IF we now try to summarise once more the position at which we have so far arrived - which I have endeavoured to express in the concluding paragraph of the preceding chapter - we shall represent it somewhat as follows: -
The evidence for the survival of man, that is for the persistence of human intelligence and individual personality beyond bodily death, has always been cumulative; and now, through recent developments of the ancient phenomenon of automatic writing, it is beginning to be crucial.
The fame of Mrs. Piper has spread into all lands, and I should think the fame of Mrs. Verralll also. In these recent cases of automatism the Society has been singularly fortunate; for in the one we have a Medium who has been under strict supervision and competent management for the greater part of her psychical life and in the other we have one of the sanest and acutest of our own investigators fortunately endowed with some power herself, - some power of acting as translator or interpreter between the psychical and the physical worlds. There are also other ladies to some extent concerned in the recent unsensational but most intelligent phenomena, - especially the one known as Mrs. Holland - who are likewise above any suspicion of duplicity. But, indeed, the whole thing has been so conducted that no duplicity, either conscious or unconscious, can rationally be supected; everything has been deposited at the time with responsible persons outside the sphere of influence, and we are at liberty to learn what we can from the record of the phenomena, unperturbed by any moral suspicions.
And what do we find?
We find deceased friends-some of them well known to us and active members of the Society while alive especially Gurney, Myers, and Hodgson - constantly purporting to communicate, with the express purpose of patiently proving their identity and giving us cross-correspondences between different mediums. We also find them answering specific questions in a manner characteristic of their known personalities and giving evidence of knowledge appropriate to them.
Not easily or early do we make this admission. In spite of long conversations with what purported to be the surviving intelligence of these friends and investigators, we were by no means convinced of their identity, by mere general conversation, - even when of a friendly and intimate character, such as in normal cases would be considered amply and overwhelmingly sufficient for the identification of friends speaking, let us say, through a telephone or a typewriter. We required definite and crucial proof - a proof difficult even to imagine as well as difficult to supply.
The ostensible communicators realise the need of such proof just as fully as we do, and have done their best to satisfy the rational demand. Some of us think they have succeeded others are still doubtful.
I entirely acquiesce in this judgment. In fact, I am of those who, though they would like to see further and still stronger and more continued proofs, are of opinion that a good case has been made out, and that as the best working hypothesis at the present time it is legitimate to grant that lucid moments of intercourse with deceased persons may in the best cases supervene; amid a mass of supplementary material, quite natural under the circumstances, but mostly of a presumably subliminal and less evidential kind.
The boundary between the two states-the known and the unknown - is still substantial, but it is wearing thin in places; and like excavators engaged in boring a tunnel from opposite ends, amid the roar of water and other noises, we are beginning to bear now and again the strokes of the pickaxes of our comrades on the other side.
So we presently come back out of our tunnel into the light of day, and relate our experience to a busy an incredulous, or in some cases too easily credulous, world. We expect to be received with incredulity; though doubtless we shall be told in some quarters that it is stale news, that there has been access to the other side of the mountain range from time immemorial, and that our laboriously constructed tunnel was quite unnecessary. Agile climbers may have been to the top and eeped over. Flying messages from the other side may have arrived; pioneers must have surveyed the route. But we, like the navvies, are unprovided with wings, we dig and work on the common earth, our business is to pierce the mountain at some moderate elevation, and construct a permanent road or railway for the service of humanity.
What we have to announce, then, is no striking novelty, no new method of communication, but only the reception, by old but developing methods, of carefully constructed evidence of identity more exact and more nearly complete than perhaps ever before. Carefully constructed evidence, I say. The constructive ingenuity exists quite as much on the other side of the partition as on our side: there has been distinct co-operation between those on the material and those on the immaterial side; and we are at liberty, not indeed to announce any definite conclusion, but to adopt as a working, hypothesis the ancient doctrine of a possible intercourse of intelligence between tile material and some other, perhaps etherial, order of existence.
Some people have expected or hoped to communicate with Mars; it appears likely that recognised communication may some day occur with less removed, and indeed less hypothetical, dwellers in (or perhaps not in) the realm of space.
But let us not jump to tile conclusion that the idea of "space" no longer means anything to persons removed from the Planet. They are no longer in touch with
matter truly, and therefore can no longer appeal to our organs of sense, as they did when they had bodies for that express purpose; but, for all we know, they may exist in the ether and be as aware of space and of the truths of geometry, though not of geography, as we are. Let us not be too sure that their condition and surroundings are altogether and utterly different from those of mankind. That is one of the things we way gradually find out not to be true.
Meanwhile is there anything that provisionally and tentatively we can say is earnestly taught to those who are willing to make the hypothesis that the communications are genuine?
The first thing we learn, perhaps the only thing, we clearly learn in the first instance is
continuity. There is no such sudden break in the conditions of existence as may have been anticipated; and no break at all in the continuous and conscious identity of genuine character and personality. Essential belongs such as memory, culture, education, habits, character, and affection, - all these, and to a certain extent tastes and interests, - for better for worse, are retained. Terrestrial accretions, such as worldly possessions, bodily pain and disabilities, these for the most part naturally drop away.
Meanwhile it would appear that knowledge is not suddenly advanced-it would be unnatural if it were, we are not suddenly flooded with new information, nor do we at all change our identity; but powers and faculties are enlarged, and the scope of our outlook on the universe may be widened and deepened, if effort here has rendered the acquisition of such extra insight legitimate and possible.
On the other hand, there are doubtless some whom the removal of temporary accretion and accidents of existence will leave in a feeble and impoverished condition; for the things are gone in which they trusted, and they are left poor indeed. Such doctrines have been taught, on the strength of vision and revelation quite short of any recognised Divine revelation - for more than a century. The visions of Swedenborg, divested of their exuberant trappings, are not wholly unreal, and are by no means wholly untrue. There is a general consistency in the doctrines that have thus been taught through various sensitives, and I add my testimony to the rational character of the general survey of the universe made by Myers in his great and eloquent work.
END OF SECTION IV.