I AM not attempting a history of the subject; and for the observations of Sir W. Barrett and others in the experimental transference of ideas or images from one person to another I must refer students to the first volume of the Proceedings of the Society, where a number of facsimile reproductions of transferred diagrams and pictures, which are of special interest, will also be found. Prof. Barrett had experimented in conjunction with Mr. William de Morgan so long ago as 1870-73, and he endeavoured to make a communication on the subject to the British Association in 1876; but the subject was unwelcome or the attempt premature, and he naturally encountered rebuff. There was some correspondence on the subject in Nature in 1881, and an article in The Nineteenth Century for June 1882. All I shall do here is to describe some later observations and experiments of my own.
Suffice it to say that the leading members of the Society for Psychical Research - actuated in the first instance largely by Prof. Barrett's report - investigated the matter, and gradually by pertinacious experiment became convinced of the reality of thought-transference, - taking due precaution, as their experience enlarged, against the extraordinary ingenuity and subtle possibility of code signalling, and discriminating carefully between the genuine phenomenon and the thought-reading or rather muscle-reading exhibitions, with actual or partial contact, which at one time were much in vogue.
"Before coming to our conclusion as to thought-transference," says Prof. Sidgwick, ' we considered carefully the arguments brought forward for regarding cases of so-called 'thought-reading' as due to involuntary indications apprehended through the ordinary senses; and we came to the conclusion that the ordinary experiments, where contact was allowed, could be explained by the hypothesis of unconscious sensibility to involuntary muscular pressure. Hence we have always attached special importance to experiments in which contact was excluded; with regard to which this particular hypothesis is clearly out of court."
My own first actual experience of thought-transference, or experimental telepathy, was obtained in the years 1883 and 1884 at Liverpool, when I was invited by Mr. Malcolm Guthrie of that city to join in an investigation which lie was conducting with the aid of one or two persons who had turned out to be sensitive, from among the employees of the large drapery firm of George Henry Lee & Co.
A large number of these experiments had been conducted before I was asked to join, throughout the Spring Autumn of 1883, but it is better for me to adhere strictly to my own experience and to relate only those experiments over which I had control. Accordingly I reproduce here a considerable part of my short paper on the subject, originally published in the Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, vol. ii.
Most of these experiments were confirmations of the kind of thing that had been observed by other experimenters. But one experiment which I tried was definitely novel, and, as it seems to me, important; since it clearly showed that when two agents are acting, each contributes to the effect, and that the result is due, not to one alone, but to both combined. The experiment is thus described by me in the columns of Nature, vol. xxx., page 145:
Experiment in Thought-Transference
Those of your readers who are interested in the subject of thought-transference, now being investigated, may be glad to hear of a little experiment which I recently tried here. The series of experiments was originated and carried on in this city by Mr. Malcolm Guthrie, and he has prevailed on me, on Dr. Herdman, and on one or two other more or less scientific witnesses, to be present on several occasions, critically to examine the conditions, and to impose any fresh ones that we thought desirable. I need not enter into particulars, but I will just say that the conditions under which apparent transference of thought occurs from one or more persons, steadfastly thinking, to another in the same room blindfold and wholly disconnected from the others, seem to me absolutely satisfactory, and such as to preclude the possibility of conscious collusion on the one hand or unconscious muscular indication on the other.
One evening last week - after two thinkers, or agents, had been several times successful in instilling the idea of some object or drawing, at which they were looking, into the mind of the blindfold person, or percipient - I brought into the room a double opaque sheet of thick paper with a square drawn on one side and a St. Andrew's cross or X on the other, and silently arranged it between the two agents so that each looked on one side without any notion of what was on the other. The percipient was not informed in any way that a novel modification was being made; and, as usual, there was no contact of any sort or kind, - a clear space of several feet existing between each of the three people. I thought that by this variation I should decide whether one of the two agents was more active than the other; or, supposing them about equal whether two ideas in two separate minds could be fused into one by the percipient.
In a very short time the percipient made the following remarks, every one else being silent: 'The thing won't keep still.' I seem to see things moving about.'
First I see a thing up there, and then one down there.'
I can't see either distinctly.' The object was then hidden, and the percipient was told to take off the bandage and to draw the impression in her mind on a sheet of paper. She drew a square, and then said, 'There was the other thing as well,' and drew a cross inside the square from corner to corner, saying afterwards, ' I don't know what made me put it inside.'
The experiment is no more conclusive as evidence than fifty others that I have seen at Mr. Guthrie's, but it seems to me somewhat interesting that two minds should produce a disconnected sort of impression on the mind of the percipient, quite different from the single impression which we had usually obtained when two agents were both looking at the same thing. Once, for instance (to take a nearly corresponding case under those conditions), when the object was a rude drawing of the main lines in a Union jack, the figure was reproduced by the percipient as a whole without misgiving; except, indeed, that she expressed a doubt as to whether its middle horizontal line were present or not, and ultimately omitted it.
UNIVERSITY COLLEGE, LIVERPOOL,
5 June 1884
It is preferable thus to quote the original record and contemporary mode of publication of an experiment, so as to avoid the risk either of minimising or overemphasising the cogency of the circumstances. But I wish to say strongly that the experiment was quite satisfactory, and that no reasonable doubt of its validity has been felt by me from that time to this.
on the Main Series
I now proceed to give my report on the whole series of experiments:
In reporting on the experiments conducted by me, at the invitation and with the appliances of Mr. Guthrie, I wish to say that I had every opportunity of examining and varying the minute conditions of the phenomena, so as to satisfy myself of their genuine and objective character, in the same way as one is accustomed to satisfy oneself as to the truth and genuineness of any ordinary physical fact. If I had merely witnessed facts as a passive spectator I should not publicly report upon them. So long as one is bound to accept imposed conditions and merely witness what goes on, I have no confidence in my own penetration, and am perfectly sure that a conjurer could impose on me, possibly even to the extent of making me think that he was not imposing on me; but when one has the control of the circumstances, can change them at will and arrange one's own experiments, one gradually acquires a belief in the phenomena observed quite comparable to that induced by the repetition of ordinary physical experiments.
I have no striking or new phenomenon to report, but only a few more experiments in the simplest and most elementary form of what is called Thought-transference; though certainly what I have to describe falls under the head of "Thought-transference" proper, and is not explicable by the merely mechanical transfer of impressions, which is more properly described as
In using the term "Thought-transference," - I would ask to be understood as doing so for convenience, because the observed facts can conveniently be grouped under such a title; but I would not be understood as implying any theory on the subject. It is a most dangerous thing to attempt to convey a theory by a phrase; and to set forth a theory would require many words. As it is, the phrase describes correctly enough what appears to take place, viz., that one person may, under favourable conditions, receive a faint impression of a thing which is strongly present in the mind, or thought, or sight, or sensorium of another person not in contact, and may be able to describe or draw it, more or less correctly. But how the transfer takes place, or whether there is any transfer at all, or what is the physical reality underlying the terms "mind," "consciousness," "impression," and the like; and whether this thing we call mind is located in the person, or in the space round him, or in both, or neither; whether indeed the term location, as applied to mind, is utter nonsense and simply meaningless, - concerning all these things I obtrude no hypothesis whatsoever. I may, however, be permitted to suggest a rough and crude analogy. That the brain is the organ of consciousness is patent, but that consciousness is located in the brain is what no psychologist ought to assert; for just as the energy of an electric charge, though apparently in the conductor, is not in the conductor, but in the space all round it; so it may be that the sensory consciousness of a person, though apparently located in his brain, may be conceived of as also existing like a faint echo in space, or in other brains, although these are ordinarily too busy and preoccupied to notice it.
The experiments which I have witnessed proceed in the following way. One person is told to keep in a perfectly passive condition, with a mind as vacant as possible; and to assist this condition the organs of sense are unexcited, the eyes being bandaged and silence maintained. It might be as well to shut out even the ordinary street hum by plugging the ears, but as a matter of fact this was not done.
A person thus kept passive is " the percipient." In the experiments I witnessed the percipient was a girl, one or other of two who had been accidentally found to possess the necessary power. Whether it is a common power or not I do not know. So far as I am aware comparatively few persons have tried. I myself tried, but failed abjectly. It was easy enough to picture things to oneself, but they did not appear to be impressed on me from without, nor did any of them bear the least resemblance to the object in the agent's mind. (For instance, I said a pair of scissors instead of the five of diamonds, - and things like that.) Nevertheless, the person acting as percipient is in a perfectly ordinary condition, and can in no sense be said to be in a hynotic state, unless this term be extended to include the emptiness of mind produced by blindfolding and silence. To all appearance a person in a brown study is far more hypnotised than the percipients I saw, who usually unbandaged their own eyes and chatted between successive experiments.
Another person sitting near the percipient, sometimes at first holding her hands but usually and ordinarily without any contact at all but with a distinct intervening distance, was told to think hard of a particular object, either a name, or a scene, or a thing, or of an object or drawing set up in a good light and in a convenient position for staring at. This person is "the agent" and has, on the whole, the hardest time of it. It is a most tiring and tiresome thing to stare at a letter, or a triangle, or a donkey, or a teaspoon, and to think of nothing else for the space of two or three minutes. Whether the term "thinking" can properly be applied to such barbarous concentration of mind as this I am not sure; its difficulty is of the nature of tediousness.
Very frequently more than one agent is employed, and when two or three people are in the room they are all told to think of the object more or less strenuously; the idea being that wandering thoughts in the neighbourhood certainly cannot help, and may possibly hinder, the clear transfer of impression. As regards the question whether when several agents are thinking, only one is doing the work, or whether all really produce some effect, a special experiment has led me to conclude that more than one agent can be active at the same time. We have some light therefore to conclude that several agents are probably more powerful than one, but that a confusedness of impression may sometimes be produced by different agents attending to different parts or aspects of the object.
Most people seem able to act as agents, though some appear to do better than others. I can hardly say whether I am much good at it or not. I have not often tried alone, and in the majority of cases when I have tried I have failed; on the other hand, I have once or twice succeeded. We have many times succeeded with agents quite disconnected from the percipient in ordinary life, and sometimes complete strangers to them. Mr. Birchall, the headmaster of the Birkdale Industrial School, frequently acted; and the house physician at the Eye and Ear Hospital, Dr. Shears, had a successful experiment, acting alone, on his first and only visit. All suspicion of a prearranged code is thus rendered impossible even to outsiders who are unable to witness the obvious fairness of all the experiments.
The object looked at by the agent is placed usually on a small black opaque wooden screen between the percipient and agents, but sometimes it is put on a larger screen behind the percipient. The objects were kept in an adjoining room and were selected and brought in by me with all due precaution, after the percipient was blindfolded. I should say, however, that no reliance was placed on, or care taken in, the bandaging. It was merely done because the percipient preferred it to merely shutting the eyes. After remarkable experiments on blindfolding by members of the Society (see journal, S.P.R., vol. i., p. 84), I certainly would rely on any ordinary bandaging; the opacity of the not wooden screen on which the object was placed was the thing really depended on, and it was noticed that no mirrors or indistinct reflectors were present. The only surface at all suspicious was the polished top of the small table on which the opaque screen usually stood. But as the screen sloped backwards at a slight angle, it was impossible for the object on it to be thus mirrored. Moreover, sometimes I covered the table with paper, and often it was not used at all, but the object was placed on a screen or a settee behind the percipient; and one striking success was obtained with the object placed on a large drawing board, loosely swathed in a black silk college gown, with the percipient immediately behind the said drawing board and almost hidden by it.
As regards collusion and trickery, no one who has witnessed the absolutely genuine and artless manner in which the impressions are described, but has been perfectly convinced of the transparent honesty of purpose of all concerned. This, however, is not evidence to persons who have not been present, and to them I can only say that to the best of my scientific belief no collusion or trickery was possible under the varied circumstances of the experiments.
A very interesting question presents itself as to what is really transmitted, whether it is the idea or name of the object or whether it is the visual impression. To examine this I frequently drew things without any name - perfect irregular drawings. I am bound to say that these irregular and unnameable productions have always been rather difficult, though they have at times been imitated fairly well; but it is not at all strange that a faint impression of an unknown object should be harder to grasp and reproduce than a faint impression of a familiar one, such as a letter, a common name, a teapot, or a pair of scissors. Moreover, in some very interesting cases the idea or name of the object was certainly the things transferred, and not the visual impression at all; this specially happened with one of the two percipients; and, therefore, probably in every case the fact of the object having a name would assist any faint impression of its appearance which might be received.
As to aspect, i.e. inversion or perversion, - so far as my experience goes it seems perfectly accidental whether the object will be drawn by the percipient in its actual position or in the inverted or perverted position. This is very curious if true, and would certainly not have been expected by me. Horizontal objects are never described as vertical, nor vice versa; and slanting objects are usually drawn with the right amount of slant.
The two percipients are Miss R. and Miss E. Miss R. is the more prosaic, staid, and self-contained personage, and she it is who gets the best quasi-visual impression, but she is a bad drawer, and does not reproduce it very well. , Miss E. is, I should judge, of a more sensitive temperament, seldom being able to preserve a strict silence for instance, and she it is who more frequently jumps to the idea or name of the object without being able so frequently to "see" it.
I was anxious to try both percipients at once, so as to compare their impressions, but I have not met with much success under these conditions, and usually therefore have had to try one at a time - the other being frequently absent or in another room, though also frequently present and acting as part or sole agent.
I once tried a double agent - that is, not two agents thinking of the same thing, but two agents each thinking of a different thing. A mixed and curiously double impression was thus produced and described by the percipient, and both the objects were correctly drawn. This experiment has been separately described, as it is important. See pages 28 and 37.
(N.B.-The actual drawings made in all the experiments, failures and successes alike are preserved intact by Mr. Guthrie.)
of Some of the Experiments
In order to describe the experiments briefly I will put in parentheses everything said by me or by the agent, and in inverted commas all the remarks of the percipient. The first seven experiments are all that were made on one evening with the particular percipient, and they were rapidly performed.
Experiments with Miss R. as Percipient
First Agent, Mr. Birchall, holding hands. No one else present except myself.
Object - a blue square of silk. - (Now, it's going to be a colour; ready.) "Is it green?" (No.) "It's something between green and blue. . . . Peacock." (What shape?) She drew a rhombus.
(N.B. - It is not intended to imply that this was a success by any means, and it is to be understood that it was only to make a start on the first experiment that so much help was given as is involved in saying "it's a colour." When they are simply told "it's an object," or, what is much the same, when nothing is said at all, the field for guessing is practically infinite. When no remark at starting is recorded none was made, except such an one as " Now we are ready," - by myself.]
Next object - a key on a black ground. - (It's an object.) In a few seconds she said, - "It's bright. . . . It looks like a key." Told to draw, she drew it just inverted.
Next object - three gold studs in morocco case. - "Is it yellow ? . . . Something gold. . . . Something round. . . . A locket or a watch, perhaps." (Do you see more than one round ?) - Yes, there seem to be more than one. . . . Are there three rounds ? . . . Three rings." (What do they seem to be set in?) "Something bright like beads." (Evidently not understanding or attending to the question.) Told to unblindfold herself and draw, she drew the three rounds in a row quite correctly, and then sketched round them absently the outline of the case; which seemed, therefore, to have been apparent to her though she had not consciously attended to it. It was an interesting and striking experiment.
Next object - a pair of scissors standing partly open with their points down - "Is it a bright object? . . . Something long ways (indicating verticality). . . . A pair of scissors standing up. . . . A little bit open. - Time, about a minute altogether. She then drew her impression, and it was correct in every particular. The object in this experiment was on a settee behind her, but its position had to be pointed out to her when, after the experiment, she wanted to see it.
Next object - a drawing of a right angle triangle on its side (It's a drawing.) She drew an isosceles triangle on its side.
Next - a circle with a chord across it - She drew two detached ovals, one with a cutting line across it.
Next - a drawing of a Union jack pattern.
(See reproductions below) - As usual in drawing experiments, Miss R. remained silent for perhaps a minute; then she said, " Now, I am ready."I hid the object; she took off the handkerchief, and proceeded to draw on paper placed ready in front of her. She this time drew all the lines of the figure except the horizontal middle one. She was obviously much tempted to draw this, and, indeed, began it two or three times faintly, but ultimately said, " No, I'm not sure," and stopped.
Experiments with Miss R - continued
I will now describe an experiment indicating that one agent may be better than another.
Object - the Three of Hearts. - Miss E. and Mr. Birchall both present as agents, but Mr. Birchall holding percipient's hands at first. "Is it a black cross. . . a white ground with a black cross on it?" Mr. Birchall now let Miss E. hold hands instead of himself, and Miss R. very soon said, - Is it a card ?" (Right.)
Are there three spots on it? . . . Don't know what they are I don't think I can get the colour. . . . They are one above the other, but they seem three round spots. I think they're red, but am not clear."
Next object - a playing card with a blue anchor painted on it slantwise, instead of pips. No contact at all this time, but another lady, Miss R--d, who had entered the room, assisted Mr. B. and Miss E. as agents. " Is it an anchor ? . . . a little on the slant." (Do you see any colour ?) "Colour is black . . . It's a nicely drawn anchor." When asked to draw she sketched part of it, but had evidently half forgotten it, and not knowing the use of the cross arm, she could only indicate that there was something more there, but she couldn't remember what. Her drawing had the right slant.
Another object - two pair of coarse lines crossing; drawn in red chalk, and set up at some distance from agents. No contact. "I only see lines crossing." She saw no colour. She afterwards drew them quite correctly, but very small. (It was noticeable that the unusual distance at which the drawing was placed from the agent on this occasion seemed to be interpreted by the percipient as smallness of size.)
Double object - It was now that I arranged the double object between Miss R--d and Miss E., who happened to be sitting nearly facing one another. (See Nature, June 12th, 1884, for the published report of this particular incident which has been reproduced above, page 28.) The drawing was a square on one side of the paper, a cross on the other. Miss
R-d looked at the side with the square on it. Miss E. looked at the side with the cross. Neither knew what the other was looking
at nor did the percipient know that anything unusual was being tried. Mr. Birchall was silently asked to take off his attention, and he got up and looked out of window before the drawings were brought in, and during the experiment. There was no contact. Very soon Miss R. said, "I see things moving about. I seem to see two things. . . I see first one up there and then one down there. . . I don't know which to draw. . . . I can't see either distinctly." (Well, anyhow, draw what you have seen.) She took off the bandage and drew first a square, and then said, " Then there was the other thing as well . . . afterwards they seemed to go into one," and she drew a cross inside the square from corner to corner I adding afterwards, - I don't know what made me put it inside."
The next is a case of a perfect stranger acting as agent by himself at the first trial. Dr. Shears, house physician at the Eye and Ear Infirmary, came down to see the phenomena, and Miss R. having arrived before the others, Mr. Guthrie proposed his trying as agent alone. Dr. Shears, therefore, held Miss R.'s hand while I set up in front of him a card : nothing whatever being said as to the nature of the object.
Object - the five of clubs, at first on a white ground. "Is it something bright?" (No answer, but I changed the object to a black ground where it was more conspicuous.) "A lot of black with a white square on it.- (Go on.) "Is it a card?" (Yes.) (The affirmative answer did not necessarily signify that it was a playing card ; because cards looking like playing cards had been used several times previously, on which objects had been depicted instead of pips.) " Are there five spots on it ? " (Yes.) " Black ones." (Right.) "I can't see the suit, but I think it's spades."
Another object at same sitting, but with several agents, no contact, was a drawing of this form-
"I can see something, but I am sure I can't draw it. . . . It's something with points all round it. . . . It's a star. . . . or like a triangle within a triangle." Asked to draw it, she expressed reluctance, said it was too difficult, and drew part of a star figure, evidently a crude reproduction of the original, but incomplete. She then began afresh by drawing a triangle, but was unable to proceed.
I then showed her the object for a few seconds. She exclaimed,
Oh yes, that's what I saw. . . . I understand it now. - I said. "Well, now draw it." She made a more complete attempt, but it was no more really like the original than the first had been. Here it is:
made after seeing original
Experiments at a Sitting in the room of Dr. Herdman, Professor of Zoology at University College
Object - a drawing of the outline of a flag.- Miss R. as percipient in contact with Miss E. as agent. Very quickly Miss R. said, "It's a little flag," and when asked to draw, she drew it fairly well but "perverted" as depicted in the figure. I showed her the flag (as usual after a success), and then took it away to the drawing place to fetch something else. I made another drawing, but instead of bringing it I brought the flag back again, and set it up in the same place as before, but upside down. There was no contact this time. Miss R--d and Miss E. were acting as agents.
Object - same flag inverted. - After some time, Miss R. said, No, I can't see anything this time. I still see that flag. . . . The flag keeps bothering me. . . . I shan't do it this time." Presently I said, "Well, draw what you saw anyway," She said, "I only saw the same flag, but perhaps it had a cross on it." So she drew a flag in the same position as before, but added a cross to it.
Questioned as to aspect she said, " Yes, it was just the same as before."
Object - an oval gold locket hanging by a bit of string with a little price label attached. - Placed like the former object on a large drawing board, swathed in a college gown. The percipient, Miss R., close behind the said board and almost hidden by it. Agents, Miss R-d and Miss E. sitting in front; no contact; nothing said. "I see something gold. . . . something hanging I. . . like a gold locket." (What shape ?) "It's oval," indicating with her fingers correctly." Very good so far, tell us something more) - [meaning ticket at top]. But no more was said. When shown the object she said, "Oh, yes, it was just like that," but she had seen nothing of the little paper ticket.
Next object - a watch and chain pinned zip to the board as on a waistcoat. - This experiment was a failure, and is only interesting because the watch ticking sounded abnormally loud, sufficient to give any amount of hint to a person on the look out for such sense indications. But it is very evident to those witnessing the experiments that the percipient is in a quite different attitude of mind to that of a clever guesser, and ordinary sense indications seem wholly neglected. I scarcely expected, however, that the watch-ticking could pass unnoticed, though indeed we shuffled our feet to drown it somewhat, but so it was, and all we got was "something bright . . . either steel or silver. . . . Is it anything like a pair of scissors?" (Not a bit.)
I have now done with the selection of experiments in which Miss R. acted as percipient; and I will describe some of those made with Miss E. At the time these seemed perhaps less satisfactory and complete, but there are several points of considerable interest noticeable in connection with them.
Experiments with Miss E. as Percipient
Object - an oblong piece of red (cerise) silk. Agent, Mr. B., in contact. -" Red." (What sort of red ?) "A dark red." (What shape?) " One patch." (Well, what shade is it?) Not a pale red."
- a yellow oblong. Agent as before.- "A dusky gold colour. . . . A square of some yellow shade."
- the printed letter r. Told it was a letter; agent as before. - "I can see R." (What sort of R?) - An ordinary capital R."
This illustrates feebly what often, though not always, happens with Miss E. - that the idea of the object is grasped rather than its actual shape.
Another object - a small printed e. - "Is it E?" (Yes.) But, again, she couldn't tell what sort of E it was.
Object - a teapot cut out of silver paper. - Present - Dr. Herdman, Miss R--d, and Miss R., Miss R. holding percipient's hands, but all thinking of the object. Told nothing. She said, " Something light. . . . No colour. . . . Looks like a duck. . . . Like a silver duck. . . . Something oval. . . . Head at one end and tall at the other.- [This is not uncommon in ducks.] The object, being rather large, was then moved farther back, so that it might be more easily grasped by the agents as a whole, but percipient persisted that it was like a duck. On being told to unbandage and draw, she drew a rude and "perverted" copy of the teapot, but didn't know what it was unless it was a duck. Dr. Herdman then explained that he had been thinking all the time how like a duck the original teapot was, and, in fact, had been thinking more of ducks than teapots.
- a hand mirror brought in and set up in front of Miss R--d - No contact at first. Told nothing. She said, "Is it a
colour?" (No.) "No, I don't see anything." The glass was then shifted for Miss R. to look at herself in it, holding the percipent's hand. "No, I don't get this."Gave it up. I then hid mirror in my coat, and took it out of the room. Dr. Herdman reports that while I was away Miss E. begged to know what the object had been, but the agents refused, saying that I had evidently wished to keep it secret. Half annoyed, Miss E. said, "Oh, well, it doesn't matter. I believe it was a looking-glass."
Next object - a drawing of a right-angled triangle. No contact. - "Is it like that?" drawing a triangle with her finger (no answer). "It's almost like a triangle." She then drew an isosceles triangle.
Next object - a drawing of two parallel but curved lines. No contact. - "I only see two lines," indicating two parallel lines.
"Now they seem to close up."
Next object - a tetrahedron outline rudely drawn in projection-
"Is it another triangle?" (No answer was made, but I silently passed round to the agents a scribbled message, "Think of a pyramid.") Miss E. then said, "I only see a triangle." . . . then hastily, "Pyramids of Egypt. No, I shan't do this." Asked to draw, she only drew a triangle.
Object - a rude outline of a donkey or other
quaaruped.- Still no contact at first. "Can't get it, I am sure." I then asked the agents to leave the room, and to come in and try one by one. First Miss R--d, without contact, and then with. Next Miss R., in contact, when Miss E. said hopelessly, "An old woman in a poke bonnet." Finally I tried as agent alone, and Miss E. said, "It's like a donkey, but I can't see it, nor can I draw it."
Statements about the Experiments
In addition to the experiments with single percipients, I tried a few with both percipients sitting together hoping to learn something by comparing their different perceptions of the same object. But unfortunately these experiments were not very successful; sometimes they each appeared to get different aspects or the parts of object, but never very distinct or perfect impressions. The necessity of imposing silence on the percipients, as well as on the agents, was also rather irksome, and renders the results less describable without the actual drawings. I still think that this variation might convey something interesting if pursued under favourable circumstances. Whether greater agent-power is necessary to affect two percipients as strongly as one; or whether the blankness of mind of one percipient reacts on the other, I cannot say.
With regard to the feelings of the percipients when receiving an impression, they seem to have some sort of consciousness of the action of other minds on them; and once or twice, when not so conscious, have complained that there seemed to be "no power" or anything acting, and that they not only received no impression, but did not feel as if they were going to.
I asked Miss E. what she felt when impressions were coming freely, and she said she felt a sort of influence or thrill. They both say that several images appear to them sometimes, but that one among them persistently recurs, and they have a feeling when they fix upon one that it is the right one.
Sometimes they seem quite certain that they are right. Sometimes they are very uncertain, but still right. Occasionally Miss E. has been pretty confident and yet wrong.
One serious failure rather depresses them, and after a success others often follow. It is because of these rather delicate psychological conditions that one cannot press the variations of an experiment as far as one would do if dealing with inert and more dependable matter. Usually the presence of a stranger spoils the phenomenon, though in some cases a stranger has proved a good agent straight off.
The percipients complain of no fatigue as induced by the experiments, and I have no reason to suppose that any harm is done them. The agent, on the other hand, if very energetic, is liable to contract a headache; and Mr. Guthrie himself, who was a powerful and determined agent for a long time, now feels it wiser to refrain from acting, and conducts the experiments with great moderation.
If experiments are only conducted for an hour or so a week, no harm can, I should judge, result, and it would be very interesting to know what percentage of people have the perceptive faculty well developed
The experiments are easy to try, but they should be tried soberly and quietly, like any other experiment. A public platform is a most unsuitable place; and nothing tried before a mixed or jovial audience can be of the slightest scientific value. Such demonstrations may be efficient in putting money into the pockets of showmen, or in amusing one's friends; but all real evidence must be obtained in the quiet of the laboratory or the study.