THE PROBLEMS OF PSYCHICAL RESEARCH
EXPERIMENTS AND THEORIES IN THE REALM OF THE SUPERNORMAL
HEREWARD CARRINGTON, Ph.D.
"The Coming Science," "The Physical Phenomena of Spiritualism," "Death: Its Causes and Phenomena," "Modern Psychical Phenomena," "Your Psychic Powers: and How to Develop Them," "Higher Psychical Development," "True Ghost Stories," Etc.
NEW YORK DODD, MEAD AND COMPANY 1921
Copyright, 1921, By DODD, MEAD AND COMPANY, Inc.
VAIL-BALLOU COMPANY BINGHAMTON AND NEW YORK
In the following pages I have dealt chiefly with the mental or psychological phenomena of psychical research, and have not touched upon the "physical" manifestations to any extent. The book is mostly theoretical and constructive in tone; and, because of its speculative character, it may, perhaps, prove of value to future psychical investigators. It represents the author's conclusions after several years' experimentation; and, in a field so new as this, scientific hypotheses and speculations are assuredly helpful—indicating the road we must travel, and the possible interpretation of certain facts, which have been accumulated in the past, as the result of years of laborious research. I believe that practically all the phenomena of spiritualism are true; that is, that they have occurred in a genuine manner from time to time in the past; that they are supernormal in character, and are genuine phenomenal occurrences. But as to the further question: "What is the nature of the intelligence lying behind and controlling these phenomena?"—that, I think, is as yet unsolved, and is likely to remain so for some time to come. I do not believe that the simple spiritistic explanation—especially as at present held—is the correct one, nor one that explains all the facts; for I believe that the phenomena are more complicated than this. Nor are the ordinary psychological explanations at present in vogue adequate to cover them. The explanation is yet to seek; and the solution will only be found when a sufficient number of facts have been accumulated and the various explanatory theories have been tested,—to see which of them is really adequate. My hope is that the present book may help to accomplish this result by supplying a little in both directions!
The present edition of this book is to some extent an abridgement of the first edition, which appeared some seven years ago. I have, for instance, omitted a number of "cases" which were originally included, and also my "sittings" with Mrs. Piper—which material will be published at a later date in another volume. I have also omitted the original First Chapter,—since much of this material was subsequently included in my Modern Psychical Phenomena. On the other hand, I have included a new chapter on Recent Experiments in Psychic Photography,—composed partly of original and hitherto unpublished material, and partly of the experiments undertaken, some years ago, by Dr. Baraduc,—in "photographing the soul." The account of his experiments was originally published in my book, Death: its Causes and Phenomena, but they are now included here as being more in line with other experiments recently undertaken in this field. I have also added a brief chapter on the Scientific Investigation of Psychic Phenomena by means of Laboratory Instruments.
A word, finally, as to the necessarily slow progress which has been and is being made in the study of "psychics." As this objection is often raised, I cannot do better, perhaps, than to quote an admirable passage from Prof. William James (Memories and Studies, pp. 175-76), where he says:—
"For twenty-five years I have been in touch with the literature of psychical research, and have had acquaintance with numerous 'researchers.' I have also spent a good many hours (though far fewer than I should have spent) in witnessing (or trying to witness) phenomena. Yet I am theoretically no 'further' than I was at the beginning; and I confess that at times I have been tempted to believe that the Creator has eternally intended this department of nature to remain baffling,—to prompt our curiosities and hopes and suspicions all in equal measure, so that, although ghosts and clairvoyances, and raps and messages from spirits, are always seeming to exist and can never be fully explained away, they also can never be susceptible of full corroboration.... It is hard to believe, however, that the Creator has really put any big array of phenomena into the world merely to defy and mock our scientific tendencies; so my deeper belief is that we psychical researchers have been too precipitate in our hopes, and that we must expect to mark progress not by quarter-centuries, but by half-centuries or whole centuries."
In the present book, I have endeavoured to show why this must necessarily be so; also to indicate the manner in which the subject may be studied in order to arrive at definite knowledge at an earlier date than might otherwise be possible.
I Is Psychical Research a Science? 1
II Investigating Psychical Phenomena with Scientific Instruments 82
III Life: and Its Interpretation 93
IV The Human Will Is a Physical Energy (An Instrument which Proves It) 110
V Modern Dissection of the Human Mind 138
VI Psychic Photography (New Experiments) 157
VII Hallucination and the Physical Phenomena of Spiritualism 188
VIII The Problems of Telepathy 210
IX The Uses and Abuses of Mind Cure 237
X The Psychology of the Ouija Board 247
XI Witchcraft: Its Facts and Follies 261
XII Scientific Truths Contained in Fairy Stories 277
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
The "Will Board" Frontispiece
PAGE FACING 1. "Psychic Photograph" 158
2. "Psychic Photograph" 158
3. "Thought Photograph" 170
4. "Psychic Photograph" 176
5. "Psychic Photograph" 176
6. "Psychic Photograph" 178
7. "Psychic Photograph" 178
8. "Psychic Photograph" 180
9. "Psychic Photograph" 180
10. "Psychic Photograph" 182
11. "Psychic Photograph" 182
12. "Psychic Photograph" 182
13. "Photograph of the Soul" 184
14. "Photograph of the Soul" 184
THE PROBLEMS OF PSYCHICAL RESEARCH
IS PSYCHICAL RESEARCH A SCIENCE?
Is Psychical Research a Science?
It seems to me that the answer to this question must be somewhat as follows: If the phenomena be true, Yes; if not, No!
If one single prophecy, clairvoyant vision, telepathic impulse, or mediumistic message be true—if veritable supernormal information be thereby conveyed—then psychical research is a science, and illimitable avenues are opened up for further research and speculation.
More especially is this true in the case of mediumistic messages. If these prove to be delusory—the result of subliminal activity and so forth—if there be no spiritual world, then "psychics" may be said to be "founded upon the sand." It can hardly be called a "science." Only when the fact of communication is proved, will the real study of the subject begin. Much of the work, up to the present, has been undertaken with a view to establishing the reality of the facts. But this is a question of evidence, not scientific research. When the facts themselves are established, then the real study—the work of the future—will begin. It will probably be the task of future generations to attack the problem from this standpoint.
Let me illustrate what I mean by a somewhat striking example. Take the facts presented in the case of Mrs. Piper. Hitherto the question has resolved itself into that of the evidence for survival. Have or have not the various personalities who have communicated through her entranced organism proved their personal identity? That is the problem; and, as we know, opinions differ! But, granting the reality of the facts, granting that "spirits" really do communicate, as alleged—then the study of the question, from the "scientific" point of view, will only have begun. How do they communicate? Why are these communications so rare? Why such trouble with proper names? How do the "spirits" manipulate the nervous organism, and particularly the brain, of the medium? Upon what cells or centres do they operate? and how? Does the psychic constitution of the communicator affect the results—and if so, how? What is the condition of the communicator's mind while communicating? Is the medium's spirit entirely removed from the body during the process of communication? and if so, where is it, and what is it doing? How does the medium's mind affect the content of the communications—and to what extent? These, and a thousand other questions of a like nature, immediately present themselves, and call for solution, as soon as the reality of the facts be granted—as soon as spirit communication be accepted as a fact. This will constitute the work of the future—the detailed study of the facts—not merely regarding them from the point of view of evidence. Real, scientific psychical research will then begin. The subject will then, for the first time, become a legitimate branch of human study.
Yet, even now, it may not be altogether unprofitable to adduce a few reflections which have been suggested by a study of the facts, up to the present time. If theories and speculations of this nature have in themselves no value, they often stimulate others to experiment or to reflect upon the same line—sometimes with strikingly important and interesting results. It is chiefly with this object in mind that I offer the following suggestions—the result of some years of thought and research in this particular field.
(1) Before it is possible for any one to appreciate the importance and significance of psychical research, it is necessary for him to become "inoculated," as it were, with materialism! To one who admits, a priori, the reality of a spiritual world, and sees no difficulties in the way of accepting it, there is, of course, no need to convince him further. But once admit the position held by modern science (particularly biological science) that life is a function of the organism, and that thought is a function of the brain, and the phenomena assume a very different importance. To state the case in precise terms, I could not do better than to quote the words of Professor John Lewis March, when he says "Mind is not found to exist apart from matter" (A Theory of Mind, p. 11). And it must be admitted that—apart from the facts of psychical research—there is no evidence that it does so exist. So far as we can prove, life and consciousness become obliterated at the moment of bodily death. And the only way to prove the contrary is to produce evidence that consciousness does so persist; and this is only possible by the methods adopted in spiritism and psychical research. In no other way can the facts be established; by no other method can the persistence of human consciousness be scientifically proved.
(2) It may be contended that consciousness, as such, may persist, but that individuality does not survive bodily death: the human is merged into the All. But such a view of the case seems to be directly opposed to evidence no less than to moral feeling. For, in the first place, persistence without memory and individuality would not be worth having at all; and secondly, this idea is, it seems to me, directly opposed to evolution, which tends more and more to accentuate individuality, and separate and perfect it.
(3) On the other hand, it might possibly be that our persistence depends upon our ability to persist. The theory of mind developed by modern researches in psycho-pathology is that the mind of man—instead of being a single "unit," as was formerly supposed—is composed of a number of threads or strands, so to speak, held together by our attention and our will. Once these are relaxed, the mind "unravels" and goes to pieces. A single, strongly-woven, and well-bound rope might stand a sudden wrench and shock, while a less perfectly-made one would tear and snap under the strain. Similarly, it might be urged, if the mind be sufficiently balanced, strengthened, and controlled, it might withstand the shock of death; otherwise it would not. Whether or not we persist would thus depend upon our ability to control and hold ourselves together, as it were; upon our strength of will; upon the degree of development of the central personality. When this is lacking, "psychical disintegration" takes place, and we fail to survive the last great Ordeal.
While this theory may possibly be true, it seems to me that it is very probably untrue, for the reason that this is not a question of moral worth which we are considering, but of scientific law—of the Conservation of Energy, of the ability of life and consciousness of any sort—good or bad—to exist apart from brain-functioning. That is the question! Once grant that mind of any kind can persist by and of itself, independent of a physical organization, and you have so far broken down the barriers of materialism that there should not be the slightest objection to granting the persistence of consciousness of any sort—with the probability that it would so persist. Cosmic Law could hardly act otherwise.
(4) I know well enough that psychic investigation is, at present at least, in a chaotic and uncertain condition, and that little beyond uncertainty and discouragement has been attained in the past. As Mr. F. C. Constable remarked:
"Many of us who have devoted our lives to psychical research can but have moments of profound depression. We feel our labours cannot be in vain, but we are faced by such a complexity of fraud, deliberate and unconscious, mal-observation, denial of scientific restrictions, and ignorance of what is trustworthy in evidence and deduction, that at times our search for truth seems as futile as the search of past alchemists for the philosopher's stone."
And even more forcibly Count Aksakof states the objections which have occurred to him:
"As years went by, the weak points of spiritualism became more evident and more numerous. The insignificance of the communications, the poverty of their intellectual content, and finally the fraud, etc.—in short, a host of doubts, objections, and aberrations of every kind—greatly increased the difficulties of the problem. Such impressions were well calculated to discourage one, if, on the other hand, we had not at our disposal a series of indisputable facts." (Animism and Spiritism.)
While this is doubtless true, it is nevertheless a fact that psychical research is, as yet, in its infancy; and it is in a sense unfair to judge the results by the few years of progress which have been possible in the past. For while other sciences—physics, chemistry, anatomy—are more than two thousand years old, psychical research is but forty years old—some of the original founders of the S.P.R. being still alive and actively engaged in the work! It is, then, somewhat premature to pronounce upon the ultimate outcome of the investigation, and we must wait for at least a hundred years or so before it will be possible to see whether or not the subject has proved its claims and justified itself in the eyes of the world. And this view of the case is further supported by the fact that, in so exact a science as cytology, but little definite can be said. Thus, Professor E. B. Wilson, on p. 434 of his work The Cell, says: "The study of the cell has, on the whole, seemed to widen rather than to narrow the enormous gap that separates even the lowest forms of life from the inorganic world." It will thus be seen that the uncertain and unsatisfactory condition of psychics is shared also by other branches of scientific investigation, and it is as yet too soon to say whether or not the ultimate verdict will swing in this direction or in that. We can only hope, and continue to experiment!
5. Psychical research, therefore, may continue to progress, in spite of the innate difficulties and the obstacles with which the subject is surrounded. It is our duty to see that it does! For it is certain that the subject will receive serious set-backs, from time to time, in the shape of unjust misrepresentations or bitter attacks from the outsiders, determined to "prove a case," even if the cause of truth be abandoned in order to do so. Take, e.g., the recent volume of Dr. Tanner and Dr. G. Stanley Hall (Studies in Spiritism). They received certain "lying communications," in spite of Professor William James' warning that "the personalities are very suggestible" and that "every one is liable to get back from the trance very much what he puts into it." Even Deleuze could have told Drs. Tanner and Hall this fact—having ascertained it nearly a hundred years before (1813); for he wrote in his Critical History of Animal Magnetism (pp. 134-5), in reply to those who would question the somnambulist upon points of practical advantage:
"You will gain nothing; you will even lose the advantages which you might derive from his lucidity. It is very possible that you could make him speak upon all the subjects of your indiscreet curiosity; but in that case, as I have already warned you, you will make him leave his own sphere and introduce him into yours. He will no longer have any other resources than yourself. He will utter you very eloquent discourses, but they will no more be dictated by the internal inspirations. They will be the product of his recollections or of his imagination; perhaps you will also rouse his vanity, and then all is lost; he will not re-enter the circle from which he has wandered.... The two states cannot be confounded.... These somnambulists are evidently influenced by the persons who surround them, by the circumstances in which they are placed."
And Dr. A. E. Fletcher, in The Other World and This, says:
"Trance mediums, more than any others, are the victims of the embodied and the disembodied. If the medium is subject to the influence of a spirit, how much more likely is he to be affected by the character of those around him! Strong minds in the body may take control of his brain, instead of spirit intelligences. Such persons must be of a highly sensitive order, and cannot come under the same line of human criticism and judgment as might be applied to those in everyday life."
Even Maudsley, in his Pathology of Mind (p. 77), says:
"The main feature which the abnormal states (trance, etc.) present in common are: first, that coincident with a partial mental activity there is more or less inhibition, which may be complete, of all other mental action; secondly, that the individual in such condition of limited mental activity is susceptible only to impressions which are in relation with his character and are consequently assimilated by it...."
These passages illustrate, at least, the delicate and often-times suggestible nature of the trance; and how inconclusive, to say the least, are such experiments as those of Drs. Tanner and Hall!
6. On the other hand, it may be asked: If the messages we receive at seances really do come from the departed, why should they be so fleeting and so uncertain as they are? And why should not many more messages be received from the hundreds and thousands who die yearly, and who are doubtless longing to communicate?
Answers to these questions are manifold. In the first place, it may be pointed out that the ability to communicate may be rare indeed, and not a universal possibility, as is generally supposed. As Dr. Hodgson expressed it (Proceedings, xiii., p. 362): "It may be a completely erroneous assumption that all persons, young or old, good or evil, vigorous or sickly, and whatever their lives or deaths may have been, are at all comparable with one another in their capacity to convey clear statements from the other world to this." Further, it must not be supposed that all "messages" received by mediums (even granting their complete honesty) really issue from the "Great Beyond." Many mediums simply tell their sitters the ideas, impressions, and "messages" which come into their minds, and which they believe to come from external sources, i.e., "spirits," but which, as a matter of fact, issue from their own subconsciousness. These scraps of information resemble "bubbles" breaking upon the surface of water—the finished product of latent incubation, and doubtless have every appearance and every feeling of external origin. Even if genuine spirit-messages are at times received, it is highly probable that the bulk of the messages are the product of the medium's subliminal, which catches up and amplifies the original external impetus received from without. Professor William James believed, e.g., the following: that "genuine messages have been given through Mrs. Piper's organism, but he also contended that every time an intelligence appeared, calling itself Hodgson, and beginning: 'Hello! Here I am again in the witness-box! How are you, old chap?' etc., this was not Hodgson at all, but Mrs. Piper's subliminal, and that genuine supernormal information only came in 'touches' or 'impulses,' as it were, as though the spirit could touch or come into contact with the medium's mind at a number of points, making a number of 'dips down,' ... as it were, imparting information at each dip which the medium's mind thereupon seized upon, elaborated, and gave out in its own dramatic form and setting." If this be true of Mrs. Piper (whose messages are shot at you from a cannon's mouth, as it were), how much truer must it be of other types of mediums, in which the communications are certainly far less direct and impressive? Mrs. Piper might be styled the "possession" type of medium—as opposed to the "subliminal" type—commonly seen; and, as before said, if the messages be so indirect in the case of Mrs. Piper, how much more fragmentary and indirect must they be in the case of all other mediums—less developed and less direct than she? It is hardly to be wondered at that the information given is of the vaguest, the most hazy and indistinct character, and that recognition and proof of identity is almost an impossibility.
7. As to the theory that comparatively few (of those who die) make good communicators, I may be permitted to suggest, perhaps, a tentative explanation of the rarity of good communicators (and communications), based upon this principle. Certain it is that special adaptability and idiosyncrasy are necessary to the one on this side—this constituting, in fact, a "medium," as we understand it. It seems highly probable that a medium is born and not made, that the gift is hereditary, and that it depends but little, if at all, upon physical, mental, or moral characteristics, but rather upon a peculiar and innate make-up which is independent of all of these. A person is a good psychic or medium just as another is a good painter or sculptor or pianist. It can be cultivated by training, but the "germ" must be latent within the individual, in order that its development may be possible at all.
Granting all this, it seems to me very natural to suppose that some similar characteristic might be essential to the one on the "other side," in order that he might be a good communicator. Only a few might possess this special gift—without which communication would be impossible—no matter how gifted or clever the individual might be, in other respects, or how much he longed to communicate. Further, it might be that this deceased person could only get en rapport with our world when some one on this side was also and simultaneously endeavouring to reach him. Neither alone could effect the communication, could bridge the chasm.
Let me make the theory clearer by means of an analogy. One theory of consciousness contends that it depends for its existence altogether upon the touching or inter-connection of certain nervous fibres, without which consciousness would be impossible, and is, in fact, abolished—as in sleep. When these "dendrites" touch, communication is established; when this contact is broken, it is non-existent.
To apply the analogy. When a medium goes into a trance, she throws out (symbolically) psychic "arms," or pseudopodia, much as an octopus might feel about him with his tentacled arms. On the other side, a communicator would also stretch out these mental arms, feeling about for something to grasp and cling to, something capable of receiving and transmitting the messages he desired to send. Only when these two groping arms find each other "in the dark," as it were, would communication become possible. If only one thus sought, nothing would result. The rare combination of good sender and good recipient must be found before this communication is possible at all, and even then, they must both be striving to communicate at the same moment before any results follow. It is because of the rarity of this combination and this coincidence that mediumistic messages are so scarce. In addition to the earnest desire and longing on the other side, there must be a medium on this, capable of receiving the messages. And when this medium is lacking (as is usually the case) no communications are received. This fully explains to us, it seems to me, why it is that messages of this nature are so rarely received: the necessary conditions on this side are lacking.
8. Such a theory would also enable us to understand one fact, very puzzling to most investigators in this field. It is that one's friends and relatives are almost invariably present immediately the medium goes into the trance! Sometimes there is a wait, it is true, and they have to be "sent for." But as a rule they are "on tap" at once—and, no matter where we may be, they are there instanter—ready to communicate!
Of course such facts naturally lead one to suppose, a priori, that these personages are not present at all, in reality, but merely the medium's subliminal, personifying these various personages—no spirit being concerned, directly or indirectly, with their production. This, I say, is the natural view of the facts.
But on the theory above outlined the genuine nature of these messages may readily be assumed. Suppose our friends and relatives are more or less en rapport with us all the time (like "guardian angels"). Time and space need not be considered factors in the problem—since all spirits say that they do not exist in "their" world. Then, all we should have to do, in order to effect communication, would be to supply the necessary conditions on this side—when the chasm would at once be bridged, and communication established.
(I wish it to be distinctly understood, however, that I consider the vast bulk of such messages the product of the medium's subliminal, and not at all coming from the source from which they claim to proceed. I am only arguing on general grounds for the possibility.)
9. It will be seen that I have spoken throughout the above argument of the trance as a necessary condition for communication, or at least assumed that it is invariably present. Why should the trance state have this effect? What is the nature of the trance, and what peculiarity within it renders these results possible?
The sceptic might begin by questioning the fact itself; but I think it now so well established that argument on this score is unnecessary. Further, the deeper the trance, ceteris paribus, the better the phenomena. There is no denying that fact. While certain striking results are often obtained while the medium is in light trance, they are not nearly so striking as those which are obtained when the medium is in the deeper stage. And this applies, I believe, to mediums producing both mental and physical phenomena. The question therefore remains: What happens in this trance state to render such results possible? Why should the peculiar condition involved be instrumental in producing such striking results?
It must be admitted at once that the innermost nature of this trance state is unknown. Certainly no purely physiological explanation suffices to explain the "medium-trance," even were it sufficient to account for similar conditions better known. No matter what the condition of the medium's nerve centres may be, this would not account for the supernormal information given during the trance state. No matter how much nervous or mental "instability" or "disintegration" were postulated, it would not at all explain or elucidate the primary question: How is the supernormal information acquired?
It seems to me that the answer to this question can only be found by assuming some such theory of the facts as the following:
When a person falls asleep, he loses consciousness when en rapport with himself. When he is placed in the "mesmeric" trance, he remains en rapport with the operator, and the deeper the trance, the more complete and effective this rapport is. Explain it as you will, the facts remain. The writings of the early mesmerists are filled with records of cases of this rapport, in which "community of sensation" was present, and various supernormal phenomena, such as clairvoyance, etc., were manifested. No such phenomena are recorded in hypnotic seances, as a rule, which makes me suspect most strongly that mesmerism and hypnotism are not identical, in spite of the general belief that they are fundamentally one—all mesmeric phenomena being due to "suggestion." Of this, however, later. For the moment, I wish only to draw attention to the fact that, during these deep trance states, rapport was noted, and supernormal information frequently given.
Now, it seems plausible to suppose that, by way of analogy, the medium trance would represent a trance state induced by hypnotism from the "other side." We know that telepathic hypnotism is a fact—the numerous cases recorded by Myers and Janet being good proof of this. Further, we know that dreams may be induced experimentally, by means of telepathic suggestion. (See Ermacora's paper, Proceedings, xi. 235-308.) Might we not assume, then, that the medium-trance represents a certain condition induced by influence from deceased minds—which would fully account for the supernormal information given (for the medium would be en rapport with these minds), and for the fact that the medium is not usually susceptible to suggestion, pain-tests, &c., on this side. The deeper the trance, the more the medium is in touch with the other world, the less with this; and vice versa. The medium-trance is, therefore, probably a hypnotic or mesmeric trance, induced telepathically by operators out of the body.
10. When the trance has been induced, however, how does the "spirit" succeed in imparting information to the medium's brain and organism? Inasmuch as the phenomena are usually of the motor type—speech or writing—the motor centres in the brain must somehow be employed; how they are employed, and whether other centres in addition to these are used is a question calling for solution—but one which will take probably years of patient research to solve.
As we know, Dr. Hodgson was of the opinion that the ordinary centres were not used in the production of the automatic writing, for he said (Proceedings, xiii. pp. 398-9): "What the precise relation is between this consciousness and the movements of the hand I do not know. I do not know whether or not the motor centres of the brain ordinarily concerned in the movements of hand and arm are in operation or not. I incline to think not—certainly not in the ordinary way...." The statement of the "controls" is that they use the "empty corners" of Mrs. Piper's brain—which probably means that certain unused areas are pressed into service, as far as possible, in the production of the phenomena. Still, this is not very definite information! Another theory offered by the communicators is that they get into contact with the "light," think their thoughts, and these thoughts are then registered or expressed in motor phenomena—speech or writing. What the "light" may be, we have not the slightest means of knowing, but it is a very significant fact that a "light" of this nature is nearly always associated with spiritual phenomena. We hear of the "interior illumination" of the saints and martyrs, and of those who have experienced an influx of "cosmic consciousness"; of the "halo" which surrounds the heads of holy persons; of the "internal light" experienced by many who have had a special conversion or illumination; of the "aura" surrounding the bodies of certain individuals—always perceptible to clairvoyants, and lately (it is asserted) to any one who observes the subject through specially prepared chemical screens; of the "light" diffusing itself over the region of the forehead, which certain mesmeric subjects have inwardly perceived, and of the "aura" which may be produced experimentally by means of high-tension electric currents. We must not forget, also, that Christ Himself is called "the light of the world," and that He once made the very significant remark: "If thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light." Lastly, it is somewhat significant, it seems to me, that Andrew Jackson Davis used to see the nervous system of the person he was studying, while in the "superior condition," as light—as though it were illuminated by some interior glow, or was more or less phosphorescent. (And we know that phosphorus is certainly connected with the activities of the nervous system—even though it be not so intimately as before supposed.) This string of coincidences is at least remarkable; and it will be observed that the "light" is usually associated with nervous centres and nervous activity—for the head, e.g., is certainly the part most highly illumined, as a rule; while it is certainly the seat of the most active self-consciousness.
11. These facts throw an interesting side-light, also, upon another oft-observed phenomenon in psychical research. I refer to the fact that apparitions ("ghosts") are nearly always seen to be clear and distinct as to the head and upper portions of the body, while they taper off to vapour and "filmy nothingness" in the lower limbs, so that often the feet are not visible at all. While this may be due in part to the fact that the observer's attention is not directed to the lower limbs, but more or less centred upon the head and face, it appears to me that there may be another interpretation of the facts, more in accordance with the phenomena above mentioned, which is this:
During life we are conscious of our body in varying degrees—of the head most of all, then of the arms and upper portions of the body; and finally, of the lower limbs and feet, we are, a large part of the time, hardly conscious at all. Now, if the light accompanies nervous activity, and is present in proportion to it, it is obvious that those portions of the organism would have most "light" which were most active mentally—i.e., the brain and those portions of the nervous system controlling the hands, face, and upper portions of the body—while those portions which had become entirely automatic and unconscious in their activity would have least light—being physiological to the point almost of being mechanical. If this "light" corresponded in any way to visibility, therefore, it would only be natural to suppose that the face and upper portions of the phantasmal figure should be more or less distinctly visible, to one at all sensitive to such impressions, while the lower portions of the figure would fade into practical invisibility,—owing to lack of "light." This explanation would certainly be in accord with the facts, as we know them, regarding phantasmal figures.
12. We are still far from the answer to our question, however: How does spirit act upon matter, and in what way does the spirit manipulate the nervous mechanism of the medium, during the process of communication? Let us now consider this question further.
Andrew Jackson Davis, in his Great Harmonia, vol. i. pp. 55-65, discussed this problem, and stated that "spirit acts upon the bodily organism anatomically, physiologically, mechanically, chemically, electrically, magnetically, and spiritually." The trouble with such a statement is that it explains nothing (even as elaborated by him), and that it is far easier to believe, e.g., that one part of the body acts chemically and mechanically, etc., upon another part than to suppose that "spirit" has anything to do with the affair whatever. To postulate its activity would be merely to multiply causes without necessity.
Just here, it might be interesting to inquire what the modern conception is as to the relation of mind and brain—of soul and body; and particularly the question of the "seat" of the soul—that central point which was, until late years, always considered necessary as a fulcrum or point of contact upon which the soul might act.
The older psychologists and philosophers always took such a "seat" for granted—Descartes, as we know, imagining that the pineal gland occupied that important function. But as the science of psychology progressed, this notion was more and more given up, until the prevailing opinion of late years seems to be that the whole of the cortex is equally the seat of consciousness, and that its total functioning is responsible for the psychical activities which we know under the head of personality or individuality or ego.
It is interesting to note, however, that Dr. Frederick Peterson, of Columbia University, New York, has lately put forward the theory that there is, or may be, a seat of consciousness, after all! In a striking article in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology (vol. iii. No. 5), he says:—
"I will say at once that the 'seat' of that power which produces the manifestations of consciousness is in the basal ganglia (probably the corpora striata), and that consciousness is a peculiar summation of energy at that point, capable of being directed, like the rays of a searchlight, into this or that portion of the brain."
Dr. Peterson then goes on to give some facts which seem to him to support this view. Among these are the phenomena of sleep (the reasons being too long to detail here); the fact that, although every individual brain is stored full of experiences, only a small area is illuminated by consciousness at any one moment; and the phenomena of epilepsy—concerning which Dr. Peterson speaks in the following terms:
"The one disorder which has led me to think much of this subject is epilepsy, in which disease, loss of consciousness is the most extraordinary and often the only symptom. I allude chiefly to such remarkable conditions as the tic de salaam and the other forms of petit mal, in which the patient drops suddenly to the floor with loss of consciousness, and quite as suddenly rises again in full possession of his faculties. I have watched such cases for hours, and always with increasing marvel. The loss of consciousness is complete, and often lasts but a fraction of a second. How account for such phenomenon! If consciousness were a diffused attribute of the whole brain, what spasm of blood-vessels or other physical process familiar to us could act and be adjusted with such speed? If, however, the 'seat' of consciousness be limited to some very small portion of the brain, some physical process such as is suggested could easily account for the instantaneous loss and regaining of consciousness."
Other facts in support of this theory are given, and the statement of Dr. C. L. Dana that, in poisoning by illuminating gas, the chief symptom is loss of consciousness, and the only lesion discovered is softening of the corpora striata; then the following:
"Assuming now that it were proved that the power which creates consciousness has some definite seat, and that it is a summation of energies physiologically varying in sleep and waking, which may be directed to any part of our store of experiences for purposes of illumination, what portion of the brain is so constructed as to be in apparently intimate connection with every other? The corpora striata!... There is no portion of the brain we know so little of.... Here we have a portion of the brain which must be of enormous significance, otherwise it would not be always present, from the fish up to man."
It will be seen that Dr. Peterson is here opposed to the doctrine maintained by both Lotze and MacDougall, who both maintained that: "There are a number of separate points in the brain which form so many 'seats' of the soul. Each of these would be of equal value with the rest; at each of them the soul would be present with equal completeness." But whether there be one or several "seats" of consciousness, it is obvious that there must be contact of some sort, at one or several points (granting the correctness of the theory that spirit acts upon matter at all), and the question is: How may this action be supposed to take place?
In discussing this question in a former book I said:
"It is more than probable, it seems to me, that there exists some sort of etheric medium between mind and even organic nervous tissue, upon which the mind must act first of all. Thus, we should have the chain of connection: mind, vital or etheric medium, nervous tissue, muscle, bone. So mind acts upon matter; and it will be seen that there is an increasing density of structure, and that just in proportion to this density is mind incapable of affecting matter directly. We must, it seems to me, always postulate some sort of etheric medium through which mind acts, in order to affect and move matter—organic or inorganic. And without this vital intermediary there can be no action, and consequently no manifestation."
Now, it would appear rational to suppose that some action of this sort takes place when mind acts upon, or influences, matter. Air is invisible, and practically imperceptible to our senses—when stationary. But set into motion, a current of air will close a door with a bang—will have the effect of definitely moving a heavy mass of inanimate matter, in the manner indicated. It may be that in somewhat the same way mind affects brain. Mind may reside in a sort of etheric vehicle, and be more or less stable or stationary, save at the times when volition or intense, active conscious operations are in progress—when, in short, effort is exerted. At such times, it is surely conceivable that what was static becomes dynamic; something is set into motion which in turn brings into activity some more "physical" energy, and so on, until sufficient material momentum has been gained to affect that most unstable and mobile substance, nervous tissue. It is certainly quite conceivable that certain nervous centres in the brain (which centres, we cannot say) might be set into actual operation by some such process; or at least that the impulse or energy supplied in this manner might be sufficient to release the nervous energy stored in the cell, much as the trigger of a rifle would, when pressed, release the energy contained within the cartridge. Such "hair trigger" action has been postulated by both William James and Bergson, and is certainly in line with modern speculations in this direction. There are also certain analogies to be drawn from physical science to guide us here.
In electricity, e.g., what are known as "relays" are constantly employed, and beautifully illustrate the principle here outlined. In working over long lines, or where there are a number of instruments in one circuit, the currents are often not strong enough to work the recording instruments directly. In such a case there is interposed a "relay" or "repeater." This instrument consists of an electro-magnet round which the line current flows, and whose delicately-poised armature, when attracted, makes contact for a local circuit, in which a local battery and the receiving Morse instrument (sounder, writer, etc.) are included. The principle of the relay is, then, that a current too weak to do the work itself may get a strong local current to do its work for it.
It may be the same in the case of mental action. Volition or thought may be too weak, per se, to influence nervous processes; but, when exceptionally active or potent, they may set into activity specific nerve energies which manifest in the manner known to us as motor and physical phenomena. Here is, it seems to me, a rational explanation of the facts, and one which is in accord, not only with ordinary psychological phenomena, but with those more puzzling and obscure manifestations witnessed from time to time in psychic research.
13. It may be objected that such a conception of the facts supposes that will (and conscious thought) are physical energies—for however slight we make this energy, it is still energy none the less. The air which closed the door would not move it of itself—unless some pressure were exerted upon it from without. Could "life" act otherwise?
One reply to this objection is that the distinguishing characteristic of life is this very power of original, spontaneous movement. It is life, and life alone, which possesses this power. Were this doctrine true, it would of course upset the present theory of the Conservation of Energy, for it would admit the constant infusion into the world of energy from without. Despite the theoretical difficulty thus presented, it seems probable that life is, in a certain sense, a physical energy, or at least its manifestation is. It is possible that the two states are similar to the difference between potential and kinetic energy; and we must remember that energy is always noticed or experienced by us, as energy, in its expenditure, never in its accumulation.
If life be a physical force, if vitality be a specific energy, then, it seems to me, many things fall into line—many phenomena, hitherto inexplicable, become at once intelligible.
Let me illustrate this conclusion by mentioning a few such facts:
Take, for instance, the phenomena manifested in the presence of Eusapia Palladino. I shall not now stop to discuss the reality of these manifestations, because I consider them just as certain as any other facts in life, and not at all open to discussion. Now, in these phenomena there is an intelligence of some sort at work producing them; that is certain. But as to the nature of this intelligence—what it is—that is altogether another matter, and a much more difficult question to answer. Whether this be a low order of deceiving and "lying spirits," as Professor Barrett and others are apparently inclined to believe, or whether it be a fraction of the medium's own mind (Flournoy, Morselli), or whether it be the spirit it claims to be, or whether it belongs to some other even more doubtful order of intelligence, such as postulated by the Theosophists and certain Mystics and Occultists, that is a question which we cannot at present answer, and for which we may have to wait for several hundred years before one can be satisfactorily given.
But, granting the reality of the phenomena, they themselves demand solution, solely from the point of view of physics and physiology, and quite aside from the nature of the intelligence with which they are at times associated. The facts themselves still need elucidation.
Some years ago a gentleman of my acquaintance started out with the intention of constructing a telephone by means of which it would be possible to speak directly to the spirit world! He had in mind great delicacy of apparatus, a system of "relays," by means of which it would be possible to augment an initial stimulus, however slight, a magnifying apparatus which would greatly increase the volume of sound, on the lines of the ampliphone and the microphone, etc. I do not believe that very definite results were ever achieved, and he is still at work upon the problem. Needless to say, this idea of his was ridiculed in all quarters; but I myself do not see any valid reason why some such device should not succeed—provided, of course, that a spiritual world exists at all. If such a world exists, if the intelligences which reside therein can at times produce physical phenomena, then it is certainly conceivable that some energy may be set into operation which may produce the desired results—some energy which we, too, can utilize and which the spiritual entity can also manipulate; in other words, an energy common to the two worlds. Were such a common medium or mediator found, communication would certainly be established, and it only remains for us to discover the common energy. Personally, I believe that this intermediary is most probably vitality—the life-force, without the presence of which such manifestations would be impossible. A living, human being is necessary, upon whose presence these phenomena depend, and without whom they could not occur. It is thus obvious that there is a definite connection between these phenomena and life, which can hardly be due to chance; it must stand in some intimate and causal relation.
14. Many students of psychical phenomena believe that, in the case of Eusapia Palladino, e.g., this connection is clearly discernible, and that it is upon the externalization of her vital force that many of these phenomena depend. Even the materializations are thought to be due to this same cause—due to the moulding, in space, of this plastic intermediary projected beyond the limits of her bodily organism. Certain it is that such a projection does at times take place, and it seems rational to suppose that "raps" may be due to the explosive expulsion of this neural energy after it has reached a certain "tension." One quite striking incident which has been narrated to me by a physician of my acquaintance tends rather to confirm this view. It is that, when he was trying on various occasions to move a table, a la Palladino, he failed to do so, but whenever he lifted his hands away from the table, "sparkling" took place between his hands and the table-top, closely resembling the electric spark which jumps from point to point when the tension has reached a certain limit.
Another interesting fact, related to me by the same physician, serves to throw a light upon the connection of vital and physical energies. The doctor in question was treating a patient, who was apparently "obsessed," by means of electricity. The galvanometer needle showed what slight variations in the current there were during the course of the treatment. In the middle of the process, while the patient was conversing with the doctor, she was suddenly "obsessed." Coincidental with this obsession, the galvanometer showed a tremendous and permanent fluctuation, indicating that the resistance of the body to the current had suddenly and greatly changed!
Whatever view we may take of the facts, here is, at least, a striking incident, which the current theories of the varying causes of bodily resistance (in these psycho-galvanic reflexes) hardly serve to explain. Can it be that the subject's "etheric body" was in some way disturbed by an invading intelligence, and that this disturbance was manifested in the fluctuations recorded? Is there a nervous fluid, after all, as the magnetizers and mesmerists contend so strongly, but which has been relegated to oblivion since the advent of suggestion and hypnotism? Personally, I believe that there is, and I shall indicate very briefly some of my reasons for thinking so.
In the first place, the modern hypnotist can very rarely succeed in cultivating clairvoyance in his subject, whereas the records of mesmerism teem with cases which were developed under the old regime. Surely the dissimilarity in the effect points to a dissimilarity of cause. It has always appeared to me highly probable that mesmerism and hypnotism are dependent upon entirely different causes, and were not at all the same in the last analysis.
In the second place, the exhaustion which "healers" sometimes experience when treating patients of a certain temperament can hardly be due altogether to suggestion. I have been informed by "magnetic" and "spiritual" healers that this feeling of exhaustion is very great when a self-centred, selfish person is being treated, and correspondingly less whenever a generous, large-souled individual is receiving the treatment. "Osteopaths" have told me the same thing. Those possessing an active mind and brain, and who are analytical and unsympathetic by nature, are far harder to treat, and leave a far greater exhaustion, than those who are not so. This bears a very striking resemblance to the "good" and "bad" sitters in the Piper case, and also the Palladino case; in fact, it is true of everyday life, to a certain extent. The more active the mind, the greater the grasp over life and self which we possess, the less susceptible are we to external or internal influences. Let us call to mind in this connection the remark of Dr. Snow in his treatise on Anaesthetics, that "the more intelligent the patient, the more anaesthetic is required to put him under."
Thirdly, the phenomena presented by Eusapia Palladino completely prove the reality of such a "fluid" to my mind, without any other proof being necessary.
Fourthly, the impression said to be left in or upon objects or houses, and the phenomena of "psychometry" seem to indicate the same thing.
Fifthly, the recent reinforcement of the evidence in favour of the human "aura" strongly supports the same view.
Sixthly, the French experiments in "exteriorization of sensibility," "thought-photography," "radiographs," etc., point to the same conclusion.
Seventhly, the successful experiments conducted by Professor Alrutz and others with his instrument—which is thought to register "will power"—is a long step towards recognizing the existence of a nervous, vital energy, which can at times be externalized and made to pass into and "charge" an inanimate object.
Finally, the facts of materialization and kindred phenomena, which find so ready and complete an explanation on this theory.
For these and other reasons, therefore, it seems fairly certain that there is a nervous "fluid" which can at times be externalized beyond the normal bodily limits, which is operative in mesmeric "passes," and which plays so large and hitherto unsuspected a part in the production of many physical and psychical phenomena.
15. As we know, it is this "fluid" which is drawn upon, so it is said, by materializing mediums for the production of their phantoms, and the following interesting experience seems to confirm this view. I quote verbatim:
"It was an autumn afternoon, about six o'clock. I had returned from a stroll in the garden, and was in my own room, sitting on a single-backed easy-chair, leisurely dipping into Vanity Fair. While turning over the pages in search of some favourite passage, I became aware of an abnormal and quite indescribable sensation. My chest and breathing seemed inwardly oppressed by some ponderous weight, while I became conscious of some presence behind me, exerting a powerful influence on the forces within. On trying to turn my head to see what this could be, I was powerless to do so, neither could I lift a hand or move in any way. I was not a little alarmed and began immediately to reason. Was it a fainting fit coming on, epilepsy, paralysis—possibly even death? No, the mind was too much alive, though physically I felt an absolutely passive instrument, operated upon by some powerful external agent, as if the current of nerve-force within seemed forcibly drawn together and focussed on a spot in front of me. I gazed motionless, as though fascinated, on what was no longer vacant space. There an oval, misty light was forming, elongatory, widening—yes, actually developing into a human face and form! Was this hallucination, or some vision of the unseen, coming in so unexpected fashion? Before me had arisen a remarkable figure, never seen before in picture or life—dark-skinned, aged, with white beard, the expression intensely earnest, the features small, the bald head finely moulded, lofty over the forehead, the whole demeanour instinct with solemn grace. The hands, too, how unlike any hands I knew, yet how expressive! They were dark, long in fingers and narrow in palms, the veins like sinews, standing out as they moved to and fro in eager gesture. He was speaking to me in deep tones, as if in urgent entreaty. What would I not give to hear words from such a figure! But no effort availed me to distinguish one articulate sound. I tried to speak, but could not. With desperate effort I shook out the words, "Speak louder!" The face grew more intent, the voice louder and more emphatic. Was there something amiss in my own hearing, then, that I could distinguish no word amidst these deeply emphasized tones? Slowly and deliberately the figure vanished, through the same stages of indistinctness, back to the globular, lamp-like whiteness, till it faded into nothingness. Before it had quite faded away, the face of a woman arose, indistinct and calm. The same emphatic hum, though in a subdued note, indistinct and dim. The same paralysis of voice and muscle, the same strange force, as if it were overshadowing me. With the disappearance of this second and far less interesting figure, I recovered my power of movement, and arose.
"My first impulse was to look round for the origin of this strange force; my second was to rush to the looking-glass to make sure I was myself. There could be no delusion! There I was, paler than usual, and greatly agitated; I walked hurriedly to and fro. True, there had been nothing alarming in the apparition itself, but the sensation preceding had been vivid in the extreme. What was it? Was it night, or had I been in some strange sleep? Certainly not! Was I in my right mind? I believed so. Then, if so, and the conditions being the same, would it be possible to bring back this strange phenomenon that I might know it had really existed, whether subjectively or objectively? Like an inspiration I determined that, if this experience had a basis in objective or subjective fact, it might certainly recur. I would sit down in the same position, try to feel calm, open a book, and remain as still and passive as I could. To my intense interest, and almost at once, the strange sense of some power operating on the nerve-forces within, followed by the same loss of muscular power, the same wide-awakeness of the reason, the same drawing out and concentrating of the energies on that spot in front, repeated itself, this time more deliberately, leaving me freer to take mental notes of what was happening. Again rose the same noble, earnest figure, gazing at me, the hands moving in accompaniment to the deep tones of voice. The same painful effort on my part to hear, with no result. The vision passed. Again the woman's face, insignificant and meaningless, succeeded it as before. She spoke, but in less emphatic tones. It flashed upon me I would hear. After a frantic effort, I caught two words—"land," "America"—with positively no clue to their meaning.
"I was wide awake when the first apparition appeared, and in a highly excited state of mind on its reappearance."
This case strikes me as particularly interesting, for the reason that it illustrates the possible manner of the externalization of forces, and the possible manner of their guidance and manipulation by outside intelligences, as postulated in Eusapia Palladino, p. 300. Here we see the process actually at work, as it were, described by a careful observer, who was perfectly conscious all the time of the phenomena going on within him. This is, to my mind, a human document of no little importance.
It appears quite credible, therefore, that a "fluid" of some sort does exist, and that its liberation, under certain peculiar conditions, should produce odd physical phenomena; and this conviction has been rendered almost a certainty by the unique experiments of Dr. Ochorowicz with his medium, Mlle. Tomczyk. A brief summary of that case will make this apparent.
For many years experiments of the kind here recorded have been in progress, but the path has always been blocked by fraud and innumerable difficulties. Dr. Ochorowicz did, however, apparently succeed in obtaining photographs of human radiations, of thoughts, and even of materialized hands! What are they? Are they the hands of "spirits," inhabitants of the "Great Beyond"? Are they astrals or elementals? Are they projections from the body of the medium? Of what can they consist? Who directs and guides them? And how can a thought be photographed?
These newer researches into the fields of science have been undertaken, for the most part, by French investigators, who have progressed very far in their demonstrations and speculations in this direction—much further, it may be said, than either the English or American investigators have advanced—assuming, of course, the accuracy of their conclusions!
Dr. Ochorowicz had been known for thirty years to all researchers as a careful investigator. Professor Charles Richet of the University of Paris spoke of him in the highest terms, and regarded him as "an exceptionally careful and cautious investigator." His book, Mental Suggestion, which was published early in the eighties, is considered an authority, and his general erudition and scientific attainments no one could question. For many years he was professor in the University of Lemberg.
Several years ago a young girl, Mlle. Stanislaw Tomczyk, then about eighteen years old, was sent to Dr. Ochorowicz for medical treatment. She suffered greatly from nervousness. In order to bring about relief Dr. Ochorowicz hypnotized her, inducing somnambulism; and in this state she displayed, quite spontaneously, a number of "mediumistic" phenomena. This proved to be the beginning of her mediumship. She possessed a power unknown to herself; and it probably would have remained for ever unknown had she not fallen into the hands of a man such as Dr. Ochorowicz. By the average physician she would, most probably, have been treated as hysterical or insane; but careful analysis and training caused her to become, instead, one of the most remarkable psychics the world has ever known.
Her early trials and tests were simple enough. A glass clock, possessing a pointer, was hung up in the centre of the room, and Mlle. Tomczyk was told to will that the pointer, when set revolving, should stop at a certain number. Generally she pointed with her finger at the indicator, keeping her hand a few centimetres distant. The indicator generally, though not invariably, stopped at the number desired—at any rate, a far greater number of times than Dr. Ochorowicz or any other person could cause it to stop when trying the experiments themselves. The clock belonged to Dr. Ochorowicz, and was innocent of trickery.
The next experiments consisted in raising or "levitating" small objects from the table—by placing the medium's hands on either side of them. Sometimes the object would be raised from Dr. Ochorowicz's hand instead—while he was holding it. Of course the natural supposition is that a thread or hair of some sort was employed, but this possibility was eliminated in a number of ways.
It must be remembered that all these manifestations took place when the medium was in a state of induced somnambulism. She remembered nothing when awakened of what had occurred. But now something curious and interesting demanded special attention. A distinct personality, calling itself "Little Stasia," began to develop. This personality asserted that she, and not the medium, was responsible for the physical manifestations we have recorded. She said (through the mouth of the entranced somnambule) that she was not an independent spirit, but a creation, an individuality, similar to the "alternating personalities" so well known to us. There would be no difficulty in accepting this estimate, were it not for the awkward fact that this little being was photographed on one occasion and seen to be a small, independent creature, existing apart from the medium! This is how it came about.
Through the entranced medium instructions were given to focus a camera upon a certain chair—having first placed a shawl over the back. This was done. Dr. Ochorowicz and Mlle. Tomczyk then left the room together. At the end of a certain length of time they returned, developed the plate, and upon it was found the distinct imprint of a small child's face, apparently belonging to a body, seated in the chair, and swathed around with the shawl in question! The experiment was performed in the hotel where they happened to be stopping; the photographic camera and plates were Dr. Ochorowicz's own, and the medium was out of the room, in the doctor's company throughout. It has never been explained.
Such is a brief account of the more interesting experiments conducted during the early years of this medium's development. In later years her powers, under the skilled guidance of (the late) Dr. Ochorowicz, took another turn and provided some of the most interesting and striking manifestations in the history of this subject, as, for example, his experiments in the photography of "fluidic" or "materialized" hands, and also in thought-photography.
These photographs of fluidic hands Dr. Ochorowicz calls "radiographs," because they can only be explained by supposing that the fluidic hand, which is placed upon the photographic plate, is in some way radio-active during the process. In no other way can the facts be explained. Even supposing, for the sake of argument, that the psychic could in some way have placed her own hands on the plates, they would not have produced the results obtained—as any one can prove to his own satisfaction.
These impressions upon photographic plates were obtained "mediumistically"—that is, in more or less complete darkness, and without any apparatus. Not only were all known forms of radiation thus excluded, but the impression was direct, and obtained without camera, focussing, etc. The impressions of hands obtained were of various shapes and sizes, both larger and smaller than those of the medium (who, of course, was the only other person present), peculiarly deformed hands and partially formed hands, according to the degree of success of the experiment, and the desire of the medium.
These hands can only be produced in the presence, and with the assistance, of a good "physical medium," in more or less darkness, and are taken by means of a peculiar light which the hands seem to create for themselves. Sometimes the hands were visible to both the medium and Dr. Ochorowicz, sometimes visible only to the medium, sometimes invisible to both. We are assured that in the series of tests under consideration the impressions were obtained only when the psychic was deeply entranced, and then only at certain times.
On a number of occasions the psychic placed her hand upon the plate, and its impression was left upon it. The hands were photographed by means of a form of light radiating from the hands themselves. On one occasion, Dr. Ochorowicz held the plate against the medium's ear; the ear itself was not photographed, but the side of the head, the hair, and particularly the hairpins were. On two occasions a leaf was placed between the hands and the plate, and the outline of the leaf was left upon the latter. From these experiments it was concluded that the rays—whatever they might be—were emitted by the "etheric body" (the "astral" body, the "double") and not by the physical body, since their intensity did not seem to correspond in any way to the anatomical distribution of the nerves.
These rays may be centred and concentrated by the action of the will of the subject. They radiate from the surface of the skin and reproduce a simulacrum, as it were, of the surface. They throw a shadow of any object placed between the subject and the photographic plate. They are more penetrating than the rays discovered by M. Darget, and brought to the attention of the French Academy several years ago. Interesting analogies may exist here between these rays and the so-called "Black Light" of M. Le Bon, which he describes at length in his work, The Evolution of Forces.
It was now determined to attempt more interesting and startling experiments. The medium was requested to hold her right hand in the air, where it could be seen plainly, against the faint red light in the room. It was not moved throughout the experiment. In his own laboratory Dr. Ochorowicz then procured a fresh plate and held it in the air, at some distance from the hand of the medium. The latter then said: "Ah, I see another right hand detaching itself from my arm and approaching the plate. How it pains me! Yes, it is placing itself over the plate—it is done."
Dr. Ochorowicz then took the plate with him at once to the dark room and, when it was developed, there was found the outline of an unformed hand—one apparently in the process of condensation. It was, as it were, a hand in embryo. It had apparently become detached, or had detached itself, from the medium, and remained sufficiently solid to leave an impression of itself upon the plate, held about half a metre from it. It was, in fact, a form of materialization, but of so shadowy a texture that it remained often quite invisible to the onlooker.
A long series of experiments is then described, which might be condensed somewhat as follows:—
"The somnambule said that she did not see the double's hand leave hers, but saw it placed upon the plate. It was placed upon it at an angle of ninety degrees from the position taken by her own hand. At my request the thumb was made particularly distinct, the whole hand being quite different in contour from that of the medium.
"I take another plate, and hold it some distance from the medium's hand. She makes an effort to impress it, with the result that an immense finger, superhuman in size, is seen upon the plate when developed. Upon the next plate, which I hold about twenty-five centimetres from her hands, three fingers appear, non-luminous—the light seeming to come from behind the hand, and shining through the spaces between the fingers.
"I now hold a plate at a distance of one metre from her right hand, which is held up in front of her. The red light is turned slightly low. The somnambule sees a shadowy hand detach itself from hers, which is at the same time, also, attached to a very long, thin arm, and which approaches the plate. The hand is very large, she says, and is a right hand. It places itself over the plate, which I thereupon remove and develop. A large hand is distinctly visible upon it. Finally, I hold a plate two and a half metres away from the medium's hand. The somnambule shivers and feels cold in her lower limbs, despite the fact that my laboratory is very warm. She again holds out her right hand, and a left hand, attached to a long, thin arm, is seen by her to detach itself and place itself over the plate held in my hand. Upon being developed, the impression of a very large left hand was found upon the plate—so large that only a portion of the hand could be seen! The whole of the medium's hand can easily be placed upon the plate. These are very similar to the enormous hands frequently seen in the Palladino seances, and said to be those of 'John King.'
"From the above facts I think we are justified in arriving at the following tentative conclusions:
"1. That the hand of the double can be larger than that of the medium.
"2. That a left hand can be projected from a right arm, drawing its force from the entire body of the subject, this being accompanied by a chilly feeling in the extremities and by congestion of the head.
"3. That the arm of the double appears to shrink in size according to its distance from the medium's body.
"4. That it is easier for the fluidic hand to imprint itself upon the photographic plate (negative) in white than in black.
"5. That in the case of the large and shining thumb it is surrounded by a clear halo of light.
"6. The etheric body of the medium, the 'double,' behaves as though it were an independent spirit."
In a second series of experiments very small hands were produced by request. These hands terminated abruptly at the wrist, but it was found by a series of independent experiments that any hand would appear to do so if the illumination came from a certain direction. In one case the photographic plate was placed on the sofa, three feet from the entranced somnambule. Dr. Ochorowicz took his seat by her side. A fluidic hand was seen to approach the plate, then retreat into the medium's body, avoiding the red light. Upon the plate being developed, the imprints of two small hands were seen, somewhat resembling the hands of the medium, though smaller. They were not typical children's hands. The medium had, in fact, made two distinct efforts to impress the plate and have the fluidic hand place itself upon it. These semi-materializations are very interesting, since they form the connecting link between true materialization, which is solid and substantial, and so-called thought photography.
After this Dr. Ochorowicz wished to try another experiment. A pencil and a sheet of paper were placed on the floor under the bureau by Dr. Ochorowicz. The medium sat in her chair entranced. Soon the sound of writing was heard; then the fall of the pencil. Upon the sheet of paper being removed a word was found scratched across it—
The psychic then desired to obtain writing in full view of Dr. Ochorowicz, so he placed another piece of paper upon the floor, and upon it the pencil. The medium then exerted herself; the pencil stood on end, and attempted to write. In this, however, it failed, and fell to the floor. This was repeated several times, when the medium had to give up further attempts, owing to her extreme fatigue.
The question now arises: Can these fluidic hands, which are thus exteriorized, move of their own volition, or must they remain stationary? To this question Dr. Ochorowicz addressed himself in a later series of experiments.
In the first experiment, the somnambule saw a finger upon a plate, which was self-luminous, and seemed to be writing. A large "J" was seen to be traced upon it. In the second trial, neither the medium nor Dr. Ochorowicz saw anything, but the letters "J. O." were seen to be imprinted upon it when developed.
This proved that the intelligence guiding the finger at least possessed memory and intelligence. The finger was to some extent self-luminous. From these experiments Dr. Ochorowicz concluded that:
The actinic action of the emitted rays is feeble, comparatively speaking; and that the visible light of the fluidic hands is less actinic than the invisible light.
The relation of these rays to ordinary light is thus an interesting question. It is well known that all mediums shun light, and there are sound physiological and psychological reasons for this. Daylight has been found to be more destructive to the success of phenomena than any form of artificial light; moonlight is far better than sunlight. It has lately been shown that light exerts a powerful physical pressure, and is a disruptive agency, destroying protoplasm and many of the lower forms of life. We only have to see the effect of sunlight upon a photographic plate to appreciate its power. The absurdity of assuming that light plays no part in such manifestations—where very delicate, subtle, and little understood forces are in operation—is thus manifest.
Still, the fluidic hands emit a light of their own; and the question is, Can this emitted light penetrate solid substances—"matter," as we understand it? As the result of a number of experiments, Dr. Ochorowicz ascertained that, in the majority of cases, these rays, like ultra-violet light, did not penetrate solid substances, as do the X-rays; yet their actinic action was found to be far stronger! Here is a field for long-continued observation and experiment. In thought photography, on the other hand, it has been ascertained that the rays can pass easily through solid matter, like the X-rays.
The next question of interest which presented itself for solution was this: To what extent can the fluidic hands change their form, size, and contour at will? Experiments were first tried in the reduction of the size of the hands, upon request.
Three plates were prepared and laid in a series upon the table at some distance from the medium. Through the entranced somnambule the "double" was then informed of the experiment, and asked to place its hand upon the three plates in succession, willing on each occasion to make the fluidic hand smaller. This was done. An impression of the same hand was obtained on each plate, but it can be seen that, on each occasion, the hand is smaller in size. This was all accomplished within a few seconds.
Of these experiments Dr. Ochorowicz says:
"We are therefore justified in arriving at the following conclusions:
"1. At first, the double's hand is larger than that of the medium.
"2. It tends to decrease in length and general size.
"3. The palm of the hand, especially, tends to decrease.
"4. Only the little finger remains without appreciable change.
"5. The change is that of several millimetres, but not enormous.
"6. The fingers of the double tended to close nearer together, as well as become smaller—just as an ordinary hand would probably do."
The light which supplied the necessary illumination for these photographs seemed to have been emitted from a sort of "egg," near the wrist of the hand, which was intensely luminous. This was not expected, and came as a surprise. Two suggestions as to its nature at once present themselves: (1) that it is a self-created mediumistic light; and (2) that it is a mass of matter from which the hand derives its material sustenance.
In a further series of experiments, during which Dr. Ochorowicz was repeatedly touched by a cold hand, impressions of large left hands were left upon the plates—the medium's left hand being, meanwhile, a long way removed from the plate. The fingers were very large, the thumb enormous and abnormally shaped at the end.
Summing up the conclusions which, he thought, could be drawn from his researches, Dr. Ochorowicz said:
"1. Fluidic hands are detached more or less rarely—according to the condition of the subject's "forces." When these are strong, hands may even be produced unknown to the medium.
"2. The direction and character of these hands are determined by the subconscious mind of the medium; but also partially by the conscious mind.
"3. The properties of the fluidic hands are not constant; they change frequently.
"4. These changes represent transformations of energy—certain forms of energy being transformed into other forms. When the conditions are good, the forms of available energy are multiplied; when weak, they are lessened. They alternate, but do not blend. The mechanical effects are produced chiefly by the invisible hands, while the visible hands are inactive.
"5. I have never seen more than two hands formed by one medium at one time, and more usually only one. When there are two hands, however, they may be quite dissimilar, one from the other.
"6. There are several degrees of materiality, which succeed each other rapidly. The hands are so fugitive that it is almost impossible to seize them. When the imperfectly formed hands are grasped, however, they are cold, slippery, and unpleasant to the touch. The better materialized hands, on the contrary, are warm and life-like.
"7. The well-materialized hands can be photographed; even the poorly-developed hands can give radiographs.
"8. The ultra-violet light necessary to produce these photographs can be produced by the hand of the medium or by the double itself.
"9. Radiographs are difficult to obtain; a materialization generally loses its luminosity.
"10. The hands are sometimes like, and sometimes unlike, those of the medium.
"11. The fluidic hands can be moulded plastically, and altered as to their dimensions."
To resume the experiments: Dr. Ochorowicz desired to see whether the fluidic hand of the double could pass through a very small hole or space. He accordingly proposed placing a rolled-up film in a bottle, leaving only the small hole at the top, and see whether the hand could impress itself under these circumstances. Upon this being proposed to the medium, she exclaimed: "Make it more difficult than that; you will make the double lazy! Cork up the bottle!"
Dr. Ochorowicz accordingly cut a film, rolled it into a small roll, placed it in the bottle, and held the latter between his two hands, the right-hand palm acting as a cork, the left supporting the bottle; the medium placed her hands on either side of the bottle, on the outside. She soon complained that her hands were paining her, seeming to swell and get larger. She was soon after seized with cramps, and the experiment was at this point discontinued.
Dr. Ochorowicz tried to draw the film from the bottle, but failed; he was finally obliged to break the bottle to extract it. The film was then developed, and upon it was the imprint of a hand—larger even than his own, to say nothing of the medium's—clearly formed. Fraud was absolutely out of the question. There seems only the alternative choice of invoking the fourth dimension, or assuming that the fluidic hand could curve itself round and round the film after having entered the bottle in some manner! The facts seem incredible; but I give them as recorded.
The question now arises: is the fluidic hand two-dimensioned? It could hardly have any thickness, to accomplish the last experiment. Dr. Ochorowicz determined to try a novel experiment, to test this theory.
Two photographic plates were placed face to face, separated by small pieces of cardboard at the corners. The "double" was requested to insert its hand between the plates when the medium was entranced. Upon the plates being developed, the imprint of a hand (the same hand) was found on both plates; i.e. a photograph of the top, and of the under side of a hand. This was repeated again, under more stringent conditions. The hand again appeared.
It was then decided to repeat the experiment with the rolled film in the bottle. The experiment was again made; the film was developed when the medium reclined on the couch on the opposite side of the room, and a very large hand was again found to have impressed itself upon the film. It had evidently succeeded in curling itself round the rolled film in the closed bottle!
The question is: First, Do the facts occur? And if they do, what is the cause of them? What is the nature of these fluidic hands? To whom do they belong? Of what are they constituted? Are they the hands of a spirit, or mere exteriorizations from the body of the medium—materializations, only partially independent?
Without attempting to answer these questions in this place, I will conclude by pointing out two facts, which seem to me of considerable importance. The first is that many nervous and mentally abnormal patients may be mediums were the pains taken to ascertain that fact. I know of one famous alienist who confided to me his belief that a very large percentage of mediumistic cases could be found in hospitals for hysterical patients or in wards for the mentally unbalanced. The trouble is that experiments tending to ascertain the truth of such a theory are never tried. Had not Dr. Ochorowicz been interested in things psychic, Mlle. Tomczyk would simply have been cured by him in the general routine manner and dismissed. The world would thus have been deprived of one of the most remarkable mediums on record!