THE PHENOMENA OF SPIRITISM

There is another class of phenomena which has attracted a great deal
of public attention, and which demands a passing notice in this
connection. It is that class which has received an exhaustive treatment
in the work of the late Professor Denton, entitled “The Souls of
Things.” It has been denominated “psychometry,” which may be defined
as the supposed power of the human mind to discern the history of
inanimate objects by clairvoyance. Many wonderful stories are related
of the exercise of this supposed faculty, under the strictest test
conditions, as test conditions were then understood. Professor Denton
made a long series of experiments with his sister, his wife, and some
others who were supposed to possess that power in a remarkable degree.
The powers of his wife and sister were indeed wonderful; but, as we
shall see, not in the line in which the experiments were directed.
It must be premised that the professor was a very learned man, not
only in his specialty, which was geology, but in all branches of human
knowledge. His wife and sister were also highly cultivated women, and
were specially interested in those branches of learning in which the
gifted professor excelled. Thus the conditions were extremely favorable
for the production of extraordinary results in whatever branch of
occult science they might jointly engage.

It was the habit of the professor to select some geological specimen,
or a fragment of some historical structure, and submit it to his
percipient for her version of its history. She would readily enter a
partially subjective condition, place the relic on her head, and at
once give a very plausible, and oftentimes a most wonderfully accurate,
history of the scenes which had been enacted within its former
environment. Thus, if the object happened to be a geological specimen,
she would launch out into a glowing description of its surroundings
when found, and going back into its history before the earth’s crust
was formed, trace it down through the different geological changes
until she landed it in the professor’s cabinet. Again, a piece of
mortar from the dwelling of Cicero would be handed to her, and she
would give a vivid description of the domestic life of those who had
occupied the mansion, and describe historic events which “might have
been seen” from the ancient habitat of the piece of mortar. It is
easy to see how all this might be accomplished, and all the known
facts stated with accuracy, regarding the geological environment of
the piece of stone in her hands, when her own geological learning was
taken into consideration. But the professor was not unmindful of so
obvious an explanation of her power. To eliminate that element was his
first care. To that end he would wrap the specimen in a piece of paper,
and carefully conceal its character from her objective knowledge. The
result was always the same. She would read the history of the specimen
with the same apparent accuracy as before. The professor, however, did
not forget the possibility that telepathy was an element necessary to
be eliminated. The possibility that she might read what was in his
own mind must, therefore, be provided against. To that end he wrapped
a large number of specimens in packages as nearly alike as possible,
and mixed them together so that it was impossible for him to know
them apart. One specimen after another would then be handed her, and
each one would be described with the same accuracy as before. This
was considered the supreme test, and the doctrine that “things,” in
common with men, have “souls,” was thought to be demonstrated. The
Orientalists would say that he had demonstrated that the history of
all things is “recorded in the astral light,” whatever that may be.
The spiritist would say that the spirits of dead men had given her the
information.

The true explanation is obvious to those who are acquainted with the
facts of telepathy. The professor was an eminent geologist and a
classical scholar. In his subjective mind was the history of every
geological specimen in his possession, pictured clearly and vividly,
according to the theories of the best geologists of his generation. His
imagination carried him back to the time when chaos reigned supreme. He
followed the fragment of rock down through all the changes which took
place in the earth’s structure, until it became a part of the solid
mass of rock from which it was taken. In the ever-changing environment
of that fragment, since the time when it was a part of a vast mass
of molten matter, there was material for pictures of the sublimest
scenes incident to the formation of a world. Those pictures, to the
imagination of every geologist worthy of the title, are ever present
and intensely vivid. A fragment of rock to him is an open book, in
which are recorded the history of the sublimest works of Omnipotence,
and his imagination supplies the panoramic illustrations. In
experiments such as have been described, these pictures are necessarily
presented to the subjective mind of the percipient in a form so clear
and vivid that she would be insensate indeed if she failed to describe
them in appropriate terms. And when we consider the fact that the
percipients employed in these experiments were exceptionally cultivated
women, especially interested in the subjects of the professor’s
research, it will be seen that successful telepathic experiments were
to them exceptionally easy.

The successful reading of the history of the specimens submitted to
the percipients is therefore easily accounted for where the professor
had conscious knowledge of the contents of the packages. It remains
only to explain the reason of success when he sought to eliminate
that element by submitting a large number of similar packages, not
consciously knowing one from the other. This also is easy to understand
when the extraordinary acumen of the subjective mind is considered. It
is a common hypnotic experiment to draw a blank card from a package,
hand it to a subject, and suggest that it contains a picture of some
person. The card is then marked on the back and shuffled with fifty or
more others. A good subject will, in nine cases out of ten, indicate
the marked card as the one containing the suggested picture, and that
without the possibility of seeing the mark on the other side. It is
obviously a much easier feat to remember the differences in packages
than in blank cards. Of the former, no two could possibly be alike. Of
the latter, no two would ordinarily be sufficiently unlike to enable
one to determine the difference by the unaided senses. But to the
subjective mind the feat of remembering each package and its contents
would be very easy, compared with thousands of recorded instances to be
found in the literature of psychic phenomena.

It will be observed that we have refrained from invoking the aid of
clairvoyance to account for the phenomena of psychometry. It would
be a much simpler solution of the problem to assume that the power
of independent clairvoyance exists, and that the percipients simply
saw the contents of the packages. But inasmuch as the known facts of
telepathy afford a perfect solution, we are not logically justified
in entering a domain which is in the slightest degree overshadowed by
doubt. By this remark it is not meant to imply that there is any doubt
of the existence of a power which is generally known as clairvoyance,
but that its limitations are as yet undecided. That is to say, the
boundary line between clairvoyance and telepathy is not at present
clearly drawn. The field of clairvoyance is constantly narrowing its
boundaries. Thus, a few years ago every perception of a fact not
cognizable by the senses was attributed either to clairvoyance or to
spirits. Sceptics on the latter subject were wont to explain certain
phenomena by attributing them to the former. The phenomena which
could not thus be explained were relegated to the domain of fraud and
legerdemain. When the phenomena of telepathy became better understood,
the field of clairvoyance was greatly narrowed, as it was found that
most of the phenomena before explained by clairvoyance were really due
to telepathic communion. But the powers and limitations of telepathy
are not yet clearly marked; and it is found that every step in advance
in the knowledge of its principles by just so much narrows the field of
clairvoyance. No better illustration of this fact could be given than
the phenomena of psychometry, which we have just been considering. The
power to read the history of a geological specimen with a plausible
show of accuracy was first attributed to clairvoyance. As telepathic
powers began to be understood, it was thought that possibly the
percipient simply related what was read in the mind of the agent. Many
experiments were made throughout the country which demonstrated that
fact, and the recognized field of clairvoyance was thereby curtailed.
But Professor Denton determined to eliminate the element of telepathy
by so disposing of his relics as to divest himself of all knowledge of
the particular one under examination. When the percipient exhibited the
same powers of discernment under those circumstances it was thought
that the element of telepathy was eliminated, and that the power of
clairvoyance was demonstrated. But as the knowledge of telepathy is
increased, and when it is understood that telepathy is the communion
of subjective minds, and that the subjective mind is endowed with
transcendent powers in certain directions, while it is hedged about
with limitations in others, it is seen that the professor did not
succeed, as he had supposed, in eliminating the element of telepathy.
Thus the field of clairvoyance is again curtailed, and that of
telepathy correspondingly enlarged. It may be assumed, therefore, that
the boundary lines between the two supposed powers are still unmarked.
In the mean time it is unsafe to assume any one point as the boundary,
or even to assume that there is, in fact, any line at all. Judgment
must be suspended until telepathy is better understood. All that can be
safely said is that there are facts which cannot as yet be explained
on any other hypothesis than that of independent clairvoyance. When
we come across such a fact we may provisionally assume the power to
exist, and await the slow progress of experimental knowledge to enable
us to classify the fact in accordance with its legitimate relations.
It is logically safe to do this as long as we thus avoid the necessity
of wholesale denials of demonstrated facts on the one hand, and on the
other refrain from entering the domain of the supernatural in search of
a hypothesis.

It is thought that enough has now been said to explain the part which
telepathy plays in the phenomena which have been considered, and also
to enable the intelligent reader to apply the principles to all other
classes of phenomena in which telepathy constitutes a possible factor.
It is constantly reappearing in every phase of psychic phenomena,
and constitutes a factor in every manifestation of intelligent power
involving the perception of that which is beyond the reach of the
senses.

CLAIRAUDIENCE.

The next subject in order is that of clairaudience, or “clear hearing.”
It is a faculty of the human mind much more rarely developed than that
of clairvoyance,–that is, if we assume the latter to be identical with
telepathy, which we may do for the purposes of this discussion.

The Century Dictionary defines clairaudience as “the supposed power of
hearing in a mesmeric trance sounds which are not audible to the ear in
the natural waking condition.”

This, as far as it goes, is a correct definition of that faculty; but
it defines a very small part of its field of operations, and that
part which is of the least importance. It may be defined, broadly, to
be “the power of hearing the spoken words of a human soul.” In other
words, it is that faculty of man’s intelligence which enables his
objective mind to receive communications from his own subjective mind
or from that of another by means of spoken words. It is one means of
bringing the operations of the subjective mind above the threshold
of consciousness. The power is by no means confined to persons in a
mesmeric trance, although it seems probable that one must be in a
partially subjective state to enable him to hear clairaudiently. The
degree of subjectivity may be very slight, so that the percipient may
seem to himself and others to be in a perfectly normal condition. The
sounds–if that may be called sound which does not cause atmospheric
vibrations–are perfectly distinct to the consciousness of the
percipient, but are not perceptible to others who may be near him and
in the normal condition.

Like all other means for bringing the operations of the subjective
mind above the threshold of consciousness, the sounds have from time
immemorial been attributed to supernatural agencies. Socrates furnished
the most notable example in ancient or modern times of a man whose
subjective mind was able at any time to communicate messages to his
objective mind by means of spoken words. It is well known that he
supposed himself to be constantly attended by a dæmon, or guardian
spirit, who watched over him and warned him of any danger that was
imminent. (See Chapter X. for a fuller discussion of Socrates and
his dæmon.) The biblical student will recall to mind many instances
where voices were heard, conveying intelligence of the most portentous
character, and a critical examination of some of the instances will
not fail to reveal their true nature.

Many spiritual mediums of the present day have the faculty largely
developed. Some of them are enabled to obtain the names of their
sitters by hearing them spoken clairaudiently, and the names of
supposed spirits are obtained in the same way. It is popularly
supposed that the ordinary method of telepathic communion, when the
message is not brought above the threshold of consciousness, is by
mental impressions. It is, of course, impossible for us to know the
processes employed in the ordinary communion of subjective minds. It
seems probable, however, that it is by means of such language as is
employed by the communicants in objective life. All that is or can
be known is, that when the ideas are communicated to the conscious
mind, it is necessarily by such means as can be understood,–that is,
by means which appeal to the senses. It is true that the subjective
mind is often able strongly to impress the objective mind, especially
when danger to the person is imminent, or when some near relative or
dear friend is in danger. Such impressions are known as premonitions.
Sometimes they are so strong as to be of real service in averting
danger. But they are not always reliable, for the reason that we
are seldom able to distinguish a real premonition from that feeling
arising from fear and anxiety regarding the welfare of those who are
absent and very dear to us. Thus, a mother will often feel that she
has a premonition of danger to an absent child, but will afterwards
learn that her fears were groundless. Perhaps at another time a real
premonition will be disregarded. It seems probable that when the laws
of subjective mental action are better understood, there may be some
method formulated by which a genuine premonition may be recognized. It
is certain that in all cases where danger to the person is imminent,
the subjective mind makes a supreme effort to give warning and avert
the danger. That being its normal function, its highest activity is
exercised in the effort to preserve the life of the individual. It
is sometimes successful, and sometimes not; but that the effort is
always made does not admit of doubt. Sometimes it succeeds by means
most extraordinary,–clairaudience not infrequently being the means
of receiving the warning. Thus, a lady once confessed to the writer
that she at one time, in a fit of despondency arising from ill health,
attempted to commit suicide. She had raised a pistol to her head and
was about to fire, when she heard an explosive sound, apparently in the
same room, resembling a pistol-shot. This caused her to pause for an
instant, when she heard the words, apparently spoken in her ear, “Not
now; you have two years yet!” Surprise caused her to lower the pistol,
and reflection caused her to desist, and finally to abandon the idea of
suicide. As the two years have not yet expired, it is too early to know
whether it is a case of prevision as well as of clairaudience.

One of the most remarkable cases of clairaudient warning against
danger that has ever come under the observation of the writer occurred
near Washington a short time ago. A well-known colored preacher was
aboard a train on its way to the city. He was dozing in his seat a few
miles out, when he was suddenly awakened by a cry of “Wreck! wreck!”
apparently sounding in his ears. He thought for a moment that he had
been dreaming; but after he was fully awake he again heard the same
words repeated three times. As he happened to be the only occupant
of the car, he knew that no one was playing a trick upon him, and he
instantly became panic-stricken, and rushed to the rear end of the car
and jumped off, although the train was going at the rate of thirty
miles an hour. He was somewhat cut and bruised, but managed to walk
to the next station, where he related his adventure to my informant.
Little importance was attached to the circumstance at that time, as his
train passed to the city in safety. But the very next train that passed
over the road in the same direction was wrecked by the falling of a
large rock upon it as it passed. The rock overhung the track, and had
evidently become loosened by the vibrations caused by passing trains.
Subsequent investigation by my informant revealed the fact that the
old preacher had leaped from the train but a short distance beyond the
scene of the wreck.

Now, it may be asked, how do we connect the clairaudient warning of the
old man with the wreck which did not occur to his train? It must be
admitted that the circumstances do not constitute an ideally perfect
case of a life saved by a clairaudient reception of warning; but it
must also be held that the case is of all the greater evidential
value for that very reason. It is easy to perceive how the old man’s
subjective mind perceived the danger, when it is once admitted that
it possesses the power to see that which is not within the range of
objective vision. Ever alert for the safety of the individual, it
perceived the danger, no matter how. It saw the condition of the
overhanging rock, and believed that that train would loosen its
hold. In the mean time the old man was in that passive, somnolent
condition most favorable for the reception of subjective impressions or
communications. He happened also to be clairaudient, and therefore in
the best possible condition for the conveyance of subjective messages
above the threshold of consciousness. And the message was delivered in
the most effective way possible,–in the same way in which Socrates
was again and again warned of impending danger. That the catastrophe
did not happen to his train proves only that the intelligence which
gave the warning was finite, that its knowledge was circumscribed by
the limitations of human judgment, and that it did not proceed from
Omniscience.

It may be here remarked that this incident seems difficult to explain
on any other hypothesis than that of independent clairvoyance. To
explain it on the principle of telepathy would involve the necessity
of presupposing that some person or persons knew of the dangerous
situation of the rock, and that they were in telepathic rapport with
the percipient. Either supposition seems improbable, although not
impossible. Be this as it may be, the fact remains that the subjective
mind of man has some means of reaching out beyond the range of our
faculties of objective perception, and of knowing when and where danger
threatens the individual. That it is constantly on the alert for that
purpose, is also certain.

But its efforts are not directed exclusively to the protection of
the body from harm. It is also on the alert for the protection of
the material interests of the individual, and for the advancement of
whatever aims and objects he has in life. These objects are, of course,
subsidiary to the main one, being means to the end in view,–namely,
the preservation of human life. One of the most eminent lawyers in the
United States informs me confidentially that he is often guided, in
critical emergencies, by a voice which gives him in a single, concise
sentence the key to the situation. All the years of his adult life
this voice has warned him of impending danger, and guided him to the
attainment of the objects of his ambition. He did not, in early life,
entertain any well-defined theory on the subject of the origin of the
voice, but has always been guided by its monitions, and never to his
disadvantage. Of late years, however, he has become convinced of its
true source, and now regards his faculty as of the most transcendent
interest and scientific importance, to say nothing of its value as a
personal mentor.

It seems probable that the faculty might be cultivated to an unlimited
extent, provided its true source could be recognized early in life
and its monitions heeded. It is also probable that most people have
occasionally heard clairaudiently, though but few have paid attention
to the phenomenon; and those who have done so have either attributed it
to imagination, or regarded it as a subjective hallucination. In either
case the auto-suggestion would necessarily prevent the development of
the faculty. It sometimes happens, however, that spirit mediums develop
the faculty to a remarkable extent. As they attribute the phenomena to
extraneous sources, the suggestion necessarily results in corresponding
phenomena. It is needless to remark that the same law of suggestion
which prevails in the production of other phenomena governs the
character of clairaudient manifestations. Thus, if the suggestion is
entertained that the voice proceeds from a disembodied spirit, or from
the guardian angel of the percipient, the character suggested will be
assumed by the subjective entity, and future communications will be
conducted on that basis. It may thus be made to assume the character of
an angel or of a devil, just as the suggestion happens to be made. The
suggestion, in the present state of knowledge on the subject of psychic
phenomena, must depend altogether upon accident, or the education and
habits of thought of the individual.

Doubtless, many persons have been made insane by constantly hearing
what they supposed to be spirit voices. Not knowing the true origin
of the phenomenon, they endow it with whatever character happens to
suggest itself, and it readily assumes to be whatever is suggested; or
it may assume a dozen different characters, if the person happens to
imagine their existence. The effect can readily be conceived when one
is persuaded that he is beset by supernatural beings. Insane people
are often seen to be engaged in conversation with some imaginary
person, and when we say of such a soliloquist, “He is talking to
himself,” we are wiser than we think; for that is the fact. But the
individual thought he was in conversation with supernatural beings. We
are accustomed to regard such conversations as symptoms of insanity,
whereas they are oftentimes the cause of insanity. The patient for some
reason develops the faculty of clairaudience. He imagines that the
voice proceeds from some extraneous source. His superstition causes
him to ascribe it to spirits. He constantly develops the faculty by
practice, until he becomes a monomaniac on the subject. His subjective
mind, dominated by an all-potent, but false, suggestion, gradually
obtains control of the objective faculties, and Reason abdicates her
throne. The man is insane, just as all men are insane who allow their
subjective minds to obtain the ascendency. This is, of course, an
extreme case; but it is less rare than many suppose. Our asylums are
full of men and women who, in one way or another, are dominated by
their subjective minds, acting in obedience to false suggestions which
have been dwelt upon so long that reason is powerless to combat them.

The lesson is obvious. We should learn first of all that the subjective
entity within each of us, whilst it is endowed with transcendent
powers, is also circumscribed by limitations which unfit it for
control of the dual man. Having learned this, it should be our care
to keep reason in the ascendency, and to control the subjective mind
by suggestions which, while keeping it in subordination, will direct
its powers in the channel of its legitimate functions,–namely, the
preservation and perpetuation of the human species.

Clairaudient powers, like every other power which enables man to
raise the operations of the subjective mind above the threshold of
consciousness, may to one who knows the laws which govern it, who
appreciates its powers, and who is aware of its limitations, become a
source of decided advantage. But to one who does not understand those
laws, powers, and limitations, those faculties may prove to be like the
wand in the hand of the slave of the magician in the Eastern tale. He
saw his master wave his wand, and heard him give orders to the spirits
who arose at his command. The slave stole the wand, waved it in the
air, and summoned the spirits. They came at his summons, but tore him
in pieces instead of obeying his commands. He had not observed that his
master used his left hand for the purpose of conjuration.

This tale was told for the purpose of illustrating the very point which
we have sought to make. The fate of the magician’s slave was no worse
than that which may befall any man who irregularly summons his own
spirit, without understanding the laws which enable him to control it
and make it useful instead of destructive. He is conjuring with the
most potential force of nature below that of Omnipotence.

Another method of bringing the operations of the subjective mind above
the threshold of consciousness is by means of an instrument called
the planchette. It consists of a thin board about six inches square,
resting upon two castors, the third leg consisting of a pencil, which
passes through a hole in the board, its point resting upon the paper
upon which the instrument is designed to write. The mode of operation
consists in resting the hand lightly upon the board and allowing it to
move over the paper without consciously aiding its progress. In the
hands of a medium it will soon begin to write, apparently propelled
by an unseen power. A modification of this apparatus is now on the
market, which consists of a similar piece of thin board, approximately
triangular in shape, with a plain wooden leg at each apex. Its feet,
like the feet of the gods, are “shod with wool.” Accompanying it is a
board, say two feet square, on which the letters of the alphabet and
the arabic numerals are painted. Its mode of operation is similar to
that of the planchette, except that, instead of a pencil being used,
one of the legs serves as a pointer, and the words are spelled out,
letter by letter, as indicated by the pointer, which moves over the
board in the same mysterious way as the planchette. Its advantage over
the planchette consists in the fact that a greater number of persons
can operate it satisfactorily. Otherwise, the planchette is preferable,
inasmuch as it writes continuously, instead of spelling the words
letter by letter. In almost every family some one will be found who
can, with a little practice, obtain communications by this means from
his own subjective mind. This is the simplest way by which so-called
spirit communications can be obtained.

Automatic writing is a cognate method, and consists in holding a pencil
in the hand and letting it write. The subjective mind assumes control
of the muscles and nerves of the arm and hand, and propels the pencil,
the objective mind meantime being perfectly quiescent, and often
totally oblivious of what is being written. A smaller number of persons
can acquire this faculty than either of the others.

We assume, of course, that it is the subjective mind of the medium
that directs the pencil. The same laws govern the manifestations, and
the intelligence is hedged about by the same limitations. Suggestion
plays the same subtle _rôle_, and the knowledge of the subjects of the
communications are limited by that of the medium and those with whom
he is in telepathic rapport. The entity that guides the pencil almost
invariably assumes to be a spirit, and its communications necessarily
conform to the character assumed. The reason of this is obvious when
we consider the fact that automatic writing has always been associated
with the idea of spirit communion. The universality of this idea
constitutes an all-potent suggestion which cannot easily be overcome.
Even though the medium may profess to be a sceptic on the subject of
spirit intercourse, nevertheless he is dominated by that suggestion,
in the absence of any definite counter-suggestion. Obviously, a
counter-suggestion which could overcome the hypothesis of spirit
intercourse must be in the form of a theory which appeals more strongly
to the reason of the medium than the suggestion of spirit intercourse.
In the present state of popular opinion on the subject of spiritism it
would be difficult to find a medium whose subjective mind would not
be dominated by the popular hypothesis. Nevertheless, instances have
been known where the popular idea did not prevail. One case that is now
recalled is reported in the “Proceedings of the Society for Psychical
Research,” April, 1891 (page 23). The medium, or, more properly
speaking, the automatist, was a young lady, aged fifteen. “She had not
previously heard of planchette,” says the author, “and spiritualism
was to her a mere name.” This was a very desirable condition of mind
for the purpose, and as rare as desirable. “She never knew what she
had written till it was looked at,” continues the author, “and there
was often some slight difficulty in deciphering it. Thus, the first
question, ‘Who are you that write?’ produced what at first I took to
be mere scrawling, and C (the automatist) shortly after left the room.
After she had done so, I took another look at this scrawl, and then at
once perceived that it was legible, and that the name written in answer
to the question was ‘Henry Morton.’ I at once followed C upstairs, and
asked her if she had ever heard the name; and she replied that it was
that of a character in a Christmas play she had acted in, more than a
year previously.”

This is a most remarkable case in more ways than one. It shows,
first, that when the automatist knows nothing of spiritism, and there
is consequently no suggestion of the spirits having any part in the
performance, the subjective mind will not assume that it is a spirit
that writes; secondly, that the bare fact that the question, “Who
are you that write?” is asked, amounts to a suggestion that some
third person is writing, and that the automatist is dominated by the
inference drawn, just the same as if the suggestion had been a positive
statement. The most remarkable part of it, however, is the persistency
with which her subjective mind clung to the suggestion that she was
“Henry Morton.” She had assumed that character more than a year before,
in a Christmas play, and her subjective mind still identified itself
with the imaginary personage, and believed the truth of the suggestion
as firmly as it would have believed the suggestion that it was a
disembodied spirit, had that suggestion been made. The author shows
an intelligent appreciation of this fact when he adds: “Had the name
been, as it easily might have been, that of some deceased friend, it is
obvious what inference would have been drawn.” It is also obvious that
it would have been that of some deceased person, had the young lady
been acquainted with the planchette and the spiritistic hypothesis.

Another instance of automatic writing where the spiritistic hypothesis
was ignored, is reported in the “Proceedings of the Society for
Psychical Research,” vol. iii. pages 8-23. Space can be given to a
brief extract only. The experiments were tried by the Rev. P.H. Newnham
and his wife, the latter acting as the automatist. The primary object
of these experiments was to test the power of thought-transference.
This was very successfully done, as the answers, though not always
correct, referred to the questions. It appears, incidentally, that they
entertained a different hypothesis from the usual one, as will appear
from the answers which we quote. The questions were written down by Mr.
Newnham, and no hint was given to the operator as to their character or
subject. The following are fair samples:–

“_Q._ Is it the operator’s brain, or some external force, that
moves the planchette? Answer ‘brain,’ or ‘force.’

_A._ Will.

_Q._ Is it the will of a living person, or of an immaterial spirit
distinct from that person? Answer ‘person’ or ‘spirit.’

_A._ Wife.

_Q._ Give first the wife’s Christian name; then my favorite name
for her.

_A._ (This was accurately done.)

_Q._ What is your own name?

_A._ Only you.

_Q._ We are not quite sure of the meaning of the answer. Explain.

_A._ Wife.”

At a subsequent sitting the following questions and answers were
given:–

“_Q._ Who are you that write?

_A._ Wife.

_Q._ But does no one tell wife what to write? If so, who?

_A._ Spirit.

_Q._ Whose spirit?

_A._ Wife’s brain.

_Q._ But how does wife’s brain know (certain) secrets?

_A._ Wife’s spirit unconsciously guides.”

At a subsequent séance the following dialogue occurred:

“_Q._ By what means are (unknown) secrets conveyed to wife’s brain?

_A._ What you call mesmeric influence.

_Q._ What do you mean by ‘what you call’? What do _you_ call it?

_A._ Electro-biology.

_Q._ By whom, or by what, is the electro-biologic force set in
motion?

_A._ I told you you could not know more than you did.

_Q._ Can wife answer a question the reply to which I do not know?

_A._ Why do you try to make me say what I won’t?

_Q._ Simply because I desire knowledge. _Why_ will you not tell?

_A._ Wife could tell if some one else, with a very strong will, in
the room knew.”

These two cases clearly demonstrate the proposition that where an
operator can be found who is not dominated by the suggestion embraced
in the spiritistic hypothesis, he will not assume to be a spirit. If
he does entertain the spirit hypothesis, he _will_ assume that he is a
spirit, and answer accordingly. The mental and physical phenomena are
the same in the one case as in the other. The logical conclusion is
this: the fact that the intelligence which operates the pencil in the
one case claims that it is a disembodied spirit does not constitute
valid evidence that it is a spirit. We must look, therefore, to other
sources for evidence of spirit origin of the phenomena. Obviously the
only test by which that question can be settled is by the character of
the communications. When that test is applied, it is found that all
that is mysterious about them can be explained on the hypothesis of
telepathy or clairvoyance. In the mean time, the fact that the power
that writes is always amenable to control by suggestion, constitutes
the strongest presumptive evidence that it is the subjective mind of
the operator. This is the explanation which is afforded by a knowledge
of some of the laws governing the action of the subjective mind. The
_onus probandi_ rests with those who claim a supernatural origin for
the phenomenon.

TRANCE.

Under the general head of trance may be grouped all that class of
cases in which the objective faculties are, for the time being, held
in practically complete abeyance, and the subjective mind becomes
correspondingly active. Various names have been applied to this
condition, such as somnambulism, hypnosis, mesmeric trance, ecstasy,
catalepsy, obsession, etc., many of the names implying a theory of
causation rather than distinctive features of condition. The condition
varies in accordance with the idiosyncrasies of the individual as
much as from the causes which induce it. The leading characteristics
are, however, the same in all cases. These are, first, the partial or
complete abeyance of the objective mind; second, the activity of the
subjective mind; and, third, the perfect amenability of the latter to
control by the power of suggestion. Many remarkable mental phenomena
are developed in these states, but this discussion will be confined
to the supposed power of persons in the condition of trance to hold
intercourse with the spiritual world.




This power has been held to exist from time immemorial; the ancient
and modern mystical literature is filled with the most interesting,
not to say startling, accounts of interviews held by these persons
with the inhabitants of the spirit-land. Vast systems of religion have
been founded upon the supposed revelations of persons in a trance,
and untold millions of the human race base their hopes of a life in
a future world upon the dreams of ecstatics. The whole vast fabric
of Oriental philosophy and religion is based upon the revelations
of persons in a trance. The Swedenborgian philosophy in the Western
world is founded upon the dreams of a person who, in a condition
of a trance, believed himself to be able to hold familiar converse
with the inhabitants of heaven and of hell. Some of these systems of
spiritual philosophy are of such vast and complicated structure that
the mind is wrapped in wonder and admiration of their magnitude and
perfection. The Oriental philosophy, in particular, is so symmetrical,
so pervaded by grand and noble conceptions, so permeated with lofty
precepts of morality, humanity, and religion, that we are wont to lose
sight of the fact that the whole structure is built up by a process
of deductive reasoning from premises that have no better foundation
than the dreams of ecstatics. But we are told that it has stood the
test of thousands of years of thought and investigation, and that no
fact in physical science can be adduced to disprove its fundamental
principles. Doubtless this is true. The adepts have steered clear
of propositions in physical science which could be disproved by the
learning of the schoolboy. In this they have avoided those errors of
the Bible of the Christians, which, though unimportant in themselves,
having no bearing upon the real philosophy of the Christian religion,
have proved a stumbling-block to superficial minds. But does it follow
that because a proposition regarding the condition of affairs in the
spirit-world cannot be controverted by the science of the physical
world, the proposition must necessarily be true? Clearly not. Again,
does it follow that because a system of philosophy, the alleged
facts of which are necessarily undemonstrable, has stood the test of
thousands of years of investigation, it is necessarily correct? By no
means. Time has effected for the Oriental philosophy that which has
not been effected for the Western spiritual philosophy, simply for the
want of time; it has perfected it as a system. The lapse of time has
enabled the system to be evolved by the gradual but constant accretions
of human thought, from generation to generation, until it has grown,
from the first vague hope of the human soul for a life beyond the
grave, to its present stupendous proportions. The processes of its
growth can readily be seen and understood by a glance at the evolution
of our own spiritistic philosophy within the memory of men now living.
It is true that modern spiritism found a philosophy ready made to its
hand in the writings of Emanuel Swedenborg. His descriptions of the
spirit-world were in the main confirmed by the earlier mediums who
were acquainted with his writings. His was essentially a material
heaven. “As on earth, so in heaven,” was his highest conception of the
beauties and glories of the land of “spirits of just men made perfect.”
But he believed in hell, and he found one. He was inimical to certain
Christian sects, and he found that all who belonged to those sects were
condemned to everlasting punishment. When modern spiritism became a
belief, it found its most enthusiastic followers among those who were
outside of the pale of the Church, those who were in revolt against the
asceticism of the Puritan belief and practices, those who refused to
believe that a God of love and mercy would condemn any portion of his
creatures to everlasting fire. They found in the Rochester knockings
the first evidence which appealed to their senses of a life beyond
the tomb; and they consulted their mediums with perfect confidence
in their ability correctly to portray the condition of the denizens
of the land of spirits. They learned from those oracles that their
preconceived notions of divine justice were eminently correct, that
there was no such place as hell, and that all alike shared in the boon
of immortality; and, by a series of progressive steps, through seven
or eight concentric spheres, all at last reached the highest state of
divine felicity. They found that Swedenborg was right in the main, but
was a little incorrect in his information concerning hell. It would be
tedious, as well as superfluous, to enumerate the steps by which the
philosophy of modern spiritism has advanced from the crude notions of
the earlier writers to its present status. Every intelligent reader
will recognize the wide difference between the rhapsodic hodge-podge of
Andrew Jackson Davis and the calm philosophy of Judge Edmonds, and will
not fail to note how completely the latter is now superseded by modern
writers, who are gradually engrafting upon the indigenous stem the most
luxurious branches of the Oriental tree. What their philosophy will
be in coming years can be conjectured only by those who observe what
evolution has done for the Oriental philosophy during the thousands of
years of its existence.

The process of this evolution is easy to understand. The earlier
mediums adopted the doctrines of Swedenborg, with certain amendments
which seemed to them to be more in accord with reason and Divine
justice. Those who followed, in turn adopted the main ideas of their
predecessors, with amendments of their own. Each writer in succession
amended the work of his predecessors in those respects in which it
seemed to him to be imperfect, and each one had authority from the
spirit-world which sanctioned the amendment. And thus the system grows
in magnitude and perfection, and will continue to grow as long as men
believe themselves to be inspired by extramundane intelligences.

Now, the noteworthy facts connected with this evolutionary process
are, first, that all believe that they obtain their authority for
every statement of fact and every new idea direct from the spirits of
the dead; and secondly, that every man who evolves a new idea, or is
possessed of an old one, can easily have it confirmed by consulting a
spirit medium, providing the proper suggestion is made to said medium.
And this is true of all classes and ranks of mediums, from the common
table-tipper to the Oriental ecstatic. If the medium is possessed of
ideas of his own, and no outside suggestion is made, he will obtain
information from the spirit world in exact accordance with his ideas.
The same is true of all trance-seers, by whatever means the trance is
brought about. Thus, Cahagnet, the French mesmerist, who devoted his
life to mesmerizing subjects for the sole purpose of ascertaining what
was going on in heaven, once mesmerized a French peasant, and directed
him to visit the abode of the blest. This he promptly did, and reported
that he saw a great white throne, surrounded by a great throng of
people, all dressed in the most gorgeous apparel. On the throne was
seated a man who was much larger than any of the rest, and who was
further distinguished by the superior cut, make, fit, and material of
his clothes. The peasant was sure that he had seen the Almighty, and so
reported. It is obvious that he had simply seen a vision representing
a peasant’s idea of heaven. Cahagnet assured him that he must be
mistaken, and quoted Bible authority to show that God himself has said,
“There shall no man see me, and live.” This was convincing to the
simple-minded peasant, and Cahagnet advised him, the next time he was
entranced, to ascertain if it was not a conclave of leading spirits
that he saw, who were assembled for some purpose connected with the
internal economy of heaven. Accordingly, he made inquiries the next
time he was entranced, and ascertained that Cahagnet was right. It is
clear that Cahagnet did not understand the law of suggestion, or his
book would never have been written. It is scarcely necessary to remark
that his book obtained a wide circulation, was translated into several
languages, and constituted a standard mesmeric text-book for many years.

I have said that the same law of suggestion governs all trance-seers.
This is obviously true. If it is a law, it is universal in its
application. Yet Orientalists tell us that their visions are veridical,
“because,” they say, “they are objective visions.” This, of course,
is merely begging the question. They hold that the visions and other
communications obtained by Western spiritists are mere “subjective
hallucinations.” It is noteworthy that the distinction which they make
between the two kinds of visions is this: those visions which accord
with their views are “objective;” those which do not are “subjective.”
It is a very easy and comforting distinction, but it forcibly
reminds one of the old definition of orthodoxy as distinguished from
heterodoxy: “Orthodoxy is my doxy, and heterodoxy is your doxy.” The
Oriental adepts claim that they have learned much more of the laws of
nature than is dreamed of in Occidental philosophy. Doubtless they
have, if half the stories we hear of them are true. They have learned
to produce phenomena which far transcend anything done by our spirit
mediums. Moreover, they have learned the true source of the power, and
they do not ascribe it to spirits of the dead. Said one of them, in my
hearing: “I have often been asked the question, ‘What is an adept?’
An adept is a spirit medium who knows that the power to produce his
phenomena resides within himself, and who possesses the intelligence
and power to control and direct it.” This is the exact truth in a
nutshell. But because the adepts have acquired the knowledge of the
laws which govern the production of phenomena, and are able to apply
them, it does not follow that they are able to set any law of nature
at defiance, or that they can claim exemption from the operation of
a universal law of our existence. We find in the Western world that
the law of suggestion controls all subjective phenomena, of whatever
name or nature, and we are slow to believe that Eastern people are
exempt from the operations of the same law. If they are, the burden
of proof rests upon them to demonstrate it. Thus far it has not been
demonstrated.

The literature of mysticism of all ages of the world and of all nations
is full of accounts of the visions of ecstatics. The one noteworthy
fact that is observable in all is that each one sees and hears that
which he expects to see or hear. The details may be unexpected, and
the whole may transcend his objective conceptions, but none controvert
their preconceived ideas. Catholic ecstatics will see Catholic visions,
and Protestants will see Protestant visions. In short, whatever may
be the belief or the philosophy of the ecstatic, confirmation of
that belief will be found in his visions of, or his communications
from, the other world. The history of the Catholic Church abounds
in accounts of wonderful visions seen by nuns and other religious
devotees of that faith. One noteworthy fact constantly reappears in
that connection, which is, that they nearly always become entranced
after long contemplation of the image of the Saviour or of the Virgin
Mary. This fact is interesting from a purely scientific standpoint. The
physical attitude which they assume in contemplation of the crucifix
is the one most conducive to the induction of the hypnotic condition.
The significance of this observation will be at once apparent when we
remember that Dr. Braid demonstrated that fixed gazing upon an object
held in such a position as to cause the eyes to be strained upward is
the easiest way to induce the hypnotic condition. The attitude, both
physical and mental, of prayer, is therefore the one most favorable to
the induction of the hypnotic or trance condition on the one hand, and,
on the other, to the production of the visions which accord with the
faith and expectancy of the individual.

The fact that the physical attitude assumed in prayer has a tendency
to induce the subjective condition, will account for many of the
well-recognized effects of earnest supplication of Divine favor. That
calm tranquillity of mind which follows the prayer of faith may be
attributed, in part at least, to the physical condition resulting from
partial hypnosis. The objective faculties are held in abeyance, the
nerves are tranquillized, and that part of “God in us” holds communion
and is harmonized with its Divine source. Thus it is that long and
earnest prayer for the restoration of health is often followed by
marvellous results, especially when it is inspired by perfect faith
in the promises of the Master. The fact that faith constitutes a
strong suggestion to the subjective mind, which in turn controls
the condition of the body, does not militate against the idea of
Divine agency in the result. It is the Divine essence within us which
produces the effect, and it operates in strict accordance with Divine
law. It confirms and explains that which Christ taught so earnestly
and so persistently, namely, that we must have faith, or our prayers
will avail nothing. That he understood the principle involved, goes
without saying; but it was not yet time to give it to the world, for
the world was not prepared to receive it. “I have many things to say
unto you, but ye cannot bear them now,” were his words, uttered during
his last interview with his disciples previous to his crucifixion.
His was the “dispensation of faith.” The promised “dispensation of
knowledge” has not yet been inaugurated; when it is, the wisdom which
he taught will be better understood, for it will then be known that the
doctrines which he enunciated regarding his power over disease, and the
conditions of immortality, were but statements in strict accordance
with scientific facts.

OBSESSION.

Webster defines “obsession” as “the state of a person vexed or besieged
by an evil spirit, antecedent to possession.” The latter term he
defines as “the state of being possessed, as by an evil spirit,” etc.
Allan Kardec employs obsession as a generic term, to include _simple
obsession_, which accords with Webster’s definition of the term;
_fascination_, which is “an illusion produced by direct action on the
medium’s thought,” paralyzing his judgment; and _subjugation_, which
completely paralyzes the will, and causes the medium to act in spite
of himself. For our purpose these fine distinctions are immaterial,
as they merely represent different stages or degrees of intensity
of the same phenomenon. The theory of obsession is a modernizing of
the old idea of being possessed of a devil, or devils, as the case
might be. It consists in being dominated, to a greater or less extent,
by the idea that the person is besieged or controlled by a foreign
spirit, good or bad, angel or devil. It seems superfluous to remark
that the same principles prevail in these cases as in all others where
the idea of spirits has been suggested to the subjective mind. It
matters not how the suggestion originated, the result is the same. In
ancient times the idea prevailed that any one was liable at any time
to be taken possession of by a devil. When that idea was in vogue it
frequently happened that persons who easily entered the subjective
condition found themselves possessed of one or more devils. In those
times the profession of exorcist was very profitable. The priesthood
generally monopolized the business, for the obvious reason that they
were supposed to entertain a spirit of more or less antagonism to
devils generally. Besides, devils were supposed to have a mortal fear
of anything holy; they had an especial dread of the sight of a copy of
the Scriptures, and of hearing the name of God pronounced. Accordingly
it came to pass that, upon the command of the exorcist, the devil would
often incontinently fly, leaving the patient in his normal condition.
Sometimes, however, he would be more stubborn, and the patient would
go into convulsions upon hearing the magic words pronounced; and then
more severe measures would have to be adopted, such as employing more
exorcists. But persistence was generally rewarded with success.

In later years devils have generally gone out of fashion, and their
place is taken by bad spirits of dead men. And so it has come to pass
that many spirit mediums are sorely afflicted with spirits, who pester
them most outrageously. The exorcist is now replaced by the family
doctor, who is generally scientific to the last degree, and accordingly
endeavors to get rid of the spirit by means of physic or clysters.
Recently, however, such cases have been treated successfully by means
of hypnotism, which is the obvious remedy, in case the hypnotist
realizes the power of suggestion.

It is obvious to those who have followed our argument thus far that the
subjective mind of the person obsessed is dominated by the suggestion
that it is a bad spirit or a devil, as the case may be; and that,
acting upon that suggestion, it will personate the spirit or devil
with the same extraordinary acumen that it would personate any other
character suggested. And it will assume to be one, two, or seven devils
or spirits, in accordance with the suggestion, and will exhibit as many
different kinds and degrees of deviltry as there are devils embraced in
the suggestion.

Such cases are frequently characterized by the development of
wonderful telepathic power; and this of course adds to the mystery and
confirms his friends in the idea that the patient is controlled by an
extramundane agency. But, while it adds to the mystery, it does not
militate against the soundness of the explanation afforded by the laws
of duality and suggestion. The ceremony of exorcism by the priests in
ancient times constituted a most powerful suggestive command, which
could not, and did not, fail in having the desired effect. There was
an interval, however, between the days of priestly exorcism and the
days of modern hypnotism, during which scepticism prevailed regarding
the power of any one to exorcise an offending spirit, or to cure the
patient by other than material remedies. Patients were then sent to
insane asylums, only to increase their maladies. But in later years
the power of hypnotic suggestion has become a recognized principle in
therapeutics, and little trouble is experienced in curing obsessed
patients where the brain has not become diseased. The fact that the
trouble is susceptible of cure by hypnotic suggestion points clearly
to its mental origin, and precludes the possibility of its being
attributable to supermundane causes.

DUAL PERSONALITY.

Cognate in some of its essential characteristics to the phenomenon
of obsession is that of _dual personality_; and although it has
nothing to do with the question of spiritism, it may as well be noted
here as elsewhere. By this term is not meant the duality of mental
organization which pertains to every human being, but it refers to a
specific phenomenon which has received that name from recent scientific
observers. It is characterized by a complete loss of knowledge of
personal identity. The patient assumes a new name, a new personality,
and a new character, the last being often in marked contrast to the
normal one in every essential particular. The old personality is
sometimes completely forgotten, and sometimes it is remembered only as
a person whom the patient has once known. In some instances the two
personalities alternate at somewhat irregular intervals. In others, the
phenomenon occurs only once in a lifetime. In others, several different
personalities will be assumed at different times. In all these
cases certain characteristics constantly reappear, the most notable
appearing in the fact that the new personality is always consistent
with itself; that is, it is always the same, whenever it reappears.
Its moral characteristics are sometimes in marked contrast to the
lifelong character developed in the normal state, but it never varies
from one time to another. If a dozen different personalities should
be assumed at different times, each would always be consistent with
itself. The incidents occurring during the continuance of one interval
of the abnormal personality will always be remembered whenever the same
personality reappears, so that the existence of the new personality,
when it reappears with frequency, is practically continuous; that is,
the intervals of normal consciousness do not seem to be remembered. The
normal personality, however, never remembers aught of what occurred
during the abnormal interval. As before remarked, the abnormal
personality sometimes remembers the existence of the normal one, but
always as that of a third person, upon whom it often looks, and of
whom it sometimes speaks, with pitying contempt. It generally happens,
in case two or more abnormal personalities are assumed, that each
remembers all the other abnormal characters, but regards them as third
persons having no connection whatever with itself.

One of the most remarkable cases which have been reported in the United
States was that of one Ansel Bourne, a Baptist clergyman, who suddenly
disappeared from his home in Rhode Island a few years ago. Every effort
was made to find him, but without avail. At the end of two months he
returned to his home, after an experience of the strangest character.
It appears, from an investigation conducted in the most careful and
painstaking manner, in behalf of the London Society for Psychical
Research, that Mr. Bourne lost normal consciousness soon after leaving
home, and wandered around in several different towns and cities,
finally reaching Norristown, Pa., where he rented a store, stocked
it with small wares, and carried it on successfully for a period of
six weeks, under the name of A.J. Brown. He appeared to the citizens
of Norristown as a normal person, conducting his business properly,
contracting no unnecessary debts, and always paying promptly. At the
end of six weeks of a mercantile career he suddenly regained his
normal consciousness, and remembered nothing whatever of his abnormal
experience. The article in the Proceedings of the Society for Psychical
Research, written by Richard Hodgson, LL.D., exhibits exhaustive
research in the investigation of this case, and its entire verity
cannot be doubted. It appears that Mr. Bourne had once, in early life,
had a remarkable experience, which shows a tendency to abnormal psychic
conditions; but nothing was developed which throws any light upon any
specific cause for the particular phase of his later experience. He
had never before engaged in trade, nor had he had any taste for such a
life, and nothing could be remembered which could explain why it was
that he assumed the name of A.J. Brown. It is stated, however, that he
had once been hypnotized, when young, and made to perform many amusing
antics on the stage; but no recollection was had that the name of A.J.
Brown had been suggested to him at the time. It is extremely probable,
however, that that name _was_ suggested to him at that time, and that
his subjective mind retained the memory of the name, and that the
impression lasted all those years, only to reappear when he again went
into a hypnotic trance. This is only a conjecture, however; but it has
been shown in a previous chapter how the subjective mind of a young
lady retained the impression of its identity with a certain fictitious
character, which she had once assumed in a play, and with which it
again identified itself in obedience to her suggestion, made when she
was in the normal condition.

Again, it is a common stage experiment in hypnotism to suggest some
name to the subject, and some character in which he is made to act,
that of a merchant being not uncommon. When we remember how lasting
are such impressions upon the subjective mind, and how prone they are
to reappear at any subsequent time when the same conditions exist, we
are prepared to believe that such a suggestion, made in early life,
would be an ample explanation of the subsequent event. The fact that
the suggestion, whatever it was and by whomsoever it was made, was
made while the subject was in the hypnotic condition, and could not,
therefore, be remembered objectively, explains why it is that in few,
if any, of such cases can any clew be obtained as to the origin of the
suggestion, or any reason assigned for the assumption of any particular
personality.

The dual character of the persons thus afflicted constitutes the most
indubitable evidence of the duality of man’s mental organism, and it
is beginning to be so recognized by European scientific observers.
Some of them say, however, “If this is evidence of duality of mind,
what shall we say of those who exhibit a triple personality? Is that
an evidence of a trinity of mind?” The question is pertinent, and
is easily answered. It is obvious that the persons exhibiting the
phenomenon are in a hypnotic trance, and are, therefore, governed by
the laws pertaining to hypnotism. They have an objective mind, which
is the controlling power in the normal condition. In the hypnotic
state the normal, or objective, faculties are in abeyance, and the
person is amenable to control by the power of suggestion. Whatever
name or character is then suggested is at once assumed by the subject.
The suggestion may be oral, and proceed from another; or it may be
an auto-suggestion, arising from something suggested in a previous
hypnotization, or from some forgotten circumstance. Be that as it
may, the suggested character is assumed and carried out with all the
deductive logical exactitude characteristic of subjective reasoning.
This is a well-known result of a common hypnotic experiment. It is
also well known that the subject can be made to assume any number
of characters by the same process. It is a common stage experiment
to cause a versatile subject, who is easily controlled, to assume a
dozen different characters in the course of an evening’s performance.
It is obvious, therefore, that persons who are afflicted with a
second personality, which occasionally takes possession of them, are
also liable to assume a third, or, indeed, any number of names and
characters, if anything happens to suggest them. In fact, the power
of suggestion over the subjective mind, in the line of multiplication
of characters, is practically unlimited. It is not a multiplication
of personalities, however, nor an evidence of a triple or a quadruple
personality, but merely an exhibition of the power of the second, or
subjective, personality of man to assume, in obedience to the law of
suggestion, any number of real or imaginary characters. The same power
is exhibited by the subjective personality of a spirit medium when it
assumes the names and characters of any number of spirits of the dead,
whose names are suggested.

The specific character of the mental operations of persons in whom
the second personality is abnormally developed has not been recorded,
so far as we are aware. It will be found, however, when observations
are made in that direction, that they have practically no capacity
for reasoning by the inductive process when under the control of the
second personality. This will certainly be the case if the hypnosis
is perfect. Otherwise it might be modified by the synchronous action
of the objective mind. It is hoped that future observers will direct
their attention to this question, to the end that a series of facts may
be collated which shall assist in determining the direction and extent,
as well as the exact limitations, of subjective mental power. When that
is accomplished, the first great step will have been taken in bringing
psychology within the domain of the exact sciences.