MRS PIPER & THE SOCIETY FOR PSYCHICAL RESEARCH
Translated & Slightly Abridged from the French of M. Sage
By Noralie Robertson
With a Preface by Sir Oliver Lodge
Scott-Thaw Co. New York 1904
It is obvious that such a body of men, pledged to impartial investigation, as the Society for Psychical Research could not officially stand sponsor to the speculative comments of M. Sage, however admittedly clear-sighted and philosophical that French critic may be.
But the publication of this translation has been actually desired and encouraged by many individuals in the Society, it has been revised throughout by a member of their Council, and it is introduced to the general reader by their President.
The Society, indeed, is prepared to accept M. Sage's volume as a faithful and convenient resume of experiments conducted under its own auspices, and so far as it contains statements of fact, these statements are quoted from authoritative sources. For the comments, deductions or criticisms therein contained, the acute intellect of M. Sage is alone responsible.
It remains only to state in detail the principles on which the original text has been "slightly abridged" by the translator. No facts or comments have been left out that bear directly on the main subject of the book, the omissions are wholly of matters which might be regarded as superfluous for the understanding of the case of Mrs Piper. Occasionally paragraphs have been condensed, a tendency to vague theorising has been checked throughout, and certain irrelevant matter has been altogether omitted. Such omissions are confined, indeed, to single sentences or paragraphs, with only the exception of a somewhat technical discussion of the Cartesian philosophy in Chapter XVII. It had at first been intended to omit the whole of Chapter XI., as containing only fanciful and non-evidential matter; but statements of this kind form an integral part of the communications, and so, on the whole, it was thought fairer to retain M. Sage's chapter on the subject, especially as it may be found of popular interest.
The original appendix has been incorporated, after modifications, in Chapter XII., since the incident here discussed was in progress as M. Sage wrote and has since been closed. His conjectures as to its possible development are naturally omitted. Finally all references to the Proceedings (or printed reports) of the Society itself have been carefully verified. In every case the words of the reports themselves are given in preference to any re-rendering of M. Sage's translations.
Preface by Sir Oliver Lodge xi
Objects of the Society xix
Chapter I 1
Mrs Piper's mediumship—Is mediumship a neurosis?
Chapter II 7
Dr Richard Hodgson—Description of the trance—Mrs Piper not a good hypnotic subject.
Chapter III 13
Early trances—Careful first observations by Professor William James of Harvard University, Massachusetts, U.S.A.
Chapter IV 20
The hypothesis of fraud—The hypothesis of muscle-reading—"Influence."
Chapter V 27
A sitting with Mrs Piper—The hypothesis of thought-transference—Incidents.
Chapter VI 39
Phinuit—His probable origin—His character—What he says of himself—His French—His medical diagnosis—Is he merely a secondary personality of Mrs Piper?
Chapter VII 52
Miss Hannah Wild's letter—The first text given by Phinuit—Mrs Blodgett's sitting—Thought-reading explains the case.
Chapter VIII 65
Communications from persons having suffered in their mental faculties—Unexpected communications from unknown persons—The respect due to the communicators—Predictions—Communications from children.
Chapter IX 77
Further consideration of the difficulties of the problem—George Pelham—Development of the automatic writing.
Chapter X 87
How George Pelham has proved his identity—He recognises his friends and alludes to their opinions—He recognises objects which have belonged to him—Asks that certain things should be done for him—Very rarely makes an erroneous statement.
Chapter XI 99
George Pelham's philosophy—The nature of the soul—The first moments after death—Life in the next world—George Pelham contradicts Stainton Moses—Space and time in the next world—How spirits see us—Means of communication.
Chapter XII 117
William Stainton Moses—What George Pelham thinks of him—How Imperator and his assistants have replaced Phinuit.
Chapter XIII 126
Professor Hyslop and the journalists—The so-called "confession" of Mrs Piper—Precautions taken by Professor Hyslop during his experiments—Impressions of the sittings.
Chapter XIV 134
The communications of Mr Robert Hyslop—Peculiar expressions—Incidents.
Chapter XV 147
The "influence" again—Other incidents—Statistics.
Chapter XVI 154
Examination of the telepathic hypothesis—Some arguments which render its acceptance difficult.
Chapter XVII 161
Some considerations which strongly support the spiritualistic hypothesis—Consciousness and character remain unchanged—Dramatic play—Errors and confusions.
Chapter XVIII 169
Difficulties and objections—The identity of Imperator—Vision at a distance—Triviality of the messages—Spiritualist philosophy—Life in the other world.
Chapter XIX 176
The medium's return to normal life—Speeches made while the medium seems to hover between the two worlds.
Chapter XX 182
Encouraging results obtained—The problem must be solved.
President of the Society for Psychical Research
One of the facts which by general consent in the present stage of psychological science require study is the nature, and if possible the cause, of a special lucidity, a sensitiveness of perception, or accessibility to ideas appearing to arrive through channels other than usual organs of sense, which is sometimes met with among simple people in a rudimentary form, and in a more developed form in certain exceptional individuals. This lucidity may perhaps be regarded as a modification or an exaggeration of the clearness of apprehension occasionally experienced by ordinary persons while immersed in a brown study, or while in the act of waking out of sleep, or when self-consciousness is for a time happily suspended.
In men of genius the phenomenon occurs in the most dignified form at present known to us, and with them also it accompanies a lapse of ordinary consciousness, at least to the extent that circumstances of time and place and daily life become insignificant and trivial, or even temporarily non-existent; but the notable thing is that a few persons, not of genius at all, are liable to an access of something not altogether dissimilar, and exhibit a kind of lucidity or clairvoyant perceptivity, which, though doubtless of a lower grade, is of a well-defined and readily-investigated type, during that state of complete lapse of consciousness known to us as a specific variety of trance.
Not that all trance patients are lucid, any more than all brown studies result in brilliant ideas; nor should it be claimed that some measure of lucidity, even of the ultra-normal kind now under consideration, cannot exist without complete bodily trance. The phenomenon called "automatic writing" is an instance to the contrary,—when a hand liberated from ordinary conscious control is found, automatically as it were, to be writing sentences, sometimes beyond the knowledge of the person to whom the hand belongs. Some approach to unconsciousness, however, either general or local, seems essential to the access of the state, and such conditions as ordinarily induce reverie or sleep are suitable for bringing it on; no one, for instance, would expect to experience it while urgently occupied in affairs. Whether it is desirable to give way to so unpractical an attitude, and to encourage the influx of ideas through non-sensory channels, is another question which need not now concern us. It suffices for us that the phenomenon exists, and that it occasionally though very rarely takes on so well marked and persistent a form as to lend itself to experimental investigation. It is true that in these cases nothing of exceptional and world-compelling merit is produced; the substance of the communication is often, though not always, commonplace, and the form sometimes grotesque. It is true also that a complete record of a conversation held under these circumstances—perhaps a full record of a commonplace conversation held under any circumstances—readily lends itself to cheap ridicule; nevertheless, the evidence of intimate knowledge thus displayed becomes often of extreme interest to the few persons for whom the disjointed utterances have a personal meaning, although to the outsider they must appear dull, unless he is of opinion that they help him to interpret the more obscure workings of the human mind, or unless he thinks it possible that the nature and meaning of inspiration in general may become better understood by a study of this, its lowest, but at the same time its most definite and controllable, form. Undoubtedly information is attainable under these conditions from sources unknown, undoubtedly the entranced or semi-conscious body or part of a body has become a vehicle or medium for ostensible messages from other intelligences, or for impersonations; but the cause of the lucidity so exhibited, the nature of the channel by which the information is obtained, and the source of the information itself, are questions which, although they are apt to be treated glibly by a superficial critic, to whom they appear the most salient feature and the easiest of explanation, are really the most difficult of all.
It was to study such questions as this that a special society—the Society for Psychical Research—was founded some twenty-two years ago.
Perhaps the most remarkable, and certainly the most thorough, of all the investigations made under the auspices of this Society has been the case of the American lady, Mrs Piper; which, begun in 1887, has continued ever since, with only such intervals as were necessitated by the circumstances of the case. She was already known to the Professor of Psychology at Harvard and to some other American savants, but she was brought to the notice of the leaders of the English Society by Dr Richard Hodgson, who has been for some years, and is still, acting as its representative in America, and Secretary of its American Branch. A complete record of the whole investigation has not yet been published, but large portions of it have appeared from time to time in the Proceedings of the Society.
It is not to be supposed that the case is unique by any means; on the contrary, it may in some senses be regarded as typical, but its features are exceptionally well-marked, and the record has been more carefully and continuously kept than that of any other case. Accordingly, some emphasis has been given to it, and a general vague notion concerning the case has diffused itself among educated persons beyond the limits of the Society.
And indeed it is one of really general interest, since the hypothesis of fraud is entirely inapplicable to it, and in the opinion of the most sceptical critics who have made an adequate study of the case, no explanation more commonplace than that of telepathy will bear examination. Other critics—and these are they who have gone into the matter most thoroughly—find the hypothesis of telepathy to be insufficient, and hold that some further explanation is necessary. Opinions differ as to what that further explanation may be, and so far as I know it has not been scientifically formulated as yet. To me it appears probable that no one explanation will fit all the facts, and that the subject is not yet ripe for theory. Working hypotheses must be made, must be tested, and in all probability must be rejected, but our main duty at the present stage is the careful examination and record of facts. The working hypothesis most widely prevalent among the general public, whether for the purpose of scoffing or for a foundation of belief, is some crude form of the idea that the persistent intelligence of persons who have severed their connection with matter is willing, and occasionally even anxious, to take up temporarily the broken thread, and so to operate as to transmit, through any channel which may be open, to us who are still associated with planetary matter, messages which shall serve as a sign of their continued existence and affection; and that the biological organism or part of an organism of a living but unconscious or semi-conscious person is an instrument which may, though with difficulty, be utilised to that end.
It is easy to express this hypothesis in such a way that it is repugnant to common sense. It may be possible hereafter to formulate it so that it shall correspond in some measure with the truth. But even though it should turn out that intelligences can exist apart from the surface of planets and the usual material concomitants, it by no means follows that they must all at some period have been incarnate on the earth. The recognition of modes of existence differing greatly from our own, if it can ever be properly effected, will have an illuminating bearing on many fundamental problems of life and death; but this is not the place to attempt to discuss such a question, even if the time were ripe for the discussion at all.
The Society for Psychical Research, though it has now for some time studied this among other questions, has arrived at no sort of agreement concerning it; the only fact on which its members are generally agreed is as to the reality of some kind of telepathy, an apparently direct influence between mind and mind; and telepathy is no doubt an important fact, but it by no means follows that it is a master-key capable of furnishing the solution of every variety of psychical problem. The chief work of the Society has not been the construction of theories; it has accumulated and sifted a mass of evidence dealing with ultra-normal human faculty, it has published much material and criticism in its Proceedings, has printed more in its private Journal, and its members have written books. To these accessible sources of information students can be referred.
But it is necessary to get some inkling of a subject before becoming a student of it—people have not time to read a tithe of what is printed; and inasmuch as many erroneous notions and misconceptions are prevalent, even among educated persons, concerning the method and motives of the Society, as well as concerning its ascertained results, it occurred to the Council that perhaps a more popular account of the outline of some of the facts, with abridged examples or illustrations of some of the details, might be of service in spreading the rudiments of a wider knowledge concerning at least one branch of a subject which must certainly be of interest to the human race when it is rightly apprehended.
A popular statement was perhaps the more desirable since a number of insignificant bodies have recently sprung up, showing considerable energy in the business of advertisement, assuming colourable imitations of our Society's designation, but having very different objects—unscientific always, sometimes frankly pecuniary—so that it was quite likely that a certain amount of confusion might occur.
The idea of the Council, in the first instance, was to have a short popular account or summary of the Piper case specially written by one of their own members; but it was brought to their notice that a French writer had already issued a small book of a character not very different from that contemplated, and had steered his way cleverly through the intricacies of a subject bristling with difficulty below the surface and choked with detail throughout; so it was thought best to utilise the skilful work of the French writer, and simply see to it that a faithful translation was made, only introducing changes in the direction of still further abbreviation occasionally.
This is the book for which I consented, though I admit with some misgivings, to write a preface when it was ready to appear; and now that I see it in its English dress I find my misgivings justified.
The author speaks deprecatingly of his purpose in writing it, describing it as "un modeste ouvrage de vulgarisation," and thereby disarms criticism, for, considered from this point of view, it is successful; but I must guard not only myself but all other members of the Council of the S.P.R. from any endorsement of the sentiments and comments which M. Sage scatters somewhat liberally through his pages. Taken as they were intended in the original, they were not out of keeping; they seemed to harmonise with the general tone and formed part of a consistent artistic scheme. Translated they appear less appropriate, but to omit them altogether would be to give the book a different character, and probably to spoil it. As it stands, it is readable, more readable than a profounder treatise would be. Let it pass, therefore, as conveying to readers who have neither time nor inclination to enter upon a detailed study some conception of the most remarkable modern instance of the phenomenon to which I began by referring—a phenomenon of which a better, but by no means yet a complete or final, treatment can be studied in the work of Mr Myers called Human Personality and its Survival of Bodily Death.
 Under the name "Second Sight," for instance.
OBJECTS OF THE SOCIETY
The Society for Psychical Research was founded at the beginning of 1882, for the purpose of making an organised and systematic attempt to investigate various sorts of debatable phenomena which are prima facie inexplicable on any generally recognised hypothesis. From the recorded testimony of many competent witnesses, past and present, including observations recently made by scientific men of eminence in various countries, there appeared to be, amidst much illusion and deception, an important body of facts to which this description would apply, and which therefore, if incontestably established, would be of the very highest interest. The task of examining such residual phenomena had often been undertaken by individual effort, but never hitherto by a scientific society organised on a sufficiently broad basis. The following are the principal departments of work which the Society at present undertakes:—
1. An examination of the nature and extent of any influence which may be exerted by one mind upon another, otherwise than through the recognised sensory channels.
2. The study of hypnotism and mesmerism; and an inquiry into the alleged phenomena of clairvoyance.
3. A careful investigation of any reports, resting on testimony sufficiently strong and not too remote, of apparitions coinciding with some external event (as for instance a death) or giving information previously unknown to the percipient, or being seen by two or more persons independently of each other.
4. An inquiry into various alleged phenomena apparently inexplicable by known laws of nature, and commonly referred by Spiritualists to the agency of extra-human intelligences.
5. The collection and collation of existing materials bearing on the history of these subjects.
The aim of the Society is to approach these various problems without prejudice or prepossession of any kind, and in the same spirit of exact and unimpassioned inquiry which has enabled Science to solve so many problems, once not less obscure nor less hotly debated. The founders of the Society have always fully recognised the exceptional difficulties which surround this branch of research; but they nevertheless believe that by patient and systematic effort some results of permanent value may be attained.
Investigating Committees (with the exception of the Committee for Experiments) are not appointed by the Council; but any group of Members and Associates may become an investigating Committee; and every such Committee will, it is hoped, appoint an Honorary Secretary, and through him report its proceedings to the Council from time to time.
The Council, if it accepts a report so made for presentation to the Society, will be prepared to consider favourably any application on the part of the Committee for funds to assist in defraying the expenses of special experimental investigation.
The Council will also be glad to receive reports of investigation from individual Members or Associates, or from persons unconnected with the Society.
Any such report, or any other communication relating to the work of the Society, should be addressed to Miss Alice Johnson (as Editor of the Proceedings and Journal), 20 Hanover Square, London, W., or to J. G. Piddington, Esq., 87 Sloane Street, London, S.W.; or in America to Dr Richard Hodgson, 5 Boylston Place, Boston, Mass.
Meetings of the Society, for the reading and discussion of papers, are held periodically; and the papers then produced, with other matter, are, as a general rule, afterwards published in the Proceedings.
The Proceedings of the Society may be obtained directly from the Secretary, 20 Hanover Square, London, W., or from the Secretary of the American Branch, or from any bookseller, through Mr R. Brimley Johnson, 4 Adam Street, Adelphi, London, W.C.
A Monthly Journal (from October to July inclusive) is also issued to Members and Associates. The Journal contains evidence freshly received in different branches of the inquiry, which is thus rendered available for consideration, and for discussion by correspondence, before selections from it are put forward in a more public manner.
The Council, in inviting the adhesion of Members, think it desirable to quote a preliminary Note, which appeared on the first page of the Constitution of the original Society, and which still holds good.
"Note.—To prevent misconception, it is here expressly stated that Membership of the Society does not imply the acceptance of any particular explanation of the phenomena investigated, nor any belief as to the operation, in the physical world, of forces other than those recognised by Physical Science."
Conditions of Membership.
The conditions of Membership are thus defined in Articles 11-18:—
The Society shall consist of: (a) Members, who shall subscribe two guineas annually, or make a single payment of twenty guineas, (b) Associates, who shall subscribe one guinea annually, or make a single payment of ten guineas.
All Members and Associates of the Society shall be elected by the Council. Every candidate for admission shall be required to give such references as shall be approved by the Council, and shall be proposed in writing by two or more Members or Associates.
All subscriptions shall become payable immediately upon election, and subsequently on the first day of January in each year. In the case of any Member or Associate elected on or after the 1st October, his subscription shall be accepted as for the next following year.
Article 22 provides that if any Member or Associate desire to resign, he shall give written notice thereof to the Secretary. He shall, however, be liable for all subscriptions which shall then remain unpaid.
Ladies are eligible either as Members or Associates.
Privileges of Membership.
Articles 19 and 20 provide that Members and Associates are eligible to any of the offices of the Society, and are entitled to the free receipt both of the Proceedings and of the Journal, to the use of Library books in the Society's rooms, and to attend all the General Meetings of the Society, to which they are also allowed to invite friends. They are further entitled to purchase the Proceedings of the Society issued previous to their joining it,—and also additional copies of any Part or Volume,—at half their published price.
Members have the additional privileges of borrowing books from the Library, and of voting in the election of the Council, and at all meetings of the Society.
A contents sheet of the whole series of Proceedings may be had on application to the Secretary, 20 Hanover Square, London, W.
 Any reports or papers which may be printed in the Proceedings will become the Society's property; but author or authors will be entitled to receive 50 copies of any such report or paper gratis, and additional copies, if required, at a small charge.
Society for Psychical Research
Mrs Piper's mediumship—Is mediumship a neurosis?
Mrs Piper is what the spiritualists call a medium, and what the English psychologists call an automatist, which is to say, a person who appears at times to lend her organism to beings imperceptible to our senses, in order to enable them to manifest themselves to us. I say that it appears to be thus, not that it is so. It is difficult for many reasons to admit the existence of these problematical beings. We shall deny it or remain sceptical till the day comes when the evidence proves too strong for us.
Mrs Piper's mediumship is one of the most perfect which has ever been discovered. In any case, it is the one which has been the most perseveringly, lengthily and carefully studied by highly competent men. Members of the Society for Psychical Research have studied the phenomena presented by Mrs Piper during fifteen consecutive years. They have taken all the precautions necessitated by the strangeness of the case, the circumstances, and the surrounding scepticism; they have faced and minutely weighed all hypotheses. In future the most orthodox psychologists will be unable to ignore these phenomena when constructing their systems; they will be compelled to examine them and find an explanation for them, which their preconceived ideas will sometimes render it difficult to do.
Praise and warm gratitude are due to the men who have studied the case of Mrs Piper. But we owe no less to Mrs Piper, who has lent herself to the investigations with perfect good faith and pliability. None of those who have had any continued intercourse with her have a shadow of doubt of her sincerity. She has not taken the view that she was exercising a new kind of priesthood; she has understood that she was an interesting anomaly for science, and she has allowed science to study her. A vulgar soul would not have done this. Her example, and also that of Mlle. Smith, of whom Professor Flournoy has lately written, deserve to be followed. If the strange phenomena of mediumship have not yet been sufficiently studied by as many persons as could be wished, scientific men are chiefly to blame for the fact. Many of them regard with disfavour facts which upset painfully-erected systems on which they have relied for years. But the mediums are also to blame, for their vanity is sometimes great, and their sincerity frequently doubtful.
Mrs Piper is American. Her husband is employed in a large shop in Boston. Although of a home-loving disposition, Mrs Piper has travelled; she has several times consented to leave her ordinary surroundings in order to prevent all suspicion of fraud; she has given sittings in New York and other places, and has paid a three months' visit to England.
Her education does not appear to have been carried very far. She has doubtless read much, like all American women, but without method, and probably very superficially. Her language is commonplace, sometimes even trivial, but the records do not give me the impression that she is really trivial-minded; language may be trivial when ideas are not. On the whole, Mrs Piper's personality is attractive.
The point which naturally interests the man of science, and particularly the doctor, is the state of health and the morbid heredity of Mrs Piper. We have very insufficient information about these. I can find no circumstantial report on this important matter anywhere. Mrs Piper was rather seriously ill in 1890; a doctor attended her for several consecutive months; this gentleman was also present at a sitting she gave on the 4th December of this same year, 1890. It is evident that he was in a position to study Mrs Piper closely. Dr Hodgson asked him for a report, which would have been appended to the other documents. But this doctor had the wisdom of the serpent. He promised, but changed his mind, and absolutely refused to furnish any report whatever. Dr Hodgson asked the subject a series of questions with the object of ascertaining the state of health of her immediate ancestors, particularly from the neuropathic point of view. She belongs to a family which appears to have been very healthy and not in any way subject to nervous maladies.
Mrs Piper's own general state of health is even more interesting to our inquiry than that of her ancestors, since most doctors persist in seeing in mediumship a neurosis, sister or cousin to hysteria or epilepsy.
It is undeniable that many mediums present some physiological peculiarity or other. Eusapia Paladino, for example, has a depression of the left parietal bone. But, on the other hand, Mlle. Smith of Geneva, who has been studied by Professor Flournoy, seems to enjoy health as good as anybody's—even flourishing health. Perhaps, if a thorough search were made, some defect might be discovered, but the person who should not betray some inherited peculiarity probably could not be found.
As far as Mrs Piper is concerned, she seems to have enjoyed irreproachable health till towards 1882 or 1883. The exact date is not stated. About that time she suffered from a tumour, caused by a blow from a sledge, and she feared cancer. This illness brought about the discovery of her mediumship. Up to this time absolutely nothing abnormal had occurred to her. Her husband's parents had had, in 1884, a sitting with a medium which had much impressed them. They frequently advised their daughter-in-law to take the advice of some medium who gave medical consultations. To please them, she went to a blind medium named J. R. Cocke, and there she had her first loss of consciousness or "trance." But we shall return to this.
It is to be concluded that the prescription of the medium had no more influence on the disease than those of ordinary doctors, for this tumour continued to make Mrs Piper's health rather precarious for a long time. She only decided in 1893 to undergo a surgical operation—laparotomy. No complications resulted from it, and her convalescence was rapid. However, in 1895, the after-effect of this operation was a serious hernia, which necessitated a second operation in February 1896. She only recovered thoroughly in October of the same year.
Many persons will be disposed to believe that Mrs Piper's tumour is the explanation of her mediumship, particularly as the mediumship only appeared after the tumour. It is rather difficult to prove them wrong. There is, however, a fact which seems to indicate that they would be mistaken. When Mrs Piper is ill, her mediumship decreases or becomes less lucid; she only furnishes incoherent, fragmentary, or quite false communications. The syncope or "trance," which is easy when she is well, becomes difficult or even impossible when she is ill. Her health has been good since her last operation, the syncopes are easy, and the communications obtained in this state have acquired a degree of coherence and plausibility which was previously wanting.
If, then, Mrs Piper's mediumship was the result of illness, it is strange that her recovery should have favoured the development and perfecting of this same mediumship. There appears to be a contradiction here. I am not competent regarding the question, but, on examining the facts, I can hardly believe that mediumship is a mere neurosis. After all, are there not famous men of science who declare that genius itself is only a neurosis? In their eyes the bandit is only a sick man; but the genius also is only a sick man.
If it is true that the best and worst in humanity are only opposite faces of the same medal, we should be tempted to think mankind even more pitiable than we have hitherto believed.
 Des Indes a la Planete Mars; etude sur un cas de somnambulisme, by Th. Flournoy. Pub. Alcan, Paris.
Dr Richard Hodgson—Description of the trance—Mrs Piper not a good hypnotic subject.
Before proceeding further, I must ask my readers' permission to introduce Dr Hodgson, the man who has studied Mrs Piper's case with the greatest care and with the most perseverance. Dr Richard Hodgson went to America expressly to observe this medium, and during some fifteen years he has, so to say, hardly lost sight of her for a moment. All the persons who have had sittings for a long time past have passed through his hands; he introduces them by assumed names, and takes all possible precautions that Mrs Piper, in her normal state, shall not obtain any information about them. These precautions are now superfluous. Mrs Piper has never had recourse to fraud, and everyone is thoroughly convinced of the fact. But the slightest relaxation of supervision would lay the most decisive experiments open to suspicion.
Dr Hodgson is one of the earliest workers for the Society for Psychical Research. He has been a terrible enemy to fraud all his life. At the time of the formation of the Society, Mme. Blavatsky, foundress of the Theosophical Society, was making herself much talked about. The most extraordinary phenomena were supposed to have occurred at the Theosophical Society's headquarters in India. Dr Hodgson was sent there to study them impartially. He quickly made the discovery that the whole affair was charlatanry and sleight-of-hand. On his return to England he wrote a report—which has not killed Theosophy, because even new-born religions have strong vitality—but which has discredited this doctrine for ever in the eyes of thoughtful people.
After this master stroke, Dr Hodgson continued to hunt down fraudulent mediums. He learned all their tricks, and acquired a conjurer's skill. It was he again who discovered the unconscious frauds of Eusapia Paladino during the sittings which this Italian medium gave at Cambridge. When such a man, after long study of Mrs Piper's phenomena, affirms their validity, we may believe him. He is not credulous, nor an enthusiast, nor a mystic. I have written of him somewhat at length, because, by force of circumstances, his name will often appear in these pages.
To return to Mrs Piper and the phenomena which specially interest us. Mrs Piper falls into trance spontaneously, without the intervention of any magnetiser. I shall explain later, at length, what must be understood by "trance."
Professor Charles Richet was one of the persons who had a sitting with our medium while she was staying at Cambridge. He describes the trance in these terms:—
"She is obliged to hold someone's hand in order to go into a trance. She holds the hand several minutes, silently, in half-darkness. After some time—from five to fifteen minutes—she is seized with slight spasmodic convulsions, which increase, and terminate in a very slight epileptiform attack. Passing out of this, she falls into a state of stupor, with somewhat stertorous breathing; this lasts about a minute or two; then, all at once, she comes out of the stupor with a burst of words. Her voice is changed; she is no longer Mrs Piper, but another personage, Dr Phinuit, who speaks in a loud, masculine voice in a mingling of negro patois, French, and American dialect."
Sir Oliver Lodge, F.R.S., well-known among English men of science, and at the time Professor of Physics at Liverpool, describes the opening of the trance in very nearly the same words as Professor Richet in the remarkable report which he published in 1890 on the sittings he had with Mrs Piper. He also notices the slight epileptiform attack, although he adds that he is not "pretending to speak medically."
The Phinuit personality, of which Professor Richet speaks in the passage above quoted, is what the Spiritualists call a "control." By "control" is meant the mysterious being who is supposed to have temporarily taken possession of the organism of the medium. Are these controls only secondary personalities, or are they, as they themselves declare, disincarnated human spirits, spirits of dead men who come back to communicate with us by using an entranced organism as a machine? In either case they must have a name. Phinuit has been one of Mrs Piper's principal controls, but he is far from having been the only one. On the contrary, they have been legion, and, what is strange, these controls appear to be personalities as distinct from each other as possible, each with his own style of language, his belief, his opinions, his tricks of speech or manner.
Mrs Piper's trance has changed its aspect a little with the development and perfecting of her mediumship. Formerly the controls communicated only by using her voice; then some of them began to write. In some of the sittings one personality communicated through the voice, while another, entirely different, and speaking of utterly different matters, communicated simultaneously in writing. For some years now the controls have only communicated in writing, and have used the right hand only. The right arm of the medium is in lively movement, while the rest of her body lies inert, leaning forward upon cushions.
In a long report which has just appeared, Mr James Hyslop, Professor of Logic and Ethics at the University of Columbia, in the State of New York, describes the beginning of the trance in detail as it now takes place. At the first sitting he had with Mrs Piper he seated himself more than a yard from her, in a position which enabled him to observe attentively all that happened.
The medium remained quietly seated in an armchair for three or four minutes. Then her head shook and her right eyebrow twitched; all this time she was trimming her nails. She then leant forward on the cushions which had been placed on the table for her head to rest upon, and closed and rubbed her eyes; her face was slightly congested for some instants. She opened her eyes again, and the ocular globes were visible, slightly upturned; she blew her nose, and began to attend to her nails again. Her gaze became slightly fixed. Her face once more changed; the redness disappeared, and she grew slightly pale. The muscles relaxed, the mouth was a little drawn on one side, and the stare became more fixed. Finally her mouth opened and the trance came on gently, like a fainting fit, without struggle. Then Dr Hodgson arranged her head on the cushions with her right cheek on her left hand, so that her face was turned to the left, and she was unable to see her right hand, which soon began to write automatically.
During the trance the sensibility of Mrs Piper's organism to exterior excitation is much blunted. If her arm is pricked, even severely, it is withdrawn but slowly; if a bottle of ammonia is put to her nostrils, and care is taken that it is inhaled, her head does not betray sensation by the least movement. One day, if I am not mistaken, Dr Hodgson put a lighted match to her arm, and asked Phinuit if he felt it.
"Yes," replied Phinuit, "but not much, you know. What is it? Something cold, isn't it?"
These and numerous other experiments show that if sensibility is not abolished, it is at least very much blunted.
It might be concluded from the above that Mrs Piper would be an excellent hypnotic subject. She is nothing of the kind. Without being precisely refractory to hypnotism, she is only an indifferently good hypnotic subject. Professor William James of Harvard has made experiments to elucidate this point. His two first attempts to hypnotise Mrs Piper were entirely fruitless. Between the second and third, Professor William James asked Phinuit, during a mediumistic trance, to be kind enough to help him to make the subject hypnotisable. Phinuit promised; in fact, he always promises all that is asked. At the third attempt Mrs Piper fell slightly asleep, but only at the fifth sitting was there a real hypnotic sleep, accompanied by the usual automatic and muscular phenomena. But it was impossible to obtain anything more. Hypnosis and trance, in Mrs Piper, have no points of resemblance. In the trance, muscular mobility is extreme. In hypnosis, just the contrary is the case. If she is ordered during hypnosis to remember what she has said or done, she remembers. During the trance, the control has more than once been asked to arrange that Mrs Piper should recall, on waking, what she had said; but this has never succeeded. During the mediumistic trance she seems to read the deepest recesses of the souls of those present like a book. During hypnosis there is no trace of this thought-reading. In short, the mediumistic trance and the hypnotic sleep are not one and the same thing. Whatever may be the real nature of the difference, this difference is so great that it strikes the least attentive observer at once.
 In the opinion of the chief witnesses of the Cambridge sittings the frauds of Eusapia Paladino were not unconscious. Mr Myers said, in the report to the Society immediately after the sittings:—"I cannot doubt that we observed much conscious and deliberate fraud, of a kind which must have needed long practice to bring it to its present level of skill."—Journal of Society for Psychical Research for 1895, p. 133, Trans.
 Proc. of the S.P.R., vol. vi. p. 444.
 Proc. of S.P.R., vol. xvi.
 Proc. of S.P.R., vol. viii. p. 5.
Early trances—Careful first observations by Professor William James of Harvard University, Massachusetts, U.S.A.
I have already explained on what occasion Mrs Piper had her first trance. Suffering from a traumatic tumour, she had gone to ask advice of a blind medium named Cocke. This medium gave medical consultations, but he also asserted that he had the power of developing latent mediumship. At this first sitting Mrs Piper felt very strange thrills, and thought she was going to faint. At the following sitting Mr Cocke put his hands on her head. She felt at once that she was on the point of losing consciousness. She saw a flood of light, as well as unrecognised human faces, and a hand which fluttered before her face. She does not remember what happened afterwards. But when she woke she was told that a young Indian girl named Chlorine had manifested through her organism, and had given a remarkable proof of survival after death to a person who happened to be present.
Mrs Piper was therefore really a medium. Her personal friends immediately began to arrange sittings with her. Little by little strangers were admitted to this private circle. Various self-styled spirits communicated by her means in the earlier days. Phinuit, who later took almost sole possession of Mrs Piper's organism, was far from being alone at first; his place was disputed. The first controls, if they themselves are to be believed, were the actress Mrs Siddons, the musician John Sebastian Bach, the poet Longfellow, Commodore Vanderbilt the multi-millionaire, and a young Italian girl named Loretta Ponchini.
At the outset Dr Phinuit, when he appeared, confined himself to diagnosing and giving medical advice. He thought everything else beneath him.
At last, one evening, John Sebastian Bach announced that he and all his companions were about to concentrate their power on Dr Phinuit, and make him the principal control. Naturally we do not know what they did, but it is certain that from that time Dr Phinuit became so much the principal control that he had almost sole possession of Mrs Piper's organism for years. As we shall see, he ceased to confine himself to giving medical consultations. He willingly replied to all questions addressed to him, and he even talked readily on all sorts of subjects without being questioned at all.
The first person of educated intelligence who had an opportunity to examine and study, although somewhat summarily, Mrs Piper's trance phenomena, was Professor William James of Harvard University. In 1886 he made a brief report of them, which he published in the Proceedings of the American Society for Psychical Research. Professor James did not at first recognise all the importance of the Piper case. No shorthand report of the sittings was made, and he did not even take complete notes. However, he assured himself that fraud had nothing to do with the phenomena, but without taking all the minute precautions which others have since taken. He satisfied himself that here was an interesting mystery, and says so in his report, but he left the charge of looking for the key to others. But I shall give an account of the sittings of Professor James, in the first place because it would be improper to neglect even the superficial studies of a man of such eminence, and secondly, because they will give my readers a clear idea of the phenomena.
Professor James made Mrs Piper's acquaintance in the autumn of 1885 in the following way. His mother-in-law, Mrs Gibbens, had heard a friend speak of Mrs Piper, and as she had never seen a medium, she asked for a sitting out of curiosity. Mrs Gibbens, who went sceptical, returned rather impressed. She had heard a number of private details which she believed were unknown outside her family. On the day following Professor James's sister-in-law went in her turn to see Mrs Piper, and obtained even better results than her mother. For example, the inquirer had placed a letter in Italian on the medium's forehead. It must be observed that Mrs Piper is entirely ignorant of that language. Nevertheless, Phinuit gave a number of perfectly correct details about the writer of the letter. The mystery became interesting, as the young Italian who had written it was only known to two people in the whole United States. Later on, at other sittings, Phinuit gave the exact name of this young man, which he had been unable to do at first.
Professor James's attitude when these facts were related to him can be imagined. He did what most of us do, or have done. He played the esprit fort, joked his relatives about their credulity, and thought that women were decidedly deficient in critical spirit. His curiosity was none the less awakened. Some days after, in the company of his wife, and having taken all possible precautions that Mrs Piper should not know his name or intentions beforehand, he went and asked her for a sitting. Intimate details, principally about Mrs James's family, were repeated. Others even more circumstantial were given. What was the least easily obtained was just what could have been learned with the greatest facility if Mrs Piper had acquired these details fraudulently or by normal means, namely, proper names. Professor James was the first to notice a fact which a large number of observers have since remarked. The impression that the names are shouted to Phinuit by a spirit is unavoidable. Phinuit, who is to transmit them, hears imperfectly, doubtless on account of his position, which all the controls describe as very uncomfortable and painful—the organism of the medium seems to plunge the controls into a semi-somnolence.
Thus Phinuit mangles the names he repeats. It appears that the communicating spirit is conscious of this and corrects. Phinuit repeats the name thus several times, and very often only succeeds in giving it exactly after several attempts. It even sometimes happens that a name cannot be given all at a sitting, but then it is generally given at a subsequent one.
Thus, at this first sitting of Professor James, the name of his father-in-law, Gibbens, was first given as Niblin, and then as Giblin. Professor James had lost a child a year before. He was mentioned, and his name, Herman, was given as Herrin. But the details which accompanied the enunciation of the name prevented mistake, on the part of the sitters, about the person intended.
Professor James brought away from this first sitting the conclusion that unless Mrs Piper, by some chance inexplicable to him, knew his own and his wife's families intimately, she must be possessed of supernormal powers. In short, his first scepticism was shaken, and he had twelve further sittings with Mrs Piper in the course of the winter. Moreover, he obtained circumstantial details from relatives and friends who likewise had sittings.
The following are some examples of Phinuit's clairvoyance.
Professor James's mother-in-law had, on her return from Europe, lost her bank-book. At a sitting held soon afterwards Phinuit was asked if he could help her to find it. He told her exactly where it was, and there it was found.
At another sitting, Phinuit said to Professor James, who this time was not accompanied by Mrs James, "Your child has a boy named Robert F. as a playfellow in our world." The Fs. were cousins of Mrs James, who lived in a distant town.
On returning home Professor James said to his wife, "Your cousins the Fs. have lost a child, haven't they? But Phinuit made a mistake about the sex; he said it was a boy." Mrs James confirmed the perfect exactness of Phinuit's information; her husband had been wrong.
At the second sitting which Mrs Gibbens had she was told among other things that one of her daughters, mentioned by name, had at the time a bad pain in her back, to which she was by no means subject. The detail was found to be exact.
On another occasion Phinuit announced to Mrs James and her brother, before the arrival of any telegram, the death of their aunt, which had just occurred in New York. It is true that this death was momentarily expected.
At another sitting Phinuit said to Professor James, "You have just killed a grey and white cat with ether. The wretched animal spun round and round a long time before dying." This was quite true.
Phinuit, again, told Mrs James that her aunt in New York, the one whose death he had announced, had written her a letter warning her against all kinds of mediums. And he sketched the old lady's character, not very respectfully, in a most amusing way.
I quote these examples to give an idea of the kind of information furnished by Mrs Piper's controls. But it must not be believed that this is all. The controls do not need to be entreated to speak. Phinuit is particularly loquacious, and he often talks for an hour on end. His remarks are frequently incoherent, and often also obviously false. But, at the very least, in the good sittings, truthfulness and exactitude much preponderate, whatever may be the source from which Phinuit obtains his facts; whether he gets them from disincarnated spirits, as he asserts; whether he reads them in the consciousness or sub-consciousness of the sitter, or whether they are furnished him by what he calls the "influence" which the persons to whom the objects presented to him belonged have left upon them.
I have forgotten to say that Phinuit asks to have brought to him objects of some sort which have belonged to the persons about whom he is consulted. He feels the objects, and says at once, "I feel the influence of such-a-one; he is dead or he is alive; such a thing has happened to him." Detail follows on detail, for the most part exact.
As I have already said when speaking of Professor James, Phinuit showed intimate knowledge of Mrs James's family. Now, there were no members of the family in the neighbourhood; some were dead, others in California, and others in the State of Maine.
What I have said will suffice to give the reader a first idea of the general features of the phenomena. I shall be able in future, while reporting the facts, to examine as I proceed the hypotheses which they suggest.
 Proc. of S.P.R., vol. vi. p. 651.
 Proc. of S.P.R., vol. vi. p. 657.
The hypothesis of fraud—The hypothesis of muscle reading—"Influence."
When phenomena of this nature are related, the first hypothesis that occurs to the reader's mind is that of fraud. The medium is an impostor. His trick may be ingenious and carefully dissimulated, but it is certainly merely a trick. Therefore, in order to pursue these studies with any good results, this hypothesis must be disposed of once for all. Now this is not easy. Most men are so made that they have a high opinion of their own perspicuity, but a very unfavourable one generally of that of other men. They always believe that if they had been there they could have quickly discovered the imposture. Consequently, no precaution must be omitted; all safeguards must be employed, and it will be seen that the observers of Mrs Piper's phenomena have not neglected to do this.
Professor James concealed the identity of as many as he could of the sitters whom he introduced to Mrs Piper. Personally, he was soon convinced that fraud had nothing to do with the phenomena. But the point was to convince others. It occured to a member of the Society for Psychical Research that it would be a good plan to cause Mrs Piper to be followed by detectives when she went out, and not only herself, but all the other members of her family. A singular idea, in my opinion. However, if detectives had not been employed, many people would even to-day believe that it would be possible to clear up the Piper mystery in a very short time, in the most natural way in the world. This is why Dr Hodgson, on his arrival in America, set detectives on the tracks of Mr and Mrs Piper. Absolutely nothing was discovered; Mr and Mrs Piper asked nobody indiscreet questions, made no suspicious journeys, did not visit cemeteries to read the names on graves. Finally, Mrs Piper, whose correspondence is at all times limited, received no letters from Intelligence Agencies.
Later on, the method taken to make sure of her good faith was revealed to Mrs Piper. She was not at all offended; on the contrary, she saw how absolutely legitimate was the precaution. This is another proof of her uprightness and intelligence.
Again, the idea that Mrs Piper could obtain the information she gives by means of inquiries made abroad is a priori absurd to anyone who has studied the phenomena with any care. Her sitters, whom she received under assumed names, to the number of several hundreds, came from all points of the United States, from England, and even from other parts of Europe. The greater number passed through the hands of Professor James and Dr Hodgson, and all necessary precautions were taken that Mrs Piper should see them for the first time only a few moments before the commencement of the trance. Indeed, they were often only introduced after the trance had begun. These precautions have never injured the results. The sittings, at least those which were not spoilt by the medium's state of health, have always been marked by a large number of perfectly accurate details.
If Mrs Piper obtained the information through spies in her employment, these spies would be obliged to send her private details about all the families in the United States and Europe, since she hardly ever knows to whom she will give a sitting the next day. Dr Hodgson arranges for her. Formerly Professor James did this, at least in a large number of cases. Now the scientific honesty of Dr Hodgson or Professor James (I mention this only for foreign readers who may not be acquainted with the reputation of these two gentlemen) can no more be suspected than that of a Charcot, a Berthelot, or a Pasteur. Then, what interest could they have in deceiving us? These experiments had cost them considerable sums, not to speak of time and trouble; they have never profited by them.
Again, Mrs Piper is without fortune. She would not have the means to pay such a police as she would need. She is paid for her sittings, it is true; she gains about two hundred pounds a year, but such a police service would cost her thousands. But there was an excellent way of putting the hypothesis of fraud out of question; it was to take Mrs Piper out of her habitual environment, to a country where she knew nobody. This was done. Certain members of the Society for Psychical Research invited her to England, to give sittings in their houses. She consented without any difficulty. She arrived in England on 19th November 1889, on the Cunard Company's steamer Scythia. Frederic Myers, whose recent loss is deplored by psychology, should have gone to the docks and have taken her to his house at Cambridge. But at the last moment he was called to Edinburgh, and asked his friend, Professor Oliver Lodge, of whom we have already spoken, to receive Mrs Piper in his stead. Professor Lodge installed her in an hotel with her two little girls who came with her. The same evening Mr Myers arrived, and took her to his house next day.
Experiments at Cambridge began at once. This is what Mr Myers says about them:—
"I am convinced that Mrs Piper, on her arrival in England, brought with her a very slender knowledge of English affairs or English people. The servant who attended on her and on her two young children was chosen by myself, and was a young woman from a country village whom I had full reason to believe both trustworthy and also quite ignorant of my own or my friends' affairs. For the most part I had myself not determined upon the persons whom I would invite to sit with her. I chose these sitters in great measure by chance; several of them were not resident in Cambridge, and except in one or two cases, where anonymity would have been hard to preserve, I brought them to her under false names, sometimes introducing them only when the trance had already begun."
Professor Oliver Lodge in his turn invited Mrs Piper to come and give sittings at his home in Liverpool. She went, and remained from 18th December to 27th December 1889. During this time she gave at least two sittings a day, which fatigued her much. Professor Lodge gave up for the time all other work to study her. He enumerates at length all the precautions he took to prevent fraud. He also declares that Mrs Piper, who was perfectly aware of the watch kept upon her, never showed the least displeasure, and thought it quite natural. He wondered whether, by chance, she might not have among her luggage some book containing biographies of men of the day, and asked permission to look through her trunks. She consented with the best possible grace. But Professor Lodge found nothing suspicious. Mrs Piper also handed over to be read the greater number of the letters she received; they were not numerous; about three a week. The servants in the house were all new; they knew nothing of the family's private affairs, and thus could not inform the medium about them. Besides, Mrs Piper never tried to question them. Mrs Lodge, who was very sceptical at first, kept guard over her own speech, so as not to give any scraps of information. The family Bible (on the first pages of which, according to custom, memorable events are recorded) and the photographic albums were locked away. Professor Lodge, like the others, presented most of his sitters under false names. Finally, he affirms that Mrs Piper's attitude never justified the least suspicion; she was dignified, reserved, and not in any way indiscreet.
In short, during the fifteen years the experiments have continued, all the suggestions made by sceptical and sometimes violent objectors have been kept in view, that the fraud might be discovered, if fraud there were. All has been in vain. The explanation of the phenomena must consequently be sought elsewhere.
As for the trance itself, all those who have seen it agree in saying that it is genuine and in no way feigned.
The hypothesis of fraud being disposed of, recourse has been had to another, which it has also become necessary to abandon—that of the reading of muscular movements. It appears that the thought-readers who exhibit themselves on the platform accomplish their wonderful feats by interpreting, with remarkable intelligence, sharpened by long practice, the unconscious movements of the persons whose wrists they are holding.
Now it is true that formerly Mrs Piper became entranced while holding both hands, or at least one hand, of the sitter. She kept their hands in hers during most of the trance. But Professor Lodge says this was far from being always the case. She often dropped the sitter's hands and lost contact with them for half an hour at a time. Phinuit, or some other control, nevertheless continued to furnish exact information. Shall we say that while he was holding hands he had laid in a provision of knowledge for the whole half-hour? Seriously we cannot.
But as this objection had often been made, the sitters endeavoured to avoid contact with the medium. For a long time Mrs Piper has fallen into the trance without holding anyone's hand. Her whole body reposes, plunged in a deep sleep, except the right hand, which writes with giddy rapidity and only rarely endeavours to touch the persons present. Professor Hyslop, in the report which has just appeared, affirms that he avoided the slightest contact with the medium with all possible care, and yet we shall see farther on how exact were the facts he obtained, since he believes that he has established the identity of his dead father without the possibility of a doubt. Therefore the hypothesis of thought-reading by means of muscular indications must also be put aside.
Finally, Phinuit affirms that the objects presented to him, and which he touches, furnish him with information about their former possessors, thanks to the "influence" such persons have left on the articles; and in a multitude of cases we should be almost forced to admit that it may be so. But here we are already plunged into depths of mystery. What can this "influence" be? We know nothing about it. Must we believe in it? Must we believe Phinuit when he says that he obtains his information sometimes from the "influence" left upon the objects, sometimes directly from the mouths of the disembodied spirits? Before reaching that point, other hypotheses must be examined.
 Proc. of S.P.R., vol. vi. p. 438.
 Proc. of S.P.R., vol. xvi.
A sitting with Mrs Piper—The hypothesis of thought-transference—Incidents.
The reader may not be displeased to have a specimen of these strange conversations between human beings and the invisible beings, who assert that they are the disincarnated spirits of those who day by day quit this world of woe. It will not be difficult to give the reader a specimen of them. At least one half of the fourteen or fifteen hundred pages dedicated to the Piper case in the Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research are composed of reports of sittings, either taken down in shorthand or given in great detail. In some of these reports even the most insignificant exclamations of those present are noted.
I have chosen the 47th of the sittings which took place in England, not because it is peculiarly interesting, but because Professor Lodge's published report of it is not too long, and I have no room for more extended developments.
The account of this sitting will perhaps disappoint some readers. "What!" they will say, "is that all that spirits who return from the other world have to say to us? They talk as we do. They speak of the same things. They are not spirits." This conclusion would perhaps be too hasty. I do not assert that they are spirits or that they return from another world. I know nothing about it. But if this other world existed we should expect that there would not be an abyss between it and our own. Nature makes no leaps. That is surely a true principle in, and for, all worlds.
We have a means, although an imperfect one, of endeavouring to discover if the communicators are really returning spirits. It is to ask them to prove their identity by relating as large a number of facts as possible concerning their life upon earth. The investigators of the Piper case have for fifteen years devoted themselves to this task, apparently easy, in reality difficult and ungrateful.
In the earlier experiments in the Piper case the conversation almost always takes place between the sitters and Dr Phinuit. Dr Phinuit does not willingly give up his post, though he does so sometimes. When he is giving information which he says he has received from other spirits he sometimes talks in the third person; sometimes, on the contrary, he reports word for word in the first person. This detail must not be forgotten in reading the reports. The following is a report of the 47th sitting in England.
The sitters are Professor Oliver Lodge and his brother Alfred Lodge. The latter takes notes. The phrases between parentheses are remarks made by Professor Lodge after the sitting.
Phinuit.—"Captain, do you know that as I came I met the medium going out, and she's crying. Why is that?"
O. L.—"Well, the fact is she's separated from her children for a few days and she is feeling rather low about it."
Phinuit.—"How are you, Alfred? I've your mother's influence strong. (Pause.) By George! that's Aunt Anne's ring (feeling ring I had put on my hand just before sitting) given over to you. And Olly dear, that's one of the last things I ever gave you. It was one of the last things I said to you in the body when I gave it you for Mary. I said, 'For her, through you.'" [This is precisely accurate.]
O. L.—"Yes, I remember perfectly."
Phinuit.—"I tell you I know it, I shall never forget it. Keep it in memory of me, for I am not dead. Each spirit is not so dim (?) that it cannot recollect its belongings in the body. They attract us if there has been anything special about them. I tell you, my boy, I can see it just as plain as if I were in the body. It was the last thing I gave you, for her, through you, always in remembrance of me." (Further conversation and advice ending, "Convince yourself, and let others do the same. We are all liable to mistakes, but you can see for yourself. There's a gentleman wants to speak to you.")
Mr E.—"Lodge, how are you? I tell you I'm living, not dead. That's me. You know me, don't you?"
O. L.—"Yes, delighted to see you again."
Mr E.—"Don't give it up, Lodge. Cling to it. It's the best thing you have. It's coarse in the beginning, but it can be ground down fine. You'll know best and correct (?). It can only come through a trance. You have to put her in a trance. You've got to do it that way to make yourself known."
O. L.—"Is it bad for the medium?"
Mr E.—"It's the only way, Lodge. In one sense it's bad, but in another it's good. It's her work. If I take possession of the medium's body and she goes out, then I can use her organism to tell the world important truths. There is an infinite power above us. Lodge, believe it fully. Infinite over all, most marvellous. One can tell a medium, she's like a ball of light. You look as dark and material as possible, but we find two or three lights shining. It's like a series of rooms with candles at one end. Must use analogy to express it. When you need a light you use it, when you have finished you put it out. They are like transparent windows to see through. Lodge, it's a puzzle. It's a puzzle to us here in a way, though we understand it better than you. I work at it hard. I do. I'd give anything I possess to find out. I don't care for material things now, our interest is much greater. I'm studying hard how to communicate; it's not easy. But it's only a matter of a short time before I shall be able to tell the world all sorts of things through one medium or another. [And so on for some time.] Lodge, keep up your courage, there's a quantity to hope for yet. Hold it up for a time. Don't be in a hurry. Get facts; no matter what they call you, go on investigating. Test to fullest. Assure yourself, then publish. It will be all right in the end—no question about it. It's true."
O. L.—"You have seen my Uncle Jerry, haven't you?"
Mr E.—"Yes, I met him a little while ago—a very clever man—had an interesting talk with him."
O. L.—"What sort of person is this Dr Phinuit?"
Mr E.—"Dr Phinuit is a peculiar type of man. He goes about continually, and is thrown in with everybody. He is eccentric and quaint, but good-hearted. I wouldn't do the things he does for anything. He lowers himself sometimes—it's a great pity. He has very curious ideas about things and people; he receives a great deal about people from themselves (?), and he gets expressions and phrases that one doesn't care for—vulgar phrases he picks up by meeting uncanny people through the medium. These things tickle him, and he goes about repeating them. He has to interview a great number of people, and has no easy berth of it. A high type of man couldn't do the work he does. But he is a good-hearted old fellow. Good-bye, Lodge! Here's the doctor coming."
O. L.—"Good-bye, E.! Glad to have had a chat with you."
[Doctors voice reappears.]
Phinuit.—"This [ring] belongs to your aunt. Your Uncle Jerry tells me to ask.... By the way, do you know Mr E.'s been here; did you hear him?"
O. L.—"Yes, I've had a long talk with him."
Phinuit.—"Wants you to ask Uncle Bob about his cane. He whittled it out himself. It has a crooked handle with ivory on the top. Bob has it, and has cut initials in it." [There is a stick, but description inaccurate.] "He has the skin also, and the ring. And he remembers Bob killing the cat and tying its tail to the fence to see him kick before he died. He and Bob and a lot of the fellows all together in Smith's field, I think he said. Bob knew Smith. And the way they played tit-tat-too on the window pane on All Hallows' Eve, and they got caught that night too." (At Barking, where my uncles lived as children, there is a field called Smith's field, but my Uncle does not remember the cat incident.) "Aunt Anne wants to know about her sealskin cloak. Who was it went to Finland, or Norway?"
O. L.—"Don't know."
Phinuit.—"Do you know Mr Clark—a tall, dark man, in the body?"
O. L.—"I think so."
Phinuit.—"His brother wants to send his love to him. Your Uncle Jerry, do you know, has been talking to Mr E. They have become very friendly. E. has been explaining things to him. Uncle Jerry says he will tell all the facts, and all about families near, and so on, that he can recall. He says if you will remember all this and tell his brother, he will know. If he doesn't fully understand he must come and see me himself, and I will tell him. How's Mary?"
O. L.—"Middling; not very well."
Phinuit.—"Glad she's going away." [She was, to the Continent; but Mrs Piper knew it.] "William is glad. His wife used to be very distressed about him. You remember his big chair where he used to sit and think?"
O. L.—"Yes, very well."
Phinuit.—"He often goes and sits there now. Takes it easy, he says. He used to sit opposite a window sometimes with his head in his hands, and think and think and think." (This was at his office.) "He has grown younger in looks, and much happier. It was Alec that fell through a hole in the boat, Alexander Marshall, her first father." (Correct, as before.) "Where's Thompson? The one that lost the purse?"
O. L.—"Yes, I know."
Phinuit.—"Well, I met his brother, and he sent love to all—to sister Fanny, he told me especially. He tried to say it just as he was going out, but had no time—was too weak."
O. L.—"Oh, yes, we just heard him."
Phinuit.—"Oh, you did? That's all right. She's an angel; he has seen her to-day. Tell Ike I'm very grateful to him. Tell Ike the girls will come out all right. Ted's mother and.... And how's Susie? Give Susie my love."
O. L.—"I couldn't find that Mr Stevenson you gave me a message to. What's his name?"
Phinuit.—"What! little Minnie Stevenson? Don't you know his name is Henry? Yes, Henry Stevenson. Mother in spirit too, not far away. Give me that watch." (Trying to open it.) "Here, open it. Take it out of its case. Jerry says he took his knife once and made some little marks with it up here, up here near the handle, near the ring, some little cuts in the watch. Look at it afterwards in a good light and you will see them." (There is a little engraved landscape in the place described, but some of the sky-lines have been cut unnecessarily deep, I think, apparently out of mischief or idleness. Certainly I knew nothing of this, and had never had the watch out of its case before.—O. J. L.)
This example shows the kind of information given. Much of it is true; other assertions are unverifiable, which does not prove that they are untrue; others contain both truth and errors; finally, there are certainly some which are entirely untrue. For this reason these transcendental conversations very much resemble the conversations of incarnated human beings. Errare humanum est. And it would appear that the heavy corpse we drag about with us is not alone to blame when we sacrifice to Error.
But, since the hypothesis of fraud and of unconscious muscular movement may not be invoked, where shall we find the source of the mass of exact information Mrs Piper gives us? The simplest hypothesis, after those we have been obliged to set aside, consists in believing that the medium obtains her information from the minds of those present. She must be able to read their souls, as others read in a book; thought-transference must take place between her and them. With these data, she would be supposed to construct marionettes so perfect, so life-like, that a large number of sitters leave the sittings persuaded that they have communicated with their dead relatives. If this were true, the fact alone would be a miracle. No genius, neither the divine Homer, nor the calm Tacitus, nor Shakespeare, would have been a creator of men to compare with Mrs Piper. Even were it thus, science would never have met with a subject more worthy of its attention than this woman. But the greater number of those who have had sittings with Mrs Piper affirm that the information furnished was not in their consciousness. If they themselves furnished it, the medium must have taken it, not from their consciousness, but from their subconsciousness, from the most hidden depths of their souls, from that abyss in which lie buried, far out of our reach, facts which have occupied our minds for a moment even very superficially, and have left therein, it appears, indelible traces.
Thus the mystery grows deeper and deeper. But this is not all. At every moment Mrs Piper gives the sitters details which they maintain that they never could have known. Consequently she must read them instantaneously in the minds of persons, sometimes very far distant, who do know them. This is the telepathic hypothesis, upon which for the moment we will not insist, for we shall be obliged to study it carefully later on.
Professor Lodge has made a list, necessarily incomplete, of incidents mentioned by the medium in the English sittings which the sitters had entirely forgotten, or which they had every reason to suppose they had never known, or which it was impossible they should ever have known. This list contains forty-two such incidents. To give my readers some idea of their nature, I will quote four or five of them. I will take these incidents from the history of the Lodge family, in order to avoid introducing new personages unnecessarily.
At the 16th sitting, on November 30, 1889, Phinuit tells Professor Lodge that one of his sons has something wrong in the calf of his leg. Now at the time the child was merely complaining of pain in his heel when he walked. The doctor consulted had pronounced it rheumatism, and this was vaguely running in Dr Lodge's mind. However, some time after the sitting, in May 1890, the pain localised itself in the calf. Now there could be no auto-suggestion in this case, for Professor Lodge tells us he had said nothing to his son.
At the 44th sitting, Professor Lodge asked his Uncle Jerry, who is supposed to be communicating, "Do you remember anything when you were young?" Phinuit (for him) replies at once, "Yes, I pretty nigh got drowned. Tried to swim the creek, and we fellows all of us got into a little boat. We got tipped over. He will remember it. Ask Bob if he remembers that about swimming the creek; he ought to remember it." Uncle Robert, consulted, remembers the incident perfectly, but gives different details. This sort of confusion about the details of a distant event, the partial memory, occurs often to all of us.
Thus disincarnated beings would seem to resemble incarnate ones on this point also. Apparently it was not the boat which upset, but the two young Lodges, Jerry and Robert, on getting out of it, began some horse-play on the bank, and fell into the stream. They were obliged to swim, fully dressed and against a strong current, which was carrying them under a mill-wheel.
At the 46th sitting, Phinuit reports that the last visit the father of Professor Lodge paid was to this Uncle Robert, and that he didn't feel very well. Professor Lodge knew nothing of this fact, or, if he had once known it, had so completely forgotten it that he was obliged to apply to one of his cousins to know if it was true. The cousin replied in confirmation of the fact.
At the 82nd sitting, Uncle Jerry, speaking of his brother Frank, who is still living, expresses himself thus about an event of their childhood,—
"Yes, certainly! Frank was full of life; he crawled under the thatch once and hid. What a lot of mischief he was capable of doing. He would do anything; go without shirt, swop hats, anything. There was a family near named Rodney. He pounded one of their boys named John. Frank got the best of it, and the boy ran; how he ran! His father threatened Frank, but he escaped; he always escaped. He could crawl through a smaller hole than another. He could shin up a tree quick as a monkey. What a boy he was! I remember his fishing. I remember that boy wading up to his middle. I thought he'd catch his death of cold; but he never did."
This Uncle Frank was aged about 80, and was living in Cornwall: the general description is characteristic. Professor Lodge wrote to him to ask if the above details were correct. He replied, giving exact details: "I recollect very well my fight with a boy in the corn field. It took place when I was ten years old, and I suppose a bit of a boy-bully."
On the 29th November Professor Henry Sidgwick, of Cambridge, had a sitting with Mrs Piper. It was arranged that Mrs Sidgwick, who stayed at home, should do something specially marked during the sitting. Mrs Piper was to be asked to describe it, to prove her power of seeing at a distance. Phinuit, when questioned, replied, "She is sitting in a large chair, she is talking to another lady, and she is wearing something on her head." These details were perfectly correct. Mrs Sidgwick was sitting in a large chair, talking to Miss Alice Johnson, and she had a blue handkerchief on her head. However, Phinuit was wrong about the description of the room in which this happened.
 For detailed report of these sittings see Proc. of S.P.R., vol. vi.
 At the first sitting in Liverpool there was some talk of a sea captain. Phinuit, who was rather fond of nicknames, jocularly attached the epithet "Captain" to Professor Lodge.
 I.e., "As I entered the medium's organism."
 Here Phinuit is supposed to be reporting in the first person words of Aunt Anne, treated as if present.
 Of a future life.
 Phinuit seems to have left, and Mr E. takes his place. This Mr E. was an intimate friend of Professor Lodge; he had appeared at a preceding sitting and had offered proofs of his identity, which were verified later. Professor Lodge recognised his mode of address. Phinuit, we remember, always addressed Professor Lodge as "Captain."
 The investigation into psychic matters.
 In accordance with a statement previously made by Phinuit.
 These changes in the medium's voice are very surprising. If there is fraud in the case, Mrs Piper must be the most accomplished actress who has hitherto appeared.
 I.e., still living.
 Mrs Lodge.
 Mrs Lodge's step-father.
 These assertions, that spirits return to the places they have lived in, and unknown to us, do what they were accustomed to do, are very odd. But the literature of the subject is full of such accounts.
 Mrs Lodge's father. Phinuit had alluded to this accident in a previous sitting, but without being able to explain if it had happened to Mrs Lodge's father or her step-father.
 In these communications the self-styled spirits always affirm that the dead get farther and farther by degrees from our universe, in accordance with time, and their own progress. The Stevenson episode, referred to above, is described on page 71.
 Proc. of S.P.R., vol. vi. p. 467.
 Ibid. p. 503.
 Proc. of S.P.R., vol. vi. p. 514.
 Ibid., p. 549.
 Proc. of S.P.R., p. 627.
Phinuit—His probable origin—His character—What he says of himself—His French—His medical diagnosis—Is he merely a secondary personality of Mrs Piper?
An interesting question arises at the point we have reached—"What is Phinuit? Whence his name? Whence does he come? Should we believe that he is a disincarnated human spirit, as he himself obstinately affirms, or must we think him a secondary personality of Mrs Piper?" If he is a spirit, that spirit is not endowed with a love of truth, as we shall see, and on this point he too much resembles many of ourselves. In any case we may notice in passing the obstinacy of these controls in wishing to pass for disincarnated spirits; the fact is at least worthy of attention. I am willing to allow that this may be a suggestion imposed by the medium on her secondary personalities; but I ask myself why this suggestion can never be annulled. Numerous efforts have been made, above all in the case of Phinuit; they have ended only in provoking jests from the disincarnated doctor, who absolutely insists on remaining a spirit. However this may be, we will here endeavour to discover the origin of this control.
It will not have been forgotten that Mrs Piper's mediumship blossomed forth, if I may thus express myself, during the sittings she had with the blind medium J. R. Cocke. Now this medium was then, and has, I believe, always since been, controlled by a certain doctor called Albert G. Finnett, a French doctor of the old school which produced Sangrado. This old barber-surgeon, as his medium calls him, is very modest. He says that he is "nobody particular"; I hope he does not mean to say that he resembles Jules Verne's Captain Nemo. There is a considerable resemblance between this name Finnett and the English pronunciation of Phinuit. Therefore we may well inquire whether the medium Cocke, when developing Mrs Piper's mediumship, may not also have made her a present of his control. Dr Hodgson has questioned Phinuit on this point several times. But Phinuit asserts that he does not know what is meant, and that Mrs Piper's is the first human organism through which he has manifested. I will not try to settle the question.
If Phinuit has not varied about his own name, he has certainly varied in its orthography. Till 1887, whenever he consented to sign his name, he signed Phinnuit, with two n's. Dr Hodgson accuses himself of being the originator of the orthographic variation. He carelessly took the habit of writing Phinuit with one n, and gave this orthography to his friends. Mrs Piper, in the normal state, often had occasion to see the name thus written. And so, in the first half of 1888, Phinuit also began to write his name with one n. Dr Hodgson only discovered the mistake later on looking over his notes.
The reader will perhaps be astonished that I speak of the Phinuit personality as if it were already established that the hypothetical doctor were really a spirit; that is to say, a personality as distinct from that of the medium as the reader and I are from one another. I must hold this point in reserve. The investigators of the Piper case, finding as decided a difference between the controls and the subject in a normal state as exists between individuals of flesh and blood, have adopted the language of these controls for convenience' sake, while warning us that, in so doing, they have no intention of prejudging their nature. I do, and shall continue to do, the same. There is no impropriety in this so long as it is well understood.
To return to Phinuit's character. This doctor in the Beyond is not a bad fellow; on the contrary, he is very obliging, and his chief desire is to please everybody. He repeats all he is asked to repeat, makes all the gestures suggested to him by the communicators in order that they may be recognised; even those of a little child. In his rather deep voice he sings to a weeping mother the nursery song or the lullaby which she sang to her sick child, if the song will serve as a proof of identity. I find at least one such case in Dr Hodgson's report. The couplet sung was probably well-known to Mrs Piper; it is a common one. But as this song had often been sung during her last illness by the child who was communicating, and as it was the last she sang upon earth, the coincidence is at least surprising. Probably Mrs Piper took the air and the words from the source whence she takes so many other details—a source unknown to us.
However, if Dr Phinuit is good-hearted, he is also occasionally deplorably trivial. His language is rarely elevated, and his expressions are almost always vulgar. On occasion he does not dislike a joke or a touch of humour. Thus we have seen that he mischievously persisted in addressing Professor Lodge as "Captain." On another occasion he is a long time in finding a person's name—Theodora. Then he adds, mockingly, "Hum! it is a fine name once one has got hold of it." This does not prevent Phinuit from altering Theodora into Theosophy, and calling the person in question Theosophy! I could easily give other examples of Phinuit's wit. But on this point I must remark that the word "Theosophy" astonishes me in Phinuit's mouth, even when he is making a joking use of it. Evidently Mrs Piper knows the name and the thing well. But at the time when Dr Phinuit attended his contemporaries in flesh and blood, there was, I believe, no question of Theosophy, nor of its foundress, Madame Blavatsky. There was indeed a sect of Theosophists at the end of the eighteenth century, but it was very obscure.
Dr Phinuit is, besides, very proud of his exploits. He likes to make people believe that he knows and sees everything. Indeed, perhaps it is because he likes to seem not to be ignorant of anything that he sometimes asserts so many controverted facts. And this is to be deplored; for how much more useful service he would render if his facts were not doubtful! Unluckily, this is far from being the case. Phinuit occasionally seems to tell falsehoods deliberately. This has been made evident when he has been asked to prove his identity by giving details of his terrestrial life.
In December 1889, he replies to Professor Alfred Lodge, the brother of Professor Oliver Lodge,—
"I have been from thirty to thirty-five years in spirit, I think. I died when I was seventy, of leprosy; very disagreeable. I had been to Australia and Switzerland. My wife's name was Mary Latimer. I had a sister Josephine. John was my father's name. I studied medicine at Metz, where I took my degree at thirty years old, married at thirty-five. Look up the town of ——, also the Hotel Dieu in Paris. I was born at Marseilles, am a Southern French gentleman. Find out a woman named Carey. Irish. Mother Irish; father French. I had compassion on her in the hospital. My name is John Phinuit Schlevelle (or Clavelle), but I was always called Dr Phinuit. Do you know Dr Clinton Perry? Find him at Dupuytren, and this woman at the Hotel Dieu. There's a street named Dupuytren, a great street for doctors.... This is my business now, to communicate with those in the body, and make them believe our existence."
I think a bad choice was made of Dr Phinuit to fill this part. The information he here gives us about himself does not bear marks of absolute sincerity. We might say he was an Englishman or American trying to pass himself off for a Frenchman to his fellow-countrymen, and having a very small acquaintance with France and French affairs. And if he had even stopped there! But no. He has often contradicted himself. He tells Dr Hodgson that his name is Jean Phinuit Scliville. He could not tell the date of his birth or death. But, on comparing the facts he gives, we might conclude that he was born in 1790, and that he died in 1860. He tells Dr Hodgson that he studied medicine in Paris, at a college called Merciana or Meerschaum, he does not know exactly which. He adds that he also studied medicine at "Metz in Germany." It is no longer he who had a sister named Josephine; it is his wife. "Josephine," he says, "was a sweetheart of mine at first, but I went back on her, and married Marie after all." This Marie Latimer is supposed to have been thirty when she married Dr Phinuit, and to have died at fifty. He asks Dr Hodgson, "Do you know where the Hospital of God is (Hospital de Dieu)?" "Yes, it is at Paris." "Do you remember old Dyruputia (Dupuytren)?" "He was the head of the hospital, and there is a street named for him." Phinuit asserts that he went to London, and from London to Belgium, and travelled a great deal, when his health broke down.
In the above-quoted passage, Phinuit asserts that he had set himself to prove the existence of spirits. If he had set himself the contrary task he would have been more likely to succeed, when he gives us such information as the above. If we went no further, we should need to ask ourselves how serious men can have concerned themselves during so long a period with such idle stories. Happily, as we shall see later, others have succeeded in establishing their identity better than Phinuit has done. Phinuit himself, even if he tells the most foolish stories when he speaks of himself, reveals profoundly intimate and hidden secrets when he speaks of others. Truly, it is correctly said that these phenomena are disconcerting. But they are none the less interesting to science when their authenticity and the sincerity of the medium are beyond discussion, as in the present case. I will therefore go on examining the Phinuit personality; it will be the reverse side of the medal.
An American doctor, whom Dr Hodgson designates by the initials C. F. W., has a sitting with Mrs Piper on May 17, 1889. Here is a fragment of the dialogue between him and Phinuit.
C. F. W.—"What medical men were prominent in Paris in your time?"
Phinuit.—"Bouvier and Dupuytren, who was at Hotel Dieu."
C. F. W.—"Was Dupuytren alive when you passed out?"
Phinuit.—"No; he passed out before me; I passed out twenty or thirty years ago."
C. F. W.—"What influence has my mind on what you tell me?"
Phinuit.—"I get nothing from your mind; I can't read your mind any more than I can see through a stone wall." (Phinuit added that he saw the people of whom he spoke objectively, and that it was they who gave him his information.)
C. F. W.—"Have you any relatives living in Marseilles?"
Phinuit.—"I had a brother who died there two or three years ago."
A little later on, at the same sitting, Phinuit says,
"Many people think I am the medium; that is all bosh."
Well, so much the better. But if Phinuit is not Mrs Piper, neither does he appear to be a Frenchman. A further proof of this is that he is incapable of keeping up a conversation in French. He speaks English with a pronounced cafe-concert French accent, it is true, but that is not a proof. He likes to count in French, and sometimes he pronounces two or three consecutive words more or less correctly. But who would venture to maintain that Mrs Piper's sub-consciousness has not received them in some way; it would be all the more likely, because at one time our medium had a governess for her children who spoke French fluently. However, Dr C. F. W., quoted above, says that Phinuit understood all that he said to him in French, which Mrs Piper in her normal state could not have done. On the other hand, Professor William James says that Phinuit does not understand his French. Whom shall we believe? One thing is certain, French or not, Phinuit does not speak French. Dr Hodgson asked him why this was. Phinuit, who is never at a loss, explained as follows:—"He had been a long time in practice at Metz, and as there are a great many English there he had ended by forgetting his French." This is just such a piece of childishness as the secondary personalities invent. Dr Hodgson pointed out the absurdity of the explanation to Phinuit, and added, "As you are obliged to express your thoughts through the organism of the medium, and as she does not know French, it would be more plausible if you said that it would be impossible to express your thoughts in French by means of Mrs Piper."
Phinuit found the explanation magnificent, and some days after served it up whole to another inquisitive person who questioned him.
As Dr Hodgson continued to tease him about his name, he ended by admitting, or believing, that his name was not Phinuit at all.
"It was the medium Cocke who insisted that my name was Phinuit one day at a sitting. I said, 'All right, call me Phinuit if you like, one name is as good to me as another.' But you see, Hodgson, my name is Scliville, I am Dr John Scliville. But, when I think about it, I had another name between John and Scliville."
Phinuit did think about it, and at another sitting he said he had remembered. His name now was Jean Alaen Scliville. Alaen, as we see, is unmistakably French. In short, these are wretched inventions, quite as wretched and much less poetic than the Martian romance, due to the subconsciousness of Mlle. Smith.
Does Phinuit better justify the title of doctor which he assumes? On this point opinions are less divided. His diagnosis is often surprisingly exact, even in cases where the patient does not himself know what his illness is. As long ago as 1890, Professor Oliver Lodge expresses himself as follows with regard to Phinuit's medical knowledge. The opinion of a man of science like Professor Lodge is of great weight, though he is a physicist and not a doctor.
"Admitting, however, that 'Dr Phinuit' is probably a mere name for Mrs Piper's secondary consciousness, one cannot help being struck by the singular correctness of his medical diagnosis. In fact, the medical statements, coinciding as they do with truth just as well as those of a regular physician, but given without any ordinary examination, and sometimes without even seeing the patient, must be held as part of the evidence establishing a strong prima facie case for the existence of some abnormal means of acquiring information."
Dr C. W. F., of whom we have spoken above, asks Phinuit to describe his physical state for him, and Phinuit describes it perfectly. But here, evidently, seeing that C. W. F. was a doctor, and must have known about himself, we may only be concerned with thought-transference. Being curious, Dr C. W. F. asked Phinuit how many years he had to live. Phinuit replied by counting on his fingers in French up to eleven. This happened in 1889. If the prophecy was fulfilled, Dr C. W. F. must have gone to rejoin his colleague in the other world. It would be interesting to know whether this is the case.
In general, the other doctors who have had sittings with Mrs Piper find more fault with Dr Phinuit's prescriptions than with his diagnosis. They blame the prescriptions as being more those of a herbalist than a doctor. This would not be a great reproach. If a Dr Phinuit has really existed, he must have practised fifty or sixty years ago, and must have studied at the beginning of the last century. Therapeutics of that epoch differed considerably from those of the present day. For this reason Dr C. W. F. asks whether Dr Phinuit's medical knowledge really exceeds what Mrs Piper might have read in a manual of domestic medicine. As far as the diagnosis is concerned, his knowledge assuredly exceeds this.
Dr C. W. F. reports a fact which, though it would not prove Dr Phinuit's medical ignorance, would once more prove his ignorance of French, and even of the Latin of botanists. Dr F. asked, "Have you ever prescribed chiendent or Triticum repens?" using both the French and Latin names. Phinuit seemed much surprised, and said, "What is the English of that?" It is certain that a French doctor, and, above all, a doctor in the beginning of the last century, must know chiendent, and even Triticum repens.
Mrs Piper told Dr Hodgson that Phinuit had often been shown medicinal plants, and had been asked their names, and that he had never made a mistake. Dr Hodgson procured specimens of three medicinal plants from one of his friends. He himself remained entirely ignorant of their names and uses. Phinuit carefully examined the plants, and was unable to indicate their names or their uses. But neither would this incident prove much. The living practitioners who could not be caught in this way must be rare.