Flash Player 9 (or above) is needed to view presentations.
We have detected that you do not have it on your computer. To install it, go here.

Psychical research (w. f. barrett)


Published on


Published in: Technology
  • Be the first to comment

  • Be the first to like this

No Downloads
Total views
On SlideShare
From Embeds
Number of Embeds
Embeds 0
No embeds

No notes for slide

Psychical research (w. f. barrett)

  4. 4. PREFACE To compress into a small volume such asthe present an outline of psychical researchhas proved a more formidable task than Ianticipated when the Editors asked me toundertake this work. The problems are sonew and entangled and the results so startlingthat it is very difficult to present them in abrief yet readable and convincing form. Asuperficial sketch of the subject might havebeen given, but that seemed hardly worthyof the aim which the Editors have in view.I have therefore endeavoured to give a briefsurvey in separate chapters of the principallines of work and of the results so far achievedby the Society for Psychical Research. One ofthe most difficult tasks was to compress intoa chapter or two an intelligible view of thelaborious work of the Society during recentyears in the investigation of automaticwriting and the evidence this may afford forsurvival of bodily death: a critical inquirythat extends over several bulky volumes of theSocietys Proceedings. Happily my friend,Miss Jane Barlow, D.Litt., who has made acareful study of this subject and is one of v
  5. 5. vi PREFACEthe Committee of Reference and Publicationof the S.P.R., generously came to my aid.Her literary skill is seen in the two lastchapters,wherein she has helped me to outlinethe salient features of this evidence and thegeneral conclusions to which we have beenled. I have also to thank Miss Barlow formuch other kind assistance in the preparationof this volume. Mrs. H. Sidgwick, D.Litt.,Hon. Secretary and a former President of theS.P.R., has also very kindly read the proofsheets and made some valuable suggestionswhich I have adopted. It must, however,be understood that neither Mrs. Sidgwick northe Council of the Society for Psychical Re-search are in any way responsible for theconclusions stated and the opinions expressedin the following pages. W. F. BARRETT. Kingstown, Co. Dublin, August 1911
  8. 8. PSYCHICAL RESEARCH CHAPTER I SCIENCE AND SUPERSTITION THE phenomena we are about to discussin the present volume are characterized by "many sceptics as a recrudescence of super- "stition (see Nature, vol. 51, p. 122), and on "the other hand by many believers as evidenceof the supernatural." The average busy man,who has no time for critical inquiry, probablythinks that there is a good deal of truth inboth these statements, and therefore prefersto give the whole subject a wide berth. Butthe scornful disdain of the savant and thecredulous belief of the ignorant are now givingway to a more rational attitude of mind. Awidespread desire exists to know somethingabout that debatable borderland betweenthe territory already conquered by scienceand the dark realms of ignorance and super-stition; and to learn what trustworthyevidence exists on behalf of a large class ofobscure psychical phenomena, the importanceof which it is impossible to exaggerate if the 9
  9. 9. 10 PSYCHICAL RESEARCHalleged factsbe incontestably established.To satisfythat desire, in some slight andimperfect way, is the object of this little book. The subjects to be considered cover a widerange, from unconscious muscular action tothe mysterious operation of our subconsciousself; from telepathy to apparitions at themoment of death; from hypnotism and thetherapeutic effects of suggestion to crystal-gazing and the emergence of hidden humanfaculties; from clairvoyance, or the allegedperception of objects without the use of theordinary channels of sense, to dowsing, or thefinding of underground water and metalliclodes with the so-called divining rod; fromthe reputed hauntings of certain places to themischievous pranks of poltergeists (or boisterous!but harmless ghosts whose asserted freaks mayhave given rise both to fetishism and fairies) ;from the inexplicable sounds and movementof objects without assignable cause to thethaumaturgy of the spiritualistic stance;from the scribbling of planchette and automaticwriting generally to the alleged operationof unseen and intelligent agents and thepossibility of experimental evidence of humansurvival after death. These phenomena, even if only a fraction ofwhat is asserted by credible witnesses be true,open a new and vastly important chapter inthe book of human knowledge. If established,they reveal a wide and wonderful extensionof human faculty, and give us a glimpse ofthe abysses of human personality, of depths
  10. 10. SCIENCE AND SUPERSTITION 11that transcend time and sense and outward "things, teaching us that nature is not asoulless interaction of atoms, nor life a paltrymisery closed in the grave." But here we are met, on the one side, withthe objection of many religious people, thatthese phenomena belong to the region of thesupernatural, and therefore their investigationis a hopeless, if it be not an impious, quest;and on the other side with the complacentcontempt of the superior person, who dismissesthe whole matter with a shrug as pure super-stition. Therefore, before discussing the evi-dence on behalf of these obscure phenomena,let us ask if there be any valid reason fordescribing them as either supernatural orsuperstitious. In the childhood of the race every rare orinexplicable event, whether in the heavens oron the earth, was regarded as supernatural.Eclipses, comets, meteorites, and other unusualmeteorological phenomena, were a super-natural portent or the direct interpositionof the Deity. But the progress of knowledgehas shown that these and all other phenomena however mysterious and at present in-explicable they may be are part of the orderof nature, are natural and not supernatural.Even a couple of centuries ago, many of themarvels of modern scientific discovery wouldhave been classed as supernatural. To knowwhat was happening less than an hour agoat the Antipodes, or to listen to the voice of,and interchange conversation with, friends in
  11. 11. 12 PSYCHICAL RESEARCHdifferent countries the commonplace of thetelegraph and telephone to-day not tomention the transmission of wireless messagesacross the Atlantic and the instantaneousphotographic record and reproduction ofrapidly moving objects, all these would havebeen thought impossible or miraculous. The religious mind is ever apt to forget whatBishop Butler pointed out in the first chapterof his Analogy, that our notion of what isnatural grows with our greater knowledge,so that to beings of more extensive knowledge "than ourselves the whole Christian dispen-sation may to them appear natural, as naturalas the visible known course of things appearsto us." Miracles, as most theologians, fromSt. Augustine onwards, have said, do nothappen in contradiction to nature, they are notsupernatural events, but only transcend whatis at present known to us of nature. Wecannot pretend to determine the boundarybetween the natural and the supernaturaluntil the whole of nature is open to ourknowledge. If at any point scientific investi-gation finds a limit, what is beyond is onlya part of nature yet unknown. So that,however marvellous and inexplicable certainphenomena may be, we feel assured that sooneror later they will receive their explanation,and be embraced within some part of the widedomain of science. Nor can we restrict these considerations tothe visible universe. The vast procession ofphenomena that constitute the order of nature
  12. 12. SCIENCE AND SUPERSTITION 13do not come to an abrupt conclusion when theycan no longer be apprehended by our presentorgans of sense. Science already takes cogniz-ance of the imperceptible, imponderable, andinfinitely rare luminiferous ether, an unseenform of matter wholly different from anythingknown to our senses, the very existence ofwhich indeed is only known inferentially.As an eminent scientific writer has said :" In earlier times the suggestion of such amedium would probably have been lookedupon as strong evidence of insanity." Thelaw of continuity leads us to believe thatwhatever unknown and perplexing phenomenamay confront us, in the seen or in the unseenuniverse, in this world or in any other, weshall never reach the limit of the natural, andnever be put to intellectual confusion by thediscovery of a chaos instead of a cosmos. Atthe centre and throughout every part of thisever expanding and limitless sphere of nature,there remains enshrouded from the gaze ofscience the Ineffable and Supreme Thoughtwhich alone can be termed Supernatural.For the very term phenomenon, which is onlythe Greek word for appearance, means some-thing brought within the cognizance of thesenses and of the reason, thereby it ceases tobe supernatural and becomes another aspectof the creative thought of God. Hence thesupernatural can never be a matter of observa-tion or scientific inquiry; the Divine Beingalone can transcend His handiwork. To talk, therefore, of apparitions and
  13. 13. 14 PSYCHICAL RESEARCH phenomena, etc., as supernaturalspiritualisticis obviously incorrect. Even if established,they would not lie beyond nor outside nature,but merely beyond our ordinary normal exper-ience. They are, in fine, supernormal pheno-mena, and that word, first suggested by Mr.F. W. H. Myers, will be used throughout thisbook to denote the objects of psychicalresearch. Then arises the question, is it worth whileto spend time on subjects which the scientificworld has until lately regarded as relics ofsuperstition, and which are still so regardedby many ? It is true that there is now agrowing and marked change of opinion inthis respect among many of the foremost menof science in every civilized country. Butofficial science as a body still looks askance atpsychical research and speaks of its adherentsas more or less credulous and superstitious.What is meant by superstition ? Etymologic-ally it means the standing over an occur-rence, in amazement or awe ; shutting out thelight of inquiry and reason. Where this lightenters a mystery is no longer enshrouded byhelplessly standing over it, but we begin tounderstand it. Superstition is, therefore, theantithesis of understanding, and of that faithin the intelligibility of nature which forms thefoundation of science and the hope of allintellectual progress. In a lecture on Science and Superstitionwhich the writer heard the Rev. CharlesKingsley deliver at the Royal Institution in
  14. 14. SCIENCE AND SUPERSTITION 15London in 1866, and which was published inFrasers Magazine for June and July, 1866, "superstition was defined as fear of theunknown." This is the frequent accompani-ment of superstition, but the ancient Greek," who believed that every tree or stream orglen had its nymph, whose kindly office menmight secure by paying them certain honours,"was a superstitious man, though he did not inthis case exhibit fear of the unknown. Super-stition may be more accurately defined as abelief not in accordance with facts, where noconnection exists between the cause ascribedand the effect imagined, and issues in supersti-tious practices when such a belief is regarded asaffording help or injury. Some trivial occur-rence may once have been followed by disaster,and forthwith it becomes an omen ! Thus achance coincidence is to the superstitious alaw of nature. Not only amid the culture ofancient Greece and Rome, but right down theages to the present time, we find this irrationalhabit of mind. Nor is it confined to thecredulous and the ignorant. Voltaire wenthome out of humour when he heard a ravencroak on his left. Many gallant officers andclever women dread to sit down thirteen todinner, just as the peasant dreads to hear thescreech owl. Omens and portents are stillas rife throughout India as in ancient Rome.Superstition is the arrest of reason and inquiry,an ignoble and groundless belief. But inevery case where science comes in at the doorsuperstition flies out of the window. And so
  15. 15. 16 PSYCHICAL RESEARCHto-day if we wish to rid ourselves of the manysillyand mischievous superstitions whichabound in our midst, we must bring to bear " "upon them the dry and clear light ofscience. How, then, can the scientific investigationof psychical phenomena be regarded as super-stitious folly ? Difference of opinion mayexist as to the interpretation of the phenomenaor as to the weight of evidence required toestablish a definite conclusion. But no onedisputes the need of inquiry, nor that numerouspainstaking and competent investigators havebeen convinced of the genuineness of many ofthe phenomena we shall describe and the vastimportance of the issues they foreshadow.This being so, the charge of superstition restsupon those whose scornful and irrationalhabit of mind leads them to a belief not inaccordance with facts, and to a practice ofrejecting the weightiest evidence and acceptingthe flimsiest just as it suits their preconceivednotions of the possible and the impossible.These are the superstitious. There remains a more common form ofdisbelief in psychical phenomena, based uponthe fact that they have not been witnessed bythe objector and cannot be reproduced at willto convince him. Neither have many of uswitnessed the fall of meteoric stones to theearth, yet we believe in their existence inspite of the impossibility of their reproductionat our pleasure. The reason why we believe is,of course, the testimony of many trustworthy
  16. 16. SCIENCE AND SUPERSTITION 17witnesses to whom we have given attention.In fact there are some phenomena in physicalscience which are as rare, elusive and inexplic-able as those in psychical research. Thatstrange phenomenon, to which the name offire-ball or globe lightning has been given, isan example. "As we have hitherto beenunable to reproduce a fire-ball by our mostpowerful electrical machines, some philoso-phers have denied that any such thing can exist ! But as Arago says : Where shouldwe be if we set ourselves to deny everythingwe do not know how to explain ? The amount of trustworthy and independentevidence which we possess as to the occurrenceof this phenomenon is such as must convinceevery reasonable man who chooses to pay dueattention to the subject. No doubt there is agreat deal of exaggeration, as well as muchimperfect and erroneous observation, inalmost all these records. But the existenceof the main feature (the fire-ball) seems to beproved beyond all doubt." These are thewords of that eminent and genuine scientificman, the late Professor Tait, and the words Ihave italicized are equally true of the principalphenomena of psychical research. There has "been, no doubt, much exaggeration and "erroneous observation in connection withthis subject, but this can also be said of theearly stages of other new and striking additionsto our knowledge. The fact is, our reason leads us to beinstinctively hostile to the reception of any
  17. 17. 18 PSYCHICAL RESEARCHevidence which cannot be readily fitted intothe structure of existing knowledge. We areall apt to overlook the difference betweenevidence which involves only a wide extensionof our knowledge and evidence which involvesa flat contradiction of well-established laws,such as the law of the conservation of energy.If telepathy, clairvoyance or even the existenceof discarnate personalities be experimentallyestablished, a vast extension, but surely nocontradiction, of our present knowledge wouldbe involved. Moreover, an entirely new dis-covery, such, for example, as the properties ofradium, could never be accepted if, adoptingHumes argument against miracles, we refusedto credit it on account of our previous ex-perience having been uniformly opposedto it. Perhaps, however, the chief obstacle to thegeneral recognition of psychical phenomenais to be found in our disinclination to acceptin this region, the experience and testimonyof other observers, however eminent andcompetent they may be. The splendid andstartling discoveries made by Sir W. Crookesin physical science were universally receivedwith respect and belief, but his equally carefulinvestigation of psychical phenomena weredismissed by most scientific men as unworthyof serious attention. It is true the formerwere more, and the latter less, accessible toexperimental verification but one would have ;thought that at least suspense of judgment,awaiting confirmatory evidence, and not
  18. 18. SCIENCE AND SUPERSTITION 19scornful contempt, would have been a truerscientific attitude. Certainly the treatment of hypnotism andof its courageous pioneers by the medicalprofession, down to a comparatively recentperiod, is a warning of the grotesque folliesinto which science may fall when it restsits opposition to any new departure notupon evidence, but upon prejudice andnegation. Unfortunately, science has beentoo often the friend of systematic negation.Facts, as the late Professor W. James has "remarked, are denied until a welcomeinterpretation is offered, then they are ad-mitted readily enough." No one is omnisci-ent, and of late we have had to accept somany things once deemed impossible that weought by this time to have learnt the axiomof that distinguished philosopher, Sir John "Herschel, who tells us the natural philoso-pher should believe all things not improbable,hope all things not impossible."
  19. 19. CHAPTER II UNCONSCIOUS MUSCULAR ACTION THE PENDULE EXPLORATEUR AUTOSCOPES FROM time to time there comes into vogue,not only in England, but in widely distantcountries, an amusing but mysterious gameknown as the " magic pendulum," or in Franceas the pendule explorateur. It consists of afinger ring or little ball suspended from athread which is held between the fingers.It is held as steadily as possible, neverthelessthe ring soon begins to oscillate, swinging toand fro like a pendulum, in spite of the effortof the holder to control it. If the holder claspswith his free hand a person sitting by his side,the direction of the oscillation may changetowards that person. Or, when requestedso to do, it may set up a rotatory motion,either in the direction of, or opposed to, thehands of a watch, according as the holder istouched by a lady or a gentleman. If thering be suspended within a tumbler it willusually strike the hour of the day when so re-quested. If the letters of the alphabet widelyspaced be arranged in a circle and the ringsuspended over the centre, it will frequently 20
  20. 20. UNCONSCIOUS MUSCULAR ACTION 21spell out answers to questions addressed toitby oscillating towards successive letters.The holder of the ring, in order to keep hishand steady, may rest his elbow on the table,passing the thread from which the ring issuspended over the ball of his thumb; apendulum about nine inches long is thusformed and not the least motion of the holdershand is discernible. It will be found thatwith certain people of either sex the motionsof the pendulum are vigorous and respond toany question, but with other persons thependulum is sluggish or inert. No apparentreason can be assigned for this difference, forsensitives are often found among the mostsceptical. What is the explanation of this mysteriouspendulum ? Simply this, the person whoholds the suspended ring is unintentionallyand unconsciously the source of its motion.Through the imperceptible and uncontrollabletremors of his hand or arm the ring or ballbegins to vibrate, and the mode of the vibra-tion will correspond to his intention. Thecurious thing, however, is that the sensitivecannot, by any intentional voluntary act,make the ring carry out his wishes, except inthe clumsiest manner and with obvious move-ments of his hand or arm. But he is able todo involuntarily and unconsciously what hecannot perform voluntarily. That his ownmuscles are really responsible for the mysteri-ous motions of the pendule, is seen by suspend-ing the thread and ring from a rigid support,
  21. 21. 22 PSYCHICAL RESEARCHsuch as a gas bracket. However strongly thecompany may now willthe ring to move,it will remain absolutely motionless, exceptfor currents of air, which may be preventedby letting the ring depend inside a glass. In fact, we have in this present-day pastimea convincing illustration of what has beentermed "motor-automatism," that is to say,muscular actions performed without the con-currence of conscious thought and will. Weall know that our life depends on the auto-matic action of the heart, lungs and digestivesystem, which go on involuntarily and uncon-sciously. In the oscillation of the pendule wehave the automatic actions of muscles, usuallyunder the control of our conscious thoughtand will, unexpectedly responding to theunconscious, or barely conscious, wish of theholder of the thread. An interesting illustra-tion of this was recently given by ProfessorHyslop in America, who used a sort of plumb-bob suspended by a chain. Holding thelatter between his finger and thumb andresting his wrist on a fixed support, he foundthe ball promptly oscillated, or rotated inany direction, when he mentally wished it todo so, even when he closed his eyes. Yet hetells us he was absolutely unconscious of givingany motion whatever to the ball and could notdetect the least muscular movement of hishand. Even coherent messages may be speltout by the pendulum without the intentionand to the great amazement of the sensitivewhom we may now call the Automatist. How
  22. 22. UNCONSCIOUS MUSCULAR ACTION 23these involuntary and intelligent musculartremors come about we can only surmise. Atheory which accords with these and othermysterious automatic phenomena is thatour conscious self has a subconscious orsubliminal self associated with it, a sleepingpartner as it were, that only speaks throughthese automatic actions. With that sleeping partner in our personalitywe are not concerned at present, but onlywith the mode in which it reveals itself. Thependule explorateur is not the only way, butit isperhaps the oldest way of doing this ofwhich we have any historical record. Forit goes back to the augurs of ancient Rome,who sometimes used a sort of magnifiedpendule. The augur stood in the centre ofa circle, round which were arranged the lettersof the alphabet, and holding in his hand astring from which an iron ring depended, heasked the gods for an answer to the questionaddressed him. Whereupon the ring beganto oscillate first to one letter and then toanother and the message was spelt out. Itis said that one of the later Roman emperorsthus obtained from the augurs the name ofhis probable successor, who was thereuponpromptly put to death. Coming down through the Middle Ages tothe present time we find an amusing periodicrevival of the magic pendulum. Each periodbelieves it to be a wonderful novelty, justdiscovered, and that its motions are due to anoccult force of surpassing interest and mystery.
  23. 23. 24 PSYCHICAL RESEARCHThe British Museum has a rich collection ofcontinental and English books, going backsome centuries, devoted to the investigationand wonders of the pendule explorateur.Italian, German, French and English writers,many of them of considerable learning, tellus of its mysterious movements and itsscientific value. Even in the PhilosophicalTransactions of the Royal Society of Londonfor 1736, a paper was published on the remark-able orbital motions of a little ball suspendedby a thread held in the hand. Mr. Grey,who made these experiments, was a famousman, a pioneer in electrical investigationand a Fellow of the Royal Society. Hefully believed that from these experimentswould arise a new theory to account forthe planetary motions ; for he found that thelittle suspended ball always moved in thesame direction as the planets moved roundthe, sun. He acknowledged, however, that" he had not found the experiment succeedif the thread was supported by anything buta human hand." Dr. Mortimer, the thenSecretary of the Royal Society, repeatedGreys experiments with success and hopedmuch from them, but Priestley tells us in hisElectricity (published in 1775, p. 60) that acontemporary savant, Mr. Wheeler, after long-continued trials came to the conclusion thatthe unconscious desire to produce the motionfrom west to east was the true explanation,though he was not sensible of giving anymotion to his hand.
  24. 24. UNCONSCIOUS MUSCULAR ACTION 25 At the beginning of the nineteenth centurythe German philosopher, Ritter, thought he haddiscovered a new force Siderism, he called it.This, however, turned out to be only uncon-scious muscular tremors given to a suspendedball or other object lightly held. Some yearslater Mrs. De Morgan in her Reminiscences(p. 216) describes how interested LadyByron and other notable people were in thewonderful gyrations of the little pendulum, "believing it to be the birth of a new science."Even within the last year an able journalist "tells the public of a new invention " wherebythe sex of eggs can be discovered by the modeof oscillation of the magic pendulum ! Noris the widespread illusion of the wonderfulgifts of the oscillatory ring confined to thecivilized world, as among the Karens a ringsuspended by a thread over a metal basin isused to indicate the one dearest to somedeceased person. In some parts of France and America awatch, or a ball, depending from a chain orfine wire, is carried about by certain personswho profess to locate underground ores orsprings by its oscillation. The usual method, " "however, employed by the diviner todiscover underground ore or water, is by meansof a forked twig, the two ends of the fork beinggrasped one in each hand. Here we haveanother means of indicating slight involuntarymuscular movement, for the twig is held inneutral or sometimes unstable equilibrium,and a very slight muscular tremor will cause
  25. 25. 26 PSYCHICAL RESEARCHits suddengyration. Sometimes it willmove upwards or downwards as the eitherholder approaches or recedes from the objectof his quest. In the South of France during the seven- "teenth century the "forked rod was employedfor an endless variety of purposes. A learnedJesuit, Father le Brun (Histoire critique despratiques superstitieuses, Paris, 1702), tellsus it was used to track criminals and thefathers of foundlings, to find lost treasure andlost boundaries, and it was generally appealedto instead of courts of justice in fact, its use ;became such a scandal that Cardinal Camusinvoked the authority of the Inquisition, andearly in the eighteenth century its use in themoral world was rightly prohibited. I willreturn to the history and discuss the value ofthe so-called divining- or dowsing-rod in thechapter devoted to this subject. The onlypoint that interests us now is the sudden andmysterious motion of the rod, or the baguette asit is called in France. We owe the first cleardemonstration of the true cause of its motionto a well-known French scientist, M. Chevreul,who in 1854 published a work entitled LaBaguette Divinatoire, in which he shows howclosely related are the movements of thebaguette to those of the pendule explorateur 9and that both were due to unconsciousmuscular action (see also a letter fromChevreul in the Revue des deux Mondes in1833). Chevreul, however, was not the first to dis-
  26. 26. UNCONSCIOUS MUSCULAR ACTION 27cover the fact that in some unconscious waythe holder of the forked twig really moved it.Two centuries earlier a learned Jesuit, FatherA. Kircher, one of the founders of experi- "mental science, proved that the divining- " was inert if balanced on a fixedrod supportand moved only when held by a living person(see Kircher s folio Magnes sive de ArteMagnetica^ 1640, p. 724, and his later work,Mundus Subterraneus, vol. ii., p. 200). More-over, Chevreul, though he cleared away thefollies that had clustered round the pendule,was himself mistaken in thinking the holderof the thread pendulum or the baguette con-sciously intended it to move in a certain way.This is not the case. As Professor PierreJanet points out, these automatic actions takeplace independently of any conscious volitionon the part of the operator ("Sans le vouloiret sans le savoir," LAutomatisme Psycholo-gique, by P. Janet, Paris, 1889, p. 373 et seq. Seealso Professor C. Richets Des Mouvementsinconscientes, Paris, 1886). A study of these unconscious movementshas recently been made by several experi-mental psychologists in France, Germanyand America. The conclusion was reachedthat if the attention can be given elsewhere,it is possible to cultivate in many personsautomatic movements often of great vigourand complexity, which respond to slightunconsciously-received suggestions. Further-more, as Professor P. Janet says, in certaincases more knowledge is exhibited in these
  27. 27. 28 PSYCHICAL RESEARCHautomatic manifestations than is possessedby our conscious personality, and the studyof the source of this knowledge forms a largepart of psychical research. We may summarize what we have said asfollows.Our conscious self always speaksthrough various voluntary muscular move-ments, ideas chiefly expressing themselvesin articulate language. Behind the consciousself lies the large unperceived backgroundof our personality, which reveals itself throughinvoluntary muscular actions to which ordin-arily we give no heed. Either they are internaland concerned with the movements andphysiological processes of the organs of thebody, or they are external and, generallyspeaking, too small to be perceptible. Some instrumental means, as we have seen,is therefore necessary to render visible theseminute unconscious external automaticactions. It is desirable to give a genericname to this class of "instrument, and I have "suggested the term Autoscope or self-viewer."Two autoscopes we have found in (1) thelittle portable pendulum and (2) in theforked twig, but there are others. (3) Apencil, lightly and passively held so that itcan write freely on paper, forms an excellentautoscope with some persons, and (4) a littleheart-shaped wooden table mounted withthree legs, two furnished with small rollersand the third with a pencil, is a common formof autoscope and goes by the name of plan-chette. The sitters place their fingers lightly
  28. 28. UNCONSCIOUS MUSCULAR ACTION 29on planchette, and presently it begins to scrawlout letters and sometimes long coherent mes-sages, or answers questions. (5) The so-called" board" is another autoscope; here ouijathe letters of the alphabet are pointed out bya little travelling board on which the sittershands are placed. (6) A small table, roundwhich a few persons can sit with their fingersresting lightly around the tip of the table,is a common form of autoscope. The tablebegins to turn and often to tilt and rap outmessages according to a prearranged code.Faraday, with that quick insight and wonder-ful experimental skill he possessed, long agoshowed that the unconscious muscular actionof the sitters when their fingers ever so lightlytouched the table was sufficient to accountfor its motion. But here, as elsewhere, themuscular hypothesis fails when the tablemoves without any one touching it, as weshall see is sometimes the case. In the middleof the last century in Guadaloupe, a chairformed a similar autoscope and went by thename of Juanita prose and poetry were spelt ;out by the chair, much to the astonishmentof those touching it. (7) A simple and effici-ent autoscope could easily be made out of apoised index or lever, the longer end pointingto the letters of the alphabet and the shorterend having a cross-piece attached to betouched by the sitters. (8) Passive livingpersons can also act as autoscopes whenthey are lightly touched by another person.This, as shown in a succeeding chapter, is the
  29. 29. 30 PSYCHICAL RESEARCH " "explanation of the willing game and of the " "success of professional thought-readerslike Bishop and Cumberland a generationago. There are also other autoscopes whichgive rise to sensory hallucinations, such asthe visions seen by gazing at a translucentobject like a ball of glass. Now as language, which need not be speechbut any form of expression, is necessary forour conscious thought and reason, so auto-scopes furnish a means whereby the hiddenpart of our personality, the dumb partner ofour life, can outwardly express itself; a meanswhereby an intelligence not under our con-scious control can reveal itself by some physicalor sensory manifestation. It is just because these manifestations appearto be so novel and detached from ourselvesthat they are apt to be so misleading to someand so mischievous to others. Interpretedon the one hand as the play of a wonderfuloccult force, science has refused to haveanything to do with phenomena which seemto obey no physical laws, but are capriciousand self-determined. Interpreted on theother, truly enough, as the exhibition of a freeand intelligent agent, some infernal or dis-carnate spirit has been fixed upon as thecause, and a fictitious authority is often givento their indications. Whether these intelligent automatic move-ments and hallucinations exhibit informationoutside the memory, either active or latent,of the individual who uses the autoscope;
  30. 30. UNCONSCIOUS MUSCULAR ACTION 31or a knowledge beyond that which may havebeen unconsciously derived from the knownenvironment, animate and inanimate, is aproblem which can only be solved so as togain general acceptance by long and patientinquiry. Of this the investigations alreadypublished in the Proceedings of the Society forPsychical Research are an earnest. To thescope and work of that Society we must nowturn.
  31. 31. CHAPTER III THE SOCIETY FOR PSYCHICAL RESEARCH HUMAN PERSONALITY THERE can be little doubt that the wide-spread and intelligent interest which in recentyears has been taken in psychical research isdue to the work of the Society founded for itsinvestigation and to the scholarly presentationof that work in the two volumes on HumanPersonality which we owe to the brilliantgenius and indefatigable labour of the lateFrederic W. H. Myers. It is, moreover, anoteworthy fact that the essential portion, thefirst four lengthy chapters, of Mr. Myersmagnum opus is now included in the examina-tion for the Fellowship in Mental and MoralPhilosophy in Trinity College, Dublin, thehighest prize in that famous University. The whirligig of time has indeed broughtits revenges more quickly than usual, when wefind that a subject which was scorned andridiculed by the learned world, when theSociety for Psychical Research was foundedin 1882, has now become an integral part ofadvanced psychological study in at least onegreat University. The success which the Society has achieved 32
  32. 32. HUMAN PERSONALITY 33is in no small measure due to the wise counseland constant supervision of the late Pro-fessor H. Sidgwick. It was singularly fortunatethat from the outset and for several succeedingyears, one so learned, cautious and criticalas Professor Sidgwick was President of theSociety a position also held by Mrs. Sidgwick, ;who has given, and, as Hon. Secretary inrecent years, continues to give, the benefit ofher wide knowledge and unremitting care toall the details of its work. To these namesmust be added those of the late EdmundGurney and Frederic Myers for many yearsHon. Secretaries of the Society whoseindefatigable labours and brilliant geniuswere devoted to laying the foundations of theSociety, upon which the latter, ere his suddendeath, had begun to build, and we may fainhope is still aiding to build, an enduring edifice. Those of us who took part in the foundationof the Society were convinced that amidstmuch illusion and deception there exists animportant body of facts, hitherto unrecognizedby science, which, if incontestably established,would be of supreme importance and interest.By applying scientific methods to their in-vestigation these obscure phenomena arebeing gradually rescued from the disorderlymystery of ignorance but this is a work not :of one, but of many generations. For thisreason, it was necessary to form a society,the aim of which should be to bring to bearon these obscure questions the same spiritof exact and unimpassioned inquiry which has B
  33. 33. 34 PSYCHICAL RESEARCHenabled science to solve so many problemsonce no less obscure nor less hotly debated. The aversion which so many scientific menhave felt for psychical research arises, perhaps,from a disregard of the essential differencebetween physical and psychical science. Theonly gateways of knowledge according tothe former are the familiar organs of sense,whereas the latter indicates that these gatewayscan be occasionally transcended. The main is to measure andobject of physical science and from its phenomena life andforecast,free-willmust be eliminated. Psychicalphenomena can neither be measured norforecast, as in their case the influence of lifeand volition can neither be eliminated norforeseen. In fact, the study of human personality andthe extent of human faculty form the mainobjects of psychical research. Its investiga-tions have already thrown much light on theseprofound problems. Our Ego is" not the simple " of no degrees and manifestthing admittingonly in our normal consciousness, which theolder psychologists taught. On the contrary,the results of psychical research have led manyto accept the view, so ably advocated byMr. Myers, that the conscious self, with whichwe are familiar in our waking life, is but a "portion of a more comprehensive conscious-ness, a profounder faculty, which for the mostpart remains potential, so far as regards thelife on earth," but which may be liberated infull activity by the change we call death.
  34. 34. HUMAN PERSONALITY 35 Others, like Mr. Gerald Balfour, in hisPresidential Address to the S.P.R., suggest amore complex view of human personality. Tothe solution of this profound problem we arestillgroping our way, and for the present alltheories must be regarded as merely pro-visional. As a convenient working hypothesisI have adopted Mr. Myers view, but thereader will please understand that, even inthe absence of qualifying words, this view isadopted provisionally and not dogmatically.All, however, will admit the existence of asubconscious life in addition to the primaryconsciousness with which we are familiar. Just as experimental physics has shownthat each sunbeam embraces a potent invisibleradiation, as well as the visible radiation weperceive, so experimental psychology affordsevidence that each human personality em-braces a potent hidden faculty or self, as well asthe familiar conscious self. Mr. Myers, usingthe psychological conception of a threshold, orlimen, has termed the former the subliminalself. This expresses all the mental activities,thoughts, feelings, etc., which lie beneath thethreshold of consciousness. This thresholdmust be regarded not so much as the entranceto a chamber but rather as the normal marginof the sea in the boundless ocean of life.Above this margin or ocean level rise theseparate islands of conscious life, but thesevisible portions rest on an invisible and largersubmerged part. Again, far beneath the oceansurface all the separate islands unite in the B 2
  35. 35. 36 PSYCHICAL RESEARCHvast submerged ocean bed. In like manner,human personality rears its separate peaks inour waking conscious life, but its foundationsrest on the hidden subliminal life, andsubmerged deeper still lies the Universalocean bed, uniting all life with the Fount of life.Sleep and waking are the tides of life, whichperiodically cover and expose the island peaksof consciousness. Death may be regarded asa subsidence of the island below the oceanlevel the withdrawal of human life, from our ;present superficial view, which sees but a frag-ment of the whole sum of human personality. Now the subliminal self not only containsthe record of unheeded past impressions, alatent memory, but also has activities andfaculties far transcending the range of ourconscious self. In this it resembles theinvisible radiation of the sun, which is the mainsource of all physical and vital energy in thisworld. Evidence of these higher subliminalfaculties is not wanting ; we see them sometimesemerging in hypnotic trance, in works ofgenius and inspiration and in the arithmeticaland musical performances of infant prodigies. As an illustration of subliminal activity,the following case shows the almost incredibleswiftness and ease with which " calculating "boys can work out long arithmetical prob-lems in their head, in far less time than expertadults require, even using pencil and paper.Mr. E. Blyth of Edinburgh (Proc. S.P.E., vol.viii., p. 352) relates this incident of his brotherBenjamin :
  36. 36. HUMAN PERSONALITY 37 " When almost six years of age, Ben waswalking with his father before breakfast, whenhe said Papa, at what hour was I born ? He was told 4 a.m., and he then asked, What oclock is at present ? it He was told7.50 a.m. The child walked on a few hundredyards, then turned to his father and statedthe number of seconds he had lived. Myfather noted down the figures, made thecalculation when he got home, and told Benhe was 172,800 seconds wrong, to which he gota ready reply 6 Oh, papa, you have left out :two days for the leap years 1820 and 1824,which was the case. This latter fact of theextra day in leap year is not known to manychildren of six, and if any one will try to teachan ordinary child of those years the multi-plication table up to 12 x 12 he will be betterable to realize how extraordinary was thiscalculation for such an infant." In fact, this arithmetical power was not theresult of the childs education but rather aninnate faculty, or, as Mr. Myers expresses it, "a subliminal uprush." In such cases, thepossessor of the gift cannot explain how heattained it, and usually it disappears afterchildhood. Thus Professor Safford, when achild of ten, could correctly work in his headin one minute a multiplication sum whoseanswer consisted of thirty-six figures, but lostthis faculty as he grew up, though in adult lifehe needed it most. The conception of a subliminal selforiginated with one of the most eminent
  37. 37. 38 PSYCHICAL RESEARCHscientific men of the last generation, Sir JohnHerschel, who tells us he was led to believe,from a curious experience of his own, that" there was evidence of a thought, an intelli-gence, working within our own organization,distinct from that of our own [conscious]personality." Certainly the everyday pro-cesses of the development, nutrition andrepair of our body and brain, which go onautomatically and unconsciously within us,are far beyond the powers of our consciouspersonality. All life shares with us thismiraculous automatism :no chemist, with allhis appliances, can turn bread-stuff into brain-stuff,or hay into milk. It must be borne in mind that the termsubliminal, as used by Mr. Myers, and nowgenerally adopted, has a very wide scope.It includes well recognized vital and mentalphenomena such as : (1) Those sense impres-sions which were either unheeded, or too weakto arouse conscious perception of them whenthey occurred, but which float into conscious-ness during stillness, sleep or hypnotic trance,when the stronger sense impressions areremoved. In like manner, the faint lightof the stars emerges, with the fading of thestronger light of day. (2) The living butunconscious power that controls the physio-logical and recuperative processes of our ownbody and which are profoundly affected by" suggestion." (3) The higher mental facultieswhich emerge in genius, infant prodigies,hypnotic trance, etc. (4) The disintegration
  38. 38. HUMAN PERSONALITY 39of personality which is seen in dual conscious-ness, secondary and even multiplex-selvesdisplacing the normal self. All these liewithin the scope of orthodox psychology.The term subliminal is also used to denote(5) those submerged and higher faculties of "percipience, such as seeing without eyes,"which are alleged to exist in some persons,and also (6) those phenomena which claim anorigin outside the mind of the percipient;which origin may be sought (a) in the mindsof other living men, as in telepathy, or (b) inas some believe disembodied minds, discar-nate intelligences, whether human or otherwise.These latter phenomena (b), if established, Ishould prefer to call supraliminal, " above the "threshold but this term Mr. Myers hasrestricted to, and it is now used to denote, allthat relates to our ordinary waking conscious-ness; this might have been perhaps more "appropriately called cisliminal within thethreshold " of consciousness. Here and there we find certain individuals,through whom the subliminal self, as regards(5) and (6), manifests itself more freely thanthrough others; these have been termed" mediums," a word, it is true, that suggestsBrownings Sludge. But, just as scientificinvestigation has shown that mesmerists anddowsers are not all charlatans, so it has shownthat even paid mediums are not always rogues, " " "though the term psychic "or automatistwould certainly be preferable. The scepti-cism which ridicules the necessity of a
  39. 39. 40 PSYCHICAL RESEARCH" medium " is forgetful of the fact that allphysical phenomena which cannot be directlyperceived by our senses, require the inter-vention of a physical medium to make themperceptible. Thus the invisible radiation of the sun canonly be investigated through some mediumsuch as a photographic plate, or a delicatethermoscope, both of which render thoseinvisible rays perceptible to our vision. Inlike manner the subliminal self, as mentionedin the preceding chapter, requires some agency,mechanical or sensory some autoscopeto render its operation sensible. There istherefore nothing incomprehensible or un-scientific in the necessity for an automatist ormedium in those phenomena which transcendour conscious apprehension. This extension of human faculty, revealing,as it does, more profoundly the mysteriousdepths of our being, enables us to explainmany phenomena that have been attributedto discarnate human beings. Does it explainall the in the domain of phenomena includedpsychical research ? I venture to think itdoes not, but at present we have to grope ourway and clear the ground for the futureexplorer of these unknown regions. Here let us pause in order to note thatamong the many eminent men who have giventheir adhesion to the Society for PsychicalResearch, we find a former Prime Minister, theRight Hon. A. J. Balfour, was President ofthe Psychical Research Society in 1893, and a
  40. 40. HUMAN PERSONALITY 41Vice-President from the outset, while anotherPrime Minister, Mr. Gladstone, was a memberof the Society and deeply interested in itswork. Nor have the foremost representativesof British, Continental and American Scienceheld aloof. That eminent savant. Sir W.Crookes, O.M., now Foreign Secretary of theRoyal Society of London, has been Presidentof the S.P.R. as we shall call it for brevityand the President of the Royal Society itselfis, as was his predecessor, a member of theS.P.R., together with such illustrious scientificmen as Dr. A. R. Wallace, O.M., Sir J. J.Thomson, Lord Rayleigh, O.M., Sir O. Lodge,and many others. We may name amongother distinguished Continental adherents ofthe S.P.R. its former President, Professor C.Richet," the distinguished physiologist ; Mme.Curie, the discoverer of radium; ProfessorsBergson, Bernheim, Janet, Ribot and thelate Professor Hertz; and in America the lateProfessor W. James, also a former Presidentof the S.P.R., with Professors E. Pickeringand Bowditch. Among great names inEnglish literature and art, who were honorarymembers of the Society, are to be found LordTennyson, Mr. Ruskin and Mr. G. F. Watts.The numerical growth and active work of theS.P.R. is no less remarkable; it now numbersupwards of 1,200 members and associates, andhas had at various times considerable sumsplaced at its disposal, towards an endowmentfor research work. Certainly the first decade of the twentieth
  41. 41. 42 PSYCHICAL RESEARCHcentury will form a memorable epoch in thehistory of Psychical Research, were it forno other reason than that it has seen theremoval of the most eminent investigatorsof psychical phenomena. Edmund Gurneyhad gone before, and now Henry Sidgwick,Frederic Myers, Richard Hodgson, WilliamJames, and Frank Podmore though hisoutlook was narrower have successivelypassed away, leaving empty places that canscarcely be filled and impoverishing us by thewithdrawal of so much wisdom, knowledgeand zeal, though happily bequeathing to ustheir fruit in accomplished work of the utmostvalue. But it is not by losses only, or even we maytrust chiefly, that these years will be com-memorated. They have marked a period ofexceptionally rapid progress along the lineslaid down for the study of the various subjectscomprehended under the term of PsychicalResearch; more especially in one of its mainproblems. Evidence bearing on the questionof the existence of unseen intelligences, ap-parently in some cases directing the handin automatic writing, has accumulated withunusual abundance; its increase in quantitybeing, moreover, accompanied by an im-provement which is a very notable in quality,feature. Now, as on any hypothesis ofsurvival, such a result is just what we mightexpect to follow the passing into another lifeof persons deeply interested as well as widelyexperienced in the difficult problems that
  42. 42. HUMAN PERSONALITY 43confront us, the fact that the result hasfollowed seems in some degree to strengthenthe hypothesis of their continued activityand co-operation. The consideration of this evidence must bepostponed to the sequel ; the extent of humanfaculty, seen in other phenomena of psychicalresearch, must first engage our attention;to this we must now turn.
  43. 43. CHAPTER IV THE "WILLING GAME" AND SO-CALLED THOUGHT-READING SOME years ago a parlour pastime called " " was a favourite amuse-the Willing Gamement and gave rise to much public discussion.Certain persons were very expert at what "appeared to be thought-reading," a fewbecame professional performers. The publicwere greatly mystified, some considering ita trick, others that the remarkable successattained in private circles proved thattrickery was out of the question, and afforded "evidence of genuine thought-transference."But the usual method of playing the gameshowed that a simpler explanation could begiven. The blindfolded performer, whom wemay call the percipient, had to do somethingthat had been concealed from him, such as tofind a hidden object, pick out a certain person,or write a figure on a blackboard, etc. Someone of the company who knew the secret, andwhom we will call the agent, laid his handslightly on the shoulders or forehead of thepercipient, sometimes he grasped the hand ofthe latter and placed it on his forehead, andthen thought intently of the thing to be done, 44
  44. 44. SO-CALLED THOUGHT-READING 45but made no conscious effort of guidance. Ifthe percipient were a good subject, and allowedhis mind to remain passive, he rarely failedto accomplish what was desired; nor couldhe give the least explanation of how he didit. Both agent and percipient were equallyastonished,and it is no wonder that those whotook part in the performance at home wereconvinced that some kind of mental wirelesstelegraphy occurred, independently of thesenses. Here, for example, are some experimentsmade when I was staying with my friend, thelate Mr. Lawson Tait, the famous surgeon,in the Easter of 1877 :The subject, a medicalman, having left the room and placed himselfbeyond eye and ear shot, we agreed that on hisreturn he should move the fire-screen and doubleit back. Recalling the subject, my host, thesurgeon, put his hands round the subjectswaist and silently willed what should be done.After a few moments of indecision he didexactly what was mentally wished. Amongother experiments we desired the subjectshould turn off the gas tap of one out of severalgas brackets. This was accurately done, noword being spoken, only the subject waslightly grasped as before. Here it is difficult "to understand how the " muscular sensewould lead to the raising of the hands andcorrect performance of the wish. Informationcan, however, be conveyed through involun-tary gestures or glances from those who knowwhat has to be done, if the subject is not
  45. 45. 46 PSYCHICAL RESEARCHblindfolded, and blindfolding is often ineffec-tive,because carelessly done. " Thirty years ago, two professional thought-readers," a Mr. Bishop and a Mr. Cumberland,gained a wide celebrity through their per-formances in public and before famouspersonages. A small committee of eminentmen, among whom were Mr. (afterwards SirFrancis) Galton, Mr. G. J. Romanes and others,made some careful tests of Mr. Bishopspowers. A report of this committee writtenby Mr. Romanes was published in the scientificjournal Nature for June 23, 1881. Thefollowing extract from that report is ofinterest. The experiments took place ina large drawing-room, in the house of ProfessorCroom Robertson. " First, Mr. Bishop was taken out of theroom by me (G. J. Romanes) to the hall down-stairs, where I blindfolded him with a handker-chief and, in order to do so securely, I thrust ;pieces of cotton-wool beneath the handkerchiefbelow the eyes. In all the subsequent ex-periments Mr. Bishop was blindfolded, and inthe same manner. While I was doing this,Mr. Alfred Sidgwick was hiding a small objectbeneath one of the several rugs in the drawing-room; it having been previously arrangedthat he was to choose any object he liked forthis purpose, and to conceal it in any part ofthe drawing-room which his fancy mightselect. When he had done this the drawing-room door was opened and the word Ready called. I then led Mr. Bishop up-stairs, and
  46. 46. SO-CALLED THOUGHT-READING 47handed him over to Mr. Sidgwick, who at thatmoment was standing in the middle linebetween the two drawing-rooms, with hisback to the rug in question, and at a distancefrom it of about fifteen feet. Mr. Bishop thentook the left hand of Mr. Sidgwick, placed iton his (Mr. Bishops) forehead, and requestedhim to think continuously of the place wherethe object was concealed. After standingmotionless for about ten seconds Mr. Bishopsuddenly faced round, walked briskly withMr. Sidgwick in a direct line to the rug, raisedit, and picked up the object. In doing allthis there was not the slightest hesitation, sothat to all appearance it seemed as if Mr.Bishop knew as well as Mr. Sidgwick the pre- cise spot where the ob j ect was lying. Neitherdid it make any difference whether the articlewas placed at a high or a low elevation. Mr. Romanes then describes experimentsin which Mr. Bishop was successful in locatingany small spot thought of on the body of anymember of the committee, or on any table orchair, etc. In conclusion, it is stated, thatas in all these trials Mr. Bishop was effectuallyblindfolded and had no means of direct "information, his success was unquestionablyvery striking." Nevertheless, that success Mr. Romanes "suggests was due to : Mr. Bishop interpreting,whether consciously or unconsciously, theindications involuntarily and unwittingly sup-plied to him by the muscles of his subjects."Failure results when the subject [i.e. the agent]
  47. 47. 48 PSYCHICAL RESEARCH" is blindfolded and loses his bearings, or whenthe connection between Mr. Bishop and thesubject is not of a rigid nature." The committee then tested Mr. Bishop toascertain if he had an exceptional degree oftactile sensibility, or power of distinguishingbetween small variations of resistance andpressure. But the result showed this wasnot the case, he had in fact rather less tactilesensibility than some members of the com-mittee; his success was not therefore due to "this cause, but ascribed to his having paid "greater attention to the subject whateverthat may mean. Nor is the successful per-former, whoever he may be, always conscious ofbeing guided by any muscular sense. In fact,Dr. W. B. Carpenter (the physiologist) in thefollowing number of Nature relates how hehimself was equally successful in discoveringa particular card that had been chosen, yetthough he watched carefully for any materialguidance, he could not tell how he was ledto make the right selection. It is certainly a very remarkable thing, asMr. Romanes points out, that Mr. Bishop and " "other successful thought-readers shouldunconsciously and almost instantaneouslyinterpret imperceptible muscular movementsunconsciously made by the agent. Albeitthat the muscular sense is concerned in mostcases is evident from the following experimentswhich any one can make, and which, as amatter of fact, I tried many years ago with "a clever amateur thought-reader," then a
  48. 48. SO-CALLED THOUGHT-READING 49young man, now an Irish M.P. and K.C.Put a piece of cotton-wool between the fingersof the agent and the shoulder or head of thepercipient, and as a rule no success is obtainableunless the cotton-wool be pressed so hard thatthe compressed wool conveys the variationsof pressure. Ask the quasi thought-readerto name aloudthe figure thought of, or theplace where the object is hidden, and hecannot do so; in fact, he consciously knowsnothing of what he has to do, but is uncon-sciously guided, probably by slight differencesin the contact of the agents hand. Blindfoldthe agent and not the percipient, and if theformer loses his bearings, as Mr. Romanessays, the experiment fails. Let a slack pieceof string connect the agent and percipient andthe experiment fails, though it may succeedwith a wire connection, as this can transmitvariations of tension. The passive percipientisin fact the autoscope of the agent. A word or two must be said in conclusionabout the public performance of so-called" thought -readers." The exhibitions givenby Bishop and by Cumberland some yearsago are, as already explained, interestingdisplays of unconscious muscular guidance,verging, it may be, occasionally into incipientand genuine thought-transference. Otherpublic exhibitions, like those of the Zancigs,cannot be so explained, as the performersare far apart. Here only two explanationsare possible telepathy or trickery. Nowthe characteristic of all genuine telepathic
  49. 49. 50 PSYCHICAL RESEARCHphenomena, as now known, is their elusiveness.Sometimes, why we do not know, great successis attainable in telepathic experiments at ;other times, with the same persons, and under,apparently, the same conditions, dismal failureresults. Obviously a public performer cannotdepend upon so fitful and uncertain a faculty.The audience come to see an exhibition andthey must not be disappointed. It is thereforehighly improbable that any regular publicperformance of so-called thought-readingis a genuine exhibition of telepathy. But acleverly arranged code of signals has not thisuncertainty, and when the performer and hissubject are proficient in such a code they maybamboozle the most inquisitive among theaudience. The code may consist in variations " ""of the question, Can you see this ? Now can " " "you see ? What is this ? or etc., in variousslight sounds or movements made by theperformer, and so on. One of these publicperformers, whose subject was a young girl,apparently hypnotized, startled the publicsome years ago. He gave me a privateexhibition, for which I had secured the helpof a shorthand writer, who was not seen bythe performers. After an interesting display,an examination of the shorthand notes showedthe existence of some kind of verbal codethough it could not be fully unravelled. The performance of the Zancigs and of oneor two others is far more remarkable andpuzzling whatever method they employ is ;not generally known. I had the opportunity
  50. 50. SO-CALLED THOUGHT-READING 51of testing the Zancigs at a private performancein Dublin, and they courteously submittedthemselves to a committee of S.P.R. members inLondon, giving an exhibition in rooms selectedby the committee. Though I was unable tobe present on that occasion, my place wasbetter filled by a member of the Council whois an expert conjurer. The committee arrivedat no conclusion, some of the experimentslooked like genuine telepathy, and possiblythis exists to some extent between the two per-formers. But the fact that M. Zancig requiresto be the transmitting agent, and the almostunfailing success of the trials, differentiatesthem from the experiments on genuine thought-transference which will be described in the nextchapter. Moreover, no scientific results ofany value can be expected from those whoare engaged in paid public exhibitions.Nevertheless, every one gives so much morecredence to what he has seen than to what hehas read, that a critical and scientific friend,who had scoffed at the evidence for telepathylaboriously obtained by the S.P.R. informed ,me some time ago that he had been convertedto a belief in its reality. On inquiring howthis came about, he told me he had witnessedand tested a public performance of thought-reading, which turned out to be much inferiorto that given by the Zancigs !
  51. 51. CHAPTER V THOUGHT-TRANSFERENCE IN THE NORMAL STATE OF THE PERCIPIENT THOSE who have made numerous experi-ments with good subjects in the so-called" " willing game have, as already stated,found it extremely difficult to account forsome of the successful results by the hypo-thesis of involuntary muscular guidance anhypothesis often stretched to illegitimatelengths. Thirty years ago, in a communica-tion published in the scientific journal Naturefor July 7, 1881, I wrote " After making the most extravagant allow-ance for the existence in some persons of amuscular sense of preternatural acuteness,there still remained a large residuum of factswholly unaccounted for on any receivedhypothesis. These facts pointed in thedirection of the existence either of a hithertounrecognized sensory organ, or of the directaction of mind on mind without the inter-vention of any sense impressions. Suchstartling conclusions could not be acceptedwithout prolonged and severe examination,and it was in the hope of stimulating inquiry,among those who had more leisure and fitness 62
  52. 52. THOUGHT-TRANSFERENCE 53for the pursuit than myself, that led me topublish a few years ago a brief record of myexperiments, which, however, only broughtderision and denunciation upon me. As nophysiologist came forward to give the subjectthe wide and patient inquiry it demanded,I went on with the investigation, and for fiveyears have never let an opportunity slip whichwould add to the information I possessed.A letter addressed to the Times, in September1876, asking for communications from thosewho had witnessed good illustrations of the willing game, brought me in a flood ofreplies from all parts of England. Each casethat seemed worthy of inquiry was, if possible,visited and investigated by myself during thevacation." One of these cases which seemed quiteinexplicable on any theory of muscle-reading,and which was personally investigated duringEaster 1881, was that of the children of thelate Rev. A. M. Creery, a respected clergymanin Buxton. This case is historically ofimportance, for it led to the first clear evidenceof thought-transference in the normal stateof the percipient. Stringent precautions weretaken to avoid any information being conveyedto the subject through the ordinary channelsof sense. For example, one of the percipients,Maud, then a child of twelve years old, wastaken to an empty adjoining room and bothdoors closed. I then wrote down some objectlikely to be in the house, which we (the familytogether with myself) silently thought of.
  53. 53. 54 PSYCHICAL RESEARCHNo one was allowed to leave their place orto speak a word. The percipient had pre-viously been told to fetch the object as "soon as she guessed " what it was, and thenreturn with it to the drawing-room where wewere seated. Quoting again from my commu-nication to Nature " Having fastened the doors I wrote downthe following articles, one by one, with theresults stated hair-brush, correctly brought;wine-glass, correctly brought ; orange, correctlybrought; toasting-fork, wrong on the firstattempt, right on the second ; apple, correctlybrought ; knife, correctly brought ; smoothing-iron, correctly brought; tumbler, correctlybrought; cup, correctly brought; saucer,failure. Then names of towns were fixed on,the name to be called out by the child outsidethe closed door of the drawing-room, butguessed when fastened into the adjoiningroom. In this way, Liverpool, Stockport,Lancaster, York, Manchester, Macclesfieldwere all correctly given; Leicester was saidto be Chester; Windsor, Birmingham andCanterbury were failures." The success obtained in these and otherexperiments could not be explained by merelucky guesses nor by any involuntary guidancefrom those who knew, for there was no contact,and some trials (as in the foregoing) the per- incipientwas out of sight and hearing. Undersuch circumstances any secret code of signalsbetween children would have been practicallyimpossible to carry out; moreover, in several
  54. 54. THOUGHT-TRANSFERENCE 55successful experiments no one but myselfknew what was to be done. A new and promising field of scientificinquiry was thus opened up, and it wasnecessary that other investigators shouldeither verify or disprove the evidence so farobtained on behalf of a faculty hithertounrecognized by science. But such an investi-gation lay outside the scope of any existingscientific society ; it therefore seemed essentialto form a new Society to carry on the inquiryand publish the results obtained. Accord-ingly, after consultation with Mr. Myers, Mr.Romanes and others, a conference was calledby the present writer, at which an accountwas given of the evidence so far obtained onbehalf of thought-transference and otherpsychical phenomena. This resulted in thefoundation of the Society for PsychicalResearch in January 1882, an investigationof the evidence on behalf of thought-trans-ference being the first work undertaken bythe Society. The special committee appointedfor this purpose consisted of Mr. F. W. H.Myers, Mr. E. Gurney and the present writer. A preliminary account of the results ob-tained at Buxton with the Misses Creerywas published as a joint article by Gurney,Myers and myself, in the Nineteenth Centuryfor June 1882; this therefore marks a notunimportant date in the history of psychi-cal research ; the full details of our researchappeared in the first volume of the Proceedingsof the S.P.R. Precautions were of course
  55. 55. 56 PSYCHICAL RESEARCHtaken to avoid any indication reaching thepercipient through the ordinary channels ofsense. The exceptional nature of the inquirymade it necessary for the committee to puton one side any argument based on moralcharacter and demeanour, therefore theyformed their conclusions only on those experi-ments where the investigating committeealone knew the selected word or thing. Thisis expressly emphasized and reiterated in theirReports, and yet disregarded by critics. Evenas regards the committee the same scrupulouscare was taken, sometimes one member andsometimes another being excluded from thetrials. Here, for instance, are some experiments,quoted in the first Report (Proc. S.P.R., vol.i., p. 22), where I was not present, nor did anyof the family know the object selected, so thatneither I nor they can be accused of being" The experiments were re- in the trick."corded by Mr. Myers and copied from theMS. notes which he made at the time, stillin my possession : " The second series of experiments, whichwe venture to think are unexceptionable, weremade by Mr. Myers and Mr. Gurney, togetherwith two ladies who were entire strangers tothe family. None of the family knew whatwe had selected, the type of thing [a card ora number, etc.] only being told to the childchosen to guess. The experimenters tookevery precaution in order that no indication,however slight, should reach the child. She
  56. 56. THOUGHT-TRANSFERENCE 57was recalled by one of the experimenters andstood near the door with downcast eyes. Inthis way the following results were obtained.The thing selected is printed in italics, and theonly words spoken during the experiment areput in parentheses " Experiments made on April 13, 1882 [Omitting some successful experiments withnumbers and names, the following werenoted as specially evidential by Gurney andMyers.] " Cards to be named. [A full pack was used,from which one was drawn at random.] Two of clubs. Right first time. Queen of diamonds. Right first time. Four of spades. Failed. Four Right first time. of hearts. King Right first time. of hearts. Two of diamonds. Right first time Ace of hearts. Right first time. Nine of spades. Right first time. Five of diamonds. Four of diamonds (No). Four of hearts (No). Five of diamonds (Right). Two of spades. Right first time. Eight of diamonds. -Ace of diamonds said ; no second trial given. Three of hearts. Right first time. Five of clubs. Failed. Ace of spades. Failed. " were taken to avoid Special precautionserrors of experiment . . . and the results show
  57. 57. 58 PSYCHICAL RESEARCHthat, in the case of cards, out of fourteen succes-sive trials nine were guessed rightly the firsttime, and only three trials can be said to havebeen complete failures. On none of these occa-sions was it even remotely possible for the childto obtain by any ordinary means a knowledgeof the card selected. Our own facial expres-sion was the only index open to her and even ;if we had not purposely looked as neutral aspossible, it is difficult to imagine how we couldhave unconsciously carried, say, the two ofdiamonds written on our foreheads." There remains only the hypothesis of alucky series of guesses. But the probabilityof this can be estimated, and that is the mainreason why cards or some definite series ofnumbers were selected. In the case of playingcards, the odds against guessing any particularcard rightly were of course 51 to 1 ; but when,as in this case, five cards in succession arenamed rightly on the first response, the oddsagainst this happening by pure chance areconsiderably over a million to one. These,and many other experiments made later on,were submitted to one of the highest authoritieson the Calculus of Probabilities, ProfessorEdgeworth. Only those experiments wereselected in which knowledge of the objectthought of was confined exclusively to theinvestigating committee. Altogether underthese conditions there were some 450 trialswith cards and numbers : of these 260 trialswere made with playing cards, the firstresponse giving on an average one quite
  58. 58. THOUGHT-TRANSFERENCE 59right in nine times, instead of one in fifty-two, as would result from pure guesswork.Similar results were obtained with numbersof two figures. Mr. Edgeworth, as the resultof his calculations, stated that chance coin- "cidence is certainly ruled out,and therecorded observations must have resultedeither from collusion on the part of thoseconcerned or from thought-transference." It is necessary to examine this alternativeof collusion a little more closely, as doubthas been thrown on this wonderful series ofexperiments because signalling was discoveredbetween the children some time afterwards,when they had practically lost their psychicgift. But however clever a signaller may be, hisingenuity only comes into play when he knowswhat to signal. In the experiments justreferred to the committee alone knew, andtherefore if collusion occurred, one or otherof the committee must have been partici-pators. Now the credit of any one witnessis not likely to suffice for the demand heremade upon it, but every additional witnesswho, as De Morgan said, "has a fair stockof credit to draw upon," is an important gain.Hence, to the great advantage of this investi-gation, Professor and Mrs. Henry Sidgwickearly in the inquiry went to Buxton and madea series of experiments, in some of which Itook part, with the result that they wereconvinced a prima facie case existed on behalfof the genuineness of the phenomena; andlater on, more conclusive experiments with
  59. 59. 60 PSYCHICAL RESEARCHother subjects, converted them to a belief inthought-transference. To the witnesses already named may alsobe added, at this early period, the late ProfessorBalfour Stewart, F.R.S., who kindly accededto my request to make independent trialswith the same percipients. Professor (nowSir Alfred) Hopkinson, Vice-Chancellor ofthe University of Manchester, accompaniedProfessor B. Stewart, and though their testswere fewer and less stringent, they corrobor-ated the conclusions of the committee.Furthermore, in 1882 some of the childrencame over to my house at Kingstown andalso went to Mr. Myers house in Cambridge,and at both places numerous successfulexperiments were made under the strictestconditions. Take, for instance, the experi-ments at Cambridge in August 1882 (seeProc. S.P.R., vol. i.), where the percipient, "Miss M. Creery, was placed outside a closedand locked door, a yard or two from it, incharge of one of the committee, who observedher attentively." Within the room one ofthe committee silently drew a card from apack and held it in view of the sitters : inthis way out of ten trials two cards were namedrightly on the first answer, besides severalclose approximations. On another day Mrs.Myers and I alone knew the card selected, andout of eight trials, three were guessed rightlyone, it is true, on a second attempt. A com-parative experiment was also made by allow-ing two of the sisters of the percipient to know
  60. 60. THOUGHT-TRANSFERENCE 61the card chosen, and the same degree ofsuccess was obtained. The original note-booksof these long and wearisome experiments, onlya portion of which were published, are still inmy possession, and conclusively establish thefact that collusion except on the part ofone or other of the committee was entirelyout of the question. But freshness of interest on the part of thepercipient appears essential to success; weall noted that the best results were obtainedon those days when there was no wearinessor anxiety for success. At the close of thethird Report, the committee state that thepower of the percipients gradually diminishedduring the months over which the experimentsextended, so that at the end they failed underthe easiest and most lax conditions, where atthe beginning they succeeded under the moststringent tests. This gradual decline of "power, they remark, resembled the disap-pearance of a transitory pathological condi-tion, being the very opposite of what mightbe expected from a growing proficiency incode communication." It is therefore lesssurprising to find that when the Misses Creery,anxious to appear successful, were testedagain some time later at Cambridge, itwas discovered that they were using acode of signals. Here one of the sisters wasallowed to know the thing selected, and she " "tried to help her sister to guess it by thisimproper means. Whether this had occurred in the earlier
  61. 61. 62 PSYCHICAL RESEARCHtrials or not, it obviously discredits all experi-ments where such a thing is at all possible.Hence the necessity, emphasized in the pre-ceding pages, of confining our attention inall cases to, and drawing our conclusionsfrom, those trials where the investigatorsthemselves could alone be charged with thepossibility of collusion. Professor Sidgwick, in a Presidential ad-dress to the S.P.R., before these later trials(Proc., vol. ii., p. 154), has given the bestanswer to those who would reject the evidenceafforded by the early experiments. Heremarks " None of our critics appear to me toappreciate the kind and degree of evidencethat we have already obtained. They oftenimply that the experiments on thought-transference are such as could be performed by cheating mediums or mesmerists, bythe simple means of a code of signals, whichthe investigating committee cannot find out;quite ignoring such cases as that given inProc. .P.jR.,Part I., where the cards guessed byone of the Miss Creerys were unknown to anyone but the four strangers who went to witnessthe experiments; and where, therefore, as Ihave before said, the investigators must eitherhave been idiots, or one or other of them inthe trick. Similar remarks may be madeabout the experiments reported in the lastProceedings, where four or five differentpersons must either have been guilty ofunveracity or collusion, or of most abnormal
  62. 62. THOUGHT-TRANSFERENCE 63srtupidity if the phenomena were notgenuine." It is right to say that, although I differedfrom them, Professor Sidgwick, togetherwith Mr. Myers and Mr. Gurney, subsequentlydecided against further publishing any ofthese experiments. They no doubt con-sidered that at such an elementary stage ofthe investigation, with as yet so small aquantity of evidence to lay before so manyhostile critics, it was absolutely necessary toshun even the appearance of the slightestcontact with detected fraud. Under thechanged conditions of the present day, how-ever, there is no longer any reason for settingaside the, as I believe, unimpeachable experi-ments in the earlier series. In fact, numerous investigators, both athome and abroad, have since obtained addi-tional and irrefragable evidence on behalf ofthought-transference. The first of thesecontributions was made in 1883 in a paperread before the Literary and PhilosophicalSociety of Liverpool the authors being Mr.Malcolm Guthrie and Mr. Birchall, the Hon.Secretary of that Society. A fuller report ofthese and subsequent experiments by thesame investigators was contributed to theProceedings of the S.P.R., 1883-85. Thesubjects, or percipients, in these experimentswere two young ladies, well known to Mr.Guthrie, and every care was taken to preventany information being conveyed through theorgans of sense. Mr. Gurney and Mr. Myers
  63. 63. 64 PSYCHICAL RESEARCHand myself were present at some of the trials,which were specially interesting as showingthat the mental transfer of tastes and painstook place in the normal as well as in thehypnotic state. Thus a collection was madeof some twenty strongly tasting substances;these were put into small bottles or parcelsand kept out of sight of the subject; everycare was taken to prevent any odour of thesubstance reaching the percipient, moreoverno strongly odorous substance was used inthese trials. The percipient being seatedwith her back to the agent and blindfolded,the taster, usually outside the room, thensilently took a small quantity of one of thesubstances, put it in his mouth, and returningplaced his hand on the shoulder of the per-cipient, who called out what she apparentlytasted; no one else was allowed to speak.Thus the agent having tasted vinegar, the "percipient said she felt a sharp and nastytaste." The agent then tasted mustard, and "the percipient at once said, I now tastemustard." But this seemed to spoil the next "couple of trials, as the percipient said, I stillfeel the hot taste of mustard." Anotherevening, Worcester sauce, bitter aloes, alum,nutmeg, cloves and cayenne pepper were cor-rectly named by the percipient. There were,it is true, several failures, but the successeswere quite beyond pure guesswork, thoughmore complete protection (which was madesubsequently) against the possibility of thepercipient obtaining indications through the
  64. 64. THOUGHT-TRANSFERENCE 65sense of smell would have been desirable;nevertheless alum, bitter aloes and an acidlozenge, all correctly named, give off nosensible odour. This possible objection of odour does notapply to the transference of pains. HereDr. Herdman, F.R.S., the distinguished Pro-fessor of Natural History in the Universityof Liverpool, was present with other investi-gators, and corroborated the results obtainedin his presence. The percipient, Miss Ralph,one of the two ladies referred to, was seatedas before, blindfolded with her back to theinvestigators, who all agreed noiselessly toinflict upon themselves some similar trivialpain. There was no contact with the percipi-ent. In all twenty trials were made ; in ten ofthese the percipient localized the pain withgreat precision; in six the localization wasnearly exact, and in four nothing was felt orthe localization was wrong. These experimentsshow that in certain subjects in a passive " "waking state, a community of sensationoccurs between the agent and percipient, suchas was long before observed when the subjectwas in the mesmeric trance. We are also indebted to Mr. Guthrie for alengthy and carefully conducted series ofexperiments on the mental transference ofcolours, rough diagrams of pictures andimaginary scenes. Sir Oliver Lodge, F.R.S.,was present at many of these trials. Thedrawing or object to be thought of was placedout of sight of the percipient, whose eyes were
  65. 65. 66 PSYCHICAL RESEARCHalso bandaged. It would take too long togive even a summary of these experiments;one or two may be quoted which were madein Dr. Herdmans rooms Object a pair of scissors partly open, points : "downwards. Percipient says, It is a pair ofscissors standing up, a little open." Object : "A key. Percipient Its bright, it looks like :a key." Told to draw it, the percipientdrew it inverted. Object Outline drawing of : "a little flag. Percipient Its a little flag." :Told to draw it, she drew it as it was, upright,but laterally inverted. The frequent lateralinversion of objects by other percipients I havealso noticed. A different drawing was nextmade, but put aside and purposely the drawingof the flag again put up. " Percipient I :still see that flag." Object : An oval lockethung up. Percipient I : see somethinggold, something hanging, like a gold locket." "Asked what shape, Its oval." An interesting experiment was made withsuccess to try the effect of two agents lookingat different objects and to note if the percipi-ent saw the combined result. This experi-ment, made by Sir O. Lodge, was describedby him in a letter to Nature of June 12, 1884.This simultaneous effect of two minds on onepercipient is significant, as it affords a proofof the joint agency, occasionally found tooccur in connection with spontaneous casesof telepathy that will be considered later. The transference of colours and scenes wasalso more or less successful, and these all
  66. 66. THOUGHT-TRANSFERENCE 67point to a visual impression made on thepercipient. More striking were the reproduc-tion of rough drawings, obtained by Mr. Guth-rie, Mr. Gurney and other experimenters these;cannot be reproduced here, and our readersare referred to the Proceedings of the S.P.R.,vols. ii. and iii.,or to Mr. Myers Human Person-ality, vol. i., where illustrations of the originaldrawing and its reproduction by the percipientare given side by side. To avoid the possi-bility of muscular guidance,no contact canever be allowed between the agent and per-cipient in such experiments. The drawingswere made for the most part in another room,and consisted of any simple random figurethat occurred to the investigator, such, forexample, as a tuning-fork, a scroll, dumb-bells, the outline of a head, a horse, a fish, etc.The percipient was blindfolded, the drawingplaced on a wooden stand between the agentand percipient and in silence gazed at by theformer. When the percipient received animpression, which usually occurred after half-a-minute to two or three minutes, she wasallowed to remove the bandage and drawwhat she had mentally perceived. Herposition rendered it absolutely impossiblefor her to obtain a glimpse of the originaldrawing, and she was kept under the closestobservation the whole time and completesilence preserved. Under these stringentconditions many of the reproductions closelyresembled the original drawing, and by nopossibility could be ascribed to lucky guesses. c 2
  67. 67. 68 PSYCHICAL RESEARCH Summing up the result of the numerousLiverpool experiments, Mr. Guthrie statesthat 437 trials were made with objects, colours,drawings, numbers, pains, tastes, etc.; ofthese 237 were correctly transferred and afew others partly correct. Entire corrobor-ation of these results have been obtainedby many other independent and competentobservers, both at home and abroad. Hencethough not yet officially recognized by science,no doubt of the reality of thought-trans-ference can be left on the mind of any diligentand thoughtful student, however critical hemay be. This conviction is greatly strength-ened by the additional evidence to be found (1)in experiments during the hypnotic state, towhich we must turn in the next chapter, and(2) by the transmission of mental impressionsand hallucinations over great distances. It wasthe recognition of this latter fact that led Mr.Myers to suggest the general term Telepathy," at a distance," to cover, as he remarks," feeling all cases of the communication of impressionsof any kind from one mind to another indepen-dently of the recognized channels of sense.Telepathy may thus exist between two menin the same room as truly as between oneman in England and another in Australia,or between one still living on earth and anotherlong since deceased." The tremendous and far-reaching implica-tions involved in the fact of telepathy rendersits discovery of the utmost importance tophilosophical and religious thought, as well