Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 50.djvu/235

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
221
POSSESSION AND MEDIUMSHIP.

of motor automatism is somewhat different. Suggested movements are controlled through the agency of ideas, the ideas being directly suggested and the movements springing from them. But in automatic movements the patient is not conscious of any ideas controlling his movements; they seem to him to spring from some source outside himself. Some of these movements may plausibly be ascribed to purely physiological causes; others seem to require the assumption of realms of mind dissevered from the normal consciousness of the patient. If this view be correct, these forms of automatism also would fall under the conception of suggestibility, for they also would spring from mental states, although those states would not lie within the range of the patient's consciousness.

We may further conjecture that some of the hallucinations and automatic ideas, which rush cometlike into the patient's consciousness from nowhere in particular, had, in fact, an actual being in the subconscious realm before becoming parts of the upper system; but, from the nature of the case, it is never possible to verify the conjecture beyond a peradventure.

The words suggestibility and automatism, then, do not so much designate distinct classes of phenomena as the same phenomena viewed from slightly different points, while the conception of the subconscious is an inference based upon the relations which we know to exist between mental states and certain complex movements of the body. All these phenomena belong together; they can not be separated in theory, and they constantly occur together in practice; in short, they form a distinct natural family by themselves.

It is only within the last few years that they have attracted the attention of professed psychologists, yet we can not suppose that they never existed before. Even a superficial acquaintance with the literature of occultism, present and past, is sufficient to convince one that they have existed from time immemorial, that they have provided in the past the basis for many of man's most cherished convictions, precisely as in the present they constitute the chief content of our modern "spiritualism."

To get the least insight into these phenomena one must at the outset disabuse one's self of the pseudo-scientific notion that they are due to the "power of the imagination." It represents a rough attempt to get at the truth, but, like many another half truth, does more harm than good. We must clearly grasp the conception that man's mind is in many respects like his body. Like his body, it is the scene of constant struggle and rivalry between competing activities — it might not be far amiss to call them forces — in the ebb and flow of which his being consists. As disease germs occasionally succeed in effecting lodgment in his body and flour-