Scientifically Examined And Carefully Described
the Rт. rev. C. W. LEADBEATER
A quarter of a century ago I wrote a book called The Other Side of Death, in which I described the condition of the next world, quoting many illustrative stories. This book has been out of print for some years, so I have just issued a new edition, much enlarged and brought up to date. Some of its chapters deal with spiritualism; in them I recount many of my own experiences, and offer my readers such explanation of the phenomena as has been suggested to me by my forty-five years’ study of Theosophy. I am now publishing these chapters separately as a smaller book, hoping that it may be of interest to my spiritualistic brethren, and may perhaps even help a little towards bringing about a better understanding between the two camps of Theosophists and Spiritualists, who have so much in common that they surely ought to co-operate and never to waste their time in disputation.
The investigation of the phenomena which take place at spiritualistic seances is one of the lines along which information with regard to man’s survival after death might have been obtained. Just as many of the facts so clearly stated for us by Theosophy might have been deduced from careful observation and comparison of the records of apparitions, so also many of them might have been inferred from equally careful examination and comparison of the accounts given in spiritualistic literature. They were not so inferred, however, except by the spiritualists themselves, and not usually clearly expressed as a coherent system even by them. But just as, now that we know the facts from Theosophical sources, we can see how all the various types of apparitions fall into place and are explained by them, so we may also see how spiritualistic manifestations can be classified and comprehended by means of the same knowledge.
It has always seemed to me that our spiritualistic friends ought to welcome the Theosophical system, for much of the difficulty which they find in obtaining acceptance for their phenomena arises from the belief that their claims are in opposition to science, and not in harmony with any reasonable scheme. This idea is an entirely mistaken one, yet spiritualism does little to dispel it; it continues (quite rightly) to insist upon its facts, but does not usually attempt to harmonize them with science. There is, it seems to me, rather a tendency to cry: “How marvellous! how wonderful! how beautiful!” and to be lost in admiration and awe, instead of realizing how entirely natural it all is, and more beautiful because it is so natural. For all that is really natural is beautiful; it is only we, reduced to pessimism by our own corruption of and interference with Nature’s methods, who fall back in doubt, and say hesitatingly that certain things are too good, too beautiful to be true—not yet understanding that it is precisely because a thing is good and beautiful that it must also be true, and that a far more accurate expression would be: “It is too good not to be true”. For God is Truth, and He is good.
The Theosophical explanation as to the planes of nature, and the existence of many varieties of more finely subdivided matter, with their appropriate forces playing through them, at once opens the way to a comprehension of many of the phenomena of the seance-room. When we further come to understand the possession by man of vehicles corresponding to each of these planes, in each of which he has new and extended powers, much that was before difficult becomes clear as noonday. I have written fully of these capacities in my little book on Clairvoyance, so I need not repeat that account here. It will be sufficient to remark that when we grasp their nature we see at once how it is possible for the dead man, if he is so disposed, to find a passage in a closed book, to read a letter inside a locked box, to see and report what is happening at any distance, or to read the thoughts of any person, present or absent.
All that the dead man does along any of these lines can be done with equal facility by the living man who has developed his latent powers of astral vision, and we thus realize that for a man residing in and functioning through an astral body, these actions which to us appear phenomenal and marvellous must bear a different aspect, for to him they are simply his ordinary everyday methods of procedure. The man who has not studied such matters is unused to these manifestations, and cannot comprehend how they are produced; he feels toward them just as a savage might towards our use of the electric light or the telephone. But the intelligent and cultured man is familiar to some extent with the mechanism in each of these cases, and so he regards the results obtained no longer as magical, but as natural; he looks upon the matter in an entirely different light.
By the light of Theosophical knowledge of the astral plane and its possibilities, then, we may proceed to attempt some sort of classification of the phenomena of the seance-room. Perhaps we shall find it easiest to arrange them according to the powers employed in their production, and in this way they fall readily into five divisions:
Those which involve simply the use of the medium’s body—trance-speaking, automatic writing, drawing or painting, and personation; and sometimes the working of the planchette.
Those which are dependent upon the possession of the ordinary astral sight, such as the finding of a passage in a closed book, the reading of writing enclosed within a locked box, the answering of mental questions, or the finding of something or some person that is missing.
Those which involve partial materialization—usually not carried to the point of visibility. Under this head would come raps, the tilting or turning of tables, the moving and floating of objects, slate-writing, or any kind of writing or drawing done directly by the hand of the dead man, and not through the agency of the medium; the touches by the hand of the dead, or the sound of their voices—”the touch of a vanished hand, and the sound of a voice that is still,” for which the poet yearned. Almost all of the minor activities of the seance come in under this head, for to it we must assign the playing of various musical instruments, the winding up and floating about of the musical box, and even the cold wind which is so constant a phenomenon in the earlier stages of the sittings. Probably the working of the planchette or the message-board called the “ouija” usually comes under this category.
Those miscellaneous activities which demand a somewhat greater knowledge of the laws of astral physics, such as the precipitation of writing or of a picture, the intentional production of the various kinds of lights, the duplication of objects, their apport from a distance or their production in a closed room, the passage of matter through matter, or the handling or the production of fire.
I propose to take up each of these classes, and endeavour to illustrate and explain them as far as I can, drawing examples sometimes from recognized books upon the subject, and sometimes from my own experience. I spent much time during a good many years in patient investigation of spiritualism, and there is scarcely a phenomenon of any sort of which I read in the books which I have not repeatedly seen under test conditions, so that this is a subject upon which I feel myself able to speak with a certain amount of confidence. It may perhaps be useful for me, as an introduction to our detailed consideration of the subject, to describe how I came to make my first feeble experiments along this line.
The first time that, so far as I can recollect, I ever heard spiritualism mentioned was in connection with the seances held by Mr. D. D. Home with the Emperor Napoleon III. The statements made with reference to those seemed to me at that time quite incredible, and when reading the account of them aloud to my mother one evening I expressed strong doubts as to whether the description could possibly be accurate. The article ended, however, with the remark that anyone who felt unable to credit the story might readily convince himself of its possibility by bringing together a few of his friends, and inducing them to sit quietly round a small table either in darkness or in dim light, with the palms of their hands resting lightly upon the surface of the table. It was stated that a still easier plan was to place an ordinary silk hat upon the table brim upwards, and let two or three people rest their hands lightly upon the brim. It was asserted that the hat or table would presently begin to turn, and in this way the existence of a force not under the control of any one present would be demonstrated.
This sounded fairly simple, and my mother suggested that, as it was just growing dusk and the time seemed appropriate, we should make the experiment forthwith. Accordingly I took a small round table with a central leg, the normal vocation of which was to support a flower-pot containing a great arum lily. I brought in my own silk hat from the stand in the hall and placed it on the table, and we put our hands upon its brim as prescribed. The only person present besides my mother and myself was a small boy of twelve, who, as we afterwards discovered, was a powerful physical medium; but I knew nothing about mediums then. I do not think that any of us expected any result whatever, and I know that I was immensely surprised when the hat gave a gentle but decided half-turn on the polished surface of the table.
Each of us thought the other must have moved it unconsciously, but it soon settled that question for us, for it twirled and gyrated so vigorously that it was difficult for us to keep our hands upon it. At my suggestion we raised our hands; the hat came up under them, as though attached to them, and remained suspended a couple of inches from the table for a few moments before falling back upon it. This new development astonished me still more, and I endeavoured to obtain the same result again. For a few minutes the hat declined to respond, but when at last it did come up as before, it brought the table with it! Here was my own familiar silk bat, which I had never before suspected of any occult qualities, suspending itself mysteriously in air from the tips of our fingers, and, not content with that defiance of the laws of gravity on its own account, attaching a table to its crown and lifting that also! I looked down to the feet of the table; they were about six inches from the carpet, and no human foot was touching them or near them! I passed my own foot underneath, but there was certainly nothing there—nothing physically perceptible, at any rate.
Of course when the hat first moved it had crossed my mind that the small boy must somehow be playing a trick upon us; but in the first place he obviously was not doing so, and in the second he could not possibly have produced this result unobserved. After about two minutes the table dropped away from the hat, and almost immediately the latter fell back to its companion, but the experiment was repeated several times at intervals of a few minutes. Then the table began to rock violently, and threw the hat off—a plain hint to us, if any of us had known enough to take it. But none of us had any idea of what to do next, though we were keenly interested in these extraordinary movements. I was not myself thinking of the phenomenon in the least as a manifestation from the dead, but only as the discovery of some strange new force.
I spoke of these curious occurrences next day to some friends, and found one among them who had once or twice seen something of the sort, and was familiar with the rudiments of spiritualistic procedure. I promptly invited him to join us on the following evening, and to assist in our experiments. The same phenomena were reproduced, but this time, by our friend’s aid, we asked questions and found that the table would tilt intelligently in response to them. The communicating entity, however, could not have been a man of any great knowledge, for nothing of any importance was said, either then or afterwards, and the manifestations were always rather of the nature of horse-play. Their most remarkable feature was the enormous physical strength displayed on several occasions. Heavy furniture was frequently dashed violently about, and sometimes considerably damaged, yet none of us was really hurt. Once, later on, an especially sceptical friend had the end of a heavy brass fender dropped upon his foot, but I think he distinctly brought it upon himself by his impolite remarks!
The silk hat was ruined at the second seance, so thereafter we placed our hands directly upon the table—or at least we commenced by doing so, for after a few minutes it was usually waltzing about so wildly that we could only occasionally touch it. At the third sitting (if that term be not a misnomer as applied to an evening spent mainly in jumping about to avoid the charges of various articles of furniture) our little table suffered considerably. During a moment of comparative rest, when we were able to keep our hands on it, we beard a curious whirring sound underneath it, and some small object fell to the floor. Picking it up we found it to be a screw, and wondered where the “spirits” had obtained such a thing, and why they had brought it. Twice more the same whirring sound was heard, and two more screws were presented to us, but even yet we did not realize what was being done.
Suddenly we were startled by what I can only describe as an exceedingly heavy kick on the under side of the table, which dashed it upwards against our hands and all but threw us over. The effect precisely resembled that of a vigorous kick from a heavy boot, and it was repeated three or four times in rapid succession until the top of the table was broken away from the leg. The leg waltzed off by itself, while the top fell to the floor, but by no means to lie quiet there. If a coin be set spinning with the thumb and fingers upon a smooth surface it displays a peculiar wobbling rotation just as it is in the act of settling down to rest. That was exactly the motion of this table upon the floor, and two strong men, kneeling upon it, and exerting all their force to hold it down, were unable to do so, but were thrown off apparently with the utmost ease.
As we were holding it as nearly down upon the carpet as we could, the same prodigious kicks came underneath it as before, so that whoever kicked could evidently do so through the carpet and the floor of the room without the slightest hindrance. It was only after the performance was over, and we came to examine our table, that we understood what had happened. The entity who was playing with us had apparently wished to separate the top of the table from the lower part, and had somehow contrived to extract three of the screws as though with a screw-driver; but the fourth had been rusted in and could not be removed—hence apparently the kicks which broke it out and accomplished the separation.
This exhibition of prodigious strength at a seance is by no means unusual. In describing one which took place on Staten Island in the spring of 1870, Mr. Robert Dale Owen remarks:
“Then—probably intensified by the darkness—commenced a demonstration exhibiting more physical force than I had ever before witnessed. I do not believe that the strongest man living could, without a handle fixed to pull by, have jerked the table with anything like the violence with which it was now, as it seemed, driven from side to side. We all felt it to be a power, a single stroke from which would have killed any one of us on the spot.” (The Debatable Land, p. 285.)
These phenomena, which thus came so unexpectedly into my life, would no doubt have been despised as frivolous by the veteran spiritualist, but to me they were exceedingly interesting. They took place in my own house, they were entirely unconnected with any professional medium, and they were incontrovertibly free from any suspicion of trickery. Consequently here were certain indubitable facts, absolutely new to me, and needing investigation. I had no knowledge then that there was a considerable literature upon the subject, and I was not expecting from this study any proof of the life after death. So far, I had had evidence only of the existence of some unseen intelligence, capable of wielding enormous power of a kind quite different from any recognized by science. But it was precisely that power which interested me, and I was anxious to discover whether there was any method by which it could be utilized for the general benefit.
We never advanced much further in these home investigations. My mother feared the destruction of her furniture, and in deference to her objections we simply suspended operations when the forces became too boisterous, resuming our sitting only when things quieted down. We had no raps, and no direct voices; any communications which came were always given by the tilting or rising of the table. The entity concerned seemed willing enough to give tests along its own peculiar lines. For example, it occurred to us one evening to ask whether the table could rise in the air without our hands resting upon it; it promptly responded that it could and would, so we all drew back hastily, and watched that table rise till its feet were about a yard from the ground, while it was entirely out of the reach of every member of the party. It remained suspended for perhaps a minute or rather more, and then sank gently to the carpet.
Lights of various kinds frequently appeared, but usually they gave us the impression not so much of being intentionally shown as of manifesting incidentally in the course of other phenomena. They were of three varieties: (a) little sparkling lights like those of fireflies, which used to play over and about our hands, while they rested on the table; (b) large pale luminous bodies, several inches in diameter and often crescent-shaped; (c) a vivid flash resembling lightning, which on one occasion crossed the room and struck and overthrew a large plant in a pot, leaving upon it distinct marks of scorching, much as I suppose lightning might have done. The first and third varieties gave us the impression of being electrical, while the second appeared to be rather phosphorescent in nature. Nothing occurred that we could definitely call materialization, though dark bodies of some sort occasionally passed between us. These phenomena usually took place by firelight, though on one occasion we obtained a few much modified manifestations in full daylight. The room appeared to become charged with some kind of force, as though with electricity; for at least an hour after the seance was closed the furniture continued to creak mysteriously, and the table on several occasions moved out two or three feet from its corner after its flowerpot had been replaced upon it.
The messages were quite a subordinate feature, and it seemed difficult for the entity, whatever it may have been, to curb its exuberant spirits long enough to go through the tedious process of spelling out a message by tilts. We made many attempts to obtain definite information in this way, but met with no success. It always gave us the impression of being in a condition of wild rollicking enjoyment, too much excited to be patient or coherent. Frequently the table would dance vigorously and untiringly, keeping time with any music that we played or sang. Its favorite tune appeared to be the well-known spiritualistic hymn, “Shall we gather at the river?” and if at any time the power seemed deficient or the manifestations lethargic, we had only to sing that air to rouse it at once into a condition of the wildest enthusiasm and agility. Sometimes it was decidedly mischievous, and when it could be induced to deliver a message it was by no means always consistent or truthful. It appeared to be capable of annoyance; certainly on one occasion when I denounced one of its statements as false, the table leaped straight at me, and would apparently have struck me severely in the face, if I had not caught it on its way. Even so, as I held it in the air, it made violent efforts to get at me, and had to be dragged away forcibly by my friends, just as though it had been an infuriated animal. But in a few moments its strength or its passion seemed to give out, and it was harmless once more.
Prominent in my memory is one occasion on which the forces engaged in these demonstrations actually drove us out of the room. From the beginning of the seance the control of the proceedings was taken entirely out of our hands. Chairs rushed about like living creatures, a heavy sofa swung out from its place by the wall into the middle of the floor, and a tall piano, of the obsolete type which used to be called an upright grand, leaned over me at a dangerous angle. Trying to save it from a heavy fall, I braced myself against it and called one of my friends to assist me. He struck a match and lit a candle, which he placed on a table, hoping that the light would check the manifestations. The table, however, gave a kind of leap which threw the candle on to the floor and extinguished it, and at once pandemonium reigned all round us, heavy articles of furniture crashing together.
It was manifest that our lives were in danger, so, holding back the piano with all my strength, I shouted to my friend to open the door. After frenzied efforts he succeeded in tearing it open, I sprang back from the toppling piano, and we all fled ignominiously into the hall. The door banged behind us, and for a minute or more the crashes inside continued; then silence ensued. After five minutes or so we opened the door and entered with lights, and found all the massive furniture piled in a vast heap in the middle of the room—some of it badly broken, of course; and yet on the whole there was far less damage than one would have expected from the tremendous noise made. After this demonstration my mother banished us and our experiments to an outhouse!
Stimulated by these experiences, I began to make further enquiries, and soon found that there were books and periodicals devoted to this subject, and that I might carry my investigations much further by coming into connection with regular mediums. I attended a large number of public seances, and saw many interesting things at them, but the most remarkable and satisfactory results, I soon found, were obtainable only when the circles were small and harmonious. I therefore frequently had private seances, and often invited mediums to my own house, where I could be perfectly certain that there existed no machinery by means of which trickery could be practiced. In this way I soon acquired a good deal of experience, and was able to satisfy myself beyond all doubt that some at least of the manifestations were due to the action of those whom we call the dead.
I found mediums of all sorts, good, bad and indifferent. There were some who were earnest and enthusiastic, and honestly anxious to aid the enquirer to understand the phenomena. Others were incredibly ignorant and illiterate, though probably honest enough; others again impressed me as sanctimonious, oleaginous and untrustworthy. A little experience, however, soon taught me upon whom I could depend, and I restricted my experiments accordingly. I pursued them for a good many years, and during that time saw many strange things—many which would probably be deemed incredible by those unfamiliar with these studies, if I should endeavour to describe them. Such of them as aptly illustrate our various classes I may perhaps cite as we go on; but to give the whole of those experiences would need a much larger book than this.
Let us turn now to our classification.
It seems obvious that the easiest course for a dead man who wishes to communicate with the physical plane is to utilize a physical body, if he is able to find one which it is within his power to manage. This method does not involve the learning of unfamiliar and difficult processes, as materialization does; he simply enters into the body provided for him and uses it precisely as he was in the habit of using his own. One of the characteristics of a medium is that his principles are readily separable, arid therefore he is able and usually willing thus to yield up his body for the temporary use of another when required. Such resignation of his vehicle may be either partial or total; that is to say, the medium may retain his consciousness as usual, and yet permit his hand to be employed by another for the purposes of automatic writing; or in some cases his vocal organs may also be thus employed by another while he is still in possession of his body, and understands fully what is being said. On the other hand he may retire from his body just as he would do in deep sleep, allowing the dead man to enter and make the fullest possible use of the deserted tenement. In this latter case the medium himself is quite unconscious of all that is said or done; or at least, if he is able to observe to some extent by means of his astral senses, he does not usually retain any recollection of it when he resumes control of his physical brain.
A certain type of spiritualism—one which has a large number of adherents—is almost entirely occupied with this phase of mediumship. There are many groups to whom spiritualism is a religion, and they attend a Sunday evening meeting and listen to a trance-address just as people of other denominations go to church and hear a sermon. Nor does the average trance-address in any way differ from the average sermon in intellectual ability; its tone is commonly vaguer, though somewhat more charitable; but its exhortations follow the same general lines. Broadly speaking, there is never anything new in either of them, and they both continue to offer us the advice which our copy-book headings used to give us at school—”Be good and you will be happy,” “Evil communications corrupt good manners,” and so on. But the reason that these maxims are eternally repeated is simply that they are eternally true; and if people who pay no attention to them when they find them in a copy-book will believe them and act upon them when they are spoken by a dead man or rapped out through a table, then it is emphatically well that they should have their pabulum in the form in which they can assimilate it.
Trance-speaking of the ordinary type is naturally less convincing as a phenomenon than many others, for it is undeniable that a slight acquaintance with the histrionic art would enable a person of average intelligence to simulate the trance-condition and deliver a mediocre sermon. I have heard some cases in which the change of voice and manner was so entire as to be of itself convincing; I have seen cases where speech in a language unknown to the medium, or reference to matters entirely outside his knowledge, assured one of the genuineness of the phenomenon. But on the other hand I have heard many a trance address in which all the vulgarities, the solecisms in grammar and the hideous mispronunciations of an illiterate medium were so closely reproduced that it was difficult indeed to believe that the man was not shamming. Such cases as this last have no evidential value, yet even in them I have learnt that it is well to be charitable, and to allow the medium as far as possible the benefit of the doubt; for I know, first, that a medium attracts round him dead men of his own type, not differing much from his level of advancement or culture; and secondly, that any communication which comes through a medium is inevitably coloured to a large extent by that medium’s personality, and might easily be expressed in his style and by means of such language as he would normally use.
The same remarks apply in the case of automatic writing. Sometimes the dead man controls the medium’s organism sufficiently to write clearly, characteristically, unmistakably; but more often the handwriting is a compromise between his own and that of the medium, and frequently it degenerates into an almost illegible scrawl. Here again I have seen cases which carried their own proof on the face of them, either by the language in which they were written or by internal evidence. Sometimes also curious tricks are attempted which make any theory of fraud exceedingly improbable. For example, I have seen a whole page of writing dashed off in a few minutes, but written backward, so that one had to hold it before a mirror in order to be able to read it. In another case, before a sitting with Mrs. Jencken (better known by her maiden-name of Kate Fox, as the little girl who first discovered in 1847 that raps would answer questions intelligently, and so founded modern spiritualism), her little baby-in-arms, perhaps twelve months old, took a pencil in its tiny hand and wrote—wrote firmly and rapidly a message purporting to come from a dead man. What intelligence guided that baby hand I am not prepared to say, but it certainly could not have been that of its legitimate owner, and it was equally certainly not that of its mother, for she held the child away from her while it wrote.
Frequently people who are not mediums in any other sense of the word appear to be open to influence along this line. A large number of persons are in the habit of receiving private communications written through their own hands; and the vast majority of them attach quite undue importance to them. Again and again I have been assured by worthy ladies that the whole Theosophical teaching contained nothing new for them, since it had all been previously revealed to them by their own special private teacher, who was of course a person of entirely superhuman glory, knowledge and power—an Archangel at least! When I come to investigate I usually find the Archangel to be some worthy departed gentleman who has either been taught, or has discovered for himself, some portion of the facts with regard to astral life and evolution, and is deeply impressed with the idea that if he can only make this known to the world at large it will necessarily effect a radical change and reform in the entire life of humanity. So he seeks and finds some impressible lady, and urges upon her the conviction that she is a chosen vessel for the regeneration of mankind, that she has a mighty work to do to which her life must be devoted, that future ages will bless her name, and so on.
In all this the worthy gentleman is usually quite serious; he has now realized a few of the elementary facts of life, and he cannot but feel what a difference it would have made in his conduct and his attitude if he had realized them while still on the physical plane. He rightly concludes that if he could induce the whole world really to believe this, a great change would ensue; but he forgets that practically all that he has to say has been taught in the world for thousands of years, and that while he was in earth-life he paid no more attention to it than others are now likely to pay to his lucubrations. It is the old story over again: “If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rose from the dead”.
Of course a little common sense and a little acquaintance with the literature of this subject would save these worthy ladies from their delusion of a mission from on high; but self-conceit is subtle and deeply-rooted, and the idea of being specially chosen out of all the world for a divine inspiration is, I suppose, pleasurable to a certain type of people. Usually the communications are infinitely far from “containing all the Theosophical teaching”; they contain perhaps a few fragments of it, or more often a few nebulous generalizations tending somewhat in the Theosophical direction.
Occasionally also the instructor is a living man in the astral body—usually an Oriental; and in that case it is perfectly natural that his information should have a Theosophical flavour. It must be recollected that Theosophy is in no sense new, but is the oldest teaching in the world, and that the broad outlines of its system are perfectly well known everywhere outside of the limits of the extraordinary cloud of ignorance on philosophical subjects which Christianity appears to bring in its train. It is therefore small wonder that any glimpse of a wider and more sensible theory should seem to have something of Theosophy about it; but naturally it will rarely be found to have either the precision or the fullness of the scheme as given to us by the Masters of Wisdom through Their pupil Madame Blavatsky.
It appears to make the process of writing through the hand of the medium even easier for the dead man when that hand is rested upon the little board called planchette. This form of manifestation, however, does not always belong to our present category. Sometimes it seems that the hand of the medium moves the planchette, though it is not by his intelligence that it is directed, for it often writes in languages or about matters of which he is ignorant. But on other occasions it appears to move rather under his hand than with it, suggesting that it is charged with the vital force from his hand, just as the hat or the table was in the experiments previously described. In that case the movement of the board would probably be directed by another partially materialized hand, and so the phenomenon would belong to our third class.
The phenomenon of automatic drawing or painting is of exactly the same nature as that of writing, though it is not nearly so common, because the art of drawing is much less widely diffused than is that of writing. Still it sometimes happens that a dead man has a talent for rapid drawing, and can quickly produce a pretty little landscape or a passable portrait through the hand of a readily-impressible medium. There are certain mediums who make a speciality of this obtaining of portraits of the dead, and they apparently find that it pays them exceedingly well. I have myself seen passable work produced in this way, though not equal to that done directly by the hand of the dead man, or by precipitation. There are also cases in which such portraits are drawn by a living person who is himself clairvoyant; but that is obviously not an example of mediumship at all, and so does not come into our present category.
It must be remembered that for the production of a portrait of a dead person by any of these methods it is not in the least necessary that he should be present, though of course he may be. But when surviving friends come to a seance expecting and earnestly hoping for a portrait of some dead man, their thought of him, so strongly tinged with desire, makes an effective image of him in astral matter, and this is naturally clearly visible to any other dead man, so that the portrait can be drawn quite easily from it. It is, however, also true that this same strong thought about the dead man is certain to attract his attention, and he is therefore likely to come and see what is being done. So it is always possible that he may be present, but the portrait is not proof of it.
I am employing this term in a technical sense which is well known to those who have studied these phenomena. I am aware that it has also been employed to describe those cases in which a dishonest medium has presented himself before his audience as a “spirit-form”, but I am dealing with occurrences of a type quite different from that. All who have seen good examples of trance-speaking will have noticed how the entire expression of the medium’s face changes, and how he adopts all kinds of little tricks of manner and speech, which are really those of the man who is speaking through his organism.
There are instances in which this process of change and adaptation goes much further than this—in which a distinct temporary alteration actually takes place in the features of the medium. Sometimes this change is only apparent and not real, the fact being that the earnest effort of the ensouling personality to express himself through the medium acts mesmerically upon his friend, and deludes him into thinking that he really sees the features of the dead man before him. When that is so the phenomenon is of course purely subjective, and a photograph taken of the medium at that moment would show his face just as it always is.
Sometimes, however, the change is real and can be shown to be so by means of the camera. When this is so, there are still two methods by which the effect may be produced. I have seen at least one case of apparent change of feature in which what really took place may best be described as the partial materialization of a mask; that is to say, such parts of the medium’s face as corresponded fairly well with that to be represented were left untouched, whereas other parts which were entirely unsuitable were covered with a thin mask of materialized matter which made them up into an almost perfect imitation, though slightly larger than the original. But I have also seen other cases in which the face to be represented was much smaller than that of the medium, and the exact imitation secured undoubtedly involved an alteration in the form of the medium’s features. This will naturally seem an absolute impossibility to one who has not made a special study of these things, for the majority of us little recognize the extreme fluidity and impermanence of the physical body, and have no conception how readily it may be modified under certain conditions.
There is plenty of evidence to show this, though the circumstances which call into operation forces capable of producing such a result are fortunately rare. In Isis Unveiled, vol. i, p. 368, Madame Blavatsky gives us a series of ghastly examples of the way in which the thought or feeling of a mother can change the physical body of her unborn child. Cornelius Gemma tells of a child that was born with his forehead wounded and running with blood, the result of his father’s threats towards his mother with a drawn sword which he directed towards her forehead. In Van Helmont’s De Injectis Materialibus it is reported that the wife of a tailor at Mechlin saw a soldier’s hand cut off in a quarrel, which so impressed her that her child was born with only one hand, the other arm bleeding. The wife of a merchant of Antwerp, seeing a soldier who had just lost his arm, brought forth a daughter with one arm struck off and bleeding. Another woman witnessed the beheading of thirteen men by order of the Duc d’Alva. In her case also the child, quite perfect in other respects, was born without a head and with bleeding neck.
The whole question of the appearance of stigmata on the human body, which seems so thoroughly well authenticated, is only another instance of the influence of mind upon physical matter; for just as the mind of the mother acts upon the foetus, so do the minds of various saints, or of women like Catherine Emmerich, act upon their own organism. On p. 384 of The Night Side of Nature we find another rather horrible example of the action of violent emotion upon the physical body.
A letter from Moscow, addressed to Dr. Kerner in consequence of reading the account of the Nun of Dulmen, relates a still more extraordinary case. At the time of the French invasion, a Cossack having pursued a Frenchman into a cul de sac, an alley without an outlet, there ensued a terrible conflict between them, in which the latter was severely wounded. A person who had taken refuge in this close, and could not get away, was so dreadfully frightened that when he reached home there broke out on his body the very same wounds that the Cossack had inflicted on his enemy.
We shall have to refer to this question when dealing with materializations; but in the meantime, and as far as personation is concerned, I can myself testify that it is possible for the physical features of a medium to be completely changed for a time into the exact resemblance of those of the dead man who is speaking through him. This phenomenon is not common, so far as I have seen or heard, and we may presume that the reason for its rarity is that ordinary materialization would probably be easier to produce. The personation, however, took place in full daylight on each occasion when I witnessed it; whereas materialization is usually performed by artificial light, and there must not be too much even of that, for reasons which will be explained when we come to deal with that side of the question.
Speaking, writing and drawing are by no means the only actions performed through the body of the medium. Sometimes it is used for more extensive and even violent activities. M. Flammarion records a striking case of the kind (After Death, p. 100) in which the “spirit” took possession of the medium in order to attempt to revenge himself. The case first appeared in Luce e Ombra (Rome, 1920), and the Revue Spirite (1921, p. 214), and was witnessed by M. Bozzano, the writer. Though the incident occurred in 1904, M. Bozzano felt that he could not publish an account of it before the death of the chief person concerned. He writes:
Today I can speak of it in the general interest of metaphysical research, omitting, however, the name of the person chiefly concerned.
Seance held on April 5, 1904.—The following were present: Dr. Guiseppe Venzano, Ernesto Bozzano, the Cavaliere Carlo Perefcti, Signore X—, Signora Guidetta Peretti, and the medium L. P. The seance was begun at ten o’clock in the evening.
From the beginning we noted that the medium was troubled, for some unknown reason. The spirit-guide Luigi, the medium’s father, did not manifest himself, and L. P. gazed with terror toward the left corner of the room. Shortly afterward he freed himself from his “spirit-controls”, rose to his feet, and began a singularly realistic and impressive struggle against some invisible enemy. Soon he uttered cries of terror, drew back, threw himself to the floor, gazed toward the corner as though terrified, then fled to the other corner of the room, shouting: “Back! Go away. No, I don’t want to. Help me! Save me!” Not knowing what to do, the witnesses of these scenes concentrated their thoughts with intensity upon Luigi, the spirit-guide, and called upon him to aid. The expedient proved effective, for little by little the medium grew calmer, gazed with less anxiety toward the corner of the apartment; then his eyes took on the expression of someone who looks at a distant spectacle, then a spectacle still more distant. At last he gave vent to a long sigh of relief and murmured: “He’s gone! What a bestial face!”
Soon afterwards, the spirit-guide Luigi manifested himself. Expressing himself through the medium, he told us that in the room in which the seance was being held there was a spirit of the basest nature, against which it was impossible for him to struggle; that the intruder bore an implacable hatred for one of the persons of the group. Then the medium exclaimed in a frightened voice: “There he is again! I can’t defend you any longer. Stop the...”
It is certain that Luigi wished to say, “stop the seance”, but it was already too late. The evil spirit had taken possession of our medium. He shouted; his eyes shot glances of fury; his hands, lifted as though to seize something, moved like the claws of a wild beast, eager to clutch his prey. And the prey was Signore X—, at whom the medium’s furious looks were cast. A rattling and a sort of concentrated roaring issued from our medium’s foam-covered lips, and suddenly these words burst from him: “I’ve found you again at last, you coward! I was a Royal Marine. Don’t you remember the quarrel in Oporto? You killed me there. But today I’ll have my revenge and strangle you.”
These distracted words were uttered as the hands of the medium, L. P., seized the victim’s throat, and tightened on it like steel pincers. It was a fearful sight. The whole of Signore X—’s tongue hung from his wide-open mouth, his eyes bulged. We had gone to the unfortunate man’s assistance. Uniting our efforts with all the energy which this desperate situation lent us, we succeeded, after a terrible hand-to-hand struggle, in freeing him from the desperate grip. At once we pulled him away, and thrust him outside, locking the door. We barred the medium’s access to the door; exasperated, he tried to break through this barrier and run after his enemy. He roared like a tiger. It took all four of us to hold him. At last, he suffered a total collapse and sank down upon the floor.
On the following day we prepared to clear up this affair—to seek information which might enable us to confirm what “the Oporto spirit” had said. We were, in fact, already quite certain of the truth of the accusation, for it was noteworthy that Signore X— had not protested in the least while the serious charge of homicide had been hurled at him.
The words uttered by the furious spirit served me as a means for arriving at the truth. He had said, “I was a Royal Marine”. And I knew vaguely that Signore X— had, himself, in his youth, been an officer of marines; that he had witnessed the battle of Lissa, and that after resigning his commission he had devoted himself to commercial enterprises. With these facts as a basis, I proceeded to ask a retired vice-admiral for other details; he, too, had fought at Lissa. As for Dr. Venzano, he questioned a relative of Signore X—, with whom the latter had broken off all relations years before. Between us we gathered separate bits of information which tallied amazingly, and which, brought together, led us to these conclusions:
Signore X— had indeed served with the Royal Marines. One day, being upon a battle-ship on a training cruise, he had landed for some hours at Oporto, Portugal. During his stay, while he was walking in the city, he heard a noise of drunken, furious voices coming from an inn. He perceived that the language was Italian, and, realizing that it was a quarrel between men of his vessel, he went into the room, recognized his men, and commanded them to return to their ship. One of the drinkers, more intoxicated than the others, answered him back, and even went so far as to threaten his superior officer. Angered by his attitude, the officer drew his sword and plunged it into the insolent fellow’s breast; the latter died soon afterward. As a result of this adventure, the officer was court-martialled, was sentenced to six months’ imprisonment, and, on the expiration of his term, was asked to resign his commission.
Those are the facts; it follows from them that the disturbing spirit had not lied. He had exactly stated his rank as a Royal Italian Marine. He had remembered that Signore X— had killed him. He had, moreover—and this was a particularly remarkable statement—indicated the place where he had died, the setting for the drama, Oporto.
A painstaking enquiry confirmed the authenticity of all this. By what hypothesis could one explain occurrences so strikingly in agreement—those which were revealed to us at the seance of April 5, 1904, and those which had taken place in Portugal many years before?
Many of the phenomena commonly displayed at a spiritualistic gathering are simply the manifestation of the ordinary powers and faculties natural to the astral plane, such as are possessed by every dead man. I have already explained in my little work on Clairvoyance what these powers are, and any one who will take the trouble to read that will see how clearly the possession of such senses accounts for the faculty so often exhibited by the dead of reading a closed book or a sealed letter, or describing the contents of a locked box. I have had repeated evidence through many different mediums of the possession of this power; sometimes the knowledge obtained by its means was given out through the medium’s body in trance-speaking, and at other times it was expressed directly by the dead man, either in his own voice or by slate-writing.
These astral faculties sometimes include a certain amount of prevision, though this is possessed in varying degrees; and they also frequently give the power of psychometry and of looking back to some extent into events of the past. The way in which this is sometimes done is shown in the following story, given to us by Dr. Lee, in his Glimpses of the Supernatural, vol. ii, p. 146.
A commercial firm at Bolton, in Lancashire, had found that a considerable sum of money which had been sent to their bank by a confidential clerk had not been placed to their credit. The clerk remembered the fact of taking the money, though not the particulars, but at the bank nothing was known of it. The clerk, feeling that he was liable to suspicion in the matter, and anxious to elucidate it, sought the help of a spirit-medium. The medium promised to do her best. Having heard the story, she presently passed into a kind of trance. Shortly after, she said: “I see you go to the bank—I see you go to such and such a part of the bank—I see you hand some papers to a clerk—I see him put them in such and such a place under some other papers—and I see them there now.”
The clerk went to the bank, directed the cashier where to look for the money, and it was found; the cashier afterwards remembering that in the hurry of business he had there deposited it. A relation of mine saw this story in a newspaper at the time, and wrote to the firm in question, the name of which was given, asking whether the facts were as stated. He was told in reply that they were. The gentleman who was applied to, having corrected one or two unimportant details in the above narration, wrote on November 9, 1847: “Your account is correct. I have the answer of the firm to my enquiry at home now.”
The description given does not make it absolutely clear whether this was a case of clairvoyance on the part of the medium, or of the use of ordinary faculty by a dead man; but since the medium passed into a trance-condition the latter supposition seems the more probable. The dead man could easily gather from the clerk’s mind the earlier part of his story, and thus put himself en rapport with the scene; and then by following it to its close he was able to supply the information required. Here is the authenticated record of another good example of such a case, in which the power of thought-reading is much more prominently exhibited, since all the questions were mental. It is extracted from the Report on Spiritualism, published by Longman, London, in 1871, and is to be found in the Examination of the Master of Lindsay, p. 215.
A friend of mine was very anxious to find the will of his grandmother, who had been dead forty years, but could not even find the certificate of her death. I went with him to the Marshalls’, and we had a seance; we sat at a table, and soon the raps came; my friend then asked his questions mentally; he went over the alphabet himself, or sometimes I did so, not knowing the question. We were told (that) the will had been drawn by a man named William Walter, who lived at Whitechapel; the name of the street and the number of the house were given. We went to Whitechapel, found the man, and subsequently, through his aid, obtained a copy of the draft; he was quite unknown to us, and had not always lived in that locality, for he had once seen better days. The medium could not possibly have known anything about the matter, and even if she had, her knowledge would have been of no avail, as all the questions were mental.
As I have already said, the faculty of clairvoyance is often possessed by living persons, as well as by the dead. Even in this case, in which the information was communicated by means of raps, it is still within the bounds of possibility that it may have been acquired by the living and transmitted to the physical-plane consciousness by this external means. There is an ever-increasing volume of testimony to the fact of this clairvoyance; Dr. Geley has done splendid service by giving much that is new and valuable in his recent work Clairvoyance and Materialization. In his account of the clairvoyance of Mr. Ossowiecki, which includes many tests of his ability to read sentences enclosed in sealed opaque envelopes, he tells us that this seer has from time to time been able to discover articles which have been lost or stolen. In contact with the loser he was able after brief concentration to say where the object was lost, and sometimes also where it could be found.
He gives the following account of one such case which was sent to him by Mme Aline de Glass, wife of a Judge of the Supreme Court of Poland. The account is also attested by her brother, M. Arthur de Bondy:
warsaw, wspolna, 7
July 22, 1922
I have the honour to inform you of an actual miracle that Mr. Ossowiecki has worked here. I lost my brooch on Monday morning, June 6th. In the afternoon of the same day I visited the wife of General Krieger, Mr. Ossowiecki’s mother, with my brother, Mr. de Bondy, an engineer, who witnessed the event.
Mr. Ossowiecki came in, my brother introduced me to his friend, and I said that I was delighted to make acquaintance with one so gifted with occult powers. All Warsaw is talking of him. He told us many interesting things, and warmed up in his talk as I listened. Then in a moment of silence I told him:
“I have lost my brooch today. Could you tell me anything about it? But if you are tired or it is troublesome, do not put yourself out.”
“On the contrary, madame, I will tell you. The brooch is at your house in a box; it is a metal brooch, round, with a stone in the middle. You wore it three days ago, and you value it.”
“No,” I said, “not that one.” (He had given a good description of a brooch kept in the same box with that which I had lost.) Then he said:
“I am sorry not to have guessed right; I feel tired... “
“Let us say no more about it.”
“Oh no, madame, I will try to concentrate. I should like to have some material thing that concerns the brooch...”
“Sir, the brooch was fastened here, on this dress.”
He placed his fingers on the place indicated, and after a few seconds said: “Yes, I see it well. It is oval, of gold, very light, an antique which is dear to you as a family souvenir; I could draw it, so clearly do I see it. It has ears, as it were, and it is two parts interpenetrating, like fingers clasped together...”
“What you say, sir, is most extraordinary. It could not be better described. Miraculous.”
He went on: “You lost it a long way from here.” (This was actually about two and a half miles.) “Yes, in Mokotowska Street at the Koszykowa corner.”
“Yes,” I said, “I went there today.”
“Then,” he said, “a poorly dressed man, with black moustache, stoops down and picks it up. It will be very difficult to get it back. Try an advertisement in the papers.”
I was dazzled by the minute description, which left me no doubt that he could see the ornament. I thanked him warmly for the rare pleasure of meeting a real clairvoyant, and went home.
On the following evening my brother came to see me and exclaimed:
“What a miracle! Your brooch has been found. Mr. Ossowiecki telephones to me that you have only to go tomorrow at about 5 o’clock to Mme. Jacyna (Mr. Ossowiecki’s sister), and he will give it to you.”
The next day, June 7th, I went with my brother to the lady’s house, where there was company. I asked to see Mr. Ossowiecki, and asked him: “Have you my brooch?” I was much upset.
“Compose yourself, madame; we shall see.” And he handed me my brooch. It was a real miracle. I turned pale and could not speak for a few minutes.
He told me the story very simply: “The day after our meeting I went to the bank in the morning. In the vestibule I saw a man I remembered to have met somewhere or other, and it struck me that this was the man whom I had seen mentally to have picked up your brooch. I took his hand gently, and said: ‘Sir, yesterday you found a brooch at the corner of Mokotowska and Koszykowa Streets...’ ‘Yes,’ he said, very much astonished. ‘Where is it?’ ‘At home. But how do you know?’ I described the brooch and told him all that had taken place. He turned pale and was much upset, like you, madame. He brought me the brooch, saying that he had intended to advertise its finding. That is the whole story.”
I was much moved. I thanked Mr. Ossowiecki warmly, not so much for the recovery of the brooch as for meeting such a diviner, and having a small part in this miracle. Now this fine old brooch is worn by me constantly and considered as a talisman. The incident has gone all over Poland, and Mr. Ossowiecki has become all the more celebrated. He is besieged by people who come to consult him on lost property, on men missing during the war, etc. And this modest and extraordinary man devotes much time and trouble to them with good grace and complete disinterestedness. He is a true diviner, who does much good by his gift without any personal reward. I ask pardon for so long an account, which I wished to make as exact as possible,
I am, Yours,
aline de glass,
née de Bondy
As an example of the test conditions under which Mr. Ossowiecki has done many readings, I may mention the case of the letter which was written for the purpose by Mme. Sarah Bernhardt, which we reproduce below from Clairvoyance and Materialization (p. 55).
This letter was delivered to Dr. Geley, who handed it unopened to the clairvoyant. His reading of this was not perfect, but nevertheless striking and evidential. Dr. Geley says:
“His description of the letter was, however, very precise: La vie, la vie, la vie,... (three times). There are four or five lines, and below them Sarah Bernhardt’s signature, sloping upwards.” That is correct, but he might have seen her signature in some magazine article. He continued: “La vie semble humble.” He repeated ‘humble’ two or three times. “There is reference to humanity, but the word ‘humanity’ is not written. There is an idea conjoining life and humanity. Parcequ’il у а bеаисоир de haine. Non, il n’y a pas ‘haine’; il у a seulement seulement... It is a very difficult word of eight letters! There is an exclamation mark.”
Then before opening the letter, which I had previously examined by reflected, direct and transmitted light and found absolutely opaque, I wrote down the following, which may be taken as Ossowiecki’s final answer: “La vie semble humble parcequ’il у а bеаисоир de haine, (pas haine, mais un mot qui n’est pas compris et qui est de huit lettres); signature Sarah Bernhardt.” The word éphémère was not known to Ossowiecki, as he told us after the letter had been opened. We asked several Poles who spoke French well if they knew this word: they did not.
The fact that Mr. Ossowiecki does see the actual form in some manner sometimes is confirmed by his vision on occasion of drawings enclosed along with the letters. Judging by the third experiment of September 21st, 1921, at Prince Lubomirski’s (p. 39), when the test letter contained four written items, and also the drawing of a fish, the picture seemed to impress him more than the written portion of the test, and he not only spoke about it, but said that he would draw it, which he did, though he reversed the picture, putting the head on the left whereas in the original it was on the right.
This power of clairvoyance is also frequently displayed in a minor way at the weekly meetings of which I have spoken. After the trance address is over, the medium usually expresses her readiness to give descriptions, or “readings”, as they are often called, of the surroundings of various members of the audience. Where the circle is a small one, something is said to each of its members in turn; if there be a large number gathered together, individuals are selected and called up for special attention.
I have heard striking fragments of private family history brought out in this way—cases which bore every mark of genuineness; but in the majority of such meetings as I have attended the descriptions were exceedingly vague, and had a rather suspicious adaptability about them. The conversation usually ran somewhat along these lines:
Medium (supposed to be entranced, but speaking with exactly her normal contempt for aspirates and grammatical rules). “There’s an old gent with white ‘air a-standin’ be’ind that lady in the corner.”
Enthusiastic and Credulous Sitter. “Lor! that must be my father!”
Medium. “Yes; he smiles, he nods his ‘ed, he’s so pleased that you know him. I can see his white beard regularly shaking, he’s so glad.”
Sitter. “Ain’t it wonderful! But father didn’t have no beard before he passed over; p’raps he’s grown one since, or p’raps it’s my uncle Jim; he used to have a beard.”
Medium. “Ah! yes, that’s who it is; he nods his ‘ed again, and smiles; he wants to tell you ‘ow ‘appy he is.”
Sitter. “Well, now! just to think of poor uncle Jim coming like this! Why, it’s more than thirty years ago he was drowned at sea, when I was quite a girl; ‘an’some young chap he was, too! not more than five-and-twenty, and to be drowned like that!”
Medium. “Um! yes—yes—ah! I see him more clearly now—yes, you’re right. It’s not a white beard—it’s the white undershirt what sailors wears—that’s what it is!”
Chorus. “How lovely! how wonderful! Ain’t it beautiful to think they can come back like this!”
I have heard just about that sort of conversation a score of times; and it is naturally not calculated to produce a robust faith in that particular medium. Yet perhaps through the same illiterate woman there would come on another occasion some message about a matter of which she could by no possibility have known anything—a message which she could never have evolved from her sordid consciousness by any amount of clumsy guess-work.
I remember on one such occasion applying a little private test of my own to a medium in a poor London suburb. She was a coarse-looking woman, whom I had never seen before, but she seemed earnest enough, though far from cultured. She went on from one member of the circle to another, monotonously describing behind each of them spirits with flowing robes and smiling faces; she varied the story a little in my own case by giving me “a dark-looking foreign gentleman, with something white round his head”, which may possibly have been true enough, or may have been merely a coincidence.
It occurred to me to try whether she could see a thought-form, so as a change from all these reverend white-haired spirits with flowing robes, I set myself to project as strong a mental image as I could construct of two chubby boys in Eton jackets, standing behind the chair of the member of the circle who was next in order for examination. Sure enough, when that person’s turn came, the medium (or the dead man speaking through her, if there was one) described my imaginary boys with tolerable accuracy, and represented them as sons of the lady behind whom they stood. The latter denied this, explaining that her sons were grown men, and the medium then suggested grandchildren, which was also repudiated, so the mystery remained unsolved. But from the incident I deduced two conclusions: First, that either the medium was genuinely clairvoyant, or there really was a dead person speaking through her; and secondly, that whoever was concerned had not yet sufficient discernment to distinguish a thought-form materialized on the astral plane from a living astral body.
The recent researches of many learned doctors, and other investigators associated with the Societies for Psychical Research in different countries, offer us increasing confirmation of the facts announced by the earlier experimenters. The attitude of many of these distinguished explorers into the domain of the occult inclines at the beginning towards scepticism—a fact which renders their evidence all the more valuable, though it makes the phenomena more difficult to obtain. It constitutes a positive mental influence acting against the manifestation of unusual psychic powers—powers which it is difficult enough to use, even under the most favourable conditions. It is only fair to add, however, that such scepticism is rarely a prejudice, but simply the scientific attitude which declines to admit the existence of any facts which have not been carefully observed, or the truth of any deductions which have not been studiously and impartially considered.
The attitude and method adopted by Dr. Gustave Geley, and described in his invaluable volume Clairvoyance and Materialisation, is becoming more and more popular among experimenters. He says that the best results for scientific purposes are not to be obtained under conditions which cast suspicion upon the medium, and that the end to be sought by observers is not to protect themselves with absolute certainty at all times against any possible or conceivable fraud, but to obtain phenomena so powerful and complex that they carry their own proof and undeniable witness under the conditions demanded by the control.
I may add that my own experience, extending over many years, fully confirms what Dr. Geley has written. I have always found it best to make friends with both the medium and the spirit-guide and to discuss the manifestations frankly with them. Dr. Geley continues:
If experimenters waste time on poor or elementary phenomena, they will find the greatest difficulty in getting a control that will satisfy them at all points. If they are wise enough to consider elementary phenomena, and such minor frauds as they may suspect, both negligible; if they allow phenomena to develop without checking them at the outset by untimely demands, they will certainly obtain facts so various and important, also (sometimes) of such beauty, that their conviction will be complete, unshakable, and conclusive (p. 25).
In the comparatively recent general literature of spiritualism and psychical research there are many cases which satisfy these conditions. There are examples in which the accuracy of information communicated by these methods, and previously entirely unknown to those who receive it, almost certainly announces the actual presence of the entity who is claiming to communicate. I will select one typical case from M. Flammarion’s book After Death (p. 21), relating to the death of a charwoman of Nantes, generally known as Mother Marius. The narrator says that he used to frequent a cafe where there was a charwoman, a native of Brittany, whose family name was Keryado, although she was always called Mother Marius. He then continues:
Every week I used to leave Nantes on Saturday evening and spend Sunday on a farm in the very midst of the countryside. One Saturday I left as usual—took leave of the proprietor, of my friends, and said goodbye to this same charwoman, who was in excellent health. So, late on Saturday night, I found myself in the country as usual, but I must explain that this time, through exceptional circumstances, I was to remain there for the whole week. The farm-house had two rooms; a kitchen and another room. On Thursday, at one o’clock in the afternoon, I was talking in the other room with the young girl of the house. There was no one in the kitchen. The doors and windows were closed. We were talking, when both of us heard a noise in the kitchen, as though the fire-tongs had fallen on to the hearthstone. Out of precaution, thinking that the cat might be getting into the jars of milk, I went to see what it was. There was nothing; everything was shut up. Scarcely had I come back into the room when there was the same noise. I turned. Nothing! Since I had already taken up spiritualism, I said to the young girl, laughing: “It’s a spirit, perhaps”—attaching no importance to my words. However, I then had the idea of using a little round table, with which we had already experimented, and we waited, both of us sitting at it, our hands upon it. Almost immediately we got a communication through rapping, according to the usual alphabetic code. “Is this a spirit?”—”Yes”—”You lived on earth?”—”Yes”—”You knew me?”—”Yes”—”What was your name?”—”Keryado”. At this odd name (I did not remember the charwoman’s family name) I was about to leave the table, thinking that the reply was pointless, when the young girl said to me: “That is the family name of the charwoman in the café”. “That is true,” I answered, and then I began a series of questions. I was unwilling to believe that she was dead, having left her in perfect health only five days before. I asked her for details, and learned that she had been taken ill at eight o’clock on Tuesday evening, that she had been carried to her home, and that she had died at eleven o’clock, of a haemorrhage... On Saturday when I returned to Nantes, as soon as I got out of the train, I went to the café, and there, to my stupefaction, they gave me confirmation of this woman’s death, and of all the details she had given me.
Unquestionably also there are other cases in which only telepathy is at work. Professor Ernest Wood relates an example, which was told to him by his father, who used to investigate these things. On the occasion in question the medium, who was a personal friend also, said that he saw standing behind his visitor the “spirit” of a man dressed in convict garb. He described him in detail, saying that he was looking through prison bars, and adding that he thought the spirit wished to communicate. But the fact of the matter was that, a short time before, the enquirer had been to see the exhibition at the opening of the Manchester Ship Canal, in which was shown one of the old Botany Bay convict ships fitted up realistically with wax-work figures. He had stood for some time looking at one of these, and wondering what the unfortunate convicts must have felt, and though the incident had passed from his mind and been forgotten, that was the figure of which the medium gave him a description.
Perhaps the first great mistake which many people make in thinking about these things is to assume that one law governs all the cases, and therefore that they are either all due to discarnate intelligences, or are all caused by some form of simple or complicated telepathy. There is a variety of causes for the phenomena produced during psychical research investigations, some of them being due to ideas in the mind of the medium or of the sitters, others to discarnate intelligences, others to thought-forms casually present or magnetically attracted, and others again to the psychometric influence of objects which may be near.
Another good example of successful communication from the other side of death, which has been called the pearl tie-pin case, is given in Sir William Barrett’s On the Threshold of the Unseen, as follows:
Miss C., the sitter, had a cousin, an officer with our army in France, who was killed in battle a month previously to the sitting; this she knew. One day, after the name of her cousin had been unexpectedly spelt out on the ouija board, and her name given in answer to her query “Do you know who I am?”, the following message came:
“Tell mother to give my pearl tie-pin to the girl I was to marry. I think she ought to have it.” When asked what was the name and address of the lady, both were given; the name spelt out included the full Christian and surname, the latter being very unusual and quite unknown to both sitters. The address given in London was either wrong or taken down incorrectly, as a letter sent there was returned, and the whole message was thought to be fictitious.
Six months later, however, it was discovered that the officer had been engaged, shortly before he left for the front, to the lady whose name had been given; he had, however, told no one of this. Neither his cousin nor any of his own family in Ireland were aware of the fact, and they had never seen the lady nor heard her name, until the War Office sent over the deceased officer’s effects. Then they found that he had put the lady’s name in his will as his next of kin, both Christian and surname being precisely the same as given through the automatist; and what is equally remarkable, a pearl tie-pin was found among his effects.
Both the ladies have signed a document which they sent to me, affirming the accuracy of the above statement. The message was recorded at the time, and not written from memory after verification had been obtained. Here there could be no explanation of the facts by subliminal memory, or telepathy from the living, or collusion, and the evidence points unmistakably to a message from the deceased officer.
Another striking case appeared in The Harbinger of Light for February, 1918. A New Zealand gentleman gives what appears to be a good test of identity from his soldier son, who was killed on the Somme in September, 1916. The communication came to another gentleman through the medium of his wife, who was known to the soldier before he left for the war. In the course of his statement the soldier says:
Will you convey my love to father and mother, and my brothers? Thank God they have not gone to the war. Tell my dear mother not to hold any fanciful ideas of me, or to believe every so-called message she may receive. Tell her I owe her all that is best in me, for she is brave and good, and I would do anything possible to smooth her path in life. Tell her one particular thing that will assure her of my presence—tell her that on the day when she prevented me from going out bird’s-nesting, and took so much trouble to instruct us in the right, I decided always to try to do what was right. Tell her the recollection of the anecdote she told us always haunted me. Tell her I have not gone to any restful spiritual home yet, and probably will not till the war ends. Tell her I cannot be a shirker in the body or out of it, but having been trained with many good comrades to do my duty, I try to do it still, and if I were permitted I could tell you so much we do to help those still fighting—much that is sanctioned and assisted, too, by others higher than ourselves, but I dare not say. Tell mother that I was quite suddenly shot out of the body, and felt no pain whatever, and thanks to the insight I received through my parents, and you, and others, I simply folded my arms and had a good look at my body, and thought: “Well, is that all?” I could not wrench myself away from the body immediately, and accompanied it when carried off by stretcher-bearers to the dressing-station, because the body was not quite dead, but I felt no pain. How long it was before I lost the consciousness of my material body I cannot say, but the freedom I now feel, and the active part I am taking in what occupied me so much before death is my duty, and it seems natural and right. Besides, Mr. A.—, there are many pledges my comrades and I made to each other in the face of death, which are sacred, and must be kept, if possible. But I cannot stop now. Goodbye, Mr. A.—, goodbye. I am so delighted to have spoken to you. Tell father and mother they need have no regrets, and that my present activities are more valuable than when I was in the flesh, and quite as natural. They will know it is the right and proper course till time changes affairs. Goodbye.
The father writes that the bird’s-nesting incident was known only to the boy and his mother; some years before when he had spoken of going on such an expedition his mother had earnestly told him how cruel it was to break down the home so care-fully prepared by the parents for their young, and illustrated her lesson with the idea of some great giant coming and ruthlessly smashing up her home and destroying her children.
This case is also interesting for its simple and straightforward account of the soldier’s experiences and feelings when he found himself outside his body.
When one portion of a message is given to one medium and another portion to another, at a distance from or unknown to the first, so that the two portions fit together and make a rational whole, we have what is called a cross-reference. A well known instance of this is the Kildare-street Club case, published in The International Psychic Gazette, and reprinted in Mr. Carrington’s Psychical Phenomena and the War (p. 284). The account of the incident was furnished by Count Hamon, as follows:
On Monday, May 14, 1917, I attended in a private house a seance at which Mrs. Harris was the medium. There were present on this occasion, amongst several others whose names I am not authorized to mention, Miss Scatcherd, Mrs. Dixon-Hartland, and Dr. Hector Munro.
After many convincing conversations with spirits by means of the “direct voice” had occurred, a spirit visitor came and said very distinctly: “I want to send a message to my father.”
“Who are you?”, we asked.
The spirit replied: “I am an officer recently killed at the front in Flanders; my name is...” We could not hear the name very distinctly, so after some repeated efforts to get it, we said: “Well, leave the name alone for the moment and try to give us the message.”
Speaking very slowly at first, the spirit said, “My father lives near Dublin; you will find him at the well-known club there.”
A gentleman present asked: “Which club do you mean?”
The spirit replied: “The Kildare-street Club; you know it well, and you also know my father.”
As no one had caught the name of the father exactly right, the gentleman referred to said: “I know the Kildare-street Club very well, but I do not think I know your father; but give us the message.”
Continuing, the spirit went on: “My father is always worrying and unhappy about me; he can’t seem to get оver it. I want some one to tell him that I came here tonight to get this through as a test message to him, to tell him not to worry about me, as I am all right, and glad to have gone through it, and I want him not to worry and be unhappy any more.”
After a slight pause he continued, “My father also goes to mediums in Dublin, and I try to give him messages through them, but I want this sent on to him as a test message.”
We again asked him to try to give us the name, and we got one part—the Christian name—very distinctly, but the surname was always so slurred that we were unable to catch it clearly, and after many efforts had to give it up. But before we did so, I promised that I would do all I could to send on his message.
The next morning I wrote a letter to the name I thought it had sounded like, addressing it to the Kildare-street Club. In about a week this letter was returned to me through the Post Office marked “Name not known”.
I was considerably worried as to what I should do next, until the thought came to me that I should write to the secretary of the Club, simply saying that I was anxious to find the gentleman who, I believed, was a member of his club, whose son had recently been killed in Flanders; that the name was something like so-and-so, and that I had a message to give him about his son.
Now comes the strangest part of this strange story. In a few days I received a letter from the gentleman in question, saying that the secretary had sent him my letter, and adding: “I have had a message from my son who was recently killed in Flanders, saying he had sent me a message through a medium in London, that he had difficulty in getting the name and address through but he wanted to give me a test.” The father added: “If you understand this I hope you will send me his message.”
One of the most strikingly successful instances of cross correspondence is published in the Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, vol. viii, p. 413, it being a translation from a paper read at a meeting of the French Society for Psychical Research by Dr. Geley, M. Camille Flammarion being in the chair. In this case the operating entity composed a little story, dictated the major portion of it to a medium at Wimereux, near Bordeaux, omitting only three sentences, which were dictated separately but at the same time to a medium in Paris. The lady in Paris declared that she could see the spirit operators, the chief of whom gave his name as Roudolphe, in the form of lights, and that one of these lights came and went rapidly. Her three sentences were:
“As well behaved as the pupils in a convent for well-trained young ladies”
“Their large sweet eyes are used to watching the passing”
“The modern lady of fashion whose eyes.”
The following day the post brought to Paris the main part of the story which had been written in Wimereux the previous evening. Roudolphe first explained the idea of his experiment, and then wrote as follows:
Have you sometimes met, dear friend, as you walked in the thickets, the deer that live and roam through the leafy branches, at times... (here the automatist noted a pause in the writing)... at times the flock, jumping and frightened, so graceful and fascinating? Have you ever asked yourself what those pretty animals were thinking, and what they would become later? Far be it from me to draw their horoscope (which would after all be of no interest to them), but it seems to me that their mentality must be very different from that which animates the deer of the forest... (another pause)... strange vehicles running without the aid of an animal’s legs, and in those carriages or along the more or less frequented paths, they have contemplated women with elongated eyes like their own, delicate and stylish women. Who can ever tell us if... (another pause)... become so unnaturally large under the dash of the pencil, is not a doe of the forest in the throes of retrospective recollection?
Dear friend, I have had some trouble because Miss R. tried to understand—but trust I have succeeded with this childish story. Affectionate good night. roudolphe.
We will leave it to the reader to put the two portions together and see how perfectly they fit. Dr. Geley remarks that both mediums were ignorant of the meaning and intention of the sentences they were writing, and that they both acted as machines worked by the single direction of an independent intelligence.
In New Evidences in Psychical Research, by Mr. J. A. Hill, a lengthy account is given of the efforts at cross correspondence between various mediums. From that source I will take one case, that of the fir-trees:
On August 28, 1901, Mrs. Verral’s script had some Latin, of which the following is a translation: “Sign with the seal. The fir-tree that has been already planted in the garden gives its own portent.” This script was signed with a scrawl and three drawings representing a sword, a suspended bugle and a pair of scissors.
On the same day Mrs. Forbes’s script purporting to come from her son (who had been killed in the South African War) said that he was looking for a sensitive who wrote automatically, in order that he might obtain corroboration for her own writing. This script was apparently produced earlier in the day than Mrs. Verrall’s script above mentioned.
The interest of the incident lies in the fact that a suspended bugle surmounted by a crown was the badge of Talbot Forbes’s regiment. Further, Mrs. Forbes has in her garden four or five small fir-trees grown from seed sent her from abroad by her son; these she calls Talbot’s trees. These facts were totally unknown to Mrs. Verrall. As bearing on the question of chance coincidence, it is to be remarked that on no other occasion has a bugle appeared in Mrs. Verrall’s script, nor has there been any other allusion to a planted fir-tree (p. 172).
Sir Oliver Lodge has expressed a favourable opinion of the evidential value of a number of cross-correspondences between Mrs. Forbes, Mrs. Piper, Mrs. Thompson and Mrs. Verrall. Many of these tests came from a soi-disant Frederick Myers. Sir Oliver said that the scholarship in some cases singularly corresponds with that of F. W. H. Myers when living, and surpasses the unaided information of any of the receivers. Mr. J. A. Hill, on p. 204 of the book above-mentioned, adds:
Some of the communications are strikingly appropriate to and characteristic of Mr. Myers, in many subtle ways; and this psychological kind of evidence, made up of many strokes, some bold, some faint, but all tending to bring out the lineaments of this one personality—this psychological evidence, I say, even apart from anything else, is as impressive as isolated correct facts about the communicator’s past life, which is the kind of evidence most sought for hitherto. And, adding to this evidence the cross-correspondences, which are also in some instances of characteristic kind—e.g., the anagrams characteristic of Dr. Hodgson, and the Dante, Tennyson, and Browning incidents suggestive of Mr. Myers, there results a body of recent evidence stronger perhaps than anything that has previously been published by qualified investigators, in favour of communication from disembodied human beings.
Referring to the telepathic theory as to the cause of these and similar occurrences, Mr. Hill writes (p. 203):
If telepathy from the living is to explain all, we shall have to believe that it can occur in a very definite and continuous way between people who do not know each other, as in the earlier script of Mrs. Holland and in some of the trance-speech of Mrs. Thompson. We shall also have to assume a very complicated system of telepathic cross-firing among the automatists concerned, the cross-firing, moreover, occurring at subliminal depths, leaving the normal personalities quite ignorant of all this remarkable activity. I confess that I am unable to accept this. To quote Mr. Lang... “there is a point at which the explanations of common sense arouse scepticism”. And I do not think that a telepathic theory of this extended kind can be called an explanation of common sense. If it were presented on its own merits, and not as a refuge from “spirits”, it would be described, by common-sense people, as a piece of uncommon nonsense.
What amounts practically to a cross-reference, though it was apparently not intentional, is related by Mr. W. Britton Harvey, Editor of The Harbinger of Light, Melbourne, in his booklet They All Come Back! One evening in a circle in his home the intelligence controlling the medium gave his name as Walter Robinson, and stated that Fred Field was with him, and added that they had both been drowned at sea. Mr. Harvey had known a Walter Robinson, and had learnt that he had been drowned, but he had never even heard of Fred Field.
More than a year later an acquaintance happened to tell Mr. Harvey that some years before, in a sitting with a Melbourne medium, he had been greeted by Walter Robinson and Fred Field, who declared they had been drowned. I will complete the story in Mr. Harvey’s own words:
“I knew Walter and Fred well,” continued my informant, “but I had never heard of their deaths. They were shipmates of mine at one time, and it was not for nine months after they had purported to speak to me that I found out that they had been drowned.” I then learnt for the first time that this casual acquaintance used to live a few miles from the town in which I resided in the Old Country. At that time he went to sea, and that was how he got to know Walter Robinson and Fred Field. I had not mentioned either of these names to him previously. In fact, this was the first chat we had had together, and this will account for my not knowing before that he once resided so close to me in England (p. 15).
In 1922 the Rev. Charles Drayton Thomas put forth a book entitled Some New Evidence for Human Survival. In this he opens up on a large scale a method of investigation but slightly touched upon hitherto, in the form of book and newspaper tests. These tests are stated to come from his father, the Rev. John Drayton Thomas (who died some years ago) acting through Mrs. Leonard, with the assistance of a control who calls herself Feda.
The general method of book-tests, of which some hundreds are related, is for the “spirit” to go into Mr. Thomas’s library (some distance from the house where the sittings are held), select a book, observe some ideas on a certain page or pages in that book, and then announce them. Several of these observations are written down on one occasion; they are afterwards verified, and have been found to be for the most part correct.
The operators have apparently certain difficulties in seeing the actual print of the book, but in some manner not easy to comprehend they can grasp the idea involved in the printed words. They cannot apparently see the numbers printed on the pages, but they can count the pages from the beginning of the printed matter, and so indicate exactly those to which they wish to refer. Some of the tests are taken from books on the shelves, but others with equal success were performed with books belonging to other people, made up into carefully sealed parcels, the contents of which were quite unknown to the experimenters until the parcels were opened in order to verify the test messages.
I will give two typical examples of book-tests from the many recorded by Mr. Thomas, which range variously over description, humour, topics of the day, philosophy and religion.
In your study, close to the door, the lowest shelf, take the sixth book from the left, and page 149; three-quarters down is a word conveying the meaning of falling back or stumbling.
Rather more than half-way down the page was the following sentence:
... to whom a crucified Messiah was an insuperable stumbling-block.
Very low down on the page he seemed to get something about great noise, not a sharp, thin sound, but a heavy one, more of a roaring noise.
Close to the bottom of this page was the sentence:
I chanced to come that time along the coast, and heard the guns for two or three days and nights successively, (pp. 15-17.)
Mr. Drayton Thomas says that these book-tests were given, so it was claimed by the “spirit friends,” not so much as a proof of identity, as illustrating the ability of a spirit to obtain information unknown to the sitter or medium, and yet capable of easy verification.
In Chapter XII Mr. Thomas gives a series of book-tests which were communicated for Lady Glenconnor, who has also herself written about them in The Earthen Vessel. The messages were transmitted from the late Hon. Edward Wyndham Tennant through the same medium, the late Rev. John Drayton Thomas and Feda communicating. This time they used the books in the libraries at Lady Glenconnor’s house in Scotland, at her town house, and also at Wilsford Manor.
Summing up the results of two years’ work the author finds that out of 209 book tests spontaneously given 147 were good, 26 indefinite, and 36 apparent failures (p. 98).
Before closing this subject of book-tests, let me recount one such example also from the record of Madame Blavatsky. Her life was full of incidents showing remarkable powers in many directions; of these one may read especially in The Occult World and Incidents in the Life of Madame Blavatsky, by A. P. Sinnett, and in Old Diary Leaves, by Col. H. S. Olcott. Mr. G. Baseden Butt has recently written a careful and thoughtful account of her life in his volume entitled Madame Blavatsky. From that I take the following “test” related by Countess Wachtmeister (p. 153):
An experience related by the Countess Wachtmeister cannot be explained save on the assumption that the Masters really exist and were able to communicate with her. In the autumn of 1885, before she had met Madame Blavatsky, and before she knew that she was likely to meet her, the Countess was making preparations to leave her home in Sweden in order to spend the winter with some friends in Italy, intending to visit Madame Gebhard at Elberfeld en route. While she was laying aside the articles she intended to take with her, the Countess, who was clairvoyant and clairaudient, heard a voice saying: “Take that book, it will be useful to you on your journey.” The book referred to was a manuscript collection of notes on the Tarot and passages in the Kabbalah compiled by a friend. Countess Wachtmeister could conceive of no purpose for which this book might be required, but, obedient to her clairaudient injunction, she laid it in the bottom of one of her travelling trunks. At Elberfeld, Madame Gebhard persuaded the Countess to go to Würzburg and spend the winter with Madame Blavatsky there instead of going to Italy. When the Countess arrived at Würzburg, and was going into the dining-room to take some tea, Madame Blavatsky said abruptly, as if the matter had been dwelling on her mind:
“Master says you have a book for me of which I am much in need.”
The Countess Wachtmeister denied that any books were with her, but Madame Blavatsky bade her think again, as Master said that her visitor had been told in Sweden to bring a book on the Tarot and the Kabbalah. “Then,” adds the Countess, “I recollected the circumstances I have related above. From the time I had placed the volume in the bottom of my box it had been out of my sight and out of my mind. Now, when I hurried to the bedroom, unlocked the trunk, and dived to the bottom, I found it in the same corner I had left it when packing the box in Sweden, undisturbed from that moment to this. But that was not all. When I returned to the dining-room with it in my hand, Madame Blavatsky made a gesture and cried: ‘Stay, do not open it yet. Now turn to page ten, and on the sixth line you will find the words...’ And she quoted a passage.
I opened the book, which, let it be remembered, was no printed volume of which there might be a copy in H. P. B.’s possession, but a manuscript album in which, as I have said, had been written notes and excerpts by a friend of mine for my own use, yet on the page and at the line she had indicated I found the very words she had uttered.
When I handed her the book I ventured to ask her why she wanted it.
‘O,’ she replied, ‘for The Secret Doctrine.’ “
Surely this incident establishes at one and the same time the existence of the Masters and the reality of Madame Blavatsky’s power of clairvoyance.
Satisfactory as the book-tests are, what are known as the newspaper-tests are still more effective. These messages, instead of relating to books existing in libraries, in closed parcels or even in locked iron boxes, refer to tomorrow’s paper. Various newspapers were used, but chiefly the London Times, and the communications related therefore to what had not yet been printed; enquiries at the office of the paper resulted in the information that at the time of the sitting the type-matter had not yet been assembled, and probably some of it had not even been set up. Respecting these tests Mr. Thomas says also:
It is important to realize that a copy of these notes was made the same evening, and posted in London so that it would be delivered early the following morning. It was sent to the Secretary of the Society of Psychical Research in accordance with my invariable custom, a practice adopted many months previously, when I realized that the tests from the papers of the day after the sitting were becoming a regular feature of conversations with my father through Mrs. Leonard and Feda. (p. 133.)
There is generally a certain vagueness about these tests, as in the book-tests, but that the communicating intelligences do make a connection between words in the newspaper and names or facts familiar to the enquirers is certain. For example, they say (p. 131) “On page 1, column 2, near the top, there is the name of a minister with whom your father was friendly at Leek.” The name Perks was found in the place indicated, and he had known a minister of that name at Leek.
There are many carious approximations in these tests. For example, it was announced that in a certain column, one-quarter down, would appear Mr. Thomas’ father’s name, his own, his mother’s, and that of an aunt. In the position indicated the names John and Charles appeared. These were correct, but instead of Emily and Sarah (the names of an aunt and Mr. Thomas’ mother) were the words Emile Sauret! Similarly in the place stated to contain the maiden name of the mother “or one very like it” was the word Dorothea, while her name was Dore.
Notwithstanding this vagueness these messages do present a valuable addition to the evidence for the existence of intelligence beyond that of the sitters, and this record is especially useful because Mr. Thomas sent his tests to the Secretary of the Society for Psychical Research before the newspapers were printed.
In twelve such sittings, containing 104 tests, Mr. Thomas finds that there were 73 successes, 12 inconclusive items, and 19 failures, and in another set of trials there were 51 successes out of 53 tests (p. 153). Many tests were also received for persons other than the sitters, and relating to facts entirely unknown to them.
In studying the probable source of these messages, Mr. Drayton Thomas feels assured that they do come from his deceased father, for all his sittings abound in references to his doings and surroundings which would normally be unknown to Mrs. Leonard, also with references to his father’s earth-life, and besides “they include a wide range of elusive touches which are unproducible in cold print, but in which I see my father’s personality ringing true to that which I knew so well during his life on earth” (p. 190). We must, of course, consider that the medium of Feda might read his mind, but as to this he says: “Up to the present all my experiments with Feda have failed to find in her any trace of ability to explore my thought or reproduce my memories; the evidence all points the other way.” (p. 192.)
He mentions also that it is a curious experience, after having received correct references through pages of books scattered about his library to hear the control struggling to spell out a name which he himself knows to be that which is required for completing some explicit description, and to find that such efforts usually fail to pass beyond the initial letter of the required name, and that his own concentration upon the name appears to make things not one whit easier. He concludes: “That my father links his former memories with matter discovered in preparation for the morrow’s press is the only explanation logically fitting with the facts.” (p. 194.)
As to the views of the “spirits” themselves upon the way in which they obtain the newspaper tests, Mr. Thomas received the following communication:
These tests have been devised by others in a more advanced sphere than mine, and I have caught their ideas. This may be done even when we do not realize whence the thought originates, much as when minds on earth receive inspiration. We can visit these higher helpers, and, even when away from them, may be very conscious of their assistance. I am not yet aware exactly how one obtains these tests, and have wondered whether the higher guides exert some influence whereby a suitable advertisement comes into position on the convenient date; I have thought of this, but do not know. These tests will be better than the book-tests, because more definite, and their object will be to prove that we can obtain information from other quarters than the mind or surroundings of the sitter; it will be useless to invoke “the subconscious mind” as an explanation here. I was taken to the Times office, and did not find the way there by myself; helpers are plentiful when we are engaged on work of this kind. (p. 201.)
In another communication given later, in reply to the question: “Do you now understand what it actually is that you operate upon at the Times office?”‘ the father said:
It is still a puzzle. On one occasion I thought I saw the complete page set up; it certainly appeared to be so, and I noticed certain items in it which I believe proved correct. But on returning to the office a little while after—for I frequently go twice to make sure of the tests—I found that the page was not yet set up, and this astonished me and was most perplexing. (p. 207.)
In other communications the deceased clergyman speculates variously upon the possible methods by which future events may be known, but apparently in that world as in this the mystery of time is not yet solved.
All the most interesting phenomena of the seance room are connected in some way or other with materialization—that is to say, with the building of physical matter round some astral form, in order that through it the ego inhabiting that astral form may be able to produce results upon the physical plane. But of this materialization there are three varieties. Let me here quote a passage from my own little book upon The Astral Plane, p. 118:
The habitues of seances will no doubt have noticed that materializations are of three kinds: First, those which are tangible but not visible; second, those which are visible but not tangible; and third, those which are both visible and tangible. To the first kind, which is much the most common, belong the invisible spirit hands which so frequently stroke the faces of the sitters or carry small objects about the room, and the vocal organs from which the “direct voice” proceeds. In this case an order of matter is being used which can neither reflect nor obstruct light, but is capable under certain conditions of setting up vibrations in the atmosphere which affect us as sound. A variation of this class is that kind of partial materialization which, though incapable of reflecting any light that we can see, is yet able to affect some of the ultra-violet rays, and can therefore make a more or less definite impression upon the camera, and so provide us with what are known as “spirit photographs.”
When there is not sufficient power available to produce a perfect materialization we sometimes get the vaporous-looking form which constitutes our second class, and in such a case the “spirits” usually warn their sitters that the forms which appear must not be touched. In the rarer case of a full materialization there is sufficient power to hold together, at least for a few moments, a form which can be both seen and touched.
Nearly all the phenomena coming under this third subdivision of ours are effected by means of the first of these types of materialization, for the hands which cause the raps or tilts, which move objects about the room or raise them from the ground, are not usually visible, though to be able to act thus upon physical matter they must themselves be physical. Occasionally, but comparatively rarely, they may be seen at their work, thus explaining to us how that work is done in the far more numerous instances in which the mechanism is invisible to us. Such a case is given to us by Sir William Crookes, F.R.S., in his interesting book Researches in the Phenomena of Spiritualism, p. 93:
I was sitting next to the medium, Miss Fox, the only other persons present being my wife and a lady relative, and I was holding the medium’s two hands in one of mine, whilst her feet were resting on my feet. Paper was on the table before us, and my disengaged hand was holding a pencil. A luminous hand came down, from the upper part of the room, and after hovering near me for a few seconds, took the pencil from my hand, rapidly wrote on a sheet of paper, threw the pencil down, and then rose up over our heads, gradually fading into darkness.
The raps and the tilts are too well known to need description, but cases in which heavy objects are raised and suspended without the contact of visible hands are somewhat less commonly seen, so it may perhaps be well to cite one or two of them. In the book just quoted, on p. 89, Sir William Crookes tells us:
On five separate occasions, a heavy dining-table rose between a few inches and a foot and a half off the floor, under special circumstances, which rendered trickery impossible. On another occasion a heavy table rose from the floor in full light, while I was holding the medium’s hands and feet. On another occasion the table rose from the floor, not only when no person was touching it, but under conditions which I had prearranged so as to assure unquestionable proof of the fact.
It will be seen, therefore, that the similar experience of my own, which I have described a few pages back, is by no means unique. Mr. Robert Dale Owen, in his Footfalls on the Boundary of Another World, p. 74, gives a remarkable case of similar nature:
In the dining-room of a French nobleman, the Count d’Ourches, residing near Paris, I saw, on the first day of October, 1858, in broad daylight, at the close of déjèuner à la fourchette, a dining-table seating seven persons, with fruit and wine on it, rise and settle down, as already described, while all the guests were standing round it, and not one of them touching it at all. All present saw the same thing. Mr. Kyd, son of the late General Kyd, of the British army, and his lady told me (in Paris, in April, 1859) that in December of the year 1857, during an evening visit to a friend, who resided at No. 28 Rue de la Ferme des Mathurins, at Paris, Mrs. Kyd, seated in an armchair, suddenly felt it move, as if someone had laid hold of it from beneath. Then slowly and gradually it rose into the air, and remained there suspended for the space of about thirty seconds, the lady’s feet being four or five feet from the ground; then it settled down gently and gradually, so that there was no shock when it reached the carpet. No one was touching the chair when it rose, nor did anyone approach it while in the air, except Mr. Kyd, who, fearing an accident, advanced and touched Mrs. Kyd. The room was at the time brightly lighted, as a French salon usually is; and of the eight or nine persons present all saw the same thing in the same way. I took notes of the above, as Mr. and Mrs. Kyd narrated to me the occurrence; and they kindly permitted, as a voucher for its truth, the use of their names.
People have not infrequently been lifted in this way in their chairs, though rarely, I fancy, to the height of five feet. Sir William Crookes saw several instances of the same phenomenon, and thus describes them in his Researches, p. 89.
On one occasion I witnessed a chair, with a lady sitting in it, rise several inches from the ground. On another occasion, to avoid the suspicion of this being in some way performed by herself, the lady knelt on the chair in such a manner that its four feet were visible to us. It then rose about three inches, remaining suspended for about ten seconds, and then slowly descended. Another time two children, on separate occasions, rose from the floor with their chairs, in full daylight, under (to me) the most satisfactory conditions; for I was kneeling and keeping close watch upon the feet of the chair, and observing that no one might touch them.
The most striking cases of levitation which I have witnessed have been with Mr. Home. On three separate occasions have I seen him raised completely from the floor of the room. Once sitting in an easy chair, once kneeling on his chair, and once standing up. On each occasion I had full opportunity of watching the occurrence as it was taking place.
There are at least a hundred recorded instances of Mr. Home’s rising from the ground, in the presence of as many separate persons, and I have heard from the lips of the three witnesses to the most striking occurrence of this kind—the Earl of Dunraven, Lord Lindsay and Captain C. Wynne—their own most minute accounts of what took place. To reject the recorded evidence on this subject is to reject all human testimony whatever; for no fact in sacred or profane history is supported by a stronger array of proofs.
Colonel Olcott, in his People from the Other World, also mentions having heard this account from the lips of one of the witnesses. He gives us, too, some striking instances of levitation upon the part of the Eddy brothers.
I have myself on three occasions been present when the medium, seated in a heavy armchair, was lifted clear over our heads as we sat round the table, and placed in the centre of it. On two of these occasions I was myself holding one of the medium’s hands, and continued to hold it during his aerial excursion, while a trustworthy friend held the other. Although this took place in darkness, we were certain that no one from the physical plane lifted that chair; though as a matter of fact we did not need that assurance, for there was no one in the room at all capable of such a feat of herculean strength. The moment that the medium and his big chair were safely landed on the table, raps called for a light by the prearranged signal, so that we might see what had been done, our dead friends being evidently rather proud of their achievement.
I myself was once lifted at a seance in rather an unusual way—at least I have not heard of any other case exactly similar. It was at one of the earliest of the public seances which I attended, and many people entirely unknown to me were present. Some ladies on the opposite side of the table cried out that a hand was patting and caressing them, but this in absolute darkness did not seem to be entirely convincing; so that when their exclamations of delight and gratitude to the “dear spirit” were becoming a little monotonous I asked quietly: “Will the spirit be so kind as to come across and touch me?” I had hardly expected any response, but the “spirit” took me promptly at my word; my hand was instantly seized in a strong grasp, and pulled upwards so that I was compelled to rise from my chair. Even when I stood upright, the upward pull still continued, so I hastily stepped on to the seat of my chair. Still the steady irresistible pull, and a moment later I was hanging in the air by one hand, and still ascending. My knuckles touched the smooth, cold surface of the plastered ceiling—the room was a lofty one —and then, apparently through the ceiling, another hand patted mine softly, and I felt myself sinking. Directly afterwards my feet touched the chair, and only then the firm grasp loosened, giving me a final hearty hand-shake as it left me. I climbed down from my chair, convinced that “the clasp of a vanished hand” might sometimes be a fairly strong one.
When I told this story to sceptics afterwards I was always met with one of two explanations. First, that there was a trap-door in that ceiling, and that some mechanical device was employed; secondly, that the medium was standing on the table in the darkness, and lifted me himself. To the first suggestion I reply that the ceiling was plain, smooth, whitewashed plaster, with never a crack in it, for I climbed again upon my chair in full light afterwards to examine it; and though it was some distance beyond my reach, it would have been utterly impossible to miss seeing a crack if one had been there. Besides, my request could not have been foreseen, and arrangements made to grant it in so striking a manner. As to the second hypothesis, the medium was a small, spare man, and I weigh over thirteen stone; perhaps the sceptic who suggests this will himself stand upon the edge of a circular dining-table with one central support, and then with one hand lift a much heavier man than himself straight up above his own head, holding him suspended merely by one of his hands all the while.
The probabilities are that all the cases of lifting which I have quoted or described were performed by materialized hands, just as in this last experience of my own. There is quite another method of levitation which is occasionally practiced in Oriental countries—a much more occult and scientific method, dependent for its success upon the knowledge and use of a power of repulsion which balances the action of gravitation. I have also seen that, and indeed every student of practical magic is familiar with its employment; but it does not seem to me at all probable that this power was called into requisition in any of the above cases.
Gravitation is in fact a force of a magnetic nature, and may be reversed and changed into repulsion, just as ordinary magnetism can be. Such a reversal of this peculiar type of magnetism can be produced at will by one who has learnt its secret, but it has also frequently been produced unintentionally by ecstatics of various types. It is related, for example, both of St. Teresa and of St. Joseph of Cupertino that they were often thus levitated while engaged in meditation. But I fancy that those who are levitated at a spiritualistic seance are generally simply upborne by the materialized hands of the dead.
These same materialized hands manage all the smaller business of the seance; they wind up the perennial musical box and wave it over the heads of the sitters; they play (sometimes quite sweetly) upon that curious kind of miniature zither which is usually euphoniously termed “fairy bells”; they sprinkle water or perfume sometimes; they bring flowers and fruits and even lumps of sugar, which I have known them deftly to insert into the mouths of their friends.
It is usually they also that are employed in slate-writing, though this may sometimes be managed still more rapidly by means of precipitation, to which we shall make reference presently. But generally the fragment of pencil enclosed between the slates is guided by a hand, of which only just the tiny points sufficient to grasp it are materialized.
One well-known medium in London used to carry this slate-writing to a high degree of perfection some fifty years ago. It was the finest possible performance to which to take the bigoted sceptic, who boasted that nothing ever happened or would happen while he was present. One made an appointment with the medium for, say, eleven o’clock on a bright summer morning; one took the sceptic into a stationer’s shop on the way and made him buy two ordinary school slates, put a tiny crumb of slate-pencil between them (or sometimes two or three fragments of different colours) and then have them packed up in brown paper and strongly tied. One then purchased a stick of the best sealing wax and requested the sceptic to seal the string with his own seal in as many places as he wished—the more the better—and on no account whatever to allow that parcel to go out of his hands.
Then we proceeded to the medium’s house and commenced the seance, cautioning the sceptic to sit upon his parcel in order to make sure that no one tampered with his slates. The medium commenced operations with slates of his own, which were always lying upon the table for examination before the seance began; and the sceptic had usually elaborate theories about these, as to how messages had already been written upon them, and washed out with alcohol so that they would presently reappear; or else that of course they would presently be dropped out of sight and others substituted for them by sleight-of-hand. It was best as a rule to let him talk, and take no notice, knowing that one could afford to bide one’s time.
The medium usually held a single slate pressed with one hand against the under surface of the table—a little plain wooden table with no drawers, and obviously no contrivance of any sort about it—not even a cloth upon it. Under these conditions answers were written to any simple question, or any sentence dictated was faithfully taken down. Here the sceptic usually interposed by requesting that a sentence might be written in Sanskrit or Chinese or the Cherokee dialect, and was hugely triumphant if the controlling “spirit” confessed that he did not happen to know these languages. Occasionally he fetched somebody who did know them, and then the sceptic was somewhat staggered, though he still clung to the idea that somehow or other the whole thing was a fraud.
Presently, however, when the seance got into full swing, one insinuatingly asked the directing entities whether they could write upon our own slates; and though I have once or twice been told that they feared the power was not sufficient, in three cases out of four the reply was in the affirmative. Then one turned to the sceptic and requested him to produce his parcel, asking him to examine the seals so as to be perfectly certain that it had not been touched. He was then courteously requested to hold the sealed parcel in his own hands above the table, the medium perhaps taking hold of one corner of it, or perhaps merely laying his hand lightly upon it. Then the sceptic was further requested to formulate a mental question, but on no account to give any indication as to its nature. He did this, and it was generally an interesting study to watch the expression of his face when he heard the sound of rapid writing going on in the parcel between his hands. In a few moments three quick taps signified that the message was finished, and the medium removed his hand, gravely asking the sceptic to examine his seals and make sure that they were intact.
He then cut his parcel open, and found the inside surfaces of his new slates covered with fine writing on the subject of his mental question. Usually for the time he was speechless, and went home to think it over; but by the end of the week he had generally made up his mind that we had been in some inexplicable way deceived or hallucinated, and that “of course we did not really see what we thought we saw.” Nevertheless it was a hard nut to crack, and his frequent references later to “that clever but ridiculous performance” showed that it remained in his mind, and had perhaps done him more good than he was willing to own.
The answers given in this way sometimes displayed considerable intelligence and knowledge. It appeared to me, however, that they were often considerably modified by decided opinions on the part of the questioner—whether from a friendly desire to please him, or because the ideas were largely a reflection of those in his own mind, there was not sufficient evidence to show. For example, I remember myself receiving a perfectly definite statement regarding the existence of certain persons in whom I was deeply interested; the communicating entity not only positively asserted this existence, but adopted towards them precisely my own attitude. Yet I afterwards discovered that only a week previously what professed to be the same entity had, in writing answers for another person, totally denied that any such personages existed at all! It may have been that here we had to deal with two entirely different communicating entities, one masquerading for some reason or other under the name and title of the other; but it is at least significant that in each case the opinion expressed agreed precisely with that of the questioner. On the other hand, I am bound to admit that in many cases the answers given were not at all what any of us expected, and contained information which could by no possibility have been known to any of those present.
It is not difficult to see why this slate-writing should be one of the easiest forms of conveying a message, and indeed the only kind of writing that can readily be performed in full daylight. For the fact is that it never is performed in daylight, even though the surrounding conditions are so absolutely satisfactory to us. Between the two slates or between the slate and the table there is always the darkness which makes materialization easy. When a physical body is slowly grown and built together in the ordinary way, when it is thoroughly permeated by the vital principle and definitely energized by the spirit, it becomes a relatively permanent organism, and can withstand the impact of vibrations from without, within certain limits.
We must remember that materialization is a mere imitation of this—a mere concourse of fortuitous atoms, temporarily put together in opposition to the ordinary laws and arrangements of nature. It therefore needs to be constantly held together with care and difficulty, and any violent vibration striking it from without readily breaks it up. It must also be remembered that the matter employed in materialization is almost all withdrawn from the body of the medium, and is therefore subject to a strong attraction which is constantly drawing it back to him. The strong and rapid vibrations of ordinary light will therefore dissolve a materialization almost instantaneously, except under exceptional circumstances.
It can be maintained for some time in presence of a faint light, such as that given by gas turned low, or by what is called a “luminous slate”, which is usually a piece of wood or cardboard coated with luminous paint, and exposed to the sun during the day, so that at night it may give out a faint phosphorescent radiance. It is, however, among the resources of the astral plane to produce a soft light the effect of which seems to be far less violent; and in this it is sometimes possible for the hand which writes to maintain its corporeal existence for a considerable period, as is evidenced by the following extract from a description of a seance held with Kate Fox by Mr. Livermore on August 18, 1861.
The cards became the center of a circle of light a foot in diameter. Carefully watching this phenomenon, I saw the hand holding my pencil over one of the cards. This hand moved quietly across from left to light, and when one line was finished, moved back to commence another. At first it was a perfectly shaped hand, afterwards it became a dark substance, smaller than the human hand, but still apparently holding the pencil, the writing going on at intervals, and the whole remaining visible for nearly an hour. I can conceive of no better evidence for the reality of spirit-writing. Every possible precaution against deception had been taken. I held both hands of the medium throughout the whole time. I have the cards still, minutely written on both sides; the sentiments there expressed being of the most elevated character, pure and spiritual. (The Debatable Land, p. 301.)
This account gives us an example of the difficulty, even under these exceptionally favourable conditions, of maintaining a materialization for so long a period. It seems to have been impossible to preserve the shape of the hand, but something visible which could still hold and guide the pencil was somehow kept together until the necessary work was finished.
It seems probable that the working of the little board called planchette is sometimes accomplished by means of a partial materialization, for I have seen cases in which it distinctly moved underneath the fingers which were resting upon it, and was in no way moved by them. When it is clearly the hand which moves the board, this phenomenon of course belongs to our first class, in which the body of the medium is utilized, though that medium may be entirely unconscious of what is being done.
I have also seen some good specimens of painting which were probably executed in the same manner as the writing above described. I say probably, because as they were executed in darkness, it is impossible to be absolutely sure; they may have been precipitations, although as that is a more difficult process, I do not think that it is likely to have been employed. There have been mediums who have made a specialty of this production of pictures, and it is certainly a very pleasing exhibition of astral power. I have twice seen a little landscape, perhaps eight inches by five, produced in total darkness on a marked piece of paper in from fifteen to twenty minutes. The execution was fair, the colours were natural and harmonious, and some of the paint was still wet when the lights were turned up. I am perfectly sure that the sheet of paper employed was in each case that which I brought with me. In one instance, just before the lights were turned down, I tore a curiously jagged fragment off one of the corners of the piece and kept it in my own possession until the picture was completed, and found when the lights were turned up that it fitted exactly into the tear in the sheet upon which the landscape was drawn.
On neither of these occasions was the landscape one which I recognized, though at the house of the same medium I have seen well-executed paintings of scenes with which I was familiar, which I was told had been produced in exactly the same manner. In both of these cases a box of water-colours, a palette and brushes were provided, and after the seance they bore signs of having been used. I have also on another occasion, and with a different medium, seen a much larger drawing in coloured chalks produced in darkness in even less time, but in this case the execution, though bold and dashing, was certainly crude and erratic. The subject in this case was a lady’s head, and the likeness was recognizable, though not flattering. On all these occasions it was absolutely certain that the medium was in no way concerned in the production of the pictures, his hands being held during the whole time, and the outline of his form being sufficiently visible in two of the cases to prevent him from moving without instant detection.
A man who has attained facility during life in the management of any kind of instrument does not lose his power when he drops his physical body. I have heard both a violin and a flute played fairly well by invisible hands, when there was light enough to see that the instruments were not being touched by any of the persons present in the physical body. I have also many times seen a concertina played in the same way, sometimes while I myself held the other end of the instrument. Many times also a piano has been played in my presence by invisible hands, and it seemed to make no difference whether the lid enclosing the keyboard was open or shut. Sometimes, before beginning to play, the dead man would dash back the lid, and then we could see the keys depressed as the playing went on precisely as though we ourselves had been operating upon the instrument. If during the performance we closed the piano, the playing usually went on just as if it had remained open. On two occasions I have heard the wires of a piano played without moving the keys, just as the strings of a harp might be.
Another instance of a man who after death retained his power to operate a machine to which he had been accustomed during life is given by Sir William Crookes on p. 95 of his book. The operator was not exactly using his instrument, but he undoubtedly showed that he still possessed the power to do so, had the instrument been there. The story is as follows:
During a seance with Mr. Home, a small lath, which I have before mentioned, moved across the table to me, in the light, and delivered a message to me by tapping my hand; I repeating the alphabet, and the lath tapping me at the right letters. The other end of the lath was resting on the table, some distance from Mr. Home’s hands.
The taps were so sharp and clear, and the lath was evidently so well under control of the invisible power which was governing its movements, that I said: “Can the intelligence governing the motion of this lath change the character of the movements, and give me a telegraphic message through the Morse alphabet by taps on my hand?” (I have every reason to believe that the Morse code was quite unknown to any other person present, and it was only imperfectly known to me.) Immediately I said this, the character of the taps changed, and the message was continued in the way I had requested. The letters were given too rapidly for me to do more than catch a word here and there, and consequently I lost the message; but I heard sufficient to convince me that there was a good Morse operator at the other end of the line, wherever that might be.
In the case of the flute above mentioned it is obvious that the performer must have materialized not only finger-tips to press the keys, but also a mouth with which to blow. It is by no means uncommon at a seance for the dead man to construct vocal organs sufficiently to produce intelligible sound, though this appears to be (as indeed one would naturally suppose) a much more difficult feat than the production of a hand. Often the construction of such organs seems to be imperfect, and the resulting voice is a hoarse whistling whisper. I think almost invariably the first attempts of an unaccustomed ghost to materialize a voice go no further than the softest of whispers; but on the other hand the “spirit guide” of a regular medium, having practiced the art of materializing organs and speaking through them many hundreds of times, often possesses a perfectly natural and characteristic voice.
All those who have been in the habit of attending the seances of certain well-known mediums during the last half-century must be familiar with the round, sonorous voice of the director who elects to be known by the name of “John King”, and the hearty, friendly manner in which he greets those whom he has come to know and trust. I well remember an occasion when, having invited a medium down to my cottage in the country, we were walking together across a wheat-field, and a well-known “spirit-voice” joined in our conversation in the most natural way in the world, just exactly as if a third person had been walking with us.
I am quite aware that the ordinary explanation of a “spirit-voice” is that it is an effort of ventriloquism on the part of the medium, but when one recognizes the voice as one well known in earth-life that explanation seems a trifle unsatisfactory. Also it seems to me to fail to account for the fact that on one occasion, at a seance in my own house, the unseen performers treated us to a song in which all four parts were distinctly audible, two of them being taken by very good female voices—and that although the medium was of the male sex (and in a deep trance anyhow) and none but men (trusted friends of my own) were physically present in the room.
Under this head of partial materialization we must also include what are sometimes called “spirit photographs”; for whatever can be photographed must of course be physical matter, capable of reflecting some of the rays of light which can act upon the sensitized plate of the camera. It does not at all follow that it need be composed of matter visible to us, for the camera is sensitive to a large range of actinic ultra-violet rays which produce no impression whatever upon our eyes as at present constituted.
I know enough of photography to realize how easily a so-called “spirit-photograph” could be produced by trickery, but I also know that there are a great many which were as a matter of fact not so produced. I have seen a large number of those which were taken under test conditions for Mr. W. T. Stead when he was investigating this curious form of mediumship, and I have also been favoured with a sight of several of those taken by and for our late Vice-President, Mr. A. P. Sinnett.
A good typical case of this photography of the partially materialized dead was related to me by a veteran army officer. It seems that he had lost (as we usually call it) three daughters by death, within a comparatively short space of time. One day in a large city, hundreds of miles from home, he saw an advertisement of a photographer who professed to be able to produce portraits of the dead, so he turned into his studio then and there, and asked to be taken. He gave no indication of what he expected, or indeed that he expected anything at all beyond his own portrait; and he asserts that it was absolutely impossible that he could have been, in any way known to the photographer. Yet when he called for the portraits three floating faces appeared grouped about his own, fainter than his, but unmistakably recognizable. He showed me the photograph, and also the portraits of his daughters taken during their physical life; they were unquestionably the same young ladies as those in the picture taken after their death.
In Photographing the Invisible Dr. James Coates gives us a number of examples of photographs on which appear psychic “extras,” as they are sometimes called. Many of these were produced under conditions which precluded any sort of preparation of the plates, and were developed in the presence of reliable witnesses. A curious example on the photograph of a Chinese man is recounted by Mr. Edward Wyllie, a well-known American “spirit-photographer”. (pp. 167-8.)
I had been giving tests to some gentlemen in Los Angeles in connection with the Psychic Research Society. Some were convinced of the fact of psychic photography, and others were not. It was suggested by one member it would be a good thing if I could obtain “extras” on the plate of someone wholly ignorant of both the subject and of spiritualism. Then it could not be said that their knowledge or attitude had anything to do with the results. It was not easy to get someone with the qualifications desired. When one day “Charlie,” a Chinese laundryman, called for my clothes, it struck me to ask him: “Charlie, like to have your picture taken?” “No,” he replied. “No likee that.” He knew that I was a photographer, but had a dislike, I think, to photography, as most Chinese have. I tried to persuade him after he had called two or three times. I showed him that there could be no harm in it, and I would take a “glass” (as negatives are called) for nothing, and print him some nice pictures of himself. Charlie wanted to go home and change his clothes, but I knew it would not do to let him slip, and got him to sit. He was very much scared. I made his mind easy and asked him to come in a few days, and I would give him the pictures. When I developed the negative there were two “extras “on it—a Chinese boy and some Chinese writing. When Charlie came round I showed him the print, and he said: “That my boy; where you catchee him? “I asked him if it was not one of his cousins in the city. He said, “No, that my boy. He not here; where you catchee him?” I asked him where his boy was, and he said, “That my boy. He’s in China. Not seen him for three years.”
Charlie would not believe that I had not by some magic got his “boy here”. Charlie then brought other Chinamen—friends of his own—to see the picture, and they all recognised the youngster. Charlie did not know that his son was dead. As far as he knew, he was alive and well.
Mr. Wyllie also had remarkable success in obtaining the same sort of psychic impressions upon photographs of letters and locks of hair. Dr. Coates relates (p. 197 et seq.) that before Mr. Wyllie was induced to visit Scotland, a test of his photography was proposed in The Two Worlds (1st Jan., 1909). In consequence about forty people sent locks of hair to be photographed. All got some “extras,” some of which were identifiable portraits of departed friends.
Among the experimenters were Mrs. A. S. Hunter, widow of Dr. Archibald Hunter of Bridge of Allan, and Mme. A. L. Pogosky, also a widow, director of the Russian Peasant Industries in London. The photograph of Mme. Pogosky’s card had two psychic faces upon it—one of Dr. Hunter, and the other that of the deceased wife of Mr. Auld, a friend of Dr. Coates’. Mrs. Hunter’s photograph showed, in addition to the letter and lock of hair which she had sent, three forms, identified as an old schoolfellow, and a niece and nephew, all dead. Referring to the picture of Mrs. Auld, Dr. Coates remarks:
Here we have an identified portrait of a lady, taken by a stranger six thousand miles away, wholly ignorant of Mr. Auld or ourselves. I had not written this medium (Mr. Wyllie) till the 17th of March, 1909, nearly two months after this picture was obtained, and of its existence none in Rothesay were aware till... nearly fourteen months afterwards. Truly truth is stranger than fiction.
Later Mr. Wyllie visited Dr. and Mrs. Coates in Scotland, and took many “spirit” photographs there. When he was packing up his things preparatory to taking his departure Mrs. Coates (who was herself psychic) had a sudden impulse to ask for a sitting. Mr. Wyllie had packed away his favourite camera, but there were still in the room a Kodak camera and some plates purchased locally, that is, in Rothesay. One of the plates was exposed on Mrs. Coates, and when developed showed also a good likeness of her grandmother (p. 223),
That Mr. Wyllie’s “extras” could be produced under test conditions was proved by the report of a test committee, appointed by the Glasgow Association of Spiritualists. They stipulated that they should provide the camera and plates; the former belonged to one of the committee, the latter, eight in number, were bought at the nearest chemist’s twenty minutes before the meeting, and were put into slides in the chemist’s dark room. After the plates were exposed they were immediately placed in the camera bag and taken away by the committee and developed. Under these test conditions several of the plates showed psychic impressions. (pp. 253-6.)
In three valuable little books—The Reality of Psychic Phenomena (1916), Experiments in Psychical Science (1919), and Psychic Structures (1921)—the late Mr. W. J. Crawford, D.Sc., of Belfast, Ireland, has given us a carefully classified account of a long series of investigations into the telekinetic phenomena of the Goligher Circle, his studies having been carried on especially from the mechanical point of view. The circle is so called because it is composed of the principal medium, Miss Kathleen Goligher, and other members of her family, namely her three sisters, brother, father and brother-in-law, with only occasional visitors.
It is characteristic of Dr. Crawford’s methods that at the very beginning of his research he should seek to convince himself and the rest of the circle that they were merely subjects of hallucinatory sense-images induced by the peculiar conditions of the seance-room. This he did by taking a number of phonograph records. He explained to the invisible operators, with whom he was in communication by means of raps, that he was about to make a record, and requested them to give as complete a selection as possible of the various sounds which they had been producing in the circle, and all within the space of time permitted by the revolutions of the recording cylinder. About this he says:
I then asked the operators if all was ready, and on their replying by three raps in the affirmative I called out, “Start”. Immediately a thunderous blow resounded on the floor and I started the machine. Half a dozen sledgehammer blows, varieties of double and treble knocks, and shufflings like sand-paper rubbing the floor were given in succession; the hand-bell was lifted and rung; the legs of the table were raised and knocked on the floor; the sound of wood being apparently sawn was heard; and so on. They kept up this terrific noise until I called out, “Stop”; when, at the word, perfect silence reigned. We then tried the record, and found that most of the noises had been recorded; but the bell, owing to its being rung too far away, was almost inaudible. I therefore suggested to the operators that they should ring the bell right in the middle of the circle and as near the trumpet of the phonograph as possible, and I promised not to upset their conditions of equilibrium by attempting to touch it. Accordingly, during the taking of the next record the bell was rung within an inch or two of my hand, and so close to the trumpet that it accidently touched it and knocked it off the instrument. This partly spoiled the record.
In all, three good records and the partly spoiled one were taken, and these show beyond dispute, as was anticipated, that the sounds are ordinary objective sounds. (R. P. P., pp. 30-1.)
Further on in the same book Dr. Crawford records a number of experiments in which he weighed the medium before and during the levitation of the table or stool placed in the center of the circle of the sitters, it being never in contact with any portion of the body or dress of the medium or any other sitter. His conclusions as to this are given as follows:
(a) When the table is steadily levitated, a weight is added to the medium very nearly equal to the weight of the table.
(b) The seat of the reaction would therefore appear to be chiefly the medium herself.
(c) Taking an average over the six cases, the increased weight on the medium seems to be about 3 per cent less than the weight of the levitated table. (pp. 44-5.)
Wishing then to discover if any of the weight of the steadily levitated table was added to other members of the circle, he asked Mr. Morrison (the brother-in-law) to sit on the chair on the weighing machine which had previously been occupied by the medium, while she sat on an ordinary chair in the circle. When the table was levitated, Mr. Morrison’s weight rose two ounces. As this might have been due to other causes, Dr. Crawford balanced the steelyard of the weighing machine and then, asked the operators to jerk the table up and down in the air. While it was moving, the steelyard went up and down lightly against the stops, in synchronism with the movement of the table. After a number of such experiments he drew the conclusion that when the table is steadily levitated the reaction falls upon the body of the medium to the extent of at least 95%, and that a small proportion is distributed over the bodies of the other sitters. Thus:
As Admiral Moore suggests, when a table is steadily levitated the effect is precisely the same as it would be if the medium lifted it herself with her hands, aided by a very slight assistance from the members constituting the circle—say, the help that could be given by a force applied by one finger each. (p. 48.)
Dr. Crawford goes on to relate that in the course of many investigations, when he and others sought to press down the levitated table they encountered an elastic resistance, but to their surprise, when they tried to push the table towards the medium they found a perfectly rigid or solid resistance. Whenever a visitor undertook to try to prevent the table from rising, it did so nevertheless; first the two legs nearest to the medium rose, as though the table were being tilted at the inclination most suitable for a projection from the medium to gain the shortest and most powerful grasp. As this occurred wherever the visitor might be standing (though it must be understood that he was in no case permitted to do so directly between the medium and the table) it would seem that there is a projection in the direction suggested by the diagram reproduced herewith. (Fig. 4, p. 73.)
Further experiments with a compression spring-balance under the table, when the operators were requested to levitate the table in their usual manner, gave the result, to take one example, that the vertical reaction for the seance table weighing103/8 lb, was greater than 28 lb, and showed that there was also a horizontal pressure against the balance and away from the medium, amounting to about 5 lb. (p. 120). A stool weighing 23/4 lb when levitated above a drawing board weighing 51/2 lb resting upon a compression spring-balance, registered a downward force of about 24 lb. In this class of experiments it is evident that in the total we have pressing upon the drawing-board the weight of the stool plus that of the pillar of psychic matter which is supporting it. In the earlier type of experiment mentioned above, we have evidently a cantilever support from the medium, not resting on the floor. The full researches into these matters showed Dr. Crawford that in most cases the cantilever form was used when it would not inconvenience the medium by tending to overbalance her. (p. 131.)
Dr. Crawford next invented a very delicate “contact-maker”. Two pieces of cardboard (c) and wood (w) were hinged together as shown in the diagram (Fig. 22, p. 139). Two small strips of clock-spring (ss) were attached to these, and to an electric bell circuit, so that when any pressure was exerted upon the wood and cardboard sides so as to bring the two strips into contact the bell would ring. The instrument was so delicate that heavy breathing upon it was sufficient to cause contact. With this instrument Dr. Crawford explored the field under the levitated table and near to the medium, and thus found the situation of the stress-lines of the force from the medium to the table, as in both cases the bell rang at certain points and the levitation was then interrupted in some degree. On this he writes as follows:
I have some reason to believe that the establishing of these stress-lines (the links) is for the operators a difficult process, and that once formed they remain more or less in situ for the duration of the seance. I think they may be likened to tunnels somewhat laboriously cut through resisting material. Their basis seems to be physical, for I have actually felt the motion of material particles near the ankles (and proceeding outwards from them) of the medium (the stress-lines seem to commence sometimes at the wrists and ankles of my medium), and I have noticed during the rapping that when my hand interferes with the particle flow—which seems to correspond with a stress-line—the rapping has ceased for quite a long time and could seemingly only be restarted with difficulty. In other words, the path had been obliterated. I do not think the particles of matter (for such I am assuming them to be) are the cause of the pressure which lifts the table. I think they are the connecting links which allow the psychic pressure to be transmitted, much in the manner that a wire is a path which enables electricity to flow. (pp. 140-1).
In Experiment 65 (p. 145) Dr. Crawford describes what this substance feels like to the touch. He says:
I felt no sense of pressure whatever, but I did feel a clammy, cold, almost oily sensation—in fact, an indescribable sensation, as though the air there were mixed with particles of dead and disagreeable matter. Perhaps the best word to describe the feeling is “reptilian”. I have felt the same substance often—and I think it is a substance—in the vicinity of the medium, but there it has appeared to me to be moving outwards from her. Once felt, the experimenter always recognizes it again. This was the only occasion on which I have felt it under the levitated table, though perhaps it is always there, but not usually in such an intense form. Its presence under the table and also in the vicinity of the medium shows that it has something to do with the levitation; and in short I think there can be little doubt that it is actual matter temporarily taken from the medium’s body and put back at the end of the seance, and that it is the basic principle underlying the transmission of psychic force.
The above-mentioned test was made with his hand under the table near the top while it was levitated. When he moved his hand to and fro among the psychic stuff the table soon dropped. On page 225 he also mentions that he has often felt the same cold, clammy, reptile-like sensation near the ankles of the medium when rapping was taking place close to her feet at the commencement of a seance, though he would never experiment in this way at an important sitting, because he found that it interrupted the flow of matter and put a stop to the phenomena for the time being.
The sensation would lead him to believe that the same quality of matter is present during rapping as under the levitated table, and he noticed that in the former case it is in motion in the direction from the body of the medium outwards; this, he says, can easily be observed by the spore-like sensation as of soft particles moving gently against the hand. He adds that during levitation of the table he never actually interrupted the line of stress from the medium to the table with his hand, but he sometimes placed delicate pressure-recording apparatus in that line, which showed that there was some mechanical pressure close to the body of the medium and acting outwards from her towards the levitated table. In every case the placing of the apparatus in that line soon caused the table to drop.
In Psychic Structures (p. 61) he adds that he distinctly felt a cold breeze issuing from the neighbourhood of the medium’s ankles and the region just above her shoes, which appeared to be caused by material particles of a cold, disagreeable, spore-like matter. As his investigations proceeded he came to know quite certainly that what he was really doing was to cut across the part of the structure which was not heavily materialized, as is the end with which its work is done.
Sometimes Dr. Crawford did come in contact with the end of a rod. On some occasions the operators held the end of a rod stationary in the air while he pressed against it and kicked it, and found it “softish but very dense”. He says (Psychic Structures, p. 31) that during one of the tests, when he was poking about the floor in the medium’s neighbourhood with a wooden rod, he accidently came against the end of a psychic rod which happened to be out an inch or two up in the air. In the same place he mentions that the suckers on the ends of the rods can often be heard slipping over the wood, when they are presumably being forced off or are taking new grips. He mentions (p. 32) an occasion when the table suddenly dropped about six inches in the air and simultaneously there was heard a swishing noise.
A visitor to the Circle, Mr. Arthur Hunter, also describes what he himself felt, as follows:
Towards the end of the seance I asked the “operators” (having first obtained the permission of the leader of the circle) if they could place the end of the structure in one of my hands. On the reply “Yes” I went inside the circle, lay down on my right side on the floor alongside the table, and placed my gloved right hand between the two nearest legs of the table. Almost immediately I felt the impact of a nearly circular rod-like body about 2 inches in diameter on the palm of my hand, which was held palm upwards. (The back of my hand was towards the floor and at a distance of about 5 in. from it.) This circular rod-like body was flat at the end, i.e., as if the rod were sawn across. It maintained a steady pressure evenly distributed over the area of impact, and was soft but firm to the sense of touch. I estimate the magnitude of pressure at from 4 to 6 oz. Without being requested to do so, the “operators” moved this rod-like structure until I felt the clearly defined edges of the circular blunt end. This was accompanied by a sensation of roughness, as though the edge were serrated, such a feeling, I believe, as would be given by a substance similar to very fine emery paper, (pp. 21-2.)
In addition to this feeling, he had occasionally had fitful glimpses of the psychic matter in the ordinary red light of the seance room, but in 1919 Dr. Crawford made a discovery which enabled the form to be much more easily seen. A sheet of cardboard about one foot square was covered with luminous paint, exposed to sunlight for some hours and then placed on the floor within the circle. In the dark seance-room such luminous sheets shone quite strongly. While the medium had her feet and ankles locked in a box the operators were asked to bring out the structure and hold it over the phosphorescent sheet. In a short time a curved body somewhat resembling the toe of a boot advanced into the light. The operators modified it into many shapes, while Dr. Crawford watched the changes. The end portion would contract and gradually lengthen until a pointed shape was produced, and then that would sometimes curl round into a hook, twisting and untwisting before his eyes. It could also spread out sideways until it resembled a mushroom or a cabbage. The flexibility, he says, was marvellous. (pp. 111-3).
Following upon a great number and variety of experiments Dr. Crawford put forward his cantilever theory for levitation of light tables, based upon the fact that (1) during steady levitation with no apparatus or other impedimenta below the table, the weight of the table is practically added to that of the medium; (2) the medium is under stress, the muscles of her arms from wrist to shoulder being rigid, and other parts of the body being similarly affected, though to a less degree, and (3) there is no reaction on the floor under the table. The idea that the force employed is in the form of a cantilever issuing direct to the table from the body of the medium is also supported by the facts that vertical pressure meets with elastic resistance, while pressure towards the medium meets with solid resistance. His summation of the theory, after considering all mechanical evidence, and after conversing on the subject with the operators by means of raps, was that:
The cantilever arm gets under the table—probably a more or less straight arm in this case, as there is little stress. Whatever the physical composition of the substratum of the end of the arm may be, it has the power to take an adhesive grip on certain substances, such as wood, with which it comes into contact. The broad columnar end of the arm grips adhesively the under surface of the table. (R.P.P., p. 167).
On page 230 (R. P. P.) this theory is confirmed by a lady clairvoyant who happened to be present at some of the experiments. She said that she saw under the table, close to the under surface and extending down a little way, a whitish vapoury substance which increased in density when the table was levitated. She was able to call out that a movement was about to occur before it actually took place, by noticing the increase of density and opacity. She explained that the column did not reach to the floor, but that a band of it came from the medium and was continuous with that under the table, and also that there were very thin bands, like ribbons, coming from all the other sitters as well, and joining it. She also saw various “spirit forms” and “spirit hands” manipulating the psychic material.
But the culmination of proof arrived when Dr. Crawford succeeded in taking photographs of the structure. Quite a number of photographs of matter thus issuing from the medium and forming these structures have been published in Psychic Structures. The first of these faces page 10, and shows the general form of the structure as above described, and the fact that it is connected not only with the medium but also with other sitters,
In Experiments in Psychical Science (p. 14) Dr. Crawford recounts how he obtained from the operators a description of the dimensions and shape of a normal levitating cantilever. They said that the top of the columnar part of the cantilever is spread out into a broad flat surface of area approximating to the under surface of the table, that the vertical and horizontal sections are about 4 inches in diameter, the latter being 3 or 4 inches above the floor, and that just before entering the body of the medium the rod widens out to a diameter of about 7 inches. Dr. Crawford drew the figure which we reproduce herewith (Fig. 6, E.P.S., p. 15) to show these facts.
It was found in certain experiments (E.P.S., p. 31), that when the levitated table was heavily weighted the medium’s body swung gently forward, and she said that she felt herself being urged forward, though she was not conscious of any mechanical pressure. When she swung strongly forward the table dropped. Dr. Crawford then told her to hold on with her hands to the arms of the chair, while he placed an additional weight on the table, increasing the whole to nearly 48 lbs. “When the table levitated the medium’s chair tilted forward on its two front legs and the table dropped.
All this was further confirmation of the cantilever method. The operators explained (p. 33) that they prefer to work with a cantilever, for when they rest the structure on the floor, as is necessary in some kinds of demonstration, it is badly strained and much energy is required to maintain its rigidity. So for all moderate weights, that is up to about 80 lbs. a true cantilever is employed, but for greater and variable forces they use a supported structure.
The question arose (E.P.S., p. 117) as to how the ends of rods and cantilevers could be acting at their junction with the medium’s body, for certainly a structure several feet long and supporting 30 or 40 lbs. weight at its end, if it were a rigid bar, would cause serious pressure, and indeed injury. Dr. Crawford thinks that the explanation is to be found in the different condition of the matter. He speaks of X-matter, which can transmit through itself direct and shear stresses, but cannot transmit them from itself to ordinary matter. Then he posits Y-matter, a modified form of the former, which is what is usually called materialized substance. Then he says:
The Y-matter at the free end of, say, the psychic cantilever, grips the wood of the under-surface of the table, which is then levitated. Weight of table is transmitted to this Y-matter, and from the latter to the X-matter of the body of structure. The mechanical stress is transmitted along the X-matter right into the body of the medium. At the place where the structure enters the body of the medium, no stress of any kind is transmitted to her flesh, because, at this particular place, we have X-matter and ordinary physical matter in juxtaposition, and stress cannot be directly transmitted from the former to the latter. Within the interstices of the medium’s body the X-matter of the psychic structure probably ramifies, and each ramification at its extremity becomes Y-matter, and this Y-matter is attached to various interior portions of the medium’s body, which thus finally and indirectly take the weight of the table, (p. 119.)
Similar observations and methods of weighing showed that the weight of the medium began to diminish just before light raps were heard. Soon afterwards the weight began to decrease in successive fluxes of 2 to 5 lbs. When a loud blow was given the weight would diminish as much as 20 lbs., and then in the course of six or seven seconds it would come nearly back to what it was before. Numerous observations led to the following conclusions:
From various parts of the body of the medium psychic semi-flexible rods are projected, the end portions of which, being struck sharply on the floor, table, chair, or other body, cause the sharp sounds known generally as raps.
These rods have apparently all the characteristics of solid bodies; they are more or less flexible, and can be varied in length and diameter. Several of the smaller rods, or one of the largest size, may project from the medium at any one time. Each one, especially near its extremity, is more or less rigid, and the rigidity can be varied within limits depending upon conditions of light, the psychic energy available, and so forth. The rigidity is probably ultimately brought about by some kind of molecular action concerning which we are as yet perfectly ignorant—the kind of action that produces the same effect on the cantilever. (p. 193, R. P. P.)
In Experiments in Psychical Science (p. 16), the operators’ own account as to how the raps are produced in two ways is given as follows:
Soft raps, bounding-ball imitation, etc.—by beating the side of the rod on the floor, as one uses a stick for beating a carpet.
Hard raps—by beating the rod on the floor more or less axially.
Dr. Crawford says that while he was obtaining this explanation the operators illustrated the various styles of raps under consideration by actually rapping on the floor. When he asked them what were the approximate dimensions of a rod used to give a fairly hard blow, they gave a sample blow on the floor and told him that the rod used was about 2 inches in diameter and of uniform thickness until just before entering the body of the medium, where it increased to about 3 inches. They also said that the same rod could be used to make a variety of raps: light taps, as though a lead pencil were striking the floor, the bouncing ball imitations, and also hard blows.
The Reality of Psychic Phenomena (p. 201) describes an experimental attempt at typewriting, on a very old Bar-Lock machine. The keys were struck lightly and rapidly as though a pair of hands was playing over them, but they became jammed as though several had been struck simultaneously. Dr. Crawford then explained to the operators that they must strike each key separately and allow time for its return before striking another. The advice was followed by the operators, who, however, succeeding in writing only the following:
358. mbx: gcsq’
Dr. Crawford remarks that the experiment is chiefly interesting as showing that the keys can be struck with just the force necessary to produce the correct result. He adds that the letters on the keys were in some cases much worn, so that perhaps the operators found some difficulty in reading them.
A more successful attempt at typewriting was made at one of the sittings of Mr. Franek Kluski, and is recorded in Dr. Greley’s book Clairvoyance and Materialization (p. 269). The seance was one of those intended for the production of paraffin moulds of materialized hands, of which we will give an account in a later chapter. Splashing was heard in the paraffin and the hands were seen by Mr. Broniewski and Prince Lubomirski above the tank, and at the same time a typewriter which was on the table, fully illuminated by red light, began to write. The keys were operated quickly, as by a skilful typist. There was no one near the machine, but the persons holding Mr. Kluski’s hands observed that the reaction was upon him, for they twitched during the writing. The typed words were: “Je suis le sourire de 1’équilibre; mon poème d’amour et de vie emplit les siècles.”
A large number of Dr. Crawford’s experiments were performed by requesting the operators to press the ends of rods into basins or trays of clay or other substance which would take the mould, which were placed under the table. Although the ankles of the medium were securely fastened in various ways, and the feet and legs of the other sitters were also tied so that they could not get within 18 in. of the clay, quite frequently, at first somewhat to the surprise of the investigators, many of the impressions were found to be lined with what resembled stocking marks, while others seemed similar to impressions which might be made with the sole of boot or shoe. All these were examined most carefully, the conclusion being that the forms which resembled the marks of the sole of a shoe could not possibly have been so made, but were due to the elastic distortion of the ends of psychic rods, which have the following peculiarities:
When the free end of the psychic rod is flat it can press on material substances and grip them by adhesion.
The gripping action is a true suction, being due to a difference of air pressure, the air being squeezed out from the space between the flat end of the rod and the body which it is contacting.
In order to produce this suction effect, the end of the rod is covered with what appears to be a thin, pliable skin. As a matter of fact the end of one of these large flat-ended rods often feels soft and plasm-like to the touch. The very finely divided, crater-like appearance of most of the suction marks also shows decisively that the suction end of such rods must possess a soft, pliable surface. (P.S., pp. 39-40.)
The concave impressions varied in size from the mark one could make with one’s little finger to a size of 4 or 5 sq. in., but the largest was less than half the size of the largest flat marks. Their peculiarity was that most of them had the imprint of stocking fabric. This was the usual effect, but on request to the operator they could also be made quite smooth (p. 53). The impression is, however, altogether sharper than anything that can actually be made with a stockinged foot, for in the latter case there is a dull, blunt outline owing to the foot behind the stocking exerting a squeezing effect, no matter how lightly it may be applied. But the psychic impression has little raised edges projecting upwards from the impression left by each thread.
The reason why this impression should appear is given as follows. The actual psychic structure is covered by a film which is formed against the medium’s feet out of psychic matter oozing round about the little holes in the fabric of her stockings. It is at first in a semi-liquid state, and it collects and partly sets on the outer covering of the stocking, and being of a glutinous, fibrous nature, it takes almost the exact form of the stocking fabric. It is pulled off the stocking by the operators and then built round the end of the psychic rod. The large flat impressions, which involve heavy pulls and pushes, have this surface further thickened and strengthened by the application of additional materialized matter, which wholly or partly covers the impression of the stocking (pp. 56-7).
It was soon observed that some of the clay was carried back when the material returned to the medium, and streaks were found upon and within her shoes and stockings, and on the floor between the medium and the bowl of clay. In a few cases, when a sitter felt that he or she had been touched by the rod, marks were also found upon them. All this led Dr. Crawford to try to discover where the structures emerged from the medium. On page 71 he says that the floor all round the medium’s shoes was covered with patches of clay, but where her feet rested on the floor it was clean, which proved that they could not have moved. The clay had been deposited on the edge of the sole of the shoes and in the slight clear space between the edge of the sole and the floor, but had not been able to penetrate where the sole was in actual contact with the floor. It was apparent that the material had then moved up the shoe and gone into it through the lace-holes and over the top, and there were generally particles of clay on the flat of the shoes inside, wherever parts of the foot of the medium were not pressing tightly on the leather. It had also been noticed that there were sometimes peculiar rustling noises in the neighbourhood of the medium’s feet and ankles just prior to the phenomena, and that these were probably due to psychic stuff being sent in fluxes down the material of the stocking. There were also slight flapping noises on the floor as the material was brought out and placed there (p. 81).
These observations led Dr. Crawford to experiment extensively with various powders and colouring matters, in order to trace the path of the material. These investigations are recorded at length in Psychic Structures. I will here give only one or two examples. The following is an account of experiment Z (p. 128):
The medium had her feet on a specially modified electrical apparatus. She had her feet in the seance shoes and wore white stockings. The operators could be heard working away at the legs of the medium. After about twenty minutes they said they wished to deliver a message. This was taken by means of the alphabet and was to the effect that the white colour of the medium’s stockings was affecting the plasma, and that it would be necessary for her to change into black ones. This was done, and phenomena soon commenced. A dish containing flour was placed well beyond the reach of the medium on the floor, and the operators pushed their psychic structures into it. At the end of the seance the shoes and stockings were examined.
Result: Only the right shoe and stocking were affected by the flour. On this stocking there was a large flour-mark right across the interior side, just above the shoe, and there were marks and smudges on the stocking below the level of the shoe to the sole. The magnifying glass showed that the whole sole was covered with flour particles from end to end, and there were particles at the toes.
There was flour all up the front and over the laces of the right shoe, as though the plasma had retreated along the floor, up the front of the shoe to the ankle of the medium on the interior side, and then down between the stocking and the shoes to the sole of the foot. Also there were small particles of flour right to the top of the stocking.
In experiment CC gold paint was used:
Medium had on shoes treated with gold paint, as in the previous seance. At the end many gold particles were found on one stocking along the sole to the heel and up over the heel. Also many particles were found on the stocking fabric to the very top of the stocking. A close inspection showed that there was a regular stream of gold particles right up both stockings to the top, this stream being most prominent about the region of the knees.
Dr. Crawford’s conclusions from these experiments are given on pages 133-4 as follows:
The data given above concerning the movement of powdered substances, such as carmine or flour, from the interior of the shoes of the medium up the sides of her shoes and up her stockings can only lead to one conclusion. The plasma must get into the medium’s shoes in some manner or other. It either originates in her feet and makes its way to the outside by coming up between her shoes and her stockings, or it goes into her shoes first, accomplishes some process there, and then comes out again. It usually issues round the sides of the shoes, up from the middle of the sole of the foot, where the contact between shoe and stocking is slight, although usually there is also a considerable movement up the back of the heel. As I have already indicated, this outward and inward movement of the plasma occurs even if the medium’s feet are laced up in long boots.
In many of the experiments already described, as well as a well-defined carmine path from the feet, there were visible distinct traces of carmine up the stockings as far as the knees, and even up to the top of the stockings. Usually these carmine paths were thickest and most plainly visible round about the ball of the calves at the back, and usually there was more carmine on the stockings between the legs than on the outside. The question then arose as to whether there was a flow of plasma from the medium’s body down the legs, as well as the flow from the feet upwards, or, indeed, whether the whole of the plasma did not come from the trunk of the medium, flow down the legs and then, in some peculiar manner and for some particular reason connected with the building up of the psychic structures, enter her shoes and fill up the space between stockings and leather. For, after all, it has to be remembered that our feet and legs are only pieces of apparatus to enable us to move about, analogous to the wheels of a cart, and that the great centres of nervous energy and reproductive activity are within the body proper.
Further experiments were performed in order to discover whether the plasma issues from the lower part of the trunk as well as returns by it. The following is one such experiment, with the investigator’s conclusions:
A little slightly damp carmine was carefully rubbed on the inside of the legs of the knickers some inches up, and the medium put the knickers on very carefully. At the end of the seance it was found that the carmine had traced paths right down the legs of the knickers, had spread out round the embroidery at the edge, had gone on the stockings, made paths right down the stockings, mostly along the ball of the leg, and had even gone into the shoes, which were clean ones.
Therefore it is certain that plasma issues from the trunk as well as returns thereby.
The quantity of plasma must be considerable, for the carmine had spread round the medium’s legs right to the posterior, and in between the legs to the base of the backbone; i.e. the plasma had at one time or another during the seance occupied practically all the space which did not make close contact with her chair. This result suggests that during interruptions in phenomena, or when light is temporarily lit during a seance, the plasma conceals itself round about the top of the medium’s legs under her clothing, and does not necessarily all return to her body. If it always went back into her body, a considerable time would have to elapse between each burst of phenomena, but this does not usually occur. So long as the plasma is away from the temporary disturbing influence, such as rays of light, the purpose of the operators is served (pp.136-7).
At last came the time when it became possible to take photographs. This could only be done after a careful study of the effect of the phenomena upon the medium. Dr. Crawford had observed (p. 146) that when the medium was sitting on her chair in the ordinary way, and he placed his hands upon her haunches, and the development of psychic action was going on, parts of the flesh seemed to cave in. Then, as the psychic material came back, little round lumps could be felt filling in on the back of the thighs and on the interior of the thighs.
For about a year Dr. Crawford took one photograph each seance night, in the hope that he might ultimately obtain success. The operators had informed him by raps that he might finally expect this, though he had to take care to prevent injury to the medium, as it was necessary gradually to work her up to withstand the shock of the flashlight upon the plasma. He found that the pulse of the medium, which was 84 at the beginning, rose to 120 just before the flash (while the operators were endeavouring to exteriorize a psychic structure fit to be photographed) and then went back to normal gradually, Observation showed that generally during all kinds of phenomena the pulse of the medium rose, the palms of the hands became a little moist and the fingers cool, but neither temperature nor respiration seemed to be affected to any degree. (p. 143).
Ultimately, as we have already said, he succeeded in his photography. As Dr. Crawford puts it:
After innumerable attempts, however, very small patches of plasma were obtained in full view between the medium’s ankles. As time went on these increased in size and variety until great quantities of this psychic material could be exteriorized and photographed. Then the operators began to manipulate it in various ways, building it up into columns, or forming it into single or double arms, moulding it into the different shapes with which I had been long familiar in a general way from previous investigation. Not only did they do this, but they showed unmistakably, by means of set photographs, from what part of the medium’s body the plasma issued, and by means of ingenious arrangements devised by themselves brought out many of its properties. (p. 148).
Dr. Crawford also describes, in Experiments in Psychical Science, his experiments in direct voice phenomena in his own house with a medium known as Mrs. Z. He sat her upon a weighing machine with the weight balanced, while two trumpets were placed upright on the floor within the circle. After about fifteen minutes the lever of the machine fell lightly on the bottom stop, which indicated that her weight was decreasing, and he found that this decrease amounted to about 21/2 lbs. Then suddenly a voice called out from somewhere near the roof within the circle “Weigh me” and a trumpet dropped to the floor, while the medium’s weight immediately returned to its original value. Fifteen minutes later the same thing happened again, the same words were heard, a trumpet dropped and the same weight was recorded.
Although these phenomena took place in the dark, and the weighing was merely felt by Dr. Crawford, it was quite impossible for the medium to have done anything but sit quite still. She weighed nearly 20 stone, and her slightest movement would have been detected, while her lifting anything would have increased, not decreased the weight. Dr. Crawford asked the control if he had been weighing her or the trumpet, but she did not seem to know.
In a later experiment (p. 184) Dr. Crawford arranged to record the direct voice on a phonographic cylinder. He asked the control to bring the mouth of the trumpet up to the horn of the phonograph, and when she said that she was ready, requested her to begin to speak as soon as she heard the buzzing of the machine. Dr. Crawford then says:
The cylinder had made only a few revolutions when the control commenced to sing a song into the horn. This song was three verses in length, and at the end of each verse she interjected remarks such as “How’s that?” etc. I told her to sing a little louder, and during the third verse she sang quite loudly.
I plainly felt the movement of the air just at the mouth of the phonograph horn as the song was being sung, which would seem to indicate that the end of the trumpet was moving to and fro at the spot. Moreover, the control’s voice emanated from a position just at the mouth of the horn. I did not attempt to touch the trumpet, as I knew from experience that if I did so it would be likely to drop. If an end of the trumpet was thus at the mouth of the phonograph horn as it appeared to be, the nearest distance of the other end of the trumpet from the medium must have been well over four feet. At the conclusion of the song, and after I had stopped the instrument, I asked the sitters on either side of the medium if they still had hold of her hands, and they replied in the affirmative. These sitters afterwards told me that during the taking of the record the medium’s hands were vibrating rapidly, as though they were under great nervous stress. (pp. 184-5).
As to these records, Dr. Crawford says that there is in them internal evidence that the voice must have been speaking close to the horn of the phonograph and not from some distance away. He adds that it is well known among people who are continually making records that if the voice speaks too close into the horn a kind of tinny, metallic sound is produced, which phonographic manufacturers call “blasting”. In several places in the two records of the control’s voice this “blasting” is heard, indicating that the voice must have been very close to, if not within, the horn of the phonograph.
I have already mentioned in connection with the phenomenal production of paintings or writings that there is another method by which this may be done, more rapid and efficient, but requiring greater knowledge of the possibilities of the astral plane. This method is usually described as precipitation, and broadly speaking its modus operandi is as follows: The man wishing to write or paint takes a sheet of paper, forms a clear mental image of the writing or the picture, distinct down to the minutest detail, and then by ah effort of will objectifies that image and throws it upon the paper, so that the whole picture or the whole sheet of writing appears instantaneously. It will be seen at once that this demands far greater power and fuller command of resources than is likely to be possessed by the ordinary man, either before or after his death; but just as those who have been trained along that line are capable of producing such a result while still in the physical body, so there are a few among the dead who have learnt how such powers may be exercised.
I have seen cases in which the writing was precipitated not all at once but by degrees, so that it appeared upon the paper in successive words, just as it would have done if written in the ordinary way, except that this process was much more rapid than any writing could ever be. In the same way I have seen a picture form itself slowly, beginning at one side and passing steadily across to the other, the effect being just as though a sheet of paper which had concealed it was slowly drawn off from an already existing picture.
Some persons in performing this feat require to have their materials provided for them; that is to say, if they have to write a letter, the writing material—ink or coloured chalk—must be by their side, or if they have to precipitate a picture the colours must be there either in powder or already moistened. In this case the operator simply disintegrates as much of the material as he requires, and transfers it to the surface of his paper. A more accomplished performer, however, can gather together such material as he needs from the surrounding ether; that is to say, he is practically able to create his materials, and so can sometimes produce results which cannot readily be imitated by any means at our disposal upon the physical plane.
In Photographing the Invisible (pp. 301-3), Dr. J. Coates quotes an experience, recounted by Vice-Admiral W. Usborne Moore, relating to the precipitation of a portrait, which presents a good example of the process often employed:
The next day a portrait was precipitated on to a Steinbach canvas within two feet of me. The Bangs sisters each held one side of the canvas, which was put up against the window, while I sat between them and watched the face and form gradually appear. A few minutes after they began to appear, the psychics (apparently under impression) lowered the canvas toward me until it touched my breast. Mary Bangs then got a message by Morse alphabet on the table: “Your wife is more accustomed to see me in the other aspect.” Up went the canvas again, and I saw the profile and bust, but turned round in the opposite direction; instead of the face looking to the right, it was looking to the left. The portrait then proceeded apace, until all the details were filled in, and in twenty-five minutes it was practically finished. Beyond a little deepening of the colour, and touches here and there by the invisible artist, the picture is the same now as when we arose from the table. The precipitated portrait is very much like a photograph of the person, taken thirty-five years ago (shortly before death), that I had in my pocket during the sitting, which the Bangs, of course, had never seen. The expression of the face, however, is far more ethereal and satisfied than in the photograph.
These instances are but two out of many manifestations I witnessed at the Bangs sisters’ house.
The Admiral refers as follows to a full-length portrait which he obtained in the same way:
On this occasion the canvases arrived from the shop wet, and we had to wait half an hour for them to dry. The next day I went to the shop and complained. The woman who attended said: “The boy who brought your order said you wanted stretched canvases. When he came to take them away, we found he wanted the paper as well, so we put it on at once, and of course they left the shop wet.” I relate this little incident for the benefit of those who vainly imagine that the phenomenon of precipitation may be due to normal causes.
Mr. G. Subba Rau, editor of the West Coast Spectator, Calicut, India, gives an account (p. 317) of the manner in which he received a precipitated portrait of his deceased wife, her photograph being in his pocket without the knowledge of the mediums. Although somewhat incredulous as to the powers of the Bangs sisters, he arranged to have a sitting with them. He mentions that the sisters stated that they saw “apparently a life-size image of the photograph I had with me, and described it correctly in the details. For instance, they saw that I sat, that my wife stood behind, with her hand on my shoulder; that her face was round; that she wore a peculiar jewel on the nose and that her hair was parted; that a dog lay at my feet, and so on.” As to the precipitation of the picture, he adds (p. 318):
They asked me to pick out any two canvas stretchers that lay against the wall, adding that I might bring my own stretchers if I liked. I took out two which were very clean and set them on the table against the glass window. I sat opposite, and the two sisters on either side. Gradually I saw a cloudy appearance on the canvas; in a few moments it cleared into a bright face, the eyes formed themselves and opened rather suddenly, and I beheld what seemed a copy of my wife’s face in the photograph. The figure on the canvas faded away once or twice, to reappear with clearer outline; and round the shoulder was formed a loose white robe. The whole seemed a remarkable enlargement of the face in the photograph. The photograph had been taken some three or four years before her death, and it was noteworthy that the merely accidental details that entered into it should now appear on the canvas. For instance, the nose ornament already referred to, she had not usually worn. Some ornaments were clumsily reproduced. One that she had always worn, which was not distinctly visible in the photograph, was omitted on the canvas. I pointed out these blemishes, and as the result, when I saw the portrait next day, all the ornaments had disappeared. I was satisfied that the portrait had been precipitated by some supernormal agency. As soon as the portrait was finished, I touched a corner of the canvas with my finger, and greyish substance came off. The portrait is still in my possession, and it looks as fresh as ever. It was all done in twenty-five minutes.
The same volume contains several chapters dealing with psychographs, especially written messages impressed on photographic plates which have never been exposed. For example, the Ven. Archdeacon Colley, Rector of Stockton, delivered an Easter sermon on Sunday evening, 3rd April, 1910, in the parish church. This sermon was found written on a half-plate which had been sealed up in a light-proof packet, and held between the hands of six persons for thirty-nine seconds only. Under these circumstances 1710 words were written in eighty-four lines within the small compass of the half-plate. The Archdeacon says (p. 378):
The smallness of the copper-plate-like writing readers it impossible to be reproduced by any engraving; while at times, with our greatly esteemed unpaid mediums in various circles, the writing on our usual quarter-plates is so microscopic, that to enable us to read it a higher power lens is necessary; and the character of the calligraphy in English, archaic Greek, Latin, Hebrew, Italian, French, Arabic, varies continually in our several separate, devotional, and private gatherings, in places from twenty-four to seventy-seven miles apart.
Proofs of the Truth of Spiritualism, by the Rev. Prof. G. Henslow, also contains illustrations and descriptions of many remarkable psychographs (pp. 187 et seq.)
The next point for our consideration is the question of what are called “spirit lights,” that is to say the different varieties of illumination which are produced at a seance by the non-physical participators therein. Sir William Crookes gives a comprehensive catalogue of these on p. 91 of his book before quoted:
Under the strictest test conditions I have seen a solid self-luminous body, the size and nearly the shape of a turkey’s egg, float noiselessly about the room, at one time higher than any one present could reach standing on tip-toe, and then gently descend to the floor. It was visible for more than ten minutes; and before it faded away it struck the table three times, with a sound like that of a hard solid body. During this time the medium was lying back, apparently insensible, in an easy chair.
I have seen luminous points of light darting about and settling on the heads of different persons; I have had questions answered by the flashing of a bright light a desired number of times in front of my face. I have seen sparks of light rising from the table to the ceiling, and again falling upon the table, striking it with an audible sound. I have had an alphabetic communication given by a luminous cloud floating upwards to a picture. Under the strictest test conditions, I have more than once had a solid, self-luminous, crystalline body placed in my hand by a hand which did not belong to any person in the room. In the light, I have seen a luminous cloud hover over a heliotrope on a side-table, break a sprig off, and carry the sprig to a lady; and on some occasions I have seen a similar luminous cloud visibly condense to the form of a hand, and carry small objects about.
I have already described the three varieties of lights which showed themselves to me during my preliminary home experiments without a recognized medium; and though I have seen many such lights since, they have been almost all of the same general character as those. On several occasions, however, I have seen a light much brighter than any of those, apparently of an electrical character, capable of fully lighting up the room, and in one case of blinding brilliance. This latter manifestation is rare at a seance, as, for reasons previously described, it would break up any partial materializations which might be necessary for the production of other phenomena.
Another interesting power at the command of experimenters on the astral plane is that of disintegration and of reintegration, to which we have already referred when speaking of precipitation. This is simply the process of reducing any object to an impalpable powder—in fact, into an etheric or even atomic condition. This may be brought about by the action of extremely rapid vibration, which overcomes the cohesion of the molecules of the object. A still higher rate of vibration, perhaps of a somewhat different type, will further separate these molecules into their constituent atoms. A body thus reduced to the etheric or atomic condition can be moved with great rapidity from one place to another; and the moment that the force which had been exerted to bring it into that condition is withdrawn, it will at once resume its original state.
To answer an obvious objection which will at once occur to the mind of the reader I may be allowed to quote once more a few sentences from The Astral Plane.
Students often at first find it difficult to understand how in such an experiment the shape of the article can be preserved. It has been remarked that if any metallic object—say, for example, a key—be melted and raised to a vaporous state by heat, when the heat is withdrawn it will certainly return to the solid state, but it will no longer be a key, but merely a lump of metal. The point is well taken, though as a matter of fact the apparent analogy does not hold good. The elemental essence which informs the key would be dissipated by the alteration in its condition—not that the essence itself can be affected by the action of heat, but that when its temporary body is destroyed (as a solid) it pours back into the great reservoir of such essence, much as the higher principles of a man, though entirely unaffected by heat or cold, are yet forced out of a physical body when it is destroyed by fire.
Consequently, when what had been the key cooled down into the solid condition again, the elemental essence (of the “earth” or solid class) which poured back into it would not be in any way the same as that which it contained before, and there would be no reason why the same shape should be retained. But a man who disintegrated a key for the purpose of removing it by astral currents from one place to another would be careful to hold the same elemental essence in exactly the same shape until the transfer was completed, and then when his will-force was removed it would act as a mould into which the solidifying particles would now, or rather round which they would be re-aggregated. Thus, unless the operator’s power of concentration failed, the shape would be accurately preserved.
It is in this way that objects are sometimes brought almost instantaneously from great distances at spiritualistic seances, and it is obvious that when disintegrated they could be passed with perfect ease through any solid substance, such, for example, as the wall of a house or the side of a locked box, so that what is commonly called “the passage of matter through matter” is seen, when properly understood, to be as simple as the passage of water through a sieve, or of a gas through a liquid in some chemical experiment.
Since it is possible by an alteration of vibrations to change matter from the solid to the etheric condition, it will be comprehended that it is also possible to reverse the process and to bring etheric matter into the solid state. As the one process explains the phenomenon of disintegration, so does the other that of materialization; and just as in the former case a continued effort of will is necessary to prevent the object from resuming its original state, so in exactly the same way in the latter phenomenon a continued effort is necessary to prevent the materialized matter from relapsing into the etheric condition.
The apport of objects from some other room, or sometimes from a far greater distance, is one of the most favourite methods by which the dead men managing a seance elect to manifest their especially astral powers. Sir William Crookes, on p. 97 of the book which I have so often quoted, tells us how at a seance with Miss Kate Fox the controlling entities announced that “they were going to bring something to show their power,” and then brought into the room a small hand-bell from the library, the door between being carefully locked, and the key in Sir William’s pocket.
I have myself frequently had all sorts of small objects brought to me from a distance—flowers and fruit being among the most common. In some cases tropical flowers and fruit, obviously perfectly fresh, have been thus presented to me in England. When interrogated as to whence these things came, the controlling entities have always most emphatically asserted that they were not permitted to steal any person’s property in this way, but had to search for their flowers and fruits where they grew wild. I have had a rare fern and a rare orchid brought to me in this way—thrown down upon the table with the fresh earth still clinging to their roots. I was able to plant both of them afterwards in my garden, where they took root and grew in the most natural manner.
The best stories that I know of the bringing of plants to a seance are contained in Madame d’Espérance’s book Shadowland. The first is quoted from p. 261. (It should be premised that “Yolande” is the name given to a materialized “spirit” who took a prominent part in all the seances of Madame d’Espérance.)
Yolande crossed the room to where Mr. Reimers (a gentleman well known throughout Europe as a prominent spiritualist) sat, and beckoned him to go nearer the cabinet and witness some preparations she was about to make. Here it is as well to say that on previous occasions when Yolande had produced flowers for us, she had given us to understand that sand and water were necessary for the purpose; consequently a supply of fine clean white sand and plenty of water were kept in readiness for possible contingencies. When Yolande, accompanied by Mr. Reimers, came to the centre of the circle, she signified her wish for sand and water, and, making Mr. R. kneel down on the floor beside her, she directed him to pour sand into the water-carafe, which he did until it was about half full. Then he was instructed to pour in water. This was done, and then by her direction he shook it well and handed it back to her.
Yolande, after scrutinizing it carefully, placed it on the floor, covering it lightly with the drapery which she took from her shoulders. She then retired to the cabinet, from which she returned once or twice at short intervals, as though to see how it was getting on.
In the meantime Mr. Armstrong had carried away, the superfluous water and sand, leaving the carafe standing in the middle of the floor covered by the thin veil, which, however, did not in the least conceal its shape, the ring or top edge being especially visible.
We were directed by raps on the floor to sing, in order to harmonize our thoughts, and to take off the edge, as it were, of the curiosity we were all more or less feeling.
While we were singing we observed the drapery to be rising from the rim of the carafe. This was perfectly patent to every one of the twenty witnesses watching it closely.
Yolande came out again from the cabinet and regarded it anxiously. She appeared to examine it carefully, and partially supported the drapery as though afraid of its crushing some tender object underneath. Finally she raised it altogether, exposing to our astonished gaze a perfect plant, of what appeared to be a kind of laurel.
Yolande raised the carafe, in which the plant seemed to have firmly grown; its roots, visible through the glass being closely packed in the sand.
She regarded it with evident pride and pleasure, and, carrying it in both her hands, crossed the room and presented it to Mr. Oxley, one of the strangers who were present—the Mr. Oxley who is so well known by his philosophical writings on spiritual subjects, and the pyramids of Egypt.
He received the carafe with the plant, and Yolande retired as though she had completed her task. After examining the plant Mr. Oxley, for convenience sake, placed it on the floor beside him, there being no table near at hand. Many questions were asked and curiosity ran high. The plant resembled a large-leafed laurel with dark glossy leaves, but without any blossom. No one present recognized the plant or could assign it to any known species.
We were called to order by raps, and were told not to discuss the matter, but to sing something and then be quiet. We obeyed the command, and after singing, more raps told us to examine the plant anew, which we were delighted to do. To our great surprise we then observed that a large circular head of bloom, forming a flower fully five inches in diameter, had opened itself, while standing on the floor at Mr. Oxley’s feet.
The flower was of a beautiful orange-pink colour, or perhaps I might say that salmon-colour would be a nearer description, for I have never seen the same tints, and it is difficult to describe shades of colour in words.
The head was composed of some hundred and fifty four-star corollas projecting considerably from the stem. The plant was twenty-two inches in height, having a thick woody stem which filled the neck of the water-carafe. It had twenty-nine leaves, averaging from two to two and a half inches in breadth, and seven and a half inches at their greatest length. Each leaf was smooth and glossy, resembling at the first glance the laurel which we had first supposed it to be. The fibrous roots appeared to be growing naturally in the sand.
We afterwards photographed the plant in the water-bottle, from which, by the way, it was found impossible to remove it, the neck being much too small to allow the roots to pass; indeed, the comparatively slender stem entirely filled the orifice.
The name, we learnt, was Ixora Crocata, and the plant a native of India.
How did the plant come there? Did it grow in the bottle? Had it been brought from India in a dematerialized state and rematerialized in the seance-room?
These were questions which we put to one another without result. We received no satisfactory explanation. Yolande either could not or would not tell us. As far as we could judge—and the opinion of a professional gardener corroborated our own—the plant had evidently some years of growth.
We could see where other leaves had grown and fallen off, and wound-marks which seemed to have healed and grown over long ago. But there was every evidence to show that the plant had grown in the sand in the bottle, as the roots were naturally wound around the inner surface of the glass, all the fibres perfect and unbroken as though they had germinated on the spot and had apparently never been disturbed. It had not been thrust into the bottle, for the simple reason that it was impossible to pass the large fibrous roots and lower part of the stem through the neck of the bottle, which had to be broken to take out the plant.
Mr. Oxley, in his account, which was afterwards published, says:
I had the plant photographed next morning, and afterwards brought it home and placed it in my conservatory under the gardener’s care. It lived for three months, when it shrivelled up. I kept the leaves, giving most of them away except the flower and the three top-leaves which the gardener cut off when he took charge of the plant; these I have yet preserved under glass, but they show no signs of dematerializing as yet. Previous to the creation or materialization of this wonderful plant, the Ixora Crocata, Yolande brought me a rose with a short stem not more than an inch long, which I put into my bosom. Feeling something was transpiring, I drew it out and found there were two roses. I then replaced them, and withdrawing them at the conclusion of the meeting, to my astonishment the stem had elongated to seven inches, with three full-blown roses and a bud upon it, with several thorns. These I brought home and kept till they faded, the leaves dropped off and the stem dried up, a proof of their materiality and actuality.
We gather from further statements that this interesting present was made to Mr. Oxley in fulfilment of a promise, for it seems that he was making a collection of plants in order to demonstrate some theory, for which he needed a specimen of this particular kind, but had been unable to obtain it by any ordinary method. The remarkable point about the arrival of this plant is its gradual appearance. It is not brought as a whole and thrown down upon the table, as my fern was, but it is seen to be slowly increasing under the drapery, precisely as though it were really growing at a most abnormal rate; and even after it has been presented to Mr. Oxley it still continues this apparent growth, for it develops a flower during the singing.
It seems, however, evident that this apparent growth is not really anything of the kind, since the plant is seen on examination to be clearly several years old; so we are driven to the conclusion that the plant was, as it were, brought over in sections and built up gradually. If a living plant can be dematerialized and put together again without damaging it permanently, it may just as easily be taken to pieces bit by bit as pulverized at one blow by a mightier effort of will; indeed, one can see that the former might be the simpler process, demanding less expenditure of force. It may quite conceivably not have been within the power of those who were assisting Yolande to bring the entire vegetable at one fell swoop, and it may therefore have been absolutely necessary to make several journeys for it. It would appear that they first arranged the roots in the sand, disposing them with care exactly as they had naturally grown, and then gradually added the rest of the plant, bringing the flower over later with dramatic effect as the crowning glory of the experiment.
It may be that the apparently rapid growth of the mango-tree in the celebrated Indian feat of magic is managed in this same manner, by successive acts of disintegration and reintegration, instead of by enormously hastening the ordinary processes of development, as is usually suggested. Clearly, as the author remarks, it could not have been thrust into the bottle, but particle by particle had been carefully arranged in the proper place among the damp sand. The operation must have been difficult and delicate, and we can hardly wonder that Yolande regarded the eventual result with considerable pride.
Mr. Oxley seems to have regarded the plant as a temporary materialization, and expected that it would disappear in due course; but it is quite evident that it was definitely a case of apport, and that the gift was intended to remain, as indeed it did until its death—which, however, may quite possibly have been accelerated by its abrupt removal from warmer climes to the inclement latitude of England. The photograph taken of the plant in the bottle is reproduced as one of the illustrations in the book from which this account is extracted. It seems clear that the rose to which Mr. Oxley refers must also have been brought piecemeal in the same way, since it would obviously be impossible for a cut flower to grow in the way which he describes.
In the same book, at p. 326, we find an account of a still more wonderful achievement of the same nature on the part of Yolande. In this case there is the additional and interesting complication that the plant was only borrowed, and had to be returned.
Yolande, with the assistance of Mr. Aksakof, had mixed sand and loam in the flower-pot, and she had covered it with her veil, as she had done in the case of the water-bottle in England when the Ixora Crocata was grown.
The white drapery was seen to rise slowly but steadily, widening out as it grew higher and higher. Yolande stood by and manipulated the gossamer-like covering till it reached a height far above her head, when she carefully removed it, disclosing a tall plant bowed with a mass of heavy blossom, which emitted the strong sweet scent of which I had complained.
Notes were taken of its size, and it was found to be seven feet in length from root to point, or about a foot and a half taller than myself. Even when bent by the weight of the eleven large blossoms it bore, it was taller than I. The flowers were very perfect, measuring eight inches in diameter; five were fully blown, three were just opening and three in bud, all without spot or blemish, and damp with dew. It was most lovely, but somehow the scent of lilies since that evening has always made me feel faint.
Yolande seemed very pleased with her success and told us that if we wanted to photograph the lily we were to do so, as she must take it away again. She stood beside it and Mr. Boutlerof photographed it and her twice.
The plant was a Lilium auratum, the golden-rayed lily of Japan, and the date of this very interesting seance was June 28, 1890. The photographs mentioned are reproduced in the book, and show a fine specimen of the plant.
A curious feature of the account is that the materialized figure Yolande became anxious about the affair because, having apparently borrowed this giant lily, she found herself unable to return it at the proper time. The available power seems to have been exhausted in the effort of bringing it, so that when she tried to take it back again she failed. She appears to have been much distressed at her inability to keep her promise, and begged that every care might be taken of the plant. Her physical friends did all that they could for it, but it seems (and no wonder) to have languished somewhat. The weather, too, proved unfavourable for her purposes, and it was nearly a week before she finally succeeded in restoring it to its original owner, whoever he may have been. One would like to hear the other side of this story—the surprise and regret at the mysterious disappearance from somebody’s garden or conservatory of so magnificent a specimen, and their equal but much pleasanter astonishment over its inexplicable reappearance a week later, when probably all hope of tracing the thieves had been abandoned!
The question of the influence of weather on the production of psychic phenomena is one of considerable interest. It is evident that electrical disturbances of any sort present difficulties in the way of attempts at either materialization or disintegration, presumably for the same reason that bright light renders them almost impossible—the destructive effect of strong vibration. It is quite conceivable that while the air was full of strong electrical vibrations Yolande may have found it impossible safely to carry her disintegrated vegetable matter from one place to another, lest it should be so shaken up and disarranged that restoration to its original form might become difficult or impracticable.
In many cases of the apport of objects from a distance the fourth-dimensional method is obviously easiest, though in these efforts of Yolande’s it would seem from the gradual growth of the plant that it was not employed. But there are many instances of which it offers the neatest and readiest explanation. There are nearly always several ways in which almost any phenomenon can be produced, and it is often not easy to determine merely from a written account which of them was actually employed in a given case.
Another instance either of the passage of matter through matter, or of the employment of fourth-dimensional power, is given when a solid iron ring too small to go over the hand is passed on to one’s wrist. This has three times been done to me, and in each case I had to trust to our dead friends for its removal, since it would have been quite impossible to get it off by any physical means except filing. I have also again and again had the back of a chair hung over my arm while I was grasping the hand of the medium. Once I watched that process in a moderately good light, and though the phenomenon was quickly performed it yet seemed to me that I saw part of the back of the chair fade into a sort of mist as it approached my arm. But in a moment it had passed round or through my arm and was again solid as ever.
A much rarer phenomenon at a seance, so far as my experience goes, is that of reduplication. When it does occur, this is produced simply by forming a perfect mental image of the object to be copied, and then gathering about it the necessary astral and physical matter. For this purpose it is needful that every particle, interior as well as exterior, of the object to be duplicated should be held accurately in view simultaneously, and consequently the phenomenon is one which requires considerable power of concentration to perform. Persons unable to extract the matter required directly from the surrounding ether have sometimes taken it from the material of the original article, which in this case would be correspondingly reduced in weight.
Another striking but not very common feat displayed occasionally at a seance is that of handling fire unharmed. On one occasion at a seance in London a materialized form deliberately put his hand into the midst of a brightly burning fire, picked out a lump of red-hot coal nearly as large as a tennis-ball, and held it out to me, saying quickly: “Take it in your hand.”
I hesitated for a moment, perhaps not unnaturally, but an impatient movement on the part of the dead man decided me. I felt that he probably knew what he was about, that this was perhaps a unique opportunity, and that if it burnt me I could drop it before much harm was done. So I held out my hand and the glowing mass was promptly deposited in my palm. I can testify that I felt not even the slightest warmth from it, though when the dead man immediately took a sheet of paper from the mantelpiece and applied it to the coal, the paper blazed up in a moment. I held this lump of coal for a minute and a half, when, as it was rapidly growing dull, he motioned to me to throw it back into the fire. Not the slightest mark or redness remained upon my hand—nothing but a little ash—nor was there any smell of burning.
Now how was this done? I could not in the least understand at the time, and could get no intelligible theory out of the presiding entities. I know now from later occult studies that the thinnest layer of etheric substance can be so manipulated as to make it absolutely impervious to heat, and I assume that probably my hand was for the moment covered with such a layer, since that is perhaps the easiest way of producing the result. Be that as it may, I can certify that the event occurred exactly as described.
It is within the resources of the astral plane to produce fire as well as to counteract its effect. I have seen this done only once myself, and then as a special “test” to prove that spontaneous combustion was a possibility, but from the accounts given by Mr. Morell Theobald in Spirit Workers in the Home Circle it would appear that with him the phenomenon was quite ordinary. The deceased members of his household seem to have taken almost as great a part in its work as the living members did, and to light the family fires spontaneously was one of the least of their achievements. Their action in this respect is said to have been paralleled on several occasions in Scotland by the brownies, a variety of nature-spirits or fairies, but I have not at hand the particulars of any case for quotation.
My own experience in this line was at a seance in England. We were directed by raps to procure a large flat dish, place it in the middle of the table and make in it a little pile of shavings and of the fragments of a cigar box. We obeyed, and were then directed to turn out the lights and sing. We sat solemnly round the table holding hands and singing in total darkness for what seemed at least half an hour, though it may have been less than that in reality. Towards the end of that time a curious dull red glow showed itself in the heart of our loosely-built pile of wood, waxing and waning several times, but eventually bursting into flame. It is quite certain that none of us touched the pile or indeed could have touched it without the connivance of several others, sitting as we were; and it is also certain that the combustion commenced in a manner entirely precluding the idea of its being set in motion from outside by a match.
I infer, since heat is after all simply a certain rate of vibration, that it is only necessary for the astral entities to set up and maintain that particular rate of vibration, and combustion must ensue; and this is most probably what was done. An obvious alternative would be to introduce fourth-dimensionally a tiny fragment of already glowing matter, (such as tinder, for example) and then blow upon it until it burst into flame; or again, chemical combinations which would produce combustion could easily be introduced. There are plenty of stories told in India about the way in which spontaneous fires break out in certain villages if the village deity is neglected, and does not receive his expected offerings; so it is evident that the production of fire presents no difficulty to an experienced entity functioning upon the astral plane.
We must consider now materializations of our second and third types—those which are visible, but not tangible, and in many cases manifestly diaphanous; and the full materializations, which seem in all respects indistinguishable for the time from persons still in the physical body. The second type is not uncommon, and though such materializations usually avoid coming within reach of the sitters I was on one occasion especially asked by a direct voice to pass my hand gently through a form of this nature. I can only say that my sense of touch detected absolutely nothing, though a distinctly visible, but semi-transparent form stood in front of me, smiling at my futile efforts. When I closed my eyes, I could not tell whether my hand was inside or outside the body which looked so perfect and so living. Forms of this nature are probably easier to construct than the more solid kind, for I have once or twice had startling evidence that one which appeared entirely solid was in reality so only in part. A hand which is strong enough to give a vigorous grasp is often joined to an arm which does not exist as far as the sense of touch is concerned, though appearing to the eye just as solid as the hand. Materializations of this second type are described by Sir William Crookes as follows, at p. 94 of his Researches.
In the dusk of the evening during a seance with Mr. Home at my house, the curtains of the window about eight feet from Mr. Home were seen to move. A dark, shadowy, semi-transparent form like that of a man was then seen by all present standing near the window, waving the curtain with his hand. As we looked the form faded away and the curtain ceased to move. The following is a still more striking instance. As in the former case Mr. Home was the medium. A phantom form came from a corner of the room, took an accordion in his hand, and then glided about the room placing the instrument. The form was visible to all present for many minutes, Mr. Home also being seen at the same time. Coming rather close to a lady who was sitting apart from the rest of the company, she gave a slight cry, upon which it vanished.
When materialization is performed for any reason by a living person thoroughly trained in the resources of the astral plane—one of the pupils of an Adept, for instance—he condenses the surrounding ether into the solid form, and builds in that way so much of a body as may be necessary without in any way interfering with any one else. But at a seance this is not usually done, and the simpler expedient is adopted of withdrawing a large amount of matter from the body of the medium. This matter may under favourable conditions be seen pouring out from his side in great wreaths of mist; in Mr. W. Eglinton’s remarkable book, ‘Twixt Two Worlds, there will be found three interesting illustrations showing successive stages of the development of this mist, from its first faint appearance until the entranced medium is almost entirely hidden by wreaths like those of thick, heavy smoke.
This mist rapidly condenses into a form—sometimes apparently into an exact double of the medium in the first place. I remember at a seance with the well-known medium, Mr. Cecil Husk, after a period of silent waiting, a brilliant light suddenly blazed out, showing everything in the room quite clearly. The medium was crushed together in his chair—shrunk into himself in a most extraordinary way, apparently in a deep trance, and breathing stertorously; but just in front of him stood an exact duplicate of himself, alert and living, holding out in front of him in the palm of his hand an egg-shaped body, which was the source of the brilliant light. He stood thus for a few moments, and then in an instant the light went out, and the form addressed us in the well-known tones of one of the regular “guides”—showing how entirely he built himself out of the substance of the medium.
There is no sort of doubt that it is not only etheric matter which is thus temporarily withdrawn from the medium’s body, but also often dense solid and liquid matter, however difficult it may be for us to realize the possibility of such a transference. I have myself seen cases in which this phenomenon undoubtedly took place, and was evidenced by a considerable loss of weight in the medium’s physical body, and also by a most curious and ghastly appearance of having shrivelled up and shrunk together, so that his tiny wizened-face was disappearing into the collar of his coat as he sat. The “guides” directing a seance rarely allow their medium to be seen when he is in this condition, and wisely, for it is indeed a terrible and unwholesome sight, so uncanny, so utterly inhuman that it would inevitably seriously frighten any nervous person.
In that manual of materializations, People from the Other World (p. 243), Colonel Olcott describes the manner in which he carefully weighed the materialized form which called itself Honto. At his first attempt this Red Indian girl weighed eighty-eight pounds, but at the Colonel’s request she promptly reduced herself to fifty-eight pounds, and then again increased to sixty-five, all within ten minutes, and without changing her dress. Nearly all this mass of physical matter must have been withdrawn from the body of the medium, who must consequently have lost proportionately.
On p. 487 of the same book the Colonel tells us how he tested in the same way the materialized form of Katie Brink, who weighed at first seventy-seven pounds, and then reduced herself to fifty-nine and fifty-two, without affecting her outward appearance in any way. In this case we are confronted with the astonishing phenomenon of the total disappearance of the medium during the materialization, though the Colonel had secured her with sewing cotton, sealed with his own seal, in a peculiar and ingenious way which would absolutely prevent her from leaving her chair in any ordinary way without breaking the cotton. Nevertheless, when he was permitted during the seance to enter the cabinet, that chair was empty; and there was not only nothing to be seen, but also nothing to be felt, when he passed his hands all round the chair. Yet when the seance was over, the medium was found seated as before, half-fainting and utterly exhausted, but with cotton and seal intact! Most wonderful, truly; yet not unique; see Un Cas de Dématerialisation, by M. A. Aksakow.
This matter does not always flow out through the side only; sometimes it appears to ooze out from the whole surface of the body, drawn out by the powerful attraction or suction set up by the guides. Its flowing forth is thus described by Madame E. d’Espérance:
Then began a strange sensation, which I had sometimes felt at séances. Frequently I have heard it described by others as of cobwebs being passed over the face, but to me, who watched it curiously, it seemed that I could feel fine threads being drawn out of the pores of my skin. Shadowland (p. 229).
Many mediums have written autobiographies, but I have met with none which impressed me so favourably as this of Madame d’Espérance. It is not only that it has about it an attractive ring of earnestness and truthfulness, but that the author seems far more closely and intelligently observant than most mediums have been, and more anxious to understand the real nature of the phenomena which occur in her presence.
She takes a rational view of her abnormal faculty, and sets herself to study it with an earnest and loyal desire to arrive at the truth about it all. While heartily admiring the lady’s courage and determination, one cannot but regret that it did not fall in her way to study Theosophical literature, which would have told her in the beginning every detail that she has slowly and in many cases painfully discovered, at the cost of much unnecessary suffering and anxiety. Her book begins with the pathetic story of a much-misunderstood childhood, and goes on to describe the years of mental struggle during which the medium slowly freed herself from the trammels of the narrowest orthodoxy. When her mediumship was fully developed it certainly seems to have been of a wonderful and varied character, and some of the instances given might well appear incredible to any one ignorant of the subject. I have myself, however, seen phenomena of the same nature as all those which she describes, and consequently I find no difficulty in admitting the possibility of all the strange occurrences which she relates.
She realizes strongly and describes forcefully the exceedingly intimate relation which exists between the medium and the body materialized out of his vehicles. We are so entirely accustomed to identify ourselves with our bodies that it is a new and uncanny and almost a horrible sensation to find the body going through vivid and extraordinary experiences in which nevertheless its true owner has no part whatever. On p. 345 of her book above quoted she gives us a realistic description of the strangely unnatural situation in which a materializing medium must so often be placed; and I think that no one can read it without understanding how thoroughly undesirable, how utterly unhealthy on all planes and from all points of view such an experience must be.
Now comes another figure, shorter, slenderer, and with outstretched arms. Somebody rises up at the far end of the circle and comes forward, and the two are clasped in each other’s arms. Then inarticulate cries of “Anna! O Anna! My child! My loved one!”
Then somebody else gets up and puts her arms round the figure; then sobs, cries, and blessings get mixed up. I feel my body swayed to and fro, and all gets dark before my eyes. I feel somebody’s arms around me, although I sit on my chair alone. I feel somebody’s heart beating against my breast. I feel that something is happening. No one is near me except the two children. No one is taking any notice of me. All eyes and thoughts seem concentrated on the white slender figure standing there with the arms of the two black-robed women around it.
It must be my own heart I feel beating so distinctly. Yet those arms round me? Surely never did I feel a touch so plainly. I begin to wonder which is I. Am I the white figure, or am I that on the chair? Are they my hands round the old lady’s neck, or are these mine that are lying on the knees of me, or on the knees of the figure, if it be not I, on the chair?
Certainly they are my lips that are being kissed. It is my face that is wet with the tears which these good women are shedding so plentifully. Yet how can it be? It is a horrible feeling, thus losing hold of one’s identity. I long to put out one of these hands that are lying so helplessly, and touch some one just to know if I am myself or only a dream—if “Anna” be I, and I am lost, as it were, in her identity.
I feel the old Lady’s trembling arms, the kisses, the tears, the blessings and caresses of the sister, and I wonder in the agony of suspense and bewilderment, how long can it last? How long will there be two of us? Which will it be in the end? Shall I be “Anna” or “Anna” be I?
Then I feel two little hands slip themselves into my nerveless hands, and they give me a fresh hold of myself, as it were, and with a feeling of exultation I find I am myself, and that little Jonte, tired of being hidden behind the three figures, feels lonely and grasps my hands for company and comfort.
How glad I am of the touch, even from the hand of a child! My doubts as to who I am are gone. While I am feeling thus the white figure of “Anna” disappears in the cabinet, and the two ladies return to their seats, excited and tearful, but overcome with happiness.
There was a great deal more to happen that night, but somehow I felt weak and indifferent to all around me, and not inclined to be interested in what occurred. Strange and remarkable incidents took place, but for the moment my life seemed dragged out of me and I longed for solitude and rest.
This feeling of lassitude and of having the life dragged out of them is naturally terribly common among mediums. Sir William Crookes remarks on p. 41 of his Researches:
After witnessing the painful state of nervous and bodily prostration in which some of these experiments have left Mr. Home—after seeing him lying in an almost fainting condition on the floor, pale and speechless—I could scarcely doubt that the evolution of psychic force is accompanied by a corresponding drain on vital force.
This entirely agrees with my own experience; I have frequently seen a medium absolutely prostrate after a seance, and I fear that many of them fancy themselves compelled to resort to alcoholic stimulants in order to recover from the terrible drain upon their strength. So much of their vitality necessarily goes into the materialized form, and the disturbance to the system is so serious, that after the seance is over, they are in a condition closely resembling the shock which follows a surgical operation. And no wonder; for that would indeed be a terrible surgical operation which removed forty to eighty pounds of matter from the body, and then restored it again.
On the curious connection between the medium and the materialized form, Madame d’Espérance writes as follows as to the relation between herself and Yolande:
There seemed to exist a strange link between us. I could do nothing to ensure her appearance amongst us. She came and went, so far as I am aware, entirely independent of my will, but when she had come, she was, I found, dependent on me for her brief material existence. I seemed to lose, not my individuality, but my strength and power of exertion, and though I did not then know it, a great portion of my material substance. I felt that in some way I was changed, but the effort to think logically in some mysterious way affected Yolande, and made her weak. (Shadowland, p. 271.)
The medium is conscious of her own individuality in the background all the time; but any attempt to assert it, or to think connectedly, immediately weakens the form, or brings it back to the cabinet. And this is natural, for to think logically means to set up chemical action—to produce oxidation of the phosphorus of the brain; whereas it is only under conditions of perfect passivity in the physical vehicle that so much matter can be spared from it without danger to life. As a matter of fact, there is always a possibility of such danger; and in case of sudden shock or disturbance it may come terribly near realization. It is for that reason that the attempt of the ignorant and boastful sceptic to seize the “spirit form” is so criminal as well as so brainless an action; and the person whose colossal stupidity leads him to commit such an atrocity runs a serious risk of occupying the position of defendant in a trial for murder. Beings at that level of intelligence ought not to be permitted to take part in experiments of a delicate nature. What harm may be done by this dangerous variety of the genus blockhead is shown by the following extract from the experiences of Madame d’Espérance, given upon p. 298 of her book:
I do not know how long the seance had proceeded, but I knew that Yolande had taken her pitcher on her shoulder and was outside the cabinet. What actually occurred I had to learn afterwards. All I knew was a horrible excruciating sensation of being doubled up and squeezed together, as I can imagine a hollow guttapercha doll would feel, if it had sensation, when violently embraced by its baby owner. A sense of terror and agonizing pain came over me, as though I were losing hold of life and was falling into some fearful abyss, yet knowing nothing, seeing nothing, hearing nothing, except the echo of a scream which I heard as at a distance. I felt I was sinking down, I knew not where. I tried to save myself, to grasp at something, but missed it; and then came a blank from which I awakened with a shuddering horror and sense of being bruised to death.
My senses seemed to have been scattered to the winds, and only little by little could I gather them sufficiently together to understand in a slight degree what had happened. Yolande had been seized, and the man who had seized her declared it was I.
This is what I was told. The statement was so extraordinary that if it had not been for my utter prostration I could have laughed, but I was unable to think or even move. I felt as though very little life remained in me, and that little was a torment. The haemorrhage of the lungs, which my residence in the south of France had apparently cured, broke out again and the blood almost suffocated me. A severe prolonged illness was the result; and our departure from England was delayed for some weeks, as I could not be moved.
No wonder that the “guides” take every precaution in their power to save their medium from such brutality. Even they themselves may suffer through the temporary vehicle which they have assumed, trusting themselves to the honour and good-feeling of those who are present on the physical plane. Mr. R. D. Owen, in The Debatable Land (p. 273), thus refers to this matter:
Two highly intelligent friends of mine, now deceased, Dr. A. D. Wilson and Professor James Mapes, both formerly of New York, each on one occasion firmly grasped what seemed a luminous hand. In both cases the result was the same. What was laid hold of melted entirely away—so each told me—in his grasp. I have had communications to the effect that the spirit thus manifesting its presence suffers when this is done, and that a spirit would have great reluctance in appearing, in bodily form, to any one whom it could not trust to refrain from interference with the phenomena, except by its express permission. In my experiments I have always governed myself accordingly, and I ascribe my success in part to this continence.
I do not know whether the “spirit” would suffer in such a case as this, though it certainly does when a materialized form is struck or wounded. For that reason a sword constantly waved round a man who is haunted is supposed to be a protection (and indeed often really is so, as has been seen in some of the narratives previously quoted), and the sword was also an important part of the outfit of the mediaeval magician.
No physical weapon could affect the astral body in the slightest degree; a sword might be passed through it again and again without the owner being even aware of it; but as soon as there is any materialization (and wherever physical phenomena occur there must be some materialization, however little) physical weapons may act through it upon the astral body and produce sensation, much as was the case with the more permanent physical body during life. But undoubtedly the medium may be seriously injured by any unauthorized interference with the materialized form, as is seen by Madame d’Espérance’s story.
I most heartily endorse the sentiments expressed above by Mr. Owen, and I have always been governed by them in my own investigations. There are some persons who enter upon an enquiry of this kind with the fixed conviction that they are going to be deceived, and (with some idea that they can obviate a result so humbling to their self-conceit) they endeavour to invent all kinds of complicated contrivances, which they think will render fraud impossible. It is quite true that in many cases phenomena do not take place under the conditions which they prescribe, for naturally the dead man is not especially disposed to go out of his way to take a great deal of trouble for a person who meets him from the beginning with unfounded suspicion expressed in terms of egregious self-confidence. Often also the conditions prescribed by the ignoramus are really such as to render phenomena impossible.
Dr. Alfred R. Wallace once very truly remarked:
Scientific men almost invariably assume that, in this enquiry, they should be permitted at the very outset to impose conditions; and if under such conditions nothing happens, they consider it a proof of imposture or delusion. But they well know that in all other branches of research, Nature, not they, determines the essential conditions without a compliance with which no experiment will succeed. These conditions have to be learnt by a patient questioning of Nature, and they are different for each branch of science. How much more may they be expected to differ in an enquiry which deals with subtle forces, of the nature of which the physicist is wholly and absolutely ignorant!
In just the same way, a man might easily render electrical experiments impossible, if he chose to regard the insulating arrangements as suspicious, and insisted upon seeing the same results produced when the wires were uninsulated; and then, when it was gently explained to him that insulation was a necessary condition, he might raise the same old parrot-cry of fraud, and declare that these pretended electrical marvels could never be worked under his conditions! Instances of the extent to which folly and cruelty can go in this direction are given with full illustrations in Colonel Olcott’s People from the Other World (pp. 36-40).
I have myself always adopted the plan of giving the dead man credit for honest intention until I saw evidence to the contrary; I have allowed him to arrange his own conditions, and to show exactly what he chose, endeavouring first of all to establish friendly relations; and I have invariably found that as soon as he gained confidence in me, be would gladly describe the limits of his power, so far as he knew them, and would frequently himself suggest tests of various kinds to show to others the genuineness of the phenomena.
Attempts have been made to cheat me on several occasions; and when I saw this to be the action of the medium, I held my peace, but troubled that medium no further. On the other hand, I have also seen cases of deceit where I felt convinced that the medium’s intentions were perfectly honest, and that the deception lay entirely with the unseen actors in the drama. I have known the medium’s physical body, when in a condition of trance, to be wrapped up in materialized gauzy drapery, and passed off as “a spirit form”—apparently for no other reason than to save the operators the trouble of producing a genuine materialization, or possibly because in some way or other the power to produce the real manifestation was lacking. In this case the medium, on hearing what had happened after recovery from his trance, protested most earnestly and with every appearance of real sincerity that he had had no conception of what was being done; and, having many times before seen unmistakably genuine manifestations through him, I believed him. Exactly the same story was told to me by a well-known medium with regard to an “exposure” of him which was triumphantly trumpeted abroad in many newspapers; and it is at least perfectly possible that the statement may have been equally true in that case also. My experience therefore warrants me in saying that even when a clear case of fraud is discovered, it is not always safe to blame the medium for it. On the other hand, I have known a medium come to give a seance with half-a-yard of muslin hanging out of her pocket, and I have recognized the aforesaid muslin appearing as spirit drapery at a later stage of the proceedings—in its original form, I mean, for even in cases of genuine materialization of drapery it is frequently formed from the material of the clothes of the medium. Once more we may turn to Madame d’Espérance for an instance showing this to be the case.
It was at one of those seances in Christiania that a sitter “abstracted” a piece of drapery which clothed one of the spirit-forms. Later I discovered that a large square piece of material was missing from my skirt, partly cut, partly torn out. My dress was of a heavy dark woollen material. The “abstracted” piece of drapery was found to be of the same shape as that missing from my skirt, but several times larger, and white in colour, the texture fine and thin as gossamer.
Something of the kind had happened once before in England, when some one had begged the little Ninia for a piece of her abundant clothing. She complied, unwillingly, it seemed, and the reason for her unwillingness was explained when, after the seance, I found a hole in a new dress which I had put on for the first time. This being nearly black, I had attributed the mishap more to an accident on the part of Ninia than to any psychological cause. Now that it happened a second time, I began to understand that it was no accident, and that my dress, or the clothing of the persons in the seance, was the foundation of, or the stores from which the dazzling raiment of the spirit form was drawn. (Shadowland, p. 337.)
There are various types of this materialized drapery—some quite coarse and some exceedingly fine—finer indeed than even the production of Eastern looms. Sometimes the manifesting entity will encourage a favoured sitter to feel this drapery or even to cut a piece from it. I have had such pieces given to me on several occasions; some of them lasted for years, and appear to be permanent, while others faded away in the course of an hour or so, and one within ten minutes. Though light and filmy white drapery seems to be the regular fashion among materialized forms, I have also seen them show themselves in the ordinary garb of civilization, and sometimes in a uniform or some special dress characteristic of their position during life.
The following very good account of the materialization and dematerialization of a form is given in Shadowland (p. 254), and was written by a member who had frequently formed part of that circle:
First a filmy, cloudy patch of something white is observed on the floor in front of the cabinet. It then gradually expands, visibly extending itself as if it were an animated patch of muslin, lying fold upon fold, on the floor, until extending about two and a half by three feet and having a depth of a few inches—perhaps six or more. Presently it begins to rise slowly in or near the centre, as if a human head were underneath it, while the cloudy film on the floor begins to look more like muslin falling into folds about the portion so mysteriously rising. By the time it has attained two or more feet, it looks as if a child were under it and moving its arms about in all directions as if manipulating something underneath.
It continues rising, oftentimes sinking somewhat to rise again higher than before, until it attains a height of about five feet, when its form can be seen as if arranging the folds of drapery about its figure.
Presently the arms rise considerably above the head and open outwards through a mass of cloud-like spirit drapery, and Yolande stands before us unveiled, graceful and beautiful, nearly five feet in height, having a turban-like head dress, from beneath which her long black hair hangs over her shoulders and down her back.
Her body-dress, of Eastern form, displays every limb and contour of the body, while the superfluous white veil-like drapery is wrapped round her for convenience, or thrown down on the carpet out of the way till required again.
All this occupies from ten to fifteen minutes to accomplish.
When she disappears or dematerializes it is as follows. Stepping forward to show herself and be identified by any strangers then present, she slowly and deliberately opens out the veil-like superfluous drapery; expanding it, she places it over her head, and spreads it round her like a great bridal veil, and then immediately but slowly sinks down, becoming less bulky as she collapses, dematerializing her body beneath the cloud-like drapery until it has little or no resemblance to Yolande. Then she further collapses until she has no resemblance to human form, and more rapidly sinks down to fifteen or twelve inches. Then suddenly the form falls into a heaped patch of drapery—literally Yolande’s left-off clothing, which slowly but visibly melts into nothingness.
The dematerializing of Yolande’s body occupies from two to five minutes, while the disappearance of the drapery occupies from half a minute to two minutes. On one occasion, however, she did not dematerialize this drapery or veil, but left the whole lying on the carpet in a heap, until another spirit came out of the cabinet to look at it for a moment, as if moralizing on poor Yolande’s disappearance. This taller spirit also disappeared and was replaced by the little, brisk, vivacious child-form of Ninia, the Spanish girl, who likewise came to look at Yolande’s remains; and, curiously picking up the loft-off garments, proceeded to wrap them round her own little body, which was already well clothed with drapery.
I have myself seen both these processes, almost exactly as described above. In my case the form was that of an unusually tall man, and he did not begin by forming drapery, but appeared as a patch of cloudy light on the floor, which rose and increased until it looked somewhat like the stump of a tree. It grew on until it was a vague pillar of cloud towering above our heads, and then gradually condensed into a definite and well-known form, which stepped forward, shook me warmly by the hand, and spoke in a full clear voice, exactly as any other friend might have done. After talking to us for about five minutes and answering several questions, he again shook hands with us and announced that he must go. Bidding us good-bye, he immediately became indistinct in outline, and relapsed into the pillar of cloud, which sank down fairly rapidly into the small cloudy mass of light upon the floor, which then flickered and vanished.
I have seen three materialized forms together—one of them an Arab six inches taller than the medium, another a European of ordinary medium height, and the third a little girl of dark complexion, claiming to be a Red Indian—while the medium was securely locked up inside a wire cage of his own invention, which was secured by two keys (both in my pocket) and a letter-lock which could only be operated from the outside. Later in the same evening we were requested to unlock this cage, and the two forms first described brought out the entranced medium between them, one supporting him by each arm. We were allowed to touch both the medium and the materialized forms, and were much struck to find the latter distinctly firmer and more definite than the former. They did not in this case return him to his cage, but laid him upon a sofa in full view of us all, cautioned us that he would be exceedingly exhausted when he woke, and then incontinently vanished into thin air before our eyes. All this took place in a dim light, the two gas-jets in the room being both turned very low, but there was all the time quite sufficient illumination to enable us to recognize clearly the features both of the medium and of our dead visitors, and to follow their movements with absolute certainty.
It is only when the conditions are favourable that one may hope to find the materialized forms able to move about the room as freely as in the cases above described. More generally the materialized form is strictly confined to the immediate neighbourhood of the medium, and is subject to an attraction which is constantly drawing it back to the body from which it came, so that if kept away from the medium too long the figure collapses, and the matter which composed it, returning to the etheric condition, rushes back instantly to its source. It is excessively dangerous to the medium’s health, or even to his life, to prevent this return in any way; and it was no doubt precisely this that caused such terrible suffering in the case of poor Madame d’Espérance, above quoted. It would seem from her own account as though the majority of her etheric matter, and probably a great deal of the denser also, was with Yolande rather than in the cabinet; and since the form of Yolande was so unwarrantably detained it is probable that what was left in her body would rush into Yolande’s, and so it would in one sense be true that she was found outside the cabinet and in the hands of the ignorant vulgarian who had seized the materialized form. All this makes it increasingly obvious that no one who has not sufficient education to comprehend a little of the conditions ought ever to be permitted to take part in a seance.
Another reason for great care in the selection of sitters is that in the case of materialization matter is borrowed to some extent from all of them as well as from the medium. There is no doubt, therefore, a considerable intermixture of such matter, and undesirable qualities or vices of any kind in any one of the sitters are distinctly liable to react upon the others, and most of all upon the medium, who is almost certain to be the most sensitive person present—from whom, in any case, the heaviest contribution will be drawn. Yet again we may obtain an example of this from Madame d’Espérance’s invaluable book. On p. 307 she writes:
From the very beginning of our experiments in this line I had always more or less suffered from nausea and vomiting after a seance for materialization, and I had grown to accept this as a natural consequence and not to be avoided. This had always been the case, except when surrounded only by the members of our home circle or children. During the course of seances for photography this unpleasantness increased so much that I was usually prostrate for a day, or sometimes two, after a sitting, and, as the symptoms were those of nicotine poisoning, experiments were made and it was discovered that none of these uncomfortable sensations were felt when seances were held with non-smokers. Again, when sick persons were in the circle, I invariably found myself feeling more or less unwell afterwards. With persons accustomed to the use of alcohol the discomfort was almost as marked as with smokers.
These seances were to me fruitful in many respects; I learned that many habits, which are common to the generality of mankind and sanctioned by custom, are deleterious to the results of a seance, or, at any rate, to the health of a medium.
A “guide” who has been working for some years, and has learnt to know fairly well the possibilities of the plane, has often interesting phenomena connected with materialization which he is willing to exhibit to special friends when the power is strong. One such exhibition was sometimes given by him who calls himself “John King” many years ago, and may perhaps be given by him still. He would sometimes take one of the painted luminous slates and lay his hand upon it. A fine, strong, muscular, well-shaped hand it was, and its outline of course stood forth perfectly distinctly against the faintly luminous background. Then as we watched it, he would cause that hand to diminish visibly until it was a miniature about the size of a small baby’s hand, though still perfect in its resemblance to his own. Then slowly and steadily under our eyes it would grow again until it became gigantic, and covered the whole slate, and would finally return by degrees to its normal size. Now of course this manifestation might easily have been a mere case of mesmeric influence if only one person had seen it; but since every one in the circle saw precisely the same, and there was nothing to indicate that any attempt at mesmerism was being made, it seemed on the whole more probable that it was really an exhibition of augmentation and diminution in the materialized hand—a result which could readily be brought about by any one who understood how to manipulate the matter.
Occasionally the materialization takes some other shape than the human. One such case which I recollect vividly shows that our departed friends by no means lose their sense of humour when they pass over into astral life. At a certain seance we were much annoyed by the presence of a man of the boastful sceptic genus. He swaggered in the usual blatant way, and showed his entire ignorance by every word he uttered in the loud, coarse voice which constantly reiterated that he knew that all these things were nonsense, and that we might be sure that nothing would happen so long as he was there.
This went on for some time as we sat round the table, and at last the medium, who was a mild, inoffensive sort of man, quietly advised him to moderate his tone, as on several occasions the “spirits” had been known to treat rather roughly persons who talked in that manner. The sceptic, however, only became coarser and more offensive in his remarks, defying any spirit that ever existed to frighten him, or even to dare to show itself in his presence. We had now been sitting for a good while in the darkness, and nothing whatever had happened beyond a few brief words from one of the “guides” at the commencement of the seance, which had informed us that they were storing up power. As the time passed on we all became somewhat wearied, and I at least began to think that perhaps our sceptic really was so inharmonious an influence that it would be impossible to obtain any good results—wherein, however, it seems that I was wrong.
To make clear what did happen I must say a few words as to the room in which the seance was being held. It was a tiny apartment at the back of the house on the second floor, opening out of a much larger front room by great folding-doors which reached up to the ceiling. We were seated round a large circular table, so much out of proportion to the room that the backs of our chairs were all but touching the walls and the big door as we sat round it. There was another door in the corner of the room leading to a flight of stairs; that was locked, the key being in the lock on the inside, and the great doors were also secured by a bolt on our side. We sat, as I say, with practically no manifestations for about three-quarters of an hour, and I at least was heartily tired of the whole thing.
Suddenly in the adjoining room we heard extraordinarily ponderous footsteps, as of some mighty giant; and even as we raised our heads to listen the great doors burst violently open, crashing into the backs of the chairs on that side, driving them and their occupants against the table, and so pushing the table itself against those on the opposite side. A pale, rather ghastly luminosity shone in through the opened door, and by its light we saw—we all saw—an enormous elephant stepping straight in upon us, dashing the chairs together with his stride! A gigantic elephant in a room of that size is not exactly a pleasant neighbour; nobody stopped to think of the impossibility of the thing—nobody waited to see what would happen next; the great beast was on the top of us, as it were, and the man nearest to the back door tore it open, and before we had time for a second thought we were all rushing madly down those stairs.
A roar of Homeric laughter followed us, and in a moment we realized the absurdity of the situation, and some of us ran back, and struck a light. No one was there, and both the rooms were empty; there was no way out of either of them but the doors which opened side by side upon the head of the stair, which had been within our sight all the time; there was no place to which anybody could have escaped, if any one could have been playing a trick upon us; not a trace of an elephant, and nothing to show for our fright, except the bolt torn off the folding-door with the force of the bursting open, and three broken chairs to testify to the speed of our departure! We gathered again in our room, and gave way (now it was over) to unrestrained mirth—all but our sceptic, who had rushed straight out of the house; and he was so terrified that he would not even return into the hall below for his coat and hat, and they had to be carried out into the street for him. I have never seen him since, but I have sometimes wondered exactly how he explained to himself afterwards the deception which he must have supposed to be practised upon him.
In this case the guides controlling the seance evidently thought it desirable to administer a salutory lesson; but this is rarely done, as it is not usually considered worth while to waste so large an amount of energy over so unworthy an object as the conceited and blatant sceptic. It is one of the rules of the higher life that force should be economized, and employed only where there is at least reasonable hope that good can be done. We have an instance of the application of this rule in the life of our Great Exemplar, for is it not recorded that when Christ visited His own country “He did not many mighty works there because of their unbelief”?* His power could unquestionably have broken down their obstinate scepticism; but it is His Will to knock at the door of the human heart, not to force Himself upon those who are as yet unready to profit by His ministrations.
· Matthew, xiii, 58.
It is only lately that scientific men have undertaken an enquiry into the nature of the curious material produced at seances, out of which visible and tangible phantoms are built. It has long been understood in a general way by spiritualists that the visiting entities use some sort of matter derived from the medium, and to some extent from the other persons present, with which to densify their superphysical forms. Bat only comparatively recently has it been realized that the material so employed comes not merely from the etheric body, but even to a large extent from the tissues of the dense physical body, and that it therefore has in some way impressed upon it the habit of the organic structures from which it comes.
Apparently, then, the operating entities find it necessary to allow that material to follow its own lines of growth in the production of forms as it densifies, adapting these only so far as may be absolutely necessary; the aim being, no doubt, to conserve energy as much as possible. This physiological aspect of materialization phenomena has called forth much scientific interest, and up to date we have the results of extensive research upon it in several volumes, particularly in Dr. Geley’s Clairvoyance and Materialization and Baron von Schrenck-Notzing’s Phenomena of Materialization.
The substance in question appears to be of precisely the same character from whatever medium it may come. It issues in an invisible form, which may sometimes be felt as a wind. It then becomes vaporous, and finally condenses into a white, grey or black material of various textures. This is then moulded into human limbs and faces and sometimes entire figures, apparently by unseen sources of intelligence. Sometimes, however, the operating intelligences are seen by the medium or other clairvoyant persons who may be present, and also other than human forms are produced, as in the case of Mr. Kluski, about whom a perfectly formed eagle has frequently been seen and even photographed. On account of the plastic quality of this material and the fact that it can be moulded into forms at a little distance from the medium’s body, it goes by the name of teleplasm, and to the forms made out of it Professor Richet gave the name ectoplasms some years ago. Afterwards, some writers modified Professor Richet’s nomenclature, and designated the substance itself ectoplasm.
In the case of the famous medium Eusapia Palladino the first manifestation appeared in the form of a cool wind issuing from her forehead, especially from an old wound on one side of her head, and from other parts of the body. This wind would billow out the curtains of the cabinet or the material of her dress, and within the protection of the dark space behind them would proceed to densify into a form, which might then emerge into some degree of light. The endeavours of later investigators have been to induce the operating entities to perform the entire process in full view as far as possible, for the sake of scientific research, and this no doubt accounts for the fact that many of the materialized forms photographed in various stages of growth are not as perfect as some of the earlier phenomena, such as the appearance of Katie King through the mediurnship of Florence Cook.
The following typical account of Madame Palladino’s work appears in Mr. Carrington’s Eusapia Palladino and her Phenomena, p. 205:
After the medium had resumed her chair, we felt her head with our hands, to see if the cold breeze was issuing from her forehead. We all clearly perceived it with our hands, placed at a distance of about three inches from the medium’s head. F. held his hand over her mouth and nose, and we all did likewise, holding our noses and mouths and refraining from breathing, and the breeze was still distinctly perceptible. B. then held a small paper flag to the medium’s forehead—her nose and mouth, as well as our own, still being covered. The flag blew out several times, and then out so forcibly that it turned completely over and wrapped itself once round the flagstaff, to which it was attached. The objective nature of this breeze was thus established—though a thermometer held to her head failed to record any lowering of temperature.
A fair example of the phenomena produced by what was presumably a condensation of this wind was given in the experiments made at Turin in 1907 by Professor Lombroso and his two assistants, Dr. Imoda and Dr. Audenino. These seances were held in the clinical chamber of psychiatry in the University, and were attended by a number of eminent men. The unanimous opinion was that “even the cleverest trickery could not begin to explain the majority of the phenomena observed”. The phenomena took place in the light of an electric lamp of ten candle-power. In the second and later seances there were heavy blows on the table as well as the usual lighter raps, and various musical instruments were played. The persons present were tapped and pulled, and various objects were thrown about.
A footstool of common wood, which was inside the medium’s cabinet, shook and fell; the curtain also shook; behind it a hand grasped repeatedly the extended hands of those present; shook them and caressed them. Suddenly, to the surprise of all, a little closed hand, the arm covered with a dark sleeve, showed itself in the full light, quite visibly; it was pink, plump and fresh. “Surprise did not prevent our at once giving attention to the control of the medium; her hands were firmly enclosed in those of the two watchful doctors.” A few minutes later a cold wind came from behind the curtain, which suddenly opened as if it had been opened by two hands, a human head came out, with a pale, haggard face, of sinister evil aspect. It lingered a moment and then disappeared.
The wooden stool rose up in the air and seemed to want to leave the cabinet, pushing aside the curtains. It was liberated from the curtains, then it continued to ascend in an inclined position toward the circle. Several hands stretched out, following the curious phenomenon, and lightly touched the object.
The woman’s small hand then reappeared near the curtain, seized one of the feet of the footstool, and pushed it. Signor Mucchi broke the chain, and, by a rapid action, seized the warm hand, which at once seemed to dissolve and disappeared. Immediately observations were made to ascertain if the medium’s two hands were well controlled; such was found to be the case. The footstool kept on rising, and passed over the heads of the sitters, but at this moment the medium seemed in distress, and cried out: “It will kill us! Catch it!” The hands that were following the movements of the small piece of furniture then seized hold of it to withdraw it from this perilous position, but an invisible force withdrew it to the centre of the table, where it finally remained in repose.
At the close of the seance, the reporter placed his hand on the deep scar which the medium has on the left side of her head, and felt a strong, cold, continuous breeze issuing from it, like a human breath. He subsequently felt the same cold breeze issuing, though less strongly, from the tips of her fingers. (p. 90).
In some cases a complete form appeared, as in the following record, on page 96:
The medium rested her head against the shoulder of the controller on the right; her hands were held in his; suddenly the curtain shook violently, a cold wind passed out, then a human form covered by the thin material of the curtain was visible against this light background. The head of a woman, unstable and staggering, approached the face of the old man; she moved tremblingly like an old woman; perhaps she kissed him; the old man encouraged her; she withdrew, returned, seemed as if she was afraid to venture, then advanced resolutely.
One of the most successful materializing mediums of recent years is the lady known as Eva C. More than a hundred scientific men, especially physicians, have had an opportunity of observing her phenomena. Dr. Geley had two sittings a week with her for twelve months, and has fully and carefully described the teleplasm or ectoplasm. In a lecture given on the 28th of January, 1918, to the members of the Psychological Institute in the medical lecture theatre of the College de France, in which Dr. Geley discusses his observations with Eva C., he gave a description of the material which has been summarized as follows. (Phenomena of Materialization, p. 328.)
A substance emanates from the body of the medium, it externalizes itself, and is amorphous, or polymorphous, in the first instance. This substance takes various forms, but, in general, it shows more or less composite organs. We may distinguish (1) the substance as a substratum of materialization; (2) its organized development. Its appearance is generally announced by the presence of fluid, white and luminous flakes of a size ranging from that of a pea to that of a five-franc piece, and distributed here and there over the medium’s black dress, principally on the left side.
This manifestation is a premonitory phenomenon, which sometimes precedes the other phenomena by three quarters of an hour, or an hour. Sometimes it is wanting, and it occasionally happens that no other manifestation follows.
The substance itself emanates from the whole body of the medium, but especially from the natural orifices and the extremities, from the top of the head, from the breasts, and the tips of the fingers. The most usual origin, which is most easily observed, is that from the mouth. We then see the substance externalizing itself from the inner surface of the cheeks, from the gums, and from the roof of the mouth.
The substance occurs in various forms, sometimes as ductile dough, sometimes as a true protoplastic mass, sometimes in the form of numerous thin threads, sometimes as cords of various thickness, or in the form of narrow rigid rays, or as a broad band, as a membrane, as a fabric, or as a woven material with indefinite and irregular outlines. The most curious appearance is presented by a widely expanded membrane, provided with fringes and rucks, and resembling in appearance a net.
The amount of externalized matter varies within wide limits. In some cases it completely envelops the medium as in a mantle. It may have three different colours—white, black, or grey. The white colour is the most frequent, perhaps because it is most easily observed. Sometimes the three colours appear simultaneously. The visibility of the substance varies a great deal, and it may slowly increase or decrease in succession. To the touch it gives various impressions. Sometimes it is moist and cold, sometimes viscous and sticky, more rarely dry and hard. The impression created depends on the shape. It appears soft and slightly elastic when it is expanded, and hard, knotty, or fibrous when it forms cords. Sometimes it produces the feeling of a spider’s web passing over the observer’s hand. The threads are both rigid and elastic.
The substance is mobile. Sometimes it moves slowly up or down, across the medium, on her shoulders, on her breast, or on her knees, with a creeping motion resembling a reptile.
Sometimes the movements are sudden and quick. The substance appears and disappears like lightning and is extraordinarily sensitive. Its sensitiveness is mixed up with the hyperaesthetic sensibility of the medium. Every touch produces a painful reaction in the medium. When the touch is moderately strong, or prolonged, the medium complains of a pain comparable with the pain produced by a shock to the normal body.
The substance is sensitive to light. Strong light, especially when sudden and unexpected, produces a painful disturbance in the subject. Yet nothing is more variable than the action of light. In some cases, the phenomena withstand full daylight. The magnesium flash-light acts like a sudden blow on the medium, but it is withstood, and flash-light photographs can be taken.
The substance has an intrinsic and irresistible tendency towards organization. It does not remain long in the primitive condition. It often happens that the organization is so rapid that the primordial substance does not appear at all. At other times one sees at the same time the amorphous substance, and some forms or structures, more or less completely embedded in it, e.g., a thumb suspended in a fringe of the substance. One even sees heads and faces embedded in the material.
As to actual experiments, Dr. Geley gives the following case from his note book:
A cord of white substance proceeds slowly from the mouth down to Eva’s knees, having the thickness of about two fingers. This band assumes the most varied forms before our eyes. Sometimes it expands in the form of a membraneous fabric, with gaps and bulges. Sometimes it contracts and folds up, subsequently expanding and stretching out again. Here and there projections issue from the mass, a sort of pseudopods, and these sometimes take, for a few seconds, the form of fingers, or the elementary outline of a hand, subsequently returning back into the mass. Finally, the cord contracts into itself, extending again on Eva’s knees. Its end rises in the air, leaves the medium, and approaches me. I then see that the end condenses itself in the form of a knot or terminal bud, and this again expands into a perfectly modelled hand. I touch this hand; it feels quite normal. I feel the bones and the fingers with the nails. This hand is then drawn back, becomes smaller, and vanishes at the end of the cord. The latter makes a few further motions, contracts, and then returns into the medium’s mouth. (p. 330.)
A head suddenly appears about 30 inches from the head of the medium, above her and on her right side. It is a human head of normal dimensions, well developed, and with the usual relief. The top of the skull and the forehead are completely materialized. The forehead is broad and high. The hair is short and thick, and of a chestnut or black colour. Below the line of the eyebrows the design is vague, only the forehead and skull appearing clearly. The head disappears for a moment behind the curtain, and then reappears in the same condition, but the face, imperfectly materialized, is covered with a white mask. I extend my hand, and pass my fingers through the bushy hair, and touch the bones of the skull. The next moment everything had disappeared. (p. 330.)
Speaking from the physiological point of view the doctor adds:
Both normal and supernormal physiology tend to establish the unity of the organic substance. In our experiments we have observed, above all, that a uniform amorphous substance externalizes itself from the medium’s body, and gives rise to the various ideoplastic forms. We have seen how this uniform substance organized and transformed itself under our eyes. We have seen a hand emerging from the mass of the substance; a white mass developed into a face. We have seen how in a few moments the form of a head was replaced by the shape of a hand. By the concurrent testimony of sight and touch we have followed the transition of the amorphous unorganized substance into an organically developed structure which had temporarily all the attributes of life—a complete formation, so to speak, in flesh arid blood.
We have watched the disappearance of these formations as they sank back into primitive substance, and have even observed how, in an instant, they were absorbed into the body of the medium. In supranormal physiology there are no different organic substrata for the various substances, as, e.g., a bone substance, a muscular, visceral, or nervous substance; it is simply then a single substance, the basis and substratum of organic life.
In normal physiology it is exactly the same, but it is not so obvious. In some cases it appears quite clear that the phenomenon which takes place in the black seance cabinet, takes place also, as already mentioned, in the chrysalis of the insect. The dissolution of tissues reduces a large proportion of the organs, and their various parts, to a single substance, that substance which is destined to materialize the organs and the various parts of the adult form. We, therefore, have the same manifestation in both physiologies. (p. 332.)
But it is Baron von Schrenck-Notzing of Munich who has given us the fullest account of Eva’s mediumship, in his great work Phenomena of Materialization, a large volume containing no less than 225 illustrations, mostly from actual photographs of the occurrences. These are derived from literally hundreds of sessions, extending from May, 1909 to June, 1914. The phenomena described in this book are of the same nature as those of Dr. Geley, but as they relate to an earlier period of Eva’s work they show a gradual development of the power, at any rate with respect to that condition of the teleplastic substance in which it is capable of being photographed. Madame Bisson, who lives with Eva, and has taken care of her for many years, describes a number of occasions on which she was able to handle the teleplasm, and she confirms the sensations of it which are described by Dr. Geley.
The teleplasm is rarely, if ever, entirely separated from the medium, and though it possesses no organized nerves, impressions made upon it by touch and by light appear in the medium’s consciousness as her own sensations. Incidentally, this proves that the nervous system is not absolutely necessary for the communication of sensations to the brain. Generally speaking, any pressure given to the substance, or any sudden and powerful light, such as that from a pocket electric lamp, hurts the medium. The pain seems to appear in the body of the medium in that part of the body from which the material was probably drawn. The following example illustrates this to some extent.
Eva took my right hand in both her hands. This time the material was thrown on my right hand and on her hands, completely enclosing our hands. I then commenced to pull again and to draw the material outwards, proceeding as tenderly as possible, in order not to hurt the medium. When I began to examine the material, it had curled right round my hand. Suddenly Eva made a movement with her hands, lying on my arm, and involuntarily pulled at the material held by me. It obviously frightened and hurt her, for she screamed, and gave me great anxiety. I tried to soothe her, but she complained of a strong nausea. The nausea continued for about ten minutes (p. 98.)
At a later sitting (p. 131) when a female head showed itself, the Baron heard Eva speak at the same time, and request Madame Bisson to cut a lock from the head. Madame Bisson took a pair of scissors, and while under the careful observation of the Baron, cut off a lock of hair about four inches long and gave it to him. The materialized structure then suddenly disappeared in the direction of the medium, accompanied by a scream from her. After the sitting a lock of the medium’s hair was cut, with her permission. While Eva’s hair showed an entirely brunette character, that taken from the small head (which represented a female form whom Eva called Estelle) was blonde, and the fact that the two samples of hair were quite different was further proved by the microphotographical and chemical examinations made by experts (p. 133).
It should be mentioned that the scientists engaged in this research work always made every possible examination of the medium as well as of the place of meeting beforehand. As to this Dr. von Schrenck-Notzing writes:
Not one of the observers during these four years has ever found on the medium’s body, or in the seance costumes anything which could have been used for the fraudulent production of the phenomena. The author was a witness to the thorough performance of this task on no less than 180 occasions. The honesty of the medium is therefore not a probability, but a certainty placed beyond all question. She has never introduced any objects into the cabinet with which she could have fraudulently represented the teleplastic products. The various seance rooms, in different houses, had no secret passages or trap-doors, and were regularly examined, both before and after every sitting. (p. 275.)
If many of the faces and forms which appear look to the casual observer as though drawn upon and cut out of paper, and are even marked by lines as though that paper, had been folded up, nevertheless it cannot be assumed that paper figures were smuggled into the seances. Both the rigidity of the searches and the control of the medium prevent not only their being introduced, but also their being handled if introduced. The examination of the photographs by experts, and their fruitless attempt to produce similar effects with paper figures photographed under exactly the same conditions, also show fraud to be impossible; and the exgurgitation hypothesis, which has been proposed by some speculators, also stretches the imagination too far from possible facts; besides, in some of the experiments bilberry jam was given to Eva to eat shortly before the sitting, and this must inevitably have coloured the entire contents of the stomach (p. 206).
On the other hand, it does often appear that the intelligences operating in the production of the forms have some difficulty in their materialization, which they can overcome only by methods of production resembling those of the artist and the sculptor on our own plane. For example, as to the experiment of the 10th of September, 1912, the Baron mentions (p. 196) that the head which appeared showed in several respects faults of drawing. Sometimes the same phantom appears a number of times, with or without a considerable interval. In such cases Baron von Schrenck-Notzing finds that while there is the same head and dress, and position of the arms crossed over the breast, there are a great number of small differences. He concludes that the differences between the pictures taken of the same type but on different evenings may be compared with the different poses of a person at a photographer’s, and that they are due principally to different positions of the body, owing to displacement and changes in the external lines and the folds of the dress. The differences, he adds, indicate mobility and variability of the artistic will behind the scenes in the details and shades of the conception, for the “elementary formative principle” never produces rigid and unchangeable products, “but the photographed emanations always indicate a mobile, soft material basis, which is highly changeable and rapidly perishable.” (p. 230.)
The same distinguished investigator had also a number of seances with a Polish medium, a girl of nineteen years, named Stanislava P. (p. 251 et seq.) From her he obtained phenomena very similar to those presented by Eva C. In this series of investigations some cinema pictures were taken—on one occasion as many as four hundred, and on another three hundred and sixty (p. 258). The films show the recession of the material into the mouth of the medium, and one of them also shows the broadening and narrowing of the mass of substance.
In 1922 Baron von Schrenck-Notzing devoted several months to demonstrations of the reality of ectoplasm to members of the liberal professions, in this case with a medium named Willy Schneider, an Austrian boy of 16. Through these phenomena a large number of scientists became convinced of the reality of materializations.
The question is sometimes asked why the materialized forms of persons who have been dead for a considerable time still present themselves in the clothing which they used to wear. This is not always strictly the case, but it is generally so even when the departed person may have changed his habit in the astral world. One reason for this is that many of them would not be recognized in their new condition, but it appears also that when they come within earth influence their old earth condition closes in upon them, as it were, and reproduces the old material forms. Through Mrs. Coates in trance (Photographing the Invisible, p. 208) the reply given to this question was:
When we think what we were like upon the earth, the ether condenses around us and encloses us like an envelope. We are within those ether-like substances which are drawn to us, and our thoughts of what we were like and what we would be better known by, produce not only the clothing, but the fashioning of our forms and features. It is here the spirit chemists step in. They fashion according to their ability that ether substance quicker than thought, and produce our earth features so that they may be recognized... When I was photographed... at Los Angeles, that etherealized matter was attracted or clung to me, taking on the features fashioned by my thoughts, which were, by some sudden impulse or mysterious law, those of my last illness on earth.
A somewhat unusual modification of this process is recounted in Mr. J. Arthur Hill’s New Evidences in Psychical Research. At a sitting on Feb. 7th, 1908, the medium Watson said that he saw in the room the dead mother of one of the sitters. He described her as attired in a brown silk dress, high in the neck, trimmed with white, and having a lined or watered effect in its texture. He said that there was some history attached to this dress, about which the sitter ought to enquire from her sister. On enquiry from the lady mentioned they learned that the old lady had ordered a dress such as that described, but it was delivered only the day before she died, and so was never worn. Mr. Hill remarks that, if the supposition of fraud be dismissed, this incident suggests:
Neither telepathy nor a rummaging among passive memories in a cosmic reservoir, but rather the activity of a surviving mind, able to marshal its earth-memories and to select from them for presentation to the medium such details as will constitute the strongest possible evidence of identity. (p. 134.)
It would be difficult to imagine anything more effective in the way of proof of the actual presence of solid materialized human forms than those products which have become popularly known as the wax gloves. These are paraffin wax moulds of various human members. Dr. Geley gives us a full account of a number of seances in which these were produced. (Clairvoyance and Materialization, pp. 221 to 252.) The medium for these experiments was Mr. Franek Kluski, of Warsaw. This gentleman, who has been psychic from childhood, is described by Dr. Geley as a member of a liberal profession, a writer and a poet, a sympathetic and attractive personality, very intelligent, well educated, speaking several languages, and adds that he has placed his wonderful gifts freely and disinterestedly at the service first of his own compatriots and then of the Metapsychic Institute, by frank devotion to science. The phenomena are plentiful, including exhibitions of the primary substance and luminous phenomena, materializations of human members, of human faces and animal forms, and the movement of objects without apparent contact, as well as phenomena of a mental order.
We will, however, confine ourselves here to a brief account of the wax moulds. In these sittings a tank of melted paraffin wax was set upon an electric heater, the materialized entity was asked to plunge a hand or foot or even part of the face into the paraffin several times. This action results in the formation of a closely fitting envelope, which sets quite rapidly. When the form dematerializes the glove or envelope remains, and if it be desired plaster can afterwards be poured into the mould, giving a perfect cast of the hand or other member upon which it had been formed. In one short series of sittings nine moulds were produced, of which seven were all hands, one was a foot and one a mouth and chin. The following is Dr. Geley’s account of the tenth experiment in this series:
Control was perfect—right hand held by Professor Richet and left by Count Potocki. The controllers kept repeating “I am holding the right hand,” or “I am holding the left hand.” After fifteen or twenty minutes splashing was audible in the tank, and the hands operating, covered with warm paraffin, touched those of the controllers. Before the experiment Professor Richet and I had added some blue colouring matter to the paraffin, which then had a bluish tinge. This was done secretly, to be an absolute proof that the moulds were made on the spot and not brought ready-made into the laboratory by Franek or any other person, and passed off on us by legerdemain. The operation lasted as before, from one to two minutes.
Two admirable moulds resulted, of right and left hands of the size of the hands of children five to seven years old. These were of bluish wax, the same colour as that in the tank.
Weight of paraffin before experiment: 3 kilograms 920 grams.
Weight of paraffin after the experiment: 3 kilograms 800 grams.
Weight of the moulds: 50 grams.
The difference is represented by a considerable quantity of wax scattered on the floor, about 15 grams near the medium and also some far from him, 31/2 yards distant, in a place to which he could not have gone, near the photographic apparatus. We did not scratch up this last, which was adherent to the floor, for weighing, but there was a good deal of it—about 25 grams. Mr. Kluski had not been near that place either before or during the experiment. There was also paraffin on the hands and clothes of the medium. His hands had never been released from the hold of the controllers. (p. 224.)
The appearance of paraffin on Mr. Kluski’s hands and clothes reminds us of the same occurrences in Mr. Crawford’s experiments in the Goligher circle, already described in Chapter VII. The moulds mentioned above show hands with fingers bent down, and thumbs turned over them or over the palm of the hand, and in some cases two hands are shown with fingers interlocked in various ways. For these and other reasons it is quite certain that the wax moulds have been made upon human members afterwards dematerialized.
In the second series of experiments conducted at Warsaw (those above mentioned took place in Paris) some of the materializations were at the same time visible. Dr. Geley says:
We had in this case a new and hitherto unpublished proof. We had the great pleasure of seeing the hands dipped into the paraffin. They were luminous, bearing points of light at the finger-tips. They passed slowly before our eyes, dipped into the wax, moved in it for a few seconds, came out, still luminous, and deposited the glove against the hand of one of us. (p. 234.)
“but,” some spiritualists have said to me, “we always thought that you Theosophists supposed all our phenomena to be the work of elementals, or fairies, or devils or something of that sort!” No Theosophist who knows anything about it has ever made any such foolish assertion. What may have been said is that some part of the phenomena were occasionally produced by agencies other than dead men or women; and that is perfectly true. It has often seemed to me that there has frequently been a good deal of entirely unnecessary mistrust and misconception between Theosophists and spiritualists. Various spiritualistic organs have frequently abused Theosophy in no measured terms, and there is no doubt that on our side also both speakers and writers have often referred to spiritualism with much scorn, but with little knowledge. But I hope that with more knowledge each of the other we shall come to respect one another more as we understand one another better, for we each have our part to fill in the great work of the future. It would indeed be foolish of us to quarrel, for we have more in common with each other than either of us has with any of the other shades of opinion.
We both hold strenuously to the great central idea of man as an immortal and ever-progressive being; we both know that as is his life now, so shall it be after he has cast aside this body, which is his only that he may learn through it; we both hold the Fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man as fundamental tenets; and we both know that the gains and rewards of this world are but as dross compared with the glorious certainties of the higher life beyond the grave. Let us stand side by side on this common platform, and let us postpone the consideration of our points of difference until we have converted the rest of the world to the belief in these points upon which we agree. Surely that is wise policy, for these are the points of importance; and if the life is lived in accordance with these all the rest will follow.
We have a magnificent system of philosophy; our spiritualistic brother does not care for it. Well, if his thought does not run along that line, why should we seek to force it upon him? Perhaps presently he will feel the need of some such system; if he does, then there it is all ready for his study. I believe that in due course I shall return to live again upon this earth; herein some of my spiritualistic brothers agree with me, and some do not; but, after all, what does that matter? To us this doctrine of reincarnation is luminous and helpful, because it seems to explain so much for which otherwise there is no solution; but if another man does not yet feel the need of it, it is no part of our policy to try to force it upon him.
We hold the idea of continued progress after death by means of further lives upon this earth, after the life on subtler planes is over; the spiritualist prefers the idea of passing on to other and higher spheres altogether. We both agree that there is a progress hereafter; let us live so as to make the best use of this existence as a preparation for that, for if we do that we shall surely come out successfully, whichever of us is right as to the place of our future meeting. When all the world is living its highest in the preparation for that life of progress, it will be time enough to begin to argue about where it will be lived.
As to the spiritualistic phenomena, we have no quarrel whatever with them; we know well that they take place, and we know that they have had great value as demonstrating the reality of superphysical life to many a sceptical mind. There are many men who seem constitutionally incapable of profiting by the experience of others; they must go and see everything for themselves, not realizing that, even if they do see, their untrained observations will be of little value. On this point Mr. Fullerton has well said:
To ensure observations with any worth there must be long and careful discipline; natural errors must through repeated experience be guarded against, distinctions and qualifications and illusions be learned. This is true of the physical plane; much more of the astral plane, where phenomena are so different, conditions so unlike, misguidance so multiform. He who assumes that his untutored observation for the first time of the contents and facts of the astral world would better determine them than does the trained faculty of long and accomplished students, presupposes really that he is an exception to universal rule, superior to other men and of different mould. But what is this save a form of vanity, a case of that strange delusion as to personal worth which the smallest observation of human nature might have cured? It is akin to the supposition that his first introduction to an unknown continent, he not being a naturalist, a physicist, or a botanist, would be more conclusive in its results than the protracted researches of scientists long familiar with the region and mutually comparing their investigations. (The Proofs of Theosophy, p. 7.)
If a man must see for himself, and is unable to rest upon the basis of intellectual conviction, by all means let him attend the spiritualistic seance, and learn by experience, as so many others have done. It is not a course that we should advise except to such a man as this, because there are certain serious drawbacks to it from our point of view.
The greatest of these is one at which the sceptic would laugh—the danger of believing too much! For if the sceptic has determination and perseverance, he will assuredly be convinced sooner or later; and when he is, it is quite likely that the pendulum will swing to the other extreme, and that he will believe too much, instead of too little. He may readily grow to regard all the words of the dead as gospel, all communications which come through the tilts of a table as divinely inspired.
There is also another danger—that of being uncomfortably haunted. Often there come to a seance most undesirable dead people, men of depraved morals, seeking to gratify vicariously obscene lower passions. And besides these, there are those dead men who are mad with fear, who are clutching desperately at any and every opportunity to seize a physical vehicle, to get back at any cost and by any means into touch with the lower life which they have lost. The “guide” usually protects his medium from such influences, and will not allow such a man to communicate; but he cannot prevent him from attaching himself to other sitters and following them home. The sceptic may think himself strong-minded and non-sensitive, and therefore proof against any such possibility; some day he may be unpleasantly undeceived as to this; but even if that be so, does he wish to run the risk of bringing home an influence to his wife or his daughter? Of course, I fully recognize that this is only a possibility—that a man might attend a score of seances and encounter nothing of this sort; yet these things have happened, and they are happening even now. People driven to the verge of insanity by astral persecution have come to me again and again; and in many cases it was at a seance that they first encountered that ghostly companion. The strong can resist; but who knows whether he is strong until he tries?
When, however, this unfortunate thing has already happened to a person—when he already feels himself haunted or obsessed—there is only one thing to be done, and that is to set the mind steadily against it in determined resistance. Realize firmly that the human will is stronger than any evil influence, and that you have a right to your own individuality and the use of your own organs—a right to choose your company astrally as well as on the physical plane. Assert this right persistently, and all will be well with you. Take resolutely to heart the common sense advice given by Miss Freer, in her Essays in Psychical Research:
If you believe yourself obsessed, if planchette swears, if your table-raps give lying messages, and you fall into trances at unreasonable moments, drop the subject. Get a bicycle, or learn Hebrew, or go on a walking tour, or weed the garden! If you are sane, you can do as you like with your own mind; if you can not, consult the staff of Colney Hatch! Want of self-restraint is either sin or disease.
Then there is always the possibility of deception—not so much of deception by the medium, or by any one on the physical plane, as by entities behind. I have known many cases in which such deceptions were well-intentioned; but of course they remain deceptions nevertheless. It may happen that one dead man personates another from the best of motives—it may be simply to comfort surviving relations, by taking the place of one who does not care sufficiently, or perhaps is ashamed to come. Sometimes one man will take the place of another who has already passed on to the heaven-world and so is out of reach, in order that his surviving relations may not feel themselves neglected or abandoned. In such a case it is not for us to blame him; his action may be right or it may be wrong, but that is a matter exclusively for his own conscience, and we are not called upon to judge him. I simply note the fact that such cases occur.
It must be remembered that the man who has passed on into the heaven-world has left behind him his astral corpse, which is at the stage of decay of the shade or of the shell, according to the time which has elapsed since he abandoned it. Obviously to utilize and revivify this will be the easier way of personating him, and it is therefore the plan usually adopted.
It is not even in the least necessary that the communicating entity should be human at all; many a joyous and obliging nature-spirit is proud to have the opportunity of playing the part of a being belonging to a superior evolution, and will continue assuring his delighted audience that he is “so happy” as long as they like to listen to him.
The entity who poses at a seance as Shakespeare or Julius Caesar, as Mary Queen of Scots or George Washington, is usually of this class, though he is sometimes also a human being of low degree, to whom it is a joy to strut even for a few minutes in such borrowed plumes, to enjoy even for a single evening the respect due to a well-known name. Also, if he has something to say which he considers useful or important, he thinks (and quite rightly) that credulous mortals are more likely to pay attention to it if it be attributed to some distinguished person. His motives are often estimable, even though we cannot approve of his methods.
There is any amount of such personation as this; it is one of the commonest facts which we encounter in our researches. There is a book on Spiritualism, for example, by Judge Edmonds of the Supreme Court of New York, which consists chiefly of communications purporting to come from Swedenborg and Bacon, with occasional observations from Washington and Charlemagne; but none of these great people seem to have risen at all to the level of their earthly reputation, and their remarks do not, differ appreciably from the deadly dullness of the ordinary trance-address, while many of their statements are of course wildly inaccurate.
Another fine example is the list of signatures appended to the prolegomena of The Spirits’ Book, by Allan Kardec, which is as follows: “John the Evangelist, St. Augustine, St. Vincent de Paul, St. Louis, the Spirit of Truth, Socrates, Plato, Fenelon, Franklin, Swedenborg, etc., etc.” One wonders who is covered by the mystic “etc., etc.,” and whether the other names were all that the communicating entity could think of at the moment!
All such extravagant pretensions as these are so obviously ridiculous that they are easy of detection. But when the man personated is one of ordinary type, it is quite another matter; so that at a seance, unless the sitter is himself a trained clairvoyant of no mean order, he simply cannot tell what it is that he sees, however much he may flatter himself that his discernment is perfect. Let me quote once more what I wrote some years ago in The Astral Plane, p. 108.
A manifesting “spirit” is often exactly what it professes to be, but often also is nothing of the kind; and for the ordinary sitter there is absolutely no means of distinguishing the true from the false, since the extent to which a being having all the resources of the astral plane at his command can delude a person on the physical plane is so great that no reliance can be placed even on what seems the most convincing proof.
If something manifests which announces itself as a man’s long-lost brother, he can have no certainty that its claim is a just one. If it tells him of some fact known only to that brother and to himself, he remains unconvinced, for he knows that it might easily have read the information from his own mind, or from his surroundings in the astral light. Even if it goes still further and tells him something connected with his brother, of which he himself is unaware, which he afterwards verifies, he still realizes that even this may have been read from the astral records, or that what he sees before him may be only the shade of his brother, and so possess his memory without in any way being himself. It is not for one moment denied that important communications have sometimes been made at seances by entities who in such cases have been precisely what they said they were; all that is claimed is that it is quite impossible for the ordinary person who visits a seance ever to be certain that he is not being cruelly deceived in one or other of a dozen different ways.
Once more, I know that these are possibilities only, and that in the majority of cases the dead man gives his name honestly enough; but the possibilities exist nevertheless, and often materialize themselves into actualities.
Another point is the harm which must to a greater or less extent be done to the medium—not only the extreme physical prostration which I have mentioned, leading sometimes to nervous break-down, and sometimes to excessive use of stimulants in order to avoid that break-down—but also along moral lines. Here I must protest emphatically against the ordinary type of paid seances to which anyone may come on payment of so much per head. It places the unfortunate medium in an utterly false position, and exposes him to a temptation to which no man ought ever intentionally to be exposed. Anyone who knows anything at all about these phenomena knows that they are erratic, that they are dependent upon many causes of which as yet he knows only a few, and that therefore sometimes they can be had and sometimes they cannot. This is the experience of every investigator. Miss Goodrich Freer corroborates it in the preface to her Essays in Psychical Research, p. vi:
If I know anything, I know that psychic phenomena are not to be commanded, be their origin what it may... He who ordains the services of Angels as well as of men may send His messengers—but not, I think, to produce poltergeist phenomena. The veil of the future may be lifted now and then—but not, I take it, at the bidding of a guinea fee in Bond Street. That we may momentarily transcend time and space, the temporary conditions of our mortality, I cannot doubt; but such phenomena are not to be commanded, nor of everyday occurrence, nor hastily to be assumed.
Now if the medium is in the position of having been paid beforehand for their production, and then he finds that they will not come, what is he to do to satisfy all these people who are sitting round him expecting their money’s worth? It is so easy to deceive them; they lend themselves to it so readily; nay, it is often quite sufficient just to allow them to deceive themselves. It is not fair to put any man in such a position as that; and if the medium sometimes falls into cheating, it is surely not he alone who is to blame.
Then there is the whole question of possible harm to the dead. I have already admitted that the dead man sometimes wishes to communicate in order to unburden his mind in some way, and when this is the case it is well that he should have the opportunity of doing it. But these cases are comparatively rare. If the dead want us they will seek to reach us; but we should invariably let the movement come from their side—we should never seek to draw them back. It may be said, perhaps: “But is it not a natural desire on the part of a mother to see her dead child again?” Surely it would be more natural for the mother to be entirely unselfish, and to think first of what was best for the child, before she considered her personal longings. In many cases communication with the physical plane may do a man but little harm during the earliest stages of his astral life; but it must always be remembered that in every case it intensifies and prolongs his attachment to the lower levels of the plane—that it sets up in him a habit of remaining closely in touch with the earth-life.
Yet, with all this, spiritualism has assuredly its place and its work, and it has been of incalculable value to many thousands of men and women. The Catholic Church and the Salvation Army are both sections of Christianity, yet they appeal to widely different types of people, and those who are attracted by one would have been little likely to come to the other. So each has its place and its work to do for the broad idea of Christianity. In the same way it seems to me that Theosophy and spiritualism have each their clientele. Those who study the philosophy which we set before them would never have been satisfied with the trance-speaking and the constantly repeated phenomena of the spiritualistic seance; those who desire such phenomena, and those who yearn after what good old Dr. Dee used to call “sermon-stuffe” would never have been happy with us, while they find exactly what they want in spiritualism. For among spiritualists, as among any other body of men, there are several types. There are those who are chiefly interested in the trance-speaking, who make this their religion and take their trance-address followed by a clairvoyant reading of surroundings every Sunday evening, just as mortals who are otherwise disposed go to church or to a Theosophical lecture. Then there is the type whose interest is purely personal—whose one and only idea in connection with the whole affair is the gratification of their private and particular wish to see their own dead relations. There is another type who honestly and unselfishly set themselves to the task of trying to help and develop the degraded, the unevolved and the ignorant among the dead; and there is no doubt that they really achieve a great deal of good with that unpromising class of people. Others there are who are really anxious to learn and understand scientifically the facts of the higher life; and these people, while intensely delighted and interested for a time, usually find presently that beyond a certain point they can get no further; and then perhaps we can do something for them in Theosophy.
A question which is constantly asked is: “Why do not these dead men who return to us with the knowledge of a higher plane teach us the doctrine of reincarnation?” The answer is perfectly simple; first of all, some of them do teach it. All spiritists of the French school of Allan Kardec hold this doctrine during life, and consequently when they return after death they have still the same story to tell. Those who return in England or America usually say nothing about it, because they have no means of knowing anything more about it now than they knew when they were upon earth. As we explained in an earlier chapter, it is the soul himself in his causal body who passes from life to life, and he has no more knowledge or memory of that wider existence on the astral plane than he had on the physical. So he repeats only what he has known on earth, unless he is so fortunate as to meet with someone who is able to teach him something of this grand truth—an Oriental for example, or a Theosophist.
Still, even in spiritualism evidence of reincarnation occasionally appears, as, for example, in Claude’s Book, by L. Kelway-Bamber, first published in 1918, wherein the young British officer, communicating from the astral plane, devotes a chapter to a description of the subject; and naturally it is usually of that rapid type of reincarnation of which Monsieur Gabrielle Delanne collected so many examples in the address which he delivered some years ago before one of the spiritualistic societies. Here, for example, is a curious case, extracted from the pages of The Progressive Thinker of December 13th, 1902. It appears in the form of a letter to the editor, signed with the initials S.O., and dated somewhat vaguely from New Mexico.
I offer my personal experience as an absolute fact—not as supporting any theory. At the time I passed through the experience (28 years ago), I knew absolutely nothing of mediumship in any phase and probably had never heard the word reincarnation. I was then sixteen years of age and had been married one year.
The knowledge that I was to become a mother had just dawned upon me, when in a vague way I became conscious of the almost constant presence of an invisible personality. I seemed to know intuitively that my invisible companion was a woman, and quite a number of years older than myself. By degrees this presence grew stronger. In the third month after she first made her presence felt, I could receive impressionally long messages from her. She manifested the most solicitous care for my health and general welfare, and as time wore on her voice became audible to me, and I enjoyed many hours of conversation with her. She gave her name and nationality, with many details of her personal history. She seemed anxious that I should know and love her for herself, as she expressed it. She made continual efforts to become visible to me, and towards the last succeeded. She was then as true a companion to me as if she had been clothed in an embodiment of flesh. I had merely to draw my curtains, shrouding the room in quiet tones, to have the presence manifest, both to sight and hearing.
Two or three weeks before the birth of my baby she informed me that the real purport of her presence was her intention to enter the new form at its birth, in order to complete an earth-experience that had come to an untimely end. I confess I had but a dim conception of her meaning, and was considerably troubled over the matter.
On the night before my daughter’s birth, I saw my companion for the last time. She came to me and said: “Our time is at hand; be brave and all will be well with us.”
My daughter came, and in appearance was a perfect miniature of my spirit friend, and totally unlike either family to which she belonged, and the first remark of everyone on seeing her would be: “Why, she does not look like a baby at all. She looks at least twenty years old.”
I was greatly surprised some years later when I chanced to find in an old work the story of the woman, whose name and history my spirit-friend claimed as her own in her earth-life, and the fragments of her story, as she had given them to me, were in accord with history, except some personal details not likely to have been known to anyone else. All this experience I kept to myself as a profound secret, for, young as I was, I realized what judgement the world would place upon the narrator of such a story.
Once when my daughter was in her fifteenth year, the first name of my spirit-friend happened to be mentioned in her presence. She turned to me quickly with a look of surprise on her face and said: “Mamma, didn’t my papa call me by this name?” (Her father died when she was one year old.) I said: “No, dear, you were never called this name.” She replied: “Well, I surely remember it, and somebody somewhere called me by it.”
In conclusion I will add that in character my daughter is very much like the historic character of the woman whose spirit said she would inhabit the new form.
These are my facts. I offer no explanation; if they chance to fit anybody’s theory, so much the better for the theory. Theories usually need some facts to prop them up; facts are independent and able to stand on their own feet.
Madame d’Espérance, who seems to be in so many respects in advance of the majority of mediums, appears to have been taught not only reincarnation but much other Theosophical doctrine by one of her dead friends, as is set forth in her book Shadowland. Perhaps the most striking incident in that very interesting work is the occasion on which the author leaves her body and is shown a remarkable symbolical vision of her life; for in that one experience her eyes are opened to the doctrine of cause arid effect, of evolution and reincarnation, and to the absolute realization of the fundamental unity of all, however dimly and imperfectly it may be expressed. For the law of cause and effect is involved in the statement made by the spirit-friend as to the path of life: “It is the road you have made; you have no other”. Evolution is taught when she is shown “that it is the same life which, circling for ever and ever through form after form, dwelling in the rocks, the sand, the sea, in each blade of grass, each tree, each flower, in all forms of animal existence, culminates in man’s intelligence and perception.”
As to reincarnation she remarks:
I could see that the fact of the spirit first taking on itself the form of man did not bring it to its utmost earthly perfection, for there are many degrees of man. In the savage it widens its experience and finds a new field for education, which being exhausted, another step is taken; and so step by step, in an ever onward, progressive, expansive direction the spirit develops, the decay of the forms which the spirit employs being only the evidence that they have fulfilled their mission, and served the purpose for which they were used. They return to their original elements, to be used again and again as a means whereby the spirit can manifest itself, and obtain the development it requires. (p 376).
M. L. Chevreuil’s book Proofs of the Spirit World contains a chapter entitled “Previous Lives”, in which he vigorously supports the truth of reincarnation. He says:
The soul is an entity distinct from the body; it accompanies the essential part of the human being in the course of the numerous incarnations necessary to our evolution. From the time of Plato the majority of men have lived in the knowledge of this truth, and tomorrow they will dwell in scientific certainty that this ancient philosophy has not deceived them. (p. 56.)
He describes at considerable length some of the labours of M. de Rochas upon the regression of memory. M. Chevreuil explains that every subject describes in the same manner his or her going back to the past:
They are transported back to six months of age, two months, into the body of the mother, where they take the position of the foetus; the regression is continued and they are in space. A brief lethargy, and we are present at a new scene, the death of an old person. It is the beginning of the life which preceded the present incarnation, manifesting itself backwards, and continuing back to a still older incarnation. (p. 59.)
Considering the mode of the “spirit’s” coming to birth, M. Chevreuil says that the vision described is always the same, that before birth the subject sees himself in space in the form of a ball or as a slightly luminous mist, and sees in the mother’s womb the body in which he is to be incarnated; all agree, he adds, that the spiritual body enters little by little, and that the complete incorporation occurs at about seven years of age.
Rao Bahadur Shyam Sundar Lal, C. I. E., a distinguished Minister of the Gwalior and Alwar States, has devoted many years to the study of reincarnation. Among the evidence collected by him is a case which was recounted as follows in The New York Times, September 16th, 1923:
Within the Maharajah of Bharatpur’s extensive territory was found a boy of four years, Prabhu by name, the son of a Brahman called Khairti, who with childish prattle and laughter told with the greatest detail of his supposed former existence. He gave his former name, the year of his other birth, his personal appearance on his earlier visit to this earth, and recounted events, such as famines, which had happened more than fifty years before his last birth. He told of his former wife, his daughters and his sons, giving their names and the money he received on their marriages, and described his former home and neighbours.
The child, the savants vouch, had not been tutored and had no means outside of himself to learn of these details, or to know anything of the transmigration of souls. The neighbourhoods he described were visited by the savants, with the child, and in nearly every detail his statements were found to be correct, even to the names of his supposed former children and wife. He had some difficulty in locating his supposed former home, but this, it was claimed, may be accounted for by the fact that it is now a mass of ruins and much different from what it had been.
A somewhat similar account, but coming this time from Japan, appears in Lafcadio Hearn’s Gleanings in Buddha Fields, Chapter X, and is entitled “The Rebirth of Katsugoro”. Mr. Hearn cites it as a good illustration of the common ideas of the people of Japan concerning pre-existence and rebirth. He takes it from a series of documents, very much signed and sealed by various officials, Priests and Daimyos. The full story is translated as follows.
Some time in the eleventh month of the past year, when Katsugoro was playing in the rice-field with his elder sister, Fusa, he asked her, —
“Elder Sister, where did you come from before you were born into our household?”
Fusa answered him: —
“How can I know what happened to me before I was born?”
Katsugoro looked surprised and exclaimed:
“Then you cannot remember anything that happened before you were born?”
“Do you remember?” asked Fusa.
“Indeed I do,” replied Katsugoro. “I used to be the son of Kyubei San of Hodokubo, and my name was then Tozo—do you not know all that?”
“Ah!” said Fusa, “I shall tell father and mother about it.”
But Katsugoro at once began to cry, and said:
“Please do not tell!—it would not be good to tell father and mother.”
Fusa made answer, after a little while:—
“Well, this time I shall not tell. But the next time that you do anything naughty, then I will tell.”
After that day whenever a dispute arose between the two, the sister would threaten the brother, saying: “Very well, then—I shall tell that thing to father and mother.” At these words the boy would always yield to his sister. This happened many times; and the parents one day overheard Fusa making her threat. Thinking Katsugoro must have been doing something wrong, they desired to know what the matter was, and Fusa, being questioned, told them the truth. Then Genzo and his wife, and Tsuya, the grandmother of Katsugoro, thought it a very strange thing. They called Katsugoro, therefore; and tried, first by coaxing, and then by threatening, to make him tell what he had meant by those words.
After hesitation, Katsugoro said:—”I will tell you everything. I used to be the son of Kyubei San of Hodokubo, and the name of my mother then was O-Shidzu San. When I was five years old, Kyubei San died; and there came in his place a man called Hanshiro San, who loved me very much. But in the following year, when I was six years old, I died of smallpox. In the third year after that I entered mother’s honorable womb, and was born again.”
The parents and the grandmother of the boy wondered greatly at hearing this, and they decided to make all possible inquiry as to the man called Hanshiro of Hodokubo. But as they all had to work very hard every day to earn a living, and so could spare but little time for any other matter, they could not at once carry out their intention.
Now, Sei, the mother of Katsugoro, had nightly to suckle her little daughter Tsune, who was four years old;—and Katsugoro therefore slept with his grandmother, Tsuya. Sometimes he used to talk to her in bed; and one night when he was in a very confiding mood, she persuaded him to tell her what happened at the time when he had died. Then he said:—”Until I was four years old I used to remember everything; but since then I have become more and more forgetful; and now I forget many, many things. But I still remember that I died of smallpox; I remember that I was put into a jar; I remember that I was buried on a hill. There was a hole made in the ground; and the people let the jar drop into that hole. It fell pon! I remember that sound well. Then somehow I returned to the house, and I stopped on my own pillow there. In a short time some old man—looking like a grandfather—came and took me away. I do not know who or what he was. As I walked I went through empty air as if flying. I remember it was neither night nor day as we went; it was always like sunset-time. I did not feel either warm or cold or hungry. We went very far, I think; but still I could hear always, faintly, the voices of people talking at home; and the sound of the Nembutsu being said for me. I remember also that when the people at home set offerings of hot rice-cake before the household shrine, I inhaled the vapour of the offerings. Grandmother, never forgot to offer warm food to the honorable dead (Hotoke Same), and do not forget to give to priests—I am sure it is very good to do these things... After that, I only remember that the old man led me by some roundabout way to this place—I remember we passed the road beyond the village. Then we came here, and he pointed to this house, and said to me: ‘Now you must be reborn, for it is three years since you died. You are to be reborn in that house. The person who will become your grandmother is very kind; so it will be well for you to be conceived and born there.’ After saying this, the old man went away. I remained a little time under the kaki-tree before the entrance of this house. Then I was going to enter when I heard talking inside: some one said that because father was now earning so little, mother would have to go to service in Yedo. I thought, “I will not go into that house”; and I stopped three days in the garden. On the third day it was decided that, after all, mother would not have to go to Yedo. The same night I passed into the house through a knot-hole in the sliding-shutters;—and after that I stayed for three days beside the kitchen range. Then I entered mother’s honorable womb... I remember that I was born without any pain at all. —Grandmother, you may tell this to father and mother, but please never tell it to anybody else.”
The grandmother told Genzo and his wife what Katsugoro had related to her; and after that the boy was not afraid to speak freely with his parents on the subject of his former existence, and would often say to them: “I want to go to Hodokubo. Please let me make a visit to the tomb of Kyubei San.” Genzo... asked his mother Tsuya, on the twentieth day of the first month of this year, to take her grandson there.
Tsuya went with Katsugoro to Hodokubo; and when they entered the village she pointed to the nearer dwellings, and asked the boy, “Which house is it?—is it this house or that one?” “No,” answered Katsugoro,—”it is further on—much further,”—and he hurried before her. Reaching a certain dwelling at last, he cried, “This is the house!”—and ran in, without waiting for his grandmother. Tsuya followed him in, and asked the people there what was the name of the owner of the house. “Hanshiro,” one of them answered. She asked the name of Hanshiro’s wife. “Shidzu,” was the reply. Then she asked whether there had ever been a son called Tozo born in that house. “Yes,” was the answer; “but that boy died thirteen years ago, when he was six years old.”
Then for the first time Tsuya was convinced that Katsugoro had spoken the truth; and she could not help shedding tears. She related to the people of the house all that Katsugoro had told her about his remembrance of his former birth. Then Hanshiro and his wife wondered greatly. They caressed Katsugoro and wept; and they remarked that he was much handsomer now than he had been as Tozo before dying at the age of six. In the meantime, Katsugoro was looking all about; and seeing the roof of a tobacco shop opposite to the house of Hanshiro, he pointed to it, and said: “That used not to be there.” And he also said,—”The tree yonder used not to be there.” All this was true. So from the minds of Hanshiro and his wife every doubt departed.
Some interesting cases are mentioned by Mr. H. Fielding-Hall in his charming book on Burma, The Soul of a People. He writes:
A friend of mine once put up for the night at a monastery far away in the forest, near a small village. Talking in the evening round the fire, he remarked that the monastery was very large and fine for so small a village; it was built of the best and straightest teak, which must have been brought from very far away; it must have taken a long time and a great deal of labour to build.
In explanation he heard a curious story. It appeared that in the old days there used to be only a bamboo and grass monastery there, such as most jungle villages have; and the then monk was distressed at the smallness of his abode and the little accommodation there was for his school (for a monastery is always a school). So one rainy season he planted with great care a number of teak seedlings round about, and he watered and cared for them.
“When they are grown up,” he would say, “these teak-trees shall provide timber for a new and proper building; and I myself will return in another life, and with those trees I will build a monastery more worthy than this.”
Teak-trees take a hundred years to reach a mature size, and while the trees were still but saplings the monk died and another monk taught in his stead. And so it went on, and the years rolled by, and from time to time new monasteries of bamboo were built-and rebuilt, and the teak-trees grew bigger and bigger. But the village grew smaller, for the times were troubled, and the village was far away in the forest. So it happened that at last the village found itself without a monk at all; the last monk was dead, and no one came to take his place.
It is a serious thing for a village to have no monk. To begin with, there is no one to teach the lads to read and write and do arithmetic; and there is no one to whom you can give offerings and thereby acquire merit, and there is no one to preach to you and tell you of the sacred teaching. So the village was in a bad way.
Then at last one evening, when the girls were all out at the well drawing water, they were surprised by the arrival of a monk from the forest, weary with a long journey, footsore and hungry. The villagers received him with enthusiasm, and furnished up the old monastery in a hurry for him to sleep. But the curious thing was that the monk seemed to know it all. He knew the monastery and the path to it, and the ways about the village, and the names of the hills and the streams. It seemed as though he must have lived there in the village, and yet no one knew him or recognized his face, though he was but a young man still, and there were villagers who had lived there for seventy years. Next morning the monk came into the village with his begging-bowl, as monks do, and collected his food for the day: and that evening, when the villagers went to see him, he told them he was going to stay. He recalled to them the monk who had planted the teak-trees, and how he had said that when the trees were grown he would return.
“I,” said the young monk, “am he who planted these trees. Lo, they are grown up and I have returned, and now we will build a monastery as I said.”
When the villagers, doubting, questioned him, and old men came and talked to him of traditions of long-past days, he answered as one who knew all. He told them he had been born and educated far away in the South, and had grown up not knowing who he had been; then he had entered a monastery, and in due time became a Pongyi. The remembrance came to him, he went on, in a dream of how he had planted the trees and had promised to return to that village far away in the forest.
The very next day he had started, and travelled day after day and week upon week, till at length he had arrived, as they saw. So the villagers were convinced, and they set to work and cut down the great boles, and built the monastery which my friend saw. And the monk lived there all his life, and taught the children, and preached the marvellous teaching of the great Buddha, till at length his time came again and he returned; for of monks it is not said that they die, but that they return.....
About fifty years ago in a village called Okshitgon were born two children, a boy and a girl. They were born on the same day in neighbouring houses, and they grew up together and played together, and loved each other. In due course they married and started a family, and maintained themselves by cultivating the fields about the village. They were always known as devoted to each other, and they died as they had lived—together. The same death took them on the same day; so they were buried without the village and were forgotten, for the times were serious... Okshitgon was in the midst of one of the most distressed districts, and many of its people fled; and one of them, a man named Maung Kan, went with his young wife to the village of Kabyu and lived there.
Now, Maung Kan’s wife had borne to him twin sons. They were born at Okshitgon shortly before their parents had to run away, and they were named, the first Maung Gyi (which means Brother Big-fellow) and the second Maung Ngé (which means Brother Little-fellow). These lads grew up at Kabyu, and soon learnt to talk; and their parents were surprised to hear them calling to each other at play, not as Maung Gyi and Maung Ngé, but as Maung San Nyein and Ma Gywin. The latter is a woman’s name, and the parents remembered that these were the names of the man and wife who had died at Okshitgon about the time the children were born.
So the parents thought that the souls of the man and wife had entered into the children, and they took them to Okshitgon to try them. The children knew everything in Okshitgon; they knew the roads, the houses and the people, and they recognized the clothes they used to wear in the former life: there was no doubt about it. One of them, the younger, remembered how she had borrowed two rupees once from a woman, Ma Thet, unknown to her husband, and left the debt unpaid. Ma Thet was still living, so they asked her, and she recollected that it was true she had lent the money long ago....
Shortly afterwards I saw these two children. They were then just over six years old. The elder, into whom the soul of the man entered, is a fat, chubby little fellow, but the younger twin is smaller, and has a curious dreamy look in his face, more like a girl than a boy. They told me much about their former lives. After they died they said they lived for some time without a body at all, wandering in the air and hiding in the trees. Then, after some months they were born again as twin boys. “It used to be so clear,” said the elder boy, “I could remember everything; but it is getting duller and duller, and I cannot now remember as I used to do.”
Another little boy told me once that the way remembrance came to him was by seeing the silk he used to wear made into curtains, which are given to the monks and used as partitions in their monasteries, and as walls to temporary erections made at festival times. He was taken when some three years old to a feast at the making of the son of a wealthy merchant into a monk. There he recognized in the curtain walling in part of the bamboo building his old dress, and pointed it out at once.*
*Op. cit., p. 291 et seq.
Most of the examples of reincarnation given above are taken from Oriental countries—not because the great law of rebirth is operative only in those lands, but because for various reasons it is easier to trace its action there. The law is universal, but the interval between lives differs widely. For some it is a matter of many centuries; for others it may be only a few months, or even days. With the Burmese, as we have just seen from Mr. Fielding Hall’s account, very short intervals seem to be the rule, and the Burman evidently has also the peculiarity that he usually takes birth over and over again in the same race before transferring himself to another. These two habits of his are specially convenient for the student of reincarnation who, by researches among that race, can readily convince himself of the truth of the general principle before extending his inquiries into other fields where the investigation is more difficult.
There is plenty of testimony available of quite another kind, for there are a certain number of people who have a clear memory of at least some of their own former births; and it is sometimes possible for those who have lived simultaneously in the past to compare notes, and so obtain some sort of verification of their recollections. I remember once, years ago, when I had given a lecture upon reincarnation to an Indian audience, and asked at the conclusion of it for questions on any point which I had not made quite clear, a highly-cultured Indian gentleman rose, and with the utmost courtesy said:
“Sir, this theory of reincarnation is familiar to us from childhood; we all of us begin by accepting it, and it is only when we grow up and absorb your European culture that we come to doubt it. Have you any objection to telling us how it happens that you, an Englishman, whose education and surroundings must have been so entirely different, are able to speak to us so convincingly and with such apparent certainty on this subject?”
I in my turn put a question to him: “Do you wish me to rehearse for you the stock arguments which show so conclusively that reincarnation is the only rational theory of life, the only hypothesis which enables us to account in any degree equitably for the conditions which we see around us? Or do you want me to unveil something of my own inner life, and give you my real reason?”
He replied: “Sir, if I may venture to put so intimate, so almost impertinent a question (though I assure you that it is not asked impertinently) it is precisely that real inner reason that it would mean so much to me to hear.”
Seeing how genuine and how serious was his query, I answered him openly: “Very well then,” I said, “I speak definitely and certainly about reincarnation because I know it to be a fact, because I can clearly remember a large number of my own past births, and in the case of some of them I have been able to satisfy myself by exterior evidence that my recollection is accurate. But of course that, however satisfactory to me, is no proof to you.”
He thanked me heartily, assuring me that that was exactly what he had wanted to hear.
I have tried to describe the life on the other side of death just as it is, just as it is seen to be by those who, taking part in it (as we all do every night of our earthly lives) have unfolded within themselves the power to remember clearly what they see and do, so that to them it is familiar, simple, straightforward—part of their everyday existence. And I have gathered together from many sources a large number of illustrative cases, a vast amount of concurrent testimony to show you that the account I give is not a dream or a hallucination, but a plain statement of the facts as commonly experienced.
For those who are able to accept this, all fear of death should be eradicated, all grief for those whom we call the dead should automatically cease. Yet so strong is this ingrained habit of mourning, so firmly implanted within us is this hereditary, though baseless, sense of separation, that even those who intellectually grasp the truth, who fully believe all that is written herein, may at times find themselves slipping back under its influence into that old and harmful attitude of despondency, of longing, of never-fading regret.
So sad is this, so injurious both to the living and the dead, that I feel it my duty to close this book with a final and urgent appeal to my readers to raise themselves once and forever above the possibility of any such relapse, to take their stand firmly in God’s sunlight, and never for a moment allow it to be obscured by man-made clouds of doubt or fear. To the man, then, whose sky is dark because one whom he loves deeply has left this physical world, I would address myself thus:
My brother, you have lost by death one whom you loved dearly—one who perhaps was all the world to you; and so to you that world seems empty, and life no longer worth the living. You feel that joy has left you for ever—that existence can be for you henceforth nothing but hopeless sadness—naught but one aching longing for “the touch of a vanished hand and the sound of a voice that is still”. You are thinking chiefly of yourself and your intolerable loss; but there is also another sorrow. Your grief is aggravated by your uncertainty as to the present condition of your beloved; you feel that he has gone you know not where. You hope earnestly that all is well with him, but when you look upward all is void; when you cry, there is no answer. And so despair and doubt overwhelm you, and make a cloud that hides from you the Sun which never sets.
Your feeling is most natural; I who write understand it perfectly, and my heart is full of sympathy for all those who are afflicted as you are. But I hope that I can do more than sympathize; I hope that I can bring you help and relief. Such help and relief have come to thousands who were in your sad case. Why should they not come to you also?
You say: “How can there be relief or hope for me?”
There is the hope of relief for you because your sorrow is founded on misapprehension; you are grieving for something which has not really happened. When you understand the facts you will cease to grieve.
You answer: “My loss is a fact. How can you help me—unless, indeed, you give me back my dead?”
I understand your feeling perfectly; yet bear with me for awhile, and try to grasp three main propositions which I am about to put before you—at first merely as broad statements, and then in convincing detail.
Your loss is only an apparent fact—apparent from your point of view. I want to bring you to another view-point. Your suffering is the result of a great delusion—of ignorance of Nature’s law; let me help you on the road towards knowledge by explaining a few simple truths which you can study further at your leisure.
You need be under no uneasiness or uncertainty with regard to the condition of your loved one, for the life after death is no longer a mystery. The world beyond the grave exists under the same natural laws as this which we know, and has been explored and examined with scientific accuracy.
You must not mourn, for your mourning does harm to your loved one. If you can once open your mind to the truth, you will mourn no more.
Before you can understand your lost friend’s condition you must understand your own. Try to grasp the fact that you are an immortal being, immortal because you are divine in essence—because you are a spark from God’s own Fire; that you lived for ages before you put on this vesture which you call a body, and that you will live for ages after it has crumbled into dust. “God made man to be an image of His own eternity.” This is not a guess or a pious belief, it is a definite scientific fact, capable of proof, as you may see from the literature of the subject if you will take the trouble to read it. What you have been considering as your life is in truth only one day of your real life as a soul, and the same is true of your beloved; therefore, he is not dead—it is only his body that is cast aside.
Yet you must not, therefore, think of him as a mere bodiless breath, as in any way less himself than he was before. As St. Paul said long ago: “There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body.” People misunderstand that remark, because they think of these bodies as successive, and do not realize that we all of us possess both of them even now. You, as you read this, have both a “natural” or physical body, which you can see, and another inner body, which you cannot see, that which St. Paul called the “spiritual”. And when you lay aside the physical, you still retain the other finer vehicle; you are clothed in your “spiritual body”. If we symbolize the physical body as an overcoat or cloak, we may think of this spiritual body as the ordinary house-coat which the man wears underneath that outer garment.
If that idea is by this time clear to you, let us advance another step. It is not only at what you call death that you doff that overcoat of dense matter; every night when you go to sleep you slip it off for awhile, and roam about the world in your spiritual body—invisible as far as this dense world is concerned, but clearly visible to those friends who happen to be using their spiritual bodies at the same time. For each body sees only that which is on its own level; your physical body sees only other physical bodies, your spiritual body sees only other spiritual bodies. When you resume your overcoat—that is to say, when you come back to your denser body. and wake up (or down) to this lower world—it occasionally happens that you have some recollection, though usually considerably distorted, of what you have seen when you were away elsewhere; and then you call it a vivid dream. Sleep, then, may be described as a kind of temporary death, the difference being that you do not withdraw yourself so entirely from your overcoat as to be unable to resume it. It follows that when you sleep, you enter the same condition as that into which your beloved has passed. What that condition is I will now proceed to explain.
Many theories have been current as to the life after death—most of them based upon misunderstandings of ancient scriptures. At one time the horrible dogma of what was called everlasting punishment was almost universally accepted in Europe, though none but the hopelessly ignorant believe it now. It was based upon a mistranslation of certain words attributed to Christ, and it was maintained by the mediaeval monks as a convenient bogey with which to frighten the ignorant masses into well-doing. As the world advanced in civilization, men began to see that such a tenet was not only blasphemous, but ridiculous. Modern religionists have, therefore, replaced it by somewhat saner suggestions; but they are usually quite vague and far from the simplicity of the truth.
All the Churches have complicated their doctrines because they insisted upon starting with an absurd and unfounded dogma of a cruel and angry Deity who wished to injure His people. They import this dreadful idea from primitive Judaism, instead of accepting the teaching of Christ that God is a loving Father. People who have grasped the fundamental fact that God is Love, and that His universe is governed by wise eternal laws, have begun to realize that those laws must be obeyed in the world beyond the grave just as much as in this. But even yet beliefs are vague. We are told of a far-away heaven, of a day of judgement in the remote future, but little information is given us as to what happens here and now. Those who teach do not even pretend to have any personal experience of after-death conditions. They tell us not what they themselves know, but only what they have heard from others. How can that satisfy us?
The truth is that the day of blind belief is past; the era of scientific knowledge is with us, and we can no longer accept ideas unsustained by reason and common-sense. There is no reason why scientific methods should not be applied to the elucidation of problems which in earlier days were left entirely to religion; indeed, such methods have been applied by the Theosophical Society and the Society for Psychical Research; and it is the result of those investigations, made in a scientific spirit, that I wish to place before you now.
Let us consider the life which the dead are leading. In it there are many and great variations, but at least it is almost always happier than the earth-life. As an old scripture puts it: “The souls of the righteous are in the hand of God, and there shall no torment touch them. In the sight of the unwise they seem to die, and their departure is taken for misery, and their going from us to be utter destruction; but they are in peace.”* We must disabuse ourselves of antiquated theories; the dead man does not leap suddenly into an impossible heaven, nor does he fall into a still more impossible hell. There is indeed no hell in the old wicked sense of the word; and there is no hell anywhere in any sense except such as a man makes for himself. Try to understand clearly that death makes no change in the man; he does not suddenly become a great saint or angel, nor is he suddenly endowed with all the wisdom of the ages; he is just the same man the day after his death as he was the day before it, with the same emotions, the same disposition, the same intellectual development. The only difference is that he has lost the physical body.
*Wisdom of Solomon, iii, 1.
In this spiritual world no money is necessary, food and shelter are no longer needed, for its glory and its beauty are free to all its inhabitants without money and without price. In its rarefied matter, in the spiritual body, a man can move hither and thither as he will; if he loves the beauteous landscape of forest and sea and sky, he may visit at his pleasure all earth’s fairest spots; if he loves art he may spend the whole of his time in the contemplation of the masterpieces of all the greatest painters, and may himself produce masterpieces by the exercise of the wonderful magic of his thought-power; if he be a musician, he may pass from one to the other of the world’s chiefest orchestras, he may spend his time in listening to the most celebrated performers, or with the willing aid of the great Angels of music he may himself give forth such strains as are never heard on earth.
Whatever has been his particular delight on earth—his hobby, as we should say—he has now the fullest liberty to devote himself to it entirely and to follow it out to the utmost, provided only that its enjoyment is that of the intellect or of the higher emotions—that its gratification does not necessitate the possession of a physical body. Thus it will be seen at once that all rational and decent men are infinitely happier after death than before it, for they have ample time not only for pleasure, but for really satisfactory progress along the lines which interest them most.
Are there then none in that world who are unhappy? Yes, for that life is necessarily a sequel to this, and the man is in every respect the same man as he was before he left his body. If his enjoyments in this world were low and coarse, he will find himself unable in that world to gratify his desires. A drunkard will suffer from unquenchable thirst, having no longer a body through which it can be assuaged; the glutton will miss the pleasures of the table; the miser will no longer find gold for his gathering. The man who has yielded himself during earth-life to unworthy passions will find them still gnawing at his vitals. The sensualist still palpitates with cravings that can never now be satisfied; the jealous man is still torn by his jealousy, all the more that he can no longer interfere with the action of its object. Such people as these unquestionably do suffer—but only such as these, only those whose proclivities and passions have been coarse and physical in their nature. And even they have their fate absolutely in their own hands. They have but to conquer these inclinations, and they are at once free from the suffering which such longings entail. Remember always that there is no such thing as punishment; there is only the natural result of a definite cause; so that you have only to remove the cause and the effect ceases—not always immediately, but as soon as the energy of the cause is exhausted.
“Do the dead then see us?” it may be asked; “do they hear what we say?” Undoubtedly they see us in the sense that they are always conscious of our presence, that they know whether we are happy or miserable; but they do not hear the words that we say, nor are they conscious in detail of our physical actions. A moment’s thought will show us what are the limits of their power to see. They are inhabiting what we have called the “spiritual body”—a body which exists in ourselves, and is, as far as appearance goes, an exact duplicate of the physical body; but while we are awake our consciousness is focussed exclusively in the latter. We have already said that just as only physical matter appeals to the physical body, so only the matter of the spiritual world is discernible by that higher body. Therefore, what the dead man can see of us is only our spiritual body, which, however, he has no difficulty in recognizing.
When we are what we call asleep, our consciousness is using that vehicle, and so to the dead man we are awake; but when we transfer our consciousness to the physical body, it seems to the dead man that we fall asleep, because though he still sees us, we are no longer paying any attention to him to able to communicate with him. When a living-friend falls asleep we are quite aware of his presence, but for the moment we cannot communicate with him unless we arouse him. Precisely similar is the condition of the living man (while he is awake) in the eyes of the dead. Because we cannot usually remember in our waking consciousness what we have seen during sleep, we are under the delusion that we have lost our dead; but they are never under the delusion that they have lost us, because they can see us all the time. To them the only difference is that we are with them during the night and away from them during the day; whereas, when they were on earth with us, exactly the reverse was the case.
All life is evolving, for evolution is God’s law; and man grows slowly and steadily along with the rest. What is commonly called man’s life is, in reality, only one day of his true and longer life. Just as in this ordinary life man rises each morning, puts on his clothes, and goes forth to do his daily work, and then when night descends he lays aside those clothes and takes his rest, and then again on the following morning rises afresh to take up his work at the point where he left it—just so when the man comes into the physical life he puts upon him the vesture of the physical body, and when his work-time is over he lays aside that vesture again in what you call death, and passes into the more restful condition which I have described; and when that rest is over he puts upon himself once more the garment of the body, and goes forth yet again to begin a new day of physical life, taking up his evolution at the point where he left it. And this long life of his lasts until he attains that goal of divinity which God means him to attain.
One of the saddest cases of apparent loss is when a child passes away from this physical world and its parents are left to watch its empty place, to miss its loving prattle. What then happens to children in this strange new spiritual world? Of all those who enter it, they are perhaps the happiest and the most entirely and immediately at home. Remember that they do not lose the parents, the brothers, the sisters, the playmates whom they love; it is simply that they have them as companions during what we call the night instead of the day; so that they have no feeling of loss or separation.
During our day they are never left alone, for there as here, children gather together and play together—play in Elysian fields full of rare delights. We know how here a child enjoys “making believe”, pretending to be this character or that in history—playing the principal parts in all sorts of wonderful fairy stories or tales of adventure. In the finer matter of that higher world thoughts take to themselves visible form, and so the child who imagines himself a certain hero promptly takes on temporarily the actual appearance of that hero. If he wishes for an enchanted castle, his thought can build that enchanted castle. If he desires an army to command, at once that army is there. And so among the dead the hosts of children are always full of joy—indeed, often even riotously happy.
If you have been able to assimilate what I have already said, you will now understand that, however natural it may be for us to feel sorrow at the death of our relatives, that sorrow is an error and an evil, and we ought to overcome it. There is no need to sorrow for them, for they have passed into a far wider and happier life. If we sorrow for our own fancied separation from them, we are, in the first place, weeping over an illusion, for in truth they are not separated from us; and, secondly, we are acting selfishly, because we are thinking more of our own apparent loss than of their great and real gain. We must strive to be utterly unselfish, as indeed all love should be. We must think of them and not of ourselves—not of what we wish or we feel, but solely of what is best for them and most helpful to their progress.
If we mourn, if we yield to gloom and depression, we throw out from ourselves a heavy cloud which darkens the sky for them. Their very affection for us, their very sympathy for us, lay them open to this direful influence. We can use the power which that affection gives us to help them instead of hindering them, if we only will; but to do that requires courage and self-sacrifice. We must forget ourselves utterly in our earnest and loving desire to be of the greatest possible assistance to our dead. Every thought, every feeling of ours influences them; let us then take care that there shall be no thought which is not broad and helpful, ennobling and purifying.
If it is probable that they may be feeling some anxiety about us, let us be persistently cheerful, that we may assure them that they have no need to feel trouble on our account. If, during physical life, they have been without detailed and accurate information as to the life after death, let us endeavour at once to assimilate such information ourselves, and to pass it on in our nightly conversations with them. Since our thoughts and feelings are so readily mirrored in theirs, let us see to it that those thoughts and feelings are always elevating and encouraging. “If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them.”*
*St. John, xiii, 17.
Not only should we abstain from mourning; we should go further than that; we should earnestly try to develop within ourselves positive joyousness. It is the duty of every man to be happy, that he may radiate happiness on others; and most especially is that true of those who have dear friends who have recently passed over into the higher life. The best anodyne for sorrow is active work for others; and that also is the surest way to peace and joy.
That great truth we can impress upon these friends of ours, if they do not already know it; for the opportunities for helpful work are greater far in the astral world than in the physical. Among the vast hosts of those whom we call the dead there are many who are bewildered by their surroundings, many who through erroneous religious teaching on earth are in a state of painful uncertainty and even acute terror, many who are causing themselves unnecessary suffering by perpetuating earthly desires and passions in that higher life where there is no assuagement for them. What occupation can be nobler and happier than to help these poor souls from darkness to light, to relieve their sufferings, to explain these things that puzzle them, and to guide their feet into the way of peace?
Into the splendid corps of Invisible Helpers who are ceaselessly engaged in this benevolent activity we can introduce our newly-arrived friends, thus assuring them of happy and useful work during the whole of their stay in this wonderful astral world which God has provided for the training and enjoyment of His people, even though it be but a stage on the way to that still higher realm whose glories eye hath not seen, neither hath it entered into the heart of man to conceive it.
Try to comprehend the unity of all; there is one God, and all are one in Him. If we can but bring home to ourselves the unity of that Eternal Love, there will be no more sorrow for us; for we shall realize, not for ourselves alone, but also for those whom we love, that whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s, and that in Him we live and move and have our being, whether it be in this world or in the world to come. The attitude of mourning is a faithless attitude, an ignorant attitude. The more we know, the more fully we shall trust, for we shall feel with utter certainty that we and our dead alike are in the hands of perfect Power and perfect Wisdom, directed by perfect Love.
All taint of grief and mourning we firmly lay aside,
Our seeming loss forgetting, since they are glorified.
We know they stand before us and love us as of old;
God grant we may not fail them, nor let our love grow cold!
With heart and soul we trust Thee; Thy love no tongue can tell;
Thou art the All-Commander, Who doest all things well.
Peace To All Beings
Ode To The Living Dead
Loved ones! though our waking vision
Know your forms no more,
Earth’s illusion shall not hold us;
Well we know your loves enfold us
Even as before.
Death? ‘Tis but a stepping forward —
No divorce at all;
Swifter than of old the meeting,
Warmer, heartier the greeting
When you hear our call.
And at night, when softest slumber
Seals these earthly eyes,
Lo, a new day dawneth brightly;
From our fetters slipping lightly
To your world we rise;
There to work and there to wander
In the sweet old way —
Drink of upper springs and nether,
Learn what Love hath knit together
Standeth fast for aye.
Praise and glory for this knowledge
To the One in Three;
For the sting from death is taken,
Nevermore are we forsaken
D. W. M. Burn