THE PHYSICAL PHENOMENA OF SPIRITISM

The physical phenomena of spiritism are in more senses than one the
most interesting of all the manifestations of subjective power. They
require, however, but a brief treatment at our hands, for the reason
that the primary object of this book is to deal with the mental powers
and attributes of mankind in their relations to psychic phenomena. No
attempt, therefore, will be made to prove that the alleged physical
phenomena of so-called spiritism are veridical or otherwise. It would
be a work of supererogation to attempt to add force or volume to the
already overwhelming array of testimony going to show the wonderful
physical power often displayed in connection with psychic phenomena.
For our purposes it is not a matter of vital importance whether things
can be made to levitate without physical contact or not. It will be
assumed, therefore, that all statements made by respectable witnesses
in regard to the occurrence of physical phenomena are true. We do
this partly because we believe them to be true, having seen enough
to _know_ the reality of the leading physical phenomena, and partly
because our purpose is to deal with the mental aspects of psychic
phenomena, and the laws which pertain to their development. We shall
leave to those who are sceptical, or who think they are sceptical
rather than ignorant, the task of investigating, after the ponderous
and elaborate methods of the scientists, phenomena which can be
verified beyond the possible shadow of a doubt, by the exercise of a
little common-sense. And we will here undertake to guarantee that if
any scientific gentleman will, in good faith, follow the suggestions
offered in former chapters of this book regarding the proper method of
dealing with so-called mediums, and will divest himself, for the time
being, of all fear of professional mediums and all prejudice against
them, he will not only see enough to convince him of the truth of all
that is alleged regarding physical phenomena, but he will also see
that the elaborate test conditions often insisted upon by scientific
investigators are superfluous, not to say absurd. These remarks are,
of course, applicable to the better class of mediums, that is, those
who are recognized by the great body of spiritists as possessing a high
order of mediumistic power. Their moral characteristics need not count
as a factor, for it is to the interest of a medium to produce genuine
phenomena when he can, and he will always do so if the conditions are
favorable. Mediums are always anxious to exhibit their phenomena, when
genuine, under test conditions, and will do so in a way that shall
satisfy the most sceptical. A further qualification of the foregoing
remarks should be made in regard to “materializing” mediums. The writer
has never seen anything genuine in the line of materializations.
There is here more room for fraud, and more fraud is perpetrated by
materializing mediums than by any other, because materialization is a
rare and difficult phase of mediumship. Yet there is every reason to
believe, and we shall undertake to show further on, that the production
of genuine apparitions, resembling the persons they profess to
represent, is a possibility within the range of psychic power.

The remarks which follow will therefore be addressed, not to those
who are not yet convinced of the reality of physical phenomena,
but to those who are aware of their reality, but attribute them to
extramundane causes.

There is one pregnant fact connected with these manifestations which
all will admit, and that is that there is an intelligence which directs
and controls them. This intelligence is that of disembodied spirits,
or it is not. If it is not, it must be that of embodied spirits. These
propositions, if not self-evident, will at least be admitted to be
true by those who believe that it proceeds from disembodied spirits of
human beings. The intelligence is a human intelligence,–that is, it is
characterized by human imperfections and limitations; and, as all human
beings must be classified as either living or dead, we must look to one
class or the other for the source of the phenomena.

The first question in order is, What are the inherent probabilities?
Conceding the power to exist, it would seem to be more inherently
probable that it is possessed by a soul connected with a living
organism, than it is that it is possessed by a soul that has been
entirely severed from all connection with the material world.
Spiritists themselves unwittingly concede the truth of this proposition
when they assert, as does Allan Kardec, on the authority, as he says,
of “the spirit of Saint Louis,” that “the spirits who produce these
effects are always inferior spirits, who are not entirely disengaged
from material influence.”[37] Besides, the very fact that the
intervention of a “medium” is necessary for the production of physical
phenomena demonstrates the proposition that the elements of physical
organism are essential. It requires, therefore, two things to produce
the phenomena; namely, a soul and a body. In a living man the two are
united and working in harmony. Is it not probable that such an organism
is capable of producing all the effects attributed to the temporary
union of a dead man’s soul and a living man’s body? If not, why not?
Why should a dead man’s spirit in abnormal union with a living man’s
body possess more power than a living man’s spirit in normal union with
his own body? Is it because the former possesses more knowledge than
the latter? No, for we have seen that it is only “inferior spirits” who
are capable of producing physical manifestations. Superior knowledge
confers no advantage; for, as Kardec informs us, the superior spirits
have no power in that direction. We have, therefore, the authority of
the spiritists themselves for formulating the proposition that the more
completely the spirit of a man is “disengaged from material influence,”
the less power he possesses to produce physical phenomena. This being
true, it follows that the converse of the proposition is true, namely,
that the more completely the spirit of a man is united to material
elements, the greater is his power to produce such phenomena. The
conclusion is irresistible that the spirit of a man in normal union
with his own body possesses the power in perfection.

If, therefore, we can find in abstract reasoning no warrant for the
assumption that the phenomena are produced by disembodied spirits, we
must look elsewhere for evidence of their extramundane origin. The
first inquiry naturally suggesting itself is, What internal evidence
is contained in the character of the manifestations which would enable
one to form a correct judgment regarding their probable source? We
have already seen that reasoning from their physical character leads
us to the conclusion that the physical power displayed must have a
physical basis, and that that basis is probably the physical organism
of the medium. Now, if its intellectual character leads us in the same
direction, the evidence is still stronger in favor of its purely human
origin. We presume that no one will dispute the proposition that the
communications received through the physical phenomena are governed by
the same laws as those received by means of the other methods which
have been discussed. Indeed, the fact is almost self-evident. They
have the same origin, and must be governed by the same laws. The
remarks, therefore, which have been made concerning the character of
the communications obtained by other than physical means apply with
full force to those obtained through physical demonstrations. The
laws of telepathy and suggestion play their subtle _rôle_ in the one
case the same as in the other. If possible, there is less evidence of
extramundane origin in the physical manifestations than there is in
the intellectual. Indeed, this might be pre-supposed, from the gross
character of the former, even though the latter had a purely spiritual
source. If, therefore, we find no valid evidence of extramundane
origin in the higher manifestations, it is a waste of time to seek for
evidence of spirit intercourse in the tipping of kitchen tables, the
levitation of parlor sofas, or the convulsions of whole sets of chamber
furniture.

The foregoing remarks apply to all forms and grades of physical
phenomena, of which there are many. Some of them possess the most
intense interest, not only on account of the wonderful psycho-physical
power displayed, but because of their intellectual phases.
Slate-writing, for instance, when performed by a first-class medium,
gifted with a high order of telepathic power, accompanied by other
necessary intellectual qualifications, is one of the most interesting
of all phases of psychic power. An instance which occurred within the
writer’s own experience will be here related, for the reason that it
fully illustrates the essential qualifications and characteristics of
a first-class medium, shows both the physical and mental powers with
which he is endowed, and clearly defines the limitations which hedge
him about, and which point, with unerring exactitude, to the source of
the phenomena.

A few years ago, a conversation which the writer had with a celebrated
Union general led to an agreement to visit a prominent slate-writing
medium, then sojourning in the city of Washington. Among other things,
it was agreed that the general should be the sitter, and that he should
be guided entirely by my suggestions relative to the course which he
should pursue before and during the séance.

My object, which he fully understood and appreciated, was, first, to
convince him of the genuineness of the physical phenomena,–that is,
that the slate-writing was performed without corporeal contact of
the medium with the pencil, and without the shadow of a possibility
of the employment of legerdemain; and, secondly, to demonstrate the
utter impossibility of the phenomena being attributable to disembodied
spirits.

It must be premised that the medium was in the habit of causing his
sitters to write six short letters to as many different spirits.
These epistles are written on separate pieces of paper about three
inches square, and are addressed to the spirits by name and signed by
the writer, precisely as an ordinary letter would be addressed and
signed. Each letter is then rolled into a wad as small as possible, and
retained in the hand of the sitter until he is requested to deposit
them in a pile on the table. When this is done, the medium reaches
his hand across the table and touches the wads with the tips of his
fingers, the sitter meanwhile watching the proceeding closely, to
prevent the possibility of fraud. After the medium has touched each
bit of paper the sitter resumes possession of them and retains them
for future reference. It may be here remarked that a sitter has the
privilege of bringing his own slates with him, and retaining possession
of them until the writing is finished. They need not leave his custody
for an instant. He may place the bit of pencil between them himself,
and then securely lock or tie them together, and hold them as tightly
as he chooses on the top of the table, in the broad light of day, while
the writing is going on.

The plan suggested to the general on this occasion, and which he
carried out to the letter, was as follows:–

1. To write three letters to as many spirits of his dead acquaintances,
each one couched in general terms,–such as, “Dear B., can you
communicate with me to-day? If so, tell me your condition in the
spirit-land.” This could be answered by very general remarks, and would
require no specific answer involving any knowledge of the sitter’s
affairs or anything else.

2. To write two similar letters to two persons known to the sitter, but
unknown to the medium, to be still living in the flesh.

3. To write one letter to a deceased person, asking a specific
question, the correct answer to which neither the sitter nor the medium
could possibly know.

4. To place the medium at his ease, by leading him to believe that he
had to deal with a sympathetic believer in the doctrine of spiritism,
who had perfect faith in the medium’s powers.

5. To prescribe no test conditions whatever, but let the medium have
his own way in everything.

6. Under no circumstances to let the medium know the name or
antecedents of the sitter.

These suggestions were carried out to the letter. The general was
unknown to the medium, and was introduced by the writer under a
fictitious name. The medium occupied a suite of rooms consisting of a
large double parlor separated by folding-doors. The front parlor was
used as a reception-room, and the back parlor as a séance-room. The
latter was lighted by one large window, in front of which stood an
old-fashioned square dining-table. The medium seated himself on one
side of this table, and the sitter occupied a chair on the opposite
side. Several slates were lying on the table, two of which the medium
washed clean and then gave them into the custody of the sitter,
who carefully examined them, and kept them in his possession until
the séance was over, resting his arms upon them while he wrote the
prescribed letters. He was particularly cautious about writing the
letters, carefully guarding them so that it was impossible for the
medium to see the writing with his natural eyes, and never lifted his
elbows from the two slates in his custody. When the letters were all
finished and rolled into wads, they were placed upon the table directly
between the medium and the sitter, the latter never allowing his eyes
to wander from them for an instant. The medium then touched each wad
with his finger-tips, when they were again taken possession of by the
sitter.

It should be stated that the séance, thus far, was not witnessed
by myself; but the circumstances were afterwards detailed by the
general, whose perfect trustworthiness is beyond question. At this
juncture–that is, while the wads were still lying on the table–a
most remarkable incident happened. The medium suddenly arose, opened
the folding-doors, and invited me in to take part in the séance. After
resuming his seat, he remarked to me: “There is a spirit here who
refuses to communicate until you are allowed to be present. He says
his name is G—- (mentioning a common Christian name). Have you any
deceased friend by that name?” I answered, No, not remembering, for the
moment, any one bearing that name. The medium then handed me a pencil,
and said: “Touch one of those wads with the pencil; then open it, and
you will find that it is a letter addressed to G—-.”

I touched one of the six wads, at random of course, and upon opening
it found, to my surprise, that it was a letter addressed by the sitter
to his deceased brother G—-. The brother was also a very dear friend
of mine; but his exalted position in life precluded me from ever
addressing him by his Christian name, and I had not been consciously
thinking of him during the séance. Then the medium again addressed me,
as follows:–

“Fold the letter again, place it with the others, and mix them all
together. Then take the pencil and touch another wad; and the one you
touch you will find to be a letter addressed to M—-.”

This was done, and the wad touched proved to be a letter addressed to
the party named by the medium. A third time this feat was performed
with the same result. To say that we were surprised is but feebly
to express our emotions. The first success might be attributable to
coincidence, supposing the medium to be in possession of the name. The
chances were one to six, and it is within easy range of coincidence
that I should have hit upon the right letter. In the second trial the
chances were also one to six, _per se_; but the chances that I should
succeed twice in succession were largely against me; and the fact
that I succeeded three times in succession in pointing out the right
letter removes the matter far outside the domain of coincidence. When
we take into account the telepathic power displayed by the medium, and
that other power, whatever it may have been, which transformed me for
the moment into an automaton, the incident will be seen to possess an
extraordinary interest and importance. I should here remark that that
was the first and only experience of my own in the domain of subjective
automatism, and that I did not experience any sensation which could
lead me to suppose that I was not in a perfectly normal condition,
mentally and physically.

The most remarkable part of the performance, however, is yet to be
related. The sitter meantime did not lose his presence of mind, but
carefully guarded the pair of slates in his custody, never lifting his
arms from them as they lay upon the table before him. Nor did he for an
instant lose sight of the wads of paper which he placed upon the table.
The medium touched them with his finger-tips alone, as before related;
and after I had pointed out the three letters, they were taken into the
custody of the sitter. This done, the medium said to the sitter: “Open
the slates, and you will find a communication from G—-.” This was
done, and the promised communication was found, addressed to the sitter
by name and signed by G—-, the name of the sitter’s brother. In fact,
it was a pertinent answer to the letter written by the sitter to his
brother, addressed as the sitter had signed his name, and signed as the
sitter’s brother had been addressed.

The medium then became considerably agitated, and moved with convulsive
rapidity. He seized two other slates, washed them, submitted them
for inspection, and placed them upon the centre of the table before
us, with a bit of black pencil between them. He then invited us to
place our hands upon the slate with him. This we did, whereupon the
writing began. We could distinctly hear the pencil move with a gentle,
but rapid, scratching sound. In a few minutes three raps were heard,
apparently made by the pencil between the slates. This was said to be
the signal announcing the completion of the message. The slates were
then separated, and several messages were found inside.

Two more slates were then seized by the medium, washed, submitted
for inspection, and placed upon the table as before. Our hands were
again placed upon the slates, and the writing again began. After
it had progressed for a few moments, the medium announced that the
spirits wanted to write in colors. He thereupon arose, walked to the
mantelpiece, and produced a box of colored crayons, all in small bits,
about the size of the piece of black slate pencil with which the
writing had been done. We were about to open the slates, to allow the
insertion of the crayons, when the medium said that it was unnecessary,
as “the colors could be got from the outside just as well.” The box of
crayons was accordingly placed beside the slate, and the writing was
resumed. After a short interval the signal was given that the messages
were finished. The general thereupon very carefully separated the
slates, to see if there were any colored crayons concealed therein.
Only the bit of black slate pencil was there, but four or five
different colors had been used in writing the messages.

The results of this séance may be summed up as follows:

The contents of every letter written by the sitter were evidently
known to the intelligence which wrote the replies, for every letter
received an appropriate answer, save one, which will be noted further
on. The answer to each letter was addressed to the name signed to the
corresponding letter, and each answer was signed with the name of the
person to whom the corresponding letter was addressed.

Six letters were written by the sitter, as before stated. Three of
them were written to deceased friends of the sitter, and were couched
in such general terms that the replies did not require any specific
knowledge on the part of the intelligence which wrote the replies.

Two of the letters were written to living persons, and they were also
couched in general terms, requiring no specific knowledge to enable an
appropriate reply to be framed.

Each of these five letters received a reply which assumed that its
writer was a denizen of the spirit-land. There was no difference in
their replies so far as that was concerned.

The sixth letter was addressed to a deceased relative, and was as
follows, omitting names:–

DEAR A.B.,–Whom did you desire to have appointed administrator of
your estate? (Signed) C.D.

To this letter the only reply was from the medium’s “control,” who
reported as follows:–

“A.B. is here, but cannot communicate to-day.”

The conclusions which are inevitable may be summed as follows:–

1. The slate-writing was done without physical contact with the
pencil, either by the medium or any one else. It all occurred in broad
daylight. The slates were not handled by the medium, except to wash
them and to place his hands upon them (in all cases but one) while the
writing was going on. The slates were not for an instant out of sight
of the sitter during the whole séance, nor were they out of his custody
during that time, after they were washed by the medium. They were then
carefully inspected by the sitter, the pencil was placed between them
by the sitter, they were tied together by the sitter, and opened by him
after the writing was finished. In short, there was no chance for fraud
or legerdemain, and there was none.

2. The power which moved the pencil, being clearly not physical, must
have been occult. This occult power was either that of disembodied
spirits, or that of the medium. Did it proceed from disembodied
spirits? Let us see. The replies to the five letters emanated from
the same source; that is to say, if the replies to any of them were
from disembodied spirits, they were all from disembodied spirits. They
were clearly not all from disembodied spirits, for two of the letters
were addressed to living persons, and the replies were of the same
character as the others. The logical conclusion is inevitable that none
of the replies were from disembodied spirits. To put it in the simple
form of a syllogism, we have the following:–

The replies to the five letters were all from the same source.

Two of them were not from disembodied spirits.

Therefore, none of them were from disembodied spirits.

Again:

The power to produce the slate-writing emanated either from disembodied
spirits or from the medium.

It did not emanate from disembodied spirits.

Therefore, it emanated from the medium.

Having now logically traced the phenomenon to the door of the
medium, let us see what further evidence there is in support of that
conclusion. And first let us inquire, Is there anything inherently
improbable in the theory that he was the source of the intelligence
which guided, and the power which moved, the pencil? Was there any
intellectual feat performed which rendered it impossible that he should
have been its author? The power to read the contents of the six letters
was obviously within the domain of telepathy. He was, therefore, just
as well equipped for the performance of that feat as a disembodied
spirit could be. Suggestion also plays its subtle _rôle_ in this
class of phenomena, as in all others, and relieves the medium of all
imputation of dishonesty or insincerity in attributing it to the wrong
source. The probability that the power to move the pencil without
physical contact resides in the medium, is as great, at least, as the
probability that it resides in disembodied spirits. All these questions
have, however, been fully discussed, and are mentioned here merely to
complete the chain of reasoning.

There was nothing apparent in the answers to the five letters mentioned
which would indicate that they emanated from any source other than
the medium. They contained no information possessed exclusively by
disembodied spirits, although they all purported to emanate from them.
The five letters were not, however, framed for the purpose of testing
the knowledge possessed by spirits, but merely to show that the replies
did not emanate from that source.

The sixth letter, however, _was_ framed for the express purpose of
testing the knowledge possessed by the intelligence which moved
the pencil. The question, “Whom did you desire to have appointed
administrator of your estate?” was asked because the sitter did not
know the correct answer, and he knew that the medium could not know.
The knowledge was possessed by the deceased person exclusively; and
it is reasonable to suppose that if he was present, as the medium
declared that he was, he would have given the desired information.
The intelligence which wrote the replies was in full possession of
the contents of all the letters, all the names addressed, and all
the signatures, including those of the sixth letter. The answers to
five of them were pertinent and intelligent, no specific knowledge
being required. But when the sixth was reached, the spirit “could
not communicate to-day.” Why? Simply because the specific knowledge
required to answer the question was not in the possession of any one
present, and it could not, therefore, be obtained telepathically, as
the knowledge of the contents of the other letters was obtained.

This is the rock upon which all so-called spirit intercourse splits.
Everything goes along swimmingly as long as the medium knows what
to reply, or can obtain information by means of his telepathic or
clairvoyant powers. But the moment he is confronted by a question
requiring knowledge not obtainable in that way, he fails dismally.

The circumstances of this séance have been detailed for the reason that
it was a typical séance. It displayed all the essential characteristics
of modern spirit intercourse, so-called. The medium displayed all
the essential powers and attributes of good mediumship. The physical
phenomena were produced to perfection, and under the most perfect
test-conditions. The telepathic powers displayed were of the most
extraordinary character, and the conditions under which they were
produced were also such as to preclude the possibility of fraud or
legerdemain. The results were also perfect in their character, showing,
as they did, both the powers of the medium and his limitations. The
dual character of the human mind was also clearly manifested, and the
perfect amenability of the subjective entity to control by the power of
suggestion was demonstrated.

It would be interesting to pursue the subject of physical
manifestations further, and to examine all their multiform
characteristics; but that would be foreign to the purposes of this
book. The examination of the mental characteristics of the intelligence
which controls the different manifestations is our only purpose,
and we have shown that the same laws prevail in all. It is believed
that enough has been said to enable the conscientious investigator,
who wishes to test the correctness of our hypothesis, to apply its
fundamental propositions to all psychic phenomena. It is also believed
that whoever so applies those propositions will arrive at the same
conclusions to which I have come; namely, that there is no valid
evidence, in any of the phenomena of so-called spiritism, that the
spirits of the dead have any part in their production. On the contrary,
as it seems to me, the evidence all points in the opposite direction. I
refer, of course, solely to those phenomena which are produced through
so-called spirit mediums. If there is any communication to be had with
the denizens of the other shore, it is certainly not through them. I
have reluctantly arrived at this conclusion. It would be pleasant to
believe otherwise, but I have sought in vain for evidence which would
warrant me in doing so.

In abandoning all hope of obtaining valid evidence of the ability of
disembodied spirits to hold intercourse with the living through the
intervention of spirit mediums, I do not for a moment yield my hope, or
my convictions, of a life beyond the grave. On the contrary, the very
powers which are evoked in the production of the phenomena constitute
one of the strongest links in the chain of evidence going to show that
man possesses within himself an entity which does not depend for its
existence upon the continued life of the body. We see that this entity
possesses powers which far transcend those of our physical frame;
that the mental powers of the subjective mind or entity are exercised
independently of our objective senses; that they grow stronger as the
body grows weaker, and are strongest in the hour of death. Have we not
a logical right to infer that when it is entirely freed from physical
trammels, it will have reached a condition of independent existence?
What that existence is, it is not for objective man to know. It is
possible that if spirits could communicate as familiarly with the
living as we commune with one another, they would have no language
which could bring to our comprehension their true condition. It would
be like teaching an infant the principles of the differential calculus.
How can the caterpillar, crawling upon the ground, hold intelligent
communion with the airy butterfly, or the butterfly reveal to the
caterpillar the mysteries of her winged life?

The fact remains that mankind has ever hoped, and will ever hope,
for a continued existence of some kind; and all the old arguments
in its favor, and all the promises of the Master, still hold good.
Moreover, every new development in psychic science adds strength to the
arguments, and fresh proofs of his wisdom.

There is another class of phenomena which demands a brief notice,
although it does not pertain directly to the development of the
hypothesis under consideration. It is that of phantasms of the dead,
or ghosts. Scientific investigations of modern times have demonstrated
the fact that many of the ghost-stories which have terrified the timid
in all ages of the world have a real foundation in fact; that is,
it has been demonstrated that certain impalpable shapes, resembling
persons deceased, do from time to time appear to the living. The
world is indebted more than it can ever repay to the London Society
for Psychical Research for its patient, untiring, and strictly
scientific investigations of this subject. Many facts have been
accumulated, but they have not yet been classified with reference to
any special theory or hypothesis. It is perhaps too early to formulate
any hypothesis pertaining to the subject-matter. It is certainly too
early to dogmatize. The most that can safely be done is to speculate
tentatively, and to suggest a line of thought and investigation for
those who are devoting their time to the work. It is my purpose to
do this, and this alone, in the hope that if the suggestions seem
to be worthy of consideration, the subject may be pursued on the
lines indicated until their fallacy is exposed or their correctness
demonstrated.

It seems to me that sufficient facts have been accumulated to
establish, provisionally at least, certain definite characteristics of
all phantasms, whether of the living or the dead; and if a theory can
be formulated, however startling it may be at first glance, that will
harmonize with the well-established characteristics of the phenomena,
it will be at least worthy of consideration. In attempting to do this,
I shall not quote authorities to any extent to establish my premises,
but shall state merely what seems to be well authenticated, and leave
the verification of the premises, as well as the conclusions, to those
who have more time, patience, and ability to devote to the work than I
have.

First of all, then, it seems to be well authenticated that the
subjective personality of man possesses the power to create phantasms,
or visions, which in many instances are visible to the objective senses
of others. The telepathic experiments recorded in “Phantasms of the
Living” and in the Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research
amply demonstrate the truth of this proposition. Every vision perceived
by one in telepathic rapport with another must be presumed to have been
created by one or the other. It is true that some of the visions may
be merely perceived subjectively, but not all. Many cases are recorded
where the phantasms have been perceived by more than one person at the
same time, and others have been perceived under circumstances such
as to leave no doubt that the percipient was in a completely normal
condition, and saw the visions objectively. Moreover, the phenomena of
so-called spirit photography amply demonstrate the fact that visions
can be created of such tangible character that they can be caught and
fixed upon the photographic plate. In saying this I am not insensible
of the fact that many frauds have been committed in this species of
phenomena, as well as in all others attributed to spirits of the dead.
But this does not militate against phenomena of that character which
have been produced under test conditions so strict that all possibility
of fraud was eliminated. In admitting this class of phenomena to be
genuine, in the sense that it is sometimes produced without fraud or
legerdemain, it is also admitted that, in many instances, pictures of
the sitter’s dead friends have been produced which were such perfect
likenesses of the deceased as to be unmistakable. Of course it will be
understood that whilst I admit the phenomenon, I do not admit the claim
that it has its origin in the spirit-world. Like all other so-called
spirit phenomena, it is, in my opinion, directly traceable to the power
of the subjective mind of the medium, aided by telepathic communion
with the sitter. The latter, consciously or unconsciously, thinks of
one or more of his dead friends. The medium, perceiving telepathically
the image created by the mind of the sitter, re-creates it in such
tangible shape that it is caught by the camera. Or it may be in some
instances that the image is created by the sitter himself in such
palpable shape as to be caught by the camera. Indeed, in many recorded
instances, where the sitter has been a powerful medium, it seems
probable that he created the image himself. In point of fact there is
little doubt that the power resides, to a greater or less extent, in
all human beings to create such images, their strength and clearness
depending, of course, upon the power of the individual to recall
vividly the remembrance of the person to be photographed, together with
the power to concentrate his mind for a certain length of time upon the
mental picture. Indeed, experiments have been made which demonstrate
the power to produce the picture of any one, living or dead, in this
manner.

This being true, two conclusions are obvious; namely, (1) That the
phenomena of spirit photography are easily accounted for, without the
necessity of attributing them to extramundane origin; and (2) That
the power resides in the subjective mind of man to create phantasms
perceptible to the objective senses of others. Again, it seems to be
well established by experiment that some persons have the power, not
only to create such phantasms, but to endow them with a certain degree
of intelligence and power. Thus, the experiments recorded in “Phantasms
of the Living,” and quoted in a preceding chapter of this book, show
that the image of the agent was not only created by him in his sleep,
but was projected into the presence of others at a long distance from
where he slept. The image was not only perceptible to the sight, as
much so as the real presence would have been, but in some instances
it was even tangible. The Orientalists call this the “projection of
the astral body,” and it is claimed that many persons in the East have
acquired the power to produce the phenomenon at will. The fact that
phantasms can thus be produced being well authenticated, many old
stories of such phenomena acquire a new interest and importance, and
assume an air of probability. Thus, the old stories of witches, in
so far as the alleged phenomena seem to have been produced under the
same conditions as those which are well authenticated, are elevated
into the region of possibility, if not of probability. They are at
least worthy of re-examination, in the light of modern experiments.
It is foreign to my purpose to enter at large into the discussion of
the alleged phenomena of so-called witchcraft, and this allusion is
made here for the purpose of suggesting to those who desire to pursue
the subject that if they will take for granted that which has been
demonstrated to be true in regard to the power of the sub-conscious
mind, or personality, to project tangible phantasms or images, and will
apply the doctrine of duality and suggestion to the alleged facts, the
old stories of the phenomena of witchcraft will be found to possess a
scientific value and importance which cannot be ignored in the study of
psychology.




For the purposes of this argument it will be assumed that the power of
man, under certain conditions, to project phantasms is provisionally
established. The next question is, What are the conditions? If we find
that the conditions are practically the same in all cases, one great
step in the classification of the phenomena will have been taken.

The one condition which seems to be necessary in all cases for the
production of the phenomena is that of profound sleep, either natural
or artificial. The objective senses must be locked in slumber, and
the more profound the sleep, the greater the power seems to be. Thus,
in the cases recorded in “Phantasms of the Living,” the sleep was
natural, but profound. It was at least so profound that the agent had
no recollection of actually doing what he had resolved to do, and
it was only brought to his knowledge by the subsequent statements
made by the percipients. It is said, however, that sometimes the
agent retains full recollection of what he did. Be this as it may,
the fact remains that the one essential condition for the successful
production of the phenomena is that of sleep. Again, the Orientalists
tell us the same thing. Their adepts lock themselves in their rooms,
which are carefully protected against invasion, and go into a sleep
so profound as to simulate death. The witches were known to employ
artificial means to produce sleep. Formulæ for producing what was
known as “witches’ ointment” are still extant. It was composed of the
most powerful narcotics, made into an ointment by the addition of some
fatty substance. The body of the witch was anointed from head to foot,
and she then went to bed in some place secure from observation or
disturbance, and lapsed into a profound sleep. This much is known, and
many wonderful phenomena are alleged to have been produced, prominent
among which was the creation of various shapes, such as the image of
herself, images of cats, dogs, wolves, etc., which were sent to worry
and annoy her neighbors or any one against whom she had a grudge. In
fact, the shapes alleged to have been produced are protean.

Another alleged phenomenon of cognate character is that of so-called
spirit materialization. In the production of this phenomenon the
conditions are the same. The medium goes into a trance, or hypnotic
state, and projects the shapes of various persons, generally of the
deceased friends of some of those present. A good medium will produce
any number of visions, of any number of persons, men and women, large
and small. Spiritists believe, of course, that the real spirits of
their friends are present, and are thus made visible to mortal eyes,
and in many instances tangible, and able to hold a brief conversation
with their friends. As the intellectual part of the performance of
these alleged spirits is always on a par with that of other forms of
spirit manifestation, subject to the same limitations and governed by
the same laws, we must come to the same conclusion as to their origin,
namely, that, whatever it may be, it is not due to spirits of the dead.

The old stories of the power of magicians to conjure alleged spirits
are also raised into the region of probability by these considerations.
They also observed the same conditions required in all the other cases
mentioned. By the performance of certain impressive ceremonies, which
they were taught to believe were necessary, they were said to be able
to evoke so-called spirits and to do many other wonderful things. The
ceremonies and incantations, together with the impressive environment
with which they surrounded themselves, the incense, the slow music, the
“dim religious light,” the solemn invocations,–all had a tendency to
throw them into the subjective condition, and thus enable them to evoke
the shapes desired. That these shapes were literal creations of the
subjective personality of the magician, rather than the actual spirits
invoked, there is every reason to believe. Nor are we alone in that
opinion. Eliphas Levi, than whom no modern writer on the subject of
magic is better informed or more honest in the expression of his real
convictions, gives utterance to the following:–

“Human thought creates what it imagines; the phantoms of
superstition project their real deformity in the Astral Light, and
live by the very terrors they produce. They owe their being to the
delusions of imagination and to the aberration of the senses, and
are never produced in the presence of any one who knows and can
expose the mystery of their monstrous birth.”[38]

Again, on page 160, he says:–

“The evokers of the Devil must before all things belong to a
religion which believes in a Devil who is the rival of God. To have
recourse to a power, we must believe in it. A firm faith being
therefore granted in the religion of Satan, here is the method of
communicating with this pseudo-god:–

_Magical Axiom._

Within the circle of its action, every Logos creates what it affirms.

_Direct Consequence._

He who affirms the Devil creates the Devil.”

The author then goes on to give minute directions for performing
the ceremonies necessary for raising the Devil, so to speak, with
which we have nothing to do at present; these quotations being
made merely for the purpose of showing that the greatest and most
philosophical magician of this century was fully aware that the shapes
evoked by the Magi, whether they be of angels or of demons, whether
they be perceptible to the objective senses or merely subjective
hallucinations, tangible or intangible, are the creations of the mind
of the magician.

The phenomenon of crystal vision is another illustration of the power
of the subjective mind to create visions. Ordinarily these visions
are only perceptible to the operator; but cases are recorded where
they were perfectly perceptible to the bystanders. The conditions
necessary for successful crystal reading are practically the same as in
all other cases, although the subjective condition is not ordinarily
so pronounced. This phenomenon illustrates, however, the power of
the subjective mind to create phantasms, and constitutes one of the
many methods of bringing the operations of the subjective mind above
the threshold of consciousness. It is one of the best methods known
of exercising the power of telepathy, the visions being objective
reproductions of what is real or perceived in the mind of the person
who consults the medium. If no one is present besides the medium or
operator, he sees merely what his own subjective mind creates. It is
perhaps superfluous to remark that the phenomenon is governed by the
same laws which pertain to all other subjective phenomena, and the
intelligence displayed is hedged about by the same limitations.

I have now enumerated several different sub-classes of the phenomena
which are concerned in the creation of visions. In each sub-class
instances are recorded of the visions being made perceptible to
the objective senses of others. As remarked in the beginning of
this chapter, we do not propose to stop to verify the phenomena of
each class. It is sufficient to know that the phenomena of one of
the sub-classes is verified by scientific authority. For present
purposes the rest must stand or fall by that. At any rate, we shall
assume the right to hold that any cognate phenomenon, alleged to have
been produced under the same conditions as those which have been
demonstrated to be veridical, is entitled to tentative consideration
and credit.

It is assumed, therefore, that the following propositions are
sufficiently verified for the purpose of formulating a definite theory
of proximate causation:–

1. The alleged phenomena are all produced under the same conditions.

2. The one essential condition is that of the partial or total
suspension of objective consciousness.

3. The more complete the extinction of the objective consciousness,
the more pronounced the success of the experiment; that is, the more
tangible to the objective senses of others do the creations become.

From these facts it is fair to conclude,–

1. That the power to create phantasms resides and is inherent in the
subjective mind, or personality, of man.

2. That the power becomes greater as the body approaches nearer to the
condition of death; that is, as the subjective, or hypnotic, condition
becomes deeper, and the subjective personality in consequence becomes
stronger in its sphere of activity.

3. That at the hour of death, or when the functions of the body are
entirely suspended, the power is greatest.

Hence, ghosts.

It will be understood from the foregoing that my theory is that ghosts,
or phantasms of the dead, are produced exactly as phantasms of the
living are produced; that is, they are creations of the subjective
entity. How they are created is of course a question that may never
be answered in terms comprehensible by the objective intelligence of
man. It is as far beyond our finite comprehension as are the processes
by which the Infinite Mind has brought the universe into being. All
that we can know is the fact that phantasms are created by some power
inherent in the subjective personality of man. They may be called
“embodied thoughts,” as man may be called the embodied thought of God.
If, as the Scriptures teach us, “we are gods,” that is, “sons of God”
and “heirs of God and joint-heirs with Jesus Christ,” it is fair to
presume that that part of the Infinite which is embodied in each of us
must partake, to a limited extent, of His power to create. Experimental
psychology suggests to us that we have that power, and that it is thus
that phantasms are produced.

To the supposition that phantasms of the dead are thus created is
opposed but one other hypothesis, and that is, that the phantasms are
the real spirits of the dead persons whom they represent. Granted
that ghosts do exist and make themselves manifest to the living,
one or the other of these hypotheses must be true, and the other
false. To determine which is true, we must have recourse to the
ghosts themselves; that is, we must collate the facts regarding the
characteristics of these supposed dwellers on the border-land, and ask
ourselves whether their known and admitted characteristics are those
which would naturally belong to the real spirit of a man, or to an
embodied thought of a man.

The salient characteristics which seem to belong to all ghosts, and
which pertain to the question under consideration, are these:–

The ghosts which are best authenticated and which seem to possess the
greatest longevity, so to speak,–that is, the greatest persistency of
power and purpose,–are of those who have died violent deaths. There
are exceptions to this rule, which will be noted later on.

The generally accepted theory which has been employed to account for
this coincidence is that the soul, thus torn suddenly and prematurely
from the body, retains more of the material elements of the body than
it does when death is the result of gradual disintegration and the
natural separation of the material from the immaterial. It is thought
that the physical elements thus retained temporarily by the spirit
enable it to make itself visible to the living, as well as to perform
certain feats of physical strength attributed to some spirits. This
is very plausible at first glance, and in the absence of any facts
to the contrary might be accepted as the true theory. But, as before
intimated, there are exceptions to the supposed rule. It is not true
that all ghosts are those of persons who have died violent deaths. On
the contrary, many of the best authenticated ghosts are of persons who
have died at a good old age and in the due course of nature. Moreover,
there is nothing to distinguish the one class of ghosts from the other,
although it is true that those who have met death by violence far
outnumber the others. This theory, therefore, accounts for nothing.
Nevertheless, the fact that the majority of ghosts are of those who
belong to a particular class must possess some significance. Now, if we
can discover some state of facts which appears to accompany all, or to
precede all, ghostly phenomena, a great point will be gained, and the
real significance of the other facts may become apparent.

In looking the field over with this end in view, the first fact which
forces itself upon our attention, and which seems to be universal and
to possess a veritable significance, is that _all phantasms of the dead
are of those who have died under circumstances of great mental stress
or emotion_. No one whose death was peaceful and quiet, no one who left
this life with no unsatisfied longing or desire present in the mind at
the time of death, ever projected a phantasm upon the living objective
world.

Again, the strength, persistency, and objectivity of the phantasm seem
to be in exact proportion to the intensity of the emotion experienced
at the moment of death.

It will thus be apparent why it happens that ghosts of those who have
died violent deaths more frequently “revisit the glimpses of the moon”
than those whose deaths have been less tragic and less calculated to
inspire an intense desire or emotion. The murdered man feels, at the
supreme moment, an intense longing to acquaint the world with the
circumstances of his “taking off;” and he conceives the thought of
reproducing the scene on the spot until its significance is understood
and the murderer is brought to justice. The result is a haunted house;
and those whose nerves are strong enough to withstand the shock may
nightly witness a realistic reproduction of the tragedy. This may
continue for days, months, or even years, but invariably ceases when
the object is accomplished.

The character of the manifestations is as varied as are the phases
of human emotion or the objects of human desire; but when the facts
of a tragedy once come to light, the phantasm is always found to be
significant of their important features.

When a mother dies at a distance from her children, she is often filled
with an intense longing to see them once more before she passes away.
The result often is that she projects a phantasm into their presence
which takes a lingering look into the faces of the loved ones, and then
fades away.

Two persons agree that whichever passes away first shall show himself
to the other at or soon after the hour of death. The result often is
that the agreement is carried out with startling fidelity. The object
accomplished, the phantasm disappears forever.

Another salient characteristic, which seems to be universal and which
possesses the utmost interest and importance in determining the true
source of the phantasm, is that it possesses no general intelligence.
That is to say, a ghost was never known to have more than one idea or
purpose. That one idea or purpose it will follow with the greatest
pertinacity, but utterly ignores everything else. In the rare instances
where the phantasm has been conversed with, it manifests perfect
intelligence on the one subject, but pays not the slightest attention
to any question pertaining to any other, not even to cognate subjects.
This characteristic pertains to every form and phase of visions which
are tangible to the objective senses. Subjective hallucinations are
governed by different laws, and are not taken into account in this
connection.

M. Adolphe d’Assier, in his intensely interesting work entitled
“Posthumous Humanity,” mentions this peculiarity in a number of
instances. Thus, on page 272 he says:

“The shade only talks about its personal predilections, and remains
deaf to every question outside the limits it has prescribed for
itself. All the colloquies that have been gathered upon this
subject resemble that of Bezuel and Desfontaine (1697), reported
by Dr. Brière de Boismont. They were two college comrades, two
intimate friends, who had sworn to each other that the first
who died should appear to the other to give him some news about
himself.”

Accordingly, the year following, the shade of Desfontaine appeared to
Bezuel, and addressed him as follows:–

“I agreed with you that if I died first I should come and tell
you. I was drowned in the Caen River the day before yesterday, at
this same hour, in company of Such and Such;’ and he related the
circumstances which caused his death. ‘It was his very voice,’ says
Bezuel. ‘He requested me, when his brother should return, to tell
him certain things to be communicated to his father and mother. He
gave me other commissions, then bade me farewell and disappeared.
I soon learned that everything he had told me was but too true,
and I was able to verify some details that he had given. In our
conversation he refused to answer all the questions I put to him
as to his actual situation, especially whether he was in heaven,
in hell, or in purgatory. One would have said that he did not hear
me when I put such questions, and he persisted in talking to me of
that which was upon his mind about his brother, his family, or the
circumstances which had preceded his death.'”

It should be stated, in this connection, that this phantom does not
appear to have been seen objectively by any one, save, possibly, by
Bezuel himself. Others were present, who saw Bezuel apparently engaged
in conversation with some invisible being. They could hear Bezuel’s
words, but neither saw nor heard those of the phantom. It seems
probable, therefore, that it was a case of telepathic communion pure
and simple; but it illustrates our point just as well as if it had been
what it appeared to Bezuel to be,–a veritable apparition, perceptible
to the objective senses. Moreover, it was a case of deferred
percipience,–the death having occurred two days previously,–and is
therefore more strongly illustrative of our position, as will presently
be seen.

A moment’s reflection will show how impossible it would be for the
agent, in conveying a telepathic message on a given subject, especially
in a case of deferred percipience, to do anything more than convey the
message. When the agent has sent the message, the transaction is ended,
so far as he is concerned. When the message rises above the threshold
of the consciousness of the percipient, and he begins to ask questions
foreign to the subject of the message, there is no one to answer them;
the agent is no longer in telepathic rapport with him. It is just the
same as if one should send a telegram to another on a given subject,
and then disappear. The recipient of a message might ask all the
questions he chose, on that or any other subject, but he could get no
reply, for the reason that the original sender is out of reach.

It might be possible, if both the agent and the percipient were in the
proper mental condition at the same time, for them to hold a general
conversation; but we know of no recorded case of the kind. In all
reported cases the agent telepaths the message, and the percipient
takes cognizance of it by means of clairaudience, or by seeing a
vision illustrating it, as the case may be, and that ends it. The
message is a thought of the agent projected into the consciousness of
the percipient through the medium of his subjective mind. When the
message has once risen into the consciousness of the percipient, he
is apparently no longer in a mental condition to communicate with the
agent telepathically. At least, he never does so communicate, with the
result of receiving further information in reply.

In the case under consideration the agent had been dead two days when
the message was received by the percipient. If it was a telepathic
message projected at the hour of death by the agent, it was manifestly
impossible, for the reasons before stated, for him to respond to
questions foreign to the subject of the message. If, on the other hand,
the apparition was the real phantom, or spirit, of the deceased, it
could have conveyed any information desired. The fact that it could
not do so shows conclusively that said phantom was merely the embodied
thought of the deceased, projected at the supreme moment for a specific
purpose.

M. d’Assier affirms that the case here related is typical of all
messages delivered by ghosts; that is, that they are apparently never
able to enter into a general discussion of matters outside of the
one dominant idea which called them into being. The history of all
phantoms, so far as our reading extends, confirms the statement.

From these premises two conclusions seem inevitable:

1. That a phantom, whether it be of the living or of the dead, whether
it is perceived subjectively or objectively, is not the subjective
entity, or soul, of the person it represents. If it were, it would
necessarily possess all the intelligence belonging to that person,
and would, consequently, be able and willing to answer any and all
questions propounded by the percipient. It is simply impossible to
conceive any valid reason for the refusal of a friend or relative of
the percipient to answer questions of vital interest and importance to
all mankind.

2. The second conclusion is, that a phantom, or ghost, is nothing more
or less than an intensified telepathic vision, its objectivity, power,
persistency, and permanence being in exact proportion to the intensity
of the emotion and desire which called it into being. It is the
embodiment of an idea or thought. It is endowed with the intelligence
pertaining to that one thought, and no more. Hence the astonishing
limitations of the intelligence of ghosts, before noted.

The difference between a telepathic vision transmitted from one living
man to another, and a phantom, or ghost, of a deceased person, is one
of degree, and not of kind; of species, but not of genus. Both are
creations of the subjective mind; both are created for the purpose of
conveying intelligence to others. In each case the vision ceases the
moment the object of its creation is accomplished. In telepathy between
two living persons, the vision is created, and the intelligence is
communicated direct to the percipient. Its mission accomplished, it
fades away. It seldom displays physical power or becomes perceptible to
the touch, although there are exceptions to the rule. (See the cases
noted in a former chapter.) The reasons are: (1) that the emotions
and desires which call it into being are seldom of great intensity,
compared with the emotions of a man dying by violence; (2) that the
conditions are not so favorable in a living person, in normal health,
as they are in one whose objective senses are being closed in death;
(3) that the object for which it was created being easily and quickly
accomplished, and there being no further reason for its existence, it
fades away, in accordance with the laws of its being.

On the other hand, the phantom of the dead is produced under the
most favorable conditions. The objective senses are being closed in
death. The emotions attending a death by violence are necessarily of
the most intense character. The desire to acquaint the world with
the circumstances attending the tragedy is overwhelming. The message
is not for a single individual, but to all whom it may concern.
Hence the ghost does not travel from place to place, and show itself
promiscuously, but confines its operations to the locality, and
generally to the room in which the death-scene occurred. There it will
remain, nightly rehearsing the tragedy, for days and months and years,
or until some one with nerves strong enough demands to know the object
of its quest. When this is done, the information will be given, and
then the phantom will fade away forever.

We have supposed two extreme cases,–one, a simple case of experimental
telepathy, and one, of a death by violence. Between the two extremes
there is every variety of manifestation and every grade of power. But
they are all governed by the same laws and limitations.

That the posthumous phantom is not the soul, or subjective entity, of
the deceased, is evidenced by many other facts, among which may be
mentioned the following:–

1. It is not controllable by suggestion. This is abundantly shown by
what has been said regarding its persistency in following the one idea
which it represents, and ignoring every effort to obtain information
pertaining to other matters. This peculiarity characterizes every
phantasm, whether of the living or of the dead. Again, no ghost was
ever laid by the power of exorcism until the object of its existence
was accomplished. Obsessing spirits, so-called, can be exorcised,
because the exorcist is dealing directly with the subjective mind of
the obsessed, and amenability to control by suggestion is the law
of its being. But a ghost is not amenable to that law; it cannot
be scolded out of existence before the object of its existence has
been accomplished. In this, therefore, the phantom possesses the
characteristics which might be expected to distinguish an embodied
thought of a soul from the soul itself.

2. If we are to suppose a phantom to be the soul of the person it
represents, we must also be prepared to believe that inanimate things
and animals possess souls. Ghosts, it will be remembered, are always
well provided with wearing apparel. We must therefore suppose clothes
to have souls, and that the soul of the dead, or dying, man provides
himself with an outfit of the souls of his hat, coat, trousers, boots,
etc. Moreover, ghosts are frequently seen riding in ghostly turnouts,
comprising horses, carriage, harness, and all the paraphernalia of a
first-class establishment. Are we to suppose that the souls of all
these things are pressed into the service of the nocturnal visitant?
The same is true of telepathic visions of all grades and kinds. In
this, again, the vision, or phantom, possesses the characteristics
which one can easily attribute to an embodied thought-creation, but not
to the actual soul of a person, living or dead.

3. Another peculiarity of ghosts is that they invariably disappear,
never to return, when the building which was the scene of their
visitation has been destroyed. Another building may be erected on the
same spot, but the ghost never reappears. There must be some valid
reason for this, for it is impossible to attribute to coincidence
that which so frequently and invariably happens. It would seem to be
but another limitation of the power and intelligence of the embodied
thought. Its mission seems to be confined, not only to conveying the
one item of intelligence, but to the actual scene of the tragedy.
The effect of changing the physical environment appears to have the
same effect as an attempt to change the current of its thought by
asking a question foreign to it. It disappears. Now, it is impossible
to conceive of an intelligent entity, in full possession of all the
faculties and attributes of a human soul, being so easily diverted from
the pursuit of a given object.

4. M. d’Assier arrives at two conclusions regarding ghosts, neither
of which can afford any satisfaction to those who seek, in their
manifestations, for evidence of a happy or a continued life beyond
the grave. One is that the continued existence of the shade is a
burden too grievous to be borne; and the other is that it eventually
disappears by atomic dispersion, and loses its identity. On page 270 of
“Posthumous Humanity” he says:–

“Most of the manifestations by which the shades reveal themselves
seem to indicate that the posthumous existence is a burden.”

Again, on page 273, he says:–

“To sum up, one may say that the impression left upon the mind by
the lamentations and rare replies of those shades who succeed in
making themselves heard is almost always a sentiment of profound
sadness.”

On page 274 he has the following to say regarding the ultimate fate of
posthumous man:–

“I have said that the existence of the shade is but a brief one.
Its tissue disintegrates readily under the action of the physical,
chemical, and atmospheric forces which constantly assail it,
and it re-enters, molecule by molecule, the universal planetary
medium. Occasionally, however, it resists these destructive causes,
continuing its struggle for existence beyond the tomb.”

M. d’Assier is undoubtedly right regarding his facts, but wrong in
his interpretation of those facts, and consequently wrong in his
conclusions.

It is undoubtedly true that the shade is always imbued with a sentiment
of profound sadness. The circumstances under which it is produced, and
the emotions and desires which call it into being, are necessarily of
such a character as to project a profoundly sad thought. And this fact
is another evidence of its being an embodied thought, rather than a
human soul. If it were the latter, it would be subject to varying moods
and emotions, modified by its environment for the time being. But,
being an embodied thought, it never changes its attitude or sentiment,
but goes on in its predetermined line of action, regardless of its
surroundings and utterly oblivious of anything which may be said or
done to divert it. Truly, “thoughts are things.”

Again, M. d’Assier is right in his declaration that the shade
sustains but a comparatively brief existence. Some ghosts persist for
years, it is true, in haunting a given spot, but they all eventually
disintegrate. Their capacity for continued existence depends upon the
intensity of the emotion which produces them. Their actual longevity
depends largely upon the importance of the thought or message which
they personate. It depends principally, however, upon the successful
performance of its mission. When that is accomplished, it disappears
at once and forever. As has already been pointed out, an ordinary
telepathic message between two individuals disappears at once upon
its successful delivery; whereas a phantom of the dead may persist in
haunting one spot for years. It will, however, eventually disintegrate
and disappear, even if its mission has proved to be a failure.

If we are to consider, as M. d’Assier evidently does, the shade of a
deceased person to be the soul of such person, we must arrive at the
same conclusion that he has reached; namely, that posthumous existence
is a burden, and that it is but a brief one at most. According to his
view, the evidence of the phantom negatives the idea of a continued
existence after the death of the body. According to our view, it
neither proves nor disproves immortality; it leaves that question just
where it found it. Like all so-called spiritual manifestations, it adds
nothing to our stock of knowledge of what is in store for us beyond the
grave. We must still look for immortality with the eye of faith alone,
relying on the promises of the Master.

There is another alleged phenomenon connected with this general subject
which deserves a passing notice. I refer to the popular belief that
certain houses are pervaded by a mental atmosphere, so to speak, which
corresponds to the mental condition of those who have inhabited it.
There are many sensitive persons who, upon moving into a strange house
or room, are influenced apparently by the mental attitude of those who
previously occupied the premises. This is especially true if the former
inhabitants were the victims of any great sorrow or strong emotion of
any kind whatever. The influence is felt sometimes for years, and is
frequently of such a character and force as to compel the victim to
vacate the premises. No ghost is seen or heard, but the influence is
felt, and cannot be thrown off. Doubtless many such experiences may
be attributed to suggestion,–the person having been informed of some
tragic event which once happened on the premises. But many cases are
recorded which cannot be thus explained. Cases are numerous where the
percipient knew nothing whatever of the history of the house or of its
former inhabitants.

The phenomenon is explained by spiritists by referring it to the
agency of spirits of the dead. Others explain it on the theory of
psychometry. That the latter explanation is not the true one is
evidenced by the fact that psychometry itself is explicable on the
well-known principles of telepathy. That the spirit hypothesis is
not the true one is evidenced by the fact that the influence is felt
when there has been no death on the premises,–when all the former
inhabitants of the house are still alive. Nor is the influence
necessarily a bad one. Thus, a lady of my acquaintance, who is
peculiarly sensitive to psychic impressions, informs me that in one
house, which she occupied some years ago, she was seized with an
intense longing to study art. She had passed the age at which people
usually take up a new profession, and she had never been particularly
interested in art. She had no acquaintances who were artists, and there
was nothing in her environment specially to attract her attention
to the subject. Nevertheless, her desire to become an artist grew
stronger and stronger, until she felt forced to yield. She finally
employed a teacher, and eventually became very proficient. It was
afterwards ascertained that the tenant who occupied the house before
she took possession was an enthusiastic devotee of art. He was not
a particularly good artist, but his whole soul was bound up in his
profession.

The same lady occupied a house some years later which she felt obliged
to leave, on account of the evil influence which it seemed to exert
upon her. It was an almost ideal house in its appointments and in
the arrangement of its rooms; and when she first entered it she was
enthusiastic in her admiration of it. But she never spent a comfortable
day in that house. Naturally of a cheerful and happy disposition, she
became gloomy and despondent, without any apparent cause, and was
at last forced to yield to her feelings and vacate the premises. An
inquiry into the history of the house revealed the fact that it had
formerly been occupied by a lady whose husband had ill-treated her, and
had finally deserted her, under circumstances of peculiar atrocity,
to live with a mistress. The history of that house from the time when
the afflicted lady left it has been one of constant change of tenants.
Other houses in the same row, built upon the same plan and owned by
the same person, have no such history. No death has ever occurred in
the house, either tragic or otherwise, and consequently it cannot be
said to be haunted in the ordinary acceptation of the term; that is, by
spirits of the dead.

But is it not haunted, nevertheless? Is it not haunted by the thoughts
engendered from the mental agony of that poor woman whose life
was blasted by the perfidy of an unfaithful husband,–a man whose
subsequent career was one of disgrace and infamy?

I make these suggestions tentatively, and for the purpose of directing
the attention of those interested to a line of investigation which
should not be ignored by students of the new psychology. It is cognate
with the phenomenon of haunted houses, and may yet be found to be
governed by the same laws. If it is true that a visible ghost is
but an embodied thought of a dying man, may it not be true that any
great emotion can leave its impress upon the locality in which it is
experienced? It may not be visible to the objective senses, but it may
have the power to impress the subjective minds of those who are brought
within its environment, and to create in them the same emotions as
those experienced by the former occupants of the premises. It seems to
be another form of telepathy, cognate with the phantom of the dead,
differing only in the strength and character of its manifestation. It
may not be visible, for the reason that the thought cannot be pictured
by a vision. It may be an abstract thought, idea, or emotion, which
can be transmitted to others by impression only; or the emotion which
created it may not have been strong enough to project a visible phantom.

Telepathy, therefore, appears to be divisible into three generic
classes, differing principally in the methods or means of
percipience,–the processes of projection being the same in all.

The first is a thought sent from one living person to another for the
purpose of communicating information to that one individual. It is
perceived by that person only,–usually by means of visions,–and it
instantly fades away when its mission is accomplished.

The second is a thought sent from a dying person to the world at
large to communicate some fact of portentous import. It is sometimes
made visible to the objective senses, and is always confined to one
locality, which it haunts till its object is accomplished.

The third partakes of the characteristics of the first and second. It
is created by a living person, and is confined to one locality. It is
not sent to any particular individual, but impresses whoever inhabits
the house or room it haunts.

It will be understood by the intelligent reader that these three
classes are not separated by any distinct lines of demarcation, but
that each possesses characteristics common to the others.

In concluding this branch of the subject we have but one further remark
to make concerning those hypothetical spirits which are popularly
believed to be able to make themselves visible to mortal eyes. If
it is true that the power exists in mankind to create phantoms, to
project visions which may become visible to others, objectively or
subjectively, we have the logical right to infer that all so-called
spirits, such as elementals, elementaries, _et id genus omne_, are
creations of the subjective minds of those who believe in their
existence.

As remarked in beginning this chapter, it is written tentatively,
hoping to suggest an enlargement of the field of investigation of
the subject of telepathy. That power has been found to afford an
explanation of so much of psychic phenomena which had before been
referred to extramundane origin that it seems probable that it may be
capable of still further service in that direction. The phenomena of
ghosts and haunted houses seem to be the only demonstrated phenomena
of which telepathy has not been shown to be at least a partial
explanation; and if it can be shown that ghosts are also the creations
of subjective power, there will be nothing left for superstition to
fright the world withal.