Page:EB1911 - Volume 22.djvu/562

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546
PsYcHicAL RESEARCH


had merely been “ wired on ” from the brain of some living member of parliament who knew the deceased.

Thus telepathy cuts two ways. It is, if accepted, a singular it throws an enormous burden of proof on a

discovery, but

“ ghost ” who wants to establish his identity. In the same way telepathy cuts

events remote

at the root of “ clairvoyance, ” or lucid view of in space or distant in time. The vision may

have been “ wired on ” telepathically by a living person who knew the remote event. The “supra normal” can only be proved if the information conveyed by the hallucination is verified in the future, or is proved by the finding of documents not known to exist at the time of the hallucination, but afterwards discovered. A curious possible instance was the discovery in 18 56 of a MS. inventory of the jewels of Mary Stuart (1566), verifying in some degree a clairvoyant vision about the jewels published some years earlier (see “ Queen Mary's Jewels ” in the writer's Book of Dreams and Ghosts). For the same reasons the information nominally given by “ spirits ” of the dead through the mouth or by the automatic writing of Mrs Piper (Boston, U.S.) and other mediums may be explained by telepathy from the living who know the facts. This theory was rejected, for example, in the case of Mrs Piper, by Myers and Dr Richard Hodgson, who devoted much time to the examination of the lady (see Proceedings, vols. vi., viii., xiii., xiv., with criticisms by Mrs Sidgwick and the present writer in vol. xv. pt. xxxvi). In the late Dr Hodgson's opinion, the dead do communicate through the automatic writing or speaking of Mrs Piper. The published evidence (much is unpublished) does not seem to justify the conclusion, which is not accepted by Mrs Piper herself! Dr J. H. Hyslop has published enormous and minute reports on Mrs Piper, convincing to himself but not to most readers.

This leads us to the chief field of research in “ automatism's, ” or actions of the subconscious or “ subliminal ” self. The prototype of such things is found in the performances of natural somnambulists, who in all ages have seemed to exhibit faculties beyond their power when in a normal condition. The experiments of Mesmer, and of those who followed in his track, down to the psychologists of to-day, proved (what had long been known to savages and conjurers) that a state of somnambulism could be induced from without. Moreover, it is proved that certain persons can, as it were, hypnotize themselves, even unwittingly, and pass into trance. In these secondary conditions of trance, such persons are not only amenable to “suggestion, ” but occasionally evolve what are called secondary personalities: they speak in voices not their own, and exhibit traits of character not theirs, but in harmony with the impersonation. The popular, savage and ancient theory of these phenomena was that the people thus affected were inspired by a god or spirit, or “possessed ” by a demon or a dead man. Science now regards the gods or demons or spirits as mere exhibitions of the secondary personality, which wakens when the normal personality slumbers. The knowledge and faculties of the secondary personality, far exceeding those exhibited in the normal state, are explained to a great extent by the patient's command, when in the secondary state, of resources latent in the memory. The same explanation is offered for other phenomena, like those of automatic writing, knocking out answers by tilting tables, or discovering objects by aid of the "divining rod.” The muscular actions that tilt the table, or Wag the rod, or direct the pencil or planchette, are unconsciously made, and reveal the latent stores of subconscious knowledge, so that a man writes or knocks out information which he possessed, but did not suspect himself of possessing. These processes were familiar to the Neoplatonists, and in one form or other are practised by Chinese, Tibetans, Negroes, Malayans and Melanesians. A similar kind of automatism is revealed in the inspirations of genius, which often astonish the author or artist himself. An interesting example has been studied by Myers in the feats of arithmetic recorded about “calculating boys, ” who are usually unconscious of their methods. The whole of this vast field of the unconscious, or subconscious, or subliminal self has been especially examined by Myers, and by such psychologists as Ribot, Janet, Richet, Flournoy and many others. The general result is a normal explanation, not yet complete, of the phenomena hitherto attributed to witchcraft, inspiration, possession, and so forth. Probably the devils, saints, angels and spirits who have communicated with witches, living saints, demoniac and visionaries are mere hallucinatory reflections from the subconscious self, endowed with its store of latent memories and strangely acute percipient faculties. Thus a curious chapter of human history is at last within possible'reach of explanation. Men regard phenomena as “ supranorrnal ” or “ supernatural, ” or reject them altogether, till their modus is explained. But it would not be candid to say that the explanation is complete, or nearly complete. The nature of the hypnotic trance itself remains a matter of dispute. The knowledge automatically revealed can by no means always be accounted for, either by latent memory or by the sharpening of the normal faculties of perception, while the limits of telepathy (if it be accepted) are vaguely conjectured. Even the results of simple experiments in " crystal-gazing ” are often very perplexing. Further experiment may reveal some normal explanation, while scepticism (which seldom takes the trouble to examine the alleged facts with any care) can always repose on a theory of malobservation and imposture. These, of course, are verae causae, while in this, as in all provinces of human evidence, bad memories and unconscious errors distort the testimony. Psychical research encourages, or ought to encourage, the cool impartiality in examining, collecting and recording facts, which is usually absent, in greater or less degree, from the work even of eminent historians. Men of equal honesty and acuteness may believe or disbelieve in the innocence of Mary Queen of Scots, or in the “spirits” which control Mrs Piper. As to alleged “physical phenomena” of unknown cause, one, the power of passing without lesion with naked feet over fire, has recently been attested by numerous competent observers and experimenters in the ritual of Fijians and other South Sea Islanders, Japanese, Bulgarians, natives of southern India and other races. (The evidence has been collected by the present writer in Proceedings S.P. R. vol. xv. pt. xxxvi. pp. 2-r 5. Compare a case examined and explained more or less by S. P. Langley, Nature, August 22, Igor.) The much more famous tales of movements of objects untouched have been carefully examined, and perhaps in no instance have professional performers proved innocent of fraud. Yet the best known living medium, Eusapia Palladino, though exposed at Cambridge, has been rehabilitated, after later experiments, in the opinion of many distinguished Continental observers, who entirely disbelieve in the old theory, the action of “ spirits, ” and venture no other hypothesis.

The results of psychical research, after several years of work, are not really less than could be expected from toil in a field so difficult. The theory of alternating, or secondary, personalities is the key, as We have said, to a strange chapter in “ the history of human error.” The provisional hypothesis of telepathy puts a meaning into the innumerable tales of “ wraiths ” and of “ second sight.” It is never waste of time to investigate the area of human faculty; and practical results, in the medical treatment of abnormal intellectual conditions, have already been obtained. The conduct of our witch-burning ancestors now becomes intelligible, a step on the way to being pardonable. With their methods and inherited prejudices they could scarcely have reasoned otherwise than they did in certain cases of hysteria and autohypnotization. Many “ miracles ” of healing and of “ stigmatization ” become credible when verified in modern experience and explained by “ suggestion ”; though to “explain the explanation ” is a task for the future. Such as it is, the theory was accepted by St Francis de Sales in the case of St Theresa. Results of wider range and of more momentous interest may yet be obtained. The science of electrical phenomena was not developed in a quarter of a century, and it would be premature to ask more from psychical research than it has achieved in a short period. The subject is not readily capable