Book: "Raymond or Life and Death"

Author: Sir Oliver Lodge FRS

Availability: Out of Print

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- (Part 3) - Chapter 10 - Life and Death -

On Means of Communication


"In scientific truth there is no finality, and there should therefore be no
dogmatism. When this is forgotten, then science will become stagnant, and
its high-priests will endeavour to strangle new learning at its birth."

R. A. Gregory, Discovery

          HOW does mind communicate with mind? Our accustomed process is singularly indirect.

Speech is the initiation of muscular movements, under brain and nerve guidance, which result in the production of atmospheric pulsations-alternate condensations and rarefactions-which spread out in all directions in a way that can be likened superficially to the spreading of ripples on a pond. In themselves the aerial pulsations have no psychical connotation, and are as purely mechanical as are those ripples, though like the indentations on the wax of a phonograph their sequence is cunningly contrived; and it is in their sequence that the code lies -a code which anyone who has struggled with a foreign language knows is difficult to learn. Sound waves have in some respects a still closer analogy with the etherial pulsations generated at a wireless-telegraph sending station, which affect all sensitive receiving instruments within range and convey a code by their artificially induced sequence.

Hearing is reception of a small modicum of the above aerial pulsations, by suitable mechanism which enables them to stimulate ingeniously contrived nerve-endings, and so at length to affect auditory centres in the brain, and to get translated into the same kind of consciousness as was responsible for the original utterance. The whole is done so quickly and easily, by the perfect physiological mechanism provided, that the indirect and surprising nature of the process is usually overlooked; as most things are when they have become familiar. Wireless telegraphy is not an iota more marvellous, but, being unfamiliar, it has aroused a sense of wonder.

Writing and Reading by aid of black marks on a piece of paper, perceived by means of the Ether instead of the air, and through the agency of the eye instead of the car, though the symbols are ultimately to be interpreted as if heard,- hardly need elaboration in order to exhibit their curiously artificial and complicated indirectness: and in their case an element of delay, even a long time-interval - perhaps centuries-may intervene between production and reception.

Artistic representation also, such as painting or music, though of a less articulate character, less dependent on purely linguistic convention and less limited by nationality, is still truly astonishing when intellectually regarded. An arrangement of pigments designed for the reception and modification and re- emission or reflexion of ether-tremors, in the one case; and, in the other, a continuous series of complicated vibrations excited by grossly mechanical means; intervene between the minds of painter and spectator, of composer and auditor, or, in more general terms, between agent and percipient,--again with possible great lapse of time.

That ideas and feelings, thus indirectly and mechanically transmitted or stored, can affect the sensitive soul in unmistakable fashion, is a fact of experience; but that deposits in matter are competent to produce so purely psychic an effect can surely only be explained in terms of the potentialities and previous experience of the mind or soul itself. No emotional influence can be expressed, or rendered intelligible, in terms of matter. Matter is an indirect medium of communication between mind and mind. That direct telepathic intercourse should be able to occur between mind and mind, without all this intermediate physical mechanism, is therefore not really surprising. It has to be proved, no doubt, but the fact is intrinsically less puzzling than many of those other facts to which we have grown hardened by usage.

Why should telepathy be unfamiliar to us? Why should it seem only an exceptional or occasional method of communication? There is probably, as M. Bergson has said, an evolutionary advantage in our present almost exclusive limitation to mechanical and physical methods of communication; for these are under muscular control and can be shut off. We can isolate ourselves from them, if not in a mechanical, then in a topographical manner: we can go away, out of range. We could not thus protect ourselves against insistent telepathy. Hence probably the practical usefulness of the inhibiting and abstracting power of the brain; a power which in some lunatics is permanently deficient.

Physical things can reach consciousness - if at all only through the brain; that remains true as regards physical things, however much we may admit telepathy from other minds; and, conversely, only through the brain can we operate with conscious purpose on the material world. To any more direct mental or spiritual intercourse we are, unless specially awakened, temporarily dead or asleep. There is some inversion of ordinary ideas here, for a state of trance appears to rouse or free the dormant faculties, and to render direct intercourse more possible. At any rate it does this for some people. For we find here and there, a few perfectly sane individuals, from whom, when in a rather exceptional state, the customary brain-limitation seems to be withdrawn or withdrawable. Their minds cease to be isolated for a time, and are accessible to more direct influences. Not the familiar part of their minds, not the part accustomed to operate and to be operated on by the habitually used portion of brain, no, but what is called a subliminal stratum of mind, a part only accessible perhaps to physical things through an ordinarily unused and only subconscious portion of the brain.

The occurrence of such people, i.e. of people with such exceptional and really simple faculties, could not have been predicted or expected on a basis of everyday experience; but if evidence is forthcoming for their existenceeven although it be not quite of an ordinary characterand if we can make examination of the subject-matter and criticise the statements of fact which are thus receivable, there is no sort of sense in opposing the facts by adducing preconceived negative opinions about impossibility, and declining to look into the evidence or judge of the results. There were people once who would not look at the satellites of Jupiter, lest their cherished convictions should be disturbed. There was a mathematician not long ago who would not see an experimental demonstration of conical refraction, lest if it failed his confidence in refined optical theory should be upset. And so, strange to say, there are people to-day who deny the fact, and condemn the investigation, of any manner of communication outside the realm of ordinary commonplace experience: having no ground at all for their denial save prejudice.

Well, like other little systems, they have their day and cease to be. We need not attend to them overmuch. If the facts of the Universe have come within our contemplation, a certain amount of contemporary blindness, though it may surprise, need not perplex us. The study of the material side of things, under the limitations appropriate thereto, has done splendid service. Only gradually can mental scope be enlarged to take in not only all this but more also.

In so far as those who are open to the less well-defined and more ambitious region are ignorant or unresponsive to what has been achieved in the material realm, it is no wonder that their asserted enlargement of scope is not credited. It does not seem likely that a new revelation has been vouchsafed to them, when they are so ignorant concerning the other and already recognised kind of Natural knowledge. They cannot indeed have attained information through the same channels, or in the same way. And it is this dislocation of knowledge, this difference of atmosphere, this barely reconcilable attitude of two diverse groups of people- though occasionally, by the device of water-tight compartments, the same individual has breathed both kinds of air and belonged to both groups-it is this bifurcation of method that has retarded mutual understanding. There are pugnacious members of either group who try to strengthen their own position by decrying the methods of the other; and were it not for the occurrence from time to time of a Wallace or a Crookes, i.e. of men who combine in their own persons something of both kinds of knowledge, attained not by different but by similar methods - all their theses being maintained and justified on scientific grounds, and after experimental inquiry - the chances for a reasonable and scientific outlook into a new region, and ultimately over the border-line into the domain of religion, would not be encouraging. The existence of such men, however, has given the world pause, has sometimes checked its facile abuse, and has brought it occasionally into a reflective, perhaps now even into a partially receptive, mood. We need not be in any hurry, though we can hardly help hoping for quick progress if the new knowledge can in any way alleviate the terrible amount of sorrow in the world at present; moreover, if a new volume is to be opened in man's study of the Universe, it is time that the early chapters were being perused.

It may be asked, do I recommend all bereaved persons to devote the time and attention which I have done to getting communications and recording them? Most certainly I do not. I am a student of the subject, and a student often undertakes detailed labour of a special kind. I recommend people in general to learn and realise that their loved ones are still active and useful and interested and happy-more alive than ever in one sense-and to make up their minds to live a useful life till they rejoin them.

What steps should be taken to gain this peaceful assurance must depend on the individual. Some may get it from the consolations of religion, some from the testimony of trusted people, while some may find it necessary to have first-hand experience of their own for a time. And if this experience can be attained privately, with no outside assistance, by quiet and meditation or by favour of occasional waking dreams, so much the better.

What people should not do, is to close their minds to the possibility of continued existence except in some lofty  and inaccessible and essentially unsuitable condition; they should not selfishly seek to lessen pain by discouraging all mention, and even hiding everything likely to remind them, of those they have lost; nor should they give themselves over to unavailing and prostrating grief. Now is the time for action; and it is an ill return to those who have sacrificed all and died for the Country if those left behind do not throw off enervating distress and helpless lamentation, and seek to live for the Country and for humanity, to the utmost of their power.

Any steps which are calculated to lead to this wholesome result in any given instance are justified; and it is not for me to offer advice as to the kind of activity most appropriate to each individual case.

I have suggested that the new knowledge, when generally established and incorporated with existing systems, will have a bearing and influence on the region hitherto explored by other faculties, and considered to be the domain of faith. It certainly must be so, whether the suggested expansion of scientific scope is welcomed or not. Certainly the conclusions to which I myself have been led by one mode of access are not contradictory of the conclusions which have been arrived at by those who (naturally) seem to me the more enlightened theologians; though I must confess that with some of the ecclesiastical superstructure which has descended to us from a bygone day, a psychic investigator can have but little sympathy. Indeed he only refrains from attacking it because he feels that, left to itself, it will be superseded by higher and better knowledge, and will die a natural death. There is too much wheat mingled with the tares to render it safe for any but an ecclesiastical expert to attempt to uproot them.

Meanwhile, although some of the official exponents of Christian doctrine condemn any attempt to explore things of this kind by secular methods; while others refrain from countenancing any results thus obtained; there are many who would utilise them in their teaching if they conscientiously could, and a few who have already begun to do so, on the strength of their own knowledge, however derived, and in spite of the risk of offending weaker brethren.(1)

(1) For instance, a book called The Gospel of the Hereafter, by Dr. J. Paterson Smyth, of Montreal, may be brought to the notice of anyone who' while clinging tightly to the essential tenets of orthodox Christianity, and unwilling or unable to enter upon a course of study, would gladly interpret eastern and mediaeval phrases in a sense not repugnant to the modern spirit.



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