio-sclerosis, and that this was wholly the result of her age. The interesting point was that messages came through Mrs. Piper in which the insane woman appeared to communicate as a deceased person. Moreover, the controls stated that she believed that she had already died, and gave a correct diagnosis of the illness from which she was actually suffering, agreeing with that given by the doctors.

(9) Journal S.P.R., vol. xxi. p. 87.

Such examples show that there can be ostensible communicators, which cannot be regarded as genuine and which accept any suggestion of the sitter's, use 'fishing' methods to gain information, make unplausible evasions when brought to book, and seem, in fact, to be hypnoidal dramatizations within the medium's self. Their performances are not sufficiently intelligent to support the belief, held in some quarters, that they are of diabolical origin. If they are, the demons would not appear to be very formidable. But it is interesting to note that certain cases tend to show that sick or insane persons can, through telepathic action, appear falsely as communicators. This fact reminds one of the 'One Horsed Dawn' experiment,(10) tried by Dr. Verrall, and referred to in Chapter XVII, which showed telepathic action from the living appearing in dramatic form in the percipient.

(10) See Proc. S.P.R., vol. xx. pp. 156-67.
(9) Journal S.P.R., vol. xxi. p. 87.

But these cases form the lower end of the scale of trance-phenomena. At the other end appear such forceful, clear, and natural communicators as those of the Willett scripts; while between the two are communicators of varying degrees of plausibility and veridicality. Communicators, also, can vary in quality with the medium and with the occasion, all of which tends to support the view that the communicators are variable entities of a compound nature.

We will now go on to consider certain points in the psychology of the Willett phenomena.

The Willett Trance and Allied States. - To give anything like a full account of the states or phases of the self involved in the Willett phenomena from the scripts and comments in Lord Balfour's report would be an exceedingly difficult task. The Willett trance has been called 'autonomous,' and it is true that, during the scripts and D. I.s, it is Mrs. Willett herself, and no other entity, who controls the motor mechanisms of her body: but that changes of some sort occur in the personality is obvious. Besides the fact that there is as a rule no recollection in the normal state of what was said in the D. I.'s, there are two distinct types of script, the disjointed or allusive type and the connected type, and the change from reporting in the third to reporting in the first person, which marks the transition from one to the other, would seem to indicate some change in the sensitive's personality. In the allusive type of script we seem to see Mrs. Willett herself struggling with the matter she is being given to externalize. Almost every sentence begins, 'Oh, he says,' and the distaste of the automatist for many of the words and the topics is very marked. For example:

'... But, he says, the subliminal - he says the supraliminal has access to - he says to me, You've got the analogies all wrong, try again. Begin the other end, he says. The transcendental self - he says something about a point of release - oh, Edmund, you do bore me so - the passing of itself into stratas [sic] of subliminality, etc.'

On the other hand, the D. I. can be extremely smooth and connected. On January 21, 1912,(11) G. W. B. asks Gurney-w a question about telaesthesia, and about the mythical 'room' into which the sensitive was said to be taken, and the reply came in this way:

(11) Proc. S.P.R., vol. xiiii. p. 243.

'"I'll throw something at you, and you must make what you can of it. I'll take that portion of her which can emerge in uprush, and I, as it were, link it on with that deeper subliminal which can be in touch with what I want to get known ..." and so on.'

Here the script is in the first person, as if Gurney-w himself were speaking, and Mrs. Willett is referred to as 'her.' There are no breaks or protests from Mrs. Willett: the whole runs smoothly. G. W. B. comments:

'The writing stage that preceded the D. I. had been comparatively short, but the sitting as a whole was an unusually long one, lasting nearly two hours. The passage we are now considering came at the very end of it, and was preceded by discussions of a decidedly abstruse character which seem to have bewildered the sensitive and put a severe strain upon her attention. The record of these discussions abounds in the familiar interjected phrases, "He says," "Oh, he says," whereas the long answer to my question about the "room" is uniquely free from them. Just before I asked it, Gurney had addressed a word of encouragement to the sensitive: "He says, you've got it now, and he says, No bones broken - and he says to me, You know, dear, I feel sometimes I must appear to' you like the Devil when he said, Cast thyself down, but he says if only you'll go blindly there'll be no pieces to pick up." I suggest that the advice to "go blindly" was acted upon by the sensitive, and that the almost complete absence of the usual interjections was due to her simply repeating each word and not attempting to grasp the meaning sentence by sentence.'

But clearly there is a change in personality, or in what Mr. Richmond would call the 'communicator vehicle,' of such a kind that the sensitive has become in some way more identified with it.

In everything they say, the Willett communciators; describe the transmission of matter from their end as a difficult and complex process traversing layers or strata of the sensitive's personality which lie beneath the level of the normal, conscious self. On one occasion Gurney-w says:

'... I want to make a shot at a partial definition of what constitutes mediumship. That organization in which the capacity for-what an odd word - oh, Edmund, say it slowly - excursus is allied to the capacity for definite selection. Then finally the possession of as it were a vent, through which the knowledge can emerge ...'

A good deal more explanation follows, which is rather obscure and interrupted, but the 'excursus,' which Gurney-w is trying to explain, is evidently something which takes place in a very deep level of the self, and has an affinity with mystical experience. It is, in fact, reminiscent of the idea of contemplation, as it occurs in the philosophy of Plotinus. It is an act of entering into relationship with the spiritual environment.

'The passing into it, which is the effect of the excursus, is variously described in the scripts as "the crossing of a border," "the freeing of that which is capable of intuitional visions of fardistant worlds," "the falling of barriers," "the delocalization of the soul testifying to the existence of a whole," "the escape from the limits of self," "the escape of the smaller into the larger."'

And again:

'The Myers of the scripts tells us . . . that, "Ecstasy springs from meditation"; and he draws an emphatic distinction between meditation and lethargy or torpor. The very term "excursus" suggests an active process; and the language employed by the sensitive herself, in such phrases as "I want to get out of myself, I'm so tired of myself, I want to be enlarged," carries a similar implication.'(12)

(12) Proc. S.P.R. vol. xliii. p. 221.

It is by this faculty of excursus, according to the Willett communicators, that the ideas for transmission are acquired; then there comes a shepherding of them up through levels of the sensitive's personality, a final selection and then a crystallization in terms of supraliminally objectified ideas - a translation, as it were, into the kind of thinking we call 'normal.' So that phases or levels or strata of the self are involved in the passage of these ideas, but in what manner these are separated from one another, and in what manner united, remains a mystery.

Again, in speaking of the visions which Mrs. Willett has in the lighter stages of her trance, which she can to some extent afterwards remember, Lord Balfour says: 'They are pseudo-hallucinations, not hallucinations. And the difference is of kind, not merely of degree. Like presences, these visions have an objectivity of their own, but not exactly the objectivity associated with sense-perception.'(13) This latter sentence suggests that the perceptual consciousness in which these trance-visions are experienced is not identical with the consciousness of normal perception: consequently, the quality of objectivity belonging to the imagery which occurs in them is not the same

(13) Ibid. p. 86. Here again the idea of non-normal sense-imagery is suggested.

as the quality of objectivity which belongs to the imagery of normal perception. It is as if the kind of 'real-seemingness' (if one may coin such a term) is a function of the kind of consciousness accompanying the particular kind of perception. Yet, all the time, in some real sense, both are the consciousness of the same Mrs. Willett. There is, in these phases of selfhood, a unity in difference which refuses to accommodate itself to our habitual modes of thought. The lesson we should learn from it is, I think, that we must expand our categories of thought to take in the facts; not try to force the facts into our existing categories.

Remarks of the Willett Communicators. - The degree of independence between the Willett communicators and Mrs. Willett's trance-self is throughout very striking; and certain statements and remarks made by them, which illustrate this, may be interesting. For instance, the limitation which makes them unable to know telepathically what is going on in the mind of the sitter. In a D. I. of June 4, 1911,(14) Gurney-w is giving a difficult passage, which he fears may be misunderstood:

(14) Proc. S.P.R., vol. xliii. p. 234.

'Oh, he says, Gerald - oh, he says like that. He's calling some one. Nobody answers - he keeps on calling some one. He says Gerald. Oh, he keeps on calling. Oh! He says where is Gerald?

(G. W. B. I'm here.)

'Oh, he says, does he hear? How can I know that he hears?

(G. W. B. All right, I'm hearing perfectly.)

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

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

It seems to be a general rule in all trance-phenomena (with occasional possible exceptions) that what is in the conscious minds of the sitters is inaccessible to the trance-personalities.

State of the Communicator when Communicating. - There seems to be a concensus of opinion among communicators that they are not in their natural state while communicating. Mr. Drayton Thomas, for example, quotes statements from his communicators at Leonard sittings, in the paper above referred to, in which they testify to their deficiencies when in the communicating state: 'I am not at my best even when conditions are at their best ... I do not see, remember, and feel with the same lucidity as I do when not communicating.' ' I feel that I am not complete during a sitting. I have not my whole mental power of memory and consciousness.' 'Etta has, on occasion, gone away to get remembrance of what we required, but on returning forgot again before she could tell me.' That this is not peculiar to the control type of trance would seem to be indicated by the words with which Gurney-w ends the D. I. of June A, 1911:

'He says, I must let her go away, G. Oh, he says, When I'm not trying to transmit, I'd write script the very Gods might envy, and I go over and over the things that would be of priceless value to transmit...'(15)

(15) Proc. S.P.R., vol. xliii. p. 234.

Myers H, communicating through Mrs. Holland's automatic script, once said:

'The nearest simile I can find to express the difficulties of sending a message - is that I appear to be standing behind a sheet of frosted glass-which blurs sight and deadens sound-and dictating feebly-to a reluctant and somewhat obtuse secretary.'(16)

(16) Ibid. vol. xxi. p. 230.

It seems as though these difficulties might probably be due, in part at least, to the compound nature of the communicator himself as communicator at the time of the communication. If we consider the communicator with whom we are in actual contact during these trance-sittings to be in some sense a compound resulting from Mr. Richmond's suggested 'communicator-vehicle' acting jointly with the entity which provides the will to communicate, we have an explanation of the sense of imperfection to which all communicators testify. We can also see how there may be various grades of communicators. We can think of the compound communicating entity as being composed of two constituents in varying proportions (although a quantitative way of viewing the communicator is almost certainly misleading) - partly 'vehicle' and partly 'communicator-impulse.' The vehicle may be of good or poor quality. The amount of influence which the will to communicate has over the vehicle will depend on the extent of its own contribution to the compound. There could, therefore, be a range of communicators varying from those as vigorous, lifelike, and highly intelligent as Gurney-w to the poor and unconvincing communicators, which appear at seances with bad mediums. There could even be spurious communicators, which one imagines would consist of a vehicle, mainly a secondary personality out of touch with any genuine will to communicate.

The communicators sometimes speak interestingly of their own limitations of knowledge, for example:

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

'... I cannot explain half the mysteries of Life yet, but I see more than you do ...'

'... Much and more than you suspect is absolutely hidden from me, Myers, the small amount in one way of accretion of knowledge which succeeds Myers bodily dissolution is a surprise to every spirit that crosses the Rubicon ...'

(This frequent interjection of the communicator's name was characteristic of Mrs. Willett's early scripts. It is not clear what the object of it was. It afterwards ceased.)

A Comparison of the Myers Communicators. - That the same communicating personality should show differences in its appearance in the scripts of different automatists is not surprising on any theory of the nature of the communicator , but some observations made by Miss Alice Johnson on this point are worth quoting here, since she had ample opportunity for noting and comparing characteristics of the script-personalities. There is,' she says,(17) 'an emotional tone and a note of personal appeal in the utterances of Myers-h which shows in contrast with the calmer and more impersonal, matter-of-fact tone of Myers V.' And, she continues:

(17) 'The Automatic Writing of Mrs. Holland,' Proc. S.P.R., vol. xxi. PP. 239 ff.

'If Mr. Myers really knew what was going on and if he was really concerned in the production of the scripts, it would be natural and appropriate that he should attempt to impress the two automatists in these different ways. Mrs. Verrall, a personal friend and trained investigator, was already familiar with scientific methods and in close touch with other investigators. She did not require urging to go on with her writing, from which some important evidence had already resulted. Mrs. Holland, on the other hand, was in an isolated position; she was conscious of the superficially trivial and incoherent nature of her script, and could not tell whether there was anything in it beyond a dream-like rechauffe of her own thoughts. She would naturally shrink from exposing this to strangers and thereby appearing to attach an unreasonable degree of importance to it. We may suppose then that the control realizes her situation and tries to impress on her a vivid realization of his own-his intense desire to provide evidence for survival.'

This was in the early days of Mrs. Holland's scripts.

'In a letter dated Feb. 25, 1905, she says: "I cannot tell you how glad I should be to know if the longing for recognition (it is such a passionate craving sometimes that I find myself crying out: 'If I could help you. Oh! if I could only help you!' while I write) is a real influence from beyond or only my own imaginings. But why should my imagination take that form? I have been singularly free from bereavements thus far in my life, and therefore my thoughts have been very seldom in the Valley of the Shadow...

'"In Nov. 1905, when I had asked her to read through the early script and send me any comments that occurred to her, she notes among other things: 'This sloping writing [that of the Myers control] often brings a very sad impression of great depression with it - a feeling that some one, somewhere, urgently and passionately desires to be understood, or reported even without understanding, and that no mental strain on my part can adequately respond to this demand. This feeling has been strong enough to make me cry and to make me speak aloud. I frequently control it, for it seems to me perilously akin to hysteria but it is a very real part of the automatic script.'"'

It is noteworthy, I think, that Miss Alice Johnson, as long ago as 1905, was also led by the evidence to the conclusion that the actual communicator we are dealing with is Compound. She gives an analogy:

'It is hardly possible to discuss the subject without the use of material analogies, which are constantly liable to be mistaken for' real similarities. The best method perhaps is to vary the analogies as much as possible, so as to avoid confining ourselves to fixed grooves of thought. In particular, any analogy referring to a process - such as the comparison of telepathy to wireless telegraphy - is to be deprecated, as it inevitably suggests the inference that the processes referred to are essentially similar. It is better to confine ourselves to analogies which relate simply to the facts before us and suggest nothing as to the causes that produce them.

'I will then compare the scripts to chemical compounds of two or more elements, which are found in different proportions in the various compounds. Thus, if we call the automatists P and V and the hypothetical external intelligence X, we may get in the one script such compounds as PX or P2X, or PX2, and in the other VX, etc.; or we may get in either of them such compounds as PVX, P2V3X, etc. We may also get such compounds as PV or PV2; or we may get the elements P and V by themselves. The one element that we never get alone is X.

'If this be so, the Piper-Myers is not, and never could be, identical with the Verrall-Myers. The utmost that can happen will be that the same element is found in both scripts. The burden of proof must lie with those who maintain that it is there to be found; but our methods of analysis are not yet so far perfected that we can assert positively either its presence or absence.'

This analogy with chemical compounds is helpful to the mind in its attempts to picture what is going on; but it is very necessary to bear in mind the warning that Miss Johnson gives us, namely, that we are dealing with mind, and that our materialistically inclined thought suggests conceptions of it

couched in terms of matter, so that, as she says, material analogies are constantly liable to be mistaken for real similarities. This warning is particularly needful when attempts are made to apply statistical methods to psychical research, as in Mr. Whately Carington's work referred to in Chapter XV.

We will now consider some theories as to the nature of communicators and the explanation of trance-material, and will afterwards go on to consider some arguments for and against survival, based on general grounds.

Source: "Science and Psychical Phenomena" by G. N. M. Tyrrell (New York: University Books, 1961).


Other articles by G. N. M. Tyrrell

• Alternatives to Discarnate Theory
• Attitude to Psychical Research. Part 1
• Attitude to Psychical Research. Part 2
• What is Psychical Research?
• What is Science?
• The Significance of the Whole
• The Subliminal Self and the Unconscious
• Psychical Research and Religion
• Is there Anything Besides Fraud in the Physical Sιance Room?
• The Case of Patience Worth: An Outstanding Product of Automatic Writing
• Mrs Willet: Communications Ostensibly Proceeding from the Dead
• What is Science? The Opposition Between Science and Rationalism
• Discarnate Agency: More Evidence on the Discarnate Problem
• Sense-Imagery
• Modus Operandi of the Mediumistic Trance
• The Boundary of the World of Sense
• The Movement of Modern Spiritualism

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Some parts of this page The International Survivalist Society 2003