"The limits of our spectrum do not inhere in the sun that shines, but in the eye that marks his shining. Beyond each end of that prismatic ribbon are ether waves of which our retina takes no cognisance... Even thus, I venture to affirm, beyond each end of our conscious spectrum extends a range of faculty and perception, exceeding the known range but as yet indistinctly guessed... Beyond the red end, of course, we know ... that organic processes are constantly taking place within us, which are not subject to our control, but which make the very foundation of our physical being... The faculties that lie beyond the violet end of our psychological spectrum will need more delicate exhibition, and will command a less ready belief ... yet it is that prolongation of our spectrum upon which our gaze will need to be most strenuously fixed. It is there that we shall find our enquiry opening upon a cosmic prospect, and inciting us upon an endless way."
F. W. H. Myers (written before 1896).
It is hardly necessary for me to reiterate my often expressed conviction of the extreme importance for philosophy and psychology of the well-established results of psychical research, and my regret that most philosophers and psychologists are content to remain in ignorance of them. Telepathy, both simultaneous and precognitive, is now an experimentally established fact."
Professor C. D. Broad (written in 1950's).
IT IS astonishing to reflect upon the indirectness and complexity of the means by which one mind communicates its thoughts and feelings to another mind. If A wishes to communicate with B he is obliged to use some mutually understood code. The most commonly used codes are black marks on paper (writing) and sounds in air (speaking). Where neither of these is possible, gestures with the fingers may be used, or in the case of the blind, the Braille code. Communication by any of these means is then possible between two persons who know the same language, but the extent and precision of communication are clearly limited by the degree to which they share in common words and associations which convey to each of them the same subtleties of feeling and delicacies of meaning. Consider further the complexity of one of these processes - e.g., that by which A speaks to B. The idea in A's mind, in some wholly mysterious way, produces electrical excitation in several related parts of his cerebral cortex. From one part of the cortex impulses pass along nerves to the intercostal muscles and the diaphragm to control the rate of expulsion of air through the larynx. From another part of the cortex nerve-impulses pass to the muscles of the lips, cheeks and tongue to dispose them correctly as regards volume and shape. At the same time nerve-impulses from another part of the cortex operate muscles which control, as regards tension and position, the vocal cords in the larynx. As a result of this coordinated action, sound-waves of a very complex character are emitted into the air. Some of them - a very small fraction
only impinge on the tympanic membrane of B's ear. A chain of three small bones conveys vibrations to a small oval window, passing through which they are carried by fluid to the delicate basilar membrane. Minute fibres in this are caused to vibrate sympathetically, and delicate hairs are thus subject to varying tensions. Nerve-impulses pass away from these hair-cells and are conveyed by the auditory nerve to a part of the brain of B, where some wholly mysterious interaction with the mind of B leads him to believe that he has the same idea as A formerly had.
Reflection upon the complexity and indirectness of this process, by which communication between the minds of A and B takes place through the intermediate activity of their physical bodies and of physical energy in the space between them, naturally leads to the question whether some more direct form of communication does not exist. The word "telepathy" was devised by F. W. H. Myers to denote the communication of ideas from one mind to another,
independently of the recognised channels of sense. Whether in fact there is such a thing was one of the first major questions which the Society for Psychical Research, founded in 1882 in London, set out to determine. Throughout human history, from the earliest records, we gather that there has been a persistent popular belief that some people have possessed a power or faculty of gathering knowledge other than through sensory means or rational inference. Such beliefs have included not only telepathy (one aspect of which is sometimes called thought-reading), but also clairvoyance (often called second-sight), dreams that are prophetic, oracles that proclaim future events, hauntings and apparitions and many such para-normal phenomena. The attitude of orthodox science to these popular beliefs has generally been one of indifference it has regarded them as superstitious or "old wives' tales". Occasionally it has been one of hostility to those who have spent time in investigating them. Although these attitudes are strictly incompatible with the scientific temper and outlook, there are adequate psychological reasons for them. It must be remembered how much fraud, charlatanry and sensation-mongering have gathered round these subjects, creating for the scientific mind associations of antipathy and mistrust. It must be remembered also that the scientist has fought a long fight, successfully, against popular superstition and medieval theological dogmatism, and is naturally vigilant to see that such things are not readmitted to the world of knowledge in respectable disguise. Moreover, the measure of success which scientists have had in interpreting the natural world has led them to believe that certain types of alleged events, which cannot be explained by any known laws, are for that reason highly improbable. To give but one illustration: science has always regarded it as axiomatic that causes precede effects in the time-series. If it be supposed that a future event can become foreknown, all processes of deduction or rational inference being ruled out as accounting for this, then it looks at first sight as though a future event must be the cause of a present mental state. The utter strangeness of some of the alleged facts gives them an aura of improbability, and at least calls for a very high and unimpeachable quality of evidence if they are to be considered seriously. A little thought shows that if even one such phenomenon as telepathy is established, the basis of any materialistic philosophy is destroyed, and we are introduced to a new order of things existing in its own right, and not just as an epiphenomenon of matter. If such paranormal phenomena as telepathy, clairvoyance and precognition are established, it is not too much to say that the bounds of Man's universe are widened without known limit, and he himself is a star of the first magnitude. The issues involved are therefore of the utmost importance.
A number of factors in the mid-nineteenth century conspired to produce the first serious critical investigations of the para-normal. On the one hand, the phenomena of hypnotism had been subject to study and scrutiny by a number of medical men. In this unusual state of consciousness not only was it found possible to suggest anaesthesia under which major operations could be performed, but several investigators had noticed at times a mental rapport between the agent and the subject which appeared to be telepathic in character. Cases were reported where the agent placed various substances in his mouth, unknown to the patient, who correctly described the taste as though experienced by himself. Pain produced by pinching various parts of the agent's body was felt and localised by the hypnotised subject in another room. Janet, the distinguished French psychotherapist, is said to have succeeded in inducing hypnotic trance
telepathically, in eighteen out of
twenty-five of his patients at times when they had no reason to expect it. Such ostensible examples of telepathy were a stimulus to further examination.
About the middle of the nineteenth century were also to be found the first beginnings of spiritualism in New York. Despite all the welter of credulity and fraud which came to be associated with its rapid growth, there were notable examples of mediums such as D. D. Home(1) and W. Stainton Moses(2), in whose presence paranormal phenomena of both a mental and physical type had been witnessed by numerous responsible observers. These, together with the nature of mediumship and the validity of claims based upon it, challenged responsible and impartial scientific enquiry. Fortunately a group of men in Cambridge of outstanding scholarship and integrity were willing to undertake this task, and in February 1882 the Society for Psychical Research was founded. Its first President was Henry Sidgwick, Knightbridge Professor of Moral Philosophy in Cambridge. Other foundation members were F. W. H. Myers, a distinguished classical scholar and educationalist; Edmund Gurney, also a classicist with an aptitude for psychological experiment; Frank Podmore, a brilliant and sceptical thinker, and William Barrett, Professor of Physics in Dublin. During its history the Society has had the support in its Presidential Chair of such men as Professor Balfour-Stewart, F.R.S., the Earl of Balfour, O.M., Professor William James, Sir William Crookes, O.M., F.R.S., F. W. H. Myers, Sir Oliver Lodge, F.R.S., Professor Charles Richet, Bishop Boyd Carpenter, Professor Henri Bergson, Dr. F. C. S. Schiller, Professor Gilbert Murray, Dr. L. P. Jacks, Lord Rayleigh, O.M., F.R.S., Professor William McDougall, Professor Hans Driesch, Dr. W. F. Prince and others. The
Proceedings of the Society, which now cover about seventy years of research and investigation, have maintained a critical standard comparable with the best publications of learned scientific societies. It can now be claimed that there is a mass of well-attested and carefully sifted evidence, as well as of experimental research, upon which reliable conclusions may be based. Every competent student of this field is aware that our knowledge is as yet infinitesimal compared with the field of the unknown-but this is true also in the domain of the natural sciences. It is, however, a matter of the most profound and far-reaching implications to be able now to claim that telepathy, clairvoyance and precognition are indubitable hard facts; that the evidence for them is as well-founded and reliable as for the basic facts of physics and chemistry. The second section of this book is designed to outline the sort of evidence upon which this statement is founded, to point towards some of the laws governing para-normal phenomena - or, at least, towards helpful theories of their nature - and finally to consider the implications. What sort of a universe is it in which these things are facts? What do they tell us of the nature of Man himself?
(1) Proc. S.P.R., Vol. 35, Part 93, PP. 1-284.
(2) Spirit Teachings; or Proc. S.P.R., Vols. IX and Xl.
It is not proposed here to attempt even an outline of the work and history of the Society for Psychical
Research(3). We shall instead take the salient fields of enquiry: those phenomena which, if established, are deemed to be of the greatest significance in relation to these profound questions. The present chapter deals with telepathy and clairvoyance alone. Telepathy we have already defined.
By clairvoyance we mean awareness of some approximately contemporary event or some object in the
material world without the use of sense-organs or rational inference based on sense-data. Such would include knowledge of an event in a distant place or of 'the order of cards in a shuffled pack-where such knowledge was not known to any living person, and could not therefore be acquired telepathically.
(3) W. H. Salter: The Society for Psychical Research: An Outline of its History (London, 1948).
It is convenient for study to consider separately the spontaneous data and the experimental work. The relative importance of the contribution which these have made to our knowledge of the subject will be discussed
In the field of the natural sciences experimental research based upon some theory or hypothesis is the normal method of progress. In the field of psychical phenomena this method is more limited in its application, for we do not know enough to be able to produce the phenomena, at least in their more striking and dramatic forms, at will. The recording of such things as and when they happen, in the fullest detail, is important as evidence which can later be critically examined. From time to time the huge mass of collected accounts has been critically examined by the Society for Psychical Research. One of the most recent surveys made by D. J.
West(4), which deals largely with precognitive dreams and reports of apparitions and hallucinations, indicates in general how difficult it is to form a balanced judgment in some of these fields of enquiry. Such matters as fraud, chance, coincidence, delusion, and all the possibilities of explanation along "normal" lines have to be weighed as carefully as possible. The problem of assessment in all records of spontaneous cases is not unlike that of the historian or lawyer who is called on to evaluate the testimony of witnesses or reliability of documents. We give below a few representative cases to illustrate the type of evidence which has to be assessed.
(4) D. J. West: "The Investigation of Spontaneous Cases",
Proc. S.P.R., Vol. 48, Part 175, p. 264.
Case 1 (quoted by Mrs. Salter in Evidence for Telepathy, Sidgwick & Jackson,
"I had a telepathic impression from my brother two years ago. He was taken suddenly ill and sent to a nursing home. He had some great domestic trouble and his nerves gave way. I seemed to feel all he
did... I was so unstrung that my husband ... was at a loss what to do for me. I said I knew something was very wrong and wrote to enquire at once... The date was October 23rd, 1931. Before there was time to receive a reply, a cable came telling of his death, November 13th, after exactly three weeks' illness. The subsequent letter confirmed everything. He was calling me all the time and thought the night nurse was
Here the telepathic link between brother and sister was such that the latter, as percipient, experienced acute anxiety and knew that its source was her brother.
Case 2 - Miss Margaret Jones(5):
(5) From Jour. S.P.R., Vol. 28, p. 253.
"I have to go into details to explain the circumstances: I was on night
duty (as a professional nurse), which explains why I was asleep in the day-time. One evening, May 19th, 1931, I was startled out of my sleep by a voice, which called out my name distinctly, 'Margaret, Margaret'. I felt positive that someone had been in my room by my bed and rushed out again. I was never called by my Christian name at the hospital; however, I did not pay much attention to that, as I was asleep. I thought it must have been the maid calling the night nurses, and she had not switched my light on. I got out of bed and looked down the corridor. I did not hear or see anybody. I looked at my clock; it was 5.30 p.m. This was quite early, as we were not called until 7.30 p.m. I sat up in bed thinking over the strangeness of the situation. However, I dropped off to sleep again.
"At breakfast that night I told some of my colleagues about my strange experience, and they just joked about it. I went on duty at 10.30 p.m. The night sister came to me, called me to one side, and asked me did I know anyone living at -. I said 'Yes, my sister lives there'. 'Well, nurse,' she said, 'I am afraid there is bad news for you.' She handed me a telegram, which said: 'Darling Peggy passed away at 5.30 p.m.' The telegram had been opened by Sister, as there were five Nurse Joneses in that particular hospital. Peggy was my little niece, aged eight years. We were great friends. She was taken suddenly ill and an immediate operation was performed, but she lived only a few hours. When I met my sister I told her what I had experienced, and she told me that the child called out, 'Margaret,' and she remarked to her husband, 'Is she calling herself or Auntie Margaret?' It is a strange fact that the stated time of the child's death on the wire was 5.30 p.m., just about the time that I was disturbed from my sleep. I did not know the child was ill; it was very sudden.
I cannot describe my feelings as I read the telegram, which reminded me of my strange experience at 5.30
There were corroborative statements from the child's mother and a nursing colleague who was present when the dream was related. Here we note the telepathic impulse emerged into the percipient's consciousness as an apparent voice.
Case 3 - Mrs. Bettany(6):
(6) From Phantasms of the Living, Vol. I, p. 194: Gurney, Myers and Podmore (S.P.R., London,
was a child I had many remarkable experiences of a psychical nature, which I remember to have looked upon as ordinary and natural at the time.
"(On one occasion (I am unable to fix the date, but I must have been about ten years old) I was walking in a country lane at A, the place where my parents then resided. I was reading geometry as I walked along ... when in a moment I saw a bedroom known as the White Room in my home, and upon the floor lay my mother, to all appearance dead. The vision must have remained some minutes, during which time my real surroundings appeared to pale and die out; but as the vision faded, actual surroundings came back, at first dimly, and then clearly. I could not doubt that what I had seen was real, so instead of going home, I went at once to the house of our medical man and found him at home. He at once set out with me for my home, on the way putting questions
I could not answer, as my mother was to all appearance well when I left home. I led the doctor straight to the White Room, where we found my mother actually lying as in my vision. This was true even to minute details. She had been seized suddenly by an attack of the heart, and would soon have breathed her last but for the doctor's timely advent. I shall get my father and mother to read and sign
In answer to questions, Mrs. Bettany
1. I was in no anxiety about my mother at the time of the vision.
2. I found a handkerchief with a lace border beside her on the floor. This I had distinctly noticed in my vision.
3. This was the only occasion, I believe, on which I saw a scene transported apparently into the actual field of vision, to the exclusion of objects and surroundings actually present. I have had other visions in which I have seen events happening as they really were in another place, but I have been also conscious of real [i.e., immediate]
Her father, Mr. S. G. Gwynne, interviewed,
"I distinctly remember being surprised by seeing my daughter in company with the family doctor outside the door of my residence; and I asked 'Who is ill?' She replied, 'Mamma'. She led the way at once to the White Room, where we found my wife lying in a swoon on the floor. It was when I asked when she had been taken ill that I found it must have been
after my daughter had left the house."
Here the mind of the mother was the agent, and the telepathic impulse presented itself to the child's awareness as a vivid picture or visual presentation of the desperate situation.
Case 4 (told by Mrs. S., "Margaret" of the narrative)(7):
(7) From Phantasms of the Living, Vol. II, p.
"A and B are two villages in Norfolk, distant about five miles from each other. At the time of the
occurrence about to be related, the clergymen of these parishes both bore the same name, though there was no relationship between them; at the same time there was a great friendship between the two families. On 20th February, 1870, a daughter, Constance, about fourteen years old, of the clergyman of A, was staying with the other family - a daughter, Margaret, in that family, being her great friend. Edward W., the eldest son of the Rector of A, was at that time lying dangerously ill at home with inflammation of the lungs, and was frequently delirious. On the day mentioned, at about noon, Margaret and Constance were in the garden of B Rectory, running down a path which was separated by a hedge from an orchard adjoining; they distinctly heard themselves called twice, apparently from the orchard, thus: 'Connie-Margaret; Connie-Margaret.' They stopped, but could see no one, and so went to the house, a distance of about forty yards, concluding that one of Margaret's brothers had called them from there. But to their surprise they found that this was not the case; and Mrs. W., Margaret's mother, assured the girls no one had called them from the house, and they therefore concluded that they must have been mistaken in supposing they heard their names repeated. This appeared to be the only explanation of the matter, and nothing more was thought of it.
"That evening Constance returned to her home at A. On the following day Mrs. W. drove over to enquire for the sick boy Edward. In the course of conversation, his mother said that the day before he had been delirious, and had spoken of Constance and Margaret, that he called to them in his delirium, and had then said, 'Now I see them running along the hedge, but directly I call them they run towards the house'. Mrs. W., of B, at once called to mind the mystery of the previous day, and asked, 'Do you know at what time that happened?' Edward's mother replied that it was a few minutes past twelve, for she had just given the invalid his medicine, twelve being his hour for taking
Interest here is associated with the fact of collective percipience: both girls apparently "heard" the voice. Also the sick boy ostensibly showed clairvoyant perception of their reaction.
It would be possible to fill a large volume with such cases. The best early collection is to be found in
Phantasms of the Living (published 1886), and the best later collection of 190 cases was classified by Mrs. Henry
Sidgwick(8) in 1922. To get the cumulative effect of spontaneous cases a report such as Mrs. Sidgwick's should be studied. It may be asked whether anything can be regarded as "proved" by such collections. Admittedly the perfect case is rare: this implies fraud has been ruled out, and that there were adequate witnesses to check all the significant points. Even so there remains the hypothesis of
chance - coincidence. That this is a probable explanation of so many cases, even imperfect in the sense of not being adequately witnessed at every point, is one which it is difficult to accept.
(8) Proc. S.P.R., Vol. 33, Part 86, pp. 23-437.
It will be noted that in the above cases, selected to illustrate various methods by which the percipient becomes para-normally aware of a distant event, the agent was in each case ill or in distress. A strong emotional factor was operative, and this obviously is not one which can be assumed or introduced into experimental work. Where it exists, however, it seems to create the possibility of vivid and dramatic effects in the percipient's mind.
The most convincing examples of telepathy, to those who constantly experience them in the family
circle(9) or with particular friends, are not, of course, such as would ever be recorded, nor could they be evidential except to the persons concerned. I have frequently remarked, when listening to a friend of mine expounding his views on some difficult philosophical subject, an illumination and understanding at the time which seemed largely to have vanished when a later attempt was made to recollect it. It seems to me likely that the experience may be due to a temporary telepathic rapport to which his conversation was merely auxiliary, and that the part which could be recalled later was only those meanings absorbed through the auditory cerebral
mechanism. To this feature may be due the enormous superiority of personal tuition over book-learning, given by the right kind of teacher. It may also account for the importance attached in the East to the
guru-disciple relationship in the latter's advancement.
(9) E.g. "Family Telepathy," by G. N. M. Tyrrell, in
Jour. S.P.R., Vol. 34,
p. 196 (1948).
Experimental Work (Qualitative)
In experimental work attempts are made by two or more people to convey ideas or impressions from one to the other. The term "agent" is used for the active person who attempts to transmit, and the term "subject" or "percipient" for the one who attempts to receive. If the ideas transmitted are symbols on playing-cards, numbers, words, letters, colours, or correspondingly simple ideas, the determination of a "hit" or a "miss" is comparatively easy, and if an agreed limited number of such ideas were to be used,' it is clear that the results could be quantitatively assessed. On the other hand, if drawings or patterns or sentences or events or any such complex ideas are used, there may be resemblances which would be judged "partially correct", but where a clear-cut hit or miss cannot be assigned. A vast amount of experimental work of this sort has been recorded. Some of it is very impressive, and can leave little doubt in the mind of the student that a factor of extra-sensory perception is at
work - in other words, that chance coincidence is inadequate to account for such results. For an exact assessment of what are the odds against chance as an explanation, we have to turn to the quantitative work which will be discussed at length in the next section. Some of the qualitative work will be here described briefly. Early volumes of the
Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research contain many records of work done under satisfactory experimental conditions.
Professor Gilbert Murray of Oxford carried out two long series of experiments in telepathy, with his daughter, Mrs. Arnold Toynbee, usually acting as the
agent(10). Generally other persons were present with Mrs. Toynbee, who announced to them what she proposed to think of. The first series, conducted between 1910 and 1915, comprised 505 experiments, of which 33% were judged successful, 28% partially successful and 39% failures. The second series of 295 experiments between 1916 and 1924 comprised 36% successes, 23% partial
successes and 41% failures. The procedure described by Professor Murray himself is as follows:
(10) Proc. S.P.R., Vol. 29, p. 46; Vol. 34, p.
out of the room and of course out of earshot. Someone in the room, generally my eldest daughter, thinks of a scene or an incident or anything she likes, and says it aloud. It is written down, and I am called. I come in, usually take my daughter's hand, and then, if I have luck, describe in detail what she has thought of. The least disturbance of our customary method, change of time or place, presence of strangers, controversy and especially noise, is apt to make things go wrong. I become myself somewhat over-sensitive and irritable, though not, I believe, to a noticeable degree... When I am getting at the thing which I wish to discover, the only effort I make is a sort of effort of attention of a quite general kind. The thing may come through practically any sense channel, or it may discover a road of its own, a chain of reasoning or of association, which, as far as I remember, never coincides with any similar chain in the mind of anyone present, but is invented, for the purpose of the
Here are a few examples taken from a series of experiments made on one particular
(Mrs. Toynbee as agent): "I think of Helena Cornford and Tony grown up, walking beside the river at
Professor Murray: "This is not a book. It's got a sort of Cambridge feel in it. It's the Cornfords somehow.
No - it's a girl walking beside the river, but it isn't Frances [Mrs. Cornford]. Oh! is it baby Cornford grown up? Ought I to know what she is doing? ("Who is she with?") "No, I don't get who she is
with - No, I should only be guessing." (Everyone: "Go on.") "No, I should only think of another baby grown up - Tony" [a small grandchild].
(Miss Agnes Murray as agent): "Terence [a nephew of Professor Murray] and Napoleon standing on a hill above the Marne and watching the artillery down below."
Professor Murray: "This is a war scene - I don't get the persons clearly, but I think on the hill looking down on the artillery. It is not Saumarez. They may be Oxford people. I get the bursting of shells. I should think it was Terence and somebody else - I don't think I know the other person. I don't think I know him. No, I can't get him."
(Miss Agnes Murray as agent): "I think of Diana of the Crossways. Diana walking up the road in the rain, and crouching down in front of the empty grate in the house."
Professor Murray: "This is a book. Oh, it's Meredith. It's Diana walking. I don't remember the scene properly. Diana walking in the rain. I feel as if she was revisiting her house, but I can't remember when it happens." ("A little more.")
"No - can't oblige."
(Mrs. Toynbee as agent): "I'll think of Rupert [Brooke] meeting Natascha in
War and Peace. Running in a yellow
dress - running through a wood."
Professor Murray: "Well, I thought when I came into the room it was about Rupert. Yes, it's fantastic. He's meeting somebody out of a book. He's meeting Natascha in
War and Peace.
I don't know what he is saying-perhaps 'Will you run away with me?'" ("Can't you get the scene?") "I should say it was in a wood." (Colour of the dress?") "No, I can't get
These successful examples will suffice to show how remarkable was the degree of success. One of the fundamental questions to be answered is whether there was any possibility whatever of hyperaesthesia - in this case hyper-acute
hearing - accounting for the results. Mr. Gerald Balfour, who was present at the sitting from which these examples are selected, "came away from it with a conviction that hyperaesthesia, to whatever length it might be stretched, could not be made to cover every case". Needless to say, tests were made by the experimenters to see if any fragments of ordinary conversation could be heard at the place to which Professor Murray retired, and that they were satisfied they could not. Professor Murray's ordinary hearing is said to be normal, not unusually acute; but he considers that when experimenting he may pass into a state of slight hyperaesthesia, since noises of all kinds become intolerable to him. Mrs. Sidgwick discusses at length several instances of experiments in which possibly this explanation might appear to have some cogency, as for example where the rhythm of a sentence or verse is caught, but not the complete idea. But against this as a general explanation are many examples in which Professor Murray has correct impressions of things not mentioned by the agent when announcing the idea to be communicated. Here, for example, is one
(Mrs. Arnold Toynbee as agent): "Greenmantle [by John Buchan] where the German peasant woman takes them in in a snowstorm."
Professor Murray: "This is something out of a book. I don't think I've read it. It's not Russian. It's got no particular [national] character. It's a snowstorm. It's somebody - I think it's a peasant woman giving shelter to a spy. I think it's a German peasant woman. I'm not sure. I think it's a German woman." ("What sort of a spy?") "I think he is English. I think it is a book of
The character in the book was a spy and an Englishman, but the agent had neither stated nor hinted at this.
Another type of case which does not fit into the auditory hyperaesthesia theory is that in which Professor Murray fails to recognise a person or a book named by the agent but states something true (not mentioned by the agent) about that person or book which would, however, have been a natural inference if he had grasped the name. Here is one
(Mrs. Toynbee as agent): "I'll think of Margaret K at a particular restaurant in Munich where I used to have lunch."
Professor Murray: "It's some girl I don't know - a Cambridge girl, I think - I can't get it
clear - is she standing in a restaurant or something like that?"
It is difficult to see how this correct information would be obtained other than telepathically if the name had not been grasped.
The mode of "approach" to a subject through a description of impressions also suggests the telepathic cause, since we may rule out any intention to mislead. For
(Mr. Arnold Toynbee as agent): "I'll do Rip Van Winkle coming down the mountain."
Professor Murray: "Oh, I've got this. It's an old sort of gnome-like person with a matted beard coming
down - very funny feeling expecting to be known and find things - Oh, it's Rip Van
(Mr. Patrick Murray as agent): "The lion in the Zoo trying to reach a large piece of meat just outside the cage."
Professor Murray: "A sort of smell of wild animals - carnivorous animals. Something grabbing through bars at a piece of meat at a Zoo. Don't know the
Another mode of approach by Professor Murray to the idea of the agent, through first bringing forward an associated idea in his mind, is also of
(Lady Mary Murray as agent): "I have had in my mind for some time George Trevelyan with his ambulance falling back in the rout from the Bainsizza plateau."
Professor Murray: "I get Geoffrey Young with his leg off, having to retreat with George Trevelyan in the Italian retreat." [Mr. Young did retreat under these
Another type of criticism against these experiments might be that Professor Murray in some cases held the agent's hand, hoping to increase rapport. Approval or disapproval might have been unconsciously communicated to him by slight muscular responses. Apart from the fact that the withdrawal or contradiction by Professor Murray of a statement already made is infrequent, Mrs. Sidgwick has pointed out in her report that there were a sufficiently large number of successful experiments in which the agent's hand was not held, to eliminate this as a necessary condition.
These experiments, in which a group of people all know the selected idea, raise interesting questions as to the part played by the principal agent. Analysis of the results showed that the principal agent played the predominant part, since with the same group of persons in the room, certain persons acting as principal agent were much more successful than others. It would seem that the rapport is substantially between the percipient and the principal agent. There were, however, interesting cases of failure attributed by Professor Murray to "interference" from certain of the other persons present. He often noticed he could not receive messages from Mrs. Arnold Toynbee if X or Y were present, whereas if she went away and one of them was the agent, the results were good, or if they went away and left her as agent, the results were good. He attributed the disturbance to a sort of restless desire on their part to be the principal agent, though not a desire amounting to any anger or keen irritation. This, Professor Murray says, would have incapacitated him.
Speaking in 1924, Mrs. Henry Sidgwick referred to this whole group of experiments as "the most important ever brought to the notice of the Society, both on account of their frequently brilliant success and on account of the eminence of the experimenter". Certainly if hyperaesthesia be ruled
out - and in the opinion of competent persons who participated it could be ruled
out - they demonstrate in Professor Gilbert Murray a most remarkably developed degree of telepathic sensitivity. Chance as an explanation is completely out of the question.
We turn now to an interesting record of experiments published in 1930 by Upton
Sinclair(11), a responsible and well-known American writer on public affairs. His wife, Mrs. Craig Sinclair, was in all cases the percipient. In the majority of experiments Mr. Sinclair was the agent, but in a few others his brother-in-law, R. L. Irwin. The material used for transmission was a drawing constructed by the agent. The experiments with R. L. Irwin as agent (who was forty miles away) took this form. He would choose an object at random, draw it, and concentrate on the drawing for some minutes at an agreed time. Mrs. Sinclair, with eyes closed, would desire to obtain what was in her brother-in-law's mind, and, having obtained a persistent or recurring image, would take paper and pencil and also draw it. These two drawings were later compared with each other.
(11) Upton Sinclair: Mental Radio (T. W. Laurie, 1930).
The great majority of experiments between Mr. and Mrs. Sinclair were made with minor variations upon the following simple technique. He would make a set of drawings, usually of fairly simple things - a bird's nest with eggs, a helmet, a tree, a flower, a pattern, etc. - and enclose each in an opaque envelope. Then, or later, Mrs. Sinclair would relax on a couch, take them one at a time, and after she considered she "knew" its contents, would draw them.
The book which contains the record of this work includes numerous examples of pairs of drawings. Of these, Professor William McDougall
"The degree of success and the conditions of experiment were such that we can reject them as conclusive evidence of some mode of communication not at present explicable in accepted scientific terms, only by assuming that Mr. and Mrs. Sinclair either are grossly stupid, incompetent, and careless persons, or have deliberately entered upon a conspiracy to deceive the
Both suppositions are of course untenable.
Interest attaches to Mrs. Sinclair's description of her state of mind and mental processes while acting as percipient. She had previously acquired by practice the ability to attain a certain poised state of mind, well known to students of yoga, and gives an interesting description of the
technique(12). The ability to hold in consciousness (without any sense of strain) a single idea, such as a coloured image or flower, must be first acquired. No association trains must be allowed to develop, no thinking
about the idea must take place, and a complete sense of relaxation of body and mind must be achieved.
(12) Loc. cit., Chapter XXI.
The state of sleep can be avoided by holding on to the single idea. When success in this has been achieved, the necessity for the single idea has passed and a poised state of blankness of mind can be held equally well, again without any effort or strain. It is possible while retaining this state to give an order to the deeper mind to present on this blank screen of awareness the knowledge required (perhaps of a drawing in an opaque envelope). The possibility of doing this at all is an indication of the complexity of our mental structure - of different levels of mental functioning. Everyone, of course, recognises that in dreams one level is the creator of dramatic incident and action, while another level is a surprised and interested spectator of it. In Mrs. Sinclair's experiences only fragments usually appeared at first, delicately sketched, and swift in their coming and going. Other levels of mind were prone to present their "guesses" and confuse the authentic information. Mrs. Sinclair's subjective sense included at least three levels: the conscious screen, a region of rich association-trains prone to guessing, and a deep level of authentic knowledge.
To attempt to assess the measure of success with drawings is difficult, but the reader will gain an impression from the figures of Mr. Sinclair. Out of 290 drawings, sixty-five were judged successes, 155 partial successes, and seventy were failures.
Many other investigations of a qualitative kind have been made(13). A book by Rene Warcollier, entitled
Experiments in Telepathy (George Allen & Unwin, 1939), includes a great deal of qualitative data, throwing light on the conditions of working. It is time, however, to look at the important and enormously expanding field of quantitative experimental work, for it is this which offers coercive proof to the scientific and sceptical mind of the fact of extra-sensory perception.
(13) Proc. S.P.R., Vol. 6, p. 128; Vol. 7, p. 99; Vol. 8,
p. 422; Vol. 11, p. 174; Vol. 21, p. 60, etc.
Experimental Work (Quantitative)(14)
(14) Some general readers without mathematical training may find this section of little interest. They should omit it and pass on to the next section.
Although some of the early experimenters, such as Richet and the Sidgwicks, had done quantitative work, the era of its systematic development began in 1930, through the work of Professor J. B. Rhine and his collaborators at Duke University, U.S.A. This was sponsored by Professor William McDougall, who had a distinguished name in psychology, and the work of Rhine and his colleagues has been given to the world in the
Journal of Parapsychology and a number of
(15) E.g., J. B. Rhine: The Reach of the Mind (Faber & Faber, 1948).
Before giving an account of this, the present place may be appropriate to discuss some of the terms used. Telepathy and clairvoyance are the old descriptive terms. Thus, if a card was drawn from a shuffled pack and named correctly by a distant percipient (the knowledge of which card it was being in no person's mind), this would be described as pure clairvoyance (P.C.). If an agent thought of a card and a percipient named it correctly, this would be called pure telepathy (P.T.). If, however, an agent drew a card out of a pack and looked at it, the percipient's information might ostensibly be acquired either from the card or the agent's mind, or both, and Rhine's term for this is general extra-sensory perception (G.E.S.P.). There are some, however, who criticise the term "extra-sensory perception" on the ground that the phenomena may not be a kind of
perception at all. For one thing, the percipient does not know when he is guessing right. Some have used the alternative term "para-normal cognition", but this also may be criticised on the ground that it is scarcely
cognition if the percipient does not know if the knowledge is right or wrong. Moreover, it is possible that the adjective para-normal may some day be regarded as a misnomer. For this reason some investigators use the noncommittal term "psi", following a proposal of Wiesner. The term psi is used to include all of the individual terms, telepathy, clairvoyance, precognition of the sensory type, and phenomena like psycho-kinesis (P.-K.) of the motor type. As long as it is under. stood that we are not committing ourselves to any theory of its nature, we may continue to speak of E.S.P., as the term has had wide currency.
Rhine's Work. The bulk of the early work was directed to establish clairvoyance (P.C.) and G.E.S.P. Geometrical symbols were commonly used, and special packs of twenty-five playing-cards were made, containing five stars, five rectangles, five crosses, five circles and five wavy lines. These are sometimes called Zener cards. The procedure to test clairvoyance was as follows: The pack was shuffled and placed face downwards by the experimenter. The percipient, placed so that no sensory clues were possible, was asked to "guess" the nature of the top card. This was recorded by the experimenter, and the card removed from the pack (but not looked at). At the conclusion the recorded guesses were compared with the actual order. It is obvious that the chance of a correct guess is one in five, or five out of twenty-five; for there were five different symbols in the pack. If some clairvoyant factor assisted the guessing, then a deviation from the chance score may be found. The question that then arises is: how likely is it that chance alone might account for the observed deviation? This can be answered definitely by mathematics. For example, if a person ran four times through the pack, thus making 100 guesses, and in the course of this obtained thirty correct instead of the chance expectation of twenty correct, mathematical statistics allows us to calculate that such a deviation of + 10 should occur once in 150 times.
It is necessary, of course, that the reader shall make up his mind what odds against chance as an explanation of a deviation he will be prepared to accept as "significant". Certainly in ordinary scientific work, if odds were 150 to 1 against chance accounting for a result, scientists would assume that some other factor was operative and would start to look for it. What sort of results were in fact obtained?
One of his first percipients - A. J. Linzmayer - was tested under G.E.S.P. conditions (telepathy and clairvoyance both possible) and P.C. conditions. His high rate of scoring (viz., 49.5% correct in both cases) showed that the faculty was essentially a clairvoyant one. He made altogether 4,505 guesses, and his average was 33.6% correct. The odds against chance as an explanation are astronomical. In the course of time Linzmayer's faculty declined, and was close to the chance level two years later. C. E. Stuart, a graduate assistant, made 7,500 guesses under P.C. conditions and scored 24.2%. Herbert Pearce made 10,300 guesses under P.C. conditions, with an average scoring rate of 36.4%.
Even on the data of his first three years of work, taking all his subjects into account, Rhine was able to report about 85,000 guesses with an average scoring rate of nearly 28%. The odds against chance as an explanation are so large that we can say categorically that a para-normal factor is involved.
In the years that followed his early work, as might have been expected, these researches were subject to criticism of every kind. All conceivable sources of error in the experimental conditions were considered, and experiments subsequently successfully devised to meet these criticisms. The experiments were loaded with precautions and checked by witnesses to an extent probably unequalled in any other field of research. On the mathematical side the following authoritative statement was issued by the American Institute of Mathematical Statistics in
"On the statistical side, recent mathematical work has established the fact that, assuming that the experiments have been properly performed, the statistical analysis is essentially valid. If the Rhine investigation is to be fairly attacked, it must be on other than mathematical
Rhine's proof of clairvoyance has been supported by the results of other investigators. As one noteworthy example we cite work done by Miss Dorothy Martin and Miss Frances Stribic at the University of Colorado over a period of three years with one outstanding individual, Mr. C. J. He was selected by preliminary tests from 332 volunteers. Between the percipient and experimenter was a wooden screen, and the pack of cards, after shuffling, was placed in a pile face downwards on the table. The percipient made his guesses down through the pack - i.e., as he believed the order to be, from top to bottom. No fewer than 91,475 guesses were made by C. J., and his average score over the whole was 27.4% correct. The odds in favour of chance as an explanation of this are absolutely negligible.
G. N. M. Tyrrell's Work. Mr. Tyrrell has for over thirty years been engaged actively in the field of psychical research. He was President of the London Society for Psychical Research in 1945, has written two excellent
books(16) on the subject, and made valuable research contributions. He worked principally with one percipient, Miss Gertrude Johnson, who had shown a flair for finding lost objects when not consciously looking for them. Tyrrell's experiments were designed to use this particular form of E.S.P. Five small boxes were placed side by side on a table, and a screen fitted closely over the top of them, thus hiding a person sitting on one side of the table from a person sitting on the other. On the side on which the experimenter sat the boxes were open; on the side on which the percipient (Miss G. J.) sat they had sloping, overhanging lids. The boxes were well padded and lined with soft flannel. Tyrrell placed a polished wooden pointer into the boxes at random, saying "In" as he did so. G. J. opened the lid of the box in which she believed the pointer to be, and Tyrrell could score a success or failure by the light which. came through. Needless to say, the boxes were carefully tested to see if any sound arising from the introduction of the pointer was discernible. His results from 30,000 trials, which on a chance basis should have been 6,000 successes (since there were five boxes), gave 9,364 successes (30.2%). The odds against chance as an explanation of this deviation are billions to one. In further experiments six different operators worked with G. J., and in 8,500 trials scored 2,126 or 25% successes, in which again the odds against chance as an explanation are billions to one. In another series of 37,100 trials, with twenty-nine different persons (other than G. J.) the successes were 7,756, or 20.9%: the odds against chance explaining this comparatively small deviation from 20% are about 100,000 to 1. The deviation was mainly due to one of the
twenty-nine who showed some appreciable E.S.P.
(16) Science and Psychical Phenomena (Methuen, 1938); The Personality of Man (Pelican Books, 1946).
It might be urged in criticism of G. J.'s high scoring with Tyrrell that perhaps it arose from certain habitual preferences for particular boxes coinciding in the two people. But it must be noted that G. J. also scored highly with six out of seven other operators who were tried. On this view, then, these six operators must have had habitual preferences coinciding with G. J.'s - which seems improbable. Moreover, two of the six successful operators were among the twenty-nine persons who worked with Tyrrell as operator, and they then failed to score above the chance level. This is surprising if their habitual preferences were supposed to be similar. It is far more plausible that the high scoring was on account of a faculty peculiar to G. J.
The other line of criticism might be that G. J. had a faculty of auditory hyperaesthesia. Tyrrell says that there was no independent evidence of this and he points out further, that, even so, accuracy of
locating a faint sound is different from accuracy of perception of it. The electrical form of the apparatus which Tyrrell later devised was designed, however, to eliminate this possible explanation. Instead of using a pointer, each box was fitted with a small electric pea-lamp, and had a silent key permitting it to be lit. The boxes were thoroughly tested for light-tightness, the lids were revetted, the boxes lined with red velvet, and the lamps run dimly.
Tyrrell also devised a commutator which could be put into action by pressing a button. Its function was to take the wires from the keys, and on the way to the lamps transpose them, so that on pressing any particular key the experimenter did not know which lamp he was lighting (the boxes being completely closed). Such a device broke up any possibility of habitual preferences affecting the results - the commutator being reset at intervals. Moreover, when the commutator was in action, since the operator did not know which lamp he was lighting, telepathy was also eliminated. The recording of the results was now done mechanically. A strip of moving paper was driven mechanically and could be marked by two ink-wheels placed side by side. Raising any lid caused one of the ink-wheels to mark the paper. If this box contained the lighted lamp, the second ink-wheel also marked the paper. As a precaution against fraud, the ink-wheel operated with very little movement of the lid, and if by chance two lids were lifted, the whole record was mechanically cut out. In later experiments Tyrrell introduced a purely mechanical selector of the keys based upon a rotating arm moving over contacts. This was tested carefully and found to give a truly random selection (eliminating any possibility of number-habit preferences entering in). In one long series using this device there were 7,809 trials, of which 1,841 or 23.5% were correct, instead of the chance number of 1,562. The odds against chance explaining this are a hundred billions to one.
Tyrrell demonstrated that G. J. scored approximately the same when telepathy was eliminated as when it was possible. He also showed that there were occasionally runs of from six to ten correct scores superimposed on a chance-background. This strongly suggests a special faculty temporarily in action, and G. J. had a subjective awareness of these periods of "almost losing consciousness of her surroundings" and "a peculiar exalted feeling ... making her feel that it is almost impossible to fail". New conditions or the presence of visitors were usually found to send the rate of scoring down, but gradual recovery followed.
We shall refer in the next chapter to further work of Tyrrell with this apparatus. We shall only make very brief reference to its character here, but it is the strongest possible evidence that a leakage of light from the box could not account for the results. He introduced a relay into the lighting circuit of the lamps which in effect placed a gap in the circuit, so that although a lamp was selected, it did not actually light. As soon as any box lid was raised, however, this operated the relay and lit the lamp. It suffices to say here that G. J. scored without much change under these conditions also. The reader will of course recognise the implications of
this - that the extra-sensory faculty is apparently not one of clairvoyance of contemporary events only, but of
future events. G. J. showed a knowledge far beyond chance, of the box in which a lamp would
in the future be lit. Tyrrell remarks, "It is indeed one of the most extraordinary things, that it did not appear to matter as far as scoring was concerned whether the lamp was lit before the box was opened or afterwards!"
S. G. Soal's Work. Dr. Soal is a mathematician of the University of London. For many years he worked in this field, organising many group experiments and attempting to repeat Rhine's work. He met with virtually nothing significantly above chance in tests for extra-sensory perception conducted with
160 different people and involving about 128,350 guesses in the period (1934-39). Fortunately Mr. Whately Carington had just discovered the precognitive or "displacement" effect, by researches we shall describe in the next chapter, and he persuaded Dr. Soal to re-examine his own results to see if a displacement effect would be found. In this way Dr. Soal discovered that two subjects of the
160 had been scoring substantially above chance, but in a remarkable way. Mrs. Stewart had been scoring high on the + 1 and - 1 cards - that is, the cards respectively one ahead and one behind that at which the agent was looking! Mr. Shackleton scored substantially, particularly on the + 1 card (the precognitive effect).
In 1945 Dr. Soal was able to begin a series of significant experiments with Mrs. Stewart, and we shall describe these briefly here. It was then found, nine years after the first experiments, that the displacement effect had gone, and she was now scoring higher than previously, but on the target card. The average for about 17,000 guesses under G.E.S.P. conditions was nearly 28%. The odds against chance as an explanation are of astronomical magnitude. The type of experiment was as follows: The ideas used for "transmission" were five animals (zebra, pelican, giraffe, elephant and lion), which were each depicted on a playing-card. The percipient sat in one room with a scoring sheet and recorded the initial Z, P, G, E or L of the animal card at which he guessed the agent to be looking. The agent, together with an experimenter, sat at a table in an adjacent room with the door ajar, so that voice signals could be used to synchronise the guessing. They were separated by a screen across the middle of the table, the screen having a small square aperture in it. The experimenter had a table of random numbers from 1 to 5, and his duty was to call the trial and show a card numbered 1, 2, 3, 4 or 5 at the aperture, according to his column of random numbers. The agent sitting on the other side of the screen had previously shuffled the five animal-cards and laid them down in a row faces downwards. Upon seeing a number (say 4) presented at the aperture, he turned up the fourth card from the left, looked at it and let it fall back again. After fifty guesses the experimenter walked round the screen, turned over the cards, and recorded the code - i.e., the animal which corresponded with each number. Another run of fifty guesses could then be made with a new shuffling of the five animal-cards. The percipient's score-sheets were later decoded into numbers and compared with the random-number tables. As the percipient recorded his guess he said "Right" as a signal to the experimenter that he was ready for the next trial. The advantages of this procedure are at least two: (a) the table of random numbers eliminates any criticism of imperfect shuffling of a pack, and (b) the experimenter who calls the trials does not know which animal-card the agent is looking at, and therefore the pitch or inflexion of the voice in calling cannot be regarded as offering any clue to the percipient. To test pure clairvoyance the agent, instead of turning up an animal-card to look at it, may merely touch it on the back. Such blocks of fifty guesses under G.E.S.P. conditions could be alternated with blocks of fifty guesses under P.C. conditions, either, with or without the percipient's knowledge that it was being done.
What results were obtained? Unlike the majority of Rhine's percipients, both Mr. Shackleton and Mrs. Stewart failed to score above chance under
clairvoyant conditions. In other words, for both of them an agent was necessary. While Mr. Shackleton scored with only three out of about a dozen agents tried, Mrs. Stewart scored above chance with eight out of twelve. Since, as we previously mentioned, Mr. Shackleton's scoring was principally on the + 1 card, we might describe his faculty as precognitive telepathy - i.e., knowledge of future content of the agent's mind (about 2 1/2 seconds ahead). Many variations of the main type of experiment made with Mrs. Stewart throw considerable light on the conditions for successful E.S.P.
In one variation the agent was instructed at the beginning of a run of fifty trials to turn over the five animal-cards, look at them for half a minute and then turn them face downwards. He was not asked to make any effort to remember their order; but by looking at them, presumably this knowledge was conveyed to his subconscious mind. In the subsequent experiment he was merely asked to touch the backs of the cards indicated by the presentation of successive numbers by the experimenter. This procedure worked quite as well as the normal one, even when the agent's preliminary observation of the cards was reduced to 5 seconds. We may infer that it is by no means necessary for the agent to be
consciously thinking of the image when he transmits it. The supposition that intense conscious concentration is involved as a condition of successful telepathy is apparently without foundation.
In another variation two agents were used. The first agent sat as usual behind the screen, and touched the back of the appropriate card when the experimenter presented a number. But the five cards in front of him in a row were
blank cards. The second agent took five animal-cards with him into a room adjoining the other two and was asked at the beginning of an experiment to shuffle, lay them in a row and look at them for half a minute. Under these conditions, the success in which was very little less than with only one agent, it is clear that Mrs. Stewart had to acquire two pieces of information: the number presented, and the order of the five cards, and these were respectively in the minds of two different persons.
In an experiment similar to this, where the essential information was divided between two agents, a run of 200 trials was made in which Mrs. Stewart was given the impression that only one agent was involved. For 200 following trials she was informed that two agents were involved. In the first run Mrs. Stewart's score was a little
below chance expectation; in the second case there was a significant score of sixty correct. This indicates the necessity of a conscious orientation towards the persons necessarily involved.
In another variation of the original form of experiment two agents were used, each seated where they could see the number presented by the experimenter, and each having a set of the five animal-cards. Each was informed of a specific number of arrangements of the five animal-cards which they might use, and was asked to select one. The arrangements permitted to one agent differed from those permitted to the other, so that no animal-card would ever be placed in the same position by the two agents. The effect is most simply stated by regarding the agents as working in opposition, or at least in conflict with each other. Mrs. Stewart knew two agents were acting, but was given the impression that they were working "together". Later she was told that a particular one was the agent, although both still acted as before. In the first case 400 trials were made showing scores with the two agents of eighty-four and
ninety-six only, compared with the chance level of eighty-obviously but little difference from chance. In the second case 400 trials gave seventy-four and 113 correct with these agents, the latter, needless to say, applying to the agent to whom she was directed. The odds are 10,000 to 1 against chance as an explanation of the 113/400 score. The importance of conscious orientation in the right direction is again
The Roles of Experiment and Spontaneous Data
The kind of experimental work we have outlined is clearly capable of enormous extension and elaboration, and should throw increasing light on the nature of E.S.P., the conditions under which it can operate and the laws governing it. The development and testing of theoretical views leading to the formulation of laws are essentially the important function which experimental work will have to perform in coming years. It may be said to have fulfilled its first major task of demonstrating to the scientifically-minded sceptic the hopelessness of any attempt to explain away the data of E.S.P. on the basis of chance or coincidence.
The continuous accumulation of records of spontaneous phenomena is, however, still of great importance. There are some fields of psychical research into which the experimental method has not yet penetrated: apparitions, hauntings, poltergeist phenomena, levitations, etc. Here the only available method of progress at present is through the collection of well-attested data with as much detail of conditions as possible. We must remember that there are some branches of scientific enquiry in which the collection of facts and their classification is the sole method of progress - e.g. in astronomy and geology. Even in those branches of psychical research where the experimental method is possible, the study of spontaneous occurrences is still important, for several reasons. The most dramatic and informative phenomena occur under these conditions where emotional factors are probably operative, or where consciousness is partially relaxed, as in trance states or automatic writing and drawing. In experimental conditions where the material has no emotional content, and where quasi-normal states of consciousness are the rule, the effects are comparatively small, even though they have the advantage of statistical evaluation.
Tyrrell(17) has repeatedly drawn attention to the question as to whether it is justifiable to extrapolate conclusions arrived at by the experimental study of such "marginal" phenomena. At deeper levels of the mind wholly different phenomena may be brought to light. We cannot answer this question, and it is the more important that the phenomena which arise from deeper levels shall continue to be collected and studied carefully, even though no control of them appears to be possible. Tyrrell commends the attitude of Columbus "eagerly scanning the water for every scrap of floating weed and wrack, noting the changing colour of the sea and the flight of birds, grasping at every hint of the proximity of land. If Columbus had possessed the former [statistical] type of mind, he would have rejected these hints as being below evidential standard, and have refused to admit the proximity
of land." The fact is, of course, that the two types of enquiry qualitative and spontaneous on the one hand, and quantitative on the
other, are complementary and both needed. The most useful directions for future experimental work are likely to be found through careful classification and analysis of spontaneous data, and this is now being undertaken on a large
(17) Proc. S.P.R., Vol. 47, Part 171, p.312
(18) Jour. S.P.R., Vol. 35, p. 63, May-June 1949.
Theories of Telepathy
It is desirable that we should consider what general views are held by responsible persons about the nature of telepathy. Let us clear the ground by considering first the type of theory which is impossible. All theories of the "wireless" or "mental-radio" type which suppose that some kind of wave-motion or physical radiation passes from one brain to another brain are quite untenable, for several reasons. (a) All physical types of energy fall off in their intensity inversely as the square of the distance from the source. There is no evidence that distance affects telepathy at all. (b) The transmission and reception of physical radiation or energy implies the existence of material organs for this purpose. There is no evidence of such existing. (c) Ideas can be conveyed from one mind to another by the intermediate activity of physical energy only if there is a mutually understood code. Language, both spoken and written, is of course a code. If telepathy is physical, then an idea in A's mind must be encoded, and when it reaches B's mind it must be decoded. Where and what is this code in the subconscious minds of all people, which no one has ever learned, and of which no one seems to know anything? All authorities agree that we can completely rule out physical theories of telepathy.
We are left, then, with two classes of theory. One assumes it is a type of mind-brain relationship. Thus the mind of A, as we know, controls A's brain: may not the mind of A achieve under certain conditions a similar relation to B's brain? Or may not A's brain be similarly linked under certain conditions with B's mind? This, briefly, is a view presented by Thouless and Wiesner: clearly an attempt to regard the para-normal phenomena as an extension of a normal relationship. The other class of theory is of a
mind-to-mind relationship: this places the phenomena on a wholly mental level. Whately Carington's views are a noteworthy example of this latter class, and we shall shortly discuss them.
Tyrrell's Views. G. N. M. Tyrrell has laid stress on the importance of weighing carefully the less restricted type of para-normal event - the spontaneous type - in formulating any theory. One of the significant facts to be weighed is that a percipient is never aware of a telepathic, clairvoyant or
precognitive process at work within him. He is only aware of the product of the process. This product is not para-normal; it is the
process which takes place in the subconscious or subliminal self which is mysterious and which we call para-normal. There is a wide range of sensory hallucinations which psychology recognises as "normal", although they are not very common. The hallucinations may affect sight, hearing or touch. To these we may add a strong impulse to take a certain course of action in spite of reason. In all cases through some such means a message or direction makes its way from the deeper or subliminal mind into the conscious level. The deeper mind constructs the hallucination or impulse as a mediating vehicle to effect this. Such mediating vehicles may range from vague subjective feelings, dreams or impulses to full-blown externalised visual, auditory or
tactile hallucinations. Where the motive or originating source is in someone else's mind, we usually say the phenomena are paranormal, but we should note that the same use of mediating vehicles is made in both cases ("normal" and "para-normal").
The case is reported(19), for example, of a person who awoke to "see" a piece of paper bearing a written message, that her friend living in another place had died during the night. The paper and message were hallucinatory, but the information was true.
(19) Jour. S.P.R., Vol. 27, p. 326.
In another case(20) there is related a dream by Mrs. B., who has a son H. in the army in West Africa. In the dream a sergeant said to her (in reply to a question about her son's whereabouts), "Don't be alarmed; they are carrying him along all right. He has broken his leg. You cannot see him yet, but you will by-and-by." The facts were that H. was seriously ill and was being carried: he died in the following month. But he had not broken his leg: this accident had taken place about the age of five. Here we see one and the same mediating vehicle conveying para-normal knowledge (of the illness) and a piece of normal knowledge (the broken leg) linked up in her memory with H.
(20) Ibid., Vol. 10, p. 162
Tyrrell suggests that telepathic experiments might well be planned to study the conditions of formation of the mediating vehicle, which is so obviously a device created by a deeper level of the mind to convey knowledge to consciousness.
We use labels such as telepathy, clairvoyance and precognition, but what do these mean? Are they aspects of one comprehensive faculty of apprehension which Mind possesses by reason of its own nature?
In Case 3, cited on p. 113, we may suppose the mother's subliminal mind was the agent responsible for the powerful telepathic impression
on the child's mind. The situation was desperate, and a strong motive was present. The child was afterwards impressed by the accuracy of the detail of her
vision - even down to the lace-bordered handkerchief. The "mediating vehicle" here appears to be a vivid picture of the scene itself. The accuracy of detail may be accounted for either as due to clairvoyant perception by the mother's
subliminal mind (the collapsed physical state being presumably no barrier to this) or clairvoyant perception by the child's subliminal mind, "attracted" to the situation telepathically. As soon as we try to separate that which is telepathic from that which is clairvoyant in these cases, we are attempting an impossible task. It may, in fact, he impossible, because the distinction we make between them may be artificial (a result suggested by Tyrrell's experimental work with G. J.). The full use of the mind's "para-normal" powers might result in a complete grasp of any situation, including all the mental, emotional and physical data. Even the imperfect use of the mind's powers may give some data of each type. It is only in the simple, uncomplicated card-type of experiment that the effecting of an artificial separation of "telepathy" from "clairvoyance" is possible - and we suggest that this is artificial.
Carington's Association Theory. This is based upon the general ,idea that individual minds are not altogether separate or isolated, but that there are associational links between them. Some persons would go so far as to say that at a certain depth there is a common subconscious. Now, the normal and familiar principle of association of ideas in a single mind is this. If an idea O has become associated with an idea K, the subsequent presentation of K to consciousness makes it more likely that O will be drawn up from the subconscious. Carington's theory is very simple - viz., that the presentation of K to
another mind makes it then more likely that O will appear in that mind also. Where an experiment is taking place between two persons, or between one person and a group of others, the common K-idea will simply be "the idea-of-the-experiment". Carington carried out many interesting series of experiments with drawings (some of which are described in Chapter 7) and claims that a study of these supports the Association Theory of Telepathy.
On this theory we should expect telepathy to take place more freely or effectively between persons who have a large number of ideas or experiences in common. Carington would explain Case 3 of p. 113 by saying that the mother's collapse on the floor in the White Room was the cause of a powerful complex of ideas in the mother's mind charged with fear and concern. The mother's associated thought of her child would be a K-idea: Carington would conceive the child's sense of herself linked with this, and capable of bringing up to her consciousness the first group of ideas. Alternatively, if the child suddenly had even a fleeting thought of her mother, this might be the effective K-idea bringing all the mother's group into consciousness.
Of course, if pure clairvoyance is admitted as a fact, Carington's Association Theory cannot explain it - see Section 7 later - for it is a theory wholly of mental relationship.
Thouless and Wiesner(21) prefer to use the Greek letter (psi) for all the so-called para-normal" faculties of Mind. The terms "telepathy", "clairvoyance", "precognition" are regarded only as distinguishing the conditions of the situation under which this one faculty is operative. We must here anticipate the material of Chapter 11 to say that the mind not only has "para-normal" faculty for reception of knowledge, but also "paranormal" motor faculty - e.g., for the movement of detached objects. This is now believed to be another aspect of psi and to distinguish these, Thouless and Wiesner use psi-gamma for the cognitive aspect of the faculty, and psi-kappa for the motor aspect of the faculty. These Greek letters do not commit us to any theory of the nature of the
faculty, e.g., we can avoid the use of the term "para-normal". Their view of clairvoyance is very simple, and is illustrated by the right-hand side of the diagram. The mind of a clairvoyant is regarded as being in the same relationship to an external object as in ordinary sense-perception the mind is to the sensory part of its own brain. This has the advantage of reducing two mysterious relations (perception and extra-sensory perception) to one. At first sight this theory may seem improbable, for it may be said that a clairvoyant knows directly the external event or object, while a person in normal perception does not know the physiological process in his brain. The latter is certainly true; but is the former? What actually happens is that he makes some response, such as writing, speaking or doing, which we say is caused by the external event. But the external event may not be, indeed it seems not to be, the immediate causal ancestor of the response. There is no reason for supposing that a cognition must necessarily have the character of "seeing", "hearing" or any other of the sensory modes. We know, in fact, that cognition is sometimes received as a symbol which has to be interpreted. The mind may have a vast number of ways of experiencing knowledge. One of these ways may certainly be the presentation of a visual and accurate
picture of the scene, as in Case 3 on page 113. But we need not assume that actual visual perception is necessarily taking place. The symbolic character of the presented knowledge is of course obscured in card-guessing experiments, where the guess and the object must coincide for success, but in spontaneous phenomena the symbolism is frequently evident.
(21) Proc. S.P.R., Vol. 48, Part 174, p. 77 (1947).
Thouless and Wiesner suggest that the para-normal phenomena of temporal displacement which we shall consider in Chapter 7 (precognition and post-cognition of events) may be paralleled in the mind's relationship to "intentions" and "memories" which are regarded as future and past
brain states. At this point I am compelled to differ. There may possibly be a precognitive relationship to future brain states, perhaps accounting for such phenomena as "deja vu" (the feeling that one has seen it before, which one knows is physically impossible), but that such a relationship is the nature of intentions and purposes seems most unlikely. Intentions may never be realised - i.e., may never correspond to brain states. Moreover, some distant memories may be recalled with a vividness and detail which suggest as very unlikely a retrocognitive relationship to brain states of perhaps fifty years ago.
The difference between "para-normal" psi of an object or event and "normal" sensory perception is therefore something imposed upon the latter by the character of the brain processes and special senses. Experiment has shown that conscious effort by a person is unfavourable to psi, the faculty being apparently then canalised or concentrated through the brain. This is wholly consistent with Bergson's conception of the brain-function as one of limitation, its purpose being to focus attention on everyday life. Although we do not know what are the limits of psi so far as space and time are concerned, there must be some kind of limitation, for if a card experiment is being performed, the faculty obviously distinguishes this pack from thousands of other packs in the world. In spontaneous phenomena the directing of psi may be effected by the agent's telepathic impulse.
This leads us to Thouless and Wiesner's conception of telepathy, which is a psycho-physical one. They consider that the mind of a percipient B may achieve the same relationship to the sensory brain of A as it normally has to its own sensory brain. This might be called gamma-telepathy It means that sense-data in the brain of A are alike accessible to the minds of A and B. Another kind of telepathy, which might be called kappa-telepathy, would be possible through volitions or motor impulses from the mind of A controlling the motor brain of both A and B. The two broken lines in the diagram illustrate these possibilities. It might be supposed that "thought-reading" is a case of gamma-telepathy and that the percipient B could tap latent memories of A. Certainly on a "brain-trace" theory of memory such a process would seem quite plausible. The present writer does not, however, hold such a theory of memory (which he believes to be essentially mental or at least psychic in character). An attempt to account for a spontaneous occurrence such as Case 3 on p. 113 along the lines of y-telepathy also leads to difficulties. If the child's mind was related through psi-gamma, to the sensory brain of her mother, would she not be expected to have viewed the scene as her mother saw it before collapsing, and not as though from another position in the room? Moreover, what caused the child's mind to single out the mother's brain from all others? Was it a telepathic impulse of the psi-kappa type from the mother? it does not seem likely, for it was not a motor activity that was induced, but a vision. Most of the "crisis type" of telepathy conveys a visual or auditory impression to the percipient, and not a motor impulse, and as it must be initiated by the agent who is passing through the crisis, it is difficult to see that Thouless and Wiesner's theory is likely to apply to
it. (The broken lines of the diagram illustrate this.) On the other hand, it is quite possible that Tyrrell's early experimental work with G. J., in which the agent knew which box the pointer or light was in, operated through psi-kappa. on the percipient's motor brain. Bearing in mind, then, later work which showed that whether the knowledge was in the agent's mind or not made no difference to G. J.'s rate of scoring, clairvoyance seems the more likely process.
It has been suggested that possibly the induction of hypnosis without any sensory suggestions, such as words spoken or signals given, is an example of psi-kappa telepathy, but it may equally well, of course, be a mind-to-mind relationship. This might be represented in the previous diagram by arrows horizontally between Mind A and Mind B in place of the diagonal broken lines.
Thouless and Wiesner's views are interesting and stimulating, and have the merit of attempting to assimilate the less familiar to the more familiar. My own view, held of course tentatively in the present state of our knowledge, is that the diagonal linkage probably is the mechanism of
some phenomena, possibly of a certain class of mediumistic trance, but that it is not likely to be the mechanism of telepathy as it commonly occurs. On the other hand, the interpretation of clairvoyance appears to me to be sound as far as it goes, but it leaves the nature of psi just as mysterious as ever. At the end of a philosophical discourse Professor C. D. Broad said, "We must consider seriously the possibility that each person's experiences initiate more or less permanent modifications of structure or process in something which is neither his mind nor his
brain,"(22) and this substratum, described later as a psychic aether, seems to me a useful, if not a necessary, hypothesis to explain some of the phenomena of the psychic field.
(22) Proc. S.P.R., Vol. 43, P. 437 (1935).
The Problem of Clairvoyance
In my view, the phenomena of "psychometry" or "object-reading" (see Chapter 8) render almost inevitable some such hypothesis. I postulate a psychic aether or "substance" which partakes of some of the qualities of matter (such as localisation in space and retention of form), and which is yet capable of sustaining thought-images and emotions: something, in short, which is a bridge between matter and mind. This psychic aether, I postulate, is organised into specific form in the presence of ordinary matter: to put it crudely, there is an aetheric duplicate of every material object. It is this duplicate, I believe, which the mind apprehends by psi-gamma, in clairvoyance and which it controls by psi-kappa in psycho-kinesis (see Chapter 11). An aetheric world of this sort, with its own phenomena and laws, seems to me something we may be driven to recognise. Professor H. H. Price postulates it to account for hauntings and apparitions (Chapter 9). I believe it is also involved in poltergeist phenomena and is of special interest and great importance in the structure of Man himself. We shall therefore introduce the idea here. It may, of course, ultimately go the way of the physicist's aether as knowledge develops, but it probably takes us just a step nearer to the ultimately real from the ordinary matter of physics and chemistry.
There are numerous recorded instances of "transposition of the senses", of which clearly the right explanation is in terms of clairvoyance or, better, let us say psi-gamma. Professor
Boirac(23) has described cases of hypnotised (and carefully blindfolded) subjects who could
'read" newspapers either by running the fingers over the print, or placing the latter against the forehead or the pit of the stomach. Photographs could be "seen" and described, the time could be "read" from a watch, etc. Telepathy was eliminated in some experiments by the random choice of a book and page, the contents of which were known to no one present. It seems possible that many strange phenomena, such as exteriorised tactile sensibility reported by Boirac, will finally be understood in terms of psi-gamma, and psi-kappa, acting on aetheric structures, when we know more about the laws governing this inter-action.
(23) Emile Boirac: Our Hidden Forces (trs. W. de Kerlor, F. A. Stokes Co.,
Factor Affecting Psi-Gamma
In attempting to discover the conditions under which telepathy, clairvoyance, etc., work, many important observations have been made. These are in some cases well confirmed, in others fragmentary and isolated; but all indicate the vastness of the field in which further research must continue if we are to discover the nature of, and laws governing psi-cognition.
Distance. There is no evidence that distance between agent and percipient has any effect on telepathy, or the distance between object and percipient any effect on clairvoyance. Most spontaneous examples involve considerable distances: in some cases thousands of miles. Experimental work has specifically shown that no
falling off of the psi-faculty with distance occurs. In the Pearce-Pratt clairvoyance experiments with cards, Pearce averaged eight correct guesses per run of twenty-five (for 900 calls) at a yard's distance, nine correct guesses per run (for 750 calls) at 100 yards distance, and nearly seven correct guesses per run (for 1,100 calls) at 250 yards distance. In experiments using telepathy, Miss Turner (percipient)
and Miss Ownbey (agent) made eight correct guesses per run (275 calls) in the same room, and at 250 miles distance made ten correct guesses per run (for 200 calls). In a recent series of G.E.S.P. experiments conducted by Dr. Soal, with Mrs. Stewart as percipient in Antwerp, and two agents in London well known to Mrs. Stewart, the results showed beyond any doubt that the same order of scoring was maintained as was customary between these collaborators. Nor did change of location of the agents by a distance of several miles (unknown to the percipient) affect the rate of scoring significantly. Dr. Soal
"In telepathic communication it is personality, or the linkage of personalities which counts, and not spatial separation of bodies. This is what we might expect on the assumption that brains have spatial location and spatial extension, but that minds are not spatial entities at all. If this is true then there is no sense in talking about the distance between two minds, and we must consider brains as focal points in space at which Mind produces physical manifestations in its inter-action with
Effects. Most of the experimental records examined by Rhine and his colleagues show that successful scoring declines through a run. If runs (say of twenty-five trials) are set out in successive horizontal rows, the scoring rate on the right half of the page proves invariably less than that of the left half. Moreover, vertical decline effects are also quite marked. As only a few runs will be carried out at a sitting, the vertical decline effect shows what may be considered a long-period decline of the faculty. Psi has been shown by many experimenters to vary with the percipient's attitude and mood, and it seems possible that the horizontal decline may be a type of fatigue effect, and the general long-period decline may be one arising from lack of stimulus due to the novelty "wearing off". Similar decline effects are found in psycho-kinesis experiments (see Chapter 11) which test psi-kappa.
Percipient's Mood and Attitude. There seems to be general agreement that a cheerful, friendly, informal, playful atmosphere favours the operation of psi. In the case of children, a friendly, competitive atmosphere seems also to assist. An agent capable of creating this atmosphere may succeed with a group, while another person with the same group cannot obtain scores above chance. The rate of guessing consciously preferred by the percipient was also found to be the most favourable one. One of the most striking correlations of attitude towards psi with scoring ability was demonstrated by Dr. Schmeidler of New York, who showed that those persons who, before they began their tests, had some sort of belief in it or favourable attitude towards it scored consistently higher than those who had not.
Personality Type and Mentality. No evidence has been found that psychopathic types suffering from delusions of telepathic rapport with people have in fact any unusual psi-ability. In general, psi seems rare among people of sub-normal intelligence, and Dr. Humphrey has demonstrated a positive correlation between intelligence rating and psi-scoring in a group of students. It may perhaps not be wholly chance that a famous high-scoring subject investigated by Dr. Riess (who scored eighteen correct guesses per twenty-five through seventy-four runs) suffered from hyperthyroidism, and that her psi-faculty sank to normal after medical treatment for this condition. Psychological testing should do much to indicate how psi is correlated with personality traits. It has already been found that the "expansive" rather than the "constricted" type favours psi-cognition.
Drugs. Knowledge of the effect of drugs on the psi-faculty is at present very limited. A small amount of alcohol appears to assist the scoring rate, but a large amount (when it acts as a narcotic) depresses it to chance level. Sodium amytal, a narcotic, depresses it also. On the other hand, a stimulant such as caffeine, given to counteract the administration of a narcotic, assists to restore psi-scoring to its normal value. The same effects have been noticed in psychokinesis experiments (vide Chapter 11). Rhine expresses the interesting opinion that the favourable conditions for psi are closely similar to those involved in "delicately original and creative work in the arts". A recent paper by Dr. A. J. C.
Wilson(24) discusses the effects of three drugs - ayahuasca, peyotl and yage.
(24) Proc. S.P.R., Vol. 48, p. 353 (1949).
Group Effects. Attempts have been made to use large groups of percipients working with one agent; the idea being that possibly weak psi-faculty might be widespread, and reveal itself in the group results. With the exception of Whately Carington's group experiments (see Chapter 7), no measure of success has been achieved.
Warcollier(25) has described some interesting results obtained with a group of a dozen personal friends. He remarks that with the simultaneous employment of a number of agents their influence was less. He also gives many examples of telepathy between the percipients themselves, who induced a certain type of mental passivity as a preliminary to their experiments. Successful "transmission", seems to Warcollier to arise not directly through conscious concentration on an idea, but rather through its activation by associated ideas after it has sunk into the subconscious.
(25) Warcollier: Experiments in Telepathy (Chapter 2).
Sex. It is interesting to note that from a total of 383 spontaneous recorded cases analysed by Warcollier, the distribution of the respective roles of agent and percipient was as follows: male to female, 35%; male to male, 28%; female to male, 18%; female to female, 19%. It indicates that the male is on the whole more effective as agent and the female as percipient.
Biological Implications of Psi
We know as yet very little of psi and its laws, but the little we do know which indicates the enormous potentialities of Mind both cognitive and psycho-motor, points the way to a future understanding of biological phenomena.
The "fields" of Smuts are obviously related to psi, and in its two forms - psi-gamma, and psi-kappa - it is presumably the mechanism by which mind is informed of and controls the complexity of individual development and the evolutionary process. A. C. Hardy, Professor of Zoology at Oxford, has recently made a beginning with a theory of this
kind(26). He has said: "The discovery that individual organisms are somehow in psychical connection one with another across space is of course one of the most revolutionary biological discoveries ever made." When we reflect upon the fact that no two cells occupy the same space, and that their processes of growth and change are co-ordinated with that of their neighbours and with the needs of the whole organism, is it not probable that a psychic connection links them also? The difference between two cells and two organisms in this respect is primarily one of the
degree of separation, and we have already seen that psi is apparently unaffected by distance.
(26) Jour. S.P.R., Vol. 35, p. 225, May 1950.
It is for the future also to determine how far a psi-relationship (telepathic) may exist between Man and lower animals. It is tempting to speculate that the understanding between a shepherd and his sheep-dog is closer than can be accounted for on the basis of sensory clues. P. H. Plasch makes the interesting suggestion that the apparent commands and whistles are perhaps only kappa-objects in the Whately Carington sense. Similarly, the reports which persist of holy men and others who have apparently a remarkable power over wild animals may not be without foundation.
Most observers of Nature have at one time or another wondered at the unanimity of behaviour of flocks of birds and shoals of minnows. That
sensory clues originating in a "leader", and heard or seen. by all the others, can account for the swiftness and similarity of response seems well-nigh impossible. Perhaps it will be possible to test this: it may well prove necessary to postulate in such cases a group-mind, controlling through psi the whole aggregate of physical organisms. Carington and others have drawn attention to the possibility that such a group-mind does control insect communities, such as ants, bees and termites, in much the same way as the mind of a higher animal may control through psi the cells of its body. He suggests, with great cogency, that the extraordinary instinctive patterns of behaviour which Natural History is constantly unfolding for our admiration must arise from a group-mind (perhaps of the species) and be conserved and controlled by psi. Certainly when we reflect upon the intricacy of behaviour of, say, the web-spinning spider, doing something in a novel situation which it has not practised or seen done, or of creatures of the garden or the field preparing a food supply essential to the welfare of future progeny which they will never see, we may find in our knowledge of psi something far more equal to accounting for these things than inheritable "brain tracks".
The problem of bird navigation and migration is one that has always intrigued observers. In a recent
paper(27) surveying the various physical theories, A. J. C. Wilson concludes that "the mechanism of bird navigation is still unexplained"
- a conclusion which at least leaves open the possibility of psi-control from a bird group-mind.
(27) Jour. S.P.R., Vol. 35, p. 30 (March
Bergson's View of the Functions of Mind and Brain
It is impossible to theorise about the nature of psi without constantly making reference to the relative functions of mind and brain, and since the views propounded by Bergson seem to the present writer to illuminate the whole subject, a very brief account is here presented. Henri Bergson died in 1941, although the period of his most fruitful work was
1890-1914. His presidential address(28) to the Society for Psychical Research dealt with this theme, and his views are summarised by Professor H. H.
Price(29) in a brief account of which we shall make use here.
(28) Proc. S.P.R., Vol. 27, pp. 157-75.
(29) Ibid., Vol. 46, Part 164, pp. 271-7 (1941).
Bergson considers intellect a practical tool of the Self, and gives to intuition a more profound place in the apprehension of truth. He conceives the physical brain as primarily an organ of action. So far as perception goes, he considers its function is selective; that is to say, it shuts out from our consciousness the great mass of impressions, and only permits us to become aware of a part of the whole, this part being the possible material for action. Perception he regards as serving the practical end of action, and not primarily existing as a means of knowledge which could be gathered otherwise. The brain limits perception: it focuses the mind's awareness on to "life". It is when the closeness of the link is temporarily loosened that the mind's wider awareness is made manifest, as in telepathy, clairvoyance, etc.
Bergson distinguishes between habit-memory and memory proper. In reciting a verse of poetry there is no real recall of a past memory: it is an habitual type of action impressed on the brain and capable of repetition. Memory proper, which is the storage of past experiences, is a purely psychical function, and is not to be supposed related to "brain-traces". The brain is in this respect also an organ of limitation, generally shutting out from recall all the past except that which is relevant to the present practical situation. In illness, mental derangement and some dreams, it is noticeable that this control goes, and a disorderly jumble of apparently useless memories floods in.
Certain brain injuries which result in "loss of memory", word-blindness or loss of the faculty of speech are not regarded as a destruction of memory through destruction of "brain-traces", but as indicating that the connection between memory and the expression of memory has been severed. The damage has prevented a certain class of
actions from occurring. Bergson's view of the nature of thinking is quite different from the orthodox one, which postulates that there is a specific brain state corresponding to each mental state - a one-to-one correspondence. Apart from its sensory functions, which we have seen are selective and limiting, the brain's function in the process of thinking is solely to express in action (muscular movements and postures) what the mind thinks. It is, so to speak, an organ of pantomime or dumb-show. A super-physiologist who, examining the brain, could infer the results, would only be able to deduce the laryngeal movements, facial muscular contractions, etc.; of
words - which are encoded thoughts - he could know nothing. The brain, then, merely mimes the mental life, but a little reflection makes clear that this is an important function without which we could not insert ourselves into, or respond to, our physical environment. Bergson
"Though consciousness is not a function of the brain, at any rate the brain keeps our consciousness fixed upon the world in which we live; it is the organ of attention to
life... To orientate our thought towards action, to induce it to prepare the act which circumstances require, that is the task for which our brain was
To sum up: the brain is primarily the organ of action of the thinker in the material world. It is an organ of limitation: it canalises psi-kappa. by limiting action to muscular processes, and it canalises psi-gamma, by limiting awareness to sensory processes. It is only in states of relative inattention to life that the wider activity or knowledge is possible: this, we have seen, accords with empirical evidence. Thouless suggests that psi-faculty was probably the primitive way in which organisms managed to orientate themselves to their environment, and that the evolution of sense-organs was a subsequent evolutionary development of greater biological utility. This was precisely because it canalised awareness to the immediate neighbourhood and the present moment. Thouless points out that a deer would not know whether the tiger of which it became aware was near or distant, or whether it was a tiger which had been there yesterday or would be there tomorrow. Of course, the corresponding disadvantages would also apply to the tiger! It is clear that it is only through sensory limitation in space and time that a world of effective action could come into being. If we imagine the case of human beings, sensitive without the power of discrimination or selectivity to thought from their fellow beings, it would be a less tolerable and less valuable state of affairs than that which obtains with auditory limitations. These considerations support the view that psi-function was perhaps the primitive means of communication, gradually overlaid and
superseded - though not destroyed - by the development of special sense which had greater biological utility. It might be more accurate to say psi-gamma was canalised or focused through the special senses, and psi-kappa. through the muscles (see diagram, p. 134).
Once the possibility of consciously directed or precisely orientated psi is available, as in the Soal-Goldney experiments with Mrs. Stewart, we have the beginning of an enormous extension of our powers. The view which regards psi as primitive function, superseded in evolution by sensory faculty, is not held by F. W. H. Myers and others, who rather see in it something which is evolving and capable of bringing Man into touch with higher ranges of truth.
The present writer inclines to the view that what we have hitherto collectively called psi may require differentiation into at least two levels of faculty. There is one level of phenomena on the "infra-red side of the spectrum of consciousness" (to use Myers' metaphor) which is our animal inheritance. It is the level of psi involving all the inter-relations of mind with matter (possibly through the medium of a psychic aether) and some of the relations of mind with mind, and it is perhaps this level which has been involved in all the examples used in this chapter. But there is probably another level of psi-faculty corresponding, in Myers' phrase, to the "ultra-violet extension of the spectrum of consciousness". It is this level which is involved in the inter-relations of higher minds, the level of creative inspiration leading to insights, to great art, poetry, music and sculpture. This psi-cognition lacks the vagueness and the uncertainty of the lower type: it possesses clarity and precision of form, and carries inspiration with it to the percipient mind. This kind of psi links the centre of consciousness (which in most of us is on the mental
level)(30) to a higher world, just as the other more primitive kind of psi links it to the physical-etheric world. It is obviously much rarer and far less developed, and with Myers and modern writers like
Heard(31) we believe it is the hopeful direction of man's future evolution. The similarity of conditions favouring "lower-psi" to those which Rhine describes as involved in "delicately original and creative work in the arts" (and which we have suggested are due to the operation of "higher-psi") arises from the fact that in them both a displacement of consciousness takes place. There is in both cases a measure of withdrawal of mind from its close gearing with the physical brain, but in one case it sinks towards the collective unconscious, and in the other rises towards the buddhic level.
(30) See Chapter 12, p. 266.
(31) E.g., Gerald Heard: Pain, Sex and Time and The Third Morality.
Attitude Towards Facts
In 1935 Professor C. D. Broad
"For my own part I have no doubt that telepathy among normal human beings happens... But we know quite well that most scientists and the bulk of the general public would not admit this for an instant. And we know that this is not because they have looked into the evidence and found it faulty or have suggested plausible alternative explanations. They would no more think of looking into the evidence for telepathy than a pious Christian thinks of looking into the evidence for Mahometanism or a pious Mahometan of looking into the evidence for
The position today is that psi, in which we include telepathy, clairvoyance and precognition, must be regarded as a fact established by as great a weight of observation and experiment as that which supports the basic facts in other sciences. While individual scientists, philosophers and psychologists have recognised this, it still remains true that the majority are either apathetic or mildly hostile to the subject. The hostility probably arises from the recognition that if these things are true they have to face data which cannot fit into the well-established system of law which governs the material world. In other words, materialist philosophies are undermined. The apathy, in view of the importance of the issues involved, is difficult to account for on logical grounds. Tyrrell, who has written frequently on this prevalent attitude, has expressed his conviction of its psychological origin. He follows Bergson's line of thought in supposing that the brain keeps the mind tied down very closely to the world of action, and that whenever knowledge or beliefs arise which would draw interest away from the world of action, this factor operates to discount them. He cites, for example, the report of a committee of three most competent and trusted observers who, with the utmost vigilance, and taking adequate precautions, nevertheless witnessed para-normal physical phenomena in the case of a medium they were investigating. In their report they wrote "These things seemed to roll off our minds and ... we lapsed back into scepticism again".
(32) G. N. M. Tyrrell (Presidential Address),
Proc. S.P.R., Vol 47, p. 301.
"It is because the constitution of our minds, as a result of biological
evolution, causes us to reject whatever is entirely foreign to the world of common experience. If we succeed in resisting this psychological tendency even for a moment, we can see quite clearly that there is no reason why our bodily senses should reveal the length and breadth of all existence. There is no reason why nature should terminate at the point where our senses cease to register it, and no reason why, beyond this point, it should not be governed by unfamiliar laws-no reason, but so strong is the sense-centredness of our minds that we find ourselves smiling at the idea that anything important can exist in the universe which we cannot either directly perceive or grasp with our existing mental equipment. It is the sense of the antecedent improbability of things which are quite strange which dominates the subject of psychical research and accounts for the negative treatment it receives. And this sense of improbability is prompted by a factor in our minds which is
The essential point could not, I think, have been put more clearly, and we should do well to keep it in mind as we plunge deeper into this strange world behind the facade of matter and common sense.
article above was taken from Raynor C. Johnson's 1953 book "The Imprisoned
Splendor" published by Hodder & Stoughton.