Page:EB1911 - Volume 22.djvu/561

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545
PSYCHICAL RESEARCH


and so forth were also reproduced in conditions that appeared to make the normal transference of the idea by sound, sight or touch impossible, and to put chance coincidence out of court. In one or two instances collusion was detected ingeniously. In others two explanatory theories have been broached. People may accidentally coincide in their choice of diagrams, or the “ unconscious whispering ” of a person fixing his mind hard on a number, card or what not may be heard or seen. But coincidence in diagrams does not apply when a ship, dumb-bells, a Candlestick or a cat is drawn by both experimenters; nor can “unconscious whispering ” be heard or seen when the experinienters are in different rooms. On the whole, the inquirers convinced themselves that one mind or brain may influence another mind or brain through no recognized channel of sense. This is, of course, an old idea (see Walton's Life of Donne, and his theory of the appearance of Mrs Donne, with a dead baby, to Dr Donne in Paris). The method of communication remains a problem. Are there “ brain waves, ” analogous to the X-rays, from brain to recipient brain, or does mind touch mind in some unheard-of way? The former appears to be the hypothesis preferred by Sir William Crookes and Professor Flournoy (Des Indes d Za planéle Mars, pp. 363-365). On this showing there is nothing “ supra normal ” in “ telepathy, ” as it is called. The latter theory of “a purely spiritual communication ” is argued for by Mr Myers (Proceedings af the Society for Psychical Research, xv. 407-410). If we accept telepathy as experimentally demonstrated, and regard it as a physical process, we reduce (4), “ apparitions at the moment of death or otherwise, ” to a normal though not very usual fact. Everyone would admit this in the case of mere empty hallucinations. A, in Paisley, sees P, in London, present in his room. P is neither dying nor in any other crisis, and A is, as both continue to be, in his normal health. Such experiences are by no means very uncommon, when there is nothing to suggest that P has exercised any telepathic influence on A. On the other hand, in Phantasm; of the Living, and in the report on the, Census of Hallucinations (Proceedings, vol. x.), the society has published large numbers of “ coincidental ” hallucinations, the appearance of P to A coinciding with the death or other crisis of the distant P. That such “ wraiths ” do occur is the popular and savage belief. But, it may be urged, many hallucinations occur and many deaths. People only remember the hallucinations which happened, or were made by erroneous reckoning to seem to happen, coincidentally with the decease of the person seen. This is not quite true, for a hallucination so vivid as to be taken for a real person and addressed as such is not easily forgotten by a sober citizen, even if “nothing happened ” afterwards. None the less, the coincidental hallucinations have certainly a better chance of being remembered, while fancy is apt to exaggerate the closeness of the coincidence. Nothing can demonstrate that coincidences between death and hallucination occur more frequently than by the doctrine of chance they ought to do, except a census of the whole population. In the present indifference of government to psychical science no party is likely to institute such a census, and even if it were done, the frivolity of mankind would throw doubt on the statistics.. It would be necessary to cross examine each “ percipient, ” and to ask for documentary or other corroborative evidence in each case.

The Society for Psychical Research collected statistics in proportion to its resources. More than r7,000 answers were received to questions rather widely circulated. The affirmative respondents were examined closely, their mental and physical health and circumstances inquired into, and collectors of evidence were especially enjoined to avoid selecting persons known to be likely to return affirmative replies. There were So cases at first hand in which the death of the person seen coincided, within twelve hours, with the visual hallucination of his or her presence, out of 352 instances of such hallucinations. By way of arriving at the true proportions, the hallucinations which coincided with nothing were multiplied by four. In this way allowance was made for obliviousness of non-coincidental hallucinations. The verdict of the committee was that, on the evidence before them, hallucinations coincided with deaths in a ratio of 440 times more than was to be expected by the law of probabilities. The committee came to the conclusion that a relation of cause and effect does exist between the death of A and the vision of A beheld by P. The hallucination is apparently caused from without by some unexplained action of the mind or brain of A on the brain or mind of P. This effect is also traced, where death does not occur, for example, in the many instances of false “ arrivals.” A is on his way to X, or is dreaming that he is on his way, and is seen at X by P, or by P, Q and R, as may happen. These cases are common, and were explained in Celtic philosophy by the theory of the “ Co-Walker, ” a kind of “ astral body.” The facts are accounted for in the same way by Scandinavian popular philosophy. Possibly in many instances such hallucinations are the result of expectancy in the beholder. Yet if we go out to shoot or fish, excepting to encounter grouse or salmon, we do not usually see grouse or salmon if they are not there! Where the arrival is not expected, this explanation fails. In “ second sight, ” even among savages, these occurrences are not infrequent, and doubtless admit of an explanation by telepathy. In two instances, known at first hand to the present writer, persons dreamed, at a distance, that they entered their own homes. In one the person was seen, in the other distinctly heard, by the inmates of his or her house. In several of these examples knocks are heard, as in spiritualist séances. In fact, if we accept the evidence, living but remote persons may, unconsciously, produce effects of sounds and of phantasms exactly like those which popular belief ascribes to the spirits of the dead.,

If we admit the evidence, of which a great body exists, and if we attribute the phenomena to telepathy, curious inferences may be drawn. Thus if the phenomena are such as only the spirits of the dead could be credited with producing-if the dead were frequently recognized by various good witnesses it would follow (on the hypothesis of telepathy) that telepathy is not a physical process caused by material waves or rays from living brain to brain, the dead having no brains in working order. On the other hand, if living brains may thus affect each other, a subjective hallucination experienced by the living A may conceivably be “ wired on” to the living P. Thus A, in a given house, may have a mere subjective hallucination of the presence of the dead B, and may, unconsciously, infect with that hallucination other persons who come to the house. Thus once admit that any living brain may infect any other, and it becomes practically impossible for a spirit of the dead to prove his identity. Any information which he may give in any way must either be known to living people, however remote, or unknown. If known to a living person, he may, unconsciously, “ wire it on ” to the seer. If wholly unknown to everybody, the veracity of the information cannot be demonstrated, except later, if it refers to the unknown future. Thus the theory of telepathy, with a little good will, puts the existence and activity of the souls of the dead beyond possibility of proof. These remarks apply to the researches of the society into alleged isolated phantasms of the dead, and into “haunted houses.” As to the former cases, it is admitted on all hands that sane and sober people may have subjective hallucinations of the presence of living friends, not dying or in any other crisis. Obviously then, the appearance of a dead person may equally be an empty hallucination. Thus, a member of the House of Commons, standing at the entrance of a certain committee-room, saw another member, of peculiar aspect and gait, pass him and enter the room, his favourite haunt. Several hours passed before the percipient suddenly recollected that the other member had been dead for someimonths. Even superstition cannot argue that this appearance was a ghost. In the same way Hawthorne, the celebrated novelist, frequently, he has written, saw a dead club-man in his club. But suppose, for the sake of argument, that at intervals members of the house kept seeing such appearances of dead members of parliament, and suppose that they had never seen the prototypes in their lifetime, but yet correctly described them: then it might be said that their hallucinations II