THE FORMS of the ectoplasmic structures vary greatly, and provide the materials
for an interesting study. Sometimes a simple cloud appears, and condenses till
gradually a face or hand is seen evolving in it; at other times, the head or
hand appears suddenly, fully developed. Often, and apparently generally with
C, the product resembled a two-dimensional picture rather than a solid model
[for an example, see Fig. 136].
The simultaneous photographs taken from various angles frequently showed that
the materialized head, though beautifully formed and modelled on the side facing
the observer, was practically blank at the back, and indeed often almost lacked
any thickness at all; and when the images were fairly solid they were only
modelled in parts, and those portions which were concealed remained amorphous
[see photograph no. 7] .
The frequent draperies, veils, turbans, etc., worn by materialized spirits would
thus appear, as
Gustave Geley suggests, to be simply rough easy devices for concealing
gaps and defects in the phantom forms, and for enabling mediums to economize
their sculptural efforts.
A highly interesting point about the séances with Eva is that the evolution and
growth of the structures could often be seen, so that the phenomenon carried its
own proof of genuineness - since the concealment of dummy hands or pictured heads,
either by the medium or by an accomplice, would be quite inadequate to simulate
a progressively evolving form. Not only did the form evolve in complexity of
structure, but it also often grew or diminished in size, while remaining of the
same proportions, and this sometimes at the request of the investigators.
The apparently two-dimensional and picture-like faces produced by Eva were an
unexpected, and at first disconcerting result, and certain features of them soon
seemed to point conclusively to fraud. Some of the photographs, for example,
showed recognizable likenesses to pictures of President Wilson [see
Fig. 197], Poincaré [see
Fig. 195], the
King of Bulgaria [see Fig. 189] and other personages, which had previously appeared in the
French illustrated press. Most damning was one which showed a piece of paper,
with creases, and the printed inscription LE MIRO [see
Fig. 119]. It was obvious to sceptics
that Eva had simply cut out a piece of Le Miroire, concealed it, and then
produced it as a piece of ectoplasm during the séance. The crudity of such a
fraud is certainly staggering, but the critics of psychic research will always
seize any loophole that is offered and make their assertions of fraud without
investigating facts to see whether the supposed procedure conforms to them.
Schrenck-Notzing knew that Eva could neither conceal such cuttings, nor rig them
up unobserved, nor, had she done so, succeed in making such things at all
convincing under the conditions of the séance. Moreover, he knew that these
photographs only showed an instantaneous phase of a materialization which
actually evolved and grew. In order to confute his critics, however, he set up
various photographs and pictures from illustrated papers, draped them suitably
with muslin, etc., to imitate the materializations, and photographed them under
exactly the same séance conditions; the results were not in the least comparable
with his photographs of Eva's productions, and they showed none of the shadows
which even the flattest of Eva's materialized heads showed.
The picture-like materializations, however, are highly instructive and give one
the clue to a general theory which applies to the whole field of psychic
science: they must be interpreted as being thought-images in the mind (not
necessarily the consciousness) of the medium which have been temporarily
objectified and incarnated. Given that the medium extrudes ectoplasm, it is
obvious that she wishes to do or make something with it, and that it will thus
be organized and moulded by some idea in her mind.
Miss Goligher, influenced
doubtless by the mechanical interests of Dr.
W. J. Crawford, evolved rods and levers,
but most mediums, who are, as a rule, pious spiritualists with no particular
scientific interests and theories, wish to materialize spirits, or at least
hands and faces which they and their friends may take to be genuine incarnations
of some departed soul. Probably, indeed, the ectoplasm itself is inherently
disposed to take on a definitely human shape, although two powerful mediums,
Franek Kluski, have frequently produced materializations of animals - an eagle
[see Strange Beasts from the Beyond
by Nandor Fodor],
a squirrel and a dog, for example. With Eva C. in her early spiritualistic days
(when she was Marthe Béraud) the most important form was an Arab known as
Boa. His appearance has been well described by
Charles Richet, who managed to prove that
the materialization was complete enough to have normal respiration. He says (p.
"The materializations produced were very complete. The phantom of Bien Boa
appeared five or six times under satisfactory conditions in the sense that he
could not be Marthe masquerading in a helmet and sheet. Marthe would have had
not only to bring but also to conceal afterwards the helmet, the sheet and the
burnous. Also Marthe and the phantom were both seen at the same time. To pretend
that Bien Boa was a doll is more absurd still; he walked and moved, his eyes
could be seen looking round, and when he tried to speak his lips moved.
"He seemed so much alive that, as we could hear his breathing, I took a flask of
baryta water to see if his breath would show carbon dioxide. The experiment
succeeded. I did not lose sight of the flask from the moment I put it into the
hands of Bien Boa, who seemed to float in the air on the left of the curtain at
a height greater than Marthe could have been if standing up. While he blew into
the tube the bubbling could be heard, and then I asked Delanne, 'Do you see
Marthe?' He said, 'I can see Marthe completely.' Aischa was far off, and could
be seen clearly, asleep in the other corner of the cabinet. I could see myself
the form of Marthe sitting in her chair, though I could not see her head and her
"However striking this was, another experiment seems to me even more evidential:
Everything being arranged as usual (except that Mlle. X., being indisposed, was
absent), after a long wait I saw close to me, in front of the curtain which had
not moved, a white vapour, hardly sixteen inches distant. It was like a white
veil or handkerchief on the floor. This rose and became spherical. Soon it was a
head just above the floor; it rose up still more, enlarged, and grew into a
human form, a short bearded man dressed in a turban and white mantle, who moved,
limping slightly, from right to left in front of the curtain. On coming close to
General Noel, he sank down abruptly to the floor with a clicking noise like a
falling skeleton, flattening out in front of the curtain. Three or four minutes
later, close to the General, not to me, he reappeared, rising in a straight line
from the floor, born from the floor, so to speak, and falling back to it with
the same clicking noise.
"The only un-metapsychic explanation possible seemed to be a trap-door opening
and shutting, but there was no trap-door, as I verified next morning, and as was
attested by the architect."
Generally speaking, spiritualistic mediums will endeavour to produce
materializations of particular deceased persons in whom their clients are
interested; for their clients visit them with the hope of speaking to or seeing
some departed dear one. But as this feat is usually not at all easy (unless the
client is satisfied with a very rough likeness) it is perhaps more common for
them to materialize one or two stock figures who are supposed to be "guides" of
the medium, and who act as intermediaries between him and the various spirits
invoked by the client; this practice of having a guide or "control" obviously
saying the medium a vast deal of trouble, and serving to cover up deficiencies
in his formation.
Sometimes we are able to see clearly the influence of suggestion on the form of
the materialization; for example, on December 6th, 1919, a long conversation had
been held in front of the young medium
Willy Schneider, the subject of which was
the idea of psychic threads, lines of force, etc. The same evening a séance was
held, and for the first time the ectoplasm was observed in a thread-like form.
Similarly, on January 17th, 1913, Schrenck-Notzing showed
Stanislawa P a
photograph of Eva C in which two ectoplasmic fingers were placed on her hair;
the same evening Stanislawa copied the effect, materializing two fingers on her
hair during the séance.
Under the influence of her protectress, Mme. Bisson, Eva later produced a
simulacrum of the late M. Bisson, but when she came in contact with the more
scientific and anti-spiritistic mind of Schrenck-Notzing, she produced simulacra
of a less spiritualistic genre; for example, heads which she did not claim to
represent anybody in particular, or fairly close imitations of published
photographs of celebrities.
We thus reach the important conclusion that all the materializations of the
séance room are objective expressions or representations of ideas in the mind of
the medium, who works with ectoplasm as a sculptor does with clay. This is the
phenomenon of ideoplasticity, the physical counterpart of the mental phenomena
of dissociation and the assumption of fictitious or new personalities. One might
expect much light to be thrown on the subject by the methodical psycho-analysis
of a good materializing medium, though I do not know that this has yet been
done. One could expect interesting connections to be established between the
forms and actions of the phantoms and the unconscious desires and complexes of
the medium, for physical mediumship involves a marked degree of mental
dissociation and a hypnoidal trance state, as well as a certain physical
dissociation and the creation of a partially independent organism. It is, so to
speak, a form of wish-fulfilment one stage nearer to reality than is reached in
phantasy and dream.
Dr. Geley has developed the theory of Ideoplasticity at some length in his book
From the Unconscious to the Conscious, and has shown its importance in relation
to the field of normal biology. It would take us too far to go into all the
aspects of this theme, that the essential feature of all living organisms is not
any mere synthesis of parts, but the operation of a central directing mind
force, or Psycho-Dynamism (to use Geley's technical term, which is rather more
general than the word Idea). But it is very germane to our subject to mention
the more numerous cases where an idea (involving probably volition, emotional
feeling, and intellectual representation) has a notable effect on the body,
actually modifying its structure and functions. Of course, we all are familiar
with some simple cases, as, for example, the temporary flow of blood to the
cheeks, or of tears, which accompany the feelings of shame or sorrow, or the
obvious physical symptoms of anger, fear, etc. Much more striking are the
examples drawn from psychiatric literature - for instance, the mechanism of
symptom formation in hysteria, and the almost magical curative power of hypnotic
suggestion. The physical action of an idea is neatly illustrated in an
experiment by Delboeuf. He hypnotized a subject, suggested to her that her
right arm was insensible to pain, and then burnt each arm with a red-hot iron,
making identical bums. She felt the pain in her left arm only. Both burns were
dressed similarly, and during the ensuing twenty-four hours the burn on the left
arm was painful, and developed a large blister; in the right arm there was no
pain, and no inflammation, but only the plain scar, the exact size of the iron
as applied. Clearly then, the pain, the inflammation, and blistering in the one
arm were secondary results of the initial burning process, produced through the
mediate operation of the mind of the patient; being unaware of any initial pain
in the right arm, however, the mind did not interfere with the normal routine of
cell-life on that side.
 See M. Bramwell, Hypnotism, p. 84.
More striking still, perhaps, though also more complicated, are the cases of
stigmatization. A devout nun, practising austerities and meditating intently on
the Passion of Christ, will sometimes experience a trance, almost always
accompanied by visual hallucinations in which Jesus is seen, which results in
the appearance of the crucifixion marks in their appropriate places. As a rule
these wounds seem to bleed every Friday, for some time, and to heal up in the
week. Such cases are fairly numerous, and indubitably illustrate the power of
a strongly visualized idea to realize itself by modification of the living
tissue. In all these cases we find, according to H. Thurston, a bad medical
history, together with a strong concentration on the wounds of the Passion,
often continued over a long period before the actual vision with stigmatization
 See a paper by Rev. H. Thurston (P.S.P.R., Part 83), who says he has studied
the accounts of sixty cases.
As an illustration of what is typical in these cases of stigmatization I will
briefly summarize the story of Therese Neumann of Konnersreuth, Bavaria. I take
the facts from Herr Jaschke's account, given in Psychic Science for July 1929.
Therese Neumann was born in 1898, the child of a tailor who owned a small farm.
Up to the age of twenty she was strong and healthy, doing heavy work at home on
the farm, and later as a servant. At that age, however, a fire occurred, and she
apparently strained herself assisting to put it out, and collapsed with a
stabbing pain in the back. Spinal paralysis set in, and she was soon sent back
from hospital as incurable. Severe attacks followed, then partial and finally
complete blindness. Contraction of the muscles forced her left foot up under her
right thigh, and sores appeared on her back. At the end of 1922 she practically
ceased to take nourishment, owing to ulceration in the throat. In this almost
hopeless condition of invalidism she suddenly, in April 1923, recovered her
sight, and in May 1925, after a vision, she managed to raise herself and walk
with assistance. In September the vision recurred and she was completely cured.
Now in November 1925 she fell ill, of acute appendicitis, according to the
doctor. However, praying to St. Theresa, she again saw the vision and was
immediately cured. In February 1926 she again fell ill, with influenza. During
this illness she had a vision of Christ on the Mount of Olives and received a
stabbing pain in the left side, from which flowed blood. Again, next week, on
Thursday night, another vision of Christ crucified, accompanied by blood from
the wound, which healed next day. This was repeated on the three next Thursdays,
and the wound and bleeding grew more severe on the Good Friday which followed.
At the same time blood came from the eyes, and wounds appeared in the hands and
feet. Since May 1926 these latter have ceased to bleed, but have deepened
through the hands and feet. Every Friday the wounds of the side and head bleed,
and visions of the Passion of Jesus are seen. It is stated that from 1923 to
1926 Therese only took liquid nourishment, and that from Christmas 1926 even
that ceased, and that she has existed since then (i.e. to July 1929) on
literally nothing, except her daily Holy Communion. Nevertheless, every Friday
she loses a quantity of blood, and her weight remains approximately constant at
 See also The Story of Therese Neumann, by Father Pacificus (Burns and
In the above case of Therese Neumann we may note that although the child was
apparently quite robust until the age of twenty, yet as a result of shock and
strain produced by the fire she suddenly developed an altogether abnormally bad
pathological state of spinal paralysis, blindness, temporary deafness,
ulceration, etc. Secondly, she was a devout Roman Catholic, and at the age of
sixteen had developed a great reverence for St. Theresa, her patron saint. We
have therefore the typical conditions of a bad medical history and intense
religious preoccupation prior to the stigmatization.
These two examples show us that even a highly stable organism like the physical
body is yet, in spite of the inertia of its heredity and its habits, amenable
under somewhat exceptional circumstances to quite drastic modifications at the
instance of a pure idea; it is, in fact, essentially ideoplastic. And when we
come to the semi-material amorphous living ectoplasm it is obvious that this
ideoplasticity is far more complete. The ectoplasm may be said to have an
inherent tendency to organization, but it is of no mechanical kind; its
propensity is to take any form which may be dictated or imagined by the medium.
Probably, in fact, the extrusion of ectoplasm and its "materialization" into
phantom forms such as Bien Boa, or
Katie King, represent a physical realization
of desires, phantasies, day-dreams which are in the medium's subconscious mind.
The analogy with psychological dissociation and with wish-fulfilment,
day-dreams, and the accompanying pseudo-personalities and spirit-controls,
enable us to interpret the whole in terms of Life rather than in terms of Death.
That the phantasy which finds temporary physical expression, the wish which is
dramatically or symbolically fulfilled with all the reality of a dream, is
sometimes not specifically the medium's, but may be primarily the sitter's, does
not in the least invalidate the interpretation. There is reason to believe that
the sitter often contributes not only some of the psychological material of the
drama, but also some of the ectoplasmic material which builds up the actors.
It may perhaps be objected against the theory of Ideoplasticity in its widest
applications that it implies the existence of mind, or of a subconscious
psychical entity, apart from any cerebral basis. Those who hold that thought is
secreted by the brain, and those who adopt the theory of Psycho-physical
parallelism, will argue that the development of conscious intelligence goes pari
passu with the development of the brain, and declines with the decline of the
body; that all thought is invariably accompanied by corresponding activity in
the brain cells and nerves; and that an injury to the brain damages the psychic
processes correspondingly. In short, they say that no psychological activity can
occur without an antecedent or a simultaneous activity of the brain.
Against this view, however, we have the facts relating to subconscious thought
in general. In the first place, subconscious thinking proceeds apparently
without effort; that is to say, it is not noticeably fatiguing, whereas
conscious thought produces fatigue quite obviously. In the second place,
subconscious thought bears no kind of qualitative relationship with cerebral
development; the examples of the calculating boy and the musical prodigy make
Finally, however, there are certain medical cases which show that conscious
psychic life may proceed normally even when portions of the brain which are
usually considered essential have been removed, or are completely septic. Bergson's studies of Aphasia led him to deny that memories were stored in the
brain, as physical traces or "neurograms"; and if the materialistic view does
not hold for memory it certainly does not apply to other psychological
processes. Moreover, some interesting cases are quoted by
Camille Flammarion (Before
Death, p. 88) which undermine any physiological theory of thought.
friend, E. Perrier, presented to the Academy of Sciences, in his lecture of
December 22nd, 1918, an observation of Dr. Robinson's concerning a man who had
lived for nearly a year with almost no suffering and with no apparent mental
trouble, with a brain that was nearly reduced to a pulp, and was no longer
anything but a vast purulent abscess. On March 24th, 1917, at the Academy of
Sciences, Dr. Guepin showed, through an operation on a wounded soldier, that the
partial ablation of the brain does not prevent manifestations of intelligence.
Other examples might be cited. At times there remain only very slight portions;
the mind makes use of what it can."
The last sentence expresses the correct attitude for us to adopt towards this
problem. The body is the instrument of the soul; in particular the brain is the
instrument which is used by the mind. It is not the machine which creates mental
phenomena, but the machine which is driven by psychological forces.
Gustave Geley. From the Unconscious to the
Baron von Schrenck-Notzing, Phenomenes Physiques de la Mediumnite.
Charles Richet. Thirty Years of Psychical Research.
Camille Flammarion. Before Death.
Psychic Science Quarterly. July 1929.
Rev. Thurston. Paper on Stigmatization, P.S.P.R., Part 88.
"The Supernormal" by G. C. Barnard (London: Rider
& C0., 1933).