Dr. T. Glen Hamilton

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

Chapter 12: The Spiritistic Hypothesis

 - T. Glen Hamilton -

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Section 1

          THE argument for the validity of the spiritistic hypothesis well follow these lines: first, it will be shown that the teleplasmic phenomena must be regarded as having psychological rather than biological origins; second, it will be shown that the trance personalities demonstrate the characteristics of conscious and rational intelligence. Behavioural science predicates that all rational intelligent action is based on learning and experience. However, if the trance personalities display an understanding of teleplasm which exceeds any known living intelligence's understanding of teleplasms, then it follows that the trance intelligence has arisen from a source other than an incarnate one. It is therefore necessary to postulate a discarnate, or non-material (in the sense of not being of our material world) agency. This is the spiritistic hypothesis.

Section 2

We admit the reality of the phenomena. Once this is accepted, there is little difficulty in placing them in their correct setting.

The criteria for our judgment as to whether they belong in the biological of the psychological field are drawn from a passage of Dr. J. S. Haldane, the English physiologist. Here he defines the difference between these two fields. He says:

"In biological interpretation we assume the maintenance and reproduction of specific forms of life, each life being a unity expressing itself in co-ordinated maintenance of detailed structure and activity. This unity is interpreted as constantly maintaining and reproducing itself, but doing so without display of foresight or retrospect - that is to say - blindly. When retrospect and foresight or learning from experience, are embodied, whether as perception or as voluntary action in the behaviour we are studying, we interpret it psychologically, or only interpret it physiologically is so far as we leave retrospect and foresight out of 
account ..."(1)

Teleplasm shows the characteristics of a true biological material save at precisely those points where psychological activity would be expected to interfere. In its forms there is a unity of detailed structure with co-ordinated functionalism between the parts. Professor Driesch views this as "organized assimilation in an extended field. In fact, normal organizatory and constructive assimilation as it appears for instance, in regeneration, would have to be amplified only in regard to its effects ('small' and 'big' are always relative notions). Materialization would at the same time be supernormal embryology..."(2)

However, the unity of teleplasm is not constantly maintained. Its duration is transient and is directly related to the intention of the trance entities. This intention is displayed through prediction, description, and other forms of conscious and rational activity. On such bases, therefore, the teleplasmic phenomena must be regarded as psychological.

Section 3

Next we seek to determine the levels of awareness displayed by the trance entities who were involved in the existence and the state of the psycho-physiological phenomena called teleplasms. We find that the trance entities exhibited awareness of the teleplasms at several clearly discernible levels.

The first level of awareness is to be found in the sťance records. From them we have evidence that the psychic entities were aware of the state of development and/or maturity of the teleplasmic masses. The evidence for this first level is based on the fact that they alone knew when to give the signals for the exposure of the photographic plates, since they alone knew when the substance was externalized at its point of optimum development. This first level of awareness is further supported by the description Walter gave of the third Spurgeon teleplasm, where deteriorization of the plasm had occurred due to a prolonged delay in making the exposure. On that occasion, Walter's stated awareness of the morphological change taking place in the differentiated teleplasmic mass, was borne out by the photographic evidence.

At the second level there was awareness of the functional properties and characteristics of the different types of plasm. For example, Walter produced an imitative mass which, in its crude outlines, was representative of the morphological developments of the face-bearing masses. (See Plate 3) In particular, this example showed a crude imitation of the split and overted protective over-covering found later with many of the differentiated masses. Indication of a similar awareness is to be found in connection with the second Spurgeon face. It will be recalled that Walter specifically asked that a bare table be placed in front of the medium. The photograph showed a capsule-like form on the table. The margins of this form were complementary to the undifferentiated material surrounding the miniature face. The inference is plain - Walter had deliberately attempted to draw attention to the presence of this protective layer, thus demonstrating his awareness of the function of the mass on the table top. (See Plate 13)

At a third level the psychic personalities appeared to have exercised a deliberate selection of material to be utilized in the production of imitative teleplasms. Most of these materials displayed a tightly interwoven texture which permitted firmly moulded contours. In direct contrast to such contours, we note what must be regarded as a deliberate choice of thin attenuated material to create the 'lover's knot' or 'bow' effect in the "W.E.G." teleplasm. (See Plate 18a.)

Now this awareness of type, emergence and maturity need not be of a very high order. If this were all that we had to consider, it would be possible to hold to the animistic theory and to suppose that the medium alone might produce quite spontaneously the proper type of material, and subconsciously recognize its maturity. Thus the wounded animal, without knowing why, will hide away until normal regenerative processes bring about tissue repair. Once this is done, the animal instinctively recognizes that repair is complete.

But at higher levels of perception the trance personalities show a consciousness of a much more complex nature. They predicted future teleplasms in descriptive details, which were completely validated by the subsequent photographic records. This is perception and prediction on a totally conscious level.

Less frequently the trance directors exhibited a third type of awareness, in which the plasmic phenomena were linked to a purely mental or purely abstract concept, which added substantially to the implied significance of the experiment. Walter's quotation from one of Spurgeon's sermons was obviously intended to be associated with the miniature likeness of Spurgeon secured at the same sťance. The use of such abstract ideas, linked to particular physical phenomena, adds yet another dimension to the trance director's perception of teleplasm. It reinforces the concept of rational, integrated, conscious discarnate activity.

The fourth and highest type of awareness was exhibited by the group mediumship. There is evidence to show that on several occasions the Dawn, Mercedes and Ewan trance personalities were aware simultaneously of the existence of a teleplasm which subsequently appeared with Dawn. Moreover, each individual entity was aware that each of the other entities was also aware of the existence of the teleplasm.

To sum up, four levels of awareness or of perception were displayed by the trance personalities:

1) an awareness of the type, the state, and the emergence of each teleplasm.

2) an awareness of the different functional properties, and of the applicability of certain descriptive terms to the various masses.

3) an awareness of the value of establishing certain so-called subjective features which could be regarded as contributing to the significance of the manifestations as a whole.

4) simultaneous awareness by two or more mediums of the teleplasms on the three preceding levels.

Section 4

There can be no doubt that the intentional activity of the group mediumship and the associated trance personalities was conscious and rational. The crux of the whole matter is this question:

When activity is conscious, when it exhibits memory, when it is capable of rational foresight, must activity at this abstract level always be predicated by learning and experience? This is invariably the case with normal personal and group action. It has always been the view of psychology that each of our perceptions and each of our actions involves learning from experience. In the abnormal field, psychology has gone to very considerable lengths to explain irrational actions by recourse to some previous and forgotten or sublimated experience. What then will we say for that intentional action of the trance personalities which is rational and predictive and for which we can find no basis of explanation in the previous history of the medium, and indeed, in the whole of human understanding? As we have shown, there must exist a very intimate and real connection between the proven intention of the trance intelligences and the proven reality of the teleplasmic substance. Whatever the processes are whereby this connection occurs, they are utilised in a conscious and rational manner. And we still have barely the smallest inkling of what is involved.

Here then is a contradiction. According to classical psychology, all rational behaviour must follow from learning through experience. The intentional activity displayed in the teleplasms surpasses the experience and learning of any known incarnate intelligent agency. The introduction of an intelligence - some manner of intelligence - is imperative and necessary to any explanation of the phenomena. By the evidence this is inescapable. In our opinion this incompatibility can best be resolved by the introduction of the theory of discarnate or post-mortem intelligence. From due consideration of other factors in the data, we have reached the conclusion that this discarnate intelligence can best be viewed as a deceased personality. This is the spiritistic hypothesis.

Section 5

If this hypothesis is strong, it will assist us in our understanding of other as yet incomprehensible facts of the research. But we must be wary lest we accept unquestionably many apparent implications as support to that hypothesis. A solution regarding the source of the Walter intelligence will not explain the organic processes which create teleplasm. It will simply be a special solution to account for the intelligence operating in a particular case. Such a solution does not preclude the possibility that a living agency might at some future time operate upon biological material and produce teleplasmic phenomena. It does not deny that science may some day unravel the problem of the substance, and indeed succeed in doing this with a complete disregard for the spiritistic concept. In the present instance the spiritistic hypothesis simply satisfies the need for a directing intelligence, manifesting in the role of a trance personality, but an intelligence, which by the evidence, cannot have arisen from an incarnate or living agency.

Again, what are the implications of the spiritistic hypothesis in regard to the miniature faces? For example, did Spurgeon play a vital role in producing the Spurgeon miniature faces? Such an idea should not be excluded, and it should be regarded as a possibility. But the evidence offered thus far suggests nothing which either affirms or negates this possibility.

If we adopt the spiritistic hypothesis, are the miniature faces significant of the conditions of life after death? There is no evidence to show that these phenomena, per se, have anything whatsoever to do with the state we are supposed to enter after bodily death. In our view it is extremely absurd even to suppose that they should. The sole significance that can be assigned to the face-bearing teleplasms at the present time, is in their demonstration of the trance personalities' ability to suggest, by implication, the major intention which they have attempted to establish, namely, the concept of life after death. Only in the sense of this implication can the face miniatures be considered to have a bearing on a state of a personal existence following death. And if the trance personalities are indeed deceased persons temporarily dominating and directing the mediums' bodily and mental functions, then one would also look for and expect to find evidence of the opinions, interests and memories of such deceased persons. This of course is the most common type of evidence which has been used to formulate the survival hypothesis.

There is a formal objection to the assumption that mental trance products revealing the life memories of certain individuals constitute sufficient grounds on which to advance the survival concept. The stumbling block is this, that evidence of such memory might arise from the minds of living agents. Therefore most investigators have adopted the position that if it is not rigorously and demonstrably necessary to a description of the phenomena, then the formalistic requirements of minimum hypothesis preclude the survival assumption.

Lodge has overridden this objection and has adopted the view that the evidence given by mental trance products is cumulative. In his opinion these in their effect justify the survival concept. There is much to be said for this view, for if the spiritistic concept is adopted, it is particularly successful in explaining many features of the phenomena of psychical research, which approached from any other point of view, must either be entirely disregarded, or other wise the theory upon which the explanations are based, will be stretched so far as to appear ridiculous.

Spiritistic mental trance phenomena, when viewed and interpreted as corollaries of rather than as causes for the spiritistic hypothesis, do not conflict with that hypothesis. With its aid a considerable degree of understanding of the phenomena can be secured.

From every source, the records of psychic research are saturated with implications of survival. Whenever and wherever genuine trance personalities are encountered, we are met with the claim that the trance intelligence is in fact a deceased person. This has occurred in the work of every investigator since the beginning of serious study in the middle of the 19th century. All investigators of psychic events, whether they be Christian, agnostic, or frankly atheistic, have reported the manifestation, in some form or other, of the survival idea, by the trance entities. Any theory which attempts to account for the reality of psychic phenomena must explain why this particular pattern of expressed motivation is present. It is obvious that the spiritistic hypothesis has the least difficulty in so doing.

The trance-products of the medium Elizabeth M. provide us with a large amount of data relating to the earth - and life - memories of certain known dead.

We turn now to an examination of the woman Elizabeth M. and of her mediumship. We will give an evaluation of her mental trance products in terms of the survival hypothesis.


(1) J. S. Haldane, C.H., F.R.S., "The Philosophical Basis of Biology" (Hodder & Stoughton, 1931), p. 97. Back

(2) Hans Dreisch, "Psychical Research", T. Besterman (translator) (G. Bell & Sons, Ltd., London, 1933), p. 119. Back



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