Dr. T. Glen Hamilton

Intention and Survival
Publisher: MacMillian
Published: 1942
Pages: 216

Chapter 1: The Background of Metapsychics

 - T. Glen Hamilton -

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          SINCE metapsychics deals with an inquiry so extensive, so complex and so little known to those outside its boundaries, difficulties arise when an investigator seeks to present his work as a separate unit unless it can take its place as one more step in the long and arduous climb towards the summit of understanding of such psychical phenomena as hauntings, thought-transference, visions, movements of objects without contact, teleplasmic manifestations, and others. It would be well then, before recounting our findings, that we should view the attitude which pioneer investigators have held toward their work; what, broadly speaking, they have accepted as proven fact, particularly regarding materializations or teleplasms, and what theories they have advanced to cover the facts disclosed to them.

In no case does the work of the main pioneers in this new research appear to have been instituted or carried out in other than the true spirit and outlook of science.

For example, consider Sir William Crookes. He commenced his investigations in 1869, at the age of thirty-seven, when he had already attained a high position among the physicists and chemists of his day. Writing in 1870 about his original and exhaustive experiments with the medium D. D. Home, he said:

"In the present case, I prefer to enter upon the inquiry with no preconceived notions whatever as to what can or cannot be, but with all my senses alert and ready to convey information to the brain, believing as I do that we have by no means exhausted all human knowledge or fathomed the depths of physical forces, and remembering that nothing is too wonderful to be true if it be consistent with the laws of nature: and in such things as these, experiment is the best test of consistency."(1)

Convinced by his own observations that 'certain physical phenomena, such as the movement of material substances and the production of sounds resembling electric discharges occur under conditions which cannot be explained by any physical laws at present known' his reply to his many detractors and critics was this:

"I say to my critics, try the experiments; investigate with care and patience as I have done. If, being examined, you discover imposture, proclaim it and say how it was done. But if you find it a fact, own it fearlessly, as by the eternal laws of science you are bound to do."

The mysterious manifestations which we group under the title of teleplasms Crookes scrupulously studied by the experimental method, including photography; and in certain instances he found these also to be genuine psychical events brought about by forces and intelligences as yet unknown to science generally. Thirty years later, as President of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, in his Presidential Address in 1898, he re-affirmed his belief in the reality of these phenomena when he stated:

"I have nothing to retract. I adhere to my already published statements... My own knowledge at that time scarcely extended beyond the fact that certain phenomena new to science had assuredly occurred and were attested by my own sober senses, and better still, by automatic record... I think I see a little further now. I have glimpses of something like coherence among the strange elusive phenomena, of something like continuity between these unexplained forces and laws already known."(2)

These same general claims can be made for Edmund Gurney who, in association with Mr. Frank Podmore, Prof. Henry Sidgwick and Prof. F. W. H. Myers, in the early eighteen-eighties flooded the British Isles with requests for authentic and well witnessed reports of incidents of hauntings, apparitions, veridical dreams, mental mediumistic phenomena, previsions and prophecies, and other cryptesthetic happenings. The result of the collation and classifying of many hundreds of cases which Gurney and his colleagues undertook is that monumental book Phantasms of the Living(3) which one has only to read to know how excellent and well considered was their work.

Prof. William James, the eminent American psychologist, philosopher and medico, also gave time and thought to psychical research, in spite of the stigma which many of his contemporaries placed on the subject. After twenty-five years spent studying psychic phenomena, he did not hesitate to write:

"I wish to go on record for the presence, in the midst of all the hum-bug, of really supernormal knowledge. By this I mean knowledge that cannot be traced to ordinary sources of information - the senses, namely, of the automatists... The phenomena are enormously complex... Hardly as yet has the surface of the facts called 'psychic' been scratched for scientific purposes. It is through following these facts, I am persuaded, that the greatest scientific conquests of the coming generation will be achieved."(4)

William James was right. New facts were to emerge, and these more speedily than even he could have expected. Five new investigators - Prof. Charles Richet, Mme. Bisson, Dr. Baron von Schrenck-Notzing and Dr. Gustave Geley in Europe, and Dr. W. J. Crawford in Ireland, all came forward with reports of a mysterious substance, variously called materialization, ectoplasm, or teleplasm, which sometimes appeared in the presence of the powerful mediums they had the opportunity to study.

To Richet fell the honour of first recognizing and reporting the substance as a biological material having many modalities which were unsuspected by Crookes, who earlier had seen only the finished mature forms. In 1905 and 1906 Richet, sitting with the medium Eva C. in Algiers, saw ectoplasm (as he provisionally termed it) give rise to strange white formless masses, to rudimentary fingers, hands, and faces, and in some cases, to material having the appearance of veils and clothing.

Four years later Eva C., now in Paris, was investigated by Schrenck-Notzing and Mme. Bisson. Using flashlight photography and subdued light, they confirmed Richet's observations that ectoplasm or teleplasm, (as it is now more usually termed) was definitely a substance of some kind which might give rise to various simulacra (imitative forms), and which apparently had its biological source in the medium's body.

Convinced that the phenomena he observed were genuine, Schrenck-Notzing published an account of his work with Eva C. in his book Phenomena of Materialization(5). Especially in academic circles his report was received with derision, far-fetched theories being advanced to show that the manifestations were fraudulent, and that he had been deceived. Richet came forward in his support - and wrote to him:

"The truth must appear in its full beauty, but that will not happen through the agency of incompetent and ignorant persons who have seen nothing, controlled nothing, examined nothing, who have not even carefully read the account of the sittings. But it must come through savants who have really worked, who have experimented without cessation, and who prefer the truth to probability."(6)

Nor was Schrenck-Notzing left to stand alone. In 1915 W. J. Crawford(7) of Belfast began a series of experiments with a young girl medium of that city. As well as observing many movements of material objects free from any physical contact with those present, he also secured a number of photographs of a shapeless substance issuing from the medium's body, a substance which appeared to be similar to that recorded by the Continental investigators.

Then came verifications by psychologist Dr. Gustave Geley, Director of the Paris Metapsychic Institute. Experimenting with Eva C. during the decade of World War I and under conditions which made his results conclusive, he too observed teleplasmic masses and forms, many of the latter displaying a far greater complexity of development than any others recorded up to that time. In his book Clairvoyance and Materialization(8) he writes:

"I have seen complete representations of a face, a hand, or a finger. In the most perfect instances the materialized organ has all the appearances and the biological properties of a living organ, I have seen admirably modelled fingers with nails, I have seen complete hands with their bones and joints, I have seen a living head and felt the skull under the thick hair; I have seen well formed and living faces - Human faces. In many instances these representations have grown under my own eyes from the beginning to the end of the phenomenon" - (Geley's italics).

Collaborating with Richet and Count de Gramont, in 1920 Geley experimented with the Polish medium Frank Kluski, a man of education living in Warsaw. Among other phenomena he obtained a series of unbroken paraffin molds of single and clasped hands, undoubtedly the product of supernormally manipulating forces.

Teleplasmic phenomena were to appear in still another part of the world. Beginning in 1923, Dr. L. R. G. Crandon of Boston had the opportunity to study these remarkable manifestations through the mediumship of his wife, now known as "Margery". Working with Dr. Mark Richardson and others, Dr. Crandon obtained outstanding results under excellent contrafraudulent conditions, further affirming the reality of teleplasm.

So far as I am aware, the first investigator in Canada, and certainly the first medical man to record a teleplasmic mass was Dr. William Creighton of Winnipeg. In the presence of six witnesses, and using three cameras simultaneously, on March 20, 1927, he photographed a strange mass falling from the mouth of the entranced medium (a Mrs. Y.) which he had every reason to believe was teleplasm.

Many other investigators of experience and scientific training might be brought forward as witnesses to the actuality of the phenomena, but those I have mentioned are probably sufficient to show on how firm a basis of observation rests the reality of such phenomena. To suggest that these trained observers were all deceived by fraudulent operations, those stupid and very tiresome performances which mislead no one but the uninformed and gullible, is to offer an explanation which offends our reason and shows willful indifference to truth. In the words of Richet:

"There is ample proof that experimental materialization (ectoplasm) should take definite rank as a scientific fact... Further, materializations must not be considered as isolated phenomena. They must be considered along with telekinesis and collective hallucination. Taken together they carry indisputable proofs before which the imperfect science of today must bow. The function of science is first of all to verify, and then if possible to understand."(9)

Thanks largely to the self-sacrificing labours of these pioneers, considerable data are now at hand relative to the nature, chief characteristics and functions of teleplasm. For instance, it is known that it issues mainly from the medium's eyes, ears, nose and mouth; that in its initial state it may be either vaporous or solid; that the former quickly condenses to the latter, which can take on various aspects. Some forms may be quite amorphous or shapeless; some may show a semi-organisation which is purposive, such as pseudopods which form hand-simulacra capable of picking up objects; still others may show a progressive differentiation until they appear as mature biological faces, fingers and hands.

Both the substances and the forms have been occasionally felt and handled. Crookes, Richet and others had the experience of holding a materialized hand which slowly withdrew from their grasp by some manner of disintegration. Dr. Crandon and his associates have likewise grasped and photographed a supernormal hand. Dr. Creighton reported that the mass secured with Mrs. Y. 'felt cold and gelatinous, the size of a thumb, and in the form of a cord'.

The grave possibility that the medium who is the organic source of this mysterious substance may suffer from nervous shock if the substance is handled too roughly without regard to the substance's condition - as disclosed by the trance personalities who claim to produce it - creates an ethical responsibility which the sincere investigator must accept. It marks one of the boundaries of his experimental technique.

The investigator must also accept the fact that thus far most teleplasmic phenomena are most easily produced in total darkness. There are many who feel that this alone marks all teleplasmic phenomena as fraudulent. As a rule, darkness is one of the necessary factors in the production of the plasm, for the presence of light causes the material to disintegrate. Yet on occasion it has been seen to remain quite stable in red light. Crandon reported having repeatedly observed various Margery formations in red light; Geley and Richet experienced this with some of the Eva C. phenomena.

Fortunately for the investigator, teleplasm can withstand the damaging effects of a photograph flash without too great discomfort to the medium, provided the exposure is exceedingly brief. At present photography is the most valuable means at our disposal of showing the objective reality of the substance, and of studying its morphology and processes.

That these phenomena have been secured under the direction of intelligences known as 'controls', that is, trance personalities claiming to be individuals who have survived death, is generally known. It is this aspect which makes the whole inquiry particularly distasteful to many. Eva C. had her 'Berthe' and her 'Estelle', Kluski had his 'Attiski', Rudi Schneider his 'Lola', Margery her 'Walter', Mrs. Y. her 'T'zan', and so on. Writing to Schrenck-Notzing on this point, Mme. Bisson said:

"In her somnambulic state Eva says: 'It is not I who produces or creates; it is an entity independent of me which borrows material from me and can go out beyond my body. That cannot take place in light.' This is corroborated by the circumstance that she has produced phenomena at moments unsuspected by herself or me. She claims to submit to an unknown power which directs her."(10)

In connection with the Kluski work, Dr. Geley mentions this same point:

"Manifestations showing intelligence ... were closely connected with the physical phenomena, which were always directed toward some definite purpose. The lights, the touches, the apparitions of faces - all showed a directing intelligence which seemed conscious and autonomous. The molds showed obvious collaboration between the operating entities (whatever they may be) and ourselves ... These entities did not seem to me to be of a high order of intelligence, as in the Crawford experiments they seem to have the mentality and capacity of artisans, no more. I remarked one curious thing: all our Kluski molds were done by some particular entities, but the others seemed to interest themselves in the results as much as we. At Warsaw I saw one of these beings take hold of a luminous screen throw its light upon the gloves, and look at them long and curiously... In good mediumship seances, everything happens as if ... the imitative and primary ideas all came from independent sources."(11)

It is now known that at times Schrenck-Notzing endeavoured to work without the trance intelligences, but made no progress when he ignored them. He found himself forced to grant them an audience and to co-operate with them if phenomena were to be obtained.

It was a strange world which these inquiries opened up, but one nevertheless fraught with significance from the scientific viewpoint.

We have seen then that there is much agreement among the investigators of psychical matters. Certainly they were all agreed upon two things: first, that the problem should and could be attacked scientifically; second, that many of the phenomena were genuine and came from a source which could only be regarded as supernormal. But there the agreement ceased, for they did not all agree as to exactly what this supernormal area actually was. Broadly speaking, we find them divided into two camps: some thought this area to be composed of the medium's supernormal faculties alone; others thought it to be these faculties stimulated and functioning under influence or impact of some kind coming from the surviving consciousness of the dead-both hypotheses of course of far-reaching import, with the second, the spiritistic, going somewhat further than the first, the so-called animistic. After lengthy and exhaustive study of the various remarkable psycho-physical events coming under his observation, Crookes(12) came to believe that phenomena of the spiritistic type presaged a loftier destiny for man than physical science had up to this time dared to contemplate. Myers examined the mental aspect of the inquiry for years, and thereby was led to believe that the data which he had collected and classified also spoke loudly for the continuance of the individual under conditions other than those we regard as the physical. Lodge(13) and Barrett(14) in England, and Hyslop(15) and Hodgson(16) in the United States, also came to accept the spiritistic hypothesis as the best explanation for many of the manifestations they had observed. William James(17) appears to have come rather hesitatingly to a somewhat similar conclusion: personal survival within a cosmic consciousness of some kind, but whether a full survival of the whole personality, or an attenuated survival of a part of the personality, he was not certain. He felt that more facts would have to be unearthed and brought more fully to light before either theory could be safely launched.

"Out of my experience one fixed conclusion dogmatically emerges, and that is this, that we with our lives are like islands in the sea or like trees in the forest ... the trees commingle their roots in the darkness and the islands also hang together through the ocean's bottom. Just so there is a continuum of cosmic consciousness, against which our individuality builds but accidental fences, and into which our several minds plunge as into a mother sea or reservoir."(18)

Thus James sums up his conclusions in the matter, in 1909, one year before his death.

On the other hand Richet and Schrenck-Notzing came to hold the opinion that the evidence so far assembled did not warrant metapsychics going this far. At the risk of being accused of over-attention to this aspect of the case, I quote at this point from Richet's own pronouncement, in which he looks back at the theories advanced by Myers and Geley, and then goes on to give his own conclusions, He writes:

"Geley, in an able book, maintains the subconscious to be a kind of creative energy determining the historical mutation whereby the larva is transformed into a chrysalis and the chrysalis into the perfect insect. The subconscious produces stigmata and miraculous cures. It is the subconscious that directs materializations.

"Even for Geley, the subconscious is insufficient and he is inclined to admit - without definitely affirming this - that the high and complex phenomena of mediumship seem to show external direction and intention that cannot be referred to the medium or to the experimenters.

"In his fine work on human personality F. Myers sketched out a theory that in some points resembles Geley's, for elementary psychic phenomena at any rate. According to Myers, there are many personalities, subliminal centres, co-existing, working, thinking, comparing, and analysing side by side with the principal centre (consciousness) which scarcely knows of their existence. These secondary centres are more open to influence by cryptesthetic vibrations than the central consciousness.

"Certainly. But immediately afterwards, in order to explain high phenomena, Myers finds himself obliged formally to admit survival, and to infer that in many cases of automatic writing or speaking, these secondary centres are invaded by discarnate spirits."(19)

Continuing, this distinguished physiologist makes clear his willingness to consider the possibility that there may be in the universe about us intelligences other than man, intelligences existing in a state of consciousness 'where mind would exist without nerve cells or any material sub-stratum', but making it equally clear that he does not think it probable (although not impossible) that these intelligences could be the 'survived consciousness of defunct human beings'. Thus three, not two hypotheses are set out by Richet for his reader's consideration:

1. The possibility that the intelligences and wills back of the phenomena are those of deceased human beings.

2. The possibility that these intelligences come from an order of existence not of the human order - 'spirits', 'demons', 'angels', etc.

3. The possibility that all the phenomena arise wholly within the medium's organism without outside help of any kind. That is to say - inherent in the medium's mind and body there is an ability to produce materializations; to move objects without physical contact; to gain knowledge beyond the reach of the normal self; and finally, an ability to create and bring to seeming life the directing intelligences apparently responsible for these things. In short, that the human organization is in itself and of itself a potential creator of very great magnitude and diversity of genius - a tremendously incredible theory, but the one nevertheless favoured by Richet as being the least incredible of the three.

At the present time (1935) the position of psychical research is not an enviable one. Opinions vary widely according to the ignorance, bias, or enlightenment of the individual. Many, on false a priori grounds derived from both psychology and biology, deny the possibility of psychical happenings; some deny the existence of the physical phenomena but accept the mental; others deny the mental and accept the physical phenomena of metapsychics.

The effect achieved by these divided ranks has been most harmful to the opinion regarding the new inquiry entertained by men of scientific standing in other fields. Violent and unprovoked attacks totally removed from the dignity of true scientific discussion are made time and time again. It is a matter of deep pride with me that my own researches have not suffered from such indignities, largely because many of my medical colleagues have accepted my experimental methods, regardless of the somewhat unusual nature of these things. It was no small occasion in my life when I first spoke of my earlier work to the Winnipeg Medical Society in 1926. I did not know whether or not I would have a shred of professional prestige left when I was through. As matters turned out, my audience on that occasion doubted neither my sanity nor my sincerity, and listened with tolerance and well balanced scepticism. Since that time I have had the privilege and honour of addressing many distinguished medical audiences both here and elsewhere throughout Canada. Each time I had the heartening experience of finding the same deep tolerant interest. For this support I was and am profoundly grateful. It is a pleasure and an honour for me on this occasion to outline briefly some of the features and findings of the teleplasmic research undertaken by myself and my colleagues during the past seven years. It is a profoundly mysterious world of supernormal events to which I would now direct your attention.


(1) Quarterly Journal of Science (1870), vii, p. 316. Back

(2) Presidential Address, Report of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, 1898. Back

(3) E. Gurney et al., "Phantasms of the Living" (Trubner & Co., London, 1886). Back

(4) John H. Randall, "New Light on Immortality" (The Macmillan Co., New York, 1921) p. 46. Back

(5) Baron von Schrenck-Notzing: E. E. Fournier d'Albe, D.Sc. (translator), "Phenomena of Materialization" (E. R. Dutton & Co., New York, 1920). Back

(6) Schrenck-Notzing, loc. cit., p. 340. Back

(7) W. J. Crawford, D.SC., "The Reality of Psychic Phenomena" (E. P. Dutton & Co., New York, 1918); "Experiments in Psychical Science" (E. P. Dutton & Co., New York, 1919). Back

(8) Gustave Geley, "Clairvoyance and Materialization" (T. Fischer Unwin, Ltd., London, 1927) p. 186 (Trans. S. de Brath, M.Inst.C.E.). Back

(9) Charles Richet, Ph.D.: Stanley de Brath, M.Inst.C.E. (translator), "Thirty Years of Psychical Research" (The Macmillan Company, New York, 1923) p. 543. Back

(10) Schrenck-Notzing, op. cit., p. 99. Back

(11) Geley, op. cit., p. 258. Back

(12) Sir Williarn Crookes, F.R.S., "Researches in the Phenomena of Spiritualism" (J. Bums, London, 1874). Medhurst, Goldney and Barrington, Crookes and the Spiritual World (Taplinger Publishing Co., New York, 1972). Back

(13) Sir Oliver Lodge, F.R.S., D.Sc., LL.D., "Man and The Universe" (Methuen & Co., London, 1908); "The Survival of Man" (Methuen & Co., London, 1909); "Reason and Belief" (Methuen & Co., London, 1910); "Modern Problems" (Methuen & Co., London, 1912); "The Substance of Faith" (Methuen & Co., London, 1915); "Raymond, or Life and Death" (Methuen & Co., London, 1916); "The Survival of Man" (George H. Doran Co., New York, 1920); "The Making of Man" (Hodder & Stoughton, London, 1924); "Ether and Reality" (Hodder & Stoughton, London, 1925); "Why I Believe in Personal Immortality" (Cassell & Co., London, 1928). Back

(14) Sir William Fletcher Barrett (1845-1926). Professor, Royal College of Science, Dublin. Noted Psychic researcher. In January 1882 helped to inaugurate the B.S.P.R. and in 1885 aided in the formation of the A.S.P.R. Author of an important paper stating the case for survival and communication. See S.P.R. Proceedings, Vol. XXXIV, 1924. Back

(15) James Hervey Hyslop (1854-1920). Professor of Logic and Ethics, Columbia University, New York. "Borderland of Psychical Research" (Small, Maynard & Co., Boston); "Enigmas of Psychical Research" (Small, Maynard & Co, Boston); "Psychical Research and the Resurrection" (Small, Maynard & Co., Boston, 1908); "Science and a Future Life" (Herbert B. Turner & Co., Boston, 1905); "Contact with the Other World" (Century Co., New York, 1919). Back

(16) Dr. Richard Hodgson (1855-1905). Studied Law at Cambridge. Secretary of Boston Section, A.S.P.R. Proceedings, Vol. III, 1892, re Piper mediumship. Back

(17) William James (1842-1905). Professor of Psychology, Harvard University. Founding member of A.S.P.R. "Varieties of Religious Experience" (Collins Fontana Paper-back, 1960). Back

(18) Randall, op. cit., p. 47. Back

(19) Richet, op. cit., p. 620. Back



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