Esalen CTR HomePhantasms of the Living 

PHANTASMS OF THE LIVING.

{i-ii} {i-iii}

PHANTASMS OF THE LIVING

BY

EDMUND GURNEY, M.A.

LATE FELLOW OF TRINITY COLLEGE, CAMBRIDGE,

FREDERIC W. H. MYERS, M.A.

LATE FELLOW OF TRINITY COLLEGE, CAMBRIDGE,

AND

FRANK PODMORE, M.A.

VOLUME I.

LONDON:

ROOMS OF THE SOCIETY FOR PSYCHICAL RESEARCH,

14, Dean’s Yard, S.W.

TRÜBNER AND CO., LUDGATE HILL, E.C.

1886.

The right of translation and reproduction is reserved.

PLEASE CLICK HERE FIRST! NB: Javascript must be enabled to use the Table of Contents
and read notes and translations.

To close this box, click "Please click here first!" again. Contents This file (pl_ctr.html) contains the full text of Phantasms of the Living, by Edmund Gurney, Frederic W. H. Myers, and Frank Podmore. It is the unabridged two-volume set published in 1886—the second printing, with "Additions and Corrections"—professionally captured as digital text and internally hyperlinked. The only changes to the text are in the Table of Contents, which has been expanded to reflect the advantages of an electronic edition; the addition of internal links between the text and "Additions and Corrections"; the insertion of translations; and, in the case of characters missing on account of broken or uneven type, their unremarked insertion if they are present in the first printing. The file is nearly 5MB and may respond slowly on older machines. Browser Notes
  • If the table of contents does not remain fixed at the upper left of the main text when you move from the title page—if it is not visible now—consider updating your browser.
  • Internet Explorer 6 will misbehave if the browser window is not wide enough to accommodate certain tables in the text. If you are using IE6 and find you cannot scroll up or down, widen the browser window or make the font smaller.
  • Internet Explorer can be a little slow opening translations and footnotes.
  • Because the text is formatted using CSS (cascading style sheets), it may not display correctly in older or nonstandard browsers, including versions of Internet Explorer older than version 6.
  • The text uses javascript to reveal and hide translations and notes. If your browser gives a message like, "To help protect your security, Internet Explorer has restricted this file from showing active content that could access your computer. Click here for options . . ." please allow the javascript to run. (Of course, if you're reading this, you already have.)
Ancient Greek Characters The New Athena Unicode font (NEWATHU.TTF) will enable the proper presentation of the ancient Greek text in the book. Without it, some of the Greek characters may appear as boxes. The font can be downloaded free of charge from the University of California; installation instructions are there as well. Using Original Pagination The start of each page in the original volume is indicated in red, bracketed, italic characters like {ii-348}. To find a particular page in the original text, use your browser's "Find" function and enter the volume and page number—for example, i-81, i-264, ii-103, or ii-639. The links from the book's index also go to these markers. If a page break occurs in the original work at a hyphen in the middle of a word, it is marked in this text at the end of that word. Problems and Errors Please email a notice of any found problems to R. Rosenberg.
{i-iv}

*** In the later copies of this edition, a few mistakes which occurred in the earlier copies have been corrected, and some additions have been made. Of these, by far the most important is the record which appears on pp. lxxxi-iv of this Volume.

{i-v}

PREFACE.

A LARGE part of the material used in this book was sent to the authors as representatives of the Society for Psychical Research; and the book is published with the sanction of the Council of that Society.

The division of authorship has been as follows. As regards the writing and the views expressed,—Mr. Myers is solely responsible for the Introduction, and for the “Note on a Suggested Mode of Psychical Interaction,” which immediately precedes the Supplement; and Mr. Gurney is solely responsible for the remainder of the book. But the most difficult and important part of the undertaking—the collection, examination, and appraisal of evidence—has been a joint labour, of which Mr. Podmore has borne so considerable a share that his name could not have been omitted from the title-page.

In the free discussion and criticism which has accompanied the progress of the work, we have enjoyed the constant advice and assistance of Professor and Mrs. Sidgwick, to each of whom we owe more than can be expressed by any conventional phrases of obligation. Whatever errors of judgment or flaws in argument may remain, such blemishes are certainly fewer than they would have been but for this watchful and ever-ready help. Professor and Mrs. Sidgwick have also devoted some time and trouble, during vacations, {i-vi} to the practical work of interviewing informants and obtaining their personal testimony.

In the acknowledgment of our debts, special mention is due to Professor W. F. Barrett. He was to a great extent the pioneer of the movement which it is hoped that this book may carry forward; and the extent of his services in relation, especially, to the subject of experimental Thought-transference will sufficiently appear in the sequel. Mr. Malcolm Guthrie, Professor Oliver J. Lodge, and M. Charles Richet have been most welcome allies in the same branch of, the work. Professor Barrett and M. Richet have also supplied several of the non-experimental cases in our collection. Mr. F. Y. Edgeworth has rendered valuable assistance in points relating to the theory of probabilities, a subject on which he is a recognised authority. Among members of our own Society, our warmest thanks are due to Miss Porter, for her well-directed, patient, and energetic assistance in every department of the work; Mr. C. C. Massey has given us the benefit of his counsel; and Mrs. Walwyn, Mr. Hensleigh Wedgwood, the Rev. A. T. Fryer, of Clerkenwell, the Rev. J. A. Macdonald, of Rhyl, and Mr. Richard Hodgson, have aided us greatly in the collection of evidence. Many other helpers, in this and other countries, we must be content to include in a general expression of gratitude.

Further records of experience will be most welcome, and should be sent to the subjoined address.

14, Dean’s Yard, S. W.

June, 1886.

{i-vii}

SOCIETY FOR PSYCHICAL RESEARCH.

1886.

PRESIDENT.

PROFESSOR BALFOUR STEWART, F.R.S.

VICE-PRESIDENTS.

THE RIGHT HON. ARTHUR J. BALFOUR, M.P.

PROFESSOR W. F. BARRETT, F.R.S.E.

THE RIGHT REV. THE BISHOP OF CARLISLE.

JOHN R. HOLLOND, M.A.

RICHARD H. HUTTON, M.A., LL.D.

THE HON. RODEN NOEL.

LORD RAYLEIGH, M.A., F.R.S.

THE RIGHT REV. THE BISHOP OF RIPON.

PROFESSOR HENRY SIDGWICK Lit. D., D.C.L.

W. H. STONE, M.B.

HENSLEIGH WEDGWOOD, M.A.

HONORARY MEMBERS.

J. C. ADAMS, M.A., F.R.S.

WILLIAM CROOKES, F.R.S.

THE RIGHT HON. W. E. GLADSTONE, M.P.

JOHN RUSKIN, LL.D., D.C.L.

LORD TENNYSON.

ALFRED RUSSEL WALLACE, F.R.G.S,

G F. WATTS, R.A.

{i-viii}

CORRESPONDING MEMBERS.

H. BEAUNIS, Professeur de Physiologie à la Faculté de Médecine de Nancy.

DR. BERNHEIM, Professeur à la Faculté de Médecine de Nancy.

HENRY P. BOWDITCH, M.A., M.D., Professor of Physiology, Harvard University, U.S.A.

THEODORE BRUHNS, Simferopol, Russia.

NICHOLAS M. BUTLER, M.A., Ph.D., Acting Professor of Philosophy, Ethics, and Psychology, Columbia College, New York, U.S.A.

A. DOBROSLÁVIN, M.D., Professor of Hygiene in the Imperial Academy of Medicine, St. Petersburg.

THE CHEVALIER SEBASTIANO FENZI, Florence.

DR. C. FÉRÉ, Hôpital de la Salpêtrière, Paris.

GEORGE S. FULLERTON, M.A., B.D., Adjunct Professor of Philosophy, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, U.S.A.

GRENVILLE STANLEY HALL, M.A., Ph.D., Professor of Psychology and Pædagogics, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, U.S.A.

Dr. EDUARD VON HARTMANN, Berlin.

WILLIAM JAMES, M.D., Professor of Philosophy, Harvard University, U.S.A.

PIERRE JANET, Professeur agrégé de Philosophie au Lycée du Havre.

MAHÁDEVA VISHNU KÁNÉ, B.A., Bombay.

P. KOVALEVSKY, M.D., Professor of Psychiatry in the University of Kharkoff.

Dr. A. A. LIÉBEAULT, Nancy.

JULES LIÉGEOIS, Professeur à la Faculté de Droit de Nancy.

EDWARD C. PICKERING, M.A., S.B., Phillips Professor of Astronomy, and Director of the Observatory, Harvard University, U.S.A.

TH. RIBOT, Paris.

DR. CHARLES RICHET, Professeur agrégé à la Faculté de Médecine de Paris.

H. TAINE, Paris.

Dr. N. WAGNER, Professor of Zoology in the Imperial University, St. Petersburg.

THE REV. R. WHITTINGHAM, Pikesville, Maryland, U.S.A.

COUNCIL.

J. C. ADAMS, M.A., F.R.S., Lowndean Professor of Astronomy, Cambridge.

W. F. BARRETT, F.R.S.E., Professor of Physics, Royal College of Science, Dublin.

WALTER H. COFFIN.

EDMUND GURNEY, M.A.

RICHARD HODGSON, M.A.

OLIVER J. LODGE, D. Sc., Professor of Physics, University College, Liverpool.

{i-ix}

A. MACALISTER, M.D., F.R.S., Professor of Anatomy, Cambridge

FREDERIC W. H. MYERS, M.A.

FRANK PODMORE, M.A.

LORD RAYLEIGH, M.A., F.R.S.

C. LOCKHART ROBERTSON, M.D.

E. DAWSON ROGERS.

HENRY SIDGWICK, Lit. D., D.C.L., Knightbridge Professor of Moral Philosophy, Cambridge.

HENRY A. SMITH, M.A.

J. HERBERT STACK.

BALFOUR STEWART, F.R.S., Professor of Physics, The Owens College, Manchester.

J. J. THOMSON, M.A., Professor of Experimental Physics, Cambridge.

JAMES VENN, D.SC., F.R.S.

Hensleigh Wedgwood, M.A.

HONORARY TREASURER.

HENRY A. SMITH, 1, New Square, Lincoln’s Inn, W.C.

HONORARY SECRETARY.

EDMUND GURNEY, 14, Dean’s Yard, Westminster, S.W.

In addition to the above, the Society includes over 600 Members and Associates. The privileges and conditions of membership are thus defined in the Rules:—

Rule IV.—The Society shall consist of:—

(a) Members, who shall contribute not less than two guineas annually, or a single payment of twenty guineas, and who shall be entitled to hold any of the offices of the Society; to vote in the election of the Governing Council; to attend all meetings of the Society; to use its Reading Room and Library; to borrow books from its Library; and to the free receipt of any journal, transactions, or periodical publication which may be issued by the Council.

(b) Associates, who shall contribute not less than one guinea annually, or a single payment of ten guineas, and who shall be entitled to attend all meetings of the Society, except such as are convened for business purposes only; to use its Reading Room and Library; and to the free receipt of the ordinary published Proceedings of the Society, and of the monthly Journal.

{i-x}

Rule V.—All Members and Associates of the Society shall be elected by the Council. Every candidate for admission shall be proposed by two persons who are Members or Associates of the Society, or shall give such references as shall be approved by the Council.

Rule VI.—The subscription shall become due immediately on election, and afterwards in advance on the first day of January in each year. In the case of any Member or Associate elected on or after the 1st October, the subscription then paid shall be accepted as for the following year.

Ladies are eligible either as Members or Associates.

Members and Associates are entitled to purchase copies of all the periodical publications of the Society at half their published price.

The following note appears on the first page of the Society’s Constitution:—

“To prevent misconception, it is here expressly stated that Membership of this Society does not imply the acceptance of any particular explanation of the phenomena investigated, nor any belief as to the operation, in the physical world, of forces other than those recognised by physical science.”

Reports of investigation, or information relating to any branch of the Society’s work, should be addressed to the Hon. Secretary, 14, Dean’s Yard, Westminster, S.W.; letters of inquiry, or applications for Membership, should be addressed to the Assistant-Secretary at the same address.

The Proceedings of the Society (of which ten parts have been published—the first nine making three bound volumes) may be obtained from all booksellers through Messrs. Trübner and Co., Ludgate Hill, London, E.C.; or on direct application to the Assistant-Secretary, 14, Dean’s Yard, Westminster S.W.

{i-xi}

SYNOPSIS OF VOLUME I.

INTRODUCTION.

I.

§ 1. The title of this book embraces all transmissions of thought and feeling from one person to another, by other means than through the recognised channels of sense; and among these cases we shall include apparitions . . xxxv–xxxvi

§ 2. We conceive that the problems here attacked lie in the main track of science . . xxxvi

§ 3. The Society for Psychical Research merely aims at the free and exact discussion of the one remaining group of subjects to which such discussion is still refused. Reasons for such refusal . . xxxvi–xxxix

§ 4. Reasons, on the other hand, for the prosecution of our inquiries may be drawn from the present condition of several contiguous studies. Reasons drawn from the advance of biology . . xxxix–xli

§ 5. Specimens of problems which biology suggests, and on which inquiries like ours may ultimately throw light. Wundt’s view of the origination of psychical energy . . xli–xlii

§ 6. The problems of hypnotism . . xlii–xliii

§ 7. Hope of aid from the progress of “psycho-physical” inquiries . . xliii–xliv

§ 8. Reasons for psychical research drawn from the lacunæ of anthropology . . xliv–xlv

§ 9. Reasons drawn from the study of history, and especially of the comparative history of religions. Instance from the S.P.R.’s investigation of so-called “Theosophy” . . xlvi–xlviii

§ 10. In considering the relation of our studies to religion generally, we observe that, since they oblige us to conceive the psychical element in man as having relations which cannot be expressed in terms {i-xii} of matter, a possibility is suggested of obtaining scientific evidence of a supersensory relation between man’s mind and a mind or minds above his own . . xlviii–li

§ 11. While, on the other hand, if our evidence to recent supernormal occurrences be discredited, a retrospective improbability will be thrown on much of the content of religious tradition . . li–liv

§ 12. Furthermore, in the region of ethical and æsthetic emotion, telepathy indicates a possible scientific basis for much to which men now cling without definite justification . . liv–lvii

13.[sic] Investigations such as ours are important, moreover, for the purpose of checking error and fraud, as well as of eliciting truth . . lvii–lix

II.

§ 14. Place of the present book in the field of psychical research. Indications of experimental thought-transference in the normal state. 1876–1882 . . lx

§ 15. Foundation of the Society for Psychical Research, 1882. Telepathy selected as our first subject for detailed treatment on account of the mass of evidence for it received by us . . lxi

§ 16. There is also a theoretic fitness in treating of the direct action of mind upon mind before dealing with other supernormal phenomena . . lxii–lxiii

§ 17. Reasons for classing apparitions occurring about the moment of death as phantoms of the living, rather than of the dead . . lxiii–lxv

§ 18. This book, then, claims to show (1) that experimental telepathy exists, and (2) that apparitions at death, &c., are a result of something beyond chance; whence it follows (3) that these experimental and these spontaneous cases of the action of mind on mind are in some way allied . . lxv–lxvii

§ 18.[sic] As to the nature and degree of this alliance different views may be taken, and in a “Note on a Suggested Mode of Psychical Interaction,” in Vol. II., a theory somewhat different from Mr. Gurney’s is set forth . . lxvii–lxix

§ 20. This book, however, consists much more largely of evidence than of theories. This evidence has been almost entirely collected by ourselves . . lxix–lxx

{i-xiii}

§ 21. Inquiries like these, though they may appear at first to degrade great truths or solemn conceptions, are likely to end by exalting and affirming them . . lxx–lxxi

Additions and Corrections . . lxxiii–lxxxiv

CHAPTER I.

PRELIMINARY REMARKS: GROUNDS OF CAUTION.

§ 1. The great test of scientific achievement is often held to be the power to predict natural phenomena; but the test, though an authoritative one in the sciences of inorganic nature, has but a limited application to the sciences that deal with life, and especially to the department of mental phenomena . . 1–3

§ 2. In dealing with the implications of life and the developments of human faculty, caution needs to be exercised in two directions. The scientist is in danger of forgetting the unstable and unmechanical nature of the material, and of closing the door too dogmatically on phenomena whose relations with established knowledge he cannot trace; while others take advantage of the fact that the limits of possibility cannot here be scientifically stated, to gratify an uncritical taste for marvels, and to invest their own hasty assumptions with the dignity of laws . . 3–5

§ 3. This state of things subjects the study of “psychical” phenomena to peculiar disadvantages, and imposes on the student peculiar obligations . . 5–6

§ 4. And this should be well recognised by those who advance a conception so new to psychological science as the central conception of this book—to wit, Telepathy, or the ability of one mind to impress or to be impressed by another mind otherwise than through the recognised channels of sense. (Of the two persons concerned, the one whose mind impresses the other will be called the agent, and the one whose mind is impressed the percipient) . . 6–7

§ 5. Telepathy will be here studied chiefly as a system of facts, theoretical discussion being subordinated to the presentation of evidence. The evidence will be of two sorts—spontaneous occurrences, and the results of direct experiment; which latter will have to be carefully distinguished from spurious “thought-reading” exhibitions . . 7–9

{i-xiv}

CHAPTER II.

THE EXPERIMENTAL BASIS: THOUGHT-TRANSFERENCE.

§ 1. The term thought-transference has been adopted in preference to thought-reading, the latter term (1) having become identified with exhibitions of muscle-reading, and (2) suggesting a power of reading a person’s thoughts against his will . . 10–11

§ 2. The phenomena of thought-transference first attracted the attention of competent witnesses in connection with “mesmerism,” and were regarded as one of the peculiarities of the mesmeric rapport; which was most prejudicial to their chance of scientific acceptance . . 11–13

§ 3. Hints of thought-transference between persons in a normal state were obtained by Professor Barrett in 1876; and just at that time the attention of others had been attracted to certain phenomena of the “willing-game,” which were not easily explicable (as almost all the so-called “willing” and “thought-reading” exhibitions are) by unconscious muscular guidance. But the issue could never be definitely decided by cases where the two persons concerned were in any sort of contact . . 13–17

§ 4. And even where contact is excluded, other possibilities of unconscious guidance must be taken into account; as also must the possibility of conscious collusion. Anyone who is unable to obtain conviction as to the bona fides of experiments by himself acting as agent or percipient (and so being himself one of the persons who would have to take part in the trick, if trick it were), may fairly demand that the responsibility for the results shall be spread over a considerable group of persons—a group so large that he shall find it impossible to extend to all of them the hypothesis of deceit (or of such imbecility as would take the place of deceit) which he might apply to a smaller number . . 17–20

§ 5. Experiments with the Creery family; earlier trials . . 21–22

More conclusive experiments, in which knowledge of what was to be transferred (usually the idea of a particular card, name, or number) was confined to the members of the investigating committee who acted as agents; with a table of results, and an estimate of probabilities . . 22–26

In many cases reckoned as failures there was a degree of approximate success which was very significant . . 27–28

The form of the impression in the percipient’s mind seems to have been sometimes visual and sometimes auditory . . 28–29

§ 6. Reasons why these experiments were not accessible to a larger {i-xv} number of observers; the chief reason being the gradual decline of the percipient faculty . . 29–31

§ 7. In a course of experiments of the same sort conducted by M. Charles Richet, in France, the would-be percipients were apparently not persons of any special susceptibility; but a sufficient number of trials were made for the excess of the total of successes over the total most probable if chance alone acted to be decidedly striking . . 31–33

The pursuit of this line of inquiry on a large scale in England has produced results which involve a practical certainty that some cause other than chance has acted . . 33–35

§ 8. Experiments in the reproduction of diagrams and rough drawings. In a long series conducted by Mr. Malcolm Guthrie, two percipients and a considerable number of agents were employed . . 35–38

Specimens of the results . . 39–48

§ 9. Professor Oliver J. Lodge’s experiments with Mr. Guthrie’s “subjects,” and his remarks thereon . . 49–51

§ 10. Experiments in the transference of elementary sensations—tastes, smells, and pains . . 51–58

§ 11. A different department of experiment is that where the transference does not take effect in the percipient’s consciousness, but is exhibited in his motor system, either automatically or semi-automatically. Experiments in the inhibition of utterance . . 58–62

§ 12. The most conclusive cases of transference of ideas which, nevertheless, do not affect the percipient’s consciousness are those where the idea is reproduced by the percipient in writing, without his being aware of what he has written. Details of a long series of trials carried out by the Rev. P. H. and Mrs. Newnham . . 62–69

The intelligence which acted on the percipient’s side in these experiments was in a sense an unconscious intelligence—a term which needs careful definition . . 69–70

§ 13. M. Richet has introduced an ingenious method for utilising what he calls “mediumship”—i.e., the liability to exhibit intelligent movements in which consciousness and will take no part—for purposes of telepathic experiment. By this method it has been clearly shown that a word on which the agent concentrates his attention may be unconsciously reproduced by the percipient . . 71–77

And even that a word which has only an unconscious place in the agent’s mind may be similarly transferred . . 77–79

{i-xvi}

These phenomena seem to involve a certain impulsive quality in the transference . . 79–80

§ 14. Apart from serious and systematic investigation, interesting results are sometimes obtained in a more casual way, of which some specimens are given. It is much to be wished that more persons would make experiments, under conditions which preclude the possibility of unconscious guidance. At present we are greatly in the dark as to the proportion of people in whom the specific faculty exists . . 81–85

CHAPTER III.

THE TRANSITION FROM EXPERIMENTAL TO SPONTANEOUS TELEPATHY.

§ 1. There is a certain class of cases in which, though they are experiments on the agent’s part, and involve his conscious concentration of mind with a view to the result, the percipient is not consciously or voluntarily a party to the experiment. Such cases may be called transitional. In them the distance between the two persons concerned is often considerable . . 86–87

§ 2. Spurious examples of the sort are often adduced; and especially in connection with mesmerism, results are often attributed to the operator’s will, which are really due to some previous command or suggestion. Still, examples are not lacking of the induction of the hypnotic trance in a “subject” at a distance, by the deliberate exercise of volition . . 87–89

§ 3. Illustrations of the induction or inhibition of definite actions by the agent’s volition, directed towards a person who is unaware of his intent . . 89–91

The relation of the will to telepathic experiments is liable to be misunderstood. The idea, which we encounter in romances, that one person may acquire and exercise at a distance a dangerous dominance over another’s actions, seems quite unsupported by evidence. An extreme example of what may really occur is given . . 92–94

§ 4. Illustrations of the induction of definite ideas by the agent’s volition . . 94–96

§ 5. The transference of an idea, deliberately fixed on by the agent, to an unprepared percipient at a distance, would be hard to establish, since ideas whose origin escapes us are so constantly suggesting themselves spontaneously. Still, telepathic action may possibly extend considerably beyond the well-marked cases on which the proof of it must depend . . 96–97

{i-xvii}

§ 6. Illustrations of the induction of sensations by the agent’s volition . . 97–99

§ 7. And especially of sensations of sight . . 99–102

§ 8. The best-attested examples being hallucinations representing the figure of the agent himself . . 102–110

§ 9. Such cases present a marked departure from the ordinary type of experimental thought-transference, inasmuch as what the percipient perceives (the agent’s form) is not the reproduction of that with which the agent’s mind has been occupied; and this seems to preclude any simple physical conception of the transference, as due to “brain-waves,” sympathetic vibrations, &c. A similar difficulty meets us later in most of the spontaneous cases; and the rapprochement of experimental and spontaneous telepathy must be understood to be limited to their psychical aspect—a limitation which can be easily defended . . 110–113

CHAPTER IV.

GENERAL CRITICISM OF THE EVIDENCE FOR SPONTANEOUS TELEPATHY.

§ 1. When we pass to spontaneous exhibitions of telepathy, the nature of the evidence changes; for the events are described by persons who played their part in them unawares, without any idea that they were matter for scientific observation. The method of inquiry will now have to be the historical method, and will involve difficult questions as to the judgment of human testimony, and a complex estimate of probabilities . . 114–115

§ 2. The most general objection to evidence for phenomena transcending the recognised scope of science is that, in a thickly populated world where mal-observation and exaggeration are easy and common, there is (within certain limits) no marvel for which evidence of a sort may not be obtained. This objection is often enforced by reference to the superstition of witchcraft, which in quite modern times was supported by a large array of contemporary evidence . . 115–116 .

But when this instance is carefully examined, we find (1) that the direct testimony came exclusively from the uneducated class; and (2) that, owing to the ignorance which, in the witch-epoch, was universal as to the psychology of various abnormal and morbid states, the hypothesis of unconscious self-deception on the part of the witnesses was never allowed for . . 116–117

{i-xviii}

Our present knowledge of hypnotism, hysteria, and hystero-epilepsy, enables us to account for many of the phenomena attributed to demonic possession, as neither fact nor fraud, but as bonâ fide hallucinations . . 117–118

While for the more bizarre and incredible marvels there is absolutely no direct, first-hand, independent testimony . . 118

The better-attested cases are just those which, if genuine, might be explained as telepathic; but the evidence for them is not strong enough to support any definite conclusion . . 119

§ 3. The evidence for telepathy in the present work presents a complete contrast to that which has supported the belief in magical occurrences. It comes for the most part from educated persons, who were not predisposed to admit the reality of the phenomena; while the phenomena themselves are not strongly associated with any prevalent beliefs or habits of thought, differing in this respect, e.g., from alleged apparitions of the dead. Still we must not, on such grounds as these, assume that the evidence is trustworthy . . 120–122

§ 4. The errors which may affect it are of various sorts. Error of observation may result in a mistake of identity. Thus a stranger in the street may be mistaken for a friend, who turns out to have died at that time, and whose phantasm is therefore asserted to have appeared. But it is only to a very small minority of the cases which follow that such a hypothesis could possibly be applied . . 123–125

Error of inference is not a prominent danger; as what concerns the telepathic evidence is simply what the percipient seemed to himself to see or hear, not what he inferred therefrom . . 125–126

§ 5. Of more importance are errors of narration, due to the tendency to make an account edifying, or graphic, or startling. In first-hand testimony this tendency may be to some extent counterbalanced by the desire to be believed; which has less influence in cases where the narrator is not personally responsible, as, e.g., in the spurious and sensational anecdotes of anonymous newspaper paragraphs, or of dinner-table gossip . . 126–129

§ 6. Errors of memory are more insidious. If the witness regards the facts in a particular speculative or emotional light, facts will be apt, in memory, to accommodate themselves to this view, and details will get introduced or dropped out in such a manner as to aid the harmonious effect. Even apart from any special bias, the mere effort to make definite what has become dim may fill in the picture with wrong detail; or the tendency to lighten the burden of retention may invest the whole occurrence with a spurious trenchancy and simplicity of form . . 129–131

{i-xix}

§ 7. We have to consider how these various sources of error may affect the evidence for a case of spontaneous telepathy. Such a case presents a coincidence of a particular kind, with four main points to look to:—(1) A particular state of the agent, e.g., the crisis of death; (2) a particular experience of the percipient, e.g., the impression of seeing the agent before him in visible form; (3) the date of (1); (4) the date of (2) . . 131–132

§ 8. The risk of mistake as to the state of the agent is seldom appreciable: his death, for instance, if that is what has befallen him, can usually be proved beyond dispute . . 132

For the experience of the percipient, on the other hand, we have generally nothing but his own word to depend on. But for what is required, his word is often sufficient. For the evidential point is simply his statement that he has had an impression or sensation of a peculiar kind, which, if he had it, he knew that he had; and this point is quite independent of his interpretation of his experience, which may easily be erroneous, e.g., if he attributes objective reality to what was really a hallucination . . 133–134

The risk of misrepresentation is smallest if his description of his experience, or a distinct course of action due to his experience, has preceded his knowledge of what has happened to the agent . . 134–136

§ 9. Where his description of his experience dates from a time subsequent to his knowledge of what has happened to the agent, there is a possibility that this knowledge may have made the experience seem more striking and distinctive than it really was. Still, we have not detected definite instances of this sort of inaccuracy. Nor would the fact (often expressly stated by the witness) that the experience did not at the time of its occurrence suggest the agent, by any means destroy—though it would of course weaken—the presumption that it was telepathic . . 136–138

§ 10. As regards the interval of time which may separate the two events or experiences on the agent’s and the percipient’s side respectively, an arbitrary limit of 12 hours has been adopted—the coincidence in most cases being very much closer than this; but no case will be presented as telepathic where the percipient’s experience preceded, by however short a time, some grave event occurring to the agent, if at the time of the percipient’s experience the state of the agent was normal . . 138–140

§ 11. It is in the matter of the dates that the risk of mis-statement is greatest. The instinct towards simplification and dramatic completeness naturally tends to make the coincidence more exact than the facts warrant . . 140–142.

{i-xx}

§ 12. The date of the event that has befallen the agent is often included in the news of that event; which news, in these days of posts and telegraphs, often follows close enough on the percipient’s experience for the date of that experience to be then safely recalled . . 142 -144

§ 13. But if a longer interval elapse, the percipient may assume too readily that his own experience fell on the critical day; and as time goes on, his certainty is likely to increase rather than diminish. Still, if the coincidence was then and there noted, and if the attention of others was called to it, it may be possible to present a tolerably strong case for its reality, even after the lapse of a considerable time . . 144–146

§ 14. These various evidential conditions may be arranged in a graduated scheme . . 146–148

§ 15. Second-hand evidence (except of one special type) is excluded from the body of the work; but the Supplement contains a certain number of second-hand cases, received from persons who were well acquainted with the original witnesses, and who had had the opportunity of becoming thoroughly acquainted with their statement of the facts . . 148–149

In transmitted evidence all the risks of error are greatly intensified, there being no deeply-graven sense of reality to act as a check on exaggeration or invention. Some instances are given of the breaking-down of alleged evidence under critical examination . . 149–154

A frequent sort of inaccuracy in transmitted evidence is the shortening of the chain of transmission—second or third-hand information being represented as first-hand; and the alleged coincidence is almost always suspiciously exact . . 154–157

§ 16. A certain separation of cases according to their evidential value has been attempted, the body of the work being reserved for those where the primâ facie probability that the essential facts are correctly stated is tolerably strong. But even where the facts are correctly reported, their force in the argument for telepathy will differ according to the class to which they belong; purely emotional impressions, for instance, and dreams, are very weak classes . . 158

The value of the several items of evidence is also largely affected by the mental qualities and training of the witnesses. Every case must be judged on its own merits, by reference to a variety of points; and those who study the records will have an equal opportunity of forming a judgment with those who have collected them—except in the matter of {i-xxi} personal acquaintance with the witnesses, the effect of which it is impossible to communicate . . 159–161

§ 17. An all-important point is the number of the coincidences adduced. A few might be accounted accidental; but it will be impossible to apply that hypothesis throughout. Nor can the evidence be swept out of court by a mere general appeal to the untrustworthiness of human testimony. If it is to be explained away, it must be met (as we have ourselves endeavoured to meet it) in detail; and this necessitates the confronting of the single cause, telepathy, (whose à priori improbability is fully admitted,) with a multitude of causes, more or less improbable, and in cumulation incredible . . 161–164

§ 18. With all their differences, the cases recorded bear strong signs of belonging to a true natural group; and their harmony, alike in what they do and in what they do not present, is very unlikely to be the accidental result of a multitude of disconnected mistakes. And it is noteworthy that certain sensational and suspicious details, here conspicuous by their absence, which often make their way into remote or badly-evidenced cases, are precisely those which the telepathic hypothesis would not cover . . 164–166

§ 19. But though some may regard the cumulative argument here put forward for spontaneous telepathy as amounting to a proof, the proof is not by any means of an éclatant overwhelming sort: much of the evidence falls far short of the ideal standard. Still, enough has perhaps been done to justify our undertaking, and to broaden the basis of future inquiry . . 166–169

§ 20. The various items of evidence are, of course, not the links in a chain, but the sticks in a faggot. It is impossible to lay down the precise number of sticks necessary to a perfectly solid faggot; but the present collection is at least an instalment of what is required . . 169–170

§ 21. The instinct as to the amount of evidence needed may differ greatly in a mind which has, and a mind which has not, realised the facts of experimental telepathy (Chap. ii.), and the intimate relation of that branch to the spontaneous branch. Between the two branches, in spite of their difference—a difference as great in appearance as that between lightning and the electrical attraction of rubbed amber for bits of straw—the great psychological fact of a supersensuous influence of mind on mind constitutes a true generic bond . . 171–172

{i-xxii}

NOTE ON WITCHCRAFT.

The statement made in Chapter iv. as to the lack of first-hand evidence for the phenomena of magic and witchcraft (except so far as they can be completely accounted for by modern psychological knowledge) may seem a sweeping one. But extensive as is the literature of the subject, the actual records are extraordinarily meagre; and the staple prodigies, which were really nothing more than popular legends, are quoted and re-quoted ad nauseam. Examples of the so-called evidence which supported the belief in lycanthropy, and in the nocturnal rides and orgies . . 172–175

The case of witchcraft, so far from proving (as is sometimes represented) that a more or less imposing array of evidence will be forthcoming for any belief that does not distinctly fly in the face of average public opinion, goes, in fact, rather surprisingly far towards proving the contrary . . 176–177

This view of the subject is completely opposed to that of Mr. Lecky, whose treatment seems to suffer from the neglect of two important distinctions. He does not distinguish between evidence—of which, in respect of the more bizarre marvels, there was next to none; and authority—of which there was abundance, from Homer downwards. Nor does he discriminate the wholly incredible allegations (e.g., as to transportations through the air and transformations into animal forms) from the pathological phenomena, which in the eyes of contemporaries were equally supernatural, and for which, as might be expected, the direct evidence was abundant . . 177–179

A most important class of these pathological phenomena were subjective hallucinations of the senses, often due to terror or excitement, and some times probably to hypnotic suggestion, but almost invariably attributed to the direct operation of the devil. Other phenomena—of insensibility, inhibition of utterance, abnormal rapport, and the influence of reputed witches on health—were almost certainly hypnotic in character; “possession” is often simply hystero-epilepsy; while much may be accounted for by mere hysteria, or by the same sort of faith as produces the modern “mind-cures” . . 179–183

Learned opinion on the subject of witchcraft went through curious vicissitudes; the recession to a rational standpoint, which in many ways was of course a sceptical movement, being complicated by the fact that many of the phenomena were too genuine to be doubted. Now that the separation is complete, we see that the exploded part of witchcraft never had any real evidential foundation; while the part which had a real evidential foundation has been taken up into orthodox physiological and psychological science. With the former part we might contrast, and with the latter compare, the evidential case for telepathy . . 183–185

{i-xxiii}

CHAPTER V.

SPECIMENS OF THE VARIOUS TYPES OF SPONTANEOUS TELEPATHY.

§ 1. As the study of any large amount of the evidence that follows is a task for which many readers will be disinclined, a selection of typical cases will be presented in this chapter, illustrative of the various classes into which the phenomena fall . . 186–187

§ 2. The logical starting-point is found in the class that presents most analogy to experimental thought-transference—i.e., where the percipient’s impression is not externalised as part of the objective world. An example is given of the transference of pain, and a possible example of the transference of smell; but among the phenomena of spontaneous telepathy, such literal reproductions of the agent’s bodily sensation are very exceptional . . 187–191

§ 3. Examples of the transference of a somewhat abstract idea; of a pictorial image; and of an emotional impression, involving some degree of physical discomfort . . 191–198

§ 4. Examples of dreams,—a class which needs to be treated with the greatest caution, owing to the indefinite scope which it affords for accidental coincidences. One of the examples (No. 23) presents the feature of deferment of percipience—the telepathic impression having apparently failed at first to reach the threshold of attention, and emerging into consciousness some hours after the experience on the agent’s side in which it had its origin . . 198–203

§ 5. Examples of the “borderland” class—a convenient name by which to describe cases that belong to a condition neither of sleep nor of provably complete waking consciousness; but it is probable that in many of the cases so described (as in No. 26), the percipient, though in bed, was quite normally awake . . 203–208

§ 6. Examples of externalised impressions of sight, occurring in the midst of ordinary waking life. In some of these we find an indication that a close personal rapport between the agent and percipient is not a necessary condition of the telepathic transference; and another is peculiar in that the phantasmal figure is not recognised by the percipient . . 208–221

§ 7. Examples of externalised impressions of hearing; one of which was of a recognised voice, and one of an inarticulate shriek . . 221–224

§ 8. Example of an impression of touch; which is also, perhaps, an {i-xxiv} example of the reciprocal class, where each of the persons concerned seems to exercise a telepathic influence on the other . . 225–227

§ 9. Example of the collective class, where more percipients than one take part in a single telepathic incident . . 227–229

§ 10. Among the various conditions of telepathic agency, the death-cases form by far the commonest type. Now in these cases it is not rare for the agent to be comatose and unconscious; in other cases, again, he has been in a swoon or a deep sleep; and there is a difficulty in understanding an abnormal exercise of psychical energy at such seasons. The explanation may possibly be found in the idea of a wider consciousness, and a more complete self, which finds in what we call life very imperfect conditions of manifestation, and recognises in death not a cessation but a liberation of energy . . 229–231

CHAPTER VI.

TRANSFERENCE OF IDEAS AND MENTAL PICTURES.

§ 1. The popular belief in the transference of thought, without physical signs, between friends and members of the same household, is often held on quite insufficient grounds; allowance not being made for the similarity of associations, and for the slightness of the signs which may be half-automatically interpreted . . 232–233

It often happens, for instance, that one person in a room begins humming a tune which is running in another’s head; but it is only very exceptionally that such a coincidence can be held to imply a psychical transference. Occasionally the idea transferred is closely connected with the auditory image of a word or phrase . . 234–236

§ 2. Examples of the transference of ideas and images of a simple or rudimentary sort . . 236–240

§ 3. Examples of the transference of more complex ideas, representing definite events; and of the occurrence of several such “veridical” impressions to the same percipients . . 241–251

§ 4. Cases where the idea impressed on the percipient has been simply that of the agent’s approach—a type which must be accepted with great caution, as numerous coincidences of the sort are sure to occur by pure accident . . 251–254

{i-xxv}

§ 5. Transferences of mental images of concrete objects and scenes with which the agent’s attention is occupied at the time . . 254–566

Some of these impressions are so detailed and vivid as to suggest clairvoyance; nor is there any objection to that term, so long as we recognise the difference between such telepathic clairvoyance, and any supposed independent extension of the percipient’s senses . . 266–268

Occasionally the percipient seems to obtain the true impression, not by passive reception, but by a deliberate effort . . 268

CHAPTER VII.

EMOTIONAL AND MOTOR EFFECTS.

§ 1. Emotional impressions, alleged to have coincided with some calamitous event at a distance, form a very dubious class, as (1) in retrospect, after the calamity is realised, they are apt to assume a strength and defniteness which they did not really possess; and (2) similar impressions may be common in the soi-disant percipient’s experience, and he may have omitted to remark or record the misses—the many instances which have not corresponded with any real event. All cases must, of course, be rejected where there has been any appreciable ground for anxiety . . 269–270

§ 2. Examples which may perhaps have been telepathic; some of which include a sense of physical distress . . 270–279

§ 3. Examples of such transferences between twins . . 279–283

§ 4. Examples where the primary element in the impression is a sense of being wanted, and an impulse to movement or action of a sort unlikely to have suggested itself in the ordinary course of things . . 283–292

The telepathic influence in such cases must be interpreted as emotional, not as definitely directing, and still less as abrogating, the percipient’s power of choice: the movements produced may be such as the agent cannot have desired, or even thought of . . 292–294

CHAPTER VIII.

DREAMS.

PART I.—THE RELATION OF DREAMS TO THE ARGUMENT FOR TELEPATHY.

§ 1. Dreams comprise the whole range of transition from ideal and emotional to sensory affections; and at every step of the transition we find instances which may reasonably be regarded as telepathic . . 295–296

{i-xxvi}

The great interest of the distinctly sensory specimens lies in the fundamental resemblance which they offer, and the transition which they form, to the externalised “phantasms of the living” which impress waking percipients; the difference being that the dream-percepts are recognised, on reflection, as having been hallucinatory, and unrelated to that part of the external world where the percipient’s body is; while the waking phantasmal percepts are apt to be regarded as objective phenomena, which really impressed the eye or the ear from outside . . 296–297

§ 2. But when we examine dreams in respect of their evidential value—of the proof which they are capable of affording of a telepathic correspondence with the reality—we find ourselves on doubtful ground. For (1) the details of the reality, when known, will be very apt to be read back into the dream, through the general tendency to make vague things distinct; and (2) the great multitude of dreams may seem to afford almost limitless scope for accidental correspondences of a dream with an actual occurrence resembling the one dreamt of. Any answer to this last objection must depend on statistics which, until lately, there has been no attempt to obtain; and though an answer of a sort can be given, it is not such a one as would justify us in basing a theory of telepathy on the facts of dreams alone . . 298–300

§ 3. Most of the dreams selected for this work were exceptional in intensity; and produced marked distress, or were described, or were in some way acted on, before the news of the correspondent experience was known. In content, too, they were mostly of a distinct and unusual kind; while some of them present a considerable amount of true detail . . 300–302

And more than half of those selected on the above grounds are dreams of death—a fact easy to account for on the hypothesis of telepathy, and difficult to account for on the hypothesis of accident . . 303

§ 4. Dreams so definite in content as dreams of death afford an opportunity of ascertaining what their actual frequency is, and so of estimating whether the specimens which have coincided with reality are or are not more numerous than chance would fairly allow. With a view to such an estimate, a specimen group of 5360 persons, taken at random, have been asked as to their personal experiences; and, according to the result, the persons who have had a vividly distressful dream of the death of a relative or acquaintance, within the 12 years 1874–1885, amount to about 1 in 26 of the population. Taking this datum, it is shown that the number of coincidences of the sort in question that, according to the law of chances, ought to have occurred in the 12 years, among a section of the population even larger than that from which we can suppose our telepathic evidence {i-xxvii} to be drawn, is only 1. Now, (taking account only of cases where nothing had occurred to suggest the dream in a normal way,) we have encountered 24 such coincidences—i.e., a number 24 times as large as would have been expected on the hypothesis that the coincidence is due to chance alone . . 303–307

Certain objections that might be taken to this estimate are to a considerable extent met by the precautions that have been used . . 308–310

§ 5. The same sort of argument may be cautiously applied to cases where the event exhibited in the coincident dream is not, like death, unique, and where, therefore, the basis for an arithmetical estimate is unattainable . . 311–312

But many more specimens of a high evidential rank are needed, before dreams can rank as a strong integral portion of the argument for telepathy. Meanwhile, it is only fair to regard them in connection with the stronger evidence of the waking phenomena; since in respect of many of them an explanation that is admitted in the waking cases cannot reasonably be rejected . . 312–313

PART. II.—EXAMPLES OF DREAMS WHICH MAY BE REASONABLY REGARDED AS TELEPATHIC.

§ 1. Examples of similar and simultaneous dreams . . 313–318

An experience which has coincided with some external fact or condition may be described as a dream, and yet be sufficiently exceptional in character to preclude an application of the theory of chances based on the limitless number of dreams . . 318–320

§ 2. Examples of the reproduction, in the percipient’s dream, of a special thought of the agent’s, who is at the time awake and in a normal state . . 320–322

§ 3. Examples of a similar reproduction where the agent is in a disturbed state . . 322–329

§ 4. Cases where the agent’s personality appears in the dream, but not in a specially pictorial way. Inadmissibility of dreams that occur at times of anxiety, of dreams of trivial accidents to children, and the like . . 329–337

§ 5. Cases where the reality which the eyes of the agent are actually {i-xxviii} beholding is pictorially represented in the dream. Reasons why the majority of alleged instances must be rejected . . 337–340

The appearance in the dream of the agent’s own figure, which is not presumably occupying his own thoughts, suggests an independent development, by the percipient, of the impression that he receives . . 340–341

§ 6. The familiar ways in which dreams are shaped make it easy to understand how a dreamer might supply his own setting and imagery to a “transferred impression.” Examples where the elements thus introduced are few and simple . . 341–356

§ 7. Examples of more complex investiture, and especially of imagery suggestive of death. Importance of the feature of repetition in some of the examples . . 357–368

§ 8. Examples of dreams which may be described as clairvoyant, but which still must be held to imply some sort of telepathic “agency”; since the percipient does not see any scene, but the particular scene with some actor in which he is connected . . 368–388

CHAPTER IX.

“BORDERLAND” CASES.

§ 1. The transition-states between sleeping and waking—or, more generally, the seasons when a person is in bed, but not asleep—seem to be specially favourable to subjective hallucinations of the senses; of which some are known as illusions hypnagogiques; others are the prolongations of dream-images into waking moments; and some belong to neither of these classes, though experienced in the moments or minutes that precede or follow sleep . . 389–393

§ 2. It is not surprising that the same seasons should be favourable also to the hallucinations which, as connected with conditions external to the percipient, we should describe, not as subjective, but as telepathic . . 393

As evidence for telepathy, impressions of this “borderland” type stand on an altogether different footing from dreams; since their incalculably smaller number supplies an incalculably smaller field for the operation of chance . . 393–394

Very great injustice is done to the telepathic argument by confounding such impressions with dreams; as where Lord Brougham explains away the coincidence of a unique “borderland” experience of his own with the death of the friend whose form he saw, on the ground that the {i-xxix} “vast numbers of dreams” give any amount of scope for such “seeming miracles” . . 394–397

§ 3. Examples where the impression was not of a sensory sort . . 397–400

§ 4. Example of an apparently telepathic illusion hypnagogique . . 400–402

§ 5. Auditory examples. Cases where the sound heard was not articulate . . 402–405

Cases where distinct words were heard . . 406–413

§ 6. Visual examples: of which two (Nos. 159 and 160) illustrate the feature of repetition; another (No. 168) that of the appearance of more than one figure; and two others (Nos. 170 and 171) that of mis-recognition on the percipient’s part . . 414–434

§ 7. Cases where the sense of touch was combined with that of sight or hearing. One case (No. 178) presents the important feature of marked luminosity . . 434–441

§ 8. Cases affecting the two senses of sight and hearing. One case (No. 189) presents the feature of non-recognition on the percipient’s part . . 441–456

CHAPTER X.

HALLUCINATIONS: GENERAL SKETCH.

§ 1. Telepathic phantasms of the externalised sort are a species belonging to the larger genus of hallucinations; and the genus requires some preliminary discussion . . 457

Hallucinations of the senses are distinguished from other hallucinations by the fact that they do not necessarily imply false belief . . 458

They may be defined as percepts which lack, but which can only by distinct reflection be recognised as lacking, the objective basis which they suggest; a definition which marks them off on the one hand from true perceptions, and on the other hand from remembered images or mental pictures . . 459–460

§ 2. The old method of defining the ideational and the sensory elements in the phenomena was very unsatisfactory. It is easy to show that the delusive appearances are not merely imagined, but are actually seen and heard—the hallucination differing from an ordinary percept only {i-xxx} in lacking an objective basis; and this is what is implied in the word psycho-sensorial, when rightly understood . . 461–464

§ 3. The question as to the physiological starting-point of hallucinations—whether they are of central or of peripheral origin—has been warmly debated, often in a very one-sided manner. The construction of them, which is central and the work of the brain, is quite distinct from the excitation or initiation of them, which (though often central also) is often peripheral—i.e., due to some other part of the body that sets the brain to work . . 464–468

§ 4. This excitation may even be due to some objective external cause, some visible point or mark, at or near the place where the imaginary object is seen; and in such cases the imaginary object, which is, so to speak, attached to its point, may follow the course of any optical illusion (e.g., doubling by a prism, reflection by a mirror) to which that point is subjected. But such dependence on an external stimulus does not affect the fact that the actual sensory element of the hallucination, in these as in all other cases, is imposed from within by the brain . . 468–470

§ 5. There, are, however, a large number of hallucinations which are centrally initiated, as well as centrally constructed—the excitation being due neither to an external point, nor to any morbid disturbance in the sense-organs themselves. Such, probably, are many visual cases where the imaginary object is seen in free space, or appears to move independently of the eye, or is seen in darkness. Such, certainly, are many auditory hallucinations; some hallucinations of pain; many hallucinations which conform to the course of some more general delusion; and hallucinations voluntarily originated . . 470–480

§ 6. Such also are hallucinations of a particular internal kind common among mystics, in which the sensory element seems reduced to its lowest terms; and which shade by degrees, on the one side into more externalised forms, and on the other side into a mere feeling of presence, independent of any sensory affection . . 480–484

§ 7. A further argument for the central initiation may be drawn from the fact that repose of the sense-organs seems a condition favourable to hallucinations; and the psychological identity of waking hallucinations and dreams cannot be too strongly insisted on . . 484–485

§ 8. As regards the construction of hallucinations—the cerebral process involved in their having this or that particular form—the question is whether it takes place in the specific sensory centre concerned, or in some higher cortical tract . . 485–488

{i-xxxi}

§ 9. There are reasons for considering that both places of construction are available; that the simpler sorts of hallucination, many of which are clearly “after-images,” and which are often also recurrent, may take shape at the sensory centres themselves; but that the more elaborate and variable sorts must be traced to the higher origin; and that when the higher tracts are first concerned, the production of the hallucination is due to a downward escape of the nervous impulse to the sensory centre concerned . . 488–494

§ 10. The construction of hallucinations in the cortical tracts of the brain, proper to the higher co-ordinations and the more general ideational activities, is perfectly compatible with the view that the specific sensory centres are themselves situated not below, but in, the cortex. . 494–495

CHAPTER XI

TRANSIENT HALLUCINATIONS OF THE SANE: AMBIGUOUS CASES.

§ 1. Transient hallucinations of the sane (a department of mental phenomena hitherto but little studied) comprise two classes: (1) hallucinations of purely subjective origin; and (2) hallucinations of telepathic origin—i.e., “phantasms of the living” which have an objective basis in the exceptional condition of the person whom they recall or represent. Comparing the two classes, we should expect to find a large amount of resemblance, and a certain amount of difference, between them . . 496–497

§ 2. Certain marked resemblances at once present themselves; as that (generally speaking) neither sort of phenomenon is observably connected with any morbid state; and that each sort of phenomenon is rare—occurring to a comparatively small number of persons, and to most of these only once or twice in a lifetime . . 497–499

§ 3. But in pressing the comparison further, we are met by the fact that the dividing line between the two classes is not clear; and it is important to realise certain grounds of ambiguity, which often prevent us from assigning an experience with certainty to this class or that . . 500–502

§ 4. Various groups of hallucinations are passed in review;—“after images”; phantasmal objects which are the result of a special train of thought; phantasms of inanimate objects, and of animals, and non-vocal auditory phantasms; visual representations of fragments of human forms; auditory impressions of meaningless sentences, or of groaning, and the {i-xxxii} like; and visions of the “swarming” type. Nearly all specimens of these types may safely be referred to the purely subjective class . . 502–504

It is when we come to visual hallucinations representing complete and natural-looking human forms, and auditory hallucinations of distinct and intelligible words, (though here again there is every reason to suppose the majority of the cases to be purely subjective,) that the ambiguous cases are principally to be found; the ground of ambiguity being that either (1) the person represented has been in an only slightly unusual state; or (2) a person in a normal state has been represented in hallucination to more than one percipient at different times; or (3) an abnormal state of the person represented has coincided with the representation loosely, but not exactly; or (4) the percipient has been in a condition of anxiety, awe, or expectancy, which might be regarded as the independent cause of his experience . . 504–506

§ 5. The evidence that mere anxiety may produce sensory hallucination is sufficient greatly to weaken, as evidence for telepathy, any case where that condition has been present . . 506–509

§ 6. The same may be said of the form of awe which is connected with the near sense of death; and (except in a few “collective” cases) abnormal experiences which have followed death have been excluded from the telepathic evidence, if the fact of the death was known to the percipient. As to the included cases that have followed death by an appreciable interval, reasons are given for preferring the hypothesis of deferred development to that of post mortem influence—though the latter hypothesis would be quite compatible with the psychical conception of telepathy . . 510–512

§ 7. There is definite evidence to show that mere expectancy may produce hallucination . . 510–512 [sic]

One type which is probably so explicable being the delusive impression of seeing or hearing a person whose arrival is expected . . 515–517

§ 8. There is, however, a group of arrival-cases where the impending arrival was unknown or unsuspected by the percipient; or where the phantasm has included some special detail of appearance which points to a telepathic origin . . 517–518

{i-xxxiii}

CHAPTER XII.

THE DEVELOPMENT OF TELEPATHIC HALLUCINATIONS

§ 1. There are two very principal ways in which phantasms of telepathic origin often resemble purely subjective hallucinations: (1) gradualness of development; and (2) originality of form or content, showing the activity of the percipient’s own mind in the construction . . 519–520

§ 2. Gradual development is briefly illustrated in the purely subjective class . . 520–522

§ 3. And at greater length in the telepathic class. It may exhibit itself (1) in delayed recognition of the phantasm on the part of the percipient . . 522–525

Or (2) in the way in which the phantasm gathers visible shape . . 525–528

Or (3) in the progress of the hallucination through several distinct stages, sometimes affecting more than one sense . . 528–534

§ 4. Originality of construction is involved to some extent in every sensory hallucination which is more than a mere revival of familiar images; but admits of very various degrees . . 534–536

§ 5. In telepathic hallucinations, the signs of the percipient’s own constructive activity are extremely important. For the difference from the results of experimental thought-transference, which telepathic phantasms exhibit, in representing what is not consciously occupying the agent’s mind—to wit, his own form or voice—ceases to be a difficulty in proportion as the extent of the impression transferred from the agent to the percipient can be conceived to be small, and the percipient’s own contribution to the phantasm can be conceived to be large . . 536–537

It may be a peculiarity of the transferred idea that it impels the receiving mind to react on it, and to embody and project it as a hallucination; but the form and detail of the embodiment admit—as in dream—of many varieties, depending on the percipient’s own idiosyncrasies and associations . . 537–540

§ 6. Thus the percipient may invest the idea of his friend, the agent, with features of dress or appurtenance that his own memory supplies. (One of the examples given, No. 202, illustrates a point common to the purely subjective and to the telepathic class, and about equally rare in either—the appearance of more than one figure) . . 540–546

§ 7. Or the investing imagery may be of a more fanciful kind—sometimes the obvious reflection of the percipient’s habitual beliefs, sometimes {i-xxxiv} the mere bizarrerie of what is literally a “waking dream.” Many difficulties vanish, when the analogy of dream is boldly insisted on . . 547–548

Examples of phantasmal appearances presenting features which would in reality be impossible . . 548–550

The luminous character of many visual phantasms is specially to be noted, as a feature common to the purely subjective and to the telepathic class . . 550–551

Examples of imagery connected with ideas of death, and of religion . . 551–554

§ 8. Sometimes, however, the phantasm includes details of dress or aspect which could not be supplied by the percipient’s mind. Such particulars may sometimes creep without warrant even into evidence where the central fact of the telepathic coincidence is correctly reported; but where genuinely observed, they must apparently be attributed to a conscious or sub-conscious image of his own appearance (or of some feature of it) in the agent’s mind, to which the percipient obtains access by what may be again described as telepathic clairvoyance. Examples . . 554–569

In cases where the details of the phantasm are such as either mind might conceivably have supplied, it seems simpler to regard them as the contributions of the percipient, than to suppose that a clean-cut and complete image has been transferred to him from indefinite unconscious or sub-conscious strata of the agent’s mind . . 569–570

§ 9. The development of a phantasm from the nucleus of a transferred impression is a fact strongly confirmatory of the view maintained in the preceding chapters, as to the physiological starting point of many hallucinations. Especially must the hypothesis of centrifugal origin (of a process in the direction from higher to lower centres) commend itself in cases where the experience seems to have implied the quickening of vague associations and distant memories, whose physical record must certainly lie in the highest cerebral tracts . . 570–572

§ 10. Summary of the various points of parallelism between purely subjective and telepathic phantasms, whereby their identity as phenomena for the senses seems conclusively established. But they present also some very important contrasts . . 572–573

{i-xxxv}

INTRODUCTION.

καὶ τὸν θεὸν τοιοῦτον ἐξεπίσταμαι,

σοφοῖς μὲν αἰνικτῆρα θεσφάτων ἀεὶ,

σκαιοῖς δὲ φαῦλον κἀν βραχι διδάσκαλον.

[Translation]And this I know well is the god’s nature: To clever men he always tells the truth in riddles, But to fools he is a poor instructor and uses few words. [Fragment 771; trans. Hugh Lloyd-Jones]

SOPHOCLES.

§ 1. THE subject of this book is one which a brief title is hardly sufficient to explain. For under our heading of “Phantasms of the Living,” we propose, in fact, to deal with all classes of cases where there is reason to suppose that the mind of one human being has affected the mind of another, without speech uttered, or word written, or sign made;—has affected it, that is to say, by other means than through the recognised channels of sense.

To such transmission of thoughts or feelings we have elsewhere given the name of telepathy; and the records of an experimental proof of the reality of telepathy will form a part of the present work. But, for reasons which will be made manifest as we proceed, we have included among telepathic phenomena a vast class of cases which seem at first sight to involve something widely different from a mere transference of thought.

I refer to apparitions; excluding, indeed, the alleged apparitions of the dead, but including the apparitions of all persons who are still living, as we know life, though they may be on the very brink and border of physical dissolution. And these apparitions, as will be seen, are themselves extremely various in character; including not visual phenomena alone, but auditory, tactile, or even purely ideational and emotional impressions. All these we have included under the term phantasm; a word which, though etymologically a mere variant of phantom, has been less often used, and has not become so closely identified with visual impressions alone.

Such, then, is the meaning of our title; but something more of explanation is necessary before the tone and purport of the book can {i-xxxvi} be correctly apprehended. In a region so novel we could hardly be surprised at any amount of misinterpretation. Some readers, for instance, may fancy that a bulky and methodical treatise on phantoms can be but a half-serious thing. Others may suspect that its inspiration is in the love of paradox, and that a fantastic craving for originality has led the authors along a path where they cannot expect, and can hardly desire, that the sober world should follow them.

§ 2. It is necessary, therefore, to state at once that we have no wish either to mystify or to startle mankind. On the contrary, the conjoint and consultative scheme according to which this book has been compiled is thus arranged mainly with a view to correcting or neutralising individual fancies or exaggerations, of leaving as little as possible to the unchecked idiosyncrasy of any single thinker. And, again, we wish distinctly to say that so far from aiming at any paradoxical reversion of established scientific conclusions, we conceive ourselves to be working (however imperfectly) in the main track of discovery, and assailing a problem which, though strange and hard, does yet stand next in order among the new adventures on which Science must needs set forth, if her methods and her temper are to guide and control the widening curiosity, the expanding capacities of men.

We anticipate, in short, that although it may at first be said of us that we have performed with needless elaboration a foolish and futile task, the ultimate verdict on our work will rather be that we have undertaken—with all too limited a knowledge and capacity—to open an inquiry which was manifestly impending, and to lay the foundation-stone of a study which will loom large in the approaching age.

Our only paradox, then, is the assertion that we are not paradoxical; and that assertion it is the main business of this Introduction to justify.

§ 3. For this purpose two principal heads of exposition will be required. In the first place, since this book (for whose contents we are solely responsible) was undertaken by us at the request of the Council of the Society for Psychical Research, and is largely based on material which that Council has placed at our disposal, it will be necessary to say something as to the scope and object of the Society in question;—its grounds for claiming a valid scientific position, and its points of interconnection with established branches of philosophic inquiry.

{i-xxxvii}

And, secondly, it will be needful to indicate the precise position which the theme of this book occupies in the field of our investigations; the reason why we have isolated these special phenomena in a separate group, and have selected them for discussion at this early stage of the Society’s labours.

A reader of the programme of the Society will probably feel that although the special topics to which attention is there invited may be unfamiliar, yet its general plea is such as he has often noted in the history of science before. “To approach these various problems without prejudice or prepossession of any kind, and in the same spirit of exact and unimpassioned inquiry which has enabled Science to solve so many problems, once not less obscure nor less hotly debated;”—phrases like these have no more of novelty than there might be, for instance, in the proposal of a Finance Minister to abolish the last of a long series of protective embargoes. Free Trade and free inquiry have each of them advanced step by step, and by dint of the frequent repetition, under varying difficulties, of very similar, and very elementary, truths. The special peculiarity of our topic is that it is an article (so to say) on which the Free Traders themselves have imposed an additional duty; that it has been more sternly discountenanced by the men who appeal to experiment than by the men who appeal to authority;—that its dispassionate discussion has since the rise of modern science been tabooed more jealously than when the whole province was claimed by theology alone. There have been reasons, no doubt, for such an exclusion; and I am not asserting that either Free Trade or free inquiry is always and under all circumstances to be desired. But it is needful to point out yet once more how plausible the reasons for discouraging some novel research have often seemed to be, while yet the advance of knowledge has rapidly shown the futility and folly of such discouragement.

It was the Father of Science himself who was the first to circumscribe her activity. Socrates, in whose mind the idea of the gulf between knowledge and mere opinion attained a dominant intensity which impressed itself on all ages after him,—Socrates expressly excluded from the range of exact inquiry all such matters as the movements and nature of the sun and moon. He wished—and as he expressed his wish it seemed to have all the cogency of absolute wisdom—that men’s minds should be turned to the ethical and political problems which truly concerned them,—not wasted in speculation on things unknowable—things useless even could they be known.

{i-xxxviii}

In a kindred spirit, though separated from Socrates by the whole result of that physical science which Socrates had deprecated, we find a great modern systematiser of human thought again endeavouring to direct the scientific impulse towards things serviceable to man; to divert it from things remote, unknowable, and useless if known. What then, in Comte’s view, are in fact the limits of man’s actual home and business? the bounds within which he may set himself to learn all he can, assured that all will serve to inform his conscience and guide his life? It is the solar system which has become for the French philosopher what the street and market-place of Athens were for the Greek. And this enlargement (it need hardly be said) is not due to any wider grasp of mind in Comte than in Socrates, but simply to the march of science; which has shown us that the whole solar system does, in fact, minister to our practical needs, and that the Nautical Almanack demands for its construction a mapping of the paths of those ordered luminaries which in the time of Socrates seemed the very wanderers of Heaven.

I need not say that Comte’s prohibition has been altogether neglected. No frontier of scientific demarcation has been established between Neptune and Sirius, between Uranus and Aldebaran. Our knowledge of the fixed stars increases yearly; and it would be rash to maintain that human conduct is not already influenced by the conception thus gained of the unity and immensity of the heavens.

To many of the comments that have been made on our work, even by men who are not formal Comtists, the above reflections furnish a fitting reply. But it is not only, nor perhaps mainly, on account of the remoteness of our subject, or its unimportance to human progress, that objection is taken to our inquiry. The criticisms which have met us, from the side sometimes of scientific, sometimes of religious orthodoxy, have embodied, in modernised phraseology, nearly every well-worn form of timid protest, or obscurantist demurrer, with which the historians of science have been accustomed to give piquancy to their long tale of discovery and achievement. It would have been convenient had these objections been presented to us in a connected and formal manner. But this has not been the case; and, in fact, they are in their very nature too incoherent, too self-contradictory, for continuous statement. Sometimes we are told that we are inviting the old theological spirit to encroach once more on the domain of science; sometimes that we are endeavouring to lay the impious hands of Science upon the mysteries {i-xxxix} of Religion. Sometimes we are informed that competent savants have already fully explored the field which we propose for our investigation; sometimes that no respectable man of science would condescend to meddle with such a reeking mass of fraud and hysteria. Sometimes we are pitied as laborious triflers who prove some infinitely small matter with mighty trouble and pains; sometimes we are derided as attempting the solution of gigantic problems by slight and superficial means.

§ 4. The best way of meeting objections thus confused and contradictory will be to show as clearly as we can at what points our inquiries touch the recent results of science; what signs there are which indicate the need of vigorous advance along the lines which we have chosen. We shall show, perhaps, that there is a kind of convergence towards this especial need—that in several directions of research there is felt that kind of pause and hesitancy which is wont to precede the dawn of illuminating conceptions. We shall not, of course, thus prove that our own attempt has been successful, but we shall prove that it was justified; that if the problems which we set ourselves to solve are found to be insoluble, the gaps thus left in the system of thought on which man’s normal life is based will be such as can neither be ignored nor supplied, but will become increasingly palpable and increasingly dangerous.

Let us consider how far this remark can be justified with regard to some of the leading branches of human knowledge in turn. And let us take first Biology, the science which on the whole approaches the closest to our own inquiries. Biology has, during the last half-century, made an advance which, measured by the hold exercised on the mass of cultivated minds, has perhaps had no parallel since the forward stride of astronomy and physics in the days of Newton. A glance at the text-books of the last generation, in physical or mental science—Whewell’s History of the Inductive Sciences, or Mill’s Logic,—as compared, for instance, with the works of their immediate successor, Mr. Herbert Spencer, shows something which is not so much progress as revolution—the transformation of Biology from a mere special department of knowledge into the key to man’s remotest history, the only valid answer to the profoundest questions as to his present being.

For, in truth, it is Biology above all other sciences which has profited by the doctrine of evolution. In evolution,—in the doctrine {i-xl} that the whole cosmical order is the outcome of a gradual development,—mankind have gained for the first time a working hypothesis which covers enough of the known facts of the universe to make its possible extension to all facts a matter of hopeful interest. And Biology, which even at the date of Whewell’s book could barely make good its claim to be regarded as a coherent science at all, has now acquired a co-ordinating and continuous principle of unity which renders it in some respects the best type of a true science which we possess. It traces life from the protozoon to the animal, from the brute to the man; it offers to explain the complex fabric of human thought and emotion, viewed from the physical side, as the development of the molecular movements of scarcely-differentiated fragments of protaplasm.

And along with this increased knowledge of the processes by which man has been upbuilt has come also an increased knowledge of the processes which are now going on within him. The same inquiries which have brought our organic life into intelligible relation with the whole range of animal and vegetable existence have enabled us also to conceive more definitely the neural side of our mental processes, and the relation of cerebral phenomena to their accompanying emotion or thought. And hence, in the view of some ardent physiologists, it is becoming more and more probable that we are in fact physiological automata; that our consciousness is a mere superadded phenomenon—a mere concomitant of some special intensity of cerebral action, with no basis beyond or apart from the molecular commotion of the brain.

But this view, as it would seem, depends in a great part upon something which corresponds in the mental field to a familiar optical illusion. When we see half of some body strongly illuminated, and half of it feebly illuminated, it is hard to believe that the brilliant moiety is not the larger of the two. And, similarly, it is the increased definiteness of our conception of the physical side of our mental operations which seems to increase its relative importance,—to give it a kind of priority over the psychical aspect of the same processes. Yet, of course, to the philosophic eye the central problem of the relation of the objective and subjective sides of these psycho-neural phenomena can be in no way altered by any increase of definiteness in our knowledge of the objective processes which correspond to the subjective states.

{i-xli}

And, on the other hand, there is one singular logical corollary which seems thus far to have escaped the notice of physiologist and psychologist alike. It is this: that our increased vividness of conception of the physical side of mental life, while it cannot possibly disprove the independence of the psychical side, may quite conceivably prove it. I will again resort to the (very imperfect) analogy of a partially-illuminated body. Suppose that one hemisphere of a globe is strongly lit up, and that the other is lit up by faint and scattered rays.1 1 The analogy will be closer if we suppose that the second half is lit, not dimly but from within,— since in one sense consciousness gives us more information as to the psychical than as to the physical side of life, though it is information of a different quality. I am trying to discern whether the two hemispheres are symmetrically marked throughout. Now no clearness of marks on the bright hemisphere can disprove the existence of corresponding marks on the dim one. But, on the other hand, it is conceivable that one of the few rays which fall on the dim hemisphere may reveal some singular mark which I can see that the bright hemisphere does not possess. And the brighter the bright hemisphere is made, the more certain do I become that this particular mark is not to be found on it.

§ 5. I will give two concrete examples of what I mean—one of them drawn from the conclusions of a great physiologist, the other from the obvious condition of a new branch of experimental inquiry. I shall not discuss either instance in detail, since I am here only endeavouring to show that with increased precision in psychophysical researches the old problems of free-will, soul and body, &c., are presenting more definite issues, and offering a far more hopeful field to the exact philosopher than their former vagueness allowed.

My first illustration, then, is from the form which the old free-will controversy has assumed in the hands of Wundt. Wundt stands, of course, among the foremost of those who have treated human thought and sensation as definite and measurable things, who have computed their rate of transit, and analysed their elements, and enounced the laws of their association. It is not from him that we need look for any lofty metaphysical view as to the infinite resources of spiritual power,—the transcendental character of psychical phenomena. But, nevertheless, Wundt believes himself able to assert that there is within us a residue—an all-important residue—of psychical action which is incommensurable with physiological {i-xlii} law. So far, he holds, is the principle of conservation of energy from covering the psychical realm, that the facts of mental evolution proclaim that the very contrary is the case;—and that what really obtains is rather “an unlimited new creation of psychical energy.”1 1 “Hier gilt vielmehr ein Gesetz unbegrenzter Neuschöpfung geistiger Energie, welches nur durch die sinnliche Bestimmtheit des geistigen Lebens gewisse Hemmungen erleidet.”—Wundt, Logik, II., p. 507. Nay, so convinced is he of the inadequacy of any system of physiological determinism to explain psychical facts, that he holds that we must directly reverse the materialistic view of the relation of the corporeal to the psychical life. “It is not the psychical life,” he says, “which is a product of the physical organisation; rather it is the physical organism which, in all those purposive adjustments which distinguish it from inorganic compounds, is itself a psychical creation.”2 2 “Nicht das geistige Leben ist ein Erzeugniss der physischen Organisation, sondern diese ist in allem, was sie an zweckvollen Einrichtungen der Selbstregulirung und der Energie-verwerthung vor den Substanzcomplexen der unorganischen Natur voraushat, eine geistige Schöpfung.”—Wundt, Logik, II., p. 471.

I am not here expressing either agreement or disagreement with this general view. I am merely pointing out that here is an opinion which, whether right or wrong, is formed as a result not of vagueness but of distinctness of physiological conceptions. And my illustration shows at any rate that the development of physiology is tending not always to make the old psychical problems seem meaningless or sterile, but rather to give them actuality and urgency, and even to suggest new possibilities of their solution.

§ 6. But, to come to my second instance, it is perhaps the present position of hypnotism that the strongest argument may be drawn for the need of such researches as ours, to supplement and co-ordinate the somewhat narrower explorations of technical physiology. For the actual interest of the mesmeric or hypnotic trance—I am not now dealing with the rival theories which these words connote—the central interest, let us say, of induced somnambulism, or the sleep-waking state—has hardly as yet revealed itself to any section of inquirers.

That interest lies neither in mesmerism as a curative agency, as Elliotson would have told us, nor in hypnotism as an illustration of inhibitory cerebral action, as Heidenhain would tell us now. It lies in the fact that here is a psychical experiment on a larger scale than was ever possible before; that we have at length got hold of a handle which turns the mechanism of our being; that we have found {i-xliii} a mode of shifting the threshold of consciousness which is a dislocation as violent as madness, a submergence as pervasive as sleep, and yet is waking sanity; that we have induced a change of personality which is not per se either evolutive or dissolutive, but seems a mere allotropic modification of the very elements of man. The prime value of the hypnotic trance lies not in what it inhibits, but in what it reveals; not in the occlusion of the avenues of peripheral stimulus, but in the emergence of unnoted sensibilities, nay, perhaps even in the manifestation of new and centrally-initiated powers.

The hypnotic trance is an eclipse of the normal consciousness which can be repeated at will. Now the first observers of eclipses of the sun ascribe them to supernatural causes, and attribute to them an occult influence for good or evil. Then comes the stage at which men note their effects on the animal organism, the roosting of birds, the restlessness of cattle. Then come observations on the intensity of the darkness, the aspect of the lurid shade. But to the modern astronomer all this is trifling as compared with the knowledge which those brief moments give him of the orb itself in its obscuration. He learns from that transient darkness more than the noon of day can tell; he sees the luminary no longer as a defined and solid ball, but as the centre of the outrush of flaming energies, the focus of an effluence which coruscates untraceably through immeasurable fields of heaven.

There is more in this parallel than a mere empty metaphor. It suggests one of the primary objects which psychical experiment must seek to attain. Physical experiment aims at correcting the deliverances of man’s consciousness with regard to the external world by instruments which extend the range, and concentrate the power, and compensate the fallacies of his senses. And similarly, our object must be to correct the deliverances of man’s consciousness concerning the processes which are taking place within him by means of artificial displacements of the psycho-physical threshold; by inhibiting normal perception, obliterating normal memory, so that in this temporary freedom from preoccupation by accustomed stimuli his mind may reveal those latent and delicate capacities of which his ordinary conscious self is unaware.

§ 7. It was thus, in fact, that thought-transference, or telepathy, was first discovered. In the form of community of sensation between operator and subject, it was noted nearly a century ago as a {i-xliv} phenomenon incident to the mesmeric trance. Its full importance was not perceived, and priceless opportunities of experiment were almost wholly neglected. In order to bring out the value and extent of the phenomenon it was necessary, we venture to think, that it should be investigated by men whose interest in the matter lay not in the direction of practical therapeutics but of psychical theory, and who were willing to seek and “test for it” under a wide range of conditions, not in sleep-waking life only, but in normal waking, and normal sleep, and, as this book will indicate, up to the very hour of death.

The difficulties of this pursuit are not physiological only. But, nevertheless, in our endeavours to establish and to elucidate telepathy, we look primarily for aid to the most recent group of physiological inquirers, to the psycho-physicists whose special work—as yet in its infancy—has only in our own day been rendered possible by the increased accuracy and grasp of experimental methods in the sciences which deal with Life.

The list of Corresponding Members of our Society will serve to show that this confidence on our part is not wholly unfounded, and to indicate that we are not alone in maintaining that whatever may be the view of these perplexing problems which ultimately prevails, the recent advances of physiology constitute in themselves a strong reason—not, as some hold, for the abandonment of all discussion of the old enigmas, but rather for their fresh discussion with scientific orderliness, and in the illumination of our modern day.1 1 The French Société de Psychologie Physiologique, whose President is M. Charcot, has already published several observations with an important bearing on our subject, some of which will be found in Vol. ii. of this work.

§ 8. From Biology we may pass, by an easy transition, to what is commonly known as Anthropology,—the comparative study of the different races of men in respect either of their physical characteristics, or of the early rudiments of what afterwards develops into civilisation.

The connection of anthropology with psychical research will be evident to any reader who has acquainted himself with recent expositions of Primitive Man. He may think, indeed, that the connection is too evident, and that we can hardly bring it into notice without proving a good deal more than we desire. For as the creeds and customs of savage races become better known, the part played by sorcery, divination, apparitions becomes increasingly predominant. {i-xlv} Mr. Tylor and Sir John Lubbock have made this abundantly clear, and Mr. Spencer has gone so far as to trace all early religion to a fear of the ghosts of the dead. In the works of these and similar authors, I need hardly say, we are led to regard all these beliefs and tendencies as due solely to the childishness of savage man—as absurdities which real progress in civilisation must render increasingly alien to the developed common-sense, the rational experience of humanity. Yet it appears to me that as we trace the process of evolution from savage to civilised man, we come to a point at which the inadequacy of this explanation is strongly forced on our attention. Certainly this was my own case when I undertook some years ago to give a sketch of the Greek oracles. It soon became evident to me that the mass of phenomena included under this title had, at any rate, a psycho-physical importance which the existing works on the subject for the most part ignored. I scarcely ventured myself to do more than indicate where the real nodi of the inquiry lay. But when a massive treatise on Ancient Divination appeared from the learned pen of M. Bouché-Leclercq, I looked eagerly to see whether his erudition had enabled him to place these problems in a new light. I found, however, that he explicitly renounced all attempt to deal with the phenomena in more than a merely external way. He would record, but he would make no endeavour to explain;—taking for granted, as it appeared, that the explanation depended on fraud alone, and on fraud whose details it would now be impossible to discover.

I cannot think that such a view can any longer satisfy persons adequately acquainted with the facts of hypnotism. Whatever else, whether of fraud or reality, there may have been on the banks of Cassotis or Castaly,—unde superstitiosa primum sacra evasit vox fera, whence the wild voice first sounded out from the prophetic holy places—there were at least the hypnotic trance and hystero-epilepsy. And until these and similar elements can be sifted out of the records left to us, with something of insight gained by familiarity with their modern forms, our knowledge of Pythia or of Sibyl will be shallow indeed.

Still more markedly is such insight and experience needed in anthropology proper—in the actual observation of the savage peoples who still exist. It is to be hoped that shamans and medicine-men will not vanish before the missionary until they have yielded some fuller lessons to the psycho-physicist—until the annals of the Salpêtrière and the experiments of Dean’s Yard have been invoked in explanation of the weird terrors of the Yenisei and the Congo.

{i-xlvi}

§ 9. Passing on from Anthropology to history in its wider acceptation, we find these psycho-physical problems perpetually recurring, and forming a disturbing element in any theory of social or religious evolution. The contagious enthusiasms of the Middle Ages—the strange endemic maladies of witchcraft, vampirism, lycanthropy—even the individual inspiration of a Mahomet or a Joan of Arc—these are phenomena which the professed historian feels obliged to leave to the physician and the alienist, and for which the physician and the alienist, in their turn, have seldom a satisfactory explanation.

Nor do phenomena of this kind cease to appear with the advance of civilisation. In detailed modern histories, in the biographies of eminent men, we still come upon incidents which are, at any rate at first sight, of a supernormal1 1 “I have ventured to coin the word ‘supernormal’ to be applied to phenomena which are beyond what usually happens—beyond, that is, in the sense of suggesting unknown psychical laws. It is thus formed on the analogy of abnormal. When we speak of an abnormal phenomenon we do not mean one which contravenes natural laws, but one which exhibits them in an unusual or inexplicable form. Similarly by a supernormal phenomenon, I mean, not one which overrides natural laws, for I believe no such phenomenon to exist, but one which exhibits the action of laws higher, in a psychical aspect, than are discerned in action in every-day life. By higher (either in a psychical or in a physiological sense), I mean ‘apparently belonging to a more advanced stage of evolution.’”—Proceedings of the S.P.R., Vol. iii., p. 30. Throughout this treatise we naturally need a designation for phenomena which are inexplicable by recognised physiological laws, and belong to the general group into the nature of which we are inquiring. The term psychical (which is liable to misapprehension even in the title of our Society) can hardly be used without apology in this specialised sense. The occasional introduction of the word supernormal may perhaps be excused. kind, and over which the narrator is forced to pass with vague or inadequate comment.

But it is, of course, in dealing with the history of religions that our lack of any complete grasp of psychical phenomena is most profoundly felt. And here, also, it is as a result of recent progress,—of the growth of the comparative study of religions,—that we are able to disengage, in a generalised form, the chief problems with which our “psychical” science, if such could be established, would be imperatively called on to deal.

For we find throughout the world’s history a series of great events which, though differing widely in detail, have a certain general resemblance both to each other and to some of those incidents both of savage and of ordinary civilised life to which reference has already been made.

The elements which are common to the great majority of religions seem to be mainly two—namely, the promulgation of some doctrine which the religious reformer claims to have received, or actually to communicate, in some supernormal manner; and the report of a {i-xlvii} concurrent manifestation of phenomena apparently inexplicable by ordinary laws.

Now, with the rise of one religion our Society has already had practically to deal. Acting through Mr. Hodgson, whose experiences in the matter have been elsewhere detailed,1 1 Proceedings of the S.P.R., Vol. iii. a committee of the Society for Psychical Research has investigated the claim of the so-called “Theosophy,” of which Madame Blavatsky was the prophetess, to be an incipient world-religion, corroborated by miraculous, or at least supernormal, phenomena,—and has arrived at the conclusion that it is merely a réchauffé Literally “warmed leftover food” of ancient philosophies, decked in novel language, and supported by ingenious fraud. Had this fraud not been detected and exposed, and had the system of belief supported thereon thriven and spread, we should have witnessed what the sceptic might have cited as a typical case of the origin of religions. A Gibbon of our own day, reviewing the different motives and tendencies which prompt, or spread, revelations, might have pointed to Theosophy and Mormonism as covering between them the whole ground;—from the adroit advantage taken of mystical aspiration in the one religion, to the commonplace action of greed and lust upon helplessness and stupidity which forms the basis of the other.

But if it should be argued from these analogies that in no case of the foundation of a religion would any scientific method of psychical inquiry prove necessary or fruitful, if we knew all the facts; but that such developments might be sufficiently dealt with by ordinary common-sense, or, like Mormonism, by the criminal law, the generalisation would be hasty and premature. We need not go far back to discover two religions whose central fact is not a fact of fraud at all, but an unexplained psychical phenomenon. I allude to the vision-life of Swedenborg, and the speaking with tongues which occurred in the church of Irving,—each of which constitutes a central point of faith for a certain number of intelligent and educated persons at the present day. Of neither of these facts can Science at present offer a satisfactory explanation. The speaking with tongues seems plainly to have been for the most part (though not entirely) a genuine automatic phenomenon. But as to the origin of such automatic utterances (conveyed in speech or writing), as to the range from which their contents are drawn, or the kind of attention which they can claim, there is little or nothing to be learnt from accepted {i-xlviii} textbooks. We are groping among the first experiments, the simplest instances, on which any valid theory can be based.1 1 See papers on “Automatic Writing” in Proceedings of the S.P.R., Vols. ii. and iii.

The case of Swedenborg carries us still further beyond the limits of our assured knowledge. Of madness and its delusions, indeed, we know much; but it would be a mere abuse of language to call Swedenborg mad. His position must be decided by a much more difficult analogy. For before we can even begin to criticise his celestial visions we must be able in some degree to judge of his visions of things terrestrial; we must face, that is to say, the whole problem of so-called clairvoyance, of a faculty which claims to be not merely receptive but active,—a projection of super-sensory percipience among scenes distant and things unknown.

And the existence of such a faculty as this will assuredly never be proved by a mere study of the transcendental dicta of any single seer. This problem, too, must be approached, partly through the hypnotic trance, in which the best-attested instances of clairvoyance are alleged to have occurred, and partly through the collection of such supernormal narratives as some of those which find place in the present book.

Even a sketch like this may indicate how complex and various may be the problems which underlie that “History of Sects” in which a Bossuet might see only the heaven-sent penalty for apostasy against the Church,—a Gibbon, the mere diverting panorama of the ever-varying follies of men.

§ 10. But reflections like these lie on the outskirts of a still larger and graver question. What (it is naturally asked) is the relation of our study—not to eccentric or outlying forms of religious creed—but to central and vital conceptions; and especially to that main system of belief to which in English-speaking countries the name of religion is by popular usage almost confined?

Up till this time those who have written on behalf of the Society for Psychical Research have studiously refrained from entering on this important question. Our reason for this reticence is obvious enough when stated, but it has not been universally discerned. We wished to avoid even the semblance of attracting the public to our researches by any allurement which lay outside the scientific field. We could not take for granted that our inquiries would make for the spiritual view of things, that they would tend to establish even the independent existence, still less the immortality, of the soul. We {i-xlix} shrank from taking advantage of men’s hopes or fears, from representing ourselves as bent on rescuing them from the materialism which forms so large a factor in modern thought, or from the pessimism which dogs its steps with unceasing persistency. We held it to be incumbent on us, in an especial degree, to maintain a neutral and expectant attitude, and to conduct our inquiries in the “dry light” of a dispassionate search for truth.

And this position we still maintain. This book, as will be seen, does not attempt to deal with the most exciting and popular topics which are included in our Society’s general scheme. And we shall be careful in the pages that follow to keep within our self-assigned limits, and to say little as to any light which our collected evidence may throw on the possibility of an existence continued after our physical death.

That master-problem of human life must be assailed by more deliberate approaches, nor must we gild our solid arguments with the radiance of an unproved surmise. But it would, nevertheless, be impossible, in a discussion of this general kind, to pass over the relation of psychical research to religion altogether in silence. And, indeed, since our inquiries began, the situation has thus far changed that we have now not anticipation merely, but a certain amount of actual achievement, to which to appeal. We hold that we have proved by direct experiment, and corroborated by the narratives contained in this book, the possibility of communications between two minds, inexplicable by any recognised physical laws, but capable (under certain rare spontaneous conditions) of taking place when the persons concerned are at an indefinite distance from each other. And we claim further that by investigations of the higher phenomena of mesmerism, and of the automatic action of the mind, we have confirmed and expanded this view in various directions, and attained a standing-point from which certain even stranger alleged phenomena begin to assume an intelligible aspect, and to suggest further discoveries to come.

Thus far the authors of this book, and also the main group of their fellow-workers, are substantially agreed. But their agreement as to the facts actually proved does not extend,—it is not even to be desired that it should extend—to the speculations which in one direction or another such facts must inevitably suggest. They are facts which go too deep to find in any two minds a precisely similar lodgment, or to adjust themselves in the same way to the complex of {i-l} pre-existent conceptions. The following paragraphs, therefore, must be taken merely as reflecting the opinions provisionally held by a single inquirer.

I may say, then, at once that I consider it improbable that telepathy will ever receive a purely physical explanation,—an explanation, that is to say, wholly referable to the properties of matter, as molecular matter is at present known to us. I admit, of course, that such an explanation is logically conceivable; that we can imagine that undulations should be propagated, or particles emitted, from one living organism to another, which should excite the percipient organism in a great variety of ways. But it seems to me,—and I imagine that in this view at any rate the majority of Materialists will concur,—that if the narratives in this book are to be taken as, on the whole, trustworthy, the physical analogies are too faint, and the physical difficulties too serious, to allow of our intruding among the forces of material Nature a force which—unlike any other—would seem (in some cases at least) neither to be diminished by any distance nor to be impeded by any obstacle whatsoever.

I lay aside, for the purposes of the present argument, the possibility of a monistic scheme of the universe,—of a consentiens conspirans continuata cognatio rerum the harmonious, concordant, and unbroken connection which there is in things [Cicero, De Natura Deorum Liber Secundus vii:19; trans. Francis Brooks, 1896] which may present in an unbroken sequence both what we know as Matter and what we know as Mind. Such a view,—though to higher intelligences it may perhaps be an intuitive certainty,—can for us be nothing more than a philosophic opinion. Our scientific arguments must needs be based on the dualism which our intellects, as at present constituted, are in fact unable to transcend.

I maintain, therefore, that if the general fact of telepathic communication between mind and mind be admitted, it must also be admitted that an element is thus introduced into our conception of the aggregate of empirically known facts which constitutes a serious obstacle to the materialistic synthesis of human experience. The psychical element in man, I repeat, must henceforth almost inevitably be conceived as having relations which cannot be expressed in terms of matter.

Now this dogma, though wholly new to experimental science, is, of course, familiar and central in all the higher forms of religions. Relations inexpressible in terms of matter, and subsisting between spirit and Spirit—the human and the Divine,—are implied in the very notion of the interchange of sacred love and love, of grace and {i-li} worship. I need hardly add that the reality of any such communion is rigidly excluded by the materialistic view. The Materialist, indeed, may regard prayer and aspiration with indulgence, or even with approval, but he must necessarily conceive them as forming merely the psychical side of certain molecular movements of the particles of human organisms, and he must necessarily regard the notion of Divine response to prayer as an illusion generated by subsequent molecular movements of the same organisms,—the mere recoil and reflux of the wave which the worshipper himself has created.

It would, of course, be mere offensive presumption to draw a parallel between our telepathic experiments and such a relation between a human and Divine spirit as the devout soul believes itself to realise in prayer. One side of that communion must ex hypothesi transcend the measurement or analysis of finite minds. But, confining our view wholly to the part played by the human organism, it seems to me incontestable that our experiments suggest possibilities of influence, modes of operation, which throw an entirely fresh light on this ancient controversy between Science and Faith. I claim at least that any presumption which science had established against the possibility of spiritual communion is now rebutted; and that inasmuch as it can no longer be affirmed that our minds are closed to all influences save such as reach them through sensory avenues, the Materialist must admit that it is no longer an unsupported dream but a serious scientific possibility, that if any intelligences do in fact exist other than those of living men, influences from those intelligences may be conveyed to our own mind, and may either remain below the threshold of consciousness, or rise into definite consciousness, according as the presence or absence of competing stimuli, or other causes as yet unknown to us, may determine.

§ 11. I shall leave this proposition expressed thus in its most abstract and general form. And I may add—it is a reflection which I must ask the reader to keep steadily in mind,—that any support or illumination which religious creeds may gain from psychical inquiry is likely to affect not their clauses but their preamble; is likely to come, not as a sudden discovery bearing directly on some specific dogma, but as the gradual discernment of laws which may fundamentally modify the attitude of thoughtful minds.

Now, in what I have called the preamble of all revelations two {i-lii} theses are generally involved, quite apart from the subject-matter, or the Divine sanction, of the revelation itself. We have to assume, first, that human testimony to supernormal facts may be trustworthy; and secondly, that there is something in the nature of man which is capable of responding to—I may say of participating in—these supernormal occurrences. That is to say, revelations are not proved merely by large external facts, perceptible to every one who possesses the ordinary senses, nor again are they proved solely by what are avowedly mere subjective impressions, but they are largely supported by a class of phenomena which comes between these two extremes; by powers inherent in certain individuals of beholding spiritual visions or personages unseen by common eyes, of receiving information or guidance by interior channels, of uttering truths not consciously acquired, of healing sick persons by the imposition of hands, with other faculties of a similarly supernormal kind.

And I hope that I shall not be thought presumptuous or irreverent if (while carefully abstaining from direct comment on any Revelation) I indicate what, in my view, would be the inevitable effect on the attitude of purely scientific minds towards these preliminary theses,—this preamble, as I have said, of definite religions,—were the continued prosecution of our inquiry to lead us after all to entirely negative conclusions, were all our evidence to prove untrustworthy, and all our experiments unsound.

For in the first place it is plain that this new science of which we are endeavouring to lay the foundations stands towards religion in a very different position from that occupied by the rising sciences, such as geology or biology, whose conflict or agreement with natural or revealed religion has furnished matter for so much debate. The discoveries of those sciences can scarcely in themselves add support to a doctrine of man’s soul and immortality, though they may conceivably come into collision with particular forms which that doctrine has assumed. Religion, in short, may be able to assimilate them, but it would in no way have suffered had they proved altogether abortive.

But with our study the case is very different. For, to take the first of the two preliminary theses of religion already referred to, the question whether human evidence as to supernormal occurrences can ever be trusted has been raised by our inquiries in a much more crucial form than when Hume and Paley debated it with reference to historical incidents only. We discuss it with reference to alleged {i-liii} contemporary incidents; we endeavour to evaluate by actual inspection and cross-examination the part which is played in supernormal narratives by the mere love of wonder, “the mythopoeic faculty,” the habitual negligence and ignorance of mankind. And if all the evidence offered to us should crumble away on exact investigation—as, for instance, the loudly-vaunted evidence for the marvels connected with Theosophy has crumbled—it will no doubt be questioned whether the narratives on which the historic religions depend for their acceptance could have stood the test of a contemporaneous inquiry of a similarly searching kind.

And more than this, it will not only be maintained that the collapse of our modern evidence to supernormal phenomena discredits all earlier records of the same kind by showing the ease with which such marvels are feigned or imagined, but also that it further discredits those records by making them even more antecedently improbable than they were before. Not only will it be said that the proved fallibility of the modern witnesses illustrates the probable fallibility of the ancient ones, but the failure of the inquiry to elicit any indication that supernormal faculties do now exist in man will pro tantoto that extent throw a retrospective improbability on the second of the preliminary theses of religion, which assumes that some such supernormal faculty did at any rate exist in man at a given epoch. It may indeed be urged that such faculties were given for a time, and for a purpose, and were then withdrawn. But the instinct of scientific continuity, which even in the shaping of the solid continents is fain to substitute for deluge and cataclysm the tideway and the ripple and the rain, will rebel against the hypothesis of a bygone age of inward miracles,—a catastrophic interference with the intimate nature of man.

I will illustrate my meaning by a concrete example, which does not involve any actual article of Protestant faith. The ecstacy and the stigmata of St. Francis are an important element in Roman Catholic tradition. They are to some extent paralleled in the present day by the ecstacy and the stigmata of Louise Lateau. And Catholic instinct has discerned that if this modern case be decided to be merely morbid, and in no true sense supernormal, a retrospective discredit will be cast on the earlier legend. The old reluctance of the Catholic Church to submit her phenomena to scientific assessors has therefore to some extent been overcome; and Catholic physicians, under ecclesiastical authority, have discussed Louise Lateau’s case in the forms of an ordinary medical report.

{i-liv}

Enough will have been said to indicate the reality of the connection between our inquiries and the preliminary theses of religion. And so far as our positive results go in this direction, they will perhaps carry the more weight in that they are independently obtained, and intended to subserve scientific rather than religious ends;—coming, indeed, from men who have no developed theory of their own to offer, and are merely following the observed facts wherever they may seem to lead. I see no probability, I may add, that our results can ever supply a convincing proof to any specialised form of religion. The utmost that I anticipate is, that they may afford a solid basis of general evidence to the independence of man’s spiritual nature, and its persistence after death, on which basis, at any rate, religions in their specialised forms may be at one with science, and on which the structure of definite revelation (which must be up-built by historical or moral arguments) may conceivably be planted with a firmness which is at present necessarily lacking.

§ 12. I have been speaking thus far of religion in its full sense, as a body of doctrine containing some kind of definite assurance as to an unseen world. But the form of religious thought which specially characterises our own day is somewhat different from this. We are accustomed rather to varying attempts to retain the spirit, the aroma of religion, even if its solid substratum of facts previously supposed provable should have to be abandoned. The discoursers on things spiritual who have been most listened to in our own day—as Carlyle, Emerson, Mazzini, Renan, Tennyson, Matthew Arnold, Ruskin, &c.,—have been to a very small extent dogmatic on the old lines. They have expressed vague, though lofty, beliefs and aspirations, in which the eye of science may perhaps see little substance or validity, but which nevertheless have been in a certain sense more independent, more spontaneous, than of old, since they are less often prompted by any faith instilled from without, and resemble rather the awakening into fuller consciousness of some inherited and instinctive need.

And this brings us by an easy transition to the next topic, on which I wish to dwell. For I wish to point out that the emotional creed of educated men is becoming divorced from their scientific creed; that just as the old orthodoxy of religion was too narrow to contain men’s knowledge, so now the new orthodoxy of materialistic science is too narrow to contain their feelings and aspirations; and {i-lv} consequently that just as the fabric of religious orthodoxy used to be strained in order to admit the discoveries of geology or astronomy, so now also the obvious deductions of materialistic science are strained or overpassed in order to give sanction to feelings and aspirations which it is found impossible to ignore. My inference will, of course, be that in this vaguer realm of thought, as well as in the more distinctly-defined branches of knowledge which we have already discussed, the time is ripe for some such extension of scientific knowledge as we claim that we are offering here—an extension which, in my view, lifts us above the materialistic standpoint altogether, and which gives at least a possible reality to those subtle intercommunications between spirit and spirit, and even between visible and invisible things, of which Art and Literature are still as full as in any “Age of Faith” which preceded us.

I point, then, to the obvious fact that the spread of Materialism has not called into being Materialists only of those simple types which were commonly anticipated a century since as likely to fill a world of complete secularity.

Materialists, indeed, of that old unflinching temper do exist, and form a powerful and influential body. It would have been strange, indeed, if recent advances in physiology had not evoked new theories of human life, and a new ideal. For the accepted commonplaces of the old-fashioned moralist are being scattered with a ruthless hand. Our free will, over great portions at least of its once supposed extent, is declared to be an illusion. Our highest and most complex emotions are traced to their rudimentary beginnings in the instincts of self-preservation and reproduction. Our vaunted personality itself is seen to depend on a shifting and unstable synergy of a number of nervous centres, the defect of a portion of which centres may alter our character altogether. And meantime Death, on the other hand, has lost none of its invincible terrors. The easy way in which our forefathers would speak of “our mortal and immortal parts” is hard to imitate in face of the accumulating testimony to the existence of the one element in us, and the evanescence of the other. And since the decay and dissolution of man seem now to many minds to be so much more capable of being truly known than his survival or his further evolution, it is natural that much of the weight which once belonged to the prophets of what man hoped should pass to those who can speak with authority on what man needs must fear. Thus “mad-doctors” tend to supplant theologians, and the lives of {i-lvi} lunatics are found to have more lessons for us than the lives of saints. For these thinkers know well that man can fall below himself; but that he can rise above himself they can believe no more. A corresponding ideal is gradually created; an ideal of mere sanity and normality, which gets to look on any excessive emotion or fixed idea, any departure from a balanced practicality, with distrust or disfavour, and sometimes rising to a kind of fervour of Philistinism, classes genius itself as a neurosis.

The alienists who have taken this extreme view have usually, perhaps, been of opinion that in thus discrediting the higher flights of imagination or sentiment we are not losing much; that these things are in any case a mere surplusage, and that the ends which life is really capable of attaining can be compassed as well without them. But if the materialistic theory be the true one, these limitations of ideal might well be adopted even by men who would deeply regret what they were thus renouncing. It might well seem that, in abandoning the belief in any spiritual or permanent element in man, it were wise to abandon also that intensity of the affections which is ill-adapted to bonds so perishable and insecure, that reach of imagination which befitted only the illusory dignity which was once attached to human fates.

But in fact, as I have already implied, the characteristic movement of our own country, at any rate, at the present day, is hardly in this direction. Our prevalent temper is not so much materialistic as agnostic; and although this renouncement of all knowledge of invisible things does in a sense leave visible things in sole possession of the field, yet the Agnostic is as far as anyone from being “a hog from Epicurus’ sty.” Rather, instead of sinking into the materialistic ideal of plain sense and physical well-being, the rising schools of thought are transcending that ideal more and more. Altruism in morals, idealism in art, nay, even the sentiment of piety itself, as a decorative grace of life,—all these, it is urged, are consistent with a complete and contented ignorance as to aught beyond the material world.

I need not here embark on the controversy as to how far this aspiration towards “the things of the spirit” is logically consistent with a creed that stops short with the things of sense. It is quite enough for my present purpose to point out that here also, as in the case of more definite religions, we have a system of beliefs and emotions which may indeed be able to accommodate themselves to modern {i-lvii} science, but which are in no sense supported thereby; rather which science must regard as, at best, a kind of phosphorescence which plays harmlessly about minds that Nature has developed by other processes and for other ends than these.

For my argument is that here again, as in the case of religion, telepathy, as we affirm it in this book, would be the first indication of a possible scientific basis for much that now lacks not only experimental confirmation, but even plausible analogy. We have seen how much support the preliminary theses of religion may acquire from an assured conviction that the human mind is at least capable of receiving supernormal influences,—is not closed, by its very structure, as the Materialists would tell us, to any “inbreathings of the spirit” which do not appeal to outward eye or ear. And somewhat similar is the added reality which the discovery of telepathy gives to the higher flights, the subtler shades, of mere earthly emotion.

“Star to star vibrates light; may soul to soul

Strike thro’ some finer element of her own?”

The lover, the poet, the enthusiast in any generous cause, has in every age unconsciously answered Lord Tennyson’s question for himself. To some men, as to Goethe, the assurance of this subtle intercommunication has come with vivid distinctness in some passion-shaken hour. Others, as Bacon, have seemed to gather it from the imperceptible indicia of a lifelong contemplation of man. But the step which actual experimentation, the actual collection and collation of evidence, has now, as we believe, effected, is a greater one than could have been achieved by any individual intuition of bard or sage. For we have for the first time a firm foothold in this impalpable realm; we know that these unuttered messages do truly travel, that these emotions mix and spread; and though we refrain as yet from further dwelling on the corollaries of this far-reaching law, it is not because such speculations need any longer be baseless, but because we desire to set forth the proof of our theorem in full detail before we do more than hint at the new fields which it opens to human thought.

§ 13. Pausing, therefore, on the threshold of these vaguer promises, I may indicate another direction, in which few will deny that a systematic investigation like ours ought to produce results eminently salutary. It ought to be as much our business to check the growth of error as to promote the discovery of truth. And there is plenty of evidence to show that so long as we omit to subject all alleged supernormal phenomena to a thorough comparative scrutiny, {i-lviii} we are not merely postponing a possible gain, but permitting an unquestioned evil.

It should surely be needless in the present day to point out that no attempt to discourage inquiry into any given subject which strongly interests mankind, will in reality divert attention from the topic thus tabooed. The savant or the preacher may influence the readers of scientific hand-books, or the members of church congregations, but outside that circle the subject will be pursued with the more excited eagerness because regulating knowledge and experienced guidance are withdrawn.

And thus it has been with our supernormal phenomena. The men who claim to have experienced them have not been content to dismiss them as unseasonable or unimportant. They have not relegated them into the background of their lives as readily as the physiologist has relegated them into a few paragraphs at the end of a chapter. On the contrary, they have brooded over them, distorted them, misinterpreted them. Where savants have minimised, they have magnified, and the perplexing modes of marvel which the text-books ignore, have become, as it were, the ganglia from which all kinds of strange opinions ramify and spread.

The number of persons whose minds have been actually upset either by genuine psychical phenomena, or by their fraudulent imitation, is perhaps not large. But the mischief done is by no means confined to these extreme cases. It is mischievous, surely—it clashes roughly with our respect for human reason, and our belief in human progress—that religions should spring up, forms of worship be established, which in effect do but perpetuate a mistake and consecrate a misapprehension, which carry men not forward, but backward in their conception of unseen things.

The time has not yet come for an attempt to trace in detail the perversion which each branch of these supernormal phenomena has undergone in ardent minds;—the claims to sanctity, revelation, prophecy, which a series of enthusiasts, and of charlatans, have based on each class of marvels in turn. But two forms of creed already mentioned may again be cited as convenient examples—the Irvingite faith of the misinterpretation of automatism, the Swedenborgian of the misinterpretation of (so-called) clairvoyance. Still more singular have been the resultant beliefs when to the assemblage of purely psychical marvels a physical ingredient has been added, of a more disputable kind. For linked in various ways with records of {i-lix} automatic cerebration, of apparitions, of vision and revelation, come accounts of objective sounds, of measurable movements, which may well seem an unwarrantable intrusion into the steady order of the ponderable world. And in the year 1848 certain events, whose precise nature is still in dispute, occurred in America, in consequence of which many persons were led to believe that under appropriate circumstances these sounds, these movements, these tangible apparitions, could be evoked or reproduced at will. On this basis the creed of “Modern Spiritualism” has been upbuilt. And here arises the pressing question—notoriously still undecided, difficult and complex beyond any anticipation—as to whether supernormal phenomena of this physical kind do in fact occur at all; or whether they are in all cases—as they undoubtedly have been in many cases—the product of mere fraud or delusion. This question, as it seems to us, is one to which we are bound to give our most careful attention; and if we have as yet failed to attain a decisive view, it is not for want of laborious observation, continued by several of us throughout many years. But we are unwilling to pronounce until we have had ample opportunities—opportunities which so far we have for the most part sought in vain—of investigating phenomena obtained through private sources, and free, at any rate, from the specific suspicion to which the presence of a “paid medium” inevitably gives rise.

I need not add further illustrations of the cautionary, the critical attitude which befits such a Society as ours at the present juncture. This attitude is in one way unavoidably ungracious; for it has sometimes precluded us from availing ourselves of the labours of predecessors whose zeal and industry we should have been glad to praise. The time, we hope, will come when enough of daylight shall shine upon our path to make possible a discriminating survey of the tracks which scattered seekers have struck out for themselves in the confusion and dimness of dawn. At present we have mainly to take heed that our own groping course shall at least avoid the pitfalls into which others have fallen. Anything like a distribution of awards of merit would be obviously premature on the part of men whose best hope must be that they may conduct the inquiry into a road firm enough to enable others rapidly to outstrip them.

{i-lx}

II.

§ 14. Enough, however, has now been said to indicate the general tenor of the task which the Society for Psychical Research has undertaken. It remains to indicate the place which the present work occupies in the allotted field, and the reasons for offering it to public consideration at this early stage of our inquiry.

We could not, of course, predict or pre-arrange the order in which opportunities of successful investigation might occur to the searchers in this labyrinth of the unknown. Among the groping experiments which seemed to have only too often led to mere mistake and confusion,—the “thousand pathways”

“qua signa sequendi

Falleret indeprensus et inremeabilis error,”—

[Translation]

which baffled every clue, and led astray / in unreturning mazes dark and blind [Vergil, Aeneid 5.590–91; trans. Theodore C. Williams, 1910]

it was not easy to choose with confidence our adit of exploration. The approach which proved most quickly productive was one from which it might have seemed that there was little indeed to hope. A kind of drawing-room game sprang up—it is hard to say whence—a method of directing a subject to perform a desired act by a contact so slight that no conscious impulsion was either received or given. Careful observers soon ranked the “willing-game” as an illustration of involuntary muscular action on the willer’s part, affording a guidance to which the subject yielded sometimes without being aware of it. But while the modus operandi of public exhibitions of this misnamed “thought-reading” was not difficult to detect, Professor Barrett was one of the first who—while recognising all these sources of error—urged the duty of persistent watching for any residuum of true thought-transference which might from time to time appear. As will be seen from Chap. II. of this book it was not till after some six years of inquiry and experiment (1876–82) that definite proof of thought-transference in the normal state could be placed before the world. This was done in an article in the Nineteenth Century for June, 1882, signed by Professor Barrett, Mr. Gurney, and myself. The phenomenon of transmission of thought or sensation without the agency of the recognised organs of sense had been previously recorded in connection with the mesmeric state, but, so far as we know, its occasional occurrence in the normal state was now for the first time maintained on the strength of definite experiment. And the four years 1882–1886 have witnessed a great extension of those experiments, which no longer rest on the integrity and capacity of the earliest group of observers alone.

{i-lxi}

§ 15. The foundation of the Society for Psychical Research in 1882 gave an opportunity to Mr. Gurney and myself, as Hon. Secs. of a Literary Committee, to invite from the general public records of apparitions at or after death, and other abnormal occurrences. On reviewing the evidence thus obtained we were struck with the great predominance of alleged apparitions at or near the moment of death. And a new light seemed to be thrown on these phenomena by the unexpected frequency of accounts of apparitions of living persons, coincident with moments of danger or crisis. We were led to infer a strong analogy between our experimental cases of thought-transference and some of these spontaneous cases of what we call telepathy, or transference of a shock or impulse from one living person to another person at such a distance or under such conditions as to negative the possibility of any ordinary mode of transmission. An article, signed by Mr. Gurney and myself, in the Fortnightly Review for March, 1883, gave a first expression to the analogy thus suggested. The task of collection and scrutiny grew on our hands; Mr. Podmore undertook to share our labours; and the Council of the Society for Psychical Research requested us to embody the evidence received in a substantive work.

It will be seen, then, that the theory of Telepathy, experimental and spontaneous, which forms the main topic of this book, was not chosen as our theme by any arbitrary process of selection, but was irresistibly suggested by the abundance and the convergence of evidence tending to prove that special thesis. We were, and are, equally anxious to inquire into many other alleged marvels—clairvoyance, haunted houses, Spiritualistic phenomena, &c.—but telepathy is the subject which has first shown itself capable of investigation appearing to lead to a positive result; and it seemed well to arrange its evidence with sufficient fulness to afford at least a solid groundwork for further inquiry.

And having been led to this choice by the nature of the actual evidence before us, we may recognise that there is some propriety in dealing first with an issue which, complex though it is, is yet simple as compared to other articles of our programme. For the fact, if it be one, of the direct action of mind upon mind has at least a generality which makes it possible that, like the law of atomic combination in chemistry, it may be a generalisation which, though grasped at first in a very simplified and imperfect fashion, may prove to have been the essential pre-requisite of future progress.

{i-lxii}

§ 16. In a certain sense it may be said that this hidden action of one mind on another comes next in order of psychical discovery to the hidden action of the mind within itself. It will be remembered that the earliest scientific attempts to explain the phenomena of so-called Spiritualism referred them mainly to “unconscious cerebration,” (Carpenter,) or to what was virtually the same thing, “unconscious muscular action” (Faraday).

Now these theories, in my view, were, so far as they went, not only legitimate, but the most logical which could have been suggested to explain the scanty evidence with which alone Faraday and Carpenter attempted to deal. This unconscious action of the mind was in reality the first thing which it was needful to take into account in approaching supernormal phenomena. I believe, indeed, that our knowledge of those hidden processes of mentation is still in its infancy, and I have elsewhere endeavoured to assign a wider range than orthodox science has yet admitted to the mind’s unconscious operation.1 1 See Proceedings of the S.P.E., Vols. ii. and iii. But the result of this further analysis has been (as I hold) not to show that ordinary physiological considerations will suffice (as Dr. Carpenter seems to suppose) to explain all the psychical problems involved, but rather to reveal the fact that these unconscious operations of the mind do not follow the familiar channels alone, but are themselves the facilitation or the starting-point of operations which to science are wholly new.

To state the matter broadly, so as to include in a common formula the unremembered utterances of the hypnotic subject, and the involuntary writings of the waking automatist, I would maintain that when the horizon of consciousness is altered, the opening field of view is not always or wholly filled by a mere mirage or refraction of objects already familiar, but does, on rare occasions, include new objects, as real as the old. And amongst the novel energies thus liberated, the power of entering into direct communication with other intelligences seems to stand plainly forth. Among the objects in the new prospect are fragments of the thoughts and feelings of distant minds. It seems, at any rate, that some element of telepathy is perpetually meeting us throughout the whole range of these inquiries. In the first place, thought-transference is the only supernormal phenomenon which we have as yet acquired the power of inducing, even occasionally, in the normal state. It meets us also in the {i-lxiii} hypnotic trance, under the various forms of “community of sensation,” “silent willing,” and the like. Among the alleged cases of “mesmeric clairvoyance” the communication of pictures of places from operator to subject seems the least uncertain ground. And again, among phenomena commonly attributed to “spirits,” (but many of which may perhaps be more safely ascribed to the automatic agency of the sensitive himself,) communication of thought still furnishes our best clue to “trance-speaking,” “clairvoyant vision,” answers to mental questions and the like. It need not, therefore, surprise us if, even in a field so apparently remote from all ordinary analogies as that of apparitions and death-wraiths, we still find that telepathy affords our most satisfactory clue.

§ 17. And here would seem to be the fitting place to explain why we have given the title of “Phantasms of the Living” to a group of records most of which will present themselves to the ordinary reader as narratives of apparitions of the dead.

When we began, in a manner to be presently described, to collect accounts of experiences which our informants regarded as inexplicable by ordinary laws, we were of course ignorant as to what forms these experiences would mainly take. But after printing and considering over two thousand depositions which seemed primâ facie to deserve attention, we find that more than half of them are narratives of appearances or other impressions coincident either with the death of the person seen or with some critical moment in his life-history.

The value of the accounts of apparitions after death is lessened, moreover, by a consideration which is obvious enough as soon as these narratives come to be critically considered. The difficulty in dealing with all these hallucinations—with all appearances to which no persistent three-dimensional reality corresponds—is to determine whether they are veridical, or truth-telling—whether, that is, they do in fact correspond to some action which is going on in some other place or on some other plane of being;—or whether, on the other hand, they are merely morbid or casual—the random and meaningless fictions of an over-stimulated eye or brain. Now in the case of apparitions at the moment of death or crisis, we have at any rate an objective fact to look to. If we can prove that a great number of apparitions coincide with the death of the person seen, we may fairly say, as we do say, that chance alone cannot explain this {i-lxiv} coincidence, and that there is a causal connection between the two events. But if I have a vision of a friend recently dead, and on whom my thoughts have been dwelling, we cannot be sure that this may not be a merely delusive hallucination—the mere offspring of my own brooding sorrow. In order to get at all nearly the same degree of evidence for a dead person’s appearance that we can get for a dying person’s appearance, it seems necessary that the apparition should either communicate some fact known only to the deceased, or should be noted independently by more than one person at once or successively. And our evidence of this kind is at present scarcely sufficient to support any assured conclusion.1 1 See Mrs. Sidgwick’s paper on “The Evidence, collected by the Society, for Phantasms of the Dead,” in Proceedings of the S.P.R., Vol. iii.

When, therefore, we are considering whether the phantasms of dying persons may most fitly be considered as phantasms of the dead or of the living, we find little support from analogy on the side of posthumous apparitions. And on the other hand, as already hinted, we have many cases where the apparition has coincided with violent shocks,—carriage accidents, fainting fits, epileptic fits, &c., which nevertheless left the agent,—as we call the person whose semblance is seen,—as much alive as before. In some cases the accident is almost a fatal one; as when a man’s phantom is seen at the moment when he is half-drowned and insensible. In such a case it would seem illogical to allow the mere fact of his restoration or non-restoration to life to rank his phantom as that of a living person in the one case, of a dead person in the other. It seems simpler to suppose that if two men fall overboard to-day and their respective phantoms are seen by their friends at the moment,—then, though one man should be restored to life and the other not,—yet if the first phantom was that of a living man, so also was the second.

Nay more, even if the apparition be seen some hours later than the moment of apparent death, there are still reasons which prevent us from decisively classing it as the apparition of a dead man. In the first place, the moment of actual death is a very uncertain thing. When the heart’s action stops the organism continues for some time in a state very different from that of ordinary inanimate matter. In such an inquiry as ours it is safer to speak, not of death, but of “the process of dissolution,” and to allow for the possible prolongation of some form of psychical energy even when, for instance, the attempt to restore respiration to a drowned man has definitely failed. And in {i-lxv} the second place, we find in the case of phantasms corresponding to some accident or crisis which befalls a living friend, that there seems often to be a latent period before the phantasm becomes definite or externalised to the percipient’s eye or ear. Sometimes a vague malaise seems first to be generated, and then when other stimuli are deadened,—as at night or in some period of repose,—the indefinite grief or uneasiness takes shape in the voice or figure of the friend who in fact passed through his moment of peril some hours before. It is quite possible that a deferment of this kind may sometimes intervene between the moment of death and the phantasmal announcement thereof to a distant friend.

These, then, are reasons, suggested by actual experience, for ascribing our phantasms at death to living rather than to dead men. And there is another consideration, of a more general order, which points in the same direction. We must not rashly multiply the problems involved in this difficult inquiry. Now Science, it is needless to say, offers no assurance that man survives the tomb; and although in Christian countries our survival is an established doctrine, this does not carry with it any dogma as to the possibility that communications should reach us from departed spirits. The hypothesis, then, that apparitions are ever directly caused by dead persons is one which ordinary scientific caution bids us to be very slow in introducing. Should it afterwards be established that departed spirits can communicate with us, the interpretation placed upon various cases contained in these volumes may need revision. But for the present it is certainly safer to inquire how far they can be explained by the influences or impressions which, as we know by actual experiment, living persons can under certain circumstances exert or effect on one another, in those obscure supersensory modes which we have provisionally massed together under the title of Telepathy.

§ 18. The main theses of this book, then, are now capable of being stated in a very simple form.

I. Experiment proves that telepathy—the supersensory1 1 By “supersensory” I mean “independent of the recognised channels of sense.” I do not mean to assert that telepathic perception either is or is not analogous to sensory perception of the recognised kinds. transference of thoughts and feelings from one mind to another,—is a fact in Nature.

{i-lxvi}

II. Testimony proves that phantasms (impressions, voices, or figures) of persons undergoing some crisis,—especially death,—are perceived by their friends and relatives with a frequency which mere chance cannot explain.

III. These phantasms then, whatever else they may be, are instances of the supersensory action of one mind on another. The second thesis therefore confirms, and is confirmed by, the first. For if telepathy exists, we should anticipate that it would exhibit some spontaneous manifestations, on a scale more striking than our experimental ones. And, on the other hand, apparitions are rendered more credible and comprehensible by an analogy which for the first time links them with the results of actual experiment.

Such are the central theses of this work,—theses on which its authors, and the friends whom they have mainly consulted, are in entire agreement. The first thesis may, of course, be impugned by urging that our experiments are fallacious. The second thesis may be impugned by urging that our testimony is insufficient. The third thesis, as I have here worded it, is hardly open to separate attack; being a corollary which readily follows if the first two theses are taken as proved.

This, however, is only the case so long as the third thesis, which asserts the analogy between thought-transference and apparitions—between experimental and spontaneous telepathy—is stated in a vague and general form. So soon as we attempt to give more precision to this analogy—to discuss how far the unknown agency at work can be supposed to be the same in both cases—or how far the apparitions may be referable to quite other, though cognate, laws,—we enter on a field where even those who have accepted the analogy in general terms are likely to find the evidence leading them to somewhat divergent conclusions. Of two men independently studying our records of apparitions, the one will almost inevitably press their analogy to simple telepathy further than the other. And each will be able to plead that he has been guided as far as possible by an instinct of scientific caution in thus judging of matters strange and new. The first will say that “causes are not to be multiplied without necessity,” and that we have now in telepathy a vera causatrue cause whose furthest possibilities we ought to exhaust before invoking still stranger, still remoter agencies, whose very existence we are not in a position to prove. He will feel bound therefore to dwell on the points on which our knowledge either of telepathy, or of the mechanism of hallucinations {i-lxvii} in general, throws some light; and he will set aside as at present inexplicable such peculiarities of our evidence as cannot well be brought within this scheme.

The second inquirer, on the other hand, will perhaps feel strongly that telepathy, as we now know it, is probably little more than a mere preliminary conception, a simplified mode of representing to ourselves a group of phenomena which, as involving relations between minds, may probably be more complex than those which involve even the highest known forms of matter. He will feel that, while we hold one clue alone, we must be careful not to overrate its efficacy; we must be on the watch for other approaches, for hints of inter-relation between disparate and scattered phenomena.

It is to the first of these two attitudes of mind,—the attitude which deprecates extraneous theorising,—that Mr. Gurney and Mr. Podmore have inclined; and the committal of the bulk of this work to Mr. Gurney’s execution indicates not only that he has been able to devote the greatest amount of time and energy to the task, but also that his view is on the whole the most nearly central among the opinions which we have felt it incumbent on us to consult. We have no wish, however, to affect a closer agreement than actually exists; and in a “Note on a Suggested Mode of Psychical Interaction,” which will be found in Vol. II., I shall submit a view which differs from Mr. Gurney’s on some theoretical points.

§ 19. The theories contained in this book, however, bear a small proportion to the mass of collected facts. A few words as to our method of collection may here precede Mr. Gurney’s full discussion (Chapter IV.) of the peculiar difficulties to which our evidence is exposed.

It soon became evident that if our collection was to be satisfactory it must consist mainly of cases collected by ourselves, and of a great number of such cases. The apparitions at death, &c., recorded by previous writers, are enough, indeed, to show that scattered incidents of the kind have obtained credence in many ages and countries. But they have never been collected and sifted with any systematic care; and few of them reach an evidential standard which could justify us in laying them before our readers. And even had the existing stock of testimony been large and well-assured, it would still have been needful for us to collect our own specimens in situ,—to see, talk with, and correspond with the persons to whose strange experiences {i-lxviii} so much weight was to be given. This task of personal inquiry,—whose traces will, we hope, be sufficiently apparent throughout the present work,—has stretched itself out beyond expectation, but has also enabled us to speak with a confidence which could not have been otherwise acquired. One of its advantages is the security thus gained as to the bona fides of the witnesses concerned. They have practically placed themselves upon their honour; nor need we doubt that the experiences have been, as a rule, recounted in all sincerity. As to unintentional errors of observation and memory, Mr. Gurney’s discussion will at least show that we have had abundant opportunities of learning how wide a margin must be left for human carelessness, forgetfulness, credulity. “God forbid,” said the flute-player to Philip of Macedon, “that your Majesty should know these things as well as I!”

It must not, however, be inferred from what has been said that our informants as a body have shown themselves less shrewd or less accurate than the generality of mankind. On the contrary, we have observed with pleasure that our somewhat persistent and probing method of inquiry has usually repelled the sentimental or crazy wonder-mongers who hang about the outskirts of such a subject as this; while it has met with cordial response from an unexpected number of persons who feel with reason that the very mystery which surrounds these incidents makes it additionally important that they should be recounted with sobriety and care. The straightforward style in which most of our informants have couched their narratives, as well as the honoured names which some of them bear, may enable the reader to share something of the confidence which a closer contact with the facts has inspired in our own minds.

Again, it seemed necessary that the collection offered to the public should be a very large one, even at the cost of including in a Supplement some remote or second-hand cases besides the first-hand cases which alone are admitted into the chapters of this book. If, indeed, our object had been simply to make out a case for the connection of deaths with apparitions, we might have offered a less assailable front, and should certainly have spared ourselves much trouble, had we confined ourselves to giving in detail a few of the best-attested instances. But what we desired was not precisely this. We hope, no doubt, that most of our readers may ultimately be led to conclusions resembling our own. But before our conclusions can expect to gain general acceptance, many other {i-lxix} hypotheses will doubtless be advanced, and coincidence, superstition, fraud, hysteria, will be invoked in various combinations to explain the evidence given here. We think, therefore, that it is our duty in so new a subject to afford full material for hypotheses discordant with our own; to set forth cases drawn from so wide a range of society, and embracing such a variety of circumstances, as to afford scope for every mode of origination or development of these narratives which the critic may suggest.

Furthermore, the whole subject of hallucinations of the sane—which hitherto has received very scanty treatment—seems fairly to belong to our subject, and has been treated by Mr. Gurney in Chap. XI. We have throughout contended that a knowledge of abnormal or merely morbid phenomena is an indispensable pre-requisite for the treating of any supernormal operations which may be found to exist under somewhat similar forms of manifestation.

Once more, it was plainly desirable to inquire whether hypotheses, now admitted to be erroneous, had ever been based in past times on evidence in any way comparable to that which we have adduced. The belief in witchcraft, from its wide extent and its nearness to our own times, is the most plausible instance of such a parallelism. And Mr. Gurney, in his Note on Chapter IV., has given the results of an analysis of witch-literature more laborious than previous authors had thought it worth while to undertake. The result is remarkable; for it appears that the only marvels for which respectable testimony was adduced consist obviously of ignorant descriptions of hypnotic and epileptiform phenomena now becoming familiar to science; while as to the monstrous stories—copied from one uncritical writer into another—which have given to this confused record of hypnotic and hysterical illusions the special aromas (so to say) of witchcraft or lycanthropy,—these prodigies have scarcely ever the slightest claim to be founded on any first-hand evidence at all.

§ 20. But while the material here offered for forming an opinion on all these points is, no doubt, much larger than previous writers have been at the pains to amass, we are anxious, nevertheless, to state explicitly that we regard this present collection of facts as merely preliminary; this present work as merely opening out a novel subject; these researches of a few persons during a few years as the mere first instalment of inquiries which will need {i-lxx} repetition and reinforcement to an extent which none of us can as yet foresee.

A change in the scientific outlook so considerable as that to which these volumes point must needs take time to accomplish. Time is needed not only to spread the knowledge of new facts, but also to acclimatise new conceptions in the individual mind. Such, at least, has been our own experience; and since the evidence which has come to us slowly and piecemeal is here presented to other minds suddenly and in a mass, we must needs expect that its acceptance by them will be a partial and gradual thing. What we hope for first is an increase in the number of those who are willing to aid us in our labours; we trust that the fellow-workers in many lands to whom we already owe so much may be encouraged to further collection of testimony, renewed experiment, when they see these experiments confirming one another in London, Paris, Berlin,—this testimony vouching for cognate incidents from New York to New Zealand, and from Manchester to Calcutta.

With each year of experiment and registration we may hope that our results will assume a more definite shape—that there will be less of the vagueness and confusion inevitable at the beginning of a novel line of research, but naturally distasteful to the savant accustomed to proceed by measurable increments of knowledge from experimental bases already assured. Such an one, if he reads this book, may feel as though he had been called away from an ordnance survey, conducted with a competent staff and familiar instruments, to plough slowly with inexperienced mariners through some strange ocean where beds of entangling seaweed cumber the trackless way. We accept the analogy; but we would remind him that even floating weeds of novel genera may foreshow a land unknown; and that it was not without ultimate gain to men that the straining keels of Columbus first pressed through the Sargasso Sea.

§ 21. Yet one word more. This book is not addressed to savants alone, and it may repel many readers on quite other than scientific grounds. Attempting as we do to carry the reign of Law into a sanctuary of belief and emotion which has never thus been invaded in detail,—lying in wait, as it were, to catch the last impulse of the dying, and to question the serenity of the dead,—we may seem to be incurring the poet’s curse on the man “who would peep and botanize upon his mother’s grave,”—to be touching the Ark of sacred {i-lxxi} mysteries with hands stained with labour in the profane and common field.

How often have men thus feared that Nature’s wonders would be degraded by being closelier looked into! How often, again, have they learnt that the truth was higher than their imagination; and that it is man’s work, but never Nature’s, which to be magnificent must remain unknown! How would a disciple of Aristotle,—fresh from his master’s conception of the fixed stars as types of godhead,—of an inhabitance by pure existences of a supernal world of their own,—how would he have scorned the proposal to learn more of those stars by dint of the generation of fetid gases and the sedulous minuteness of spectroscopic analysis! Yet how poor, how fragmentary were Aristotle’s fancies compared with our conception, thus gained, of cosmic unity! our vibrant message from Sirius and Orion by the heraldry of the kindred flame! Those imagined gods are gone; but the spectacle of the starry heavens has become for us so moving in its immensity that philosophers, at a loss for terms of wonder, have ranked it with the Moral Law.

If man, then, shall attempt to sound and fathom the depths that lie not without him, but within, analogy may surely warn him that the first attempts of his rude psychoscopes to give precision and actuality to thought will grope among “beggarly elements,”—will be concerned with things grotesque, or trivial, or obscure. Yet here also one handsbreadth of reality gives better footing than all the castles of our dream; here also by beginning with the least things we shall best learn how great things may remain to do.

The insentient has awoke, we know not how, into sentiency; the sentient into the fuller consciousness of human minds. Yet even human self-consciousness remains a recent, a perfunctory, a superficial thing; and we must first reconstitute our conception of the microcosm, as of the macrocosm, before we can enter on those “high capacious powers” which, I believe, “lie folded up in man.”

F. W. H. M.

{i-lxxii} {i-lxxiii}

ADDITIONS AND CORRECTIONS.

VOLUME I.

Page 33, line 20. For 999,999,98, read 999,999,999,1.

Page 34, line 6. For 1000 to 1, read “about 500 to 1.”

Page 88. Since the note on this page was written, some additional evidence has been obtained as to the effect of concentration of the operator’s will in the process of hypnotising. See the cases quoted in the Additional Chapter, (Vol. II., pp. 680, 684, 685,) from the records of the Société de Psychologie Physiologique.

Page 110, first note. Two further examples of this interesting type will be found on pp. lxxxi-iv, below.

Page 118, second note. After this note had been printed off, I came across a passage from Die Christliche Mystik, by J. J. von Goerres, in which a learned bishop, Prudencio de Sandoval, is made to describe a witch’s journey through the air as though he had himself been a judicial spectator of it. A reference to Sandoval’s own account, however, in his Historia de la vida y hechos del Emperador Carlos V. (Pamplona, 1618), Vol. I., p. 830, shows that the trial of the witch in question took place in 1527. Now Sandoval died in 1621; clearly, therefore, he could not have been a first-hand witness, as represented. Nor does he even name his authority; and discredit is thrown on his sources of information by Llorente, in his Anales de la Inquisition de España (Madrid, 1812), p. 319. As the passage from Goerres was quoted in a first-class scientific review, and, if accurate, would have told against my statements as to the absence of first-hand evidence for alleged magical occurrences, I have thought it worth while to forestall a possible objection.

The only instance that I can find, during the witch-epoch, of definite first-hand evidence for a marvel of a type which our present knowledge of abnormal bodily and mental states will not explain, is, as it happens, not part of the history of so-called magic, but is connected with the extraordinary epidemic of religious excitement which took place in the Cevennes at the beginning of the last century. As the instance seems to be a solitary one, it may be worth while to give the facts. The Théâtre Sacré des Cevennes (London, 1707) contains the depositions of two witnesses to the fact that they saw a man named Clary stand for many minutes, totally uninjured, in the midst of a huge fire of blazing wood; and that they immediately afterwards ascertained by their own senses that there was not a sign of burning on him or his clothes. This is the sort of case which, if multiplied by scores or hundreds, and if nothing were {i-lxxiv} known against the character of the witnesses, would support the view that an apparently strong evidential case can be made out for phenomena—being matters of direct observation—which nevertheless for the scientific mind are impossible; and that therefore the evidential case for telepathy presented in this book may be safely neglected (see p. 115). But the character of the two deponents mentioned is seriously impugned by a third witness, the celebrated Colonel Cavallier, who had no interest in decrying his own followers and partisans, and whose probity seems never to have been doubted even by those who most questioned his good sense.1 1 See, for instance, the Histoire des Camisards (London, 1754), p. 333, note. The view of Cavallier there cited from De Brueys’ Histoire du Fanatisme (Utrecht, 1737), need not be discounted because in the same work he is called a scélérat; that being De Brueys’ generic term for a Camisard leader. (Nouveaux Memoires pour Servir à l’Histoire des Trois Camisars, London, 1708, pp. 6–9.) He describes them as worthless impostors, as to whom it was easy to see “qu’ il n’y a pas beaucoup à compter sur ce qu’ ils disent, et encore moins sur ce qu’ ils sont. that we can hardly count on what they said, much less on who they are. See also the account given of them by Dr. Hutchinson, a by no means over-sceptical writer, who seems to have had the means of ascertaining Cavallier’s opinions when the latter was in England. (A Short View of the Pretended Spirit of Prophecy, London, 1708, pp. 9, 16. See also A Preservative against the False Prophets of the Times, by Mark Vernons, London, 1708, p. 72; and Clavis Prophetica, London, 1707, pp. 8, 9.) As regards Colonel Cavallier himself, we have to note (1) that in the history of the Cevennes disturbances, attributed to him and probably drawn up from recollections of his conversations, not a word on the subject occurs; and that the only direct testimony to the occurrence that we have from him, as far as I can discover, is the phrase, “Cela est vrai,” applied to the fire of Clary, “et d’autres choses de cette nature That is true, as are other things of that nature. (Memoires pour Servir, &c., p. 10);2 2 No further testimony of Cavallier’s on the subject seems to have been known to the author of the Examen du Théâtre Sacré des Cevennes (London, 1708, p. 34). He is not even stated to have been present, except in the depositions of the discredited witnesses; but on this point they may probably be trusted, as falsehood would have been at once exposed. (2) that even supposing he was an eye-witness, it nowhere appears that he examined Clary after the ordeal, and ascertained that his clothes and hair were unsinged; and, as Hutchinson remarks, the fire may have been “a fire of straw, that is no sooner kindled but it is out again.” And in fact, in the Histoire des Troubles des Cevennes, by A. Court (Villefranche, 1760), p. 442, the author professes to have found, from information gathered at the spot, that “(1) Clary ne séjourna pas dans le feu; (2) il y entra deux fois; (3) il se brûla au col du bras, et fut obligé de s’arrêter au lieu de Pierredon, pour se fair panser. (1) Clary did not remain in the fire; (2) he entered it twice; (3) he burned his arm near the shoulder, and was obliged to stop at the place called Pierredon for treatment.

I confine myself to this single case, which bears directly on my discussion of evidence in Chapter IV.; but since no topic has been a greater favourite in the modern literature of the “supernatural” than the phenomena of the Cevennes, it may be useful to add that probably no chapter of history offers equal facilities for studying the natural genesis of modern miracles.

Page 127, line 16. For wonder-mongerer read wonder-monger.

Page 140, last sentence of note. Since this was written, a few other instances have been included where it is possible, but not certain, that the {i-lxxv} 12 hours’ limit was exceeded. It was exceeded in case 138, and possibly in case 165.

Page 145, last sentence. Since this was printed, some further cases have been received of considerable exaggeration of the closeness of a coincidence, which should be added to the examples mentioned in the note.

(1) An informant sent us a sworn affidavit to the effect that, in January, 1852, when returning from China on board the “Pilot,” and near the Cape, he had a vision of his sister, and learnt on his arrival in England that she had died “about the time” of the vision. We find, from an examination of various newspapers, that the “Pilot” was in the East Indies up to December, 1851, and was at Devonport in March, 1852; so that she may well have been near the Cape in January, 1852. But we find from the Register of Deaths that the sister died on June 29, 1851, at which date, as we learn from the Admiralty, the “Pilot” was at Whampoa. It is not likely that our informant was mistaken as to his own experience having taken place on the return voyage, and shortly before his arrival in England. What happened, we may surmise, is that he was told, when he arrived after a long absence, that his sister had lately died; and that on the strength of his vision, he assumed or gradually came to imagine, that the death had happened only several weeks before, instead of several months.

(2) A gentleman gave us a striking account of a phantasm of a friend, then in the Transvaal war, who appeared in his room early one morning, and announced that he had been shot through the right lung. Such a hallucination being absolutely unique in our informant’s experience, he noted the time—4.10 a.m.—by a clock on the mantelpiece, and waited feverishly during the hours that elapsed before he could see a newspaper at his club. He found no news of the war. In the course of the day he mentioned his vision and his disquietude to an acquaintance at the club. The next morning he saw, in the first paper that he took up, the announcement that his friend had been killed—shot through the right lung, as it afterwards proved—at an hour (as he calculated) closely coincident with that of his vision. We found, however, from the London Gazette, that the battle in which this officer was killed did not begin till 9.30 a.m.; and the death took place at least two hours later, which would be between 9 and 10 a.m. in England. Clearly, therefore, the vision must have preceded the death by some hours, if they occurred on the same day. But an examination of the newspapers makes it seem very likely that the vision fell on the day after the death. The battle took place on Friday, and was announced in the Saturday papers; but the death was not announced in the morning papers till Monday, and the vision which is represented as having occurred on the day next before the announcement of the death may more easily be supposed to have occurred on the second day than on the third day before—i.e., on the Saturday, not the Friday morning. As to the statement that the papers contained no war-news on the morning of the vision, that is a point on which our informant’s memory might easily get wrong, as they did not contain what he searched them for.

(3) An account signed by three witnesses of unimpeachable character, and purporting to be a statement made to them on Sept. 7, 1859, by T. Crowley, of Dinish Island, records a hallucination which he experienced {i-lxxvi} on Saturday, Aug. 13, and afterwards connected with the unexpected death of his daughter, Ellen, which took place at a distance a few hours earlier. This daughter had been an inmate of a Deaf and Dumb Asylum. From the secretary of this institution we learnt that the day of her death was Sunday, July 24, 1859; and we procured a certificate of her burial on the following day. It is probable that those who took down the statement got an idea that the coincidence was a close one, and unconsciously forced the wrong date on an uneducated witness.

(4) Two letters have been handed to us, written by a husband to his wife on Nov. 7 and Dec. 28, 1874. The first letter describes an overpowering impression of calamity at home which the writer experienced, during a voyage, on Friday, Nov. 6, and which he immediately mentioned to a friend, who has given us full written confirmation of the fact. In that week the writer of the letters lost a child, who died, as we find from the Register of Deaths, on Tuesday, Nov. 3. Yet the second letter, written after the news of the death had reached the father, says, “It is very strange, but the very time—day and hour—of our boy’s death, I could not sleep,” and then follows another account of the very experience which was before described (and undoubtedly correctly) as having happened on the night of Nov. 6, three days after the death.

(5) A lady, who did not remember ever to have dreamt of death on any other occasion, told us that one night, in January, 1881, she had a remarkably vivid dream of the death of a relative whom she did not know to be ill or likely to die; and that on coming down in the morning she found the death announced in the Times as having occurred on the previous day. She did not (for family reasons) communicate the name of the person who died. But it is not very common for deaths to appear in the Times on the day after that on which they occurred. A list was accordingly made out of all the persons, corresponding with her description in sex and age, whose deaths were so immediately announced during that month; and the list, being submitted to her, her relative’s name proved not to be in it. The death must therefore have preceded the dream by more than 24 hours.

(6) Another informant gives an account of an interesting experience said to have occurred on the night of Sunday, May 6, 1866, and remarkably coinciding with the death of the narrator’s brother, lost with the “General Grant.” The fate of this ship was not known till January, 1868, when the Melbourne Argus published a “narrative of the survivors.” From this account we find that the wreck occurred on the night of Sunday the 13th, and that the death in question probably occurred on the morning of the 14th; which, allowing for longitude, would closely correspond with the time of the experience in England, supposing that our informant’s date was wrong by a week. This may very likely have been the case, as he explains that all he is clear about is that the day was a Sunday in May which he spent at a particular place. But unfortunately he had said in a former letter that the date May 6 was impressed on his mind by its being his own birthday; and that statement cannot, of course, be ignored; although he makes it tolerably clear that he really only inferred long afterwards that that was the day, because he knew for certain that on his birthday he was at the place where the experience occurred.

{i-lxxvii}

Pages 149–51. The following instructive instance of the difference between first-hand and second-hand evidence shows how easily a spurious telepathic narrative may grow up. We received a second-hand account to the effect that a friend of our informant, as she was returning from a walk, saw her sister on the doorstep just entering the house, entered herself a few moments after, was told by the servant that her sister had not been out, went upstairs, and found her dying from a sudden fit. The first-hand account, which had been given to us some years before, contains every one of these facts, (modifying one of them by the statement that the sister died“within 12 hours” after,) but adds just two more. “I, being very blind, thought1 1 Thought is italicised in the original: all the other italics are mine. I saw her before me.” “I probably mistook the door, there being two on the same doorstep as mine.” How completely the aspect of the case is altered by these few additional words, appears in the most natural way from the sentences that follow. The second-hand account says, “She looked upon this as an apparition, sent to her to break the sudden shock,”&c. The first-hand account says, “I never imagined I had really seen an apparition; but it certainly was a merciful mistake, as it in a certain sense broke the shock to me,” &c.

Page 154, second paragraph. The particular form of exaggeration in second-hand evidence, which represents what was really only a dream as that far rarer and more striking phenomenon—a waking hallucination—is exemplified in connection with one of the narratives quoted later, No. 429. The first-hand account, it will be seen, describes the experience simply as a dream; Aubrey (Miscellanies, London, 1696, p. 60) recounts it as a case of apparition.

Page 156, last part of note. The publication of this book has led to the verication [sic] of the incident here described. The gentleman concerned—Mr. G. H. Dickson, of 17, Winckley Street, Preston—has sent me (Dec. 22, 1886) an account which differs from the second-hand report in two points only:—the woman was not actually crushed to death, though Mr. Dickson “was told, before leaving the station, that her injuries would be fatal”; and his wife did not describe her experience to him immediately on his arrival, but later in the day—whether before or after his mention of the scene they do not now remember.

Page 158, line 1. “No cases are given which are not first-hand.” Cases 256 and 257 are exceptions; but see Vol. II., p. 83.

Page 167, line 1 of note. “The suppressed names have in all cases been given to us in confidence.” In the Supplement there are seven exceptions to this rule. Five of them are cases which have been previously published on apparently reliable authority, but which the death of the person responsible for them has prevented us from tracing to their source; the sixth is a MS. case of the same description; and in the seventh, our informant, though perfectly remembering the circumstances of his connection with the original witness, cannot recall his name. In a very few other cases the name of the agent has not been learnt.

Page 206, note. Some independent evidence has been received as to the manner of Captain Collyer’s death. An advertisement was inserted for us in the Daily Picayune, the leading New Orleans newspaper, offering a small {i-lxxviii} reward for definite information as to the fatal accident on the “Alice.” For some months no information was given; but on Jan. 6, 1886, the editor wrote to us as follows:—“To-day a party called at the Picayune office, and made the following statement: ‘My name is J. L. Hall. I was a striker on the steamer “Red River”at the time she ran into the “Alice,” John Collyer, master, at a point about 20 miles above New Orleans. The accident occurred at 10 o’clock at night, in January, 1856. The day of the month I do not remember. The “Red River” was bound up stream, and the “Alice” bound down. The collision broke the starboard engine of the “Alice”and stove in her upper guards and boiler deck. As soon as possible the “Red River” went to the assistance of the “Alice,” when one of the crew of the disabled boat remarked that the captain had been killed. On investigation, Captain Collyer was found lying on his back on the starboard side of the boiler deck of his boat, with a severe wound in the head and life extinct. The crew of the “Alice,” all of whom were negroes, stated that Captain Collyer had been killed by the collision, but the officers of the “Red River” thought otherwise, as the wound in his (Captain Collyer’s) head appeared to have been made before the two boats met, and the blood on the deck was coagulated. Probably not more than 10 minutes elapsed from the time the collision took place until the body of Captain Collyer was viewed by the officers of the “Red River.” After helping the “Alice” to make repairs, the “Red River” proceeded on her voyage. I cannot say positively, but I do not think the killing of Captain Collyer was ever investigated.’”1 1 The man who gave this account doubtless received the reward of a few dollars which had been placed in the editor’s hands. In only one other instance has any payment been made to a witness: in that case the evidence had been spontaneously given, partly in writing and partly vivâ voce, and the payment was simply for the time occupied in drawing up a more complete written statement.

It will be seen that there is a suggestion here that the death preceded the collision; and if this was so, it is an additional reason for supposing the coincidence with Mrs. Collyer’s experience to have been extremely close; for the witness had no idea why the evidence was wanted, and cannot have adjusted his account to a narrative of which he knew nothing. If his idea is correct, then there is no reason to suppose (as I have too hastily done in p. 206, note) that he has made a mistake as to the hour of the collision.

Page 248, case 49. The following is a corroborative account from Mrs. Arundel, who wrote from Maniton, Colorado, on April 1, 1886:—

“Not being very well, I was lying on the sofa (not asleep, for I had my baby sitting on the floor beside me, playing). Mr. Arundel was away on a sailing excursion with some friends, and I did not expect his return for some days. It seemed to me that I distinctly heard him call me by name, ‘Maggie,’ a slight pause and again ‘Maggie.’ The voice seemed far off and yet clear, but the tone such as he would use if needing me. The impression was so distinct that I rose and went out on to the porch with the thought, ‘Can they possibly have returned sooner for some reason?’ and I so fully expected to see him there that I went back into the house with a feeling of disappointment and some anxiety, too, feeling so sure I had heard his voice. No one was in the house, my servant being out. When my husband came home, he was much startled to find how exactly {i-lxxix} his experience on that Sunday afternoon corresponded with my vivid impressions. It could not have been mere coincidence. I must add that I mentioned my experience to Mr. Arundel before he had spoken to me of his.

“I have had impressions more than once, but never a false one. When Mr. Arundel first crossed to America he met with a severe storm. The night that the ship was in great danger (though it is impossible to define how), I knew and felt that it was so. I mentioned it to my friends, who ridiculed the fancy; nevertheless, the time corresponded precisely.1 1 An impression of this sort, occurring at what may naturally have been a time of anxiety, has no evidential weight. The distinctly auditory character of the more recent experience places it in quite a different category.

“MARGUERITE ARUNDEL.

Page 249, case 52. Dr. and Mme. Ollivier are both now deceased.

Page 261, note. On vivâ voce examination of the witnesses, it seems probable that Portugal did enter into the impression; but Mrs. Wilson, differing from her husband, thinks he knew that his brothers were going-there—which certainly commends itself as the probable explanation of that detail. We had the door, which has been repainted, brought up to London, in order that the paint might be carefully removed. The expert whom we employed to do this told us that it was very improbable that the pencil marks would have resisted the action of turpentine and the friction of the repainting; and nothing relating to the incident was discovered.

Page 304, bottom. Some further returns, received since this page was printed, leave unaltered the proportion stated.

Page 306, line 18. After “death” insert “dreamt by any previously specified individual.” Lines 23 and 26. For 1 27 read 1 26. Line 28. After “will” insert “on an average, if chance alone rules.”

Page 367, note. Visions of spectral funerals are mentioned by W. Howells, Cambrian Superstitions, pp. 54–6, 64; and by Wirt Sikes, British Goblins, pp. 231–2. An apparently telepathic instance, recorded in a collection of Border legends made by a Mr. Wilkie, may be found in W. Henderson’s Folk-lore of the Northern Counties of England and the Borders, p. 29.

Page 394, note. It is true that Isaak Walton’s account represents Dr. Donne as declaring that he was certainly awake; but Walton is a third-hand witness. See p. 154, second paragraph, and the above remarks thereon.

Page 408, case 154. Asked by her daughter to say “whether she remembered anything particular taking place at home” on the night of the death, Mrs. Thompson wrote as follows, on June 30, 1886:—

“82, Talbot Street, Moss-side, Manchester.

“I remember distinctly my daughter coming to my room several times asking me if I had called her, or if I knew who had called her, the night during which my nephew, Harry Suddaby, died.

“MARY THOMPSON.”

Page 479. Since this page was printed, I have received another instance of hallucinations voluntarily originated. A lady who has had a scientific training tells me that one bright June day, two years ago—when lying ill in bed, but with her mind especially active—she saw the gradual formation, on the background of the blind, of a statuesque head, which then changed {i-lxxx} into another. “I tired myself calling the pictures up again during the afternoon. They seemed as clear as if real, but after the first flash I was conscious of a mental effort with regard to them. Banishment was very easy; it only needed a relaxed tension.”

To the cases mentioned in the note should be added Dr. Abercrombie’s description of a gentleman (not personally known to him) who “had the power of calling up spectral figures at his will, by directing his attention steadily to the conception of his own mind; and this may either consist of a figure or a scene which he has seen, or it may be a composition created by his imagination. But though he has the faculty of producing the illusion, he has no power of banishing it; and when he has called up any particular spectral figure or scene, he never can say how long it may continue. The gentleman is in the prime of life, of sound mind, in good health, and engaged in business. Another of his family has been affected in the same manner, though in a slighter degree.” (Inquiries concerning the Intellectual Powers, 1838, p. 363.)

Pages 497–8. Chap. XI., § 2. The compatibility of sensory hallucinations, even of a very pronounced sort, with sound bodily and mental health is illustrated in the passage just quoted from Abercrombie. [above —Ed.]

Page 503, lines 17, 18. The statement that hallucinations of the sane and healthy, representing non-human objects, seem to be “rarely if ever” grotesque or horrible, is rather too sweeping. An exception should at any rate be made for certain endemic hallucinations. (See Vol. II., p. 189, note.)

Page 514, first paragraph. Some further examples of auditory hallucinations probably due to expectancy may be found in Howells’ Cambrian Superstitions (Tipton, 1831), p. 65. See also Sikes’s British Goblins, p. 229.

Page 534, case 199. The account, confirmed by Mr. B. in 1883, was written in or before 1876. Mrs. B. writes, on Dec. 31, 1886:—“I perfectly recollect the occasion of Mrs.——’s death, and that my husband for a whole week was considerably concerned about her. My husband mentioned the vision the same morning, at the time it occurred, and we did not hear of the death till seven or eight days afterwards.” The death could not be traced in the register at Somerset House; but on inquiring of the coroner of the district where it occurred, we find that it took place exactly as described, on April 9, 1873, which, however, was a Wednesday, not a Saturday. The mistake as to the day of the week seems neither to increase nor to decrease the probability that Mr. and Mrs. B. were able, after the short interval which elapsed before they heard the news, correctly to identify the day of the vision with that of the death.

Page 546, lines 14–16. Mr. Keulemans’ statement that his little boy’s fringe could not have grown to its usual length in a month might be questioned. But on my pointing this out to him, he explained that (being struck by the fact that the hair, as he saw it in his vision, was just as he had been accustomed to see it) he had expressly asked his mother-in-law what was the state of the child’s hair at the time of his death; and she had said that he “had very little hair—that it grew straight upright, and that he had no fringe when he died.” Mr. Keulemans has no difficulty in accepting this description, as he has recently made experiments with two {i-lxxxi} of his children, aged 4 and 6, with a result that entirely accords with it The rate at which hair grows seems to differ greatly in different people.

Page 548 note. To the case mentioned add Mr. Wilkie’s narrative referred to above in connection with p. 367. Other possible examples of the bizarre investiture of a telepathic impression may be found in Kelly’s Curiosities of Indo-European Traditions and Folk-Lore, p. 104; and in G. Waldron’s Description of the Isle of Man, pp. 69–70,—a case to which we have a close parallel on good, but not first-hand, authority. See also Paul Sébillot’s Traditions de la Haute Bretagne, Vol. I., pp 265–9.

Page 558, line 23. Major (now Colonel) Borthwick writes on Dec. 22, 1886, from the Chief Constable’s Office, County Buildings, Edinburgh, that he is under the impression that Captain Russell Colt mentioned his experience to the party at breakfast on the morning after it occurred.

Page 559, case 211. In conversation, the narrator mentioned that the boots of the figure appeared clean, though it was pouring with rain; and that the stick which she afterwards recognised had a silver pomme,knob not a curved handle. She was noticing the passage of time, as her father had to catch a train that afternoon. She added some details which increase the probability that the dying man’s thoughts were running on her father at the last. As to the fact that it was she who was the percipient, and not her father, see Vol. II., pp. 268, 301; and compare cases 192, 225, 242, 307, 660.


The following “transitional” case is a fresh specimen of the rare and most important class to which Nos. 13, 14, 15, 16, 685, and 686 belong; and is further of interest as being directly due to the publication of this book. The receipt of it justifies us in hoping that we may encounter more like it. On November 16th, 1886, the Rev. C. Godfrey, of 5, The Goffs, Eastbourne, wrote to Mr. Podmore as follows:—

“I was so impressed by the account on p. 105, that I determined to put the matter to an experiment.

“Retiring at 10.45, I determined to appear, if possible, to [a friend], and accordingly I set myself to work, with all the volitional and determinative energy which I possess, to stand at the foot of her bed. I need not say that I never dropped the slightest hint beforehand as to my intention such as would mar the experiment, nor had I mentioned the subject to her. As the ‘agent,’ I may describe my own experiences.

“Undoubtedly the imaginative faculty was brought extensively into play, as well as the volitional; for I endeavoured to translate myself, spiritually, into the room, and to attract her attention, as it were while standing there. My effort was sustained for perhaps 8 minutes; after which I felt tired, and was soon asleep.

“The next thing I was conscious of was meeting the lady next morning (i.e., in a dream, I suppose?) and asking her at once if she had seen me last night. The reply came ‘Yes.’ ‘How?’ I inquired. Then in words strangely clear and low, like a well-audible whisper, came the answer, ‘I was sitting beside you.’ These words, so clear, awoke me instantly, and I felt I must have been dreaming; but on reflection I remembered what I had been ‘willing’ before I fell asleep and it struck me, ‘This must be a reflex action from the percipient.’

{i-lxxxii}

“My watch showed 3.40 a.m. The following is what I wrote immediately in pencil, standing in my night-dress:—‘As I reflected upon those clear words, they struck me as being quite intuitive—I mean subjective, and to have proceeded from within, as my own conviction, rather than a communication from anyone else.1 1 At first sight, this seems inconsistent with the idea of the “reflex” or reciprocal action in the preceding paragraph. But Mr. Godfrey explains what he means as follows:—“I was dreaming: reflection convinced me that the particular words were not uttered in course of natural dream, but by reflex [reciprocal] action: also that they proceeded from myself, and not from any one standing over my bed in the room. It was ‘from any one else’ that confused my meaning. I meant any one in the room, not any one in another house: from her they clearly did proceed.” There does not seem, however, to be any such proof of reciprocal action as Mr. Godfrey supposes; no reason appears why his dream should not have been purely subjective. And yet I can’t remember her face at all, as one can after a vivid dream!’

“But the words were uttered in a clear, quick tone, which was most remarkable, and awoke me at once.

“My friend, in the note with which she sent me the enclosed account of her own experience, says: ‘I remember the man put all the lamps out soon after I came upstairs, and that is only done about a quarter to 4.’”

Mr. Godfrey went next morning to see someone who resided in the same house as Mrs. ——, and was leaving, when “she called out to me from the window that she had something special to tell me; but being very busy, I could not return again into the house, and replied to the effect that it would keep. I am not quite certain now2 2 The letter here quoted was written to me on Jan. 13, 1887. Mr. Podmore says that it entirely accords with Mr. Godfrey’s and Mrs. ——’s independent vivâ voce accounts given on the previous Nov. 22. The reason why these details were not included in Mr. Podmore’s notes was that at the moment he was under the impression that they had been mentioned in Mr. Godfrey’s first letter, which was in my possession. whether it was on the afternoon of the same day, or later in the morning, that she called. I asked her, as usual [for she suffered from neuralgia], if she had had a good night, and she at once commenced to narrate as I have told you. When she had told me all, I begged her at once to go home and write it down. The account which I sent to you was the result; and it compared accurately with a few scribbled notes in pencil which I had hastily jotted down as she was relating it to me originally.”

The following is the percipient’s account:—

“Yesterday, viz., the morning of Nov. 16,1886, about half-past 3 o’clock, I woke up with a start, and an idea that someone had come into the room. I also heard a curious sound, but fancied it might be the birds in the ivy outside. Next I experienced a strange, restless longing to leave the room and go downstairs. This feeling became so overpowering that at last I rose, and lit a candle, and went down, thinking if I could get some soda-water it might have a quieting effect. On returning to my room, I saw Mr. Godfrey standing under the large window on the staircase. He was dressed in his usual style, and with an expression on his face that I have noticed when he has been looking very earnestly at anything. He stood there, and I held up the candle and gazed at him for 3 or 4 seconds in utter amazement; and then, as I passed up the staircase, he disappeared. The impression left on my mind was so vivid that I fully intended waking a friend who occupied the same room as myself; but remembering I should only be laughed at as romantic and imaginative, refrained from doing so.

{i-lxxxiii}

“I was not frightened at the appearance of Mr. Godfrey, but felt much excited and could not sleep afterwards.”

In conversation with Mrs. —— (Nov. 22, 1886), Mr. Podmore learnt that she is a good sleeper, and not given to waking at nights. She does not remember ever before having experienced anything like the feeling which she had on first waking up. She was at the bottom of the stairs when she saw Mr. Godfrey’s figure, which appeared on the landing, about 11 steps up. It was quite distinct and life-like at first,—though she does not remember noticing more than the upper part of the body; as she looked, it grew more and more shadowy, and finally faded away. It must be added that she has seen in her life two other phantasmal appearances, which represented a parent whom she had recently lost. But a couple of experiences of this sort, coming at a time of emotional strain, cannot be regarded as a sign of any abnormal liability to subjective hallucinations (see p. 510); and even if she was destined anyhow to experience one other, the chances against its representing one particular member of her acquaintance, at the very time when he happened for the first time in his life to be making the effort above described, would be at least many hundreds of thousands to 1.

We requested Mr. Godfrey to make another trial, without of course giving Mrs. —— any reason to expect that he would do so. He made a trial at once, thinking that we wanted the result immediately, though he himself thought the time unsuitable; and this was a failure. But on Dec. 8, 1886, he wrote as follows:—

“My friend Mrs. —— has just been in, and given me an account of what she experienced last night; she is gone home to write it out for you, and it will be enclosed with mine. I can state that I have not attempted one experiment since I last communicated with you; therefore there are no failures to record. I was at Mrs. ——’s house last evening, and she testifies this morning that she had not the faintest suspicion that I intended attempting another experiment. The first words she used on seeing me this morning were (laughingly) ‘Well, I saw you last night, anyway.’

“All the interest, as on the former occasion, of course lies with the percipient. I may simply explain that I acted as on the former occasion—viz., concentrated my attention on the percipient, while I was undressing; then devoted some 10 minutes, when in bed, to intense effort to transport myself to her presence, and make my presence felt both by voice and touch,—viz., placing my hand upon the percipient’s head. Then I fell asleep, slept well, and was conscious of nothing sufficiently vivid to awake me.

“Directly I awoke at my usual time, about 6.40 a.m., I guessed that I had succeeded, because I instantly remembered that I had dreamt (as last time) of meeting the lady next day, and asking her the same question—viz., whether she had seen me, and the answer was, ‘Yes, I saw you indistinctly.’ This reflex action is very important, and I would undertake to tell, on any occasion, whether I had failed or succeeded. The words of reply (above) were written down by me on paper1 1 As to this note, and the one made on the former occasion, Mr. Godfrey writes, “I am very sorry that I never kept the scraps of newspaper edge upon which I jotted down my reflections, and the words which reached me, in the middle of the night. I jotted them down to exclude any invalidation of the inferences on score of defective memory; not thinking it needful to retain them as a check, when I had copied from them into my letters, they were committed to the flames.” before hearing the percipient’s account.

{i-lxxxiv}

“This case is, I think, very instructive, because of the sound of voice, as well as of sight.”

Mr. Godfrey adds that Mrs. ——, though she appeared in good spirits, had been “frightened and a little unnerved”; and that he should not feel justified in repeating the experiment.

The percipient’s account, written on Dec. 8, 1886, is as follows:—

“Last night, Tuesday, Dec. 7th, I went upstairs at half-past 10. I remember distinctly locking the bed-room door, which this morning, to my astonishment, was unlocked. I was soon asleep, and had a strange dream of taking flowers to a grave. Suddenly I heard a voice say ‘Wake,’ and felt a hand rest on the left side of my head. (I was lying on the right side.) I was wide awake in a second, and heard a curious sound in the room, something like a Jew’s harp. I felt a cold breath streaming over me, and violent palpitation of the heart came on; and I also distinctly saw a figure leaning over me. The only light in the room was from the lamp outside, which makes a long line on the wall over the wash-stand. This line was partly obscured by the figure. I turned round at once, and the hand seemed to slip from my head to the pillow beside me. The figure was stooping over me, and I felt it leaning up against the side of the bed. I saw the arm resting on the pillow the whole time it remained. I saw an outline of the face, but it seemed as if a mist were before it. I think the time when it came must have been about half-past 12. It had drawn the curtain of the bed slightly back, but this morning I noticed it was hanging straight as usual. The figure was undoubtedly that of Mr. Godfrey. I knew it by the appearance of the shoulders and the shape of the face. The whole time it remained, there was a draught of cold air streaming through the room, as if both door and window were open. I heard the dining-room clock strike half-past something; and as I could not sleep again, but heard the clock strike hours and half-hours consecutively up to 5 o’clock, I think I am right in saying the time was half-past 12.”

I have drawn attention (pp. 165–6, and Vol. II., p. 170) to the fact that the first-hand evidence for telepathic experiences includes no reports of physical changes produced in the material world—which, if they occurred, would be impossible to account for by the hypothesis of a temporary psychical transference from one mind to another. A percipient may have the hallucination of seeing the door opening (p. 102, note); but the door not having really been moved, it of course is not afterwards found open. So, in the above account, the curtain, which seemed to the percipient to be shifted at the time of her experience, was found in its place in the morning. On the other hand, the door, which she says that she had locked, was found unlocked. On being questioned as to this, she replies that the door is habitually locked at night, and that she does not walk in her sleep; but she thinks it probable that, after locking the door, she left the room to get some matches, and that she omitted to lock it again on her return. If anyone, after this, should be inclined to connect the unlocking with the apparition, I would suggest to him that a “ghost” which has shown its capacity to walk through a closed hall-door would, on finding a bed-room door locked on the inside, be more likely to walk through it than to unlock it.

{i-1}

CHAPTER I.

PRELIMINARY REMARKS: GROUNDS OF CAUTION.

§ 1. WHATEVER the advances of science may do for the universe, there is one thing that they have never yet done and show no prospect of doing—namely, to make it less marvellous. Face to face with the facts of Nature, the wonderment of the modern chemist, physicist, zoologist, is far wider and deeper than that of the savage or the child; far wider and deeper even than that of the early workers in the scientific field. True it is that science explains; if it did not it would he worthless. But scientific explanation means only the reference of more and more facts to immutable laws; and, as discovery advances in every department, the orderly marvel of the comprehensive laws merely takes the place of the disorderly marvel of arbitrary occurrences. The mystery is pushed back, so to speak, from facts in isolation to facts in the aggregate; but at every stage of the process the mystery itself gathers new force and impressiveness.

What, then, is the specific relation of the man of science to the phenomena which he observes? His explanation of them does not lead him to marvel at them less than the uneducated person: what does it lead him to do for them that the uneducated person cannot do? “To predict them with certainty,” it will no doubt be replied; “which further implies, in cases where the conditions are within his control, to produce them at will.” But it is important to observe that this power of prediction, though constantly proclaimed as the authoritative test of scientific achievement, is very far indeed from being an accurate one. For it is a test which is only fulfilled with anything like completeness by a small group of sciences—those which deal with inorganic nature. The physicist can proclaim with confidence that gravitation, and heat, and electricity (as long as they act at all) will continue to act as they do now; every discovery that the chemist makes about a substance is a {i-2} prophecy as to the behaviour of that class of substance for ever. But as soon as vital organisms appear on the scene, there is a change. Not only do the complexities of structure and process, and the mutual reactions of the parts and the whole, exclude all exact quantitative formulæ; not only is there an irreducible element of uncertainty in the behaviour from moment to moment of the simplest living unit; but there appear also developments, and varieties and “sports,” which present themselves to us as arbitrary—which have just to be registered, and cannot be explained. Not, of course, that they are really arbitrary; no scientifically trained mind entertains the least doubt that they are in every case the inevitable results of prior conditions. But the knowledge of the expert has not approximately penetrated to the secret of those conditions; here, therefore, his power of prediction largely fails him.

This applies to a great extent even to events of a uniform and familiar order. Biological science may predict that an animal will be of the same species as its parents; but cannot predict its sex. It may predict the general characteristics of the next generation of men; but not the special attributes of a single individual. But its power of forecast is limited in a far more striking way—by the perpetual modification of the very material with which it has to deal. It is able to predict that, given such and such variations, natural selection will foster and increase them; that given such and such organic taints, heredity will transmit them: but it is powerless to say what the next spontaneous variation, or the next development of heredity will be. It is at work, not on steadfast substances with immutable qualities, like those of the inorganic world; but on substances whose very nature is to change. The evolution of animal existence, from protoplasm upwards, involves ever fresh elaborations in the composition of the vital tissues. Science traces the issue of these changes, and learns even to some extent to foresee and so to guide their course; it can thus lay down laws of scientific breeding, laws of medicine and hygiene. But the unconquerable spontaneity of the organic world is for ever setting previous generalisations at defiance; in great things and small, from the production of a new type of national physique to the production of a new variety of tulip, it is ever presenting fresh developments, whose necessity no one could divine, and of which no one could say aught until they were actually there. And so, though science follows closely after, and keeps up the game with spirit, its {i-3} position in its Wonderland is always rather like that of Alice in hers, when the croquet-hoops consisted of soldiers who moved as often as they chose. The game is one on which it will never be safe to bet for very far ahead; and it is one which will certainly never end.

And if this is true of life in its physical manifestations, it is certainly not less true of its mental manifestations. It is to the latter, indeed, that we naturally turn for the highest examples of mobility, and the most marked exhibitions of the unexpected. An Athenian of Solon’s time, speculating on “the coming race,” might well have predicted for his countrymen the physical prowess that won Marathon, but not the peculiar intellectual vitality that culminated in the theatre of Dionysus. At the present moment, it is safer to prophesy that the next generation in Germany will include a good many hundreds of thousands of short-sighted persons than that it will include a Beethoven. Nor will it surprise us to find the “sports” and uncertainties of vital development most conspicuous on the psychical side, if we remember the nature of their physical basis. For mental facts are indissolubly linked with the very class of material facts that science can least penetrate—with the most complex sort of changes occurring in the most subtly-woven sort of matter—the molecular activities of brain-tissue.

§ 2. There exists, then, a large department of natural events where the test of prediction can be applied only in a restricted way. Whether the events be near or distant—whether the question be of intellectual developments a thousand years hence, or of the movements of an amoeba or the success of a “thought-transference” experiment in the next five minutes—there is here no voice that can speak with absolute authority. The expert gets his cosmic prophecies accepted by pointing to the perpetual fulfilment of his minor predictions in the laboratory; or he refutes adverse theories by showing that they conflict with facts that he can at any moment render patent. But as to the implications and possibilities of life—the constitution and faculties of man—he will do well to predict and refute with caution; for here he may fail even to guess the relation of what will be to what is. If his function as a prophet is not wholly abrogated, he is a prophet ever liable to correction. He is obliged to deal largely in likelihoods and tendencies; and (if I may venture on a prophecy which is perhaps as fallible as the rest) the interest in the laws that he is able to lay {i-4} down will never supersede the interest in the exceptions to those laws. Indeed it is in emphasising exceptions that his own rôle will largely consist. And above all must he beware of setting up any arbitrary “scientific frontier” between the part of Nature that he knows and the part that he does not know. He can trace the great flood of evolution to the point at which he stands; but a little beyond him it loses itself in the darkness; and though he may realise its general force and direction, and roughly surmise the mode in which its bed will be shaped, he can but dimly picture the scenes through which it will flow.

But if the science of life cannot be final, there is no reason why it should not be accurate and coherent. And if the scope of definite scientific comprehension is here specially restricted, and the unexpected is specially certain to occur, that is no reason for abating one jot of care in the actual work that it remains possible to do—the work of sifting and marshalling evidence, of estimating sources of error, and of strictly adjusting theories to facts. On the contrary, the necessity for such care is only increased. If incaution may be sometimes shown in too peremptorily shutting the door on alleged phenomena which are not in clear continuity with established knowledge, it is far more often and flagrantly shown in the claim for their admission. And it is undeniable that the conditions which have been briefly described expose speculation on the possible developments of vital phenomena to peculiar dangers and difficulties. In proportion as the expert moderates his tone, and makes his forecasts in a tentative and hypothetical manner, it is certain that those who are not experts will wax bold in assertion and theory. The part of the map that science leaves blank, as terra incognita, is the very one which amateur geographers will fill in according to their fancy, or on the reports of uncritical and untrustworthy explorers. The confidence of ignorance is always pretty accurately adjusted to the confidence of knowledge. Wherever the expert can put his foot down, and assert or deny with assurance, the uninstructed instinctively bow to him. He fearlessly asserts, for instance, that the law of the conservation of energy cannot be broken; the world believes him, and the inventors of perpetual-motion-machines gradually die off. But suppose the question is of possible relations of human beings to inanimate things or to one another, new modes of influence, new forms of sensitiveness. Here responsible science can give no confident denial; here, therefore, irresponsible speculation finds its chance.

{i-5}

It has, no doubt, modified its language under the influence of half a century of brilliant physical discovery. It takes care to shelter its hypotheses under the name of law: the loosest of philosophers now-a-days would hesitate to appeal, as the elder Humboldt appealed sixty years ago, to a “sense of yearning in the human soul,” as a proof that the course of nature may suffer exceptions.1 1 Briefe an eine Freundin, p. 61. But the change is often rather in name than in fact; the “natural” lends itself to free guessing quite as easily as the “supernatural”; and nowhere in Nature is this freedom so unchartered as in the domain of psychic life. Speculation here is not only easy; it is, unfortunately, also attractive. The more obscure phenomena and the more doubtful assumptions are just those on which the popular mind most readily fastens; and the popular tongue rejoices in terms of the biggest and vaguest connotation. Something also must be set down to a natural reaction. Even persons whose interest has been earnest and intelligent have found scientific moral hard to preserve, in departments surrendered by a long-standing convention to unscientific treatment. Thus, in their practice, they have come to acquiesce in that surrender, and have dispensed with habits of caution for which no one was likely to give them credit; while in their polemic they have as much resented the stringent demands for evidence, in which their opponents have been right, as the refusal to look at it when it is there, in which their opponents have been wrong.

§ 3. The above facts, and the peculiar obligations which they involve, should never be lost sight of by the serious student of “psychical”2 2 The specific sense which we have given to this word needs apology. But we could find no other convenient term, under which to embrace a group of subjects that lie on or outside the boundaries of recognised science, while seeming to present certain points of connection among themselves. For instance, this book will contain evidences of the relation of telepathy—its main theme—both to mesmerism and to certain phenomena which are often, without adequate evidence, attributed to minds apart from material organisms. phenomena. His path is one that eminently craves wary walking. On the one hand, he finds new dim vistas of study opening out, in an age whose ideal of scientific studies is formed from the most highly developed specimens of them; and the twilight which has in every class of knowledge preceded the illuminating dawn of law is made doubly dark and dubious for him by the advanced daylight of scientific conceptions from which he peers into it. He finds, moreover, that the {i-6} marvellous recent extension of the area of the known through additions to its recognised departments and multiplication of their connections, has inevitably and reasonably produced a certain rigidity of scientific attitude—an increased difficulty in breaking loose from association, and admitting a new department on its own independent evidence. And on the other hand, he finds himself more or less in contact with advocates of new departments who ignore the weight of the presumption against them—who fail to see that it is from the recognised departments that the standard of evidence must be drawn, and that if speculation is to make good its right to outrun science, it will certainly not be by impatience of scientific canons. On this side the position of the psychical student is one in which the student of the recognised sciences is never placed. The physicist never finds his observations confronted or confounded with those of persons who claim familiarity with his subject while ignoring his methods: he never sees his statements and his theories classed or compared with theirs. He is marked out from his neighbours by the very fact of dealing with subject-matter which they do not know how even to begin to talk about. The “psychicist” is not so marked out. His subject-matter is in large measure common property, of which the whole world can talk as glibly as he; and the ground which must be broken for science, if at all, by the application of precise treatment, has already been made trite in connection with quite other treatment.

§ 4. The moral is one which the authors of the present undertaking have every reason to lay to heart. For the endeavour of this book, almost throughout, is to deal with themes that are in a sense familiar, by the aid, partly, of improved evidential methods, but partly also of conceptions which have as yet no place in the recognised psychology. Not, indeed, that the reader is about to be treated to any large amount of speculation; facts will be very much more prominent than theories. Still, the facts to be adduced carry us at least one step beyond the accepted boundaries. What they prove (if we interpret them rightly) is the ability of one mind to impress or to be impressed by another mind otherwise than through the recognised channels of sense. We call the owner of the impressing mind the agent, and the owner of the impressed mind the percipient; and we describe the fact of impression shortly by the term telepathy. We began by restricting that term to cases where the distance through which the transference {i-7} of impressions took place far exceeded the scope of the recognised senses; but it may be fairly extended to all cases of impressions conveyed without any affection of the percipient’s recognised senses, whatever may be his actual distance from the agent. I of course do not mean by this merely that the channel of communication is unrecognised by the person impressed—as in the drawing-room pastime where hidden pins are found through indications which the finder receives and acts on without any consciousness of guidance. By the words “otherwise than through the recognised channels of sense,” I mean that the cause or condition of the transferred impression is specifically unknown. It may sometimes be necessary or convenient to conceive it as some special supernormal or supersensuous1 1 It seems impossible to avoid these terms; yet each needs to be guarded from a probable misunderstanding. Supernormal is very liable to be confounded with supernatural; while supersensuous suggests a dogmatic denial of a physical side to the effect. faculty; and in that case we are undoubtedly assuming a faculty which is new—or at any rate is new to science. But we can at least claim that we take this step under compulsion; not in the light-hearted fashion which formerly improvised occult forces and fluids to account for the vagaries of hysteria; or which in our own day has discovered the dawn of a new sense, or the relic of some primeval instinct, in the ordinary exhibitions of the “willing-game.” Our inference of an unrecognised mode of affection has nothing in common with such inferences as these; for it has been made only after recognised modes have been carefully excluded.

§ 5. It is not, however, with the ultimate conditions of the phenomena that the study of them can begin: our first business is with the reality, rather than with the rationale, of their occurrence. Telepathy as a system of facts is what we have to examine. Discussion of the nature of the novel faculty in itself, and apart from particular results, will be as far as possible avoided. That, if it exists, it has important relations to various very fundamental problems—metaphysical, psychological, possibly even physical—can scarcely be doubted. So far from the scientific study of man being a region whose boundaries are pretty well mapped out, and which only requires to be filled in with further detail by physiologists and psychologists, we may come to perceive that we are standing only on the threshold of a vast terra incognita, which must be humbly explored before we can even guess at its true extent, or appreciate its relation to the more familiar {i-8} realms of knowledge. But such distant visions had better not be lingered over. Before the philosophical aspects of the subject can be profitably discussed, its position as a real department of knowledge must be amply vindicated. This can only be done by a wide survey of evidence; the character of the present treatise will therefore be mainly evidential.

In demonstrating the reality of impressions communicated otherwise than through the known sensory channels, we rely on two distinct branches of evidence, each of which demands a special sort of caution. The larger portion of this work will deal with cases of spontaneous occurrence. Here the evidence will consist of records of experiences which we have received from a variety of sources—for the most part from living persons more or less known to us. Narratives of the same kind have from time to time appeared in other collections. These, however, have not been treated with any reference to a theory of telepathy such as is here set forth; nor have their editors fulfilled conditions which, for reasons to be subsequently explained (Chap. IV.), we have felt bound to observe; and we have found them of almost no assistance. In scarcely a single instance has a case been brought up to the standard which really commands attention.1 1 An exception should perhaps be made in favour of a few of the late Mr. R. Dale Owen’s narratives. The Rev. B. Wrey-Savile’s book on Apparitions contains some careful work, but it deals chiefly with remote cases. Dr. Mayo, in his Truths contained in Popular Superstitions, adduces very inadequate evidence; but he has given (p. 67) what is perhaps the first suggestion of a psychical explanation. The prime essentials of testimony in such matters—authorities, names, dates, corroboration, the ipsissima verbavery words of the witnesses—have one or all been lacking; and there seems to have been no appreciation of the strength of the à priori objections which the evidence has to overmaster, nor of the possible sources of error in the evidence itself. It is in analysing and estimating these sources of error, and in fixing the evidential standard which may fairly be applied, that the most difficult part of the present task will be seen to consist.

But though the records here presented will be more numerous, and on the whole better attested, than those of previous collections, the majority of them will be of a tolerably well-known type. The peculiarity of the present treatment will come out rather in the connection of this branch of our evidence with the other branch. For our conviction that the supposed faculty of supersensuous impression is a genuine one is greatly fortified by a body of evidence of an experimental {i-9} kind—where the conditions could be arranged in such a way as to exclude the chances of error that beset the spontaneous cases. In considering this experimental branch of our subject, I shall of course, after what has been said, be specially bound to make clear the distinction between what we hold to be genuine cases and the spurious “thought-reading” exhibitions which are so much better known. This will be easy enough, and will be done in the next chapter.

{i-10}

CHAPTER II.

THE EXPERIMENTAL BASIS: THOUGHT-TRANSFERENCE.

§ 1. IT is difficult to get a quite satisfactory name for the experimental branch of our subject. “Thought-reading” was the name that we first adopted; but this had several inconveniences. Oddly enough, the term has got identified with what is not thought-reading at all, but muscle-reading—of which more anon. But a more serious objection to it is that it suggests a power to read anything that may be going on in the mind of another person—to probe characters and discover secrets—which raises a needless prejudice against the whole subject. The idea of such a power has, in fact, been converted into an ad absurdum argument against the existence of the faculty for which we contend. To suppose that people’s minds can be thus open to one another, it was justly enough said, would be to contradict the assumption on which all human intercourse has been carried on. Our answer, of course, is that we have never supposed people’s minds to be thus open to one another; that such a supposition would be as remote as possible from the facts on which we rely; and that the most accomplished “thought-reader’s” power is never likely to be a matter of social inconvenience. The mode of experimentation may reassure those who look on the genuine faculty as dangerous or uncanny; for the results, as a rule, have to be tried for by a distinct, and often a very irksome, process of concentration on the part of the person whose “thought” is to be “read” And this being so, it is clearly important to avoid such an expression as “thought-reading,” which conveys no hint that his thought is anything else than an open page, or that his mental attitude has anything to do with the phenomenon.

The experiments involve, in fact, the will of two persons; and of the two minds, it is rather the one which reads that is passive and the one which is read that is active. It is for the sake of recognising this that we distinguish the two parties as “agent” and {i-11} “percipient,” and that we have substituted for thought-reading the term thought-transference. Thought must here be taken as including more than it does in ordinary usage; it must include sensations and volitions as well as mere representations or ideas. This being understood, the name serves its purpose fairly well, as long as we are on experimental ground. It will not be forgotten, however, that our aim is to connect an experimental with a spontaneous class of cases; and according to that view it will often be convenient to describe the former no less than the latter as telepathic. We thus get what we need, a single generic term which embraces the whole range of phenomena and brings out their continuity—the simpler experimental forms being the first step in a graduated series.

§2. The history of experimental thought-transference has been a singular one. It was not by direct trial, nor in what we should now account their normal form, that the phenomena first attracted the attention of competent witnesses. Their appearance was connected with the discovery that the somnambulic state could be artificially induced. It was after the introduction of “mesmerism” or “magnetism” into France, and in the course of the investigation of that wider subject, that this special feature unexpectedly presented itself. The observations remained, it is true, extremely few and scattered. The greater part of them were made in this country, during the second quarter of the present century; and took the form of community of sensation between the operator and the patient. The transference of impressions here depended on a specific rapport previously induced by mesmeric or hypnotic operations—passes, fixation, and the like. To us, now, this mesmeric rapport (in some, at any rate, of its manifestations) seems nothing more than the faculty of thought-transference confined to a single agent and percipient, and intensified in degree by the very conditions which limit its scope. But the course of discovery inverted the logical order of the phenomena. The recognition of the particular case, where the exercise of the faculty was narrowed down to a single channel, preceded by a long interval the recognition of the more general phenomena, as exhibited by persons in a normal state. The transference of impressions was naturally regarded as belonging essentially to mesmerism. As such, it was only one more wonder in a veritable wonderland; and while obtaining on that account the readier acceptance among those who witnessed it, it to {i-12} some extent shut out the idea of the possibility of similar manifestations where no specific rapport had been artificially established.

But there was a further result. The early connection of thought-transference with mesmerism distinctly damaged its chance of scientific recognition. Those who believed in cognate marvels might easily believe in this marvel: but cautious minds rejected the whole posse of marvels together. And one can hardly wonder at this, when one remembers the wild and ignorant manner in which the claims of Mesmer and his followers were thrust upon the world. A man who professed to have magnetised the sun could hardly expect a serious hearing; and even the operators who eschewed such extravagant pretensions still too often advocated their cause in a language that could only cover it with contempt. Theories of “odylic” force, and of imponderable fluids pervading the body—as dogmatically set forth as if they ranked in certainty with the doctrine of the circulation of the blood—were not likely to attract scientific inquiry to the facts. And in the later developments of hypnotism—in which many of the old “mesmeric” phenomena have been re-studied from a truer point of view, and rapport of a certain sort between the hypnotist and the “subject” has been admitted—there has been so much to absorb observation in the extraordinary range of mental and physical effects which the operator can command by verbal or visible suggestion, that the far rarer telepathic phenomena have, so to speak, been crowded out.1 1 I refer specially to the eminent group of hypnotists at Nancy—Dr. Liébeault, and Professors Beaunis, Bernheim, and Liégeois. Dr. Liébeault has, however, personally described to us several instances of apparently telepathic transference which he has encountered in the course of his professional experience; and some observations recorded by Professor Beaunis (in his admirable article on hypnotism in the Revue Philosophique for August, 1885, p. 126), at any rate point, as he admits, to a new mode of sensibility. And since the above remarks were written, both these gentlemen have made definite experiments in telepathy, some of the results of which will be found in Vol. ii., pp. 333–4 and 657–60. The consequence is that after nearly a century of controversy, the most interesting facts of mesmeric history are quite as little recognised as the less specialised kinds of thought-transference, which have only within the last few years been seriously looked for or definitely obtained.

Some of the older cases referred to will be found quoted in extenso in the first chapter of the Supplement. Though recorded for the most part in a fragmentary and unsatisfactory way, it will be seen that they do not lack good, or even high, scientific authority. The testimony of Mr. Esdaile, for many years Presidency Surgeon in Calcutta, cannot be despised by any instructed {i-13} physiologist in our day; inasmuch as his work is now recognised as one of the most important contributions ever made to the rapidly-growing science of hypnotism. No one has denied the ability and integrity of Dr. Elliotson, nor (in spite of his speculative extravagances) of Reichenbach—who both witnessed instances of hypnotic telepathy. And though Professor Gregory, Dr. Mayo, the Rev. C. H. Townsend, and others, may not have been men of acute scientific intelligence, they were probably competent to conduct, and to record with accuracy, experiments the conditions of which involved no more than common care and honesty. We cannot but account it strange that such items of testimony as these men supplied should have been neglected, even by those who were most repelled by the ignorance and fanaticism which infected a large amount of the mesmeric literature. But since such was the fact, the observations will hardly now make their weight felt, except in connection with the fuller testimony of a more recent date. It is characteristic of every subject which depends on questions of fact, and which has yet failed to win a secure place in intelligent opinion, that any further advance must for the most part depend on contemporary evidence. I may, therefore, pass at once to the wholly new departure in thought-transference which the last few years have witnessed.

§ 3. The novelty of this departure—as has been already intimated—consists in the fact that successful results have been obtained when the percipient was apparently in a perfectly normal state, and had been subjected to no mesmerising or hypnotising process. The dawn of the discovery must be referred to the years 1875 and 1876. It was in the autumn of the latter year that our colleague, Professor W. F. Barrett, brought under the notice of the British Association, at Glasgow, a cautious statement of some remarkable facts which he had encountered, and a suggestion of the expediency of ascertaining how far recognised physiological laws would account for them. The facts themselves were connected with mesmerism;1 1 Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, Vol. i., pp. 241–2. but the discussion in the Press to which the paper gave rise led to a considerable correspondence, in which Professor Barrett found his first hints of a faculty of thought-transference existing independently of the specific mesmeric rapport.

That these hints happened to be forthcoming, just at the right moment, was a piece of great good fortune, and was due {i-14} primarily to a circumstance quite unconnected with science, and from which serious results would scarcely have been anticipated—the invention of the “willing-game.” In some form or other this pastime is probably familiar to most of my readers, either through personal trials or through the exhibitions of platform performers. The ordinary process is this. A member of the party, who is to act as “thought-reader,” or percipient, leaves the room; the rest determine on some simple action which he, or she, is to perform, or hide some object which he is to find. The would-be percipient is then recalled, and his hand is taken or his shoulders are lightly touched by one or more of the willers. Under these conditions the action is often quickly performed or the object found. Nothing could at first sight look less like a promising starting-point for a new branch of inquiry. The “willer” usually asserts, with perfect good faith, and often perhaps quite correctly, that he did not push; but so little is it necessary for the guiding impression to be a push that it may be the very reverse—a slight release of tension when the “willed” performer, after various minute indications of a tendency to move in this, that, or the other wrong direction, at last hits on the right one. Even when the utmost care is used to maintain the light contact with absolute neutrality, it is impossible to lay down the limits of any given subject’s sensibility to such slight tactile and muscular hints. The experiments of Drs. Carpenter and Beard, and especially those of a member of our own Society, the Rev. E. H. Sugden, of Bradford,1 1 Proceedings of the S.P.R., Vol. i, p. 291; Vol. ii., p. 11. and other unpublished ones on which we can rely, have shown us that the difference between one person and another in this respect is very great, and that with some organisations a variation of pressure so slight that the supposed “willer” may be quite unaware of exercising it, but which he applies according as the movements of the other person are on the right track or not, may afford a kind of yes or no indication quite sufficient for a clue. This, indeed, is the one direct piece of instruction which the game has supplied. We might perhaps have been to some extent prepared for the result by observing the infinitesimal touches to which a horse will respond, or the extremely slight indications on which we ourselves often act in ordinary life. But till this game was played, probably no one fully realised that muscular hints, so slight as to be quite unconsciously given, could be equally unconsciously {i-15} taken; and that thus a definite course of action might be produced without the faintest idea of guidance on either side. In some cases it appeared that even contact could be dispensed with, and the guidance was presumably of an auditory kind—the “subject” extracting from the mere footsteps of the “willer”, who was following him about, hints of satisfaction or dissatisfaction at the course he was taking.1 1See the record of Mr. A. E. Outerbridge’s experiments, published by Dr. Beard in the American Popular Science Monthly for July, 1877. But though this remarkable susceptibility to a particular order of impressions was an interesting discovery, the results which could be thus explained clearly involved nothing new in kind. That recognised faculties may exhibit unsuspected degrees of refinement is a common enough conception. The more important point was that there were certain results which, apparently, could not be thus explained, at any rate, in any off-hand way. Occasionally the actions required of the “willed” performer were of so complicated a sort, and so rapidly carried out, as to cast considerable doubt on the adequacy of any muscular hints to evoke and guide them. Here, then, was the first indication of something new—of a hitherto unrecognised faculty; and by good fortune, as I have said, Professor Barrett’s appeal for further evidence as to transferred impressions came just at the time when the game had obtained a certain amount of popularity, and when its more delicate and unaccountable phenomena had attracted attention.

Meanwhile similar observations were being made in America. America, indeed, was the original home of the “willing” entertainment; and it is to an American, Dr. McGraw, that the credit belongs of having been the first (as far as I am aware) to detect in it the possible germ of something new to science. In the Detroit Review of Medicine for August, 1875, Dr. McGraw gave a clear account of the ordinary physiological process—“the perception by a trained operator of involuntary and unconscious muscular movements”; and then proceeded as follows:—

“It seemed to me that there were features in these exhibitions which could not be satisfactorily explained on the hypothesis of involuntary muscular action, for … we are required to believe a man could unwillingly, and in spite of himself, give information by unconscious and involuntary signs that he could not give under the same circumstances by voluntary and conscious action … It seems to me there is a hint towards the possibility of the nervous system of one individual being used by the active will of another to accomplish certain simple motions.”

{i-16}

But though there might be enough in the phenomena to justify cautious suggestions of this sort, the ground is at best very uncertain. Even where some nicety of selection is involved, as, for instance, when a particular note is to be struck on the piano, or a particular book to be taken out of a shelf, still, unless the subject’s hand moves with extreme rapidity, it will be perfectly possible for an involuntary and unconscious indication to be given by the “willer” at the instant that the right note or book is reached. In reports of such cases it is sometimes stated that there was no tentative process, and that the “subject’s” hand seemed to obey the other person’s will with almost the same directness as that person’s own hand would have done. But this is a question of degree as to which the confidence of an eye-witness cannot easily be imparted to others. It may be worth while, however, to give an instance of a less common type by which the theory of muscular guidance does undoubtedly seem to be somewhat strained.

The case was observed by Mr. Myers on October 31st, 1877. The performers were two sisters.

“I wrote the letters of the alphabet on scraps of paper. I then thought of the word CLARA and showed it to M. behind R.’s back, R. sitting at the table. M. put her hands on R.’s shoulders, and R. with shut eyes picked out the letters C L A R V—taking the V apparently for a second A, which was not in the pack—and laid them in a heap. She did not know, she said, what letters she had selected. No impulse had consciously passed through her mind, only she had felt her hands impelled to pick up certain bits of paper.

“This was a good case as apparently excluding pushing. The scraps were in a confused heap in front of R., who kept still further confusing them, picking them up and letting them drop with great rapidity. M.’s hands remained apparently motionless on R.’s shoulders, and one can hardly conceive that indications could be given by pressure, from the rapid and snatching manner in which R. collected the right letters, touching several letters in the course of a second. M., however, told me that it was always necessary that she, M., should see the letters which R. was to pick up.”

Such a case may not suggest thought-transference, but it at any rate tempts one to look deeper than crude sensory signs for the springs of action, and to conceive the governance of one organism by another through some sort of nervous induction. It at any rate differs greatly in its conditions from the famous bank-note trick, where a number is written on a board, so slowly, and in figures of so large a size, that at every point the “willer” may mark his {i-17} opinion of the direction the lines are taking by involuntary muscular hints.

It would be useless to accumulate further instances. The best of them could never be wholly conclusive, and mere multiplication adds nothing to their weight. By some of them, as I have said, the theory of muscular guidance is undoubtedly strained. But then the theory of muscular guidance ought to be strained, and strained to the very utmost, before being declared inadequate; and it would always be a matter of opinion whether the point of “utmost” strain had been overpassed. Dr. McGraw and Professor Barrett surmised that it had; Dr. Beard, of New York, was confident that it had not. The contention between “mind-reading” and “muscle-reading” could never reach a definite issue on this ground. But meanwhile the confident and exclusive adherents of the muscular hypothesis had a position of decided advantage over the doubters, for they could fairly enough represent themselves as the champions of science in its war with popular superstitions. The popular imagination more suoin its usual manner had fastened on the phenomena en bloc, and had decided that they were what they seemed to be—“thought-reading.” To the average sightseer a mysterious word is far more congenial than a physiological explanation; and it was, of course, the interest of the professional exhibitor to adopt and advertise a description which seemed to invest him with novel and magical powers. What more natural, therefore, than that those who saw the absurdity of these pretensions should regard further inquiry or suspension of judgment as a concession to ignorant credulity? “Irving Bishop,” it seemed fair to argue, “is a professed ‘thought-reader’; Irving Bishop’s tricks are, at best, mere feats of muscular and tactile sensibility; ergo whoever believes that there is such a thing as ‘thought-reading’ is on a par with the crowd who are mystified by Irving Bishop.”

§ 4. If, then, the ground of experiment had remained unchanged—if the old “willing-game” had merely continued to appear in various forms—no definite advance could have been made. But on the path of the old experiments, a quite new phenomenon now presented itself, which no one could have confidently anticipated, but for which the suggestions drawn from the most advanced phenomena of the “willing-game” had to some extent prepared the way. It was discovered that not only transferences of impression could take place without contact, but that there was no necessity for the result aimed {i-18} at to involve movements; the fact of the transference might be shown, not—as in the “willing-game”—by the subject’s ability to do something, but by his ability to discern and describe an object thought of by the “willer.” Both parties could thus remain perfectly still; which was really a more important condition than even the absence of contact. In this form of experiment, muscle-reading and all the subtler forms of unconscious guidance are completely excluded; and the dangers which remain are such as can, with sufficient care, be clearly defined and safely guarded against. Indications of a visual kind—for instance, by the involuntary direction of glances—have no scope if the object which the percipient is to name is not present or visible in the room. There is, of course, an obvious danger in low whispering, or even soundless movements of the lips; while the faintest accent of approval or disapproval in question or comment may give a hint as to whether the effort is tending in the right direction, and thus guide to the mark by successive approximations. Any exhibition of the kind before a promiscuous company is nearly sure to be vitiated by the latter source of error. But when the experiments are carried on in a limited circle of persons known to each other, and amenable to scientific control, it is not hard for those engaged to set a watch on their own and on each other’s lips; and questions and comments can be entirely forbidden.

I have been speaking of the danger of involuntary guidance. There is, of course, another danger to be considered—that of voluntary guidance—of actual collusion between the agent and percipient. Contact being excluded, such guidance would have to be by signals; and it is impossible to lay down any precise limit to the degree of perfection that a plan of signalling may reach. The long and short signs of the Morse code admit of many varieties of application; and though the channels of sight and touch may be cut off, it is difficult entirely to cut off that of hearing. Shufflings of the feet, coughs, irregularities of breathing, all offer available material. But though the precise line of possibilities in this direction cannot be drawn, we are at any rate able to suggest cases where the line would be clearly overpassed. For instance, if the idea to be transferred from the agent to the percipient is inexpressible in less than twenty words; and if hearing is the only sensory channel left open; and if it is carefully observed that there are no coughs or shufflings, and that the agent’s breathing appears regular, then one seems justified in saying that the necessary information could not be conveyed by a code {i-19} without a very considerable expenditure of time, and a very abnormally acute sense of hearing on the percipient’s part. There is no relation whatever between a private experiment performed under such conditions as these, and the feats of a conjurer, like Mr. Maskelyne, who commands secret apparatus, and whose every word and gesture may be observed and interpreted by a concealed confederate.

It would be rash, however, to represent as crucial any apparent transferences of thought between persons not absolutely separated, where the good faith of at least one of the two is not accepted as beyond question, and where the genuineness of the result is left to depend on the perfection with which third parties have arranged conditions and guarded against signs. The conditions of a crucial result, for one’s own mind, are either (1) that the agent or the percipient shall be oneself; or (2) that the agent or percipient shall be someone whose experience, as recorded by himself, is indistinguishable in certainty from one’s own; or (3) that there shall be several agents or percipients, in the case of each of whom the improbability of deceit, or of such imbecility as would take the place of deceit, is so great that the combination of improbabilities amounts to a moral impossibility. The third mode of attaining conviction is the most practically important. For it is not to be expected of most people that, within a short time, they will either themselves be, or have intimate friends who are, successful agents or percipients; and they are justified, therefore, in demanding that the evidence to which they might fairly refuse credence if it depended on the veracity and intelligence of one or two persons, of however unblemished a reputation, shall be multiplied for their benefit. Whatever be the experimenter’s assurance as to the perfection of his conditions, it is in the nature of things impossible that strangers, who only read and have not seen, should be infected by it. They cannot be absolutely certain that this, that, or the other stick might not break; then enough sticks must be collected and tied together to make a faggot of a strength which shall defy suspicion.1 1 In reference to the objection that the demand for quantity of evidence shows that we know the quality of each item to be bad, I may quote the following passage from a presidential address of Professor Sidgwick’s: “The quality of much of our evidence—when considered apart from the strangeness of the matters to which it refers—is not bad, but very good: it is such that one or two items of it would be held to establish the occurrence, at any particular time and place, of any phenomenon whose existence was generally accepted. Since, however, on this subject the best single testimony only yields an improbability of the testimony being false that is outweighed by the improbability of the fact being true, the only way to make the scale fall on the side of the testimony is to increase the quantity. If the testimony were not good, this increase of quantity would be of little value; but if it is such that the hypothesis of its falsity requires us to suppose abnormal motiveless deceit, or abnormal stupidity or carelessness, in a person hitherto reputed honest and intelligent, then an increase in the number of cases in which such a supposition is required adds importantly to the improbability of the general hypothesis. It is sometimes said by loose thinkers that the ‘moral factor’ ought not to come in at all. But the least reflection shows that the moral factor must come in in all the reasonings of experimental science, except for those who have personally repeated all the experiments on which their conclusions are based. Any one who accepts the report of the experiments of another must rely, not only on his intelligence, but on his honesty: only ordinarily his honesty is so completely assumed that the assumption is not noticed.” As regards the experiments {i-20} of which I am about to present a sketch, it is not necessary to my argument that any individual’s honesty shall be completely assumed, in the sense of being used as a certain basis for conclusions. The proof must depend on the number of persons, reputed honest and intelligent, to whom dishonesty or imbecility must be attributed if the conclusions are wrong, i.e., it must be a cumulative proof. Not that my colleagues and I have any doubt as to the bona fides of every case here recorded. But even where our grounds of certainty are most obvious, they cannot be made entirely obvious to those to whom we and our more intimate associates are personally unknown; while outside this inner circle our confidence depends on points that can scarcely even be suggested to others—on views of character gradually built up out of a number of small and often indefinable items of conversation and demeanour. We may venture to say that a candid critic, present during the whole course of the experiments, would have carried away a far more vivid impression of their genuineness than any printed record can convey. But it must be distinctly understood that we discriminate our cases; and that even where the results are to our own minds crucial—in that they can only be impugned by impugning the honesty or sanity of members of our own investigating Committee—we do not demand their acceptance on this ground alone, or attempt accurately to define the number of reputations which should be staked before a fair mind ought to admit the proof as overwhelming. As observations are accumulated, different “fair minds” will give in at different points; and until the most exacting are satisfied, our task will be incomplete.

§ 5. I mentioned above the correspondence which followed Professor Barrett’s appeal for evidence. In this correspondence, among many instances of the higher aspects of the “willing-game,” there was a small residue which pointed to a genuine transference of impression without contact or movement. Of this residue the most important item was that supplied by our friend, the Rev. A. M. Creery, then {i-21} resident at Buxton, and now working in the diocese of Manchester. He had his attention called to the subject in October, 1880; and was early struck by the impossibility of deciding, in cases where contact was employed, how far the powers of unconscious muscular guidance might extend. He, therefore, instituted experiments with his daughters and with a young maid-servant, in which contact was altogether eschewed. He thus describes the early trials:—

“Each went out of the room in turn, while I and the others fixed on some object which the absent one was to name on returning to the room. After a few trials the successes preponderated so much over the failures that we were all convinced there was something very wonderful coming under our notice. Night after night, for several months, we spent an hour or two each evening in varying the conditions of the experiments, and choosing new subjects for thought-transference. We began by selecting the simplest objects in the room; then chose names of towns, names of people, dates, cards out of a pack, lines from different poems, &c., in fact any things or series of ideas that those present could keep steadily before their minds; and when the children were in good humour, and excited by the wonderful nature of their successful guessing, they very seldom made a mistake. I have seen seventeen cards, chosen by myself, named right in succession, without any mistake. We soon found that a great deal depended on the steadiness with which the ideas were kept before the minds of ‘the thinkers,’ and upon the energy with which they willed the ideas to pass. Our worst experiments before strangers have invariably been when the company was dull and undemonstrative; and we are all convinced that when mistakes are made, the fault rests, for the most part, with the thinkers, rather than with the thought-readers.”

In the course of the years 1881 and 1882, a large number of experiments were made with the Creery family, first by Professor Barrett, then by Mr. and Mrs. Sidgwick, by Professor Balfour Stewart, F.R.S., and Professor Alfred Hopkinson, of Owens College, Manchester, and, after the formation of the Society for Psychical Research, by the Thought-transference Committee of that body, of which Mr. Myers and myself were members. The children in turn acted as “percipients,” the other persons present being “agents,” i.e., concentrating their minds on the idea of some selected word or thing, with the intention that this idea should be transferred to the percipient’s mind. The thing selected was either a card, taken at random from a full pack; or a name chosen also at random; or a number, usually of two figures; or occasionally some domestic implement or other object in the house. The percipient was, of course, absent when the selection was made, and when recalled had no means of discovering through the exercise of the senses what it was, unless by signals, consciously or unconsciously {i-22} given by one or other of the agents. Strict silence was maintained throughout each experiment, and when the group of agents included any members of the Creery family, the closest watch was kept in order to detect any passage of signals; but in hundreds of trials nothing was observed which suggested any attempt of the sort. Still, such simple objects would not demand an elaborate code for their description; nor were any effective means taken to block the percipient’s channels of sense—it being thought expedient in these early trials not to disturb their minds by obtrusive precautions. We could not, therefore, regard the testimony of the investigators present as adding much weight to the experiments in which any members of the family were among the group of agents, unless the percipient was completely isolated from that group. Such a case was the following:—

“Easter, 1881. Present: Mr. and Mrs. Creery and family, and W. F. Barrett, the narrator. One of the children was sent into an adjoining room, the door of which I saw was closed. On returning to the sitting-room and closing its door also, I thought of some object in the house, fixed upon at random; writing the name down, I showed it to the family present, the strictest silence being preserved throughout. We then all silently thought of the name of the thing selected. In a few seconds the door of the adjoining room was heard to open, and after a very short interval the child would enter the sitting-room, generally with the object selected. No one was allowed to leave the sitting-room after the object had been fixed upon; no communication with the child was conceivable, as her place was often changed. Further, the only instructions given to the child were to fetch some object in the house that I would fix upon, and, together with the family, silently keep in mind, to the exclusion, as far as possible, of all other ideas. In this way I wrote down, among other things, a hair-brush; it was brought: an orange; it was brought: a wine glass; it was brought: an apple; it was brought: a toasting-fork; failed on the first attempt, a pair of tongs being brought, but on a second trial it was brought. With another child (among other trials not here mentioned) a cup was written down by me; it was brought: a saucer; this was a failure, a plate being brought; no second trial allowed. The child being told it was a saucer, replied, ‘That came into my head, but I hesitated as I thought it unlikely you would name saucer after cup, as being too easy.’”

But, of course, the most satisfactory condition was that only the members of the investigating Committee should act as agents, so that signals could not possibly be given unless by one of them. This condition clearly makes it idle to represent the means by which the transferences took place as simply a trick which the members of the investigating Committee failed to detect. The trick, if trick there {i-23} was, must have been one in which they, or one of them, actively shared; the only alternative to collusion on their part being some piece of carelessness amounting almost to idiocy—such as uttering the required word aloud, or leaving the selected card exposed on the table. The following series of experiments was made on April 13th, 1882. The agents were Mr. Myers and the present writer, and two ladies of their acquaintance, the Misses Mason, of Morton Hall, Retford, who had become interested in the subject by the remarkable successes which one of them had obtained in experimenting among friends.1 1 See Miss Mason’s interesting paper on the subject in Macmillan’s Magazine for October, 1882. As neither of these ladies had ever seen any member of the Creery family till just before the experiments began, they had no opportunities for arranging a code of signals with the children; so that any hypothesis of collusion must in this case be confined to Mr. Myers or the present writer. As regards the hypothesis of want of intelligence, the degree of intelligent behaviour required of each of the four agents was simply this: (1) To keep silence on a particular subject; and (2) to avoid unconsciously displaying a particular card or piece of paper to a person situated at some yards’ distance. The first condition was realised by keeping silence altogether; the second by remaining quite still. The four observers were perfectly satisfied that the children had no means at any moment of seeing, either directly or by reflection, the selected card or the name of the selected object. The following is the list of trials:—

Objects to be named. (These objects had been brought, and still remained, in the pocket of one of the visitors. The name of the object selected for trial was secretly written down, not spoken.)
A White Penknife.—Correctly named, with the colour, the first trial.
Box of Almonds.—Correctly named.
Threepenny piece.—Failed.
Box of Chocolate.—Button-box said; no second trial given.
(A penknife was then hidden; but the place was not discovered.)
Numbers to be named.
Five.—Rightly given on the first trial.
Fourteen.—Failed.
Thirty-three.—54 (No). 34 (No). 33 (Right).
Sixty-eight.—58 (No). 57 (No). 78 (No).
Fictitious names to be guessed.
Martha Billings.—“Biggis” was said.
{i-24}
Catherine Smith.—“Catherine Shaw” was said.
Henry Gowper.—Failed.
Cards to be named.
Two of clubs.—Right first time.
Queen of diamonds.—Right first time.
Four of spades.—Failed.
Four of hearts.—Right first time.
King of hearts.—Right first time.
Two of diamonds.—Right first time.
Ace of hearts.—Right first time.
Nine of spades.—Right first time.
Five of diamonds.—Four of diamonds (No). Four of hearts (No).
Five of diamonds (Right).
Two of spades.—Right first time.
Eight of diamonds.—Ace of diamonds said; no second trial given.
Three of hearts.—Right first time.
Five of clubs.—Failed.
Ace of spades.—Failed.

The chances against accidental success in the case of any one card are, of course, 51 to 1; yet out of fourteen successive trials nine were successful at the first guess, and only three trials can be said to have been complete failures. The odds against the occurrence of the five successes running, in the card series, are considerably over 1,000,000 to 1. On none of these occasions was it even remotely possible for the child to obtain by any ordinary means a knowledge of the object selected. Our own facial expression was the only index open to her; and even if we had not purposely looked as neutral as possible, it is difficult to imagine how we could have unconsciously carried, say, the two of diamonds written on our foreheads.

During the ensuing year, the Committee, consisting of Professor Barrett, Mr. Myers, and the present writer, made a number of experiments under similar conditions, which excluded contact and movement, and which confined the knowledge of the selected object—and, therefore, the chance of collusion with the percipient—to their own group. In some of these trials, conducted at Cambridge, Mrs. F. W. H. Myers and Miss Mason also took part. In a long series conducted at Dublin, Professor Barrett was alone with the percipient. Altogether these scrupulously guarded trials amounted to 497; and of this number 95 were completely successful at the first guess, and 45 at the second. The results may be clearer if arranged in a tabular form.

{i-25}

TABLE SHOWING THE SUCCESS OBTAINED WHEN THE SELECTED OBJECT WAS KNOWN TO ONE OR MORE OF THE INVESTIGATING COMMITTEE ONLY.

Place of Trial. Object Chosen. No. of Trials. Probability of success by mere chance at each 1st guess. Most probable number of successes at the 1st guess if chance alone acted. Number of successes obtained Number of successes reckoning both 1st and 2nd guesses. Probability of attaining by mere chance the amount of success which the first guesses gave.
At the 1st guess. At the 2nd guess after the 1st had failed.

* A full pack was used, from which a card was in each case drawn at random.

† This number is obtained by multiplying each figure of the third column by the corresponding figure in the fourth column (e.g., 216 × 1/52), and adding the products.

‡ This entry is calculated from the first three totals in the last horizontal row, in the same way that each other entry in the last column is calculated from the first three totals in the corresponding horizontal row.

Buxton Playing Cards* 14 1 52 0 9 0 9 ·000,000,000,000,7
Numbers, &c. 15 1 90 0 4 0 4 ·000,02
Cambridge Playing Cards* 216 1 52 4 17 18 35 ·000,000,1
Numbers 64 1 90 1 5 6 11 ·007
Dublin Playing Cards* 30 1 52 1 3 0 3 ·02
Numbers, &c. 108 1 12 9 32 11 43 ·000,000,000,2
Words 50 ¼ 13 25 10 35 ·000,1
Totals 497 27† 95 45 140 ·000,000,000,000,000,
000,000,000,01‡
{i-26}

Mr. F. Y. Edgeworth, to whom these results were submitted, and who calculated the final column of the Table, has kindly appended the following remarks:—

“These observations constitute a chain or rather coil of evidence, which at first sight and upon a general view is seen to be very strong, but of which the full strength cannot be appreciated until the concatenation of the parts is considered.

“Viewed as a whole the Table presents the following data. There are in all 497 trials. Out of these there are 95 successes at the first guess. The number of successes most probable on the hypothesis of mere chance is 27. The problem is one of the class which I have discussed in the Proceedings of the S. P. R., Vol. III., p. 190, &c. The approximative formula there given is not well suited to the present case,1 1 The formula is adequate to prove that an inferior limit of the sought probability is ·9999 in which the number of successes is very great, the probability of their being due to mere chance very small, in relation to the total number of trials. It is better to proceed directly according to the method employed in the paper referred to (p. 198) for the appreciation of M. Richet’s result EPJYEIOD [see below, p. 75]. By this method,2 2 Owing to the rapid convergency of the series which we have to sum, it will be found sufficient to evaluate two or three terms. with the aid of appropriate tables,3 3 Tables of Logarithms, and of the values of log Γ(x + 1). I find for the probability that the observed total of successes have resulted from some other agency than pure chance ·999, 999, 999, 999, 999, 999, 999, 999, 98

“Stupendous as is this probability it falls short of that which the complete solution of our problem yields. For, measuring and joining all the links of evidence according to the methods described in the paper referred to, I obtain a row of thirty-four nines following a decimal point. A fortiori, if we take account of the second guesses.

“These figures more impressively than any words proclaim the certainty that the recorded observations must have resulted either from collusion on the part of those concerned (the hypothesis of illusion being excluded by the simplicity of the experiments), or from thought-transference of the sort which the investigators vindicate.”

A large number of trials were also made in which the group of agents included one or more of the Creery family; and as bearing on the hypothesis of an ingenious family trick, it is worth noting that—except where Mr. Creery himself was thus included—the percentage of successes was, as a rule, not appreciably higher under these conditions than when the Committee alone were in the secret.4 4 Here, for instance, is Professor Barrett’s record of a casual trial made on August 4th, 1882—only he and Mrs. Myers knowing the card selected. Eight cards were successively drawn from a pack; of these, three were guessed completely right—two of them at the first attempt and the third at the second attempt; in this last case the first guess was the nine of clubs, and the second the nine of spades, that being the card chosen. In addition to these the suit was given rightly three out of the remaining five times, the pips or court card twice out of the five. Immediately after this experiment the two younger sisters of the guesser were called in and allowed to know the card chosen by Mrs. Myers and Professor Barrett. The results, compared with the preceding, were as follows:— In the absence of the sisters. Eight experiments. Two complete successes on the first attempt and one on the second. With the assistance of the sisters as agents. Seven experiments. Two complete successes on the first attempt and one on the second. And to make the coincidence more curious, the partial successes were identical in number in the two series. When {i-27} Mr. Creery was among the agents, the average of success was far higher;1 1 Even the successes obtained when Mr. Creery was helping us were less remarkable than those which, according to his records, had been obtained in the earlier trials, when the whole affair was regarded as an evening’s amusement, and the children were without any sort of gêne or anxiety. Still, with his assistance, we have had such successes as the following. Out of 31 trials with cards (the chances against success by accident being in each case 51 to 1) 17 rightly guessed at the first attempt, 9 at the second, 4 at the third; 8 consecutive successes in naming cards drawn at random from a full pack; and the following series, where the names on the left hand, written down at random by one of ourselves, are what the agents silently concentrated their minds on, and the names on the right hand are what the percipient said, usually in two or three seconds after the experiment began:— William Stubbs.—William Stubbs. Eliza Holmes.—Eliza H—— Isaac Harding.—Isaac Harding. Sophia Shaw.—Sophia Shaw. Hester Willis.—Cassandra, then Hester Wilson. John Jones.—John Jones. Timothy Taylor.—Tom, then Timothy Taylor. Esther Ogle.—Esther Ogle. Arthur Higgins.—Arthur Higgins. Alfred Henderson.—Alfred Henderson. Amy Frogmore.—Amy Freemore. Amy Frogmore. Albert Snelgrove.—Albert Singrore. Albert Grover. but his position in the affair was precisely the same as our own; and the most remarkable results were obtained while he was himself still in a state of doubt as to the genuineness of the phenomena which he was investigating.

One further evidential point should be noted. Supposing such a thing as a genuine faculty of thought-transference to exist, and to be capable, for example, of evoking in one mind the idea of a card on which other minds are concentrated, we might naturally expect that the card-pictures conveyed to the percipient would present various degrees of distinctness, and that there would be a considerable number of approximate guesses, as they might be given by a person who was allowed one fleeting glimpse at a card in an imperfect light. Such a person might often fail to name the card correctly, but his failures would be apt to be far more nearly right than those of another person who was simply guessing without any sort of guidance. This expectation was abundantly confirmed in our experiments. Thus, in a series of 32 trials, where only 5 first guesses were completely right, the suit was 14 times running named correctly on the first trial, and reiterated on the second. Knave was very frequently guessed as King, and vice versâ, the suit being given correctly.

{i-28}

The number of pips named was in many cases only one off the right number, this sort of failure being specially frequent when the number was over six. Again, the correct answer was often given, as it were, piecemeal—in two partially incorrect guesses—the pips or picture being rightly given at the first attempt, and the suit at the second; and in the same way with numbers of two figures, one of them would appear in the first guess and the other in the second.1 1 To illustrate these various points, I will give one series where the success was below the average. Cambridge, August 3rd, 1882. Miss Mary Creery was outside the closed and locked door,—a thick and well-fitting one—and a yard or two from it, under the close observation of a member of the Committee, who observed her attentively. A card was chosen by one of the Committee cutting a pack; the fact that the card had been selected was indicated to the guesser by a single tap on the door. The selected card was placed in view of all the agents, who regarded it intently. After the guesser had named a card loudly enough to be heard through the door, the word “No” or “Right,” as the case might be, was said by one of the Committee; otherwise complete silence preserved. The cards chosen are printed on the left, the guesses on the right. Two guesses only were allowed. 1. Three of hearts.—Ten of spades (No). King of clubs (No). 2. Seven of clubs.—Nine of diamonds (No). Seven of hearts (No). 3. Ten of diamonds.—Queen of spades (No). Ten of diamonds (Right). 4. Eight of spades.—King of clubs (No). Ten of spades (No). 5. Nine of hearts.Nine of clubs (No). Ace of hearts (No). 6. Three of diamonds.—Six of diamonds (No). Ten of diamonds (No). 7. Knave of spades.King of spades (No). Queen of clubs (No). 8. Six of spades.—Six of spades (Right). 9. Queen of clubs.Queen of diamonds (No). Ten of clubs (No). 10. Two of clubs.— Ten of diamonds (No). Ace of diamonds (No). Here there were only two complete successes; and in tabulating results and computing averages we should of course count all the trials except the third and eighth as complete failures. But the result numbered 7 was on the verge of complete success; in 5 and 9 the correct description was given piecemeal; and in 2 the number of pips was correctly given.

Before we leave these early experiments, one interesting question presents itself, which has an important bearing on the wider subject of this book. In what form was the impression flashed on the percipient’s mind? What were the respective parts in the phenomena played by the mental eye and the mental ear? The points just noticed in connection with the partial guessing of cards seem distinctly in favour of the mental eye. A king looks like a knave, but the names have no similarity. So with numbers. 35 is guessed piecemeal, the answers being 45 and 43; so 57 is attempted as 47 and 45. Now the similarity in sound between three and thirty in 43 and 35, or between five and fifty in 45 and 57, is not extremely strong; while the picture of the 3 or the 5 is identical in either pair. On the other hand, names of approximate sound were often given instead of the true ones; as “Chester” for Leicester, “Biggis” for {i-29} Billings, “Freemore” for Frogmore. Snelgrove was reproduced as “Singrore”; the last part of the name was soon given as “Grover,” and the attempt was then abandoned—the child remarking afterwards that she thought of “Snail” as the first syllable, but it had seemed to her too ridiculous. Professor Barrett, moreover, successfully obtained a German word of which the percipient could have formed no visual image.1 1 In an account of some experiments with words, which we have received from a correspondent, it is stated that success was decidedly more marked in cases where there was a broad vowel sound. The children’s own account was usually to the effect that they “seemed to see” the thing; but this, perhaps, does not come to much; as a known object, however suggested, is likely to be instantly visualised. On the whole, then, the conclusion seems to be that, with these “subjects,” both modes of transference were possible; and that they prevailed in turn, according as this or that was better adapted to the particular case.

§ 6. I have dwelt at some length on our series of trials with the members of the Creery family, as it is to those trials that we owe our own conviction of the possibility of genuine thought-transference between persons in a normal state. I have sufficiently explained that we do not expect the results to be as crucial for persons who were not present, and to whom we are ourselves unknown, as they were for us; and that it cannot be “in the mouth of two or three witnesses” only that such a stupendous fact as the transmission of ideas otherwise than through the recognised sensory channels will be established. The testimony must be multiplied; the responsibility must be spread; and I shall immediately proceed to describe further results obtained with other agents and other percipients. But first it may perhaps be asked of us why we did not exploiterwork with this remarkable family further. It was certainly our intention to do what we could in this direction, and by degrees to procure for our friends an opportunity of judging for themselves. This point, however, was one which could only be cautiously pressed. Mr. Creery was certainly justified in regarding his daughters as something more than mere subjects of experiments, and in hesitating to make a show of them to persons who might, or rather who reasonably must, begin by entertaining grave doubts as to their good faith. It must be remembered that we were dealing, not with chemical substances, but with youthful minds, liable to be reduced to confusion by anything in the demeanour of visitors which inspired distaste or alarm; and even with the best intentions, “a childly way {i-30} with children” is not easy to adopt where the children concerned are objects of suspicious curiosity. More especially might these considerations have weight, when failure was anticipated for the first attempts made under new conditions. And this suggests another difficulty, which has more than once recurred in the experimental branches of our work. The would-be spectators themselves may be unable or unwilling to fulfil the necessary conditions. Before introducing them, it is indispensable to obtain some guarantee that they on their part will exercise patience, make repeated trials, and give the “subjects” a fair opportunity of getting used to their presence. Questions of mood, of goodwill, of familiarity, may hold the same place in psychical investigation as questions of temperature in a physical laboratory; and till this is fully realised, it will not be easy to multiply testimony to the extent that we should desire.

In the case of the Creery family, however, we met with a difficulty of another kind. Had the faculty of whose existence we assured ourselves continued in full force, it would doubtless have been possible in time to bring the phenomena under the notice of a sufficient number of painstaking and impartial observers. But the faculty did not continue in full force; on the contrary, the average of successes gradually declined, and the children regretfully acknowledged that their capacity and confidence were deserting them. The decline was equally observed even in the trials which they held amongst themselves; and it had nothing whatever to do with any increased stringency in the precautions adopted. No precautions, indeed, could be stricter than that confinement to our own investigating group of the knowledge of the idea to be transferred, which was, from the very first, a condition of the experiments on which we absolutely relied. The fact has just to be accepted, as an illustration of the fleeting character which seems to attach to this and other forms of abnormal sensitiveness. It seems probable that the telepathic faculty, if I may so name it, is not an inborn, or lifelong possession; or, at any rate, that very slight disturbances may suffice to paralyse it. The Creerys had their most startling successes at first, when the affair was a surprise and an amusement, or later, at short and seemingly casual trials; the decline set in with their sense that the experiments had become matters of weighty importance to us, and of somewhat prolonged strain and tediousness to them. So, on a minor scale, in trials among our own friends, we have seen a fortunate evening, when the spectators were interested and the percipient {i-31} excited and confident, succeeded by a series of failures when the results were more anxiously awaited. It is almost inevitable that a percipient who has aroused interest by a marked success on several occasions, should feel in a way responsible for further results; and yet any real pre-occupation with such an idea seems likely to be fatal. The conditions are clearly unstable. But of course the first question for science is not whether the phenomena can be produced to order, but whether in a sufficient number of series the proportion of success to failure is markedly above the probable result of chance.

§ 7. Before leaving this class of experiments, I may mention an interesting development which it has lately received. In the Revue Philosophique for December, 1884, M. Ch. Richet, the well-known savant and editor of the Revue Scientifique, published a paper, entitled “La Suggestion Mentale et le Calcul des Probabilités,” in the first part of which an account is given of some experiments with cards precisely similar in plan to those above described. A card being drawn at random out of a pack, the “agent” fixed his attention on it, and the “percipient” endeavoured to name it. But M. Richet’s method contained this important novelty—that though the success, as judged by the results of any particular series of trials, seemed slight (showing that he was not experimenting with what we should consider “good subjects”), he made the trials on a sufficiently extended scale to bring out the fact that the right guesses were on the whole, though not strikingly, above the number that pure accident would account for, and that their total was considerably above that number.

This observation involves a new and striking application of the calculus of probabilities. Advantage is taken of the fact that the larger the number of trials made under conditions where success is purely accidental, the more nearly will the total number of successes attained conform to the figure which the formula of probabilities gives. For instance, if some one draws a card at random out of a full pack, and before it has been looked at by anyone present I make a guess at its suit, my chance of being right is, of course, 1 in 4. Similarly, if the process is repeated 52 times, the most probable number of successes, according to the strict calculus of probabilities, is 13; in 520 trials the most probable number of successes is 130. Now, if we consider only a short series of 52 guesses, I may be accidentally right many more times than 13 or many less times. But if the series be {i-32} prolonged—if 520 guesses be allowed instead of 52—the actual number of successes will vary from the probable number within much smaller limits; and if we suppose an indefinite prolongation, the proportional divergence between the actual and the probable number will become infinitely small. This being so, it is clear that if, in a very short series of trials, we find a considerable difference between the actual number of successes and the probable number, there is no reason for regarding this difference as anything but purely accidental; but if we find a similar difference in a very long series, we are justified in surmising that some condition beyond mere accident has been at work. If cards be drawn in succession from a pack, and I guess the suit rightly in 3 out of 4 trials, I shall be foolish to be surprised; but if I guess the suit rightly in 3,000 out of 4,000 trials, I shall be equally foolish not to be surprised.

Now M. Richet continued his trials until he had obtained a considerable total; and the results were such as at any rate to suggest that accident had not ruled undisturbed—that a guiding condition had been introduced, which affected in the right direction a certain small percentage of the guesses made. That condition, if it existed, could be nothing else than the fact that, prior to the guess being made, a person in the neighbourhood of the guesser had concentrated his attention on the card drawn. Hence the results, so far as they go, make for the reality of the faculty of “mental suggestion.” The faculty, if present, was clearly only slightly developed; whence the necessity of experimenting on a very large scale before its genuine influence on the numbers could be even surmised.

Out of 2,927 trials at guessing the suit of a card, drawn at random, and steadily looked at by another person, the actual number of successes was 789; the most probable number, had pure accident ruled, was 732. The total was made up of thirty-nine series of different lengths, in which eleven persons took part, M. Richet himself being in some cases the guesser, and in others the person who looked at the card. He observed that when a large number of trials were made at one sitting, the aptitude of both persons concerned seemed to be affected; it became harder for the “agent” to visualise, and the proportion of successes on the guesser’s part decreased. If we agree to reject from the above total all the series in which over 100 trials were consecutively made, the numbers become more striking.1 1 It should be remarked, however, that the introduction of any principle of selection, after one experiment, is always objectionable. For some more or less plausible reason could probably always be found for setting aside the less favourable results. Out of {i-33} 1,833 trials, he then got 510 successes, the most probable number being only 458; that is to say, the actual number exceeds the most probable number by about 1/10.

Clearly no definite conclusion could be based on such figures as the above. They at most contained a hint for more extended trials, but a hint, fortunately, which can be easily followed up. We are often asked by acquaintances what they can do to aid the progress of psychical research. These experiments suggest a most convenient answer; for they can be repeated, and a valuable contribution made to the great aggregate, by any two persons who have a pack of cards and a little perseverance.1 1 The rules to observe are these: (1) The number of trials contemplated (1,000, 2,000, or whatever it may be) should be specified beforehand. (2) Not more than 50 trials should be made on any one occasion. (3) The agent should draw the card at random, and cut the pack between each draw. (4) The success or failure of each guess should be silently recorded, and the percipient should be kept in ignorance of the results until the whole series is completed. The results should be sent to me at 14, Dean’s Yard, S.W.

Up to the time that I write, we have received, in all, the results of 17 batches of trials in the guessing of suits. In 11 of the batches one person acted as agent and another as percipient throughout: the other 6 batches are the collective results of trials made by as many groups of friends. The total number of trials was 17,653, and the total number of successes was 4,760; which exceeds by 347 the number which was the most probable if chance alone acted. The probability afforded by this result for the action of a cause other than chance is ·999,999,98[☼]—or practical certainty.2 2 For these calculations we have again to thank Mr. F. Y. Edgeworth. For an explanation of the methods employed, see his article in Vol. iii. of the Proceedings of the S.P.R., already referred to, and also his paper on “Methods of Statistics” (sub. fin.) in the Journal of the Statistical Society for 1885. I need hardly say that there has been here no selection of results; all who undertook the trials were specially requested to send in their report, whatever the degree of success or unsuccess; and we have no reason to suppose that this direction has been ignored. It is thus an additional point of interest that in only one of the batches did the result fall below the number which was the most probable one for mere chance to give. And if we take only those batches, 10 in number, in which a couple of experimenters made as many as 1,000 trials and over, the probability of a cause other than chance which the group of results yields is estimated by one method to be ·999,999,999,96, and by another to be ·999,999,999,999,2.

To this record must be added another, not less striking, of experiments which, (though part of the same effort to obtain large collective results,) differed in form from the above, and could not, {i-34} therefore, figure in the aggregate. Thus, in a set of 976 trials, carried out by Miss B. Lindsay (late of Girton College), and a group of friends, where the choice was between 6 uncoloured forms—9 specimens of each being combined in a pack from which the agent drew at random—the total of right guesses was 198, the odds against obtaining that degree of success by chance being 1,000 to 1.[☼] In another case, the choice lay between 4 things, but these were not suits, but simple colours—red, blue, green, and yellow. The percipient throughout was Mr. A. J. Shilton, of 40, Paradise Street, Birmingham; the agent (except in one small group, when Professor Poynting, of Mason College, acted) was Mr. G. T Cashmore, of Albert Road, Handsworth. Out of 505 trials, 261 were successes. The probability here afforded of a cause other than chance is considerably more than a trillion trillions to 1. And still more remarkable is the result obtained by the Misses Wingfield, of The Redings, Totteridge, in some trials where the object to be guessed was a number of two digits—i.e., one of the 90 numbers included in the series from 10 to 99—chosen at random by the agent. Out of 2,624 trials, where the most probable number of successes was 29, the actual number obtained was no less than 275—to say nothing of 78 other cases in which the right digits were guessed in the reverse order. In the last 506 trials the agent (who sat some 6 feet behind the percipient) drew the numbers at random out of a bowl; the odds against the accidental occurrence of the degree of success—21 right guesses—obtained in this batch are over 2,000,000 to 1. The argument for thought-transference afforded by the total of 275 cannot be expressed here in figures, as it requires 167 nines—that is, the probability is far more than the ninth power of a trillion to 1.

Card-experiments of the above type offer special conveniences for the very extended trials which we wish to see carried out: they are easily made and rapidly recorded. At the same time it must not be assumed that the limitation of the field of choice to a very small number of known objects is a favourable condition; it is probably the reverse. For from the descriptions which intelligent percipients have given it would seem that the best condition is a sort of inward blankness, on which the image of the object, sometimes suddenly but often only gradually, takes shape. And this inward blankness is hard to ensure when the objects for choice are both few and known. For their images are then apt to importune the mind, and to lead to guessing; the little procession of them marches so {i-35} readily across the mental stage that it is difficult to drive it off, and wait for a single image to present itself independently. Moreover idiosyncrasies on the guesser’s part have the opportunity of obtruding themselves—as an inclination, or a disinclination, to repeat the same guess several times in succession. These objections of course reach their maximum if the field of choice be narrowed down to two things—as where not the suit but the colour of the cards is to be guessed. And in fact some French trials of this type, and an aggregate of 5,500 carried out by the American Society for Psychical Research,1 1 Report by Professors J. M. Peirce and E. C. Pickering, in the Proceedings of the American Society for Psychical Research, Vol. i., p. 19. This Society has also carried out 12,130 trials with the 10 digits—which similarly gave a result only slightly in excess of theoretic probability. But here the digits to be thought of by the agent were not taken throughout in a purely accidental order, but in regularly recurring decads, in each of which each digit occurred once; and consequently the later guesses (both within the same decad and in successive decads) might easily be biassed by the earlier ones. This system may lead to interesting statistics in other ways; but to give thought-transference fair play in experiments with a limited number of objects, it seems essential that the order of selection shall be entirely haphazard, and that the guesser’s mind shall be quite unembarrassed by the notion of a scheme. give a result only very slightly in excess of the most probable number.

§ 8. I may now pass to another class of experiments, in which the impression transferred was almost certainly of the visual sort, inasmuch as any verbal description of the object would require a group of words too numerous to present any clear and compact auditory character. An object of this kind is supplied by any irregular figure or arrangement of lines which suggests nothing in particular. We have had two remarkably successful series of experiments, extending over many days, in which the idea of such a figure has been telepathically transferred from one mind to another. A rough diagram being first drawn by one of the investigating Committee, the agent proceeded to concentrate his attention on it, or on the memory which he retained of it; and in a period varying from a few seconds to a few minutes the percipient was able to reproduce the diagram, or a close approximation to it, on paper. No contact was permitted, except on a few occasions, which, on that very account, we should not present as crucial; and in order to preclude the agent from giving unconscious hints—e.g., by drawing with his finger on the table or making movements suggestive of the figure in the air—he was kept out of the percipient’s sight.

Of the two series mentioned, the second is evidentially to be preferred. For in the first series the agent, as well as the percipient, was always the same person; and we recognise this as pro tantoto that extent an objection. Not indeed that the simple hypothesis of collusion would {i-36} at all meet the difficulties of the case. Faith in the power of a secret code must be carried to the verge of superstition, before it will be easy to believe that auditory signals, the material for which (as I pointed out above) is limited to the faintest variations in the signaller’s method of breathing, can fully and faithfully describe a complicated diagram; especially when the variations, imperceptible to the closest observation of the bystanders, would have to penetrate to the intelligence of a percipient whose head was enveloped in bandage, bolster-case, and blanket. But in spite of all, suspicion will, reasonably or unreasonably, attach to results which are, so to speak, a monopoly of two particular performers. In our second series of experiments this objection was obviated. There were two percipients, and a considerable group of agents, each of whom, when alone with one or other of the percipients, was successful in transferring his impression. It is this series, therefore, that I select for fuller description.

We owe these remarkable experiments to the sagacity and energy of Mr. Malcolm Guthrie, J.P., of Liverpool. At the beginning of 1883, Mr. Guthrie happened to read an article on thought-transference in a magazine, and though completely sceptical, he determined to make some trials on his own account. He was then at the head of an establishment which gives employment to many hundreds of persons; and he was informed by a relative who occupied a position of responsibility in this establishment that she had witnessed remarkable results in some casual trials made by a group of his employées after business hours. He at once took the matter into his own hands, and went steadily, but cautiously, to work. He restricted the practice of the novel accomplishment to weekly meetings; and he arranged with his friend, Mr. James Birchall, the hon. secretary of the Liverpool Literary and Philosophical Society, that the latter should make a full and complete record of every experiment made. Mr. Guthrie thus describes the proceedings:—

“I have had the advantage of studying a series of experiments ab ovo.from the beginning I have witnessed the genuine surprise which the operators and the ‘subjects’ have alike exhibited at their increasing successes, and at the results of our excursions into novel lines of experiment. The affair has not been the discovery of the possession of special powers, first made and then worked up by the parties themselves for gain or glory. The experimenters in this case were disposed to pass the matter over altogether as one of no moment, and only put themselves at my disposal in regard to experiments in order to oblige me. The experiments have all been devised and conducted by myself and Mr. Birchall, without any previous intimation of their nature, and could not possibly have been foreseen. In fact they {i-37} have been to the young ladies a succession of surprises. No set of experiments of a similar nature has ever been more completely known from its origin, or more completely under the control of the scientific observer.”

I must pass over the record of the earlier experiments, where the ideas transferred were of colours, geometrical figures, cards, and visible objects of all sorts, which the percipient was to name—these being similar in kind, though on the whole superior in the proportion of successes, to those already described.1 1 The full record of the experiments will be found in the Proceedings of the S.P.R., Vol. i., p. 264, &c., and Vol. ii., p. 24, &c. There is one point of novelty which is thus described by Mr. Guthrie: “We tried also the perception of motion, and found that the movements of objects exhibited could be discerned. The idea was suggested by an experiment tried with a card, which in order that all present should see, I moved about, and was informed by the percipient that it was a card, but she could not tell which one because it seemed to be moving about. On a subsequent occasion, in order to test this perception of motion, I bought a toy monkey, which worked up and down on a stick by means of a string drawing the arms and legs together. The answer was: ‘I see red and yellow, and it is darker at one end than the other. It is like a flag moving about—it is moving. … Now it is opening and shutting like a pair of scissors.’” The reproduction of diagrams was introduced in October, 1883, and in that and the following month about 150 trials were made. The whole series has been carefully mounted and preserved by Mr. Guthrie. No one could look through them without perceiving that the hypothesis of chance or guess-work is out of the question; that in most instances some idea, and in many a complete idea, of the original must, by whatever means, have been present in the mind of the person who made the reproduction. In Mr. Guthrie’s words,—

“It is difficult to classify them. A great number of them are decided successes; another large number give part of the drawing; others exhibit the general idea, and others again manifest a kind of composition of form. Others, such as the drawings of flowers, have been described and named, but have been too difficult to draw. A good many are perfect failures. The drawings generally run in lots. A number of successful copies will be produced very quickly, and again a number of failures—indicating, I think, faultiness on the part of the agent, or growing fatigue on the part of the ‘subject.’ Every experiment, whether successful or a failure, is given in the order of trial, with the conditions, name of ‘subject’ and agent, and any remarks made by the ‘subject’ specified at the bottom. Some of the reproductions exhibit the curious phenomenon of inversion. These drawings must speak for themselves. The principal facts to be borne in mind regarding them are that they have been executed through the instrumentality, as agents, of persons of unquestioned probity, and that the responsibility for them is spread over a considerable group of such persons; while the conditions to be observed were so simple—for they amounted really to nothing more than taking care that the original should not be seen by the ‘subject’—that it is extremely difficult to suppose them to have been eluded.”

{i-38}

I give a few specimens—not unduly favourable ones, but illustrating the “spreading of responsibility” to which Mr. Guthrie refers. The agents concerned were Mr. Guthrie; Mr. Steel, the President of the Liverpool Literary and Philosophical Society; Mr. Birchall, mentioned above; Mr. Hughes, B.A., of St. John’s College, Cambridge; and myself. The names of the percipients were Miss Relph and Miss Edwards. The conditions which I shall describe were those of the experiments in which I myself took part; and I have Mr. Guthrie’s authority for stating that they were uniformly observed in the other cases. The originals were for the most part drawn in another room from that in which the percipient was placed. The few executed in the same room were drawn while the percipient was blindfolded, at a distance from her, and in such a way that the process would have been wholly invisible to her or anyone else, even had an attempt been made to observe it. During the process of transference, the agent looked steadily and in perfect silence at the original drawing, which was placed upon an intervening wooden stand; the percipient sitting opposite to him, and behind the stand, blindfolded and quite still. The agent ceased looking at the drawing, and the blindfolding was removed, only when the percipient professed herself ready to make the reproduction, which happened usually in times varying from half-a-minute to two or three minutes. Her position rendered it absolutely impossible that she should obtain a glimpse of the original. Apart from the blindfolding, she could not have done so without rising from her seat and advancing her head several feet; and as she was very nearly in the same line of sight as the drawing, and so very nearly in the centre of the agent’s field of vision, the slightest approach to such a movement must have been instantly detected. The reproductions were made in perfect silence, the agent forbearing to follow the actual process of the drawing with his eyes, though he was, of course, able to keep the percipient under the closest observation.

In the case of all the diagrams, except those numbered 7 and 8, the agent and the percipient were the only two persons in the room during the experiment. In the case of numbers 7 and 8, the agent and Miss Relph were sitting quite apart in a corner of the room, while Mr. Guthrie and Miss Edwards were talking in another part of it. Numbers 1–6 are specially interesting as being the complete and consecutive series of a single sitting.

{i-39}
No. 1. ORIGINAL DRAWING.          No. 1. REPRODUCTION.
[Drawing]
Mr. Guthrie and Miss Edwards. No contact.

No. 2. ORIGINAL DRAWING.                      No. 2. REPRODUCTION.
[Drawing]
Mr. Guthrie and Miss Edwards. No contact.
{i-40}
No. 3. ORIGINAL DRAWING.                 No. 3. REPRODUCTION.
[Drawing]
Mr. Guthrie and Miss Edwards.
          No contact.

No. 4. ORIGINAL DRAWING.                No. 4. REPRODUCTION.
[Drawing]
Mr. Guthrie and Miss Edwards.
              No contact.
{i-41}
No. 5. ORIGINAL DRAWING.                No. 5. REPRODUCTION.
[Drawing]
Mr. Guthrie and Miss Edwards.
              No contact.

No. 6. ORIGINAL DRAWING.
[Drawing]
Mr. Guthrie and Miss Edwards. No contact.
No. 6. REPRODUCTION.
[Drawing]

Miss Edwards almost directly said, “Are you thinking of the bottom of the sea, with
shells and fishes?” and then, “Is it a snail or a fish?”—then drew as above.

{i-42}
No. 7. ORIGINAL DRAWING.
[Drawing]
Mr. Gurney and Miss Relph. Contact for half-a-minute before the reproduction was drawn.
No. 7. REPRODUCTION.
[Drawing]
{i-43}
No. 8. ORIGINAL DRAWING.                No. 8. REPRODUCTION.
[Drawing]
Mr. Gurney and Miss Relph. No contact.

No. 9. ORIGINAL DRAWING.
[Drawing]
Mr. Birchall and Miss Relph. No contact.
No. 9. REPRODUCTION.
[Drawing]

Miss Relph said she seemed to see a lot of rings, as if they were moving, and she could not get them steadily before her eyes.

{i-44}
No. 10. ORIGINAL DRAWING.                  No. 10. REPRODUCTION.
[Drawing]
Mr. Birchall and Miss Relph. No contact.

No. 11. ORIGINAL DRAWING.
[Drawing]
No. 11. REPRODUCTION.
Mr. Birchall and Miss Edwards. No contact.
{i-45}
No. 12. ORIGINAL DRAWING.
[Drawing]
Mr. Steel and Miss Relph. No contact.
No. 12. REPRODUCTION.
[Drawing]
{i-46}
No. 13. ORIGINAL DRAWING.No. 13. REPRODUCTION.
[Drawing][Drawing]
Mr. Steel and Miss Edwards. Contact before the reproduction was made.

No. 14. ORIGINAL DRAWING.No. 14. REPRODUCTION.
[Drawing][Drawing]
Mr. Hughes and Miss Edwards. Contact before the reproduction was made.Miss Edwards said, “A box or chair badly shaped”—then drew as above.
{i-47}
No. 15. ORIGINAL DRAWING.
[Drawing]
Mr. Hughes and Miss Edwards. No contact.
No. 15. REPRODUCTION.
[Drawing]
Miss Edwards said, “It is like a mask at a pantomime,” and immediately drew as above.
{i-48}
No. 16. ORIGINAL DRAWING.
[Drawing]
Mr. Hughes and Miss Edwards. No. contact.
No. 16. REPRODUCTION.
[Drawing]
{i-49}

§ 9. Soon after the publication of these results, Mr. Guthrie was fortunate enough to obtain the active co-operation of Dr. Oliver J. Lodge, Professor of Physics in University College, Liverpool, who carried out a long and independent series of experiments with the same two percipients, and completely convinced himself of the genuineness of the phenomena. In his report1 1 Proceedings of the S.P.R., Vol. ii., p. 189, &c. he says:—

“As regards collusion and trickery, no one who has witnessed the absolutely genuine and artless manner in which the impressions are described, but has been perfectly convinced of the transparent honesty of purpose of all concerned. This, however, is not evidence to persons who have not been present, and to them I can only say that to the best of my scientific belief no collusion or trickery was possible under the varied circumstances of the experiments. … When one has the control of the circumstances, can change them at will and arrange one’s own experiments, one gradually acquires a belief in the phenomena observed quite comparable to that induced by the repetition of ordinary physical experiments. … We have many times succeeded with agents quite disconnected from the percipient in ordinary life, and sometimes complete strangers to them. Mr. Birchall, the head-master of the Birkdale Industrial School, frequently acted; and the house physician at the Eye and Ear Hospital, Dr. Shears, had a successful experiment, acting alone, on his first and only visit. All suspicion of a pre-arranged code is thus rendered impossible even to outsiders who are unable to witness the obvious fairness of all the experiments.”

The objects of which the idea was transferred were sometimes things with names (cards, key, teapot, flag, locket, picture of donkey, and so on), sometimes irregular drawings with no name. Professor Lodge satisfied himself that auditory as well as visual impressions played a part—that in some cases the idea transferred was that of the object itself, and in others, that of its name; thus confirming the conclusion which we had come to in the experiments with the Creery family. Of the two percipients one seemed more susceptible to the visual, and the other to the auditory impressions. A case where the auditory element seems clearly to have come in is the following. The object was a tetrahedron rudely drawn in projection, thus—

image

The percipient said: “Is it another triangle?” No answer was given, but Professor Lodge silently passed round to the agents a scribbled message, “Think of a pyramid.” The percipient then said, “I only {i-50} see a triangle “—then hastily, “Pyramids of Egypt. No, I shan’t do this.” Asked to draw, she only drew a triangle.

I will give only one other case from this series, which is important as showing that the percipient may be simultaneously influenced by two minds, which are concentrated on two different things. The two agents being seated opposite to one another, Professor Lodge placed between them a piece of paper, on one side of which was drawn a square, and on the other a cross. They thus had different objects to imagecontemplate, and neither knew what the other was looking at; nor did the percipient know that anything unusual was being tried. There was no contact. Very soon the percipient said, “I see things moving about … I seem to see two things … I see first one up there and then one down there … I don’t know which to draw … I can’t see either distinctly.” Professor Lodge said: “Well, anyhow, draw what you have seen.” She took off the bandage and drew first a square, and then said, “Then there was the other thing as well … afterwards they seemed to go into one,”—and she drew a cross inside the square from corner to corner, adding afterwards, “I don’t know what made me put it inside.” The significance of this experimental proof of joint agency will be more fully realised in connection with some of the spontaneous cases.

The following passage from the close of Professor Lodge’s report has a special interest for us, confirming, as it does, the accounts which we had received from our own former “subjects,” and the views above expressed as to the conditions of success and failure:—

“With regard to the feelings of the percipients when receiving an impression, they seem to have some sort of consciousness of the action of other minds on them; and once or twice, when not so conscious, have complained that there seemed to be ‘no power’ or anything acting, and that they not only received no impression, but did not feel as if they were going to.

“I asked one of them what she felt when impressions were coming freely, and she said she felt a sort of influence or thrill. They both say that several objects appear to them sometimes, but that one among them persistently recurs and they have a feeling when they fix upon one that it is the right one.

“One serious failure rather depresses them, and after a success others often follow. It is because of these rather delicate psychological conditions {i-51} that one cannot press the variations of an experiment as far as one would do if dealing with inert and more dependable matter. Usually the presence of a stranger spoils the phenomena, though in some cases a stranger has proved a good agent straight off.

“The percipients complain of no fatigue as induced by the experiments, and I have no reason to suppose that any harm is done them.”

It is the “delicate psychological conditions” of which Professor Lodge here speaks that are in danger of being ignored, just because they cannot be measured and handled. The man who first hears of thought-transference very naturally imagines that, if it is a reality, it ought to be demonstrated to him at a moment’s notice. He forgets that the experiment being essentially a mental one, his own presence—so far as he has a mind—may be a factor in it; that he is demanding that a delicate weighing operation shall be carried out, while he himself, a person of unknown weight, sits judicially in one of the scales. After a time he will learn to allow for the conditions of his instruments, and will not expect in the operations of an obscure vital influence the rigorous certainty of a chemical reaction.

I cannot conclude this division of the subject without a reference to a remarkable set of diagrams which appeared in Science for July, 1885—the first-fruits of the investigation of thought-transference set on foot by the American Society for Psychical Research. Most of the trials were carried out by Mr. W. H. Pickering (brother of the eminent astronomer at Harvard), and his sister-in-law. Though the success is far less striking to the eye than in the several English series, the evidence for some agency beyond chance seems, on examination, irresistible.

§ 10. So far the present sketch has included transference of impressions of the visual and auditory sorts only—impressions, moreover, which for the most part represented formed objects or definite groups of sensations, not sensations pure and simple. These are not only by far the most important forms of the phenomenon, in relation to the wider spontaneous operations of telepathy which we shall consider in the sequel; but are also the most convenient forms for experiment. Moreover, I have been tracing the development of the subject historically; and it was in connection with ideas belonging to the higher forms of sense that the transferences to percipients who were in a normal state were first obtained. But the existence of such cases would {i-52} prepare us for transferences of a more elementary type,—transferences of a simple formless sensation and nothing more, which should impress the percipient not as an idea, but in its direct sensational character; and if the phenomena be arranged in a logical scale from the less to the more complex, such cases would have the priority. For their exhibition, it is naturally to the lower senses that we should look—taste, smell, and touch—which last (since a certain intensity of experience seems necessary) we should hardly expect to prove effective till it reached the degree of pain. These lower forms are, in fact, those which preponderate in the earlier observations of mesmeric rapport in this country; and our own experiments in mesmerism have included several instances of this sort.1 1 It is impossible here to give more than a selection of cases. I must refer the reader to Chap. i of the Supplement, and to the Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, Vol. i. p. 225, &c., Vol. ii., p. 17, &c., and p. 205, &c.; and Mr. Guthrie’s “Further Report” in Vol. iii. Thus the discovery that a similar “community of sensation” might exist between persons in a normal state, and without any resort to mesmeric or hypnotic processes, not only filled up an obvious lacuna, but gave a fresh proof of the fundamental unity of our many-sided subject.

In the case of taste, we owe the discovery to Mr. Guthrie—the phenomenon having been, we believe, first observed by him on August 30th, 1883, and first fully examined in the course of a visit which Mr. Myers and the present writer paid to him in the following week. Failing to obtain very marked success in other lines of experiment, it occurred to us to introduce this novel form; but the superiority of the results was probably due simply to the fact that they were obtained on the later days of our visit, when the “subjects” had become accustomed to our presence.

I will quote the report made at the time:—

“The taste to be discerned was known only to one or more of the three actual experimenters; and the sensations experienced were verbally described by the ‘subjects’ (not written down), so that all danger of involuntary muscular guidance was eliminated.

“A selection of about twenty strongly-tasting substances was made. These substances were enclosed in small bottles and small parcels, precisely similar to one another, and kept carefully out of the range of vision of the ‘subjects,’ who were, moreover, blindfolded, so that no grimaces made by the tasters could be seen. The ‘subjects,’ in fact, had no means whatever of knowing, through the sense of sight, what was the substance tasted.

{i-53}

Smell had to be guarded against with still greater care. When the substance was odoriferous the packet or bottle was opened outside the room, or at such a distance, and so cautiously as to prevent any sensible smell from escaping. The experiments, moreover, were conducted in the close vicinity of a very large kitchen, from whence a strong odour of beefsteak and onions proceeded during almost all the time occupied. The tasters took pains to keep their heads high above the ‘subjects,’ and to avoid breathing with open mouth. One substance (coffee) tried was found to give off a slight smell, in spite of all precautions, and an experiment made with this has been omitted.

“The tasters were Mr. Guthrie (M.G.), Mr. Gurney (E.G.), and Mr. Myers (M.). The percipients may be called R. and E. The tasters lightly placed a hand on one of the shoulders or hands of the percipients—there not being the same objection to contact in trials of this type as where lines and figures are concerned, and the ‘subjects’ themselves seeming to have some faith in it. During the first experiments (September 3rd and 4th) there were one or two other persons in the room, who, however, were kept entirely ignorant of the substance tasted. During the experiments silence was preserved. The last fifteen of them (September 5th) were made when only M. G., E. G., and M., with the two percipients, were present. On this evening E. was, unfortunately, suffering from sore throat, which seemed to blunt her susceptibility. On this occasion none of the substances were allowed even to enter the room where the percipients were. They were kept in a dark lobby outside, and taken by the investigators at random, so that often one investigator did not even know what the other took. Still less could any spy have discerned what was chosen, had such spy been there, which he certainly was not.

A very small portion of each substance used was found to be enough. The difficulty lies in keeping the mean between the massive impression of a large quantity of a salt, spice, bitter, or acid, which confounds the specific differences under each general head, and the fading impression which is apt to give merely a residual pungency, from which the characteristic flavour has escaped. It is necessary to allow some minutes to elapse between each experiment, as the imaginary taste seems to be fully as persistent as the real one.

September 3rd, 1883.
TASTER.PERCIPIENT.SUBSTANCE.ANSWERS GIVEN.
1.—M.EVinegar “A sharp and nasty taste.”
2.—M.EMustard “Mustard.”
3.—M.RDo.“Ammonia.”
4.—M.ESugar“I still taste the hot taste of the mustard.”
September 4th.
5.—E. G. & MEWorcestershire sauce.“Worcestershire sauce.”
6.—M. G.EDo.“Vinegar.”
7.—E. G. & MEPort wine“Between eau de Cologne and beer.”
8.—M. G.RDo.“Raspberry vinegar.”
9.—E. G. & MEBitter aloes“Horrible and bitter.”
10.—M. G.RAlum “A taste of ink—of iron—of vinegar. I feel it on my lips—it is as if I had been eating alum.”
{i-54}
11.—M. G.EAlum(E. perceived that M. G. was not tasting bitter aloes, as E. G. and M. supposed, but something different. No distinct perception on account of the persistence of the bitter taste.)
12.—E. G. & MENutmeg“Peppermint—no—what you put in puddings—nutmeg.”
13.—M. G.RDo.“Nutmeg.”1 1 In some cases two experiments were carried on simultaneously with the same substance; and when this was done, the first percipient was of course not told whether her answer was right or wrong. But it will perhaps be suggested that, when her answer was right, the agent who was touching her unconsciously gave her an intimation of the fact by the pressure of his hand; and that she then coughed or made some audible signal to her companion, who followed suit. Whatever the theory may be worth, it will, we think, be seen that the success of the second percipient with the nutmeg was the only occasion, throughout the series, to which it can be applied.
14.—E. G. & MESugarNothing perceived.
15.—M. G.RDo.Nothing perceived. (Sugar should be tried at an earlier stage in the series, as, after the aloes, we could scarcely taste it ourselves.)
16.—E. G. & MECayenne pepper“Mustard.”
17.—M. G.RDo.“Cayenne pepper.” (After the cayenne we were unable to taste anything further that evening.
September 5th.
18.—E. G. & MECarbonate of sodaNothing perceived.
19.—M. G.RCarraway seeds“It feels like meal—like a seed loaf—carraway seeds.” (The substance of the seeds seemed to be perceived before their taste. )
20.—E. G. & MECloves“Cloves.”
21.—E. G. & MECitric acidNothing perceived.
22.—M. G.RDo.“Salt.”
23.—E. G. & MELiquorice“Cloves.”
24.—M. GRCloves“Cinnamon.”
25.—E. G. & MEAcid jujube“Pear drop.”
26.—M. G.R Do.“Something hard, which is giving way—acid jujube.”
27.—E. G. & MECandied ginger“Something sweet and hot.”
28.—M. G.RDo.“Almond toffy.” (M. G. took his ginger in the dark, and was some time before he realised that it was ginger.)
29.—E. G. & MEHome-made Noyau“Salt.”
30.—M. G.RDo.“Port wine.” (This was by far the most strongly smelling of the substances tried, the scent of kernels being hard to conceal. Yet it was named by E. as salt.)
31.—E. G. & MEBitter aloes“Bitter.”
32.—M. G.R Do.Nothing perceived.
{i-55}

“We should have preferred in these experiments to use only substances which were wholly inodorous. But in order to get any description of tastes from the percipients, it was necessary that the tastes should be either very decided or very familiar. It would be desirable, before entering on a series of experiments of this kind, to educate the palates of the percipients by accustoming them to a variety of chemical substances, and also by training them to distinguish, with shut eyes, between the more ordinary flavours. It is well known how much taste is helped by sight and determined by expectation; and when it is considered that the percipients in these cases were judging blindfold of the mere shadow of a savour, it will perhaps be thought that even some of their mistakes are not much wider of the mark than they might have been had a trace of the substance been actually placed upon their tongues.”

In later experiments, Mr. Guthrie endeavoured to meet the difficulty caused by odorous substances, and even succeeded in obtaining what appeared to be transferences of smell-impressions. The “subjects” and the agents were placed in different rooms. An opening, 10½ inches square, had been made in the wooden partition between the two rooms; and this had been filled in with a frame, covered with india-rubber and fitting tightly. Through a slit in this frame the agent (Mr. Guthrie or his relative, Miss Redmond) passed a hand, which both the “subjects” could then touch. Under these conditions, as far as could be judged, it was impossible for any scent to pass; and, certainly, if any did pass, it would have needed extreme hyperæsthesia to detect it. The following results were obtained on December 5th, 1883:—

1.—Miss Redmond tasted powdered nutmeg.

E. said “Ginger.”

R. said “Nutmeg.”

2.—Mr. G. tasted powder of dry celery.

E.: “A bitter herb.”

R.: “Something like camomile.”

3.—Miss Redmond tasted coffee.

At the same time, without any previous intimation, Mr. G., with two pins, pricked the front of the right wrist of Miss Redmond.

E. said: “Is it a taste at all?” Mr. G.: “Why do you ask?”

“Because I feel a sort of pricking in the left wrist.” She was told it was the right wrist, but said she felt it in the left.

R.: “Is it cocoa or chocolate?” Answer given in the negative.

E.: “Is it coffee?”

4.—Mr. G. tasted Worcestershire sauce.

R.: “Something sweet . . also acid . . a curious taste.”

E.: “Is it vinegar?”

5.—Miss Redmond smelt eau de Cologne.

R.: “Is it eau de Cologne?”

{i-56}

6.—Miss Redmond smelt camphor.

E.: “Don’t taste anything.”

R.: Nothing perceived.

7.—Mr. G. smelt carbolic acid.

R.: “What you use for toothache … creosote.”

E. afterwards said she thought of pitch.

8.—Mr. G. Right instep pricked with pins.

E. guessed first the face, then the left shoulder; then R. localised the pain on the right foot.

The pain was then silently transferred to the left foot. E. localised it on the left foot. Both maintained their opinions.

I will quote one more taste-series, for the sake of illustrating a special point—namely, the deferment of the percipient’s consciousness of the sensation until a time when the agent had himself ceased to feel it. This fact is of great interest, on account of the marked analogy to it which we shall encounter in many of the spontaneous telepathic cases. The instances below are too few to be conclusive; but we used to notice the same thing in our experiments with the Creery family—the object on which the attention of the agents had been concentrated being sometimes correctly named after the experiment had been completely abandoned as a failure. (Cf., Vol. II., p. 327.)

June 11th, 1885.

Dr. Hyla Greves was in contact with Miss Relph, having tasted salad oil.

Miss Relph said: “I feel a cool sensation in my mouth, something like that produced by sal prunelle.”

Mr. R. C. Johnson in contact, having tasted Worcestershire sauce in another room.

“I taste something oily; it is very like salad oil.” Then, a few minutes after contact with Mr. Johnson had ceased, “My mouth seems getting hot after the oil.” (N.B.—Nothing at all had been said about the substances tasted either by Dr. Greves or Mr. Johnson.)

Dr. Greves in contact, having tasted bitter aloes.

“I taste something frightfully hot … something like vinegar and pepper … Is it Worcestershire sauce?”

Mr. Guthrie in contact, also having tasted bitter aloes.

“I taste something extremely bitter, but don’t know what it is, and do not remember tasting it before … It is a very horrid taste.”

The possibility of the transference of pain, to a percipient in the normal state, is also a recent discovery. In December, 1882, we obtained some results which—with our well-tried knowledge of the percipient’s character—we regard as completely satisfactory; but our more striking successes in this line happen to have been with {i-57} hypnotic subjects.1 1 See Proceedings of the S.P.R., Vol. i., pp. 225–6; Vol. ii., p. 250. The form of experiment has difficulties of its own. For, in mercy to the agent, the pain which it is hoped to transfer cannot be very severely inflicted; and, moreover, in such circumstances of investigation as Mr. Guthrie’s, it is only a very limited amount of the area of the body that can practically be used—a fact which of course increases the percipient’s chances of accidental success. Still, the amount of success obtained with Mr. Guthrie’s “subjects,” in a normal state, is such as certainly excludes the hypothesis of accident. In some of the most remarkable series, contact has been permitted, it being difficult to suppose that unconscious pressure of the hand could convey information as to the exact locality of a pain.2 2 See, for instance, the record of Mr. Hughes’s series in Mr. Guthrie’s “Further Report,” above referred to. But complete isolation of the percipient is, no doubt, a more satisfactory condition; and at seven of the Liverpool meetings, which took place at intervals from November, 1884, to July, 1885, the experiment was arranged in the following way. The percipient being seated blindfolded, and with her back to the rest of the party, all the other persons present inflicted on themselves the same pain on the same part of the body. Those who took part in this collective agency were three or more of the following: Mr. Guthrie, Professor Herdman, Dr. Hicks, Dr. Hyla Greves, Mr. R. C. Johnson, F.R.A.S., Mr. Birchall, Miss Redmond, and on one occasion another lady. The percipient throughout was Miss Relph.

In all, 20 trials were made. The parts pained were—

1.—Back of left hand pricked. Rightly localised.

2.—Lobe of left ear pricked. Rightly localised.

3.—Left wrist pricked. “Is it in the left hand?”—pointing to the back near the little finger.

4.—Third finger of left hand tightly bound round with wire. A lower joint of that finger was guessed.

5.—Left wrist scratched with pins. “It is in the left wrist, like being scratched.”

6.—Left ankle pricked. Rightly localised.

7.—Spot behind left ear pricked. No result.

8.—Right knee pricked. Rightly localised.

9.—Right shoulder pricked. Rightly localised.

10.—Hands burned over gas. “Like a pulling pain . . then tingling, like cold and hot alternately——localised by gesture only.

11.—End of tongue bitten. “It is in the lip or the tongue.”

12.—Palm of left hand pricked. “Is it a tingling pain in the hand, here?”—placing her finger on the palm of the left hand.

13.—Back of neck pricked. “Is it a pricking of the neck?”

{i-58}

14.—Front of left arm above elbow pricked. Rightly localised.

15.—Spot just above left ankle pricked. Rightly localised.

16.—Spot just above right wrist pricked. “I am not quite sure, but I feel a pain in the right arm, from the thumb upwards, to above the wrist.”

17.—Inside of left ankle pricked. Outside of left ankle guessed.

18.—Spot beneath right collarbone pricked. The exactly corresponding spot on the left side was guessed.

19.—Back hair pulled. No result.

20.—Inside of right wrist pricked. Right foot guessed.

Thus in 10 out of the 20 cases, the percipient localised the pain with great precision; in 6 the localisation was nearly exact, and with these we may include No. 10, where the pain was probably not confined to a single well-defined area in the hands of all the agents; in 2 no local impression was produced; and in 1, the last, the answer was wholly wrong.

§ 11. We may pass now to a totally new division of experimental cases. So far the effect of thought-transference on the receiving mind has been an effect in consciousness—the actual emergence of an image or sensation which the percipient has recognised and described. But it is not necessary that the effect should be thus recognised by the percipient; his witness to it may be unconscious, instead of conscious, and yet may be quite unmistakeable. The simplest example of this is when some effect is produced on his motor system—when the impression received causes him to perform some action which proves to have distinct reference to the thought in the agent’s mind.1 1 Even an effect on the sensory system may bear witness to an unconscious impression, if it is an indirect effect, led up to by certain hidden processes. In the Proceedings of the S.P.R., Vol. i., pp. 257–60, Vol. ii., pp. 203–4, and Vol. iii., pp. 453–9, a case in point is given. A young man’s fingers having been concealed from him by a paper screen, anæsthesia and rigidity were repeatedly produced in one or another of them, by a process in which the concentrated attention of the “agent” on the particular finger proved to be an indispensable element. A psychical account of this result seems possible, if thought-transference can work, so to speak, underground. Such a case, however, may possibly indicate something beyond simple thought-transference—some sort of specific physical influence; and it should be noted that the “subject,” though at the time he was wide awake and in a perfectly normal state, had frequently on former occasions been hypnotised by the agent. It is only in connection with hypnotism, again, that we find authentic cases of the direct effect of volition in producing the identical movement willed—such as raising the hand, dropping a book, &c. Some of these will be given in the next chapter.

The cases fall into two classes. In one class the actions are purely automatic: in the other some conscious idea of what was to be done has preceded and accompanied the muscular effect; so that that effect would be at most semi-automatic. To begin with this semi-automatic class; it might be thought that examples would be found in those rarer cases of the “willing-game” where contact, and {i-59} movement on the agent’s part, are avoided. But we have received no records of such cases where it is certain that the precautions necessary to exclude the barest possibility of slight unconscious physical signs were rigidly enforced; and it will be preferable to describe some experiments made by members of our own group, where this point was kept steadily in view. We have had several interesting series in which the “subject’s” power of utterance has been inhibited by the silent determination of the operator. Our first experiments of this sort were made in January, 1883. The “subject” was our friend, Mr. Sidney Beard, who had been thrown into a light hypnotic trance by Mr. G. A. Smith. A list of twelve Yeses and Noes in arbitrary order was written by one of ourselves and put into Mr. Smith’s hand, with directions that he should successively “will”; the “subject” to respond or not to respond, in accordance with the order of the list. Mr. Beard was lying back with closed eyes; and a tuning-fork was struck and held at his ear, with the question, “Do you hear?” asked by one of ourselves. This was done twelve times with a completely successful result, the answer or the failure to answer corresponding in each case with the “yes” or “no” of the written list—that is to say, with the silently concentrated will of the agent.1 1 Similar trials on other occasions were equally successful; as also were trials where the tuning-fork was dispensed with, and the only sound was the question, “Do you hear?” asked by one of the observers. On these latter occasions, however, Mr. Smith was holding Mr. Beard’s hand; and it might be maintained that “yes” and “no” indications were given by unconscious variations of pressure. How completely unconscious the supposed “reader” was of any sensible guidance will be evident from Mr. Beard’s own account. “During the experiments of January 1st, when Mr. Smith mesmerised me, I did not entirely lose consciousness at any time, but only experienced a sensation of total numbness in my limbs. When the trial as to whether I could hear sounds was made, I heard the sounds distinctly each time, but in a large number of instances I felt totally unable to acknowledge that I heard them. I seemed to know each time whether Mr. Smith wished me to say that I heard them; and as I had surrendered my will to his at the commencement of the experiment, I was unable to reassert my power of volition whilst under his influence.”

A much more prolonged series of trials was made in November, 1883, by Professor Barrett, at his house in Dublin. The hypnotist was again Mr. G. A. Smith.

“The ‘subject’ was an entire stranger to Mr. Smith, a youth named Fearnley, to whom nothing whatever was said as to the nature of the experiment about to be tried, until he was thrown into the hypnotic state in my study. He was then in a light sleep-waking condition—his eyes were closed and the pupils upturned—apparently sound asleep; but he readily answered in response to any questions addressed to him by Mr. Smith or by myself.

“I first told him to open the fingers of his closed hand, or not to open them, just as he felt disposed, in response to the question addressed to him. That question, which I always asked in a uniform tone of voice, was in {i-60} each case, ‘Now, will you open your hand?’ and at the same moment I pointed to the word ‘Yes’ or ‘No,’ written on a card, which was held in sight of Mr. Smith, but entirely out of the range of vision of the ‘subject,’ even had his eyes been open, which they were not. Without the slightest change of expression or other observable muscular movement, and quite out of contact with the ‘subject,’ Mr. Smith then silently willed the subject to open or not to open his hand, in accordance with the ‘Yes’ or ‘No.’ Twenty successive experiments were made in this way; seventeen of these were quite successful, and three were failures. But these three failures were possibly due to inadvertence on Mr. Smith‘s part, as he subsequently stated that on those occasions he had not been prompt enough to direct his will in the right direction before the question was asked.

“The experiment was now varied as follows: The word ‘Yes’ was written on one, and the word ‘No’ on the other, of two precisely similar pieces of card. One or other of these cards was handed to Mr. Smith at my arbitrary pleasure, care, of course, being taken that the ‘subject’ had no opportunity of seeing the card, even had he been awake. When ‘Yes’ was handed, Mr. Smith was silently to will the ‘subject’ to answer aloud in response to the question asked by me, ‘Did you hear me?’ When ‘No’ was handed, Mr. Smith was to will that no response should be made in reply to the same question. The object of this series of experiments was to note the effect of increasing the distance between the willer and the willed,—the agent and the percipient. In the first instance Mr. Smith was placed three feet from the ‘subject,’ who remained throughout apparently asleep in an arm-chair in one corner of my study.

“At three feet apart, fifteen trials were successively made, and in every case the ‘subject’ responded or did not respond in exact accordance with the silent will of Mr. Smith, as directed by me.

“At six feet apart, six similar trials were made without a single failure.

“At twelve feet apart, six more trials were made without a single failure.

“At seventeen feet apart, six more trials were made without a single failure.

“In this last case Mr. Smith had to be placed outside the study door, which was then closed with the exception of a narrow chink just wide enough to admit of passing a card in or out, whilst I remained in the study observing the ‘subject.’ To avoid any possible indication from the tone in which I asked the question, in all cases except the first dozen experiments, I shuffled the cards face downwards, and then handed the unknown ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ to Mr. Smith, who looked at the card and willed accordingly. I noted down the result, and then, and not till then, looked at the card.

“A final experiment was made when Mr. Smith was taken across the hall and placed in the dining-room, at a distance of about thirty feet from the ‘subject,’ two doors, both quite closed, intervening. Under these conditions, three trials were made with success, the ‘Yes’ response being, however, very faint and hardly audible to me, who returned to the study to ask the usual question after handing the card to the distant operator. At this point, the ‘subject’ fell into a deep sleep, and made no further replies to the questions addressed to him.

“Omitting these final experiments, the total number of successive trials at different distances was forty-three. If the result had been due to accident, there would have been an even chance of failures and of {i-61} successes,—whereas in fact there was not a single failure in the entire series.

“I subsequently made a series of a dozen successive trials in an absolutely dark room, conveying my intention to Mr. Smith by silently squeezing his hand, once for ‘No,’ twice for ‘Yes.’ Every trial was successful. When Mr. Smith was placed outside the darkened room, I handed him the card through a small aperture, which could be closed. Eight trials gave six results quite right, one wrong, and one doubtful. Afterwards twenty trials, made when Mr. Smith was recalled, and the room lighted, were all entirely successful. There was, I need hardly say, no contact between operator and ‘subject’ in any of these experiments.

“The difference in the power of the will of the hypnotist and that of any other person was strikingly manifest, and the proof of the existence of a peculiar ‘rapport’ between operator and subject was simply overwhelming. I several times exerted my will in opposition to that of Mr. Smith—that is to say, willed that the ‘subject’ should or should not respond, when Mr. Smith willed the opposite, both of us being equally distant from the ‘subject.’ In every case his will triumphed. As in the case of Mr. Beard, the ‘subject,’ on being aroused, stated that he had heard the question each time, but that when he gave no answer he felt unaccountably unable to control his muscles so as to frame the word.

“It was noticeable that neither in the normal nor in the hypnotic state was this subject able to tell any word or number or describe any diagram thought of or viewed by the operator. Only his ability to act in a particular way could be controlled, and he was not susceptible to even the most rudimentary form of thought-transference proper.”

The following shorter series with another operator, Mr. Kershaw, of Southport, and with Mrs. Firth, a sick-nurse, as “subject,” though the precautions were less elaborate than in the case just recorded, was to an eye-witness almost equally satisfactory. For the trial was quite suddenly suggested to Mr. Kershaw by the present writer; and not only was it planned out of Mrs. Firth’s hearing, but Mr. Kershaw himself had some difficulty in understanding what was wanted. A variety of small circumstances combined to show that the form of experiment was entirely new both to operator and “subject.”

The trial took place at Southport, on September 7th, 1883. Mrs. Firth, who had been previously thrown into a light stage of trance, was placed in a chair in the middle of a bare room. Mr. Kershaw and I stood about three yards behind her; and sight of us, or of any part of us, on her part was out of the question. The window was in the wall in front of her, but altogether on one side; and there were no other reflecting surfaces in the room. I drew up the subjoined list of yeses and noes, and held it for Mr. Kershaw to see. He made a quiet connecting motion of the hand (not touching me, and being many {i-62} feet from Mrs. Firth), when there was to be an answer, and an equally-quiet transverse or separating pass when there was to be none. I attribute no virtue to the passes, except so far as they were a means of vivifying Mr. Kershaw’s silent intention to himself. The passes were almost absolutely noiseless, and the extremely faint sound which they made, from the very nature of the gentle motion, can scarcely have varied. Complete silence was preserved but for my question, “Do you hear?” repeated time after time, in a perfectly neutral tone; and there did not appear to be the very faintest chance of signalling, even had there been an opportunity for arranging a scheme.

1.—Yes   Right (i.e., Mrs. Firth responded).
2.—No Right (i.e., Mrs. Firth did not respond).
3.—YesRight.
4.—YesRight.
5.—No Right.
6.—YesRight.
7.—No At first no answer, which was right: then I gave a very loud stamp, which provoked a “Yes.”
8.—No Right.
9.—YesRight.

I will add one more short series, which took place at my lodgings at Brighton, on September 10th, 1883. The operator was Mr. Smith; the “subject” an intelligent young cabinet-maker, named Conway. Mr. Smith and I stood behind him, without any contact with him. I held the list, and pointed to the desired answer each time. The silence was absolute. I repeated the question, “What is your name?” in a perfectly neutral and monotonous manner.

1.—Yes   Right (i.e., the “subject” said “Conway”).
2.—YesRight.
3.—NoThis time the answer “Conway” was given; but when the next question was asked, the “subject” seemed unable to answer for some seconds, as though Mr. Smith‘s intention had taken effect a little too late.
4.—YesRight.
5.—NoRight.
6.—NoRight.
7.—YesRight.
8.—NoRight.
9.—YesRight.
10.—YesRight.
11.—NoRight.
12.   YesRight.

§ 12. But in experiments of this class it is clearly difficult to be sure that the conscious idea of the evoked or the inhibited action does not precede or accompany the muscular effects. Indeed, as we have seen, the percipient’s own account has sometimes shown that it did so. I proceed, then, to our second class of cases. There is, fortunately, one sort of act where the verdict of the performer that it was {i-63} automatically performed may be taken as conclusive; the act of writing. If words are written down which the writer is obliged to read over, and even to puzzle over, just as anyone else might do, in order to learn what they are, his unconsciousness of them in the act of writing may be taken as established. Now written words are of course as good as spoken ones, as evidence that a particular idea has been in some way communicated. If, then, one person’s automatic writing corresponds unmistakeably to the idea on which another person’s mind was concentrated at the time, and if the possibility of sensory indications has been excluded, we have a clear example of some novel influence acting, not only without the participation of the recognised organs of sense, but without the participation of the percipient’s conscious intelligence. Here again we find the advantage of the generic word “telepathy”—for it would clearly be inaccurate to call a phenomenon “thought-transference” where what is transferred does not make its appearance, on the percipient’s side, as thought or any other form of conscious perception.

We have in our collection several examples of this motor form of experimental telepathy; where a mental question on the part of some one present has been answered in writing, with a planchette1 1 A planchette has two advantages over a simple pencil. It is very much more easily moved to write; and it is very much easier to make with it the movements necessary for the formation of letters without realising what the letters are. or a simple pencil, without any consciousness of either the question or the answer on the part of the person whose hand was automatically acting. But the following group of cases is decidedly the most remarkable that has come under our notice.

The Rev. P. H. Newnham, Vicar of Maker, Devonport, has had many indications of spontaneous transference of thought from himself to his wife;2 2 See, e.g., the cases quoted in Chap. v., §§2 and 8. and at one period of his life, in 1871, he carried out a long and systematic series of experiments, which were of the motor type that we are now considering—he writing down a question, and the planchette under his wife’s hands replying to it. He recorded the results, day by day, in a private diary, which he has kindly placed at our disposal. From this diary I quote the following extracts:—

My wife always sat at a small low table, in a low chair, leaning backwards. I sat about eight feet distant, at a rather high table, and with my back towards her while writing down the questions. It was absolutely impossible that any gesture or play of features, on my part, could have been visible or intelligible to her. As a rule she kept her eyes shut; but never became in the slightest degree hypnotic, or even naturally drowsy.

{i-64}

Under these conditions we carried on experiments for about eight months, and I have 309 questions and answers recorded in my note-book, spread over this time. But the experiments were found very exhaustive of nerve power, and as my wife’s health was delicate, and the fact of thought-transmission had been abundantly proved, we thought it best to abandon the pursuit.

I may mention that the planchette began to move instantly, with my wife. The answer was often half written before I had completed the question.

On first finding that it would write easily, I asked three simple questions which were known to the operator;1 1 Mr. Newnham uses this word where we should use “subject” or “percipient.” then three others, unknown to her, relating to my own private concerns. All six having been instantly answered in a manner to show complete intelligence, I proceeded to ask:—

7.2 2 The numbers prefixed to the questions are those in the note-book. Write down the lowest temperature here this winter. A. 8.

Now, this reply at once arrested my interest. The actual lowest temperature had been 7.6° so that 8 was the nearest whole degree; but my wife said at once that, if she had been asked the question, she would have written 7 and not 8; as she had forgotten the decimal, but remembered my having said that the temperature had been down to 7 something.

I simply quote this, as a good instance, at the very outset, of perfect transmission of thought, coupled with a perfectly independent reply; the answer being correct in itself, but different from the impression on the conscious intelligence of both parties.3 3 It will be borne in mind throughout that Mrs. Newnham had, at the time when the answer was produced, no conscious knowledge of the question which her husband had written down.

Naturally our first desire was to see if we could obtain any information concerning the nature of the intelligence which was operating through the planchette, and of the method by which it produced the written results. We repeated questions on this subject again and again, and I will copy down the principal questions and answers in the connection.

January 29th.

13. Is it the operator’s brain, or some external force, that moves the planchette? Answer “brain” or “force.”

A. Will.

14. Is it the will of a living person, or of an immaterial spirit, distinct from that person? Answer “person” or “spirit.”

A. Wife.

15. Give first the wife’s Christian name; then, my favourite name for her.

(This was accurately done.)

27. What is your own name?

A. Only you.

28. We are not quite sure of the meaning of the answer. Explain.

A. Wife.

Failing to get more than this, at the outset, we turned to the same thought after question 114; when, having been closely pressed on another subject, we received the curt reply—“Told all I know.”

{i-65}

February 18th.

117. Who are you that writes, and has told all you know?

A. Wife.

118. But does no one tell wife what to write? If so, who?

A. Spirit.

119. Whose spirit?

A. Wife’s brain.

120. But how does wife’s brain know (certain) secrets?

A. Wife’s spirit unconsciously guides.

121. But how does wife’s spirit know things it has never been told?

A. No external influence.

122. But by what internal influence does it know (these) secrets?

A. You cannot know.

March 15th.

132. Who, then, makes the impressions upon her?

A. Many strange things.

133. What sort of strange things?

A. Things beyond your knowledge.

134. Do, then, things beyond our knowledge make impressions upon wife?

A. Influences which no man understands or knows.

136. Are these influences which we cannot understand external to wife?

A. External—invisible.

137. Does a spirit, or do spirits, exercise those influences?

A. No, never (written very large and emphatically).

138. Then from whom, or from whence, do the external influences come?

A. Yes; you will never know.

139. What do you mean by writing “yes” in the last answer?

A. That I really meant never.

April 10th.

192. But by what means are my thoughts conveyed to her brain?

A. Electro-biology.

193. What is electro-biology?

A. No one knows.

194. But do not you know?

A. No. Wife does not know.

My object in quoting this large number of questions and replies [N.B. those here given are mere samples] has not been merely to show the instantaneous and unfailing transmission of thought from questioner to operator; but, more especially, to call attention to a remarkable characteristic of the answers given. These answers, consistent and invariable in their tenor from first to last, did not correspond with the opinions or expectations of either myself or my wife. Neither myself nor my wife had ever taken part in any form of (so-called) “spiritual” manifestations before this time; nor had we any decided opinion as to the agency by which phenomena of this kind were brought about. But for such answers as those numbered 14, 27, 137, 192, and 194, we were both of us totally unprepared; and I may add that, so far as we were prepossessed by any opinions whatever, these replies were distinctly opposed to such opinions. In a word, it is simply impossible that these replies should {i-66} have been either suggested or composed by the conscious intelligence of either of us.

I had a young man reading with me as a private pupil at this time. On February 12th he returned from his vacation; and, on being told of our experiments, expressed his incredulity very strongly. I offered any proof that he liked to insist upon, only stipulating that I should see the question asked. Accordingly, Mrs. Newnham took her accustomed chair in my study, while we went out into the hall, and shut the door behind us. He then wrote down on a piece of paper:—

87. What is the Christian name of my eldest sister?

We at once returned to, the study, and found the answer already waiting for us:—

A. Mina.

(This name was the family abbreviation of Wilhelmina; and I should add that it was unknown to myself.)

I must now go on to speak of a series of other experiments, of a very remarkable kind.

We soon found that my wife was perfectly unable to follow the motions of the planchette. Often she only touched it with a single finger; but even with all her fingers resting on the board, she never had the slightest idea of what words were being traced out. It struck me that it would be a good thing to take advantage of this peculiarity on her part, to ask questions upon subjects that it was impossible for her to know anything about. I had taken a deep interest in Masonic archæology, and I now questioned planchette on some subjects connected therewith.

February 14th.

92. What is the English of the great word of the R.A.?

After an interruption, of which I shall speak hereafter, one great word of the degree, but not the one I meant, was written, very slowly and clearly.

February 18th.

112. What is the translation of the Great Triple Word?

A. (The first syllable of the word in question was written correctly, and then it proceeded.) The end unknown. Three languages. Greece. Egypt. Syriac.

115. Who are you that know?

(Answer scrawled and illegible.)

116. Please repeat same answer legibly.

A. Manifestation triune person.

March 26th.

166. Of what language is the first syllable of the Great Triple R.A. Word?

A. Don’t know.

167. Yes, you do. What are the three languages of which the word is composed?

A. Greek, Egypt, Syriac first syllable (correctly given), rest unknown.

{i-67}

168. Write the syllable which is Syriac.

A. (First syllable correctly written.)

169. Write the syllable which is Egyptian.

A. Second.

170. Can you not write the syllable itself?

A. Third Greek.

174. Write down the word itself.

A. First three and last two letters were written correctly, but four incorrect letters, partly borrowed from another word of the same degree, came in the middle.

176. Why do you write a word of which I know nothing?

A. Wife tried hard to tell the word, but could not quite catch it.

177. Catch it from whom?

A. Not quite sure.

178. Not quite sure of what?

A. I know nothing. Wife doesn’t quite know.

In the above series of answers we have, it seems to me, a very remarkable combination of knowledge and ignorance. There is a perfect appreciation of my thoughts, in the queries; but a strange, persistent, almost dogged, incapability of seeing my thoughts, in the replies. Especially in the answer to 116, and in some other answers [not here quoted], there is a reference to an opinion which was published by Dr. Oliver, whose works I had been carefully reading about four months before, but with whose theory, in this case, I most strongly disagreed. So that here was an opinion intimated which it was impossible that the operator could have been aware of, and which the questioner had absolutely rejected as untenable!

182. Write out the prayer used at the advancement of a Mark Master Mason.

A. Almighty Ruler of the Universe and Architect of all worlds, we beseech Thee to accept this, our brother, whom we have this day received into our most honourable Company of Mark Master Masons. Grant him to be a worthy member of our brotherhood; and may he be in his own person a perfect mirror of all Masonic virtues. Grant that all our doings may be to Thy honour and glory, and to the welfare of all mankind.

This prayer was written off instantaneously and very rapidly. It is a very remarkable production indeed. For the benefit of those who are not members of the craft, I may say that no prayer in the slightest degree resembling it is made use of in the Ritual of any Masonic degree; and yet it contains more than one strictly accurate technicality connected with the degree of Mark Mason. My wife has never seen any Masonic prayers, whether in “Carlile,” or any other real or spurious Ritual of the Masonic Order.

Here, then, assuredly was a formula composed by some intelligence totally distinct from the conscious intelligence of either of the persons engaged in the experiment.

I proceeded to inquire as follows:—

{i-68}

183. I do not know this prayer. Where is it to be found?

A. Old American Ritual.

184. Where can I get one?

A. Most likely none in England.

185. Can you not write the prayer that I made use of in my own Lodge?

A. No, I don’t know it.

In these last answers we see a new moral element introduced. There is evasion, or subterfuge, of a more or less ingenious kind; and totally foreign to the whole character and natural disposition of the operator. A similar attempt at deliberate invention, rather than plead guilty to total ignorance, is contained in the following answers:—

May 7th.

255. In what Masonic degree was the Triple Word first used?

A. Wife does not know.

256. Cannot you tell her?

A. How can wife know what no one else does?

257. Does no one, then, know the answer to this?

A. No one knows now.

258. What do you mean by “now”? Did anyone once know?

A. The last one who knew died at least twenty years ago.

259. What was his name?

A. In America; don’t know name.

[Many more instances of these evasive replies occur.]

May 10th.

Planchette again gave us an example of its sense of the humorous.

I had been obliged to engage a clergyman who was not a favourable specimen of his profession, as I could procure no one else in time to get the Sunday’s work done. He was much amused with planchette, and desired to ask:—

277. How should a bachelor live in this neighbourhood?

(The answer was illegible.)

278. Please repeat answer.

A. Three months.

(Planchette evidently did not catch the exact query.)

279. I did not ask how long but how?

A. Eating and drinking and sleeping and smoking.

That clergyman never consulted planchette again.

I will conclude with a very pretty instance of a mistake instantly corrected. It was on the same evening, May 10th; I had to preach on the following Whit-Monday, on the occasion of laying a foundation-stone with Masonic ceremonial, so I asked:—

275. Give me a text for Whit-Monday’s sermon.

A. If I go not away, the Comforter will not come to you.

The selection of a subject suitable for Whitsuntide is plainly the first idea caught by the intelligence; so I proceeded:—

276. That will not do for my subject. I want a text for the Monday’s sermon.

{i-69}

A. Let brotherly love continue.

I will add one example where, contrary to the usual rule, the idea of the answer, though not that of the question, reached the level of consciousness in Mrs. Newnham’s mind.

59. What name shall we give to our new dog?

A. Nipen.

The name of Nipen, from Feats on the Fiord, shot into the operator’s brain just as the question was asked.

The above quotations form a fair sample of Mr. Newnham’s 309 experiments of the same type; and no one who admits the bona fides of the record, and believes that Mrs. Newnham, sitting with closed eyes eight feet behind her husband, did not obtain through her senses an unconscious knowledge of what he wrote, will deny that some sort of telepathic influence was at work, acting below the level of the percipient’s consciousness. The experiments are further interesting as suggesting, in the character of many of the replies, an unconscious intelligence—a second self quite other than Mrs. Newnham’s conscious self. “Unconscious intelligence” is no doubt a somewhat equivocal phrase, and it is necessary to know in every case exactly what is meant by it. It may be used in a purely physical sense—to describe the unconscious cerebral processes whereby actions are produced which as a rule are held to imply conscious intelligence; as, for instance, when complicated movements, once performed with thought and effort, gradually become mechanical. But it may be used also to describe psychical processes which are severed from the main conscious current of an individual’s life. Unconsciousness in any further sense it would be rash to assert; for intelligent psychic process without consciousness of some sort, if not a contradiction in terms, is at any rate something as impossible to imagine as a fourth dimension in space. The events in question are outside the individual’s consciousness, as the events in another person’s consciousness are; but they differ from these last in not revealing themselves as part of any continuous stream of conscious life; and no one, therefore, can give an account of them as belonging to a self. What their range and conditions of emergence may be we cannot tell; since, in general, their very existence can only be inferred from certain sensible effects to which they lead.1 1 It may be asked what right I have to make any such inference; since à la rigueur the effects, being sensible and physical, do not require us to suppose that they had any other than physical antecedents. It is true that it is impossible to demonstrate that the physical antecedents, which undoubtedly exist, have any psychical correlative. But the results in question have often no analogy to the automatic actions which we are accustomed to attribute to “unconscious cerebration.” They are not the effects of habit and practice; they are new results, of a sort which has in all our experience been preceded by intention and reflection, and referable to a self. But perhaps the simplest illustration of what is here meant by “unconscious intelligence” is to be found in occasional facts of dreaming. Thus, it has occurred to me at least once, in a dream, to be asked a riddle, to give it up, and then to be told the answer—which, on waking, I found quite sufficiently pertinent to show that the question could not have been framed without distinct reference to it. Yet for the consciousness which I call mine, that reference had remained wholly concealed: so little had I known myself as the composer of the riddle that the answer came to me as a complete surprise. The philosophical problem of partial selves cannot be here enlarged on. For a discussion of the subject from the point of view of cerebral localisation, as well as for further quotations from Mr. Newnham’s record, I may refer the reader to Mr. Myers’ paper on “Automatic Writing,” in Vol. iii. of the Proceedings of the S.P.R. I may recall the undoubted phenomena of what {i-70} has been termed “double consciousness,” where a double psychical life is found connected with a single organism. In those cases the two selves, one of which knows nothing of the other, appear as successive; but if we can regard such segregated existences as united or unified by bonds of reference and association which, for the partial view of one of them at least, remain permanently out of sight, then I do not see what new or fundamental difficulty is introduced by conceiving them as simultaneous; and simultaneity of the sort is what seems to be shown, in a fragmentary way, by cases like the present. I shall have to recur to this conception in connection with some of the facts of spontaneous telepathy (see pp. 230–1).

A further noteworthy point is that so often the questions and not the answers in the agent’s mind should have been telepathically discerned; but we may perhaps conceive that the impulse first conveyed set the percipient’s independent activity to work, and so put an end for the moment to the receptive condition. The power to reproduce the actual word thought of is sufficiently shown in the cases where names were given (15 and 87), and in some of the Masonic answers; and the following examples belong to the same class.

48. What name shall we give to our new dog?

A. Yesterday was not a fair trial.

49. Why was not yesterday a fair trial?

A. Dog.

And again:—

108. What do I mean by chaffing C. about a lilac tree?

A. Temper and imagination.

109. You are thinking of somebody else. Please reply to my question.

A. Lilacs.

Here a single image or word seems to have made its mark on the percipient’s mind, without calling any originative activity into play; and we thus get the naked reproduction. In these last examples we again notice the feature of deferred impression. The influence {i-71} only gradually became effective, the immediate answer being irrelevant to the question. We may suppose, therefore, that the first effect took place below the threshold of consciousness.1 1 The following case, though not strictly experimental, is sufficiently in point to be worth quoting. Though unfortunately not recorded in writing at the time, it was described within a few days of its occurrence to Mr. Podmore, who is acquainted with all the persons concerned. The narrator is Miss Robertson, of 229, Marylebone Road, W. “About three years ago I was speaking of planchette-writing to some of my friends, when a young lady, a daughter of the house where I was spending the evening, mentioned that she had played with planchette at school, and that it had always written for her. Thereupon I asked her to spend the evening with me, and try it again, which she agreed to do. On the morning of the day on which she had arranged to come to me, her brother, on leaving the house, said, laughing, ‘Well, Edith, it is all humbug, but if planchette tells you the name and sum of money which are on a cheque which I have in my pocket, and which I am going to cash for mother, I will believe there is something in it.’ Edith, on her arrival at my house in the evening, told me of this, and I said, ‘We must not expect that; planchette never does what one wants,’ or words to that effect. A couple of hours after, we tried the planchette, Edith’s hand alone touching it. It almost immediately wrote, quite clearly:— ‘I. SPALDING. £6:13:4.’ I had forgotten about the cheque, and I said, ‘What can that mean?’ Upon which Edith replied, ‘It is H.’s cheque, perhaps.’ I was incredulous, having a long acquaintance with planchette. I said, ‘If it is right, send me word directly you get home; I am sure it will not be.’ But the next day I received a letter from Edith, telling me that she had astonished her brother greatly by telling him the name and the amount on the cheque, which was perfectly correct. I have read this account to the young lady and her brother, who sign it as well as myself. “NORA ROBERTSON. “E. C. “D. C. H. C.” In answer to an inquiry, Miss Robertson adds, on Feb. 12, 1885:— “Miss E. C. says, in answer to your question, that she is quite certain she could not have known, or surmised, the name and amount of the cheque. “I can confirm her on the first point, for I remember questioning everybody all round at the time. She had just returned from school, and knew nothing at all about her mother’s business or money matters.” Here, it will be observed, the impression seems not only to have been unconscious, but to have remained latent for several hours before taking effect; for it is at any rate the most natural supposition that the transference actually occurred at the time when the conversation on the subject took place between the brother and sister. This latency of an impression which finally takes effect in distinct automatic or semi-automatic movements, may be seen in cases which have no connection with telepathy. It occurs, for instance, in the following “muscle-reading” experiment, described to us by Mr. George B. Trent, of 65, Sandgate Road, Folkestone:— “March 24th, 1883. “Some two months back, I was asked by a gentleman, who had read of my experiments in the paper, to oblige him with a séance. I called upon him one afternoon, and he told me that he had hidden some object, in the early morning, and he thought he had given me a puzzle. I first experimented with pins; I led him to their hiding-places at once, without the least hesitation. I then asked him to concentrate the whole of his thoughts on what he had done in the morning. I immediately led him to a davenport, unlocked it, and from amongst, I may say, perhaps a hundred papers and other articles, I selected three photographs, and from the three I fixed upon one—that of his wife. He then said he was perfectly astonished, as I had positively gone through an experiment he had set himself to do, but abandoned in favour of another he had done.” It seems probable that, at any rate in the earlier stages of this performance, the idea of what was to be done was not consciously present in the “willer’s” mind, which was apparently concentrated on something else. And if so, his muscular indications must have been the result of unconscious cerebration—an effect of nervous activity, continuing to act in accordance with a previous impulse which had lapsed from consciousness.

§ 13. I may now proceed to some further results which were obtained with percipients of less abnormal sensibility, and which demand, therefore, a careful application of the theory of probabilities.

{i-72}

For the development of the motor form of experiment in this direction, we have again to thank M. Richet; who here, as in the case of the card-guessing, has brought the calculus to bear effectively on various sets of results many of which, if looked at in separation, would have had no significance.1 1 I have given a fuller description and criticism of M. Richet’s investigations in Vol. ii. of the Proceedings of the S.P.R. The fact that the “subjects” of his trials were persons who had betrayed no special aptitude for “mental suggestion,” made it clearly desirable that the bodily action required should be of the very simplest sort. The formation of words by a planchette-writer requires, of course, a very complex set of muscular co-ordinations: all that M. Richet sought to obtain was a single movement or twitch. In the earlier trials an object was hidden, and the percipient endeavoured to discover it by means of a sort of divining-rod—the idea being that he involuntarily twitched the rod at the right moment under the influence of “mental suggestion” from the agent, who was watching his movements. But where the subject of communication is of such an extremely simple kind, very elaborate precautions would be needed to guard against unconscious hints. Indications from the expression or attitude of the “agent” may be prevented by blindfolding the “percipient,” and in other ways; but if the two are in close proximity, it is harder to exclude such signs as may be given by involuntary movements, or by changes of breathing. M. Richet’s later experiments were ingeniously contrived so as to obviate this objection.

The place of a planchette was taken by a table, and M. Richet prefaces his account by a succinct statement of the orthodox view as to “table-turning.” Rejecting altogether the three theories which attribute the phenomena to wholesale fraud, to spirits, and to an unknown force, he regards the gyrations and oscillations of séance-tables as due wholly to the unconscious muscular contractions of the sitters. It thus occurred to him to employ a table as an indicator of the movements that might be produced, by “mental suggestion.” The plan of the experiments was as follows. Three persons (C, D, and E,) took their seats in a semi-circle, at a little table on which their hands rested. One of these three was always a “medium”—a term used by M. Richet to denote a person liable to exhibit intelligent movements in which consciousness and will apparently take no part. Attached to the table was a simple electrical apparatus, the effect of which was to ring a bell whenever the current was broken by the tilting of the table.

{i-73}

Behind the backs of the sitters at the table was another table, on which was a large alphabet, completely screened from the view of C, D, and E, even had they turned round and endeavoured to see it. In front of this alphabet sat A, whose duty was to follow the letters slowly and steadily with a pen, returning at once to the beginning as soon as he arrived at the end. At A’s side sat B, with a note-book; his duty was to write down the letter at which A’s pen happened to be pointing whenever the bell rang. This happened whenever one of the sitters at the table made the simple movement necessary to tilt it. Under these conditions, A and B are apparently mere automata. C, D, and E are little more, being unconscious of tilting the table, which appears to them to tilt itself; but even if they tilted it consciously, and with a conscious desire to dictate words, they have no means of ascertaining at what letter A’s pen is pointing at any particular moment; and they might tilt for ever without producing more than an endless series of incoherent letters. Things being arranged thus, a sixth operator, F, stationed himself apart both from the tilting table and from the alphabet, and concentrated his thought on some word of his own choosing, which he had not communicated to the others. The three sitters at the first table engaged in conversation, sang, or told stories; but at intervals the table tilted, the bell rang, and B wrote down the letter which A’s pen was opposite to at that moment. Now, to the astonishment of all concerned, these letters, when arranged in a series, turned out to produce a more or less close approximation to the word of which F was thinking.

For the sake of comparing the results with those which pure accident would give, M. Richet first considers some cases of the latter sort. He writes the word NAPOLEON; he then takes a box containing a number of letters, and makes eight draws; the eight letters, in the order of drawing, turn out to be UPMTDEYV He then places this set below the other, thus:—

NAPOLEON

UPMTDEYV

Taking the number of letters in the French alphabet to be 24, the probability of the correspondence of any letter in the lower line with the letter immediately above it is, of course 1 24; and in the series of 8 letters it is more probable than not that there will not be a single correspondence. If we reckon as a success any case where the letter in the lower line corresponds not only with the letter above it, but {i-74} with either of the neighbours of that letter in the alphabet1 1 This procedure of counting neighbouring letters seems to require some justification. It might be justified by the difficulty, on the theory of mental suggestion, of obtaining an exact coincidence of time between the tilting and the pointing. But I think that M. Richet does justify it (Rev. Phil., p. 654), by reference to some other experiments—not yet published, but of which he has shown us the record—where intelligible words were produced of which no one in the room was, or had been, thinking. For here also neighbouring letters appeared, but in such a way as left no room for doubt, in the reader’s mind, as to what the letter should have been. (e.g., where L has above it either K, L, or M), then a single correspondence represents the most probable amount of success. In the actual result, it will be seen, there is just one correspondence, which happens to be a complete one—the letter E in the sixth place. It will not be necessary to quote other instances. Suffice it to say that the total result, of trials involving the use of 64 letters, gives 3 exact correspondences, while the expression indicating the most probable number was 2·7; and 7 correspondences of the other type, while the most probable number was 8. Thus even in this short set of trials, the accidental result very nearly coincided with the strict theoretic number.

We are now in a position to appreciate the results obtained when the factor of “mental suggestion” was introduced. In the first experiment made, M. Richet, standing apart both from the table and from the alphabet, selected from Littré’s dictionary a line of poetry which was unknown to his friends, and asked the name of the author. The letters obtained by the process above described were JFARD; and there the tilting stopped. After M. Richet’s friends had puzzled in vain over this answer, he informed them that the author of the line was Racine; and juxtaposition of the letters thus—

JFARD

JEANR

shows that the number of complete successes was 2, which is about 10 times the fraction representing the most probable number; and that the number of successes of the type where neighbouring letters are reckoned was 3, which is about 5 times the fraction representing the most probable number. M. Richet tells us, however, that he was not actually concentrating his thought on the author’s Christian name. Even so, it probably had a sub-conscious place in his mind, which might sufficiently account for its appearance. At the same time accident has of course a wider scope when there is more than one result that would be allowed as successful; and the amount of success was here not nearly striking enough to have any independent weight.

It is clearly desirable—with the view of making sure that F’s mind, if any, is the operative one—not to ask a question of which the {i-75} answer might possibly at some time have been within the knowledge of the sitters at the table; and in the subsequent experiments the name was silently fixed on by F. The most striking success was this:—

Name thought of: CHEVALON

Letters produced: CHEVAL

Here the most probable number of exact successes was 0, and the actual number was 6.

Taking the sum of eight trials, we find that the most probable number of exact successes was 2, and the actual number 14; and that the most probable number of successes of the other type was 7, and the actual number 24. It was observed, moreover, that the correspondences were much more numerous in the earlier letters of each set than in the later ones. The first three letters of each set were as follows—

JFA—NEF—FOQ—HEN—CHE—EPJ—CHE—ALL

JEA—LEG—EST—HIG—DIE—DOR—CHE—ZKO

Here, out of 24 trials, the most probable number of exact successes being 1, the actual number is 8; the most probable number of successes of the other type being 3, the actual number is 17. The figures become still more striking if we regard certain consecutive series in the results. Thus the probability of obtaining by chance the three consecutive correspondences in the first experiment here quoted was 1 512; and that of obtaining the 6 consecutive correspondences in the CHEVALON experiment was about 1 100,000,000.

The experiment was repeated four times in another form. A line of poetry was secretly and silently written down by the agent, with the omission of a single letter. He then asked what the omitted letter was; it was correctly produced in every one of the four trials. The probability of such a result was less than  300,000.

And now follows a very interesting observation. In some cases, after the result was obtained, subsequent trials were made with the same word, which of course the agent did not reveal in the meantime; and the amount of success was sometimes markedly increased on these subsequent trials. Thus, when the name thought of was D’O R M O N T,

the first three letters produced on the first trial were EPJ* * In the printed text, all the words in the following three lines except “second,” “third,” and “fourth” and the three-letter combinations are represented by ditto marks. —Ed.

the first three letters produced on the second trial were EPF

the first three letters produced on the third trial were EPS

the first three letters produced on the fourth trial were DOR

Summing up these four trials, the most probable number of exact successes was 0, and the actual number was 3; the most probable {i-76} number of successes of the other type was 1 or at most 2; and the actual number was 10. The probability of the 3 consecutive successes in the last trial was about  10,000.

In respect of this name d’Ormont, there was a further very peculiar result. On the fourth trial, the letters produced in the manner described stood thus—DOREMIOD. Thus, if the name thought of were spelt DOREMOND, the approximation would be extraordinarily close, the probability of the accidental occurrence of the 5 consecutive successes being something infinitesimal.1 1 Moreover the E in the 4th place had appeared in two of the preceding trials and the final O D in one of them. Now, as long as we are merely aiming at an unassailable mathematical estimate of probabilities for each particular case, it does not seem justifiable to take ifs of any sort into consideration. M. Richet, who was the agent, expressly tells us that he was imagining the name spelt as d’Ormont; and on the strict account, therefore, the success reached a point against which the odds, though still enormous, were decidedly less enormous than if he had been imagining the other spelling. But when we are endeavouring to form a correct view of what really takes place, it would be unintelligent not to take a somewhat wider view of the phenomena. And such a view seems to show that in those underground mental regions where M. Richet’s results (if more than accidental) must have had their preparation, a mistake or a piece of independence in spelling is by no means an unusual occurrence. The records of automatism, quite apart from telepathy, afford many instances of such independence. Thus a gentleman, writing automatically, was puzzled by the mention of a friend at Frontunac—a place he had never heard of; weeks afterwards his own writing gave him the correct name—Fond du Lac. Mr. Myers’ paper, above referred to, contains one case where a planchette wrote, “My name is Norman,” presumably meaning Norval; and another, witnessed by Professor Sidgwick, where the Greek letter x was automatically written as K H, with the result that for a time the word completely puzzled the writer. And while engaged on this very point I have received a letter from Mr. Julian Hawthorne, in which he tells me that the spelling of the planchette-writing obtained through the automatism of a young child of his own was “much better than in her own letters and journals.”

I will insert here an incident to which, since it occurred in connection with a person who has been detected in the production of spurious {i-77} phenomena, I wish to attribute no evidential importance. Throughout this book care has been taken to rest our case exclusively on phenomena and records of phenomena derived from (as we believe) quite untainted sources; but there are two reasons which seem to me to make the following experience worth describing. First, those who already believe in thought-transference will feel little doubt that we have here an instance of it, which is in itself independent of the character and pretensions of the percipient; and this being so, they will find, in the close parallelism that the case presents in some points to M. Richet’s experiments, an interesting confirmation of these. And secondly, it may be useful to suggest that thought-transference is probably the true explanation of certain results professedly produced by “spiritualistic mediumship”; for till telepathic percipience is allowed for, as a natural human faculty, the occasional manifestations of it in dubious circumstances are certain to be a source of confusion and error.

On September 2, 1885, Mr. F. W. H. Myers, Dr. A. T. Myers, and the present writer paid an impromptu visit to a professional “medium” in a foreign town, who had no clue whatever to our names and identity. We had decided beforehand on a name on which to concentrate our thoughts, with a view to getting it reproduced. There was no opportunity for employing M. Richet’s precautions and checks. The “medium,” her daughter, and the three visitors sat round a table on which their hands were placed, and the present writer pointed to the successive letters of a printed alphabet; at intervals the sound of a rap was heard, and the letter thus indicated was written down. Now these conditions could not have been considered adequate, had the result been that the name in our minds was correctly given; for though our two companions were not apparently looking at us and not in contact with us, it might have been supposed that some involuntary and unconscious movement on our part revealed to one of them at what points to make the raps. But as the result turned out, it will be seen, I think, that this objection does not apply. The name that had been selected was John Henry Pratt. The result obtained in the way described was JONHNYESROSAT. From the N in the fifth place to the end, Dr. Myers and myself regarded the letters that were being given as purely fortuitous, and as forming gibberish; and though Mr. F. W. H. Myers detected a method in them, he was as far as we were from expecting the successive letters before they appeared. On inspection, the method {i-78} becomes apparent. If in three places an approximation (of the sort so often met with by M. Richet) be allowed, and a contiguous letter be substituted, the complete name will be found to be given, thus:—

   R
   P
T

the first word being phonetically spelt, and the other two being correct anagrams. It is highly improbable that such an amount of resemblance was accidental; and it is difficult to suppose that it was due to muscular indications unconsciously given by us in accordance with an unconscious arrangement of the letters in our minds in phonetic and anagrammatic order. If these suppositions be excluded, the only alternative will be thought-transference—the letters whose image or sound was transferred being modified by the percipient herself, in a way which seems, from some experiments unconnected with thought-transference, to be quite within the scope of the mind’s unconscious operations.1 1 For a curious case of the automatic production of anagrams see Proceedings of the S.P.R., Vol. ii., pp. 226–31. But in whatever way the knowledge of the letters or syllables reached the “medium’s” mind, I see no reason to think that the expression of it by raps was other than a conscious act. The sounds were such as would be made by gently tapping the foot against the wooden frame of the table; and at a subsequent trial with one of these so-called “mediums”—the daughter—I managed by very gradually advancing my own foot to receive on it first a part and ultimately the whole of the impact. The movement required to make the raps may have become semiautomatic from long habit, but can hardly have been unconscious. I may add that, out of a good many words and sentences which were spelt out in the same way at several different sittings, the case recorded was (with a single doubtful exception) the only one that contained the slightest indication of any abnormal faculty.

To return to M. Richet’s experiments—a result of a different kind was the following, which is especially noteworthy as due to the agency of an idea that was itself on the verge of the unconscious. M. Richet chose a quotation at random from Littré’s dictionary, and asked for the name of the author, which was Legouvé. The letters produced were JOSEPHCHD, which looked like a complete failure. But the quotation in the dictionary was adjacent to another from the works of Joseph Chénier; and M. Richet’s eye, in running over the page, had certainly encountered the latter name, which had probably retained a certain low place in his consciousness. Another {i-79} very interesting case of a result unintended by the agent, though probably due to something in his mind, was this. The name thought of was Victor; the letters produced on three trials were
DALEN
DAMES
DANDS
—seemingly complete failures. But it appeared that while the agent had been concentrating his thoughts on “Victor,” the name of a friend, Danet, had spontaneously recurred to his memory. We should, of course, be greatly extending the chances of accidental success, if we reckoned collocations of letters as successful on the ground of their resemblance to any one of the names or words which may have momentarily found their way into the agent’s mind while the experiment was in progress. Here, however, the name seems to have suggested itself with considerable persistence, and the resemblance is very close. And if the result may fairly be attributed to “mental suggestion,” then, of the two names which had a certain lodgment in the agent’s mind, the one intended to be effective was ineffective, and vice versâ.

It is a remarkable fact that in the few hitherto recorded cases of experimental telepathy, where words have been indicated by writing or by other movements on the percipient’s part, the idea or word transferred seems as often as not to have been one which was not at the moment occupying the agent’s consciousness; that is to say, the influence has proceeded from some part of the agent’s mind which is below the threshold of conscious attention. (See p. 84 below, and Vol. II., pp. 670–1.) This conception of unconscious agency—of an “unconscious intelligence” in the agent as well as in the percipient—will present itself again very prominently when we come to consider the cases of spontaneous telepathy. But the experimental instances have a theoretic importance of another sort. They seem to exhibit telepathic production of movements by what is at most an idea, and not a volition, on the agent’s part. This, indeed, is a hypothesis which seems justified even by M. Richet’s less exceptional results. For we must remember that in a sense A is throughout more immediately the agent than F; it is what A’s mind contributes, not what F’s mind contributes, that produces the tilts at the right moments.1 1 When A, in pointing, began at the beginning of the alphabet, the sense of time might conceivably have led to an unconscious judgment as to the point arrived at. This idea had occurred to M. Richet. It seems, however, an unnecessary multiplication of hypotheses; for we learn from him that in some trials A began at uncertain places, and that under these conditions coherent words were obtained. The fact that so often the approximate letter was given, instead of the exact one, might seem at first sight to favour the hypothesis of unconscious reckoning; but it will be observed that exactly the same approximations took place in our own experiment (pp. 77–8), where the alphabet was in the “medium’s” sight. But this {i-80} is of course through no will of A’s; he is ignorant of the required word, and has absolutely no opportunity of bringing his volition into play. His “agency” is of a wholly passive sort; and his mind, as it follows the course of his pen, is a mere conduit-pipe, whereby knowledge of a certain kind obtains access to the “unconscious intelligence” which evokes the tilts. If, then, the knowledge manifests itself as impulse, can we avoid the conclusion that in this particular mode of access—in “mental suggestion” or telepathy as such—a certain impulsive quality is involved? We shall encounter further signs of such an impulsive quality among the spontaneous cases.1 1 The impulse might no doubt be otherwise accounted for if we supposed that a close connection was established in F’s mind between the idea of the objecti.e., the successive letters—and the idea of the movement, and that this complex idea was what was transferred and what ultimately took effect. But it is hard to apply this hypothesis to cases where a word is produced which, though latent in F’s mind, has no resemblance to the word whose production he is willing. The transference of the idea of the latent word, even to the exclusion of the right word, can be quite conceived; but can we suppose that, subconsciously or unconsciously, an idea of movement was combined with the idea of its letters in the agent’s mind, at the very moment when that on which his attention was fixed, and with which ex hypothesi the conscious idea of movement was connected, was a quite different set of letters? Can we suppose that the idea of movement overflowed into the unconscious region of his mind, and there on its own account formed an alliance with alien elements, the effect of which on the percipient would prevent the effect intended? It must be remembered that where a word which is not the one intended gets transferred from F to the “medium,” there is no knowledge, conscious or unconscious, on F’s part, as to what that word will be. A number of words are latent in his mind; one of these finds an echo in another mind. But how should the idea of movement find out which particular one, out of all the words, is destined thus to find an echo, so as to associate itself with its letters and no others? And if we suppose the association to be between the unconscious idea of movement and the unconscious idea of letters in general, this is no less dissimilar and opposed to anything that the conscious part of F’s mind has conceived. For it is not in letters as such, but in the exclusive constituents of a particular word, that he is interested; if indeed he is interested in anything beyond the word as a whole. The difficulty here seems to justify the suggestion—with which I imagine that M. Richet would agree—that the physiological impulse does not depend on any idea of movement, or any special direction of the agent’s will to that result. This might be tested, if F were a person ignorant of the form of the experiment, and out of sight of the table. (See pp. 294, 537–8.)

But of course the relation between F and the “medium” plays also a necessary part in the result; the impulse to tilt when a particular letter is reached only takes effect when it falls (so to speak) on ground prepared by “mental suggestion” from F—on a mind in which the word imagined by him has obtained an unconscious lodgment. The unconscious part of the percipient’s mind would thus be the scene of confluence of two separate telepathic streams, which proceed to combine there in an intelligent way—one proceeding from F’s mind, which produces unconscious knowledge of the word, and the other proceeding from A’s mind, which produces an unconscious image {i-81} of the successive letters.1 1 It will be seen that the results of such “unconscious intelligence” go considerably beyond the received results of mere “unconscious cerebration.” Unconscious cerebration is amply competent to produce such seemingly intelligent actions as ordinary writing; but what is now done more resembles the formation of a word by picking letters from a heap, or type-writing by a person who is unused to his instrument. The process is not one in which every item is connected by long-standing association with the one before and after it; every item is independent, and implies the recognition, at an uncertain moment, of a particular relation—that between the next letter required for the word and the same letter in its place in a quite distinct series. Another possible supposition would be that F’s thought affects, not the “medium,” but A; or conversely, that A’s thought affects not the “medium,” but F;—that A obtains unconscious knowledge of the word, or that F obtains unconscious knowledge of the letter, and so is enabled to communicate an impulse to the “medium” at the right moment. And we should then have to suppose a secret understanding between two parts of A’s or F’s mind, the part which takes account of the letters of the alphabet, and the part which takes account of the letters of the word—the former being conscious and the latter unconscious, or vice versâ, according as A or F is the party affected.

One hesitates to launch oneself on the conceptions which these experiments open up; but the only alternative would be to question the facts from an evidential point of view. So regarded, they are of an extremely simple kind; and if their genuineness be granted, we are reft once and for all from our old psychological moorings. The whole question of the psychical constitution of man is opened to its furthest depths; and our central conception—telepathy—the interest of which, even in its simpler phases, seemed almost unsurpassable, takes on an interest of a wholly unlooked-for kind. For it now appears as an all-important method or instrument for testing the mind in its hidden parts, and for measuring its unconscious operations.

§ 14. The above sketch (for it is little more) may give an idea of the chief experimental results so far obtained in the course of serious and systematic research.2 2 Some further experimental cases will be found in Chap. i. of the Supplement, and in the Additional Chapter at the end of Vol. ii. But though the investigation may be laboriously and consecutively pursued by those who make a special study of the subject, it is one which admits also of being prosecuted in a more haphazard and sporadic manner. A group of friends may take it up for a few evenings, and then get tired of it; and it is quite possible for valuable results to be obtained without any recognition of their value. One or two specimens of these casual successes that we so {i-82} frequently hear of may be worth citing, if only because the knowledge that such results are obtainable may stimulate further trials. Our own satisfaction in such fragments of evidence is often more than counterbalanced by the impossibility of getting our friends to devote time and trouble to the work.

The following case, received in September, 1885, from Mrs. Wilson, of Westal, Cheltenham, is interesting as an apparent victory of “thought-reading” over “muscle-reading.” A group of five “willers” one of whom was in contact with the would-be percipient, were to concentrate their minds on the desire that the latter should sit down to the piano and strike the middle C. Had she done so, the result would have been worth little; but this was what happened:—

“When A. I. entered blindfolded—her hand in the hand of B, held over the forehead—M. A. W. was possessed with the desire to will her, without bodily contact, to come to her and give her a kiss on the forehead, and she at once exerted (unknown to the others) all her will to achieve this object. A. I. came slowly up to M. A. W., till she stood quite close, touching her, and commenced bending down towards her, when M. A. W., thinking it was hardly fair to succeed against the other ‘willers,’ tried to reverse her will, and with intense effort willed A. I. to turn away and not give the intended kiss. Slowly A. I raised her head, stood a moment still, then turned in another direction towards the piano, but not near it, and sat down in an armchair. A few seconds after she said: ‘I can’t feel any impression now, nor any wish to do anything.’ She was released from her bandage and questioned as to her feelings. ‘Did you get any impression of what you had to do? What did you feel?’ She replied: ‘I had a distinct feeling that I had to go and kiss M. A. W. on the forehead; but when I came up to someone and bent down to do it, I was sensible of a strong feeling that I was not to do it—and could not do it; and after that I could get no impression whatever.’

“MARY A. WILSON.

“ALICE M. W. INGRAM.”

The percipient in both the following cases was our friend, the Hon. Alexander Yorke. In the summer of 1884 he mentioned to two nieces, as a joke, that some one had suggested to him the possibility of discerning the contents of letters pressed to the forehead; and this quack suggestion led by accident to an apparently genuine experiment in thought-transference.

The account is from the Misses Adeane, of 19, Ennismore Gardens, S.W.

“June, 1884.

“Taking a letter from a heap on my mother’s table, I glanced at the contents, and then placed it on my uncle’s head, where he held it. A minute had hardly elapsed before he said, quite quietly, ‘This letter is not addressed to your mother.’ He then paused, as if waiting for another impression. ‘It is written to Charlie’ (my brother), and another pause, ‘by an uncle—not a real uncle—a sort of uncle.’ Another pause, ‘It {i-83} must be about business.’ At this point I was so much astonished that I could not help telling him how true and correct all his impressions had been, which practically put an end to the experiment by giving a clue as to what the business was, &c. My younger sister was the only other person in the room at the time. The letter was addressed to my brother at Oxford by his trustee, and uncle by marriage, and related to business; he had forwarded it to my mother to read, and I selected it partly by chance, and partly because I thought, if there was only guessing in the case, it would have been a puzzler. My uncle, Mr. Yorke, does not know the writer of the letter or his handwriting.

“MARIE C. ADEANE.

“MAUDE ADEANE.”

Again, the mother of these informants, Lady Elizabeth Biddulph, writes to us, on June 12, 1884:—

“My girls came down to the drawing-room with my brother, Mr. Alexander Yorke, about 3.30 on Sunday afternoon, May 18th. I was sitting with one of Mr. Biddulph’s brothers, and his sister, Mrs. L. They had just brought me a letter sent by mistake to 31, Eaton Place. Presently Captain and Lady Edith Adeane came in, and then my two girls began telling us of what had happened upstairs. I immediately rushed at the letter I had just received, and laughing, held it to Mr. Yorke’s forehead: he objected, saying, ‘I shall probably fail, and then you will only laugh at the whole thing.’ He thrust my hand away, and I left the matter alone and went on talking to my relations. Presently my brother rose to go, and hesitating rather, said, ‘Well, my dear, the impression about that letter is so strong that I must tell you the Duchess of St. Albans wrote it.’ It was so. She does not correspond with me; the letter, too, having been addressed by mistake to 31, Eaton Place, made it more unlikely there should be any clue, and its contents were purely of a business-like character.

“ELIZABETH P. BIDDULPH.”

On another similar occasion, the present writer saw a letter taken up casually from a writing-table, and held to Mr. Yorke’s forehead, in such a way that he could not possibly catch a glimpse of the writing. He correctly described the writer as an elderly man, formerly connected with himself, but could not name him. The writer had, in fact, been his tutor at one time. It need hardly be said that no importance is to be attributed to the holding of the letters to the forehead. In every case the writer and the contents of the letter were known to some person in the percipient’s immediate vicinity, and that being so, any other hypothesis than that of thought-transference is gratuitous.

The following incident is an excellent casual illustration of the motor form of experiment to which the cases described on pp. 78–9 belonged. It presents, indeed, a point which would lead some to place it in a separate category: the names unexpectedly produced were those of dead persons. But where the “communication” contains nothing {i-84} beyond the content, or the possible manufacture, of the minds of the living persons present, it seems reasonable to refer it to those minds—at any rate until the power of the dead to communicate with the living be established by accumulated and irrefragable evidence.

One evening in August, 1885, some friends were assembled in a house at Rustington; and the younger members of the party suggested “table-turning” as an amusement. Three ladies—Mrs. W. B. Richmond, Mrs. Perceval Clark, and another—were seated apart from the larger group; and a small table on which they laid their hands, and which was light enough to be easily moved by unconscious pressure, soon became lively. The alphabet being repeated, the sentence “Harriet knew me years ago,” was tilted out. The name of me was asked for. “Kate Gardiner” was the answer. These names conveyed nothing to the three ladies at the table, but they caught the attention of a member of the other group, Mr. R. L. Morant. This gentleman was acting as holiday-tutor to Mrs. Richmond’s boys, and had not before that been acquainted with any of the party; nor had Mrs. Richmond herself the slightest knowledge of his family-history. On hearing the names, he asked that “Harriet’s” surname should be given. The name “Morant” was tilted out. In reply to further questions, put of course in such a way as not to suggest the answers, and while Mr. Morant remained at the further end of the room, the tilts produced the information that Harriet and Kate met at Kingstown, and that Harriet was Mr. Morant’s great-aunt, his father “Robin” Morant being her nephew.

We have received in writing three independent and concordant accounts of this occurrence—from Mrs. Richmond, from the third lady at the table (who is hostile to the subject, but who was probably the unconscious percipient), and from Mr. Morant, who adds:—

“I felt distinctly and always rightly, when it would answer, and what it would answer. I found that it always answered the questions of which I knew the answer; and was silent when I did not: e.g., it would not say how many years ago [the meeting was]. I was quite ignorant of where they met; that was the only answer beyond my knowledge. [It is not known if this answer was correct.] All the names given are correct: my father’s name was Robert, but he was always called Robin. Kate Gardiner was a friend of my father; I believe she helped to arrange his marriage. Harriet Morant was his aunt. I am ignorant of much about this aunt; and from reading some old correspondence in June, I was particularly anxious to learn more about these names. No one at the table can possibly have known anything whatever about any one of the names given.”1 1 See another very similar case in Vol. ii., pp. 670–1.

It is, of course, a matter of interest to know what indications of genuine telepathy may be afforded by these less systematic trials. For experiments with a comparatively small number of “subjects” (like those before described), however conclusive we may consider them as to the existence of a special faculty, afford no means of judging how common that faculty may be. If it exists, {i-85} we have no reason to expect it to be extremely uncommon; on the contrary, we should rather expect to find an appreciable degree of it tolerably widely diffused. But (putting aside the results of §7, above,) our only means, at present, for judging how far this is the case is by considering the evidence of persons who were, so to speak, amateur observers, and who in some cases were not even aware that the matter had any scientific importance. Such evidence must, of course, be received with due allowances, and, if it stood alone, might be wholly inadequate to establish the case for telepathic phenomena; but if these be otherwise established, it would be illogical to shut our eyes to alleged results which fall readily into the same class, provided the trials appear to have been conducted with intelligence and care.

It is unnecessary to say that this last proviso at once excludes the vast majority of the cases which one reads about in the newspapers, or hears discussed in private circles. We have already seen that the subject of “thought-reading” has obtained its vogue by dint of exhibitions which, however clever and interesting, have no sort of claim to the name. The prime requisite is that the conditions shall preclude the possibility of unconscious guidance; that contact between the agent and the percipient shall be avoided; or that the form of experiment shall not require movements, but the percipient shall give his notion of the transferred impression—card, number, taste, or whatever it may be—by word of mouth. That these conditions have been observed is itself an indication that experiments have been intelligently conducted; and the cases of this sort of which we have received records are at any rate numerous enough to dispel the disquieting sense that the possibility of accumulating evidence for our hypothesis depends on the transient endowment of a few most exceptional individuals. I have spoken above of the urgent importance of spreading the responsibility for the evidence as widely as possible—in other words, of largely increasing the number of persons, reputed honest and intelligent, who must be either knaves or idiots if the alleged transference of thought took place through any hitherto recognised channels. And our hopes in this direction are, of course, the better founded, in so far as the necessary material for experimentation is not of extreme rarity. If what has been here said induces a wider and more systematic search for this material, and increased perseverance in following up all indications of its existence, a very distinct step will have been taken towards the general acceptance of the facts.

{i-86}

CHAPTER III.

THE TRANSITION FROM EXPERIMENTAL TO SPONTANEOUS TELEPATHY.

§ 1. IN all the cases of the action of one mind on another that were considered in the last chapter, both the parties concerned—percipient as well as agent—were consciously and voluntarily taking part in the experiment with a definite idea of certain results in view. Spontaneous telepathy, as its name implies, differs from experimental in precisely this particular—that neither agent nor percipient has consciously or voluntarily formed an idea of any result whatever. Something happens for which both alike are completely unprepared. But between these two great classes of cases there is a sort of transitional class, which is akin to each of the others in one marked feature. In this class the agent acts consciously and voluntarily; he exercises a concentration of mind with a certain object, as in experimental thought-transference; he is in this way truly experimenting.1 1 It should be observed, however, that unless he records his experiment at the time, the case will stand on a different footing from those of the last chapter. But the percipient is not consciously or voluntarily a party to the experiment; as in spontaneous telepathy, his mind has not been in any way adjusted to the result; he finds himself affected in a certain manner, he knows not by what means.

In another way, also, this class of cases serves as a connecting link between the other two. For it introduces us to results produced at a much greater distance than any of those that have been so far described. Not that greater distance between the agent and percipient is in any way a distinguishing mark of the spontaneous, as opposed to the experimental, effects; the former no less than the latter—as we shall see reason to think—may take place between persons in the same room. But in the large majority of the spontaneous cases that we shall have to notice, the distance was considerable. And in the transitional class we meet {i-87} with specimens of both kinds—effects produced in the same room, and effects produced at a distance of many miles.

§ 2. In these transitional cases—as in those of the last chapter—the effect may show itself either in ideas and sensations which the percipient describes, or in actions of a more or less automatic sort. The motor cases have been by far the most heard of, and are, indeed, popularly supposed to be tolerably common; but this idea has no real foundation. The allegations of certain persons that, e.g., they can make strangers in church or in a theatre turn their heads, by “willing” that they should do so, cannot be accepted as establishing even a primâ facie case. Till accurate records are kept, such cases must clearly be reckoned as mere illusions of post hoc propter hoc—of successes noted and failures forgotten. Authentic instances of the kind seem, as it happens, always to be more or less closely connected with mesmerism. And even as regards mesmeric cases where a definite action or course of action is produced by silent or distant control, the first thing to remark is that many phenomena are popularly referred to this category which have not the slightest claim to a place in it. The common platform exhibition, where a profession is made of “willing” a particular person to attend, and he rushes into the room at the appointed moment, is not to be attributed to any influence then and there exercised, but is the effect of the command or the threat impressed on his mind when in its wax-like condition of trance on a previous evening. Nor, as a rule, do the cases where “subjects” are said to be drawn by their controller from house to house, or even to a distant town, prove any specific power of his will, or anything beyond the general influence and attraction which he has established, and which is liable every now and then to recrudesce in his absence, and to manifest itself in this startling form.1 1 Signs of this general mesmeric influence occur occasionally in the records of witchcraft. (See, e.g., The Discovery of Sorcery and Witchcraft practised by Jane Wenham, London, 1712.) It would scarcely be safe to interpret in any other way such an isolated case as the following of the late Mr. H. S. Thompson’s:— “Mr. John Dundas, who was very much interested in mesmerism, was staying with me at Fairfield, about eight miles from Sutton. He one evening suggested that I should try and influence Mrs. Thornton at a distance; this was about 9 o’clock. I tried, but only for a few minutes, never thinking I should succeed. We went over to Sutton next day, when Mr. Harland said, ‘You must take care what experiments you try on Mrs. Thornton, as she has become so sensitive to you, that she not only goes to sleep when you are present, but last night after dinner she went to sleep, and rushed to the hall door, saying she must go to Fairfield, as Mr. Thompson wanted her. And we had great difficulty in waking her.’” The incident is a striking one; but we need to know whether Mrs. Thornton ever behaved in the manner described at times when Mr. Thompson was not trying to influence her.

{i-88}

Very much rarer are the really crucial cases where the intended effect—the origination or inhibition of a motor-impulse—is brought about at the moment by a deliberate exercise of volition. In some of the more striking instances, the inhibition has been of that specific sort which temporarily alters the whole condition of the “subject,” and induces the mesmeric trance. In the Zoist for April, 1849, Mr. Adams, a surgeon of Lymington, writing four months after the event, describes how a guest of his own twice succeeded in mesmerising the man-servant of a common friend at a distance of nearly fifty miles, the time when the attempt was to be made having in each case been privately arranged with the man’s master. On the first occasion, the unwitting “subject” fell at the time named, 7.30 p.m., into a state of profound coma not at all resembling natural sleep, from which he was with difficulty aroused. He said that “before he fell asleep he had lost the use of his legs; he had endeavoured to kick the cat away, and could not do so.” On the second occasion a similar fit was induced at 9.30 a.m., when the man was in the act of walking across a meadow to feed the pigs. But the following case is more striking, as resting on the testimony of a man whose name must perforce be treated with respect. Dr. Esdaile says:—1 [☼]1 Natural and Mesmeric Clairvoyance, pp. 227–8. See also Mr. Cattell’s case in the Zoist, Vol. viii., p. 143; where the special circumstances seem sufficiently to exclude the hypothesis of expectancy. These examples of distant influence have a bearing on the question as to the efficacy of concentrated attention in more ordinary mesmeric processes. Elliotson asserts that his own manipulations were often successful, however mechanically and inattentively carried out; and Bertrand (Du Magnétisme Animal, p. 341) makes a similar remark. Other operators have said that their passes were ineffectual, unless accompanied by distinct intention. The Rev. C. H. Townshend made this observation in an experiment with the celebrated naturalist, Agassiz, whom he was mesmerising while himself distracted by the non-arrival of some expected letters. “Although I was at the time engaged in the mesmeric processes to all appearance as actively as usual, my patient called out to me constantly and coincidently with the remission of my thought, ‘You influence me no longer; you are not exerting yourself.’” And the above cases certainly favour the view that the exercise of any specific influence will normally have a well-marked psychical side. (See also Nos. 688, 689, 690.) It is interesting to find Esdaile making the same observation as Townshend in respect even of the very definite manipulations of his Hindoo assistants, where, if anywhere, we might have assumed a purely physical and mechanical agency.

(1) “I had been looking for a blind man on whom to test the imagination theory, and one at last presented himself. This man became so susceptible that, by making him the object of my attention, I could entrance him in whatever occupation he was engaged, and at any distance within the hospital enclosure. … My first attempt to influence the blind man was made by gazing at him silently over a wall, while he was engaged in the act of eating his solitary dinner, at the distance of twenty yards. He gradually ceased to eat, and in a quarter of an hour was profoundly entranced and cataleptic. This was repeated at the most untimely hours, when he could not possibly know of my being in his neighbourhood, and always with like results.”

{i-89}

Cases of waking a hypnotic “subject” by the silent exercise of the will have been recorded by Reichenbach,1 1 Der Sensitive Mensch (Stuttgart, 1855), Vol. ii., pp. 665–6. and by the Committee appointed by the French Royal Academy of Medicine to investigate “animal magnetism.” In their Report, published in 1831, this Committee say that they “could entertain no doubt as to the very decided effects which magnetism produced upon the ‘subject,’ even without his knowledge, and at a certain distance.” A more recent case will be found in Vol. II., p. 685.

§ 3. But, besides such examples of the induction of trance, the records of mesmerism contain a good many cases of the induction or inhibition of particular actions; and where persons who appeared to be in a perfectly normal state have had their will similarly dominated, or their actions dominated against their will, it has almost always, I think, been through the agency of some person who has given indications of considerable mesmeric power. The Rev. J. Lawson Sisson, Rector of Edingthorpe, North Walsham, (whose interest in mesmerism, like that of so many others, began with the discovery of his own power to alleviate pain,) describes the following experiment as having been performed on an incredulous lady, whose first experience of his influence had been a few moments’ subjection to the slightest possible hypnotic process in the course of the evening.2 2 For results of a still simpler type, see the record of the experiments made on M. Petit, in the Report of the French Committee above mentioned. Mr. Sisson says of one of his subjects that, when she was walking many yards in front of him, and engaged in conversation, “I could, by raising my hand and willing it, draw her head quite back. It fell back, neither to right nor left, as though it had been pulled by a cord.”

(2) “Conversation went on on other topics, and then followed a light supper. Several of the gentlemen, myself among the number, were obliged to stand. I stood talking to a friend, against the wall, and at the back of Miss Cooke, some three or four feet off her. Her wine-glass was filled, and I made up my mind that she should not drink without my ‘willing.’ I kept on talking and watching her many futile attempts to get the glass to her mouth. Sometimes she got it a few inches from the level of the table, sometimes she got it a little higher, but she evidently felt that it was not for some reason to be done. At last I said, ‘Miss Cooke, why don’t you drink your wine?’ and her answer was at once, ‘I will when you let me.’”

The Zoist contains several cases of apparently the same kind; though, unfortunately, the narrators have seldom recognised the need of making it clear that the possibility of physical indications was completely excluded. Thus Mr. Barth records of a patient of his own (Vol. VII., p. 280):—

{i-90}

(3) “When she wished to leave the room, I could at any time prevent her, by willing that she should stay, and this silently. I could not arrest her progress whilst she was in motion, but if she stood for a moment and I mentally said ‘Stand,’ she stood unable to move from the spot. If she placed her hand on the table I could affix it by my will alone, and unfix it by will. If she held a ruler or paper-knife in her closed hand, I could compel her by will alone to unclose her hand and drop the article. Frequently when she has been at the tea-table, and I quite behind and out of sight, have I locked her jaws or arrested her hand with her bread-and-butter in it, when half way betwixt her plate and her mouth.”

And Mr. N. Dunscombe, J.P. (Zoist, Vol. IX., p. 438), narrates of himself that, having attended some mesmeric performances, he was for some time at the mercy of the operator’s silent will.

(4) “He has caused me, by way of experiment, to leave my seat in one part of my house, and follow him all through it and out of it until I found him. He was not in the room with me, neither had I the slightest idea of his attempting the experiment. I felt an unaccountable desire to go in a certain direction.”

Most remarkable of all are the cases of acts performed under the silent control of the late Mr. H. S. Thompson, of Moorfields, York, though here again we have to regret that the signed corroboration of the persons affected was not obtained at the time. Mr. Thompson’s interest in mesmerism lay almost entirely in the opportunities which his power gave him of alleviating suffering; and having succeeded in giving relief to a patient, it is to him a comparatively small matter to be able to say (Zoist, Vol. V., p. 257):—

“I have often, by the will, made her perform a series of trifling acts, though, when asked why she did them, she has answered that she did them without observing them, and had no distinct wish to do them as far as she was aware.”

Some of his descriptions, however, are more explicit. He gave us permission to publish, for the first time on his authority, an account of an after-dinner incident which made much sensation in Yorkshire society when it occurred, and which even twenty years afterwards was still alluded to with bated breath, as a manifest proof of the alliance of mesmerists with the devil. The account was sent to us in November, 1883.

(5) “In 1837, I first became acquainted with mesmerism through Baron Dupotet. The first experiment I tried was upon a Mrs. Thornton, who was staying with some friends of mine, Mr. and Mrs. Charles Harland, of {i-91} Sutton. She told me that no one had ever succeeded in mesmerising her, though she soon submitted to being mesmerised by me. She went to sleep at once, and was very strongly influenced by my will. One night when I was dining with Mr. Harland, after the ladies had left the room, some gentleman proposed that I should will her to come back again, which I did. She came directly, and after this I could not go to the house without her going to sleep, even if she did not know that I was there.”

In the same letter, Mr. Thompson continues:—

“I have met with many cases of thought-reading, but none so distinct as in a little girl named Crowther. She had had brain fever, which had caused a protrusion of the eyes. Of this ill effect I soon relieved her, and found that she was naturally a thought-reader. I practised on her a good deal, and at length there was no need for me to utter what I wished to say, as she always knew my thoughts. I was showing some experiments to a Dr. Simpson, and he asked me to will her to go and pick a piece of white heather out of a large vase full of flowers there was in the room, and bring it to me. She did this as quickly as if I had spoken to her. All these experiments were performed when the girl was awake, and not in a mesmeric sleep.”

The next account (received in 1883) is none the less interesting that it is of a partial failure; and in this case we have the advantage of the percipient’s own testimony. The lady who sent it to us is a cousin of Mr. Thompson’s and has had other similar experiences; but at this distance of time can only recollect the following, whose absurdity vividly impressed her mind.

(6) “I was sitting one day in the library. No one else was in the room except my cousin, Henry Thompson, who was reading at the other end of the room. Gradually I felt an unaccountable impulse stealing over me, an impulse to go up to him and kiss him. I had been in the habit of kissing him from childhood upwards at intervals, when I left the sitting-room before going to bed, or when he came to say good-bye at the termination of a visit, &c., as a matter of course, not of pleasure. In this instance the inclination to kiss him struck me as being so extraordinary and ridiculous as to make it an impossibility. I have no recollection of leaving the room, though I may have done so, but in the evening when he said to me at dinner, ‘I tried to will you to-day and failed,’ I answered at once, ‘I know perfectly when you were willing me, and what you wanted me to do, though I did not suspect it at the time. But you were willing me to kiss you in the library, and I had the greatest inclination to do so!’ ‘And why would you not?’ he asked, and laughed immoderately at my answering that I was so astonished at myself for feeling an inclination to kiss him that I resisted it at once. I had never been mesmerised by him, and my will was not subservient to his.

“L. F. C.”

{i-92}

And here a word may be in place as to the relation of the will to telepathic experiments in general. That the will of the agent or operator is usually in active play, admits, of course, of no doubt; but the nature and extent of its operation are sometimes misconceived. In ordinary thought-transference, it is probably effective only so far as it implies strong concentration of the agent’s own attention on the sensation or image which he seeks to convey. As a rule he will naturally desire that the experiment should succeed; but, provided only that the necessary concentration be given, there is nothing to show, or even to suggest that, if for some special reason he desired failure, his desire would ensure that result. It is somewhat different with cases like the above, where a distinct set of visible actions—as that the performer shall walk to a particular spot or select a particular object—is the thing aimed at; in so far as there the desire is likely to be keener and more persistent. When we are picturing a series of movements to be performed by a person in our sight, we easily come to regard that person’s physique under a half-illusion that we can direct it from moment to moment, as though it were our own; and we are more on edge, so to speak, than when we are merely imagining (say) a word or a number, and waiting for the “subject” to name it, or write it down. But even here there is little foundation for the idea that the operator’s will in any way dominates the other will, or that he succeeds by superior “strength of will” in any ordinary sense. It is still primarily an image, not any form of force, that is conveyed—but an image of movement, i.e., an image whose nervous correlate in the brain is in intimate connection with motor-centres; and the muscular effect is thus evoked while the “subject” remains a sort of spectator of his own conduct. The last example of Mr. Thompson’s powers goes as near as any I know to the actual production of an effect on the self-determining faculty of a person in a normal state; but even here, it will be observed, the action suggested was of a simple sort, and one which the “subject” had often voluntarily performed. And in mesmeric cases—as in the experiments on inhibition of utterance in the last chapter—where, no doubt, the self-determining faculty is often to a great extent abrogated, we must still beware of concluding that the “subject’s” will is dominated and directed this way or that by a series of special jets of energy. It is rather that his instinct of choice, his free-will as a whole, has lapsed, as one of the general features of the trance-condition. It is worth noting, moreover, that in none of {i-93} the cases quoted have the “willer” or the “willed” been further removed from one another than two neighbouring rooms. The liability to have definite acts compelled from a distance, which figures in romance and in popular imagination as the natural and terrible result of mesmeric influence, is precisely the result for which we can find least evidence.

We have, however, in our own collection, two first-hand instances where the distance between the agent and the percipient was greater, and where the action to be performed was of a rather more complicated sort.1 1 See Vol. ii., pp. 680–1. In case 687 the distance was about 100 yards. We received the following case in 1883 from the agent, Mr. S. H. B., a friend of our own. The first part of the account was copied by us from a MS. book, in which Mr. B. has recorded this and other experiments.

(7) “On Wednesday, 26th July, 1882, at 10.30 p.m., I willed very strongly that Miss V., who was living at Clarence Road, Kew, should leave any part of that house in which she might happen to be at the time, and that she should go into her bedroom, and remove a portrait from her dressing-table.

“When I next saw her she told me that at this particular time and on this day, she felt strongly impelled to go up to her room and remove something from her dressing-table, but she was not sure which article to misplace. She did so and removed an article, but not the framed portrait which I had thought of.

“Between the time of the occurrence of this fact and that of our next meeting, I received one or two letters, in which the matter is alluded to and my questions concerning it answered.

“S. H. B.”2 2 This entry is undated; but Mr. B. assures us that it was written very soon after the event.

Mr. B. was himself at Southall on the evening in question. He has shown the letters of which he speaks to the present writer, and has allowed him to copy extracts.

On Thursday, July 27th, without having seen or had any communication with Mr. B., Miss Verity (now residing in Castellain Road, W., who allows the publication of her name) wrote to him as follows:—

“What were you doing between ten and eleven o’clock on Wednesday evening? If you make me so restless, I shall begin to be afraid of you. I positively could not stay in the dining-room, and I believe you meant me to be upstairs, and to move something on my dressing-table. I want to see if you know what it was. At any rate, I am sure you were thinking about me.”

Mr. B. then wrote and told Miss Verity that the object he had thought of was Mr. G.’s photograph. She answered:—

“I must tell you it was not G.’s photo, but something on my table {i-94} which perhaps you would never think of. However, it was really wonderful how impossible I found it to think or do anything until I came upstairs, and I knew for certain that your thoughts were here; in fact, it seemed as if you were very near.”

[More than a year after these letters were written, an absolutely concordant account was given viva voce to the present writer by Miss Verity, whom he believes to be a thoroughly careful and conscientious witness.]

We have a parallel instance to this on equally trustworthy authority; but the person impressed has a dread of the subject, and will not give his testimony for publication.1 1 The following case, though sufficiently like the above to be worth quoting, cannot be pressed as evidence; for there is an appreciable chance that the impulse felt was accidental. Its interest partly depends on the fact that the ladies concerned report that they have occasionally had very striking successes in the ordinary experimental thought-transference. The account was received in 1884, from the Misses Barr, of Apsley Town, East Grinstead. “I and my sister E. had been in the habit, for some years, of trying our power of ‘will’ over my youngest sister H., and had succeeded so well that in the winter of 1874–5, E., being then in London, determined to test her will-power over H., who was then living in the North of Scotland. E. was very anxious to have a certain pair of shoes sent to her in time for a ball to which she was going, and there was not time enough for a letter to go to Scotland, and for the shoes to be sent by post. She therefore determined to ‘will H.’ to go into her room in the house in Scotland, fetch the shoes, and start them off by post. “On the afternoon of that day H. brought the shoes into the drawing-room, where we were sitting, saying, ‘I’ve a fixed idea that E. wants these shoes, so I am just going to send them off to her.’ “E. was delighted, yet half-surprised, to receive them on the following day. “LIZZIE M. BARK.” “I perfectly remember the above incident, and also the vague but impressed feelings which prompted my actions. My sister E. had been absent in England for some weeks, and I did not know she was going to a ball. It was a most unusual thing for me to enter her room while she was away, and I wondered at myself for doing so, and especially for opening one of her drawers. “HARRIET A. S. BARR.”

§ 4. I now turn to the second class of transitional cases; that where ideas and sensations unconnected with movement are excited, in a person who is not a conscious party to the experiment, by the concentrated but unexpressed will of another. And here, even more than before, I have to admit how scanty in every sense are the accounts which former observers have published.2 2 See however Vol. ii., pp. 334–6 and 676–8. Of ideational cases, one of the most striking, if correctly reported, is that given by the Rev. L. Lewis in the Zoist, Vol. V, p. 324.

“Gateacre, October, 1847.

(8) “One evening, at a friend’s house, and in the presence of several spectators, E. C. was put into the sleep, when I suggested to the magnetiser [Mr. Lewis’s son] that he should attempt inducing personation, that is, making the magnetised person assume different characters by means of the will and passes alone.

“The first individual agreed upon was myself, with whom E. C. was well acquainted, and my name was given to the magnetiser on paper. After a {i-95} few passes having been made by him over E. C., she assumed rather a dictatorial tone, complaining of interruption when spoken to, as it was Saturday night, when she was busy writing. I shall draw a curtain over my other frailties, and proceed to the mention of characters well known in the world, but whom E. C. had never seen.

“The first of these was Queen Victoria. With regard to this name the company observed the same silence as before, only writing it on paper, and the magnetiser pursued the same method also with E. C. But the dignity which she very soon assumed, the lofty tone with which she asked questions, so contrary to her usual disposition, the orders she issued to the various persons of the household, and especially her conversation with Prince Albert (whose person the magnetiser had assumed),1 1 It is probably to be understood that the magnetiser assumed this part after his “subject” had assumed the other. her remonstrances at his staying so long from the castle contrary to her express commands, and her threats that he should not be permitted to leave again, excited instantly peals of laughter, and on reflection, the most intense astonishment.

“The name of Sir Robert Peel was then written by one of the company, and given to the magnetiser. He then magnetised her, and she soon gave unequivocal proofs of her personating the noble baronet by conversations with the Queen on the state of the country, and answering several political questions in accordance with his well-known sentiments.

“From Conservatism it was thought the best step next to take was Liberalism, and the name of Daniel O’Connell was handed to the magnetiser. Now E. C.’s replies were of a different nature, whether political or religious; but there was one question which she answered in a peculiar manner, yet whether in unison with the views of the late celebrated ‘Liberator’ I know not. When the magnetiser asked her what she thought of the English Church Establishment, she replied that the ‘Establishment was already on crutches, and would soon be down.’

“The last personation was that of a young lady whom E. C. had never seen or heard of, and who was then more than one hundred miles distant, but her mother and sisters were present. The same mode of secrecy was adopted in this as well as in all other instances, so that it was impossible E. C. should have been able to guess the name. The absent person was the daughter of a lady at whose house these experiments were made. When E. C. was willed to personate the proposed character, the first thing she uttered was an exclamation of surprise at finding herself suddenly at home. Being asked her name, she ridiculed the idea of such a question being put in the presence of her family, but being pressed by her magnetiser to pronounce it, and promised not to be troubled with any further questions, she ingeniously said, and with somewhat of an arch look, that it began with the third letter in the alphabet. On being told that she had not given a direct reply, she rather pettishly answered, ‘Well, then, it is Clara.’ This was the fact.

“Except in the precise order in which these cases occurred, I can vouch for their correctness, having been present when they happened.

“L. LEWIS.”

{i-96}

The following instance, however, has more weight with us, who know the observer, and have had ample proof of his accuracy. Mr. G. A. Smith, of 2, Elms Road, Dulwich, (who has assisted us in most of our mesmeric work,) narrated the incident to us within two months of its occurrence; and has now supplied a written account.

(9) “One evening in September, 1882, at Brighton, I was trying some experiments with a Mrs. W., a ‘subject’ whom I had frequently hypnotised. I found that she could give surprisingly minute descriptions of spots which she knew—with details which her normal recollection could never have furnished. I did not for a moment regard these descriptions as implying anything more than intensified memory, but resolved to see what would happen when she was requested to examine a place where she had never been to. I therefore requested her to look into the manager’s room at the Aquarium, and to tell me all about it. Much to my surprise, she immediately began to describe the apartment with great exactness, and in perfect conformity with my own knowledge of it. I was fairly astonished; but it occurred to me that although my subject’s memory could not be at work, my own mind might be acting on hers. To test this, I imagined strongly that I saw a large open umbrella on the table, and in a minute or so the lady said, in great wonder: ‘Well! how odd, there’s a large open umbrella on the table,’ and then began to laugh. It, therefore, seemed clear that her apparent knowledge of the room had been derived somehow from my own mental picture of it; but I may add I was never able to produce the same effect again.”

This may he fairly reckoned among transitional cases, inasmuch as the lady was quite unaware at the time that any person’s influence was being brought to bear upon her.

§ 5. It will be seen that in both these last examples the agent and percipient were close together, and the latter was in the hypnotic state. And among transitional cases, we have absolutely no specimens of the deliberate transference of a perfectly unexciting idea—as of a card or a name—to a distant and normal percipient. This may appear an unfortunate lacuna in the transition that I am attempting to make; but the fact itself can hardly surprise us. It must be remembered that in most of our experimental cases there was a true analogy to the passivity of hypnotism, in the adjustment of the percipient’s mind, the sort of inward blankness and receptivity which he or she established by a deliberate effort; that even where this was absent, the rapport involved in the mere sense of personal proximity to the agent probably went for something in the results; and also that (with few exceptions) the sort of image to be expected was known—that the percipient realised whether it was a card, a {i-97} name, or a taste. That an impression should flash across a mind in this state of preparation is clearly no guarantee that anything similar will occur when the percipient is occupied with wholly different things, while the agent is secretly concentrating his thoughts on a card or a taste in another place. And indeed the supposed conditions—a purely unemotional idea on the part of the would-be agent, and a state of complete unpreparedness on the part of the person whom it is attempted to influence—seem the most unfavourable possible: where the percipient mind is unprepared—that is, where the condition on one side is unfavourable—we should naturally expect that a stronger impulsive force must be supplied from the other side. But we have further to note that, even if the trial succeeded, the success would be hard to establish. For to the percipient the impression would only be a fleeting and uninteresting item in the swarm of faint ideas that pass every minute through the mind; and as he is ex hypothesi ignorant that the trial is being made, there would be nothing to fix this particular faint item in his memory. It would come and go unmarked, like a thousand others. And this same possibility must be equally borne in mind in respect of spontaneous telepathy. For though in most of the cases to be quoted in the sequel, a special impulsive force will be inferred from the fact that the agent was at the time in a state psychically or physically abnormal, we must not be too positive that the telepathic action is confined to the well-marked or ostensive instances on which the proof of it has to depend. The abnormality of the agent’s state, though needed to make the coincidence striking enough to be included in this book, may not for all that be an indispensable condition; genuine transferences of idea, of which we can take no account, may occur in the more ordinary conditions of life; and the continuity of the experimental and the spontaneous cases may thus conceivably be complete. Meanwhile, however, a certain gap in the evidence has to be admitted; and there is nothing for it but to pass on to the more extreme cases where the senses begin to be affected—the percipients having been for the most part in a normal state, and at various distances from the agents.

§ 6. The sensory cases to be found in the Zoist are a trifle less fragmentary than some that I have quoted, but depend again on the uncorroborated statement of a single observer. Mr. H. S. Thompson (Vol. IV., p. 263) says:—

{i-98}

(10) “I have tried an amusing experiment two or three times very successfully. I have taken a party (without informing them of my intentions) to witness some galvanic experiments, and whilst submitting myself to continued slight galvanic shocks, have fixed my attention on some one of the party. The first time I tried this I was much amused by the person soon exclaiming, ‘Well, it is very strange, but I could fancy that I feel a sensation in my hands and arms as though I were subject to the action of the battery.’ I found that out of seven persons, four experienced similar sensations more or less. None of them showed any symptom of being affected before I directed my attention towards them. After that [sic] they were made acquainted with the experiment, I found their imagination sometimes supplied the place of my will, and they fancied I was experimenting upon them when I was not so. This we so often see in other cases.”

Muscular and tactile hallucinations are, of course, eminently of a sort which may be produced by expectancy; and all that can be said is that Mr. Thompson seems to have been alive to this danger. I may perhaps be allowed to state of this gentleman that, as far as we are aware, (and we have questioned both a near relative of his and a bitter detractor,) it was never alleged that he was an untrustworthy witness, or prone to exaggerate his powers.

The impression in the next example seems to have been on the borderland between sensation and idea. It is given by the Rev. L. Lewis in the same paper as the account above quoted. His son had resolved to test the statement that in a mesmeric state a “subject” might, by the operator’s unexpressed will, be impressed with delusions such as are usually only produced by direct suggestion.

(11) “The girl [one whom he had often hypnotised] being gone into the sleep, the first thing that occurred to him was that she should imagine herself a camphine lamp, which was then burning on the table. He wrote down the words, which were not uttered by anyone, and were handed to the company. Then, without speaking, he strongly willed that she should be a lamp, making over her head the usual magnetic passes. E. C. was in a few minutes perfectly immovable, and not a word could be elicited from her. When she had continued in this strange state for some time, he dissipated the illusion by his will, without awaking her, when she immediately found her tongue again, and on being asked how she had felt when she would not speak, she replied, ‘Very hot, and full of naphtha.‘”

The next case (contained in a letter from Mr. H. S. Thompson, to Dr. Elliotson, Zoist, Vol. V., p. 257,) takes us a little further, for the agent and percipient were at a considerable distance from one another; and though the experience was of a vague sort, very much more was produced than a mere idea—namely, a physical impression of the agent’s presence, strong enough to be described as felt.

{i-99}

(12) “I have tried several experiments on persons not in the mesmeric state, and some who had never been mesmerised. I have repeatedly found that I have been able, by will, to suggest a series of ideas to some persons, which ideas have induced corresponding actions; and again, by fixing my attention upon others, and thinking on some particular subject, I have often found them able most accurately to penetrate my thoughts. Neither have I observed that it was always necessary to be near them, or to be in the same room with them, to produce these effects. … Some months ago I was staying at a friend’s house, and this subject came under discussion. Two friends had left the house the day before.1 1 It seems practically certain, from what follows, that by “the day before” Mr. Thompson meant “earlier in the day.” Otherwise the case would have had no relation to what he is speaking of. Neither of them, that I am aware of, had ever been in the mesmeric state; but I knew that to some extent they had this faculty. I proposed to make trial whether I could will them to think I was coming to see them at that moment. I accordingly fixed my attention upon them for some little time. Six weeks elapsed before I saw either of them again; and when we met I had forgotten the circumstance, but one of them soon reminded me of it by saying, ‘I have something curious to tell you, and want also to know whether you have ever tried to practise your power of volition upon either of us; for on the evening of the day I left the house where you were staying, I was sitting reading a book in the same room with Mr. ——. My attention was withdrawn from my book, and for some moments I felt as though a third person was in the room, and that feeling shortly after became connected with an idea that you were coming or even then present. This seemed so very absurd that I tried to banish the idea from my mind. I then observed that Mr. ——’s attention was also drawn from the book which he was reading, and he exclaimed, ‘It is positively very ridiculous, but I could have sworn some third person was in the room, and that impression is connected with an idea of Henry Thompson.’”

§ 7. But the most pronounced cases are of course those where an actual affection of vision is produced. Here previous observations of an authentic sort almost wholly fail us.2 2 It is hardly necessary to say that we cannot reckon in this class hallucinations, even though dependent on the special influence of another person, where no definite exercise of will has been exerted by that person at the time. For instance, the following case of Mr. H. S. Thompson’s may (in default of more precise detail) be ascribed to faith and imagination on the part of the “subject.” “Mr. Harland’s wife had been ill for three years, said to be heart-disease, with spasms of the heart, and neuralgic pains in head and spine. A few passes removed the pains, and in the course of a few days she gained so much strength that she walked round the garden, which she had not done for three years. In a few days she was able to walk to a friend’s house two miles off; she became very sensitive and slept well. I frequently put her to sleep at night, but when I did not go to her house I always used to will her to go to sleep, and when I asked if she had had a good night, she used to say, ‘I always have a good night when you mesmerise me,’ and when I said, ‘I was not here last night,’ she answered, ‘Oh, yes, but you were, I heard you come up stairs after I had gone to bed, and knock at my door. I said, “Come in,” but you would not speak to me, and walked up to me, and held your hand over my head, saying, “Sleep,” and I did sleep, and had a very good night; you surely were in the house, for I saw you as plainly as I do now.’” I have no wish to extenuate the negative importance of this fact. At the same time, it must be remembered how very exceptional, probably, are the occasions on which {i-100} the experiment has been attempted. When the two persons concerned in a “willing” experiment have been together, the object, as a rule, has been to produce the effect which shall present the most obvious test for spectators or for the agent himself—namely, motor effects. And when some one of the few persons who possess an appreciable degree of the abnormal power has attempted to exercise it at a distance, it is still the production of actions that he would most naturally aim at; for it is in this direction that such a power has been popularly expected to show itself. Thus it is reasonable to conclude that deliberate attempts to produce a visual hallucination in another person, by the exercise of the will, have been very few and far between. Still this is, of course, no complete explanation of the rarity of the phenomenon; for no definable line separates these rare attempts from the ordinary experiments in thought-transference, when the agent concentrates his attention on a visible object. In those experiments there is, so to speak, an opportunity for a visual hallucination, if the agent is able to produce one. But the percipient has never (as far as I know) received more than a vivid idea, or at most a picture of the object in the mind’s eye. And this fact sufficiently indicates that the more pronounced sensory result is one requiring most special conditions—one which would remain extremely rare however much it were sought for, and the proof of which will rightly be regarded with all the more jealous scrutiny.

The previous records of the phenomenon to which I can point are really only four in number;1 1 We cannot, of course, recognise as even on the threshold of evidence the following remote and third-hand case from A Treatise on the Second-Sight, &c., by “Theophilus Insulanus” (Edinburgh, 1763), p. 40. But it is curious enough to be worth quoting, the imperfection of the alleged transference being very parallel to what has been already observed in some of our own experiments. “The said ensign [viz., Ensign Donald Macleod], a person of candour, who lived then at Laoran, informed me that, having gone with his wife to visit his father-in-law in the Isle of Skye, night coming on, they were obliged to put up with a cave on the side of Lough Urn, to pass the night; and as they were at supper, his wife took a cabbock of cheese in her hand, and, having covered it with three or four apples, wished it in a seer’s hand, who lived with her father, and who, that night, by her second-sight, saw the gentlewoman offering her a cabbock of cheese, but was at a loss to know what the round things were that covered it, as, perhaps, she had seen none of the kind in her lifetime, until her master’s daughter, upon her arrival, told her the whole.” and these are so far from conclusive, that they would hardly even be worth mentioning, if stronger examples could not be added from our own collection. The first case is thus meagrely described by Dr. Elliotson (Zoist, Vol. VIII., p. 69):—

“I have a friend, who can, by his will, make certain patients think of any others he chooses, and fancy he sees those persons: he silently thinking of certain persons, the brain of the patient sympathises with his brain. Nay, by silently willing that these persons shall say and do certain {i-101} things which he chooses, he makes the patients believe they see these imaginary appearances doing and uttering those very things.”

That a man of indisputable ability should have thought such a statement of such a fact adequate is truly extraordinary. The same may be said of the following sentence of Dr. Charpignon’s Physiologic du Magnétisms, (Paris, 1848,) p. 325:—

“Nous avons maintes fois formé dans notre pensée des images fictives, et les somnambules que nous questionnions voyaient ces images comme des réalités.” [Translation]We have often formed fictive images in our minds, and the subjects we were interrogating saw those images as realities.

Even if these descriptions be accurate in the main, we are unable to judge how far the vision was really externalised by the patients. In the next case this point is clear; but the distinct assurance is still lacking that the agent was on his guard against the slightest approach to a suggestive movement. The incident is cited in the Annales Médico-Psychologiques, 6th series, Vol. V., p. 379, by Dr. Dagonet, doctor at the Saint Anne Asylum.

“Un interne [house-physician] lui dit: ‘Regardez done, Didier, voilà une jolie femme.’ II n’y avait personne. Didier reprit: ‘Mais non, elle est laide,’ et il ajoute: ‘Qu’a-t-elle dans les bras?’ Ces questions se rap-portaient exactement à ce que pensait son interlocuteur. A un certain moment Didier se précipita même pour empêcher de tomber l’enfant qu’il croyait voir dans les bras de la femme imaginaire dont on lui parlait.” [Translation]An intern said to him, "Look, Didier, a pretty woman." There was nobody there. Didier replied, "No, no, she is ugly." He added: "What is she holding in her arms?" These questions were linked directly to what the other speaker was thinking. At one point Didier even rushed over to save from a fall the child he thought he saw in the arms of the imaginary woman he was told about.

This is a specimen of the stray indications of thought-transference that may be found even in strictly scientific literature; but the significance of the phenomenon seems to have been altogether missed. It is described among a number of observations of an ordinary kind, made on an habitual somnambulist, and as though it were quite on a par with the rest.

The next account, though, like Dr. Charpignon’s, first-hand from the agent, is more remote, and equally uncorroborated. It is to be found in an article by Councillor H. M. Wesermann, in the Archiv für den Thierischen Magnetismus, Vol. VI., pp. 136–9; and is dated Düsseldorf, June 15th, 1819. The first four items in the list are impressions alleged to have been made on a sleeping percipient but the fifth is a waking and completely externalised hallucination.

First Experiment at a Distance of Five Miles.—I endeavoured to acquaint my friend, the Hofkammerrath G. (whom I had not seen, with whom I had not spoken, and to whom I had not written, for thirteen years), with the fact of my intended visit, by presenting my form to him in his sleep, through the force of my will. When I unexpectedly went to him on the following evening, he evinced his astonishment at having seen me in a dream on the preceding night.

{i-102}

Second Experiment at a Distance of Three Miles.—Madame W., in her sleep, was to hear a conversation between me and two other persons, relating to a certain secret; and when I visited her on the third day she told me all that had been said, and showed her astonishment at this remarkable dream.

Third Experiment at a Distance of One Mile.—An aged person in G. was to see in a dream the funeral procession of my deceased friend S., and when I visited her on the next day her first words were that she had in her sleep seen a funeral procession, and on inquiry had learned that I was the corpse. Here then was a slight error.

Fourth Experiment at a Distance of One-Eighth of a Mile.—Herr Doctor B. desired a trial to convince him, whereupon I represented to him a nocturnal street-brawl. He saw it in a dream, to his great astonishment. [This means, presumably, that he was astonished when he found that the actual subject of his dream was what Wesermann had been endeavouring to impress on him.]

Fifth Experiment at a Distance of Nine Miles.—The intention was that Lieutenant N. should see in a dream, at 11 o’clock p.m., a lady who had been five years dead, who was to incite him to a good action. Herr N., however, contrary to expectation, had not gone to sleep by 11 o’clock, but was conversing with his friend S. on the French campaign. Suddenly the door of the chamber opens; the lady, dressed in white, with black kerchief and bare head, walks in, salutes S. thrice with her hand in a friendly way, turns to N., nods to him, and then returns through the door. Both follow quickly, and call the sentinel at the entrance; but all had vanished, and nothing was to be found. Some months afterwards, Herr S. informed me by letter that the chamber door used to creak when opened, but did not do so when the lady opened it—whence it is to be inferred that the opening of the door was only a dream-picture, like all the rest of the apparition.”1 1 Other cases of the hallucination of a door opening or shutting are Nos. 15, 30, 190, 198, 495, 530, 537, 591, 659, 670, 676, 696, 698. In Nasse’s Zeitschrift für Psychische Aertze (Leipzig) for 1820, Part IV., pp. 757–67, Wesermann again describes the first and fifth of these experiments, and states that the trials were made in the autumn of 1808.

To such a record, if it stood alone, we should attach very little importance, in default of any evidence as to the intellectual and moral trustworthiness of Wesermann. There is, fortunately, no necessity for dwelling on these cases, as the possibility of the alleged phenomenon will certainly not be admitted except on the strength of contemporary and corroborated instances.

§ 8. In the examples that I am about to quote, one grave defect must at once be admitted. Though in all of them testimony is given by both agent and percipient, the agent in every case, and the percipient in one, withhold their names from publication. We, of course, regret this restriction exceedingly; but it can hardly be deemed unnatural or unreasonable. It must be remembered that {i-103} these cases of apparitions intentionally produced stand in a most peculiar position, as compared even with the other remarkable incidents with which we are concerned in the present work. In the case of the more normal telepathic phantasm, neither party is in the least responsible for what occurs. A dies or breaks his leg; B thinks that he sees A’s form or hears his voice: neither can help it; if their experiences coincide, that is not their business; perhaps it is a chance. But in the present class of cases, the agent determines to do something that to most of his educated fellow-creatures will appear a miracle; and however little he himself may share that view, he may still have good grounds for shrinking from the reputation either of a miracle-worker or of a miracle-monger. The percipient’s position is somewhat different; but modern miracles are by no means tempting things to get publicly mixed up with, even for a person whose share in them has been passive. And the extreme rarity of the phenomenon is another daunting fact. For a single specimen of this deliberate type of phantasm, we have a hundred specimens of the wholly spontaneous type: and the witness who is willing to give his name for publication, where he is assured that he will find himself in numerous and respectable company, may fairly hesitate when aware that the incident he records is almost unexampled.

However, it may be hoped that this difficulty, like others, will gradually be removed by a modification of public opinion on the whole subject. Meanwhile, I can but give the evidence under the conditions imposed. In the first case, the agent is slightly known to us. The percipient is our friend, the Rev. W. Stainton Moses, who believes that he has kept a written memorandum of the incident, but has been prevented by a long illness, and by pressure of work, from hunting for it among a large mass of stored-away papers. The agent’s account was written in February, 1879, and includes a few purely verbal alterations made in 1883, when Mr. Moses pronounced it correct.

(13) “One evening early last year, I resolved to try to appear to Z, at some miles distance. I did not inform him beforehand of the intended experiment; but retired to rest shortly before midnight with thoughts intently fixed on Z, with whose room and surroundings, however, I was quite unacquainted. I soon fell asleep, and awoke next morning unconscious of anything having taken place. On seeing Z a few days afterwards, I inquired, ‘Did anything happen at your rooms on Saturday night?’ ‘Yes,’ replied he, ‘a great deal happened. I had been sitting over the fire with M, smoking and chatting. About 12.30 he rose to leave, and I let him out myself. I returned to the fire to finish {i-104} my pipe, when I saw you sitting in the chair just vacated by him. I looked intently at you, and then took up a newspaper to assure myself I was not dreaming, but on laying it down I saw you still there. While I gazed without speaking, you faded away. Though I imagined you must be fast asleep in bed at that hour, yet you appeared dressed in your ordinary garments, such as you usually wear every day.’ ‘Then my experiment seems to have succeeded,’ said I. ‘The next time I come, ask me what I want, as I had fixed on my mind certain questions I intended to ask you, but I was probably waiting for an invitation to speak.’

“A few weeks later the experiment was repeated with equal success, I, as before, not informing Z when it was made. On this occasion he not only questioned me on the subject which was at that time under very warm discussion between us, but detained me by the exercise of his will some time after I had intimated a desire to leave.1 1 As regards the interchange of remarks with a hallucinatory figure, see below, p. 476, and Vol. ii., p. 460. But it is possible, of course, that this detail as to the prolonging of the interview has become magnified in memory; or that the second vision partook more of the nature of a dream than the first. This fact, when it came to be communicated to me, seemed to account for the violent and somewhat peculiar headache which marked the morning following the experiment; at least I remarked at the time that there was no apparent cause for the unusual headache; and, as on the former occasion, no recollection remained of the event, or seeming event, of the preceding night.”

Mr. Moses writes:—

“21, Birchington Road, N.W.

“September 27th, 1885.

“This account is, as far as my memory serves, exact; and, without notes before me, I cannot supplement it. “W. STAINTON MOSES.”

Mr. Moses tells us that he has never on any other occasion seen the figure of a living person in a place where it was not.

The next case, otherwise similar, was more remarkable in that there were two percipients. The narrative has been copied by the present writer from a MS. book of Mr. S. H. B.’s, to which he transferred it from an almanack diary, since lost.

(14) “On a certain Sunday evening in November, 1881, having been reading of the great power which the human will is capable of exercising, I determined with the whole force of my being that I would be present in spirit in the front bedroom on the second floor of a house situated at 22, Hogarth Road, Kensington, in which room slept two ladies of my acquaintance, viz., Miss L. S. V. and Miss E. C. V., aged respectively 25 and 11 years. I was living at this time at 23, Kildare Gardens, a distance of about 3 miles from Hogarth Road, and I had not mentioned in any way my intention of trying this experiment to either of the above ladies, for the simple reason that it was only on retiring to rest upon this Sunday night that I made up my mind to do so. The time at which I determined I would be there was 1 o’clock in the morning, and I also had a strong intention of making my presence perceptible.

{i-105}

“On the following Thursday I went to see the ladies in question, and, in the course of conversation (without any allusion to the subject on my part), the elder one told me, that, on the previous Sunday night, she had been much terrified by perceiving me standing by her bedside, and that she screamed when the apparition advanced towards her, and awoke her little sister, who saw me also.

“I asked her if she was awake at the time, and she replied most decidedly in the affirmative, and upon my inquiring the time of the occurrence, she replied, about 1 o’clock in the morning.

“This lady, at my request, wrote down a statement of the event and signed it.

“This was the first occasion upon which I tried an experiment of this kind, and its complete success startled me very much.

“Besides exercising my power of volition very strongly, I put forth an effort which I cannot find words to describe. I was conscious of a mysterious influence of some sort permeating in my body, and had a distinct impression that I was exercising some force with which I had been hitherto unacquainted, but which I can now at certain times set in motion at will.

“S. H. B.”

[Of the original entry in the almanack diary, Mr. B. says: “I recollect having made it within a week or so of the occurrence of the experiment, and whilst it was perfectly fresh in my memory.”]

Miss Verity’s account is as follows:—

“January 18th, 1883.

“On a certain Sunday evening, about twelve months since, at our house in Hogarth Road, Kensington, I distinctly saw Mr. B. in my room, about 1 o’clock. I was perfectly awake and was much terrified. I awoke my sister by screaming, and she saw the apparition herself. Three days after, when I saw Mr. B., I told him what had happened; but it was some time before I could recover from the shock I had received, and the remembrance is too vivid to be ever erased from my memory.

“L. S. VERITY.”

In answer to inquiries, Miss Verity adds:—

“I had never had any hallucination of the senses of any sort whatever.”

Miss E. C. Verity says:—

“I remember the occurrence of the event described by my sister in the annexed paragraph, and her description is quite correct. I saw the apparition which she saw, at the same time and under the same circumstances.

“E. C. VERITY.”

Miss A. S. Verity says:—

“I remember quite clearly the evening my eldest sister awoke me by calling to me from an adjoining room; and upon my going to her bedside, where she slept with my youngest sister, they both told me they had seen S. H. B. standing in the room. The time was about 1 o’clock. S. H. B. was in evening dress, they told me.1 1 Mr. B. does not remember how he was dressed on the night of the occurrence.

“A. S. VERITY.”

{i-106}

[Miss E. C. Verity was asleep when her sister caught sight of the figure, and was awoke by her sister’s exclaiming, “There is S.” The name had therefore met her ear before she herself saw the figure; and the hallucination on her part might thus be attributed to suggestion. But it is against this view that she has never had any other hallucination, and cannot therefore be considered as predisposed to such experiences. The sisters are both equally certain that the figure was in evening dress, and that it stood in one particular spot in the room. The gas was burning low, and the phantasmal figure was seen with far more clearness than a real figure would have been.

The witnesses have been very carefully cross-examined by the present writer. There is not the slightest doubt that their mention of the occurrence to S. H. B. was spontaneous. They had not at first intended to mention it; but when they saw him, their sense of its oddness overcame their resolution. I have already said that I regard Miss Verity as a careful and conscientious witness; I may add that she has no love of marvels, and has a considerable dread and dislike of this particular form of marvel.]

The next case of Mr. S. H. B.’s is different in this respect, that the percipient was not consciously present to the agent’s mind on the night that he made his attempt. The account is copied from the MS. book mentioned above.

(15) “On Friday, December 1st, 1882, at 9.30 p.m., I went into a room alone and sat by the fireside, and endeavoured so strongly to fix my mind upon the interior of a house at Kew (viz., Clarence Road), in which resided Miss V. and her two sisters, that I seemed to be actually in the house. During this experiment I must have fallen into a mesmeric sleep, for although I was conscious I could not move my limbs. I did not seem to have lost the power of moving them, but I could not make the effort to do so, and my hands, which lay loosely on my knees, about 6 inches apart, felt involuntarily drawn together and seemed to meet, although I was conscious that they did not move.

“At 10 p.m. I regained my normal state by an effort of the will, and then took a pencil and wrote down on a sheet of note-paper the foregoing statements.

“When I went to bed on this same night, I determined that I would be in the front bedroom of the above-mentioned house at 12 p.m., and remain there until I had made my spiritual presence perceptible to the inmates of that room.

“On the next day, Saturday, I went to Kew to spend the evening, and met there a married sister of Miss V. (viz., Mrs. L.) This lady I had only met once before, and then it was at a ball two years previous to the above date. We were both in fancy dress at the time, and as we did not exchange more than half-a-dozen words, this lady would naturally have lost any vivid recollection of my appearance, even if she had remarked it.

“In the course of conversation (although I did not think for a moment of asking her any questions on such a subject), she told me that on the previous night she had seen me distinctly upon two occasions. She {i-107} had spent the night at Clarence Road, and had slept in the front bedroom. At about half-past 9 she had seen me in the passage, going from one room to another, and at 12 p.m., when she was wide awake, she had seen me enter the bedroom and walk round to where she was sleeping, and take her hair (which is very long) into my hand. She also told me that the apparition took hold of her hand and gazed intently into it, whereupon she spoke, saying, ‘You need not look at the lines, for I have never had any trouble.’ She then awoke her sister, Miss V., who was sleeping with her, and told her about it. After hearing this account, I took the statement which I had written down on the previous evening, from my pocket, and showed it to some of the persons present, who were much astonished although incredulous.

“I asked Mrs. L. if she was not dreaming at the time of the latter experience, but this she stoutly denied, and stated that she had forgotten what I was like, but seeing me so distinctly she recognised me at once.

“Mrs. L. is a lady of highly imaginative temperament, and told me that she had been subject, since childhood, to psychological fancies,1 1 Asked to explain this phrase, Mr. B. says: “I have never heard of Mrs. L. having had any hallucinations. The fancies I alluded to were simply a few phenomena accounted for on the ground of ‘telepathic’ rapport between herself and Mr. L., such as having a distinct impression that he was coming home unexpectedly (whilst absent in the North of England), and finding on several occasions that the impressions were quite correct.” &c., but the wonderful coincidence of the time (which was exact) convinced me that what she told me was more than a flight of the imagination. At my request she wrote a brief account of her impressions and signed it.

“S. H. B.”

[Mr. B. was at Southall when he made this trial. He tells me that the above account was written down about ten days after the experiment, and that it embodies the entry made in his rough diary on the night of the trial.]

The following is the lady’s statement, which was forwarded to Mr. B., he tells us, “within a few weeks of the occurrence.”

“8, Wordsworth Road, Harrow.

“On Friday, December 1st, 1882, I was on a visit to my sister, 21, Clarence Road, Kew, and about 9.30 p.m. I was going from my bedroom to get some water from the bathroom, when I distinctly saw Mr. S. B., whom I had only seen once before, about two years ago, walk before me past the bathroom, towards the bedroom at the end of the landing. About 11 o’clock we retired for the night, and about 12 o’clock I was still awake, and the door opened2 2See p. 102, note. and Mr. S. B. came into the room and walked round to the bedside, and there stood with one foot on the ground and the other knee resting on a chair. He then took my hair into his hand, after which he took my hand in his, and looked very intently into the palm. ‘Ah,’ I said (speaking to him), ‘you need not look at the lines, for I never had any trouble.’ I then awoke my sister; I was not nervous, but excited, and began to fear some serious illness would befall her, she being delicate at the time, but she is progressing more favourably now.

“H. L.” [Full name signed.]

{i-108}

Miss Verity corroborates as follows:—

“I can remember quite well Mrs. L.’s mentioning her two visions—one at 9.30 and one at 12—at the time, and before S. H. B. came. When he came, my sister told him, and immediately he took a card (or paper, I forget which) out of his pocket, containing an account of the previous evening. I consider this testimony quite as good as if Mrs. L. were giving it, because I can recall so well these two days.

“My sister has told me that she never experienced any hallucination of the senses except on this occasion.

“L. S. VERITY.”

The present writer requested Mr. B. to send him a note on the night that he intended to make his next experiment of the kind, and received the following note by the first post on Monday, March 24th, 1884.

“March 22nd, 1884.

(16) “Dear Mr. Gurney,—I am going to try the experiment to-night of making my presence perceptible at 44, Norland Square, at 12 p.m. I will let you know the result in a few days.—Yours very sincerely,

“S. H. B.”

The next letter was received in the course of the following week:—

“April 3rd, 1884.

“DEAR MR. GURNEY,—I have a strange statement to show you, respecting my experiment, which was tried at your suggestion, and under the test conditions which you imposed.

“Having quite forgotten which night it was on which I attempted the projection, I cannot say whether the result is a brilliant success, or only a slight one, until I see the letter which I posted you on the evening of the experiment.

“Having sent you that letter, I did not deem it necessary to make a note in my diary, and consequently have let the exact date slip my memory.

“If the dates correspond, the success is complete in every detail, and I have an account signed and witnessed to show you.

“I saw the lady (who was the subject) for the first time last night, since the experiment, and she made a voluntary statement to me, which I wrote down at her dictation, and to which she has attached her signature. The date and time of the apparition are specified in this statement, and it will be for you to decide whether they are identical with those given in my letter to you. I have completely forgotten, but yet I fancy that they are the same.

“S. H. B.”

This is the statement:—

“44, Norland Square, W.

“On Saturday night, March 22nd, 1884, at about midnight, I had a distinct impression that Mr. S. H. B. was present in my room, and I distinctly saw him whilst I was quite widely awake. He came towards me, and stroked my hair. I voluntarily gave him this information, when he called to see me on Wednesday, April 2nd, telling him the time and {i-109} the circumstances of the apparition, without any suggestion on his part. The appearance in my room was most vivid, and quite unmistakeable.

L. S. VERITY.”

Miss A. S. Verity corroborates as follows:—

“I remember my sister telling me that she had seen S. H. B., and that he had touched her hair, before he came to see us on April 2nd.

“A. S. V.”

Mr. B.’s own account is as follows:—

“On Saturday, March 22nd, I determined to make my presence perceptible to Miss V., at 44, Norland Square, Notting Hill, at 12 midnight, and as I had previously arranged with Mr. Gurney that I should post him a letter on the evening on which I tried my next experiment (stating the time and other particulars), I sent a note to acquaint him with the above facts.

“About ten days afterwards I called upon Miss V., and she voluntarily told me, that on March 22nd, at 12 o’clock midnight, she had seen me so vividly in her room (whilst widely awake) that her nerves had been much shaken, and she had been obliged to send for a doctor in the morning.

“S. H. B.”

[Unfortunately Mr. B.’s intention to produce the impression of touching the percipient’s hair is not included in his written account. On August 21st, 1885, he wrote to me, “I remember that I had this intention;” and I myself remember that, very soon after the occurrence, he mentioned this as one of the points which made the success “complete in every detail”; and that I recommended him in any future trial to endeavour instead to produce the impression of some spoken phrase.]

It will be observed that in all these instances the conditions were the same—the agent concentrating his thoughts on the object in view before going to sleep. Mr. B. has never succeeded in producing a similar effect when he has been awake. And this restriction as to time has made it difficult to devise a plan by which the phenomenon could be tested by independent observers, one of whom might arrange to be in the company of the agent at a given time, and the other in that of the percipient. Nor is it easy to press for repetitions of the experiment, which is not an agreeable one to the percipient, and is followed by a considerable amount of nervous prostration. Moreover, if trials were frequently made with the same percipient, the value of success would diminish; for any latent expectation on the percipient’s part might be argued to be itself productive of the delusion, and the coincidence with the agent’s resolve might be explained as accidental. We have, of course, requested Mr. B. to try to produce the effect on ourselves; but though he has more than once made the attempt, it has not succeeded. We can therefore only wait, in the hope that time will bring fresh opportunities, and that other persons may be {i-110} induced to make the trial.1 [☼]1 Since this was written two further cases have been received—Nos. 685 and 686 in the Additional Chapter at the end of Vol. ii. I am strongly sensible of the natural repulsion which descriptions of such isolated marvels are likely to produce in most educated minds, and the more so when the details are of a slightly ludicrous kind. But the evidence to the facts is of such a quality that it could not have been suppressed without doing grave injustice to the case for telepathy.2 2It is, of course, of prime importance in cases of this sort to obtain the direct testimony of both the parties concerned. Partly for the lack of this, and partly because the percipient had received an intimation (though a considerable time before) that the experiment was some day to be tried, I do not lay stress on the following example. At the same time it is worth quoting, as I believe the narrator (who is personally known to me) to be a careful, as he is certainly an honest, witness. Mr. John Moule, of Codicote, Welwyn, Herts, after describing how, as a young man, he had considerable success as a mesmerist, adds:— “In the year 1855, I felt very anxious to try and affect the most sensitive of my mesmeric subjects away from my house, and unknown to them. I chose for this purpose a young lady, a Miss Drasey, and stated that some day I intended to visit her wherever she might be, although the place might be unknown to me; and told her, if anything particular should occur, to note the time, and when she called at my house again, to state if anything had occurred. One day about two months after (I not having seen her in the interval) I was by myself in my chemical factory, Redman’s Row, Mile End, London, all alone, and I determined to try the experiment, the lady being in Dalston, about three miles off. I stood up, raised my hands, and willed to act upon the lady. I soon felt that I had expended energy. I immediately sat down in a chair, and went to sleep. I then saw in a dream, my friend coming down the kitchen stairs, where I dreamt I was. She saw me, and suddenly exclaimed, ‘Oh! Mr. Moule,’ and fainted away. This I dreamt, and then awoke. I thought very little about it, supposing I had had an ordinary dream; but about three weeks after she came to my house, and related to my wife the singular occurrence of her seeing me sitting in the kitchen, where she then was, and that she fainted away, and nearly dropped some dishes she had in her hands. All this I saw exactly in my dream, so that I described the kitchen furniture, and where I sat, as perfectly as if I had been there, though I had never been in the house. I gave many details, and she said, ‘It is just as if you had been there.’ After this, she made me promise that I would never do it again, as she would never feel happy with the idea of me appearing to her. Some time after this, she left this country for Australia, and died a few years afterwards.” If this record is accurate, the case differs from those given in the text, inasmuch as the effect was reciprocal, the agent himself being telepathically impressed. Cf. case 685.

§ 9. But even a reader who can sufficiently rely on our knowledge of the witnesses to feel that the evidence is important, may find an objection of another kind. He may question our right to make any theoretic connection between the experimental results before discussed and these last-described cases. I have called the phenomena of the present chapter transitional, and have pointed out the way in which they form a bridge from the experimental thought-transference of the last chapter to the spontaneous telepathy that will occupy us for the future. But it may seem that the line of connection is after all only an external one; and that there is a deep essential difference—a gulf which cannot be thus lightly crossed—between the more ordinary facts of thought-transference and these apparitions of the agent. It is not only that in the latter the percipient’s impression has been of an external object—of something not merely flashed on the mind, but independently located in space: {i-111} that might be a mere question of degree. The more radical difference is this—that what the one party perceived was not that on which the mind of the other party had been concentrated. In a “thought-transference” experiment of the normal type, the percipient’s image or idea of a card or diagram is due (as we hold) to the fact that the agent has been directing his attention to that very image or idea. But in the case of these will-produced phantasms, the agent has not been picturing his own visible aspect. So far as he has been thinking of himself at all, it has been not of his aspect particularly, but of his personality, and of his personality in relation to the percipient. It is thus probable that the percipient’s aspect has formed a larger part of the agent’s whole idea than his own; yet it is his aspect, and nothing else, that is telepathically perceived. And a similar departure from the normal experimental type will meet us again in the large majority of the spontaneous telepathic cases. In some of these, the content of the agent’s mind, at the time when the percipient received some sensory impression of him, has been a forcible idea of the percipient, and of himself in relation to the percipient; in others, we shall find that even this bond was lacking, and that the percipient’s impression cannot be even loosely identified with any part of the conscious contents of the agent’s mind.

These facts have, no doubt, a very real theoretic importance: they reveal a certain incompleteness in the transition which I have been endeavouring to make. As long as the impression in the percipient’s mind is merely a reproduction of that in the agent’s mind, it is possible to conceive some sort of physical basis for the fact of the transference. The familiar phenomena of the transmission and reception of vibratory energy are ready to hand as analogies—the effect, for instance, of a swinging pendulum on another of equal length attached to the same solid support; or of one tuning-fork or string on another of the same pitch; or of glowing particles of a gas on cool molecules of the same substance. Still more tempting are the analogies of magnetic and electrical induction. A permanent magnet brought into a room will throw any surrounding iron into a similar condition; an electric current in one coil of wire will induce a current in a neighbouring coil; though here even the medium of communication is unknown. So it is possible to conceive that vibration-waves, or nervous induction, are a means whereby activity in one brain may evoke a kindred activity in another—with, of course, a similar {i-112} correspondence of psychical impressions. Even here, perhaps, the conception should rather be regarded as a metaphor than an analogy. We have only to remember that the effect of all the known physical forces diminishes with distance—whereas we shall find reason to think that, under appropriate conditions, an idea may be telepathically reproduced on the other side of the world as easily as on the other side of a room. The employment, therefore, of words like force, impulse, impact, in speaking of telepathic influences, must not be held to imply the faintest suspicion of what the force is, or any hypothesis whatever which would co-ordinate it with the recognised forces of the material world. Not only, as with other delicate phenomena of life and thought, is the subjective side of the problem the only one that we can yet attempt to analyse: we do not even know where to look for the objective side. If there really is a physical counterpart to the fact of transmission—over and above the movements in the two brains which are the termini of the transmission—that counterpart remains wholly unknown to us.

But a much more serious difficulty in the way of any physical conception of telepathy presents itself as soon as we pass to the cases where the image actually present in the agent’s mind is no longer reproduced in the percipient’s. A is dying at a distance; B sees his form. We may perhaps trace a relation between the processes in their two minds; but it certainly does not amount to anything like identity or distinct parallelism. That being so, there can be no such simple and immediate concordance as we have supposed, between the nervous vibrations of their two brains; and that being so, there is no obvious means of translating into physical terms the causal connection between their experiences. This difficulty will take a somewhat different aspect when we come later to consider the part which the mind’s unconscious operations may bear in telepathic phenomena. We may see grounds for thinking that a considerable community of experience (especially in emotional relations) between two persons may involve nervous records sufficiently similar to retain for one another some sort of revivable affinity, even when the experience has long lost its vividness for conscious memory. Meanwhile it is best to admit the difficulty without reserve, and to state in the most explicit way that in the rapprochement between experimental thought-transference and spontaneous telepathic impressions we are confining ourselves to the psychical aspect; we connect the phenomena as being in all cases {i-113} affections of one mind by another, occurring otherwise than through the recognised channels of sense. The objector may urge that if we have not, we ought to have, a physical theory which will embrace all the phenomena—that we ought not to talk about a rapport between A’s mind and B’s unless we can establish a bridge between their two brains. This seems rather to assume that the standing puzzle of the relation between cerebral and psychical events in the individual, B, can only be stated in one crude form—viz., that the former are prior and produce the latter; and though for ordinary purposes such an expression is convenient, the convenience has its dangers. Still, as the converse proposition—that the psychical events are the prior—would be equally dangerous, a crux remains which we cannot evade. Since we cannot doubt that B’s unwonted experience has its appropriate cerebral correlate, we have to admit that the energy of B’s brain is directed in a way in which it would not be directed but for something that has happened to A. In this physical effect it is impossible to assume that an external physical antecedent is not involved; and the relation of the antecedent to the effect is, as I have pointed out, hard to conceive, when the neural tremors in A’s brain are so unlike the neural tremors in B’s brain as they must presumably be when A’s mind is occupied with his immediate surroundings, or with the idea of death, and B’s mind is occupied with a sudden and unaccountable impression or vision of A.

But however things may be on the physical plane, the facts recorded in this book are purely psychical facts; and on the psychical plane it is possible to give to a heterogeneous array of them a certain orderly coherence, and to present them as a graduated series of natural phenomena. Can it be asserted that this treatment is illegitimate unless a concurrent physical theory can also be put forward? It is surely allowable to do one thing at a time. There is an unsolved mystery in the background; that we grant and remember; but it need not perpetually oppress us. After all, is there not that standing mystery of the cerebral and mental correlation in the individual—a mystery equally unsolved and perhaps more definitely and radically insoluble—at the background of every fact and doctrine of the recognised psychology? The psychologists work on as if it did not exist, or rather as if it were the most natural and intelligible thing in the world, and no one complains of them. All that we claim is a similar freedom.

{i-114}

CHAPTER IV.

GENERAL CRITICISM OF THE EVIDENCE FOR SPONTANEOUS TELEPATHY.

§ 1. WE have now to quit the experimental branch of our subject. We have been engaged, so far, with cases of thought-transference deliberately sought for and observed within the four walls of a room, both the agent and the percipient being aware of the object in view; and with the further cases where—though the distance between the agent and the percipient was often greater, and the latter had no intimation of what was intended—there was still a deliberate desire on the agent’s part to exert a telepathic influence, and a concentration of his mind on that object. For the remainder of our course we shall be entirely occupied with cases where no such desire or idea existed—where the effect produced on the percipient, though we may connect it with the state of the agent, was certainly not an effect which he was aiming at producing. And this change in the character of the facts is accompanied by a marked change in the character of the evidence—a change for which some of the transitional cases in the last chapter have already prepared us. Our conclusions will now have to be drawn from the records of persons who, at the time when the phenomena which they describe took place, were quite unaware that these would ever be used as evidence for telepathy or anything else. Nor have my colleagues and I any observations of our own to compare with what our witnesses tell us; the facts are known to us only through the medium of their report, and we shall have to decide how far the medium may be a distorting one. Our method of inquiry will thus be the historical method; and success will depend upon the exercise of a wider and less specialised form of common-sense than was required in the experimental work. A great many more points have to be taken into account in weighing human testimony than in arranging the conditions of a crucial trial of thought-transference. There, one precise and simple form of danger had to be guarded against—the {i-115} possibility of conscious or unconscious physical signs: here, dangers multiform and indeterminate will have to be allowed for. We shall be brought face to face with questions of character, of the general behaviour of human beings in various circumstances, and of the unconscious workings of the human mind; and a quite different sort of logic must come into play, involving often a very complex estimate of probabilities.

So all-important is it for our purpose to form a correct judgment as to the possible sources of error in this new department of evidence, that I have thought it best to devote the present chapter entirely to that subject.

§ 2. First, then, to face the most general objection of all. This may perhaps be stated as follows. All manner of false beliefs have in their day been able to muster a considerable amount of evidence in their support, much of which was certainly not consciously fraudulent. The form of superstition varies with the religious and educational conditions of the time; but within certain limits a diligent collector will be able to obtain evidence for pretty well anything that he chooses. There is, of course, a line—and every age will have its own line—beyond which it would be impossible for anyone who wished to be thought sane and educated to go; for instance, it would be impossible in the present day to obtain anything like respectable contemporary testimony for the transformation of old women into hares and cats. But short of this line there is always a range of ideas and beliefs as to which opinion is divided—which it is perfectly allowable to repudiate, and which science may treat with scorn, but which it is not a sign of abnormal ignorance or stupidity to entertain. And within this range evidence, and even educated evidence, for the beliefs will pretty certainly be forthcoming. For however much advancing knowledge may have limited the field of superstition, the fund of possibilities in the way of mal-observation, misinterpretation, and exaggeration of facts is still practically inexhaustible; and with such a fund to draw on, the belief, or the mere desire or tendency to believe, in any particular order of phenomena is sure, now and again, to light on facts which can be made to yield the semblance of a proof.

Now, though it is difficult to deny the force of this argument when stated in general terms, I think that it can be shown not seriously to invalidate the evidence which is here relied on as proof of the reality of spontaneous telepathy. For the sake of comparison, it will {i-116} be worth while to glance at the most striking example that modern times supply of the support of false beliefs by a large array of contemporary evidence—the case of witchcraft.

We may begin by excluding the enormous amount of the witch-evidence which consisted in confessions extracted by torture, terror, or false promises—“the casting evidence in most tryals,” as Hutchinson says; and also the large class of cases where the actual facts attested would not be disputed;—as where a woman was condemned because a child who had been with her hung its head on its return home, and rolled over in its cradle in the evening; or because a good many people or cattle had fallen sick in her village; or because she kept a tame frog, presumed to be her “imp”; or because on the very day that she had scolded a carter whose cart knocked up against her house, the self-same cart stuck in a gate, and the men who should have emptied it at night felt too tired to do so.1 1 Lilienthal, Die Hexenprocesse der beiden Städte Braunsberg (Königsberg,1861), p. 152; A Detection of Chelmsford Witches (London, 1579); Malleus Maleficarum (Lyons, 1620), Vol. i., p. 242; Müller, Beiträge zur Geschichte des Hexenglaubens (Brunswick, 1854), p. 35, &c.; Ady, Candle in the Dark (London, 1656), p. 135; Hutchinson, Historical Essay Concerning Witchcraft (London, 1720), p. 147. Putting these cases aside as irrelevant, anyone who looks carefully into the remaining records will find (1) that the actual testimony on which the alleged facts were believed came exclusively from the uneducated classes; and (2) that the easy acceptance of this evidence by better educated persons was due to the ignorance which was at that time all but universal respecting several great departments of natural phenomena—those of hallucination, trance, hysteria, and mesmerism. This ignorance took effect in the following way—that every piece of evidence to marvellous facts was perforce regarded as presenting one simple alternative:—either the facts happened as alleged; or the witnesses must be practising deliberate fraud. The latter hypothesis was, of course, an easy one enough to make in respect of this or that individual case, and was supported by indisputable examples; but it could not long be applied in any wholesale manner. The previous character of many of the persons involved, the aimlessness of such a fraud, the vast scale of the conspiracy which would have had to be organised in order to impose it on the world, and above all the fact that many of the witnesses brought on themselves nothing but opprobrium and persecution by their statements, made it practically impossible to doubt that the testimony was on the whole honestly given. Fraud, then, being excluded, there remained nothing but to believe {i-117} the facts genuine. Sane men and women spoke with obvious sincerity of what they had seen with their own eyes; how could such a proof be gainsaid? This is a point which Glanvil and other writers of the witch-epoch are for ever urging; if we reject these facts, they argue, we must reject all beliefs that have their basis in human testimony.

Happily we have now a totally different means of escaping from the dilemma. We know now that subjective hallucinations may possess the very fullest sensory character, and may be as real to the percipient as any object he ever beheld. I have myself heard an epileptic subject, who was perfectly sane and rational in his general conduct, describe a series of interviews that he had had with the devil, with a precision, and an absolute belief in the evidence of his senses, equal to anything that I ever read in the records of the witches’ compacts. And further, we know now that there is a condition, capable often of being induced in uneducated and simple persons with extreme ease, in which any idea that is suggested may at once take sensory form, and be projected as an actual hallucination. To those who have seen robust young men, in an early stage of hypnotic trance, staring with horror at a figure which appears to them to be walking on the ceiling, or giving way to strange convulsions under the impression that they have been changed into birds or snakes, there will be nothing very surprising in the belief of hysterical girls that they were possessed by some alien influence, or that their distant persecutor was actually present to their senses. It is true that in hypnotic experiments there is commonly some preliminary process by which the peculiar condition is induced, and that the idea which originates the delusion has then to be suggested ab extra.from outside But with sensitive “subjects” who have been much under any particular influence, a mere word will produce the effect; nor is there any feature in the evidence for witchcraft that more constantly recurs than the touching of the victim by the witch.1 1 Thus, in a case mentioned by De l’Anere, in the Tableau de l’Inconstance des mauvais Anges et Démons (Paris, 1612), p. 115, all the children who believed themselves to have been taken to a “Sabbath,” stated that the witch had passed her hand over their faces, or placed it on their heads. Moreover, no hard and fast line exists between the delusions of induced hypnotism and those of spontaneous trance, or of the grave hystero-epileptic crises which mere terror is now known to develop. And association between persons who were possessed with certain exciting ideas would readily account for the generation of a mutually contagious influence; as in cases where magic rites were performed by several persons in company; or {i-118} where a whole household or community was affected with some particular delusion.1 1 A True and Just Record of the Information taken at St. Osey, in Essex (London, 1582); Potts, Wonderfull Disooverie of Witches in the Countie of Lancaster, &c.. (London, 1613); the case of the Flowers in A Collection of Rare and Curious Tracts relating to Witchcraft between the Years 1618 and 1664, pp. 19, 21; Glanvil, Sadducismus Triumphatus, p. 581: Hutchinson, Op. cit., p. 53; Durbin, A Narrative of Some Extraordinary Things (Bristol, 1800), p. 47; Horst, Zauber-Bibliothek, p. 219; Madden, Phantasmata, Vol. i., pp. 346–7; T. Hutchinson, History of Massachusetts Bay (Boston, 1692), Vol. ii., p. 18; Richet, L’Homme et l’Intelligence (Paris, 1884), p. 392.

The above seems a sufficient explanation of the testimony which to the eyes of contemporaries appeared the strongest—the testimony of “possessed” persons, and of the professed participators in the incantation scenes and nocturnal orgies. As regards the alleged statements of independent persons who testified to having witnessed the aërial rides, transformations into animal forms, and such-like marvels, I would remark in the first place that the literature of witchcraft may be searched far and wide without encountering half-a-dozen first-hand statements of the sort;2 [☼]2 If “first-hand” be restricted (as it is throughout this book) to statements in the witness’s own words, I cannot point to a single such statement; but in the above phrase I mean merely the author’s statement of what was told directly to herself. The circumstantial evidence (also very meagre) for these miracles stands on different ground; as there the facts recorded are quite credible, and only the inference need be rejected. For example, the external evidence relied on for the supposed transformations was usually that the accused proved to have some bodily hurt on the same day as a wolf or some other animal had been wounded. and in the second place, that there is a characteristic of uneducated minds which is only exceptionally observed in educated adults—the tendency to confound mental images, pure and simple, with matters of fact. This tendency naturally allies itself with any set of images which is prominent in the beliefs of the time; and it is certain now and then to give to what are merely vivid ideas the character of bonâ fide memories. The imagination which may be unable to produce, even in feeble-minded persons, the belief that they see things that are not there, may be quite able to produce the belief that they have seen them—which is all, of course, that their testimony implies.3 3 Another explanation might be attempted, if (on the analogy of certain Indian juggling tricks) we could suppose the spectator to have been unawares subjected to a “mesmeric glamour,” whereby the suggestion of the magical occurrence was enabled to develop in his mind into an actual vision of it. One story in the Malleus Maleficarum, where a girl appeared to herself and to her friends to be a mare, while a priest (over whom the evil influence had no power) saw her as a girl, strongly recalls some of the Indian stories. See also the curious account of imps which appears in Witches of Huntingdon, Renfrew, and Essex (London, 1646). Such a result would, however, enormously transcend the range of mesmeric influence as so far recognised in the West; and we certainly need not strain hypotheses to save the credit of writers like Sprenger.

There is, however, one small class of phenomena connected with witchcraft which stands on different ground, as regards the quality of {i-119} the evidence adduced for it. A few cases are recorded, on really respectable authority, of a remarkable susceptibility, shown by persons whom we might now recognise as hypnotic “subjects,” to the conscious or unconscious influence of some absent person supposed to be a witch; and perhaps also of abnormal powers of discernment on the part of the supposed witches themselves. These alleged telepathic cases naturally fell into discredit along with all the other phenomena of occult agency. For the belief in witchcraft faded and ultimately died as a whole; not because each sort of phenomenon was in turn exposed or explained, or because any critical account of hallucinations and popular delusions was forthcoming, or even because a certain amount of distinct fraud was proved, but because the general tide of uncritical opinion took a turn towards scepticism as to matters supernatural. Now we are certainly not concerned to maintain that this or that instance of alleged telepathic influence ought to have been allowed to stand as genuine, when belief in the more phantastic phenomena was undermined. Is [sic] is probable that in the former, as in the latter, the influence of imagination was not allowed for, and that the different items of evidence were never tested and compared in the manner that true scientific scepticism would dictate. We, at any rate, have difficulty enough in testing the accuracy of contemporary evidence, and certainly are not going to rest any part of our case on the records of a by-gone age. But if anyone who has studied the evidence for witchcraft urges these cases as a proof that the more recent telepathic evidence is unworthy of attention, it is reasonable to remark that if telepathy is in operation now, it was probably in operation then; and that the only cases of supposed magic with which persons of sense and education seem, at the time, to have come to close quarters were similar in character to cases for which persons of sense and education are still found to offer their personal testimony.1 1 Of the early records the best known is the evidence of the Père Surin and others in respect of the hysterical epidemic in the Ursuline convent at Loudun, in 1633. But perhaps the most carefully observed case is the older one given in the Most Strange and Admirable Discovery of the Three Witches of Warboys (London, 1593), of which Sir W. Scott’s account (Demonology and Witchcraft, p. 238) gives a very imperfect idea. Another example of much the same kind is given in G. More’s True Discourse against S. Harsnet (London, 1600). The cases where the victim showed uneasiness when the absent witch was at large, and relief when she was bolted, though quite inconclusive, seem occasionally to have been rationally tested. (Witchcraft further Displayed, London, 1712, p. 21; History of the Witches of Renfrewshire, Paisley, 1809, p. 134; Sadducismus Debellatus, London, 1698, p. 47.) The assertions that “possessed persons” were able to read secrets present sometimes this sign of sobriety, that the revelations are said to have concerned only past and present, not future, things (see, e.g., Lercheimer, Ein Christlich Bedenken und Erinnerung von Zauberei, Heidelberg, 1585; and Majolus, Dies Caniculares, Mainz, 1614, p. 593); but as such a power finds no parallel in the telepathy of our day, it is satisfactory rather than otherwise to find that it is supported by hardly anything that can be called evidence. The strongest item is perhaps the testimony of Poncet to the powers of some of the convulsionnaires of St. Médard (see Bertrand, Du Magnétisme Animal, Paris, 1826, p. 435). Nor do the “thought-reading” stories about Somers (e.g., in Darrell’s Brief Apologie and Detection, London, 1599 and 1600), and about Escot de Parme (De l’Anere, L’Incredulité et Mescréance du Sortilège, Paris, 1622) reach even the lowest evidential grade. It would be useless to multiply indecisive instances. If the least wretchedly-attested cases, even in the most wretched collections of witch-anecdotes, turn out to be those which admit of a telepathic explanation, yet much stronger cases might well be damned by such company. And though some of the less credulous authors, who have a real notion of natural causes and of what constitutes proof, seem to have felt the evidence for supersensuous communications to be too strong to resist (e.g., Cotta in The Infallible, True and Assured Witch, London, 1625) their general position is too wavering for their authority to have any weight. One rises from their works feeling that this was the side of the subject which had produced on them the strongest impression of reality; and that is all that can be said.

{i-120}

But in whatever light these residual cases be regarded, the general conclusion remains the same—that the phenomena which were characteristic of witchcraft, and which are an accepted type of exploded superstitions, never rested on the first-hand testimony of educated and intelligent persons; and the sweeping assertion which is often made that such persons were, in their day, witnesses to the truth of these absurdities needs, therefore, to be carefully guarded. What the educated and intelligent believers did was to accept from others, as evidence of objective facts, statements which were really only evidence of subjective facts. And they did this naturally and excusably, because they lived at a time when the science of psychology was in its infancy, and the necessary means of correction were not within their reach.1 1 I am speaking—it must be remembered—of the attitude of educated and intelligent persons towards assertions which might (however loosely) be described as evidence. That such persons often showed themselves credulous and uninquiring in attaching value to mere legends and local gossip is of course true enough, but does not concern the present argument. For a justification of the above remarks, see the Note on Witchcraft at the end of this chapter.

One further criticism may be made as to the mental condition of those who were in any direct sense witnesses to the facts. They were invariably persons inclined to such beliefs to begin with—who had been brought up in them and had accepted them as a matter of course. We have no record of anyone who had all his life declined to admit the reality of the alleged phenomena, and who was suddenly convinced of his mistake by coming into personal contact with them.

§ 3. We are now in a position to perceive, by comparison, how the case stands with the evidence for telepathy which awaits examination. It would almost be sufficient to say that the comparison is an absolute contrast in respect of every point which has been mentioned. A very large number of our first-hand witnesses are {i-121} educated and intelligent persons, whose sobriety of judgment has never been called in question. For the most part, moreover, they have been in no way inclined to admit the reality of the phenomena, prior to themselves encountering them. By many of them even what they themselves narrate has not been regarded with special interest; while others, who have been unable to get behind their own experience, have expressed scepticism as to the existence of the phenomena as a class.1 1 It is amusing sometimes to encounter arbitrary fragments of scepticism, combined with a belief in the “supernatural” character of many of the coincidences which we are endeavouring to account for as natural. Thus a gentleman contributes a case to Knowledge (May 16th, 1884) and concludes his letter thus: “Personally, I do not believe in apparitions, nor in anything akin thereto; but coincidences such as you record from week to week must have happened to most of us, and obtuse indeed must the individual be who does not think that there is something supernatural sometimes even in coincidences.” The facts themselves have no special affinity with any particular form of faith; they are not facts in a belief of which any one is specially brought up. And here we may contrast telepathy, not only with the comparatively modern superstition of witchcraft, but with phenomena of much older and wider acceptance—the alleged apparitions of the dead. The continued existence of departed friends and relatives has been one of the most constant elements of religious belief; and that myths should grow up respecting their appearances to survivors is what might have naturally been looked for. But even in respect of the most striking sort of phenomena with which we shall here be concerned—apparitions at the time of death—we do not find in men’s prevalent habits of thought, at any stage of culture, elements which would be particularly likely to produce a myth on the subject. And as a matter of fact, if we go to the classes of persons whose beliefs have no special relation to evidence, we do actually find the one myth prevalent, and not the other. The idea of apparitions after death has a wide and strong hold on the popular mind; the idea of apparitions at the time either of death, or of serious crises in life, has no established vogue. Instances are, no doubt, to be met with in books of history, biography, and travel; and the range which such notices cover is itself important, as showing that the idea, though so far from universally prevalent, is for all that not in any sense a speciality of particular times or localities. But though numerous, the instances are sporadic; they appear as isolated marvels, which even those who experienced them regarded as such, and not as evidences to any widely-believed reality. So much is this the case that to many persons with {i-122} whom we have conversed on the subject we find that the very idea of such phenomena is practically new; and that “apparitions,” whether delusions or realities, have always been considered by them as apparitions of the dead.1 1 Next to these, the best-recognised class are undoubtedly the premonitory apparitions of “second-sight.” Since the above remarks were written, I am glad to find them implicitly confirmed by a very high authority on myth and folk-lore, Mr. Andrew Lang. In the Nineteenth Century for April, 1885, he showed very clearly and amusingly how the same types of “ghost-story” are found in the most distant places, and in the most diverse stages of culture—whether owing to some common basis of fact, or to the same pervading love of the mysterious, or (as is sometimes undoubtedly the case) to the survival of remnants of primitive superstitions in the midst of an advancing civilisation. But though most of his instances are drawn from barbarous countries, he “has not encountered, among savages, more than one example” pointing to a belief in what we call telepathic impressions; and even that one is a very doubtful example. There is, as I have said, a certain amount of sporadic evidence that the phenomena have been noticed at many different times and places; but of any pervading belief, such as would cause people to be on the qui vive for them and would ensure a perpetual supply of spurious evidence, neither we nor apparently Mr. Lang can find any indication whatever. And if this is true of the more striking telepathic cases, à fortiori is it true of the less striking. The class of apparitions and impressions which have corresponded with the death of the “agent” has only been vaguely recognised; the class which have corresponded with a state of passing excitement or danger can hardly be said to have been recognised at all. Even persons with whose general way of thinking they might seem compatible are apt to be repelled by their apparent uselessness, and certainly are not wont to exhibit any à priori belief in their reality; while to others who have encountered them, they have appeared in the objectionable light of a puzzle, without analogies and without a place in the recognised order of Nature.

But though I think that it is not hard to distinguish the evidence on which we rely from the evidence for various forms of popular superstition, and to show that, as a matter of fact, telepathy is not a popular superstition, I am far from denying a certain degree of force to the line of objection above suggested. Ignorance, credulity, and a predisposition to believe in a particular order of marvels, are not the only sources of unconscious falsification in human testimony; and it by no means follows, because these particular elements of error are absent, that a bonâ fide first-hand narrative of contemporary facts is trustworthy. And having briefly considered certain dangers and objections from which we think that our telepathic evidence is free, I proceed now to consider certain others to which it is to a certain extent exposed, and to explain the means by which we have endeavoured to obviate or reduce them.

{i-123}

§ 4. It will be best to enumerate, one by one, the general sources of error which may affect the testimony of honest and fairly-educated persons, to events that are both unusual and of a sort unrecognised by contemporary science. We shall thus be able to observe in detail how far each is likely to have affected the evidence here brought forward.

The most obvious danger may seem to lie in errors of observation and inference. And first as to errors of observation. The phenomena with which these have to do are naturally objective phenomena. It is only in reference to the objective world that observation can be proved to be accurate or faulty; the faulty observation is that which interprets real things in a way that does not correspond with reality. Now misinterpretation of this sort may undoubtedly produce spurious telepathic cases; and wherever we can suppose it to have been possible, we are bound to exclude the case from our evidence. Thus we have a group of narratives of the following type, suggesting a mistake of identity.

Mrs. Campbell, of Dunstaffnage, Oban, wrote, in June, 1884:—

“Two years ago one of our tenant farmers was very ill, and my brother asked me to inquire how he was, on my way back from a walk I was going to take with a cousin of mine. We went, but on passing the old man’s house I forgot to go in, and soon we arrived at our avenue, when my cousin reminded me of not having asked for the sick man. I thought of returning, when I distinctly saw the old man, followed by his favourite dog, cross a field in front of us, and go into his house, and I remarked to my cousin, who also had seen the old man and his dog, that as he was so well that he was able to walk about, there was not much use in going to inquire for him, so we went on home. But on arriving there, my brother came to tell us that the old man’s son had just been to say that his father had just died.”

Here it is possible, and therefore for evidential purposes necessary, to suppose that the figure seen was a neighbour, or perhaps the old man’s son.1 1 I may say here, once for all, that our gratitude to an informant is none the less because his or her experience may not have appeared relevant to the direct argument of this book. Such cases have often been very useful and instructive in other ways. The next incident, given in the words of Mrs. Saxby, of Mount Elton, Clevedon, was narrated to her and other friends by the late Rev. G. Ridout, Vicar of Newland, Gloucestershire, on whom it had made a very serious impression.

“My sister and I were left orphans when we were extremely young. We were very fond of each other. When I was nearly grown up, I was sent to Magdalen College, Oxford. While there, one day when I was {i-124} walking in the cloisters, I saw my sister walking before me, dressed in white. I knew that she was not staying in Oxford, and I was much surprised at seeing her there—but I had no doubt whatever that it was my sister. She passed along the cloister before me, I following close behind her till she turned the first angle. To my surprise, when I reached the same place, instead of seeing her before me, she was gone. Immediately the conviction that she was dead seized me, and I felt myself strengthened to receive the tidings of her death, which reached me next day.”

The disappearance here seems to have been strangely sudden; but we have not been able to cross-examine the witness; and one knows that people of flesh and blood do sometimes get out of sight round corners in odd ways. Again, the Rev. C. Woodcock, Rector of All Saints’, Axminster, writes:—

“January 8th, 1884.

“The following fact was often narrated in my presence by my father, who has been dead upwards of thirty years. He was once invited, when a young man, to breakfast on the ground floor at St. James’s Palace, to meet a particular friend. He was punctual to the appointed hour; but not so the expected guest. The hour had struck, but neither party present was willing to sit down without the mutual friend. They had not long to wait for seeming satisfaction, for as each stood at a window opposite the thoroughfare to the park, both exclaimed at the same moment, ‘Oh! there he is,’ and the host, so fully satisfied in his ocular assurance, went to the door on the other side of the house, to welcome his friend, instead of waiting for his announcement. He stood there in vain; the friend never appeared, to the great astonishment of all present; for two persons standing at different windows agreed that they saw him pass at the identical moment. Within an hour, a man-servant appeared to announce that his master, the expected guest, was found dead in his bed that morning. My father was a member of the Madras C. S.; the name of his host I forget.”

Here the eyes of two persons were concerned; but they were in an expectant state of mind, which is eminently favourable to such mistakes. In another case, two gentlemen crossed Piccadilly under the impression that they saw a friend, who, as it turned out, died in India on that day. But it is needless to multiply instances; in all of them the figure seen has been out of doors, and at some yards’ distance; and these being the very circumstances in which we know that spurious recognitions often take place, there is nothing surprising in an occasional coincidence of the sort described. Similarly, a person may hear a call, perhaps of his own Christian name, outside his house, and may mistake the voice for that of a friend; and, “in due course,” as our informants sometimes say, the news of that friend’s {i-125} death may arrive.1 1 The following example has a comic as well as a tragic side. A gentleman, with whom the present writer is well acquainted, had attained some skill in “ventriloquism,” and used occasionally to amuse himself by mystifying his friends. He was one day idly swinging on a trapeze in the Ramsgate Gymnasium, and was chatting with the wife and daughter of Mr. R., the manager of the place, who were at a window above him. “It occurred to me to put my powers into practice for the benefit of everybody, so I delivered myself of a long, low wail, carefully muffled and made distant, so as to resemble a cry from the rocks on the seashore below. Without really thinking much of what I was doing, I amused myself for about a minute by producing ‘Oh’s!’ Suddenly there was a disturbance above, Mr. R. rushed upstairs, and I saw his wife hurried off by her family in a state of collapse. I supposed she had been taken ill, and thought no more of the matter. “I did not attend the gymnasium for the next few days; but a friend who did learnt what the mystery was. It appears that Mrs. R., who had several sons abroad, had received, at one time or another, what you call ‘telepathic’ indications of any illness or death happening to any of them. My imitation of a distant person in distress had been heard and regarded by her as one of these telepathic messages, and implanted in her mind the belief that a son, who was abroad, and from whom they had not heard for some time, had at that moment died. So convinced was she that the voice she heard was that of her dying son, that she refused to listen to any comfortings, and gave herself up to despair. She did not recover from the shock for upwards of three weeks, and never quite forgave me.” But it is only to an inconsiderable fraction of the evidence here presented that such explanations could by any possibility be applied. The large majority of the alleged experiences are, on the face of them, subjective phenomena, in the sense that they are independent of any real objects in the environment, and of any mistakes possible in connection with such objects, and are due to a peculiar affection of the percipient’s own mind. This mode of regarding them (and the reservations with which the word “subjective” must be used) will be fully explained in the sequel. It is enough for the present to note that the witness who would be an unsafe authority if he said “Sea-serpents exist,” may be a safe authority if he says, “I saw what appeared to be a sea-serpent”; and this amount of assertion is all that the telepathic evidence involves. All the accuracy of observation required of the witness has to do with what he seemed to himself to see, or to hear, or to feel.

Nor in our cases is the danger of errors of inference so serious as might be imagined. A man may, no doubt, see something odd or indefinite, at the time that his mother dies at a distance, and may infer that it bodes calamity; and if, after he hears of the death, he infers and reports that he saw his mother’s form, the error will be a very grave one. But it will be more convenient to treat retrospective mistakes of this sort under the head of errors of memory. And with a percipient’s interpretation of his impression at the moment we have really very little concern. He may see the apparition of a relative in his room, and infer first that it is the relative’s real figure in flesh and blood, and next that it is the relative’s spirit. Neither inference has any relation to our argument. {i-126} The only fact that concerns us is the fact that he had the subjective impression of seeing his relative. I may refer once more, by way of contrast, to the case of witchcraft, where the very basis of the superstition was error of inference,—error shown (and by the more intelligent class exclusively shown) not in the giving but in the interpreting of testimony.

§ 5. The tendencies to error which more vitally concern us fall broadly into two classes—tendencies to error in narration, and tendencies to error of memory. Let us ask, then, what are the various conscious or unconscious motives which may cause persons who belong to the educated class, and who have a general character for truthfulness, to narrate experiences of telepathic impressions in a manner which is not strictly accurate?

One motive which has undoubtedly to be allowed for in some cases is the desire to make the account edifying. This danger naturally attaches to the evidence for any class of facts which can be regarded, however erroneously, as transcending natural law. Enthusiastic persons will value an unusual occurrence, not for its intrinsic interest, but for its tendency, if accepted, to convert others to their own way of belief; and they will be apt to shape and colour their account of it with a view to the desired effect. Intent on pointing the moral, they will unconsciously adorn the tale. This source of error is one which it is specially necessary to bear in mind where some particular type of story is connected with a particular religious sect. The literature of the Society of Friends, for instance, is remarkably rich in accounts of providential monitions and premonitions; and it supplies also a considerable number of telepathic cases. But we have already seen that telepathy does not specially lend itself to the support of definite articles of faith. Nor is any one who takes the trouble to study our evidence likely to maintain that errors of narration have largely entered into it under the influence of a propagandist zeal. It is rather for the sake of completeness than on account of its practical importance that such a possibility has been mentioned.1 1 Curiously enough, the only specially “edifying” incident which has reached us on what seemed good authority, turns out to be quite inadmissible as evidence. The account was received from the Rev. G. B. Simeon, of St. John’s Vicarage, Gainsborough, of whose accuracy as a narrator we feel no doubt. He says:— “January 10th, 1884. “When I was in Oxford, a story was going about to the effect that Dr. Pusey had seen an apparition in High Street, and I undertook to ask him whether it was true. He said No, but that the report was probably founded on the following truth:— “Two clergymen, A and B, well known to himself and very great friends, were together in the neighbourhood of Oxford. One of them, B, went away on a visit. The other, A, was in the garden, and saw his friend B come in at the gate and approach him. On expressing his surprise at seeing him return sooner than was expected, his friend B replied, in an agitated manner, ‘I have been in hell for half an hour because I loved the praise of men more than the praise of God,’ and turning, immediately left the garden. In the course of the next day, A, going out into the parish, met a third person, who stopped him and said, ‘Do you know, sir, that devoted servant of God, B, is dead suddenly?’ On further inquiry he found he had died the previous day shortly before his appearance in the garden. “The underlined words were exactly those used by Dr. Pusey, and the whole manner of his telling made me feel sure that A was himself, although I did not like to ask him point blank. But he assured me he knew it to be true, and that, doubtless, it had given rise to the story going about Oxford. I fear you will think that, like most of these things, it lacks the full details, which probably none but Dr. Pusey could give, and which I felt it would be presumptuous to ask for.” The same story—with some differences of detail—is reported to have been told by Dr. Pusey, as a personal experience, to the Sisters in Osnaburgh Street (see p. 25 of Sisterhoods of the Church of England, by Margaret Goodman). Nevertheless, we are forced to conclude that those to whom Dr. Pusey narrated the incident were mistaken in supposing him to refer to himself. For it is scarcely possible to doubt that a story published as long ago as 1819, in the Imperial Magazine (Liverpool), p. 963, and given also in the Life of Mr. W. Bramwell, 1839, is the original of what he told. The vision appears there as a dream, not a waking percept. Otherwise the central incident is the same, and the very words used by the phantom are almost identical. But the names of the parties are not given, and all our guarantee for the correctness of the account vanishes. This case is of interest, as showing the importance of probing a witness as thoroughly as possible whiles one is in the way with him.

{i-127}

A far more frequent and effective source of error in narration is the tendency to make the account graphic and picturesque. Among human beings, the motives which prompt narration of matters unconnected with business or the mere machinery of life are mainly two,—a desire to interest one’s auditor; and a desire to put oneself en evidence, to feed one’s own self-esteem by attracting and retaining the attention of others. The influence of each of these motives is towards making the story as good a one as possible. And though, as I have already said, a good deal of our evidence comes from persons who profess to have had no bias in favour of the reality of such events as they describe, and wish rather that they had not occurred, still the instinct to make what one says seem worth saying is too general for it ever to be safe to assume its absence. In such a subject as ours, this instinct will find its chief opportunity in making things appear marvellous. The reader must decide for himself how far the evidence to be here presented bears the stamp of the wonder-mongerer[☼] or raconteur. The desire to make people open their eyes is no doubt perfectly compatible with a habit of truthfulness in the ordinary affairs of life. Still, the desire, as a rule, is actually to see the eyes opening; and the danger is therefore greater in the case of a story which is told off-hand and vivâ voce for the sake of immediate effect, than in the case of evidence which is first written down at leisure, and has then to undergo the ordeal of a careful and detailed scrutiny. Nor must we forget that there is another instinct which tends directly {i-128} to discourage wonder-mongering, at any rate in the narration of unusual personal experiences—the instinct to win belief. Where the risk of being disbelieved is appreciable, a sense of accuracy becomes also a sense of security; a thing being credible to oneself just because it is fact, the consciousness of not exaggerating the fact begets a sort of trust that others may somehow find it credible. And with the class from whom our evidence is chiefly drawn, this influence seems not less likely to be operative than the desire to say something startling. The latter tendency is more prone on the whole to affect second-hand witnesses, who do not feel bound to exercise any economy of the miraculous, who can always fall back on the plea that they are only telling what was told to them, and who may easily be led into inaccuracies by the analogy of other marvellous stories.

And indeed it is a matter of ordinary observation, by no means confined to “psychical research,” that where the subject of narration has nothing to do with merit, and what is alleged to have been done or suffered is not of a sort to attract admiration to the doer or sufferer, the more extravagant sort of stories are given, not as personal experiences, but on the authority of someone else. If there is exaggeration, it is “a friend” who is to blame; and this term is used on such occasions with considerable latitude. I have already noted how, in the case of witchcraft, the more bizarre incidents do not rest on anything like traceable first-hand testimony. This remark is applicable in a general way to the whole field of evidence for marvellous events, as recorded in modern literature; and the same fact has been very noticeable with respect to the evidence, of very various sorts and qualities, which has come under the attention of my colleagues and myself during the last few years. We have often taken the trouble to trace and test the matter of those sensational newspaper-paragraphs which get so freely copied from one journal into another; but in scarcely one per cent. of the cases has the evidence held water. And in the ordinary talk of society, where there is often a show or assertion of authority for the statements made, one gradually learns to diagnose with confidence the accounts which profess to be second or third hand from the original, but of which no original will ever be forthcoming. An example is the well-known tale of the dripping letter, handed to a lady by the phantasmal figure of a midshipman who had been drowned before he could execute his commission. If the newspaper-anecdotes were like bubbles that break in the pursuer’s hand, a society-marvel of this stamp may be {i-129} more fitly compared to a will-o’-the-wisp: one never gets any nearer to it. Then there is the young lady who was preserved from a railway accident by seeing the apparition of her fiancé on the platform of three consecutive stations—which induced her to alight. Here I was actually promised an introduction to the heroine: what I finally received was a reference to “a friend of the lady who told the story.” Or, again, there is the tale of second-sight, so widely told during the last three years, where the visitor saw a daughter of the house stabbed by a stranger, whom he has since identified as her husband, and has remorselessly dogged in hansom cabs. Three or four times have we been, so to speak, “one off” this story; but the various clues have shown no sign of converging; and we still occasionally hear of the happy couple as on their honeymoon.

§ 6. Turning now to the sources of error in memory, we find the danger here is of a more insidious kind, in that comparatively few persons realise the extent to which it exists in their own case. For one who is innocent of any desire to impress his auditor in any particular way, and who simply desires to tell the truth, it is not easy to realise that he may be an untrustworthy witness about matters concerning himself. The weaknesses of human memory, and the precautions which they necessitate, will be so frequent a topic in the sequel that a brief classification will here suffice.

We must allow, in the first place, for a common result of the belief in supernatural influences and providential interpositions. Persons who are interested in such ideas will be keenly alive to any phenomena which seem to transcend a purely materialistic view of life. They will be apt to see facts of this class where they do not exist, and to interpret in this sense small or vague occurrences which if accurately examined at the time might have been otherwise explained. And where this tendency exists, it is almost inevitable that, as time goes on, the occurrence should represent itself to memory more and more in the desired light, that inconvenient details should drop out, and that the remainder should stand out in a deceptively significant and harmonious form. Of the cases to be here presented, however, only a very small proportion betray any idea on the part of the witness that what he recounts has any special religious or philosophical significance. Our informants have had no motive to conceal from us their real view of the facts; and if they narrate an incident as simply strange or {i-130} unaccountable, we have no right to assume their evidence to have been coloured by an emotional sense that materialism had been refuted in their person, or that supernatural communications had been permitted to them. Indeed, as regards religious and emotional prepossessions, we are certainly justified in thinking that they have rather been hindrances than helps to the presentation of an abundant array of evidence. For it has happened in many instances that persons whose testimony would have been a valuable addition to the case for telepathy, have felt their experiences to be too intimate or too sacred for publication.1 1 To take a single instance—a lady sends us an unsensational narrative of the ordinary type, as to how one day in 1882, when just about to sit down to the piano, she saw close to her the figure of an old school-friend, who, as it turned out, died on that day at a distance. “I am confident,” she says, “of having seen the vision, though my common-sense makes me wish to put it down to imagination. I never saw any vision of any kind before or since.” But we are withheld from quoting the account in a form which could have any evidential value, by her feeling that such publication would be wrong.

But apart from any bias of an emotional or speculative sort, we must certainly admit a general tendency in the human mind to make any picture of facts definite. To many people vagueness of emotion or of speculation is a delight; but no one enjoys vagueness of memory. In thinking of an event which was in any way shadowy or uncertain, there is always a certain irksomeness in realising clearly how little clear it was. The same applies, of course, to events at which we look back through any considerable interval of time. The very effort to recall them implies an effort to represent them to the mind as precisely and completely as possible, and it is often not observed that the precision thus attained is not that of reality.

Lastly, there is a general tendency to lighten the burden of memory by simplifying its contents—by bringing any group of connected events into as round and portable a form as possible. This may, of course, only result in the loss of excrescences and subordinate features, while the essential incident is left intact. But we shall find instances further on where simplification really alters the character of the evidence. Details may not simply drop out; they may undergo a change, and group themselves conveniently round some central idea. It might reasonably be expected, and we ourselves certainly began by expecting, that error from this source would always tell in the direction of actual distortion and exaggeration; if the aspect of the case was to some extent striking and significant to begin with, it would seem likely that this aspect of it should become {i-131} more pronounced as it assumed a more isolated place in the mind, and lost its connection with the normal stream of experience in the course of which it appeared. As a matter of fact, however, this is by no means always what happens. For instance, we have met with several cases of the following sort. An impression of a remarkable kind, and which, if telepathy exists, may fairly be regarded as telepathic, has been produced on a percipient while in a state which he recognised at the time as one of complete wakefulness, and which was practically proved to be so by the fact that he did not wake from it—that it formed a connected part of his waking life. But in the natural gravitation towards easy accounts of things, he gradually gets to look back on this experience as a dream; that is, he allows the verdict of subsequent memory to supplant the verdict of immediate consciousness. We must not then say in our haste, all men—or all memories—are exaggerators. Even where evidence has been modified in passing through several mouths, a comparison between later and earlier versions of the same occurrence has sometimes shown that its more striking and significant characteristics have lost rather than gained by the transmission. But this is no doubt the exception.

§ 7. Such, in brief outline, are the principal sources of error which may in a general way be supposed to affect the sort of evidence with which we are concerned; and our next step must be to fix with precision what the actual opportunities for perversion are. The evidence for telepathy has a certain type and structure of its own, and we must realise what this is, in order to know where to look for the weak points. What, then, are the essential elements of a typical telepathic phenomenon? They consist in two events or two states, of a more or less remarkable kind, and connected, as a rule, by certain common characteristics; and of a certain time-relation between the two. For example, if a flawless case is to be presented, it would be of the following type and composition: It would comprise (1) indisputable evidence that A (whom we call the agent) has had an unusual experience—say, has died; (2) indisputable evidence that B (whom we call the percipient) has had an unusual experience which includes a certain impression of A—say, has, while wide awake, had a vision of A in the room; (3) indisputable evidence that the two events coincided in time—which, of course, implies that their respective dates can be accurately fixed. When I call such evidence as this flawless, I do not, of course, mean that it is conclusive: the fact that the two {i-132} events occurred, and the fact that they occurred simultaneously, might be placed beyond dispute, and the coincidence might, for all that, be due not to telepathy, but to chance alone. But though no single case can prove telepathy, no case where the above conditions are not to some extent realised can even help to prove it. Briefly, then, if the account of some alleged instance of telepathy-is evidentially faulty, there must be misrepresentation as to one or more of the following items: (1) the state of the agent; (2) the experience of the percipient; (3) the time of (1); (4) the time of (2).

Now the evidence where the chances of misrepresentation have primarily to be considered is clearly that of the percipient. It is the percipient’s mention of his own experience which makes, so to speak, the ground-work of the case; unless the percipient gives his own account of this experience, the case is in no sense a first-hand one; whereas if such an account is given we should consider the evidence first-hand, even though the account of the agent’s state is not obtained from himself. Of course when the agent is in a position to give an account, it is important that his evidence should be procured; but this is impossible in the numerous cases where his share in the matter consists simply in dying. In these cases, then, we are dependent on others for evidence as to the agent’s side of the occurrence; and primarily often on the percipient, who is our first and indispensable witness for the whole matter. This being premised, we shall have no difficulty in discovering where the risks of misrepresentation really lie.

§ 8. Taking the above four items in order, the first of them—the state of the agent—is the one where the risk is smallest. To take the commonest case, the very fact, death, which makes it impossible to obtain the agent’s personal testimony, is an event as to which, of all others in his history, it is least likely that a person who knew him should be in error. It is one also as to which corroboration of the percipient’s statement is often most easily obtained; either from the verbal testimony of surviving relatives and friends, or from contemporary letters, notices, and obituaries. And where the event which has befallen the agent falls short of this degree of gravity, it is probably still sufficiently out of the common for the ascertainment of it by the percipient and others to have been natural and easy; and à fortiori sufficiently out of the common to have stamped itself on {i-133} the memory of the agent himself, who may now be available as a witness.1 1 The less exceptional the event, the less of course is the evidential force of the case, and the more important it is to obtain the direct testimony of the agent. A lady of my acquaintance informed me that on the 21st of October, 1883, she had a startling and distressing vision of a kind unique in her experience—in which she seemed to pay a visit to a former school-fellow, whom she had not heard of for more than ten years, to console her in a recent bereavement. The extent of my informant’s agitation and distress was testified to by a near relative, to whom she had at once narrated her experience. A few days afterwards a notice in the Times obituary showed that her friend’s husband had died on October 20th. Had the widow’s thoughts, then, in her fresh sorrow, turned to her early associate and sympathetically impressed her? The widow, perhaps, might have told us; but on inquiry we find that the wife had died some years before her husband.

When we come to the next item—the experience of the percipient—the risk of misrepresentation seems decidedly to increase. For the witness is now recounting something purely personal, for the occurrence of which he can produce no objective proofs. He says that he saw something, or heard something, or felt something, which struck him as remarkable (in many cases, indeed, as unique in his experience), and this has to be taken on his word; no external observation of him (even were anyone present with him at the time) could reveal whether he was actually experiencing these sensations which he afterwards described. Now to a careless glance it may seem that there is a loophole here, through which enough error may enter to invalidate the whole case. It may be said that the percipient was perhaps nervous, or unwell, or imaginative; and that a report of impressions which are received under such conditions cannot be relied on as evidence. But in what was said above as to errors of observation, this objection has been practically answered. It would be in place if the question were whether what he thought he perceived was really there; but it is not in place when the question is simply what he thought he perceived. We are discussing the experience of the percipient as the second of the four heads under which misrepresentation may enter. Now, misrepresentation of this experience would consist simply in the statement that he had had certain sensations or impressions which he had not had: misinterpretation of the experience—e.g., if he imagined that his friend was actually physically present where his form had been seen or his voice heard—has nothing to do with the evidential point. Grant that the percipient’s senses played him false—that his impression was a hallucination; that, as I have implied, is the very light in which we ourselves regard it; it may even be the light in which he regarded it himself. That does not prevent its being an unusual experience; and it is simply as an {i-134} unusual experience, which included an impression of his friend, that it has a place in the evidence.

Now the probability that this unusual experience has been misrepresented will be very different, according as the mention of it by the percipient precedes or follows his knowledge of what has befallen the agent. If he gives his account in ignorance of that event, and independently of any ideas which it might be calculated to awake in his mind, there seems no ground at all for supposing that he has coloured his statement, at any rate in any way which would affect its evidential value. If A, a person with a general character for truthfulness, and with no motive to deceive, mentions having had an unusual experience—a hallucination of the senses, an unaccountable impression, or whatever he likes to call it—which was strongly suggestive of B, no one will tell him that he is romancing or exaggerating, and that he had no such impression as he reports. He will simply be told that his nerves are overstrung, or that he has had a waking dream, or something of that sort. And this assumption of the truth of the statement could of course not be impugned merely because it subsequently turned out that B died at the time.

Hence, one of the points to which we have, throughout our inquiry, attached the highest value, is the proof that evidence of the percipient’s experience was in existence prior to the receipt of the news of the agent’s condition. This prior evidence may be of various sorts. The percipient may at once make a written record in a diary, or in a letter which may have been preserved. Where this has been the case, we have always endeavoured to obtain the document for inspection.1 1 There are cases where a sort of exactitude is required which makes documentary evidence almost indispensable. An instance may be found in the following account, sent to us by Miss Weale, who wrote from Nepaul, Croft Road, Torquay. “January 26th, 1884. “I had been—not on the day when the following was heard, but for some days previously—wondering why Dr. Pusey had not replied to a letter which I had written to him; when, sitting in our London drawing-room one day at about half-past 2 in the day, I suddenly heard Dr. Pusey speaking as if in a low voice close beside me. I was not cogitating about him, but suddenly and distinctly heard his voice speaking. The words were an answer to my letter written many days previously, and I so felt it to be the reply that I went to my writing-table and wrote it all down, and the day and hour; and moreover (how I know not) it was borne in on me, ‘Why he is at Pusey Hall, and that is why he has not sooner replied,’ and so it turned out to be. A few days after came a letter from him, written from Pusey Hall. The beginning of the letter bore the date of the day in question when I had heard his voice, but the end was dated the day previous, and in the letter were the precise sentences I had heard. “C. J. DORATEA WEALE.” In answer to inquiries, Miss Weale adds:— “It was not one sentence or two, but one side full of a small sheet of note-paper, such as he usually wrote on, but I don’t carry long letters about with me, and could not tell you the wording now. I scribbled down my waking dream as to Dr. Pusey’s words, being amazed at the vivid sense of his presence and voice, and all I wrote down was in the note.” Now everything here depends on the exact accuracy of the words. They were admittedly an answer to a letter, and their general tenor might easily have been surmised; unless, therefore, the words were identical, the case could be explained as a hallucination of hearing of a sufficiently ordinary type. We have obtained no complete assurance as to the verbal identity: and we have not been able to compare the letter with the note made at the time, which has probably been destroyed. A similar criticism will apply to the following well-known case, written down in the first instance by the Rev. Joseph Wilkins, a Dissenting minister at Weymouth (who died in 1800), and endorsed by the late Dr. Abercrombie, of Edinburgh, a man, I need hardly say, of great scientific acumen:— “Joseph Wilkins, while a young man, absent from home, dreamt, without any apparent reason, that he returned home, reached the house at night, found the front door locked, entered by the back door, visited his mother’s room, found her awake, and said to her, ‘Mother, I am going on a long journey, and am come to bid you good-bye.’ A day or two afterwards this young man received a letter from his father, asking how he was, and alleging his mother’s anxiety on account of a vision which had visited her on a night which was, in fact, that of the son’s dream. The mother, lying awake in bed, had heard some one try the front door and enter by the back door, and had then seen the son enter her room, heard him say to her, ‘Mother, I am going on a long journey, and am come to bid you good-bye,’ and had answered, ‘O dear son, thou art dead!’ words which the son also had heard her say in his dream.” From an evidential point of view, everything again depends on the identity of the words dreamt and the words heard. And as we do not hear that Dr. Abercrombie compared a note of the dream made at the time with the father’s letter, we have no assurance that Mr. Wilkins (by a lapse of memory, or through failure to perceive where the critical point lay) did not afterwards convert into absolute identity what was really a mere general resemblance. This would at once reduce the case to a mere “odd coincidence.” Or he may have mentioned his hallucination or {i-135} impression to some one who made a note of it, or who distinctly remembers that it was so mentioned; and whenever this has been done, we have endeavoured to get written corroboration from this second person. Evidence of this class affords comparatively little opportunity for the various sorts of error which have been passed in review. No amount of carelessness of narration, or of love of the marvellous, would enable a witness to time his evidence in correspondence with an event of which he was ignorant, nor to fix on the right person with whom to connect his alleged experience. Errors of memory are equally unlikely to take a form which makes the impression correspond with an unknown event; and danger from that source is, moreover, at a minimum, in cases which are distinguished by the very fact that the impression has been itself recorded immediately, or very shortly, after its occurrence.

But apart from the actual records of the experience in writing or in someone else’s memory, it may have produced action of a sufficiently distinct sort on the percipient’s part; for instance, it may have so disturbed him as to make him take a journey, or write at once for tidings of the agent’s condition. Such immediate action, which can often be substantiated by others, affords a strong independent proof that the impression had occurred, and had been of an unusual kind. And even if he has done none of these things, yet if {i-136} he describes a state of discomfort or anxiety, following on his experience and preceding his receipt of the news, this must, at any rate, be accounted a fresh item of testimony, confirmatory of the mere statement that such-and-such an unusual experience had befallen him; and it is sometimes possible to obtain the corroboration of others who have noticed or been made aware of this anxiety, even though the source of it was not mentioned. If, however, he has kept his feelings as well as their cause, to himself, there is, of course, nothing but his subsequent memory to depend on. Here, therefore, we shall have a transitional step to the next evidential class, where the percipient’s own perception of the importance of the experience, and any possibilities of confirmation, date from a time when the condition of the agent has become known.

§ 9. Cases of this type are of course, as a class, less satisfactory. It is here that some of the recognised tendencies to error—the impulse to make vague things definite, and the impulse to make a group of facts compact and harmonious—may find their opportunity. The error will, of course, not arise without a certain foundation in fact: the news that a friend has died is not in itself calculated to create a wholly fictitious idea that one has had an unusual experience shortly before the news arrived. But an experience which has been somewhat out of the common may look quite different when recalled in the light of the subsequent knowledge. It may not only gain in significance; its very content may alter. A person perhaps heard his name called when no one was near, and, not being subject to hallucinations of hearing, he was momentarily struck by the fact, but dismissed it from his mind. A day or two afterwards he hears of a friend’s death. It then occurs to him that the events may have been connected. He endeavours to recall the sound that he heard, and seems to hear in it the tones of the familiar voice. Gradually the connection that he has at first only dimly surmised, becomes a certainty for him; and in describing the occurrence, without any idea of deceiving, he will mention his friend’s voice as though he had actually recognised it at the time. In the same way something dimly seen in an imperfect light may take for subsequent memory the aspect of a recognisable form; or a momentary hallucination of touch may recur to the mind as a clasp of farewell.

Now such possibilities cannot be too steadily kept in view, during the process of collecting and sifting evidence. At the same time, the {i-137} interrogation of witnesses, and the comparison of earlier and later accounts, have not revealed any definite instance of this sort of inaccuracy. Now the number of alleged telepathic cases which we have examined (a number of which the narratives given in this book form less than a third) seems sufficiently large for the various types of error that really exist to have come to light; and, as a matter of fact, certain types have come to light, and have helped us to a view of what may be called the laws of error in such matters. If, then, a particular form of inaccuracy is conspicuous by its absence from our considerable list of proved inaccuracies, it may be concluded, we think, not to have been widely operative. It would be a different matter if the cases of the lower evidential class stood alone—if we were unable to present any cases where the percipient’s identification of his impression with the particular personality of the agent had been established beyond dispute. But in face of the large number of those stronger instances, it would be unwarrantably violent to suppose that in all, or nearly all, the other cases where the percipient declares that the identification was clear and unmistakeable, he is giving fictitious shape and colour to a purely undistinctive experience.

But there is yet another reason for allowing this inferior evidence to stand for what it is worth. For even if we make very large allowance for inaccuracy, and suppose that in a certain number of these cases the visible or audible phantasm, afterwards described as recognised, was really unrecognised at the moment, the evidence for a telepathic production of it does not thereby vanish. If, indeed, a witness’s mental or moral status were such that he might be supposed capable of giving retrospective and objective distinctness to what was an utterly indefinite impression, with no external or sensory character at all, his testimony would, of course, be valueless; simply because we could not assure ourselves that he had not had experiences of that sort daily, so that the coincidence with the real event would lose all significance. But in the case of a witness of fair intelligence, the point remains that the presence of a human being was suggested to his senses in a manner which was in his experience markedly unusual or unique, at the time that a human being at a distance with whom he was more or less closely connected, was in a markedly unusual or unique condition. By itself such evidence might fairly, perhaps, be regarded as too uncertain to support any hypothesis. But if a case for telepathy can be founded on the stronger cases, where the immediate reference of the impression to the agent is as much {i-138} established as the fact of the impression itself, then we have no right to lay down as an immutable law of telepathic experience that such a reference is indispensable. Recognition is beyond doubt the best of tests; and in a vast majority of our cases we have the percipient’s testimony, and in a very large number corroborative testimony as well, to the fact of recognition. But distinctness and unusualness in the experience are also evidential points. We have, indeed, a whole class of cases where the percipient has expressly stated that a phantasm which coincided with the supposed agent’s death was unrecognised, and where, therefore, the distinctness and unusualness of the impression were the only grounds for paying any attention to the coincidence. Such cases may be far from proving telepathy; yet if telepathy be a vera causa,true cause it would be unscientific to leave them out of account.

§ 10. So much for the evidence of the state of the agent, and of the experience of the percipient, regarded simply as events, of which we want to know (1) to what extent we can rely on the description that we receive of them; (2) to what extent the presumption of a telepathic connection between them is affected by the sort of inaccuracies that may be revealed or surmised. The sketch that has been given is, of course, a mere outline. It must wait for further amplifications of detail till we come to examine the evidence itself. Meanwhile it may serve to prepare the reader’s mind, and to indicate what special points to be on the look-out for. But of those four essential items of a case, as to which the opportunities and the effect of misrepresentation were to be specially considered, two still remain, namely, the precise times of the two items already discussed—of the agent’s and the percipient’s respective shares in the incident. It is clearly essential to a telepathic case that these times should approximately coincide; and error in the assertion of this coincidence is a possibility requiring fully as much attention as error in the description of the two events.

But here the reader may fairly ask where the line of error is to be drawn. Must the coincidence be exact to the moment? And, if not, what degree of inexactness may be permitted before we cease to regard a case as supporting the telepathic hypothesis? It is unfortunately not easy for the moment to give any satisfactory answer to this question. Two distinct questions are in fact involved. The first is a question of natural fact: What are the furthest limits of time within which it {i-139} appears, on a review of the whole subject, that a single telepathic phenomenon may really be included? At what distance of time, from the death of an absent person, may a friend receive telepathic intimation of the fact? The second question is one of interpretation and argument. It will be a most important part of our task hereafter to estimate the probability that it was by chance, and not as cause and effect, that the two events occurred at no very great distance of time from one another. The wider the interval, the greater, of course, does this probability become; in other words, the larger the scope that we give to “coincidences” which we are willing to regard as primâ facie telepathic in origin, the greater is the chance that we shall be wrong in so regarding them. Now, unless some provisional limit were assigned to the interval which may separate the two events, it would be impossible to obtain numerical data for calculating what the force of the argument for chance really is, and how far the hypothesis of some cause beyond chance is justified. This point will be made clear in the first chapter of the second volume, which deals with “the theory of chance-coincidence”; meanwhile it will be convenient to defer both these questions, and to make the following brief statement without discussion or explanation.

There is one class of cases which are not available for a numerical estimate at all—those, namely, where the agent’s condition is not strictly limited in time; for instance, where he is merely very ill, and no particular crisis takes place at or near the time when the percipient’s impression occurs. This indefiniteness is, of course, a serious evidential weakness. But in a vast majority of the cases to be brought forward, the event that befalls the agent is short and definite. If, then, the experience of the percipient does not exactly coincide with that event, it must either follow or precede it. And, first, if it follows it; then it will be convenient to limit the interval within which this must happen to 12 hours. I may mention at once that in most of our cases the coincidence seems to have been very considerably closer than this. But in a few cases the 12 hours' limit has been reached; and if we found that, though some error in evidence had made the coincidence appear to have been closer than it really was, yet after correction the 12 hours seemed not to have been over-passed, we should still treat the case as having a primâ facie claim to be considered telepathic. Next as to the cases where the percipient’s impression precedes some marked event or crisis in the existence of the other {i-140} person concerned; the question will then be, What was that other person’s condition at the actual time that the impression occurred? If it was normal, we should not argue here for any connection between the experiences of the two parties. For instance, we should not treat as evidence for telepathy an impression, however striking, which preceded by an appreciable interval an accident or sudden catastrophe of any sort.1 [☼]1 For instance, a trustworthy informant has given us the following account:— “December, 1883. “On November 5th, 1855, I was staying at a country house with several friends. It being a wet day, we amused ourselves by reading aloud, of which I did a large share; but I was so overcome by the impression that a very dear brother was drowning, that ice had broken, and that he was drawn under it by the current, that I could not at all follow the purport of the book, and when alone, dressing for dinner, could only control my distress by arguing that there could be no fear of ice accidents, as the weather was exceptionally mild at that time. We afterwards learned my brother had been in very actual peril, having jumped into a canal dock to rescue a companion, who, being short-sighted, had fallen in in the dusk of the evening. He was then an undergraduate at Cambridge, and I was in Wales. He received a medal from the ‘Humane Society,’ and a watch, &c., from members of his college, in recognition of the act. I have never had any similar impression of death or danger to any one.” [The friends with whom our informant was staying perfectly remember her mentioning to them what she had experienced.] The brother—the Rev. J. C. Williams Ellis, of Gayton Rectory, Blisworth—confirms the facts as far as he was concerned; but from his account, and that of Mr. A. Tibbits, of 44, Oakfield Road, Clifton, who was also present, we can fix the time of the accident at about 6.30 p.m. Now further inquiry has elicited the fact that the sister’s depression began early in the afternoon, and reached its climax soon after 5. Her experience was certainly, therefore, not telepathic in origin. The history of the Wheatcroft case, quoted in Chap. ix., affords another illustration of this point: had the death not been eventually proved to have preceded, and not followed, the vision, the case could not have been used. I may add that in this instance, the 12 hours’ limit was possibly, but not certainly, exceeded. But it may happen that the percipient’s impression falls within a season in which the condition of the other party is distinctly abnormal—say a season of serious illness; and that it likewise precedes by less than 12 hours the crisis—usually death—with which that season closes. And these cases will not only have a primâ facie claim to be considered telepathic, but will also admit of being used in a strict numerical estimate.

§ 11. To return now to the evidential question, it is really in the matter of dates, rather than facts, that the risk of an important mistake is greatest. In the first place, dates are hard things to remember: many persons who have a fairly accurate memory for facts which interest them have a poor memory for dates. This is a natural failing, and it is also one that may easily escape notice; for in the vast majority of instances where a personal experience is afterwards recounted, the whole interest centres in the fact, and none at all in the date. But in examining the evidence for an {i-141} alleged telepathic case, much more than ordinary human frailty in the matter of dates has to be considered. It is just here that the action of the various positive tendencies to error, above enumerated, is really most to be apprehended. Two unusual events—say the death of a friend at a distance, and the hearing of a voice which certainly sounded like his—have happened at no very great distance of time. The latter event recalls the former to the mind of the person who experienced it; and on reflection he feels that the character of the one connects it in a certain way with the other. True, he has kept no record of the day and hour when he heard the voice; or his friend may have died in South America, and no accurate report of the date of the occurrence may ever have reached England; but the connection which has been surmised cannot but raise a presumption that the two events corresponded in time as well as in character. “Why, otherwise, should I have heard the voice at all?” the person who heard it will argue: “I am not given to hearing phantasmal voices. I did not know how to account for it before; but now I see my way to doing so.” This train of thought being pursued, it will seem in a very short time that the two events must have been simultaneous; and what can that mean but that they were simultaneous? And the fact thus arrived at will remain the point of the story, as long as it continues to be told. In allowing his mind to act thus, it will be seen that the percipient has merely followed the easy and convenient course. There was something baffling and aimless in the occurrence of the phantasmal voice, without rhyme or reason, at a time when the hearer was in good health and not even thinking of his friend. Rhyme and reason—significance and coherence—are supplied by the hypothesis that his friend, finding death imminent, was thinking of him. It does not occur to him that this account of the matter is in itself harder to accept than the fact of a subjective auditory hallucination. To realise this would require a certain amount of definite psychological knowledge. Things are sufficiently explained to him if they seem to cohere in an evident way. Or if he is sensible that his version of the matter introduces or suggests a decided element of the marvellous, still the marvel is of a sort which is a legitimate subject of human speculation, and with which it is interesting to have been in personal contact. And not only has his reason thus followed the line of least resistance; his memory has also been relieved by the unity which he has given to its contents. It has now got a single and well-compacted {i-142} story to carry, instead of two disconnected items. It has, so to speak, exchanged two silver pieces, of different coinages and doubtful ratio, for a single familiar florin.

The above is no mere fancy sketch; it represents what is really not unlikely to occur. When we were just now considering how far an honest and intelligent witness is likely to imagine afterwards that a passing impression which at the time was vague and unrecognised had really been distinct and recognised, it will be remembered that such a perversion seemed decidedly unlikely—that we saw no ground for assuming that an error of that type had entered into anything like a majority of the cases where we have no conclusive evidence that it has not entered. But with the dates it is otherwise. We have received several illustrations of the liability of even first-hand witnesses to make times exactly coalesce without due proof of their having done so, or even in spite of proof that they did not do so. Having by a reasoning process of a vague kind come to the conclusion that the two events were simultaneous, they will be apt to note any items of facts or inference which tell in this direction, and not such as may tell in the other. An informant sometimes by his very accuracy reveals the attitude of mind which might easily produce inaccuracy in other cases. He will tell us that all that was proved was that the death fell in the same month as the impression; but that it is “borne in on him” that it was at the same hour. A good many people upon whom such a conviction is “borne in” will treat that as if it were itself the evidence required. One sort of case in which the tendency in question has been specially evident is that where the death has taken place at a great distance from the percipient. The instinct of artistic perfection overshoots the mark, when a ship’s log in the Indian Ocean shows that death took place at a quarter-past 3, and a clock on an English mantelpiece reveals that that is the very minute of the apparition. Telepathy, like electricity, may “annihilate space”; but it will never make the time of day at two different longitudes the same. This particular error would not, it is true, completely vitiate the case from our point of view, since the 12 hours’ interval would not have been exceeded; but pro tantoto that extent it, of course, diminishes the credit of the witness.

§ 12. Let us now examine the two dates separately, and see where the danger more particularly lies, and what tests and safeguards can be adopted. And first as to the date of the event that has befallen the {i-143} agent. As we have seen, it is almost always first from the percipient’s side that we hear of this event; and to him the knowledge of it came as a piece of news, sometimes by word of mouth, sometimes in a letter or telegram, occasionally in some printed form. In very many cases the date would, of course, be part of the news. Now, if his own experience was impressive enough to have caused him real anxiety or curiosity, and if his recollection is clear that the news came almost immediately afterwards—say within a couple of days—and that the time of the two events was there and then compared, and found to coincide, the coincidence will then rest on something better, at any rate, than the mere memory of a date. It will depend on the memory that a certain unusual and probably painful state of mind received remarkable justification, and that this justification in turn produced another state of mind which was also of an unusual type. If there was really no such synchronism as is represented, then not only the abstract fact of correspondence, but a distinct and interesting piece of mental experience must have been fictitiously imagined.1 1 The Rev. W. G. Payne, of Toppesfield, Essex, sends us a case of a parishioner Mrs. Ellen Dowsett—“a quiet, sensible person,” of whose good faith he was certain—who narrated to him the fact of her having been startled by the appearance of her husband who was absent at Alexandria, and who died suddenly at that very time. “Feeling sure that this foreboded evil tidings, she became very anxious; so much so that the clergyman of the parish came several times to try to console her. All his efforts to dismiss the thought from her mind availed nothing, and a settled conviction laid hold of her that her husband was dead.” The case is not one that we should lay any stress on, as it comes to us second-hand (the percipient being dead), and we do not know who the clergyman was who was told of the apparition before the news arrived. But it illustrates the point in the text. Where an apparition causes such distress and apprehension as this its date has at least a good chance of getting fixed in the mind; and the greater, therefore is the likelihood for the coincidence to be noted correctly. Now, it may be said, I think, as a rule, that a fictitious imagination of this sort needs some little time to grow up; that it is decidedly improbable that any case which is definitely recorded very soon after the event will have suffered this degree of misrepresentation. But a few years will give the imagination time to play very strange tricks. We have had one very notable proof of this, in a case where a curiously detailed vision of a dead man, which (so far as we can ascertain) must have followed the actual death by at least three months, was represented to us, after an interval of ten years, by the person who had seen it—a witness of undoubted integrity—as having occurred on the very night of the death. We may be right in regarding so complete a lapse of memory on the part of an intelligent witness as exceptional; but we should certainly not be justified in assuming that it is exceptional; and no case of anything like that degree of remoteness can be relied on, without some {i-144} evidence beyond the percipient’s mere present recollection that the event which befell the agent took place at the time mentioned. The evidence may be of various sorts. If the exact date of the percipient’s experience can be proved, then it is often possible to fix the other date as the same, by letters, diaries, or obituaries, or by the verbal testimony of some independent witness. If no such evidence is accessible, or even if the exact date of the percipient’s experience is forgotten, it may still be possible to obtain corroboration of the coincidence from someone who was immediately cognisant of the percipient’s experience, and who had independent means of ascertaining the further fact and of noting the connection at the time. But the absence of a written record of either event is, of course, a decidedly weak point.

§ 13. But on the whole, the danger that the closeness of the coincidence may be exaggerated depends rather on mis-statement of the date of the percipient’s than of the agent’s share in the alleged occurrence. Clearly the fact that some one has died or has had a serious accident, or has been placed in circumstances of some unusual sort, is likely to be known to more persons, and to be more frequently recorded in some permanent form, than the fact that some one has had, or says he has had, an odd hallucination. And clearly also, if one of the points is fixed, and the other, by hasty assumption or defective memory, is moved up to it, the moveable date is likely to be that of the event which has no ascertainable place in the world of objective fact. As a rule, it is at any rate possible at the time to obtain certainty as to the date of what has befallen the agent; and therefore if the percipient has been struck by his experience and retains evidence of its date, either in writing or in the memory of others to whom he mentioned it, he will very likely be prompted, when he hears of the other event, to assure himself as to what the degree of coincidence really was. But the converse case is very different. If the percipient does not record his experience at the time of its occurrence, even a week’s interval may destroy the possibility of making sure what its exact date was; and therefore, however certain the date of the other event may be, assurance as to the degree of coincidence will here be unattainable. It is often expressly recognised as such by the percipient himself; and then one can only regret that the importance of the class of facts—if facts indeed they are—has been so little realised that the simple measures which would have ensured {i-145} accurate evidence have not been taken. But where the account given is one of accurate coincidence, we cannot be satisfied without good evidence that the point was critically examined into at the time. It may, of course, happen that the percipient has a clear recollection that the coincidence was adequately made out at the time, although he can produce no documentary evidence which would establish it; and if others confirm his memory in this respect, that is so far satisfactory. Such unwritten confirmation, however, will have little independent force, unless the person who gives it was made aware of the percipient’s experience within a very short time of its occurrence.

But though the danger here must be explicitly recognised, it is important not to exaggerate its practical scope. The coincidence may have been reported as closer than it was; but it may still, in a majority of cases, be fairly concluded to have fallen within the 12 hours’ limit. As a rule, the news of what has befallen the agent arrives soon enough for not more than a space of two days to intervene between the percipient’s knowledge of this event and the time when, to make the coincidence complete, his own experience must have taken place. We are not, therefore, making a large demand on his memory; we are only requiring that he shall remember that an experience, which he represents as remarkable, befell him, or did not befall him, on the day before yesterday. No doubt, after a lapse of years, the evidential value of what a person reports ceases to have a close relation to the knowledge of the facts which it seems pretty certain he must have had at the time. But the demands made at the time on the intelligence either of the percipient, or of anyone else who had the opportunity of asking questions and forming conclusions, are so slight that we may fairly take contemporary written records of the matter, or even later verbal corroboration, as having a considerable claim to attention, even when the best evidence of all—evidence whose existence preceded the arrival of the news—is wanting. And it is important to notice that, while we have had several coincidences reported to us as having been close to the hour, which turned out, on further inquiry or examination of documents, to have been only close to the day, we have had very few cases where a similar correction has proved that the 12 hours’ limit was really overpassed.1 [☼]1 We have, however, a case where a death was reported to us as having taken place at 3 a.m., and where, on reference to the letter in which it was announced, it was found to have taken place at 6 p.m. The evidence on the percipient’s side seemed satisfactory, as we received confirmation of the fact that she mentioned her impression at the time as a unique and very distressing one, without any knowledge that her brother, who died in Jamaica, was even ill; and there can be no doubt that the impression did actually fall within the period of serious illness. But the impression was a dream; and a dream of death, however remarkable in its character, which is separated from the actual event by 18 hours, cannot be included in our evidence. In another very similar case, the percipient’s impression was stated, and apparently correctly, to have occurred in the Crimea on January 11th, 1878, and the death (of a sister) in England to have taken place on the same day. But on examining the letter in which the news was announced, we find that the death actually took place on a Wednesday; and Wednesday fell not on the 11th but on the 9th. The assumed coincidence, therefore, altogether breaks down. For some further instances see the “Additions and Corrections” which precede Chap. i. A good many coincidences, {i-146} no doubt, have been represented as extremely close, where no independent evidence on this point has been accessible, and closer inquiry has occasionally revealed that the assertion rested only on a guess. But wholly to neglect cases where the exactitude of the coincidence is not brought within the 12 hours’ limit would clearly be unreasonable, provided that—on the evidence—it is not likely that this limit was much exceeded,1 1 This question of likelihood must be carefully weighed, according to the circumstances. The following case, from the Rev. Canon Sherlock, of Sherlockstown, Naas, which was published in our first report on the subject as possibly telepathic, is a specimen of what we certainly should not now feel justified in regarding as evidence. “During the Indian Mutiny, my brother was serving (as ensign) in the 72nd Highlanders. At that time I was an undergraduate of Trinity College, Dublin, and living at Sandycove, near Kingstown. One night about 2 o’clock I was reading by the fire, when I heard myself distinctly called by my brother, the tone of his voice being somewhat raised and urgent; looking round I saw his head and the upper part of his body quite plainly. He appeared to be looking at me, and was about 7 or 8 feet distant. I looked steadily at him for about half a minute, when he seemed gradually to fade into a mist and disappear. The date of this occurrence I, unfortunately, lost note of, but upon my brother’s return from India and my casually mentioning that I had so seen him, we talked the matter over, and both came to the conclusion that the apparition coincided with a dangerous attack of illness, in which my brother suddenly awoke with the impression that he was suffocating, at which moment he thought of me. The attack was brought on by sleeping during a forced march through a country great part [sic] of which was under water. This is the only apparition that I have ever experienced, and there was no anxiety on my mind which could have given rise to it, as we had quite recently had a letter from my brother, written in good health and spirits. “W. SHERLOCK.” If one dismisses all à priori leanings to a telepathic explanation, there is nothing in this account which renders it unlikely that the two events were separated by (say) 10 days, or that the event in England preceded the one in India. and not certain that it was exceeded at all. Such cases must, of course, be excluded from any numerical estimate based on precise data; but they may fairly be allowed their own weight on the mind.

§ 14. We see, then, that cases where the alleged correspondence of facts and coincidence of dates are sufficiently close to afford a primâ facie presumption of telepathic action, may present very various degrees of strength and weakness; and it may be convenient to summarise the evidential conditions according to their value, in the following tabular form. (The words “the news” mean always the news of what has befallen the supposed agent.)

A. Where the event which befell the agent, with its date, is recorded in printed notices, or contemporary documents which we {i-147} have examined; or is reported to us by the agent himself independently, or by some independent witness or witnesses; and where

(1) The percipient (α) made a written record of his experience, with its date, at the time of its occurrence, which record we have either seen or otherwise ascertained to be still in existence; or (β) before the arrival of the news, mentioned his experience to one or more persons, by whom the fact that he so mentioned it is corroborated; or (γ) immediately adopted a special course of action on the strength of his experience, as is proved by external evidence, documentary or personal.

(2) The documentary evidence mentioned in (1α) and (1γ) is alleged to have existed, but has not been accessible to our inspection; or the experience is alleged to have been mentioned as in (1β), or the action taken on the strength of it to have been remarked as in (1γ), but owing to death or other causes, the person or persons to whom the experience was mentioned, or by whom the action was remarked, can no longer corroborate the fact.

This second class of cases is placed here for convenience, but should probably rank below the next class. At the same time the fact that the percipient’s experience was noted in writing by him, or was communicated to another person, or was acted on, before the arrival of the news, is not one which is at all specially likely to be unconsciously invented by him afterwards.

(3) The percipient did not (α) make any written record, nor (β) make any verbal mention of his experience until after the arrival of the news, but then did one or both; of which fact we have confirmation.

This class is of course, as a rule, decidedly inferior to the first class. At the same time, cases occur under it in which the news was so immediate that the fact of the coincidence could only be impugned by representing the whole story as an invention.1 1 See, for instance, case 17, pp. 188–9.

(4) The immediate record or mention on the arrival of the news is alleged to have been made, but owing to loss of papers, death of friends, or other causes, cannot be confirmed.

{i-148}

(5) The percipient alleges that he remarked the coincidence when he heard the news; but no record or mention of the circumstance was made until some time afterwards.

Such cases, of course, rapidly lose any value they may have as the time increases which separates the account from the incident. Still, sometimes we have been able to obtain the independent evidence of some one who heard an account previous to the present report to us; or we have ourselves obtained two reports separated by a considerable interval. And where a comparison of accounts given at different times shows that they do not vary, this is to some extent an indication of accuracy.

B. Where the percipient is our sole authority for the nature and date of the event which he alleges to have befallen the agent.

In many of these cases, the percipient is also our sole authority for his own experience; and the evidence under this head will then be weaker than in any of the above classes. But where we have independent testimony of the percipient’s mention of the two events, and of their coincidence, soon after their occurrence—he having been at the time in such circumstances that he would naturally know the nature and date of what had befallen the agent—the case may rank as higher in value than some of those of Class A (5).

§ 15. The evidence which I have so far analysed is first-hand evidence—in the sense that the main account comes to us direct from the percipient. The present collection, however, includes (in the Supplement) a certain number of second-hand narratives; and it will be well, therefore, to consider briefly what are the best sorts of second-hand evidence, and what kinds of inaccuracy are most to be apprehended in the transmission of telepathic history from mouth to mouth.

There is one, and only one, sort of second-hand evidence which can on the whole be placed on a par with first-hand; namely, the evidence of a person who has been informed of the experience of the percipient while the latter was still unaware of the corresponding event; and who has had equal opportunities with the percipient for learning the truth of that event, and confirming the coincidence. The second-hand witness’s testimony in such a case is quite as likely to be accurate as the percipient’s; for though his impression of the actual details will no doubt be less vivid, {i-149} yet on the other hand he will not be under the same temptation to exaggerate the force or strangeness of the impression in subsequent retrospection. Specimens of this class have therefore been admitted to the body of the work, as well as to the Supplement. Putting this exceptional class aside, the value of second-hand evidence chiefly depends on the relation of the first narrator to the second. A second-hand account from a person only slightly acquainted with the original narrator is of very little value; not only because it is probably the report of a story which has been only once heard, and that, perhaps, in a hurried or casual way; but also because the less the reporter’s sense of responsibility to his informant, the less also will be his sense of responsibility to the facts, and the greater the temptation to improve on the original.1 [☼]1 A lady has described to us a hallucination which presented to her the form of her father-in-law, who had been dead 14 years. An acquaintance, to whom she once mentioned this experience, had reported it to us as the apparition of her brother, with the addition that “a short time afterwards she received news of her brother’s death, which had taken place at the very time of the apparition.” There is a touch of nature in the fact that the author of this amended version considers the original witness “not at all an imaginative person.” But we cannot so lightly dismiss the testimony of near relatives and close friends to a matter which they have heard the first-hand witness narrate more than once, or narrate in such a manner as convinced them that the alleged facts were to him realities, and had made a lasting impression on his mind. Here we at any rate have a chance of forming a judgment as to the character of the original authority; we can make tolerably certain that what we hear was never the mere anecdote of a raconteur; and we have grounds for assuming in our own informants a certain instinct of fidelity which may at any rate preserve their report from the errors of wilful carelessness and exaggeration. It not infrequently happens, too, that we can obtain several independent versions from several second-hand witnesses, which may mutually confirm one another; and contemporary documentary evidence may give further support to the case.

The risks of error in transmitted evidence are, of course, in many respects the same, in an intensified form, as those of original evidence. To a person who is told something which sounds surprising by some one else who has experienced it, the central marvel is apt to stand out in memory with undue relief; and the various details and considerations which might modify the marvellous element will drop out of sight. One is, of course, familiar with the same process in the case of almost any anecdote or witticism that gets at all répandu:spread the {i-150} point is retained, the details and surroundings vary. For purposes of amusement such variations may be wholly unimportant; for purposes of evidence they may be all-important. Facts, moreover, are very much easier to improve than bon mots and the like, and with the second-hand narrator the tendency to make things picturesque and complete, by the addition, omission, or transformation of details, is naturally stronger in that there is no deeply-graven sense of the reality to act as a check on it. A gentleman, who signs himself “Rector,” writes to the Daily Telegraph, and describes a number of clergymen sitting round a table, on the evening when the late Bishop of Winchester met with his fatal accident. “One of them said, ‘There is the Bishop looking in at that window.’ Another immediately said, ‘No, he is at this window.’” What really happened—as we learn from Mr. G. W. Paxon, who was present at the scene referred to—was that a strange figure passed the three windows of the dining-room at Wotton, but that “it was not possible for the gentlemen present” (who, by the way, were three only, and all laymen) to identify it. Mr. Evelyn went out to see who it could be, but it had disappeared with mysterious rapidity. And that is the whole story. Again, a young man, we are told, was dying in London, his friends being unaware of his whereabouts. A sister of his in Edinburgh, who was also dying, “said that she was present at the death-bed of her brother; she gave an outline of his room, and told the name and number of the street.” A friend of our informant’s, Mr. David Lewis, of 21, St. Andrew Square, Edinburgh, was then asked to inquire, went to the address, and found (as he informs us) that the young man had just died there. But on more careful inquiry from the lady’s husband, we learn that though his wife described the room, she did not see the name of the street; and that he himself knew his brother-in-law’s address at the time, and had actually received a letter saying that he was very ill and not expected to live. The description of the room—even if proved to be correct—could have no evidential force unless extremely minute. All that remains to be accounted for, therefore, is the lady’s impression as to her brother’s condition; and though her husband is sure that she could not have known it in any ordinary way, it is impossible for outsiders—remembering that the knowledge did exist in the house at the time—to share his confidence. Again, a gentleman tells us how his grandfather, when taking a walk at Honfleur, on November 24th, 1859, saw the apparition of his (our {i-151} informant’s) sister, who expired at that time in England. He followed the figure, and it disappeared on reaching his garden. “In conversation afterwards the very wrapper worn by the deceased was described.” We obtain a copy of the original letter in which the grandfather described the occurrence, and find that he was walking “in the dark and a drizzling rain” when he observed something very white. “It appeared to be a lady in white, without a bonnet, but a large white veil over her head. It disappeared at the door of a house. This took place as near the time of dear Sarah’s departure as possible.” Here, therefore, the second-hand account introduced the recognition, omitted the uncertain light, and altered the place of disappearance. Once more, a lady has had a strong impression of her husband’s being in danger, at a time when he actually had a narrow escape in a railway accident. In this accident a number of cattle were killed, and the line was red with their blood. The story comes round to us that the wife had not only an impression of danger, but a vivid picture of blood. It is amusing sometimes to find that evidence breaks down on the exact point which has been held to be its most convincing feature. The following narrative, though a third-hand one, seemed to have some claim to attention, as it reached us from two independent quarters; and the two accounts so completely agree that we may assume that we have the correct version of the second-hand witness. Mr. W. C. Morland, of Lamberhurst Court Lodge, Kent, (who vouches for no more than that he repeats exactly what he was told,) writes to us as follows:—

“August 11th, 1883.

“My wife’s great-uncle was private secretary to Warren Hastings in India, and one day, when sitting in Council, they all saw a figure pass through the Council-room into an inner room, from which there was no other exit. One of the Council exclaimed, ‘Good God! that is my father.’ Search was made in the inner room, but nothing could be found, and Warren Hastings, turning to his secretary, said, ‘Cator, make a note of this, and put it with the minutes of to-day’s Council.’ As a small incident in the story, it was noticed that the figure had one of our modern pot hats. Some months after, a ship arrived bringing the news of the old gentleman’s death and the first pot hats that had been seen in India.

“I simply tell it you as I heard it from a Mr. Sparkes, who is now dead, and who, as well as my wife, was a great-nephew to—and probably heard it from—the old Mr. Cator who was present at the Council. I never heard him say whether he heard it direct from Mr. Cator, but I think it likely, as he was rather nearly related, and from his age must have known him.”

{i-152}

Precisely similar details were given by Mr. Sparkes to the Rev. B. Wrey Savile, who has published the case in his book on Apparitions; in this account the Member of Council who recognised his father figures as Mr. Shakespeare. Now the official minutes of the Supreme Council have been searched for us; but it does not appear either that Mr. Shakespeare was a Member of Council at the time, or that Mr. Cator was Hastings‘ private secretary, though he was certainly in the Company’s service. We learn, however, from the Superintendent of Records at the India Office that “it is believed that the registers of the Company’s servants in India at that early date were not always quite accurate”; so that these discoveries would not alone have thrown serious suspicion on the report. And the chimney-pot hat seemed, at any rate, something respectable to stand by. The phantom, in fact, owed his character to his hat; for it is hard to imagine how Mr. Cator or Mr. Sparkes could have gratuitously introduced such a feature into the story. But the curious perfection of the detail as to the simultaneous arrival of the news and of the real hats at once suggests scrutiny of the dates. All the accounts of chimney-pot hats that we have been able to find agree that they came into use between 1790 and 1795, though they seem to have been worn in France as early as 1787. They cannot, therefore, have reached India before the termination of Hastings’ governorship in 1785. Thus the case at once assumes a mythical air; and the most we can assume is that probably some odd coincidence occurred.1 1 Very comparable is an account which we have received, written by the late Lieut.-Colonel Balneavis—describing how, when a child, he was woke by his mother, who had had a terrifying vision of her husband “putting a corpse in full uniform on a sofa, and afterwards covering it over with a white sheet”; and how his father was “at the very time” performing these offices for Sir T. Maitland, Governor of Malta, with whom he had been dining, and who “dropped down dead at table.” We find from the Annual Register that Sir T. Maitland was taken ill in the middle of the day, at the house of a friend, and died there in the evening, in bed, after being speechless for 8 hours.

I will add where the instinct that we have noticed, to make evidence picturesque, has so far overleapt itself as to supply the very means of confutation. The late Mrs. Howitt Watts gave us the narrative as from her mother, who had “many times heard it related” by her mother, the percipient, and so far it is third-hand. But Mrs. Watts had also heard it from her grandmother’s own lips. The occurrence took place at Heanor, in Derbyshire.

“My mother’s family name, Tantum, is an uncommon one, which I do not recollect to have met with, except in a story of Miss Leslie’s. My mother had two brothers, Francis and Richard. The younger, Richard, I {i-153} knew well, for he lived to an old age. The elder, Francis, was at the time of the occurrence I am about to report, a gay young man, about twenty, unmarried, handsome, frank, affectionate, and extremely beloved by all classes throughout that part of the country. He is described, in that age of powder and pigtails, as wearing his auburn hair flowing in ringlets on his shoulders, like another Absalom, and was much admired, as well for his personal grace as for the life and gaiety of his manners.

“One fine calm afternoon, my mother, shortly after a confinement, but perfectly convalescent, was lying in bed, enjoying, from her window, the sense of summer beauty and repose: a bright sky above, and the quiet village before her. In this state she was gladdened by hearing footsteps which she took to be those of her brother Frank, as he was familiarly called, approaching the chamber-door. The visitor knocked and entered. The foot of the bed was towards the door, and the curtains at the foot, notwithstanding the season, were drawn, to prevent any draught. Her brother parted them, and looked in upon her. His gaze was earnest, and destitute of its usual cheerfulness, and he spoke not a word. ‘My dear Frank,’ said my mother, ‘how glad I am to see you. Come round to the bedside; I wish to have some talk with you.’

“He closed the curtains, as complying; but instead of doing so, my mother, to her astonishment, heard him leave the room, close the door behind him, and begin to descend the stairs. Greatly amazed, she hastily rang, and when her maid appeared she bade her call her brother back. The girl replied that she had not seen him enter the house. But my mother insisted, saying, ‘He was here but this instant. Run! quick! call him back! I must see him.’

“The girl hurried away, but, after a time, returned, saying that she could learn nothing of him anywhere; nor had anyone in or about the house seen him either enter or depart.

“Now, my father’s house stood at the bottom of the village, and close to the high-road, which was quite straight; so that anyone passing along it must have been seen for a much longer period than had elapsed. The girl said she had looked up and down the road, then searched the garden—a large, old-fashioned one, with shady walks. But neither in the garden nor on the road was he to be seen. She had inquired at the nearest cottages in the village; but no one had noticed him pass.

“My mother, though a very pious woman, was far from superstitious; yet the strangeness of this circumstance struck her forcibly. While she lay pondering upon it, there was heard a sudden running and excited talking in the village street.”

Briefly, the cause of the disturbance was that Mr. Francis Tantum had just been killed. He had been dining at Shipley Hall, about a mile off, and was riding home after the early country dinner of that day—somewhat elated, it may be, with wine. He stopped at the door of an ale-house at Heanor, where he offended the young man who served him, by striking him with his whip. The youth ran into the house, seized a carving-knife, darted back, and stabbed him.

This story obtained a certain currency, having been published by Mr. Dale Owen in his Footfalls. Yet the simple precaution of {i-154} getting independent evidence as to the time of the death goes far to ruin its character. A certificate sent to us by the rector of the parish shows that Mr. F. Tantum was buried on the 4th of February, and that his age was 36. And this does more than merely disturb our picture of the quiet summer scene, and of the Absalom of twenty. The time of year shows that the percipient’s vision probably took place after dark; so that “any one passing along the high-road” might very well not have been seen a minute after his departure; and the inquiries at the cottages would have been worth little or nothing. But these researches, as they are described, must have taken time; and as the news of the murder would be likely to spread fast, we should conclude that that event took place decidedly after the vision. Thus there appears no adequate reason why the apparition should not have been the real man—his conduct, though undoubtedly odd, being explicable by the state of slight intoxication which the narrative suggests.

But apart from sensational additions, details are apt to creep in which seem sober and innocent enough, but which make the whole difference from an evidential point of view. A very striking narrative reaches us from a second-hand source, as to how an officer in India one day saw his father, long deceased, issue from a wood leading his mother by the hand; how the latter addressed some words to her son, and the pair then vanished; and how he afterwards learnt that his mother had died in England on that very day. We happened already to have a first-hand account of the incident, in which the visitation that coincided with the death was described not as a waking percept, but as a dream. The enormous difference, for the purpose of our argument, which this point involves will abundantly appear in the sequel. Again, in transmitted cases it is quite remarkable how often the percipient “made a note” of his experience at the time of its occurrence—an act of foresight in which percipients, to judge from their own first-hand accounts, seem only too apt to fail.[☼]

In transmitted evidence, which is more remote than second-hand, another frequent point is that the chain of transmission is shortened—that a narrative which has really passed through two or through three mouths will be represented as having passed only through one or through two. For instance, a gentleman tells us of a striking telepathic phantasm which appeared to a friend of his, a sea-captain, on board ship. Nautical phantasms are not a favourite class of ours; the evidence is too apt to “suffer a sea-change”; and even the {i-155} guarantee offered to us in respect of another specimen, that “the crew had no difficulty in believing it,” is not completely reassuring. But the present example, at any rate, proved quite too superlatively nautical; for it turned out that the sea-captain was not the original witness, but had heard the story from another sea-captain; and that this sea-captain had heard it from the “man at the wheel”; whom we have not troubled for it. Again, a story which has been more than once printed by Spiritualistic writers begins as follows:—“Mrs. Crawford, in the Metropolitan Magazine in 1836, tells us that the then Lord Chedworth was a man who suffered deeply from doubts”—and then describes how the apparition of a sceptical friend of Lord Chedworth’s presented itself one night, told him that there was a judgment to come, and disappeared—the news of the friend’s death arriving “in due course” next morning. On referring to Mrs. Crawford’s own account, we find the hero of the story described as “Lord Chedworth, the father of the late lord”: and even this description is incorrect, as the fourth baron—with whose death in 1804 the title became extinct—succeeded, not his father, but his uncle.1 1 The story which “drags at each remove a lengthening chain,” even though the removes be in the direction of its source, is a type that has become very familiar to us. The following is a sample of many a correspondence which is more amusing in retrospect than in reality, Miss A. described to me a remarkable incident, as related to her by the Rev. B., who had heard of it from the lady to whom it occurred. The Rev. B., on being applied to, said that he had heard of it, not from the lady to whom it occurred, but from the Rev. C. The Rev. C. was applied to, but had only heard the story from the Rev. D.; with whose appearance on the scene hope revived. The Rev. D. reported that he had not heard the story from the heroine of it, but from a friend of hers, Mrs. E., who would procure it from the heroine. Mrs. E., in turn, reported that her authority, Miss F., was not herself the heroine, but had been informed by Miss G., who was. Miss F., on being applied to, had only heard Miss G.’s story third-hand, but referred me to Miss H., a nearer friend of Miss G.’s. Miss H. kindly applied to Miss G., but reported, as the result, that Miss G.’s own information was only third or fourth hand. Such is the last state (as far as I am concerned at any rate) of a story which began by being third-hand, and has been traced back through seven mouths. This possible shortening of the chain of evidence is a point that must never be lost sight of when the account was given orally to the last witness, and was not made the subject of minute inquiry.2 [☼]2 For instance, a friend of the present writer reports as follows:— “About ten years ago Admiral Johnson, of Little Baddow, Essex, told me as follows: One day he was walking with companions in a wood, when he suddenly saw his brother Arthur, in uniform, and said, ‘There’s my brother!’ It was discovered afterwards that the brother died at that time.” We have failed to trace this occurrence; and it may be surmised as possible that the hero of the story, which was told in casual conversation, was not Admiral Johnson himself, but some one else. That is, the story may be third-hand, and is of no evidential value. The following narrative from Mrs. Lonsdale, of Lichfield, is another instance in point:— “I was sitting next my dear old friend, Dr. (since Sir Thomas) Watson, at a London dinner-party. I think some one on the opposite side of the table said to him, ‘A physician in your extensive practice must hear and see strange things sometimes.’ He said, ‘Indeed we do.’ He then turned to me and said, ‘You know that I am a matter-of-fact person, and I will now tell you the strangest of all the strange things that ever happened to me. “‘I was called in, some years ago, to see a man, a stranger to me, who had been taken dangerously ill at his chambers in the Temple. Directly I saw him I knew that he had not more than 24 hours to live, and I told him that he must lose no time in settling any worldly affairs, and in sending for any relations whom he might wish to see. He told me he had only one near relation, a brother, who was in one of the Midland counties. By my patient’s desire, I sat down and wrote to the brother, telling him that if he would find the sick man still alive he must come off at once, on receipt of my letter. The next morning, while I was visiting my patient, who was then sinking fast, the brother arrived. As he came in at the door, the dying man fixed his eyes on his face and said, “Ah! brother, how d’ye do—I saw you last night, you know.” To my infinite surprise, the brother, instead of appearing to take these words as I did, for the dreamy wanderings of extreme weakness, replied quietly, “Ah! yes—so you did—so you did.” All was over in a very short time, and when we left the bedroom together, I could not help asking the brother what those strange words meant. He said, “You may well ask, but as sure as I see you now, I saw my brother in the middle of last night; he came out of a cupboard at the foot of my bed, and after gazing at me for a minute or two, without speaking, he disappeared.”’” An account of what appears to be the same incident is given, as authentic, but without names, by Dr. Elliotson, in the Zoist, Vol. viii., p. 70. But on the other hand, Sir T. Watson’s family, to whom we applied, seem never to have heard of the story; which we may therefore not unreasonably suppose to have been narrated as a friend’s experience. I give one more instance—worth nothing of course as it stands—in the hope of inducing some readers to take down at the time the names and addresses of casual acquaintances who seem to have bonâ fide evidence to produce. The account was sent to us by Mrs. Pritchard, of The Cottage, Bangor, North Wales, on February 7th, 1884. “I much regret that I am not able to give you the name and address of the lady [i.e., Mrs. Pritchard’s informant], for I do not know it myself. I met her at the Barmouth Hotel last summer. She told me that upon one occasion, when her husband had left home for a couple of days, she had a most painful impression that he was being crushed. When he returned she ran up to him, saying, ‘Oh, I’m so glad you have come back safely, for I‘ve had a dreadful feeling that you were crushed.’ Her husband then told her that he had seen a woman crushed to death by the train close by where he stood, and it affected him greatly—he couldn’t get it out of his mind, and it prevented him sleeping. “I have written to Barmouth to try and find out the name of these people, but as no visitors’ book is kept at the hotel, they were unable to give me any information. I think the name was Dickenson, and I know that the husband is a solicitor in one of the English towns—a young man.” Here, if we could have discovered the address, the account might possibly have been made first-hand; at present we should not be safe in giving it even as second-hand. But perhaps no feature of the transmitted narratives is on the whole so suggestive as the wonderful exactness of the all-important time-coincidence; which in these cases we must be doubly careful of {i-156} assuming to have been founded on a genuine coincidence of a less exact kind (p. 139). Thus, a gentleman strikingly describes to us how a friend of his, while walking in Barnsley, and when no one was within 30 yards of her, felt herself seized by two hands round the waist; her only “enlightenment on the matter” being that “on the very same afternoon her brother went down with the ill-fated training ship, the ‘Eurydice.’” On applying direct to the lady, we find that the hallucination took place “two days before the dreadful accident.” The more remote the incident, and the less the authority for the story, the more clinching the correspondence becomes, till its perfection is really quite wearisome. “On the day of his vision, and at that very moment, {i-157} his friend was passing away,” is quite the accepted sort of formula. We may hunt far in such accounts before we find any guarding clauses, as that “the hour of death was never exactly ascertained,” or “the vision was in the morning, but the death did not take place till the afternoon”—clauses which are common enough, be it observed, in first-hand records.

It would, however, not be fair to leave this list of causes which diminish the amount of presentable second-hand evidence, without adding that of the more reliable sort of second-hand (no less than of first-hand) cases, a considerable number are withheld from publication from motives with which it is hard altogether to sympathise. Persons who have a really accurate knowledge of some incident in which a deceased relative has been concerned, and who—seeing that the incident did no dishonour to any one’s head or heart—have no scruple in publishing it at casual dinner-parties, become sometimes almost morbidly scrupulous when there is a question of making it available, even in an anonymous form, for a scientific purpose.

Here I may close this preliminary survey of the possibilities of error which must be constantly kept in view in the investigation of alleged telepathic cases, and which must be either excluded by evidence or carefully allowed for. Both the dangers and the safeguards will, of course, be better realised when we come to the details of particular cases. It does not seem necessary to give a similar synopsis of the evidential flaws and weaknesses which are not in any sense errors. Some of these may be apparent on the very face of the evidence; as when the percipient expressly states that his impression was of an undefined sort, or was of a sort which he had experienced on other occasions without the correspondence of any real event, or that the coincidence of dates, though close, was not exactly ascertained. Others may appear when we take all the circumstances into consideration, although the percipient may fail to admit them; for instance, a person who is in decided anxiety about an absent relative or friend may be regarded as to some extent predisposed to subjective impressions which suggest his presence, so that the accidental coincidence of such an impression with some actual crisis that is apprehended may be regarded as not violently improbable. All such topics, however, will find a more convenient place in the sequel.

§ 16. And now with regard to the cases that have been included in the evidential part of the present work. A certain separation has {i-158} been attempted. In the main body of the book, no cases are given which are not first-hand,[☼] or of the particular second-hand sort which (as explained on p. 148) is on a par with first-hand; or in which the primâ facie probability that the facts stated are substantially correct is not tolerably strong. But the Supplement includes a good many second-hand accounts;1 1 We have seen that there is one sort of second-hand evidence which must rank as on a par with first-hand. On the same principle there is one sort of third-hand evidence which must rank as on a par with second-hand. A few third-hand accounts of this type have been admitted to the Supplement; and one or two others by special exception. as well as first-hand accounts where the evidence, from lack of corroboration or other causes, falls short of the standard previously attained.2 2 There are, however, a few first-hand cases in the Supplement which would have found a place in the main body of the work (in substitution probably for some which now appear there), had they been received earlier. Our principle in selecting cases for the Supplement has been to take only those which—supposing telepathy to be established as a fact in Nature—would reasonably be regarded as examples of it. Their existence adds force to the proof of telepathy; but we should not have put them forward as an adequate proof by themselves. This separation, however, does not apportion the evidential weight of the two divisions with rigid precision. For, given a certain amount of assurance that the facts are correctly reported, the value of the facts in the argument for telepathy will vary according to the class to which they belong. There are strong classes and weak classes. Now the body of the work includes specimens of purely emotional impressions, and of dreams—classes which we shall find by their very nature to be weak; and more weight might reasonably be attached to some case in the Supplement, even though less completely attested, if it belonged to the strongest class, which we shall find to be the class of waking visual phantasms. And even within the limits of a single class, it is impossible to evaluate the cases with exactness. A phantasm of sight or sound which does not at the moment suggest the appearance or voice of an absent friend, may still—if unique in the percipient’s experience, and if the coincidence of time with the friend’s death is exact—have about an equal claim to be considered telepathic with a distinctly recognised phantasm, the coincidence of which with the death (though it may have been exact) cannot with certainty be brought closer than three or four days.

Then as regards the mere accuracy of the records—though it has been possible to draw up a sort of table of degrees, such a table, of course, affords no final criterion. It is a guide in the dissection of {i-159} testimony; it directs attention to important structural points; but it takes no account of the living qualities, the character, training, and habits of thought of witnesses. We have included no cases where the witnesses were not, to the best of our belief, honest in intention, and possessed of sufficient intelligence to be competent reporters of definite facts with which they had been closely connected. But the report, say, of a sceptical1 1 It occasionally happens, however, that scepticism, no less than superstition, may mar the evidence. We have received a case where two sisters in England, sleeping apparently in different rooms, saw the form of another sister who was just dying in Germany; but, “having a horror of encouraging superstitious fancies,” they purposely abstained from making an exact note of the day and hour, and neither of them mentioned what she had seen to the other. And thus the triumph of robust common-sense has been to prevent the verification of a date! lawyer or a man of science, who had totally disbelieved in the whole class of phenomena until convinced by his own experience, is naturally stronger evidence than the report of a lady who, whether owing to natural proclivities or to want of scientific training, has no sense of any à priori objections to the telepathic hypothesis. The report of a person who has seen the phantasm of a friend at the time of his death, but considers that the coincidence may have been accidental, is stronger evidence than the report of a person who would regard such a supposition as irreverent. Each case must be judged on its merits, by reference to a considerable number of points;2 2 Among the variety of considerations involved, it is impossible to hope for more than a general approval of our principles of admission. The cases on the line often present a very puzzling array of pros and cons. Take, for instance, the following first-hand instance. On February 10th, 1884, Mrs. Longley, of 4, Liverpool Lawn, Ramsgate, a respectable married woman, who has never had any other hallucination of the senses, heard a voice call “Mother” three times. She knew that she had been awake, as she had been restless, and was amusing herself by seeing how long the moon would take to cross a certain pane of glass. She thought that her son, who was sleeping in a room above her own, must be ill; but on going up, she found him fast asleep. She tells us that she looked at the clock on the stairs, and noticed that it was 3.15 a.m. Nine days afterwards she received the news that her eldest and much-loved son, who was at sea, had been drowned, at about that hour, on a moonlight night, and that his first cry was, “Mother, mother, mother! Save me for my mother’s sake.” Her husband, she says, went to Grimsby, and learnt these details from the captain of the vessel, and also made out that the night was the same as that of her own experience. Now the incidents here are recent; and we need feel no doubt as to the fact either of the unusual auditory impression (which Mrs. Longley mentioned to several people besides her own family before the news arrived), or of the death. These are the pros. The cons. are as follows. (1) The voice was unrecognised. This, however, would not alone be fatal to the evidence; and in one way it even tells in favour of the telepathic explanation, as, had the voice suggested the son at sea, it would have been easier to ascribe the impression to latent anxiety on his account. (2) The narrator is quite uneducated; and times and intervals are matters in which the memory of uneducated persons is specially apt to get hazy. (3) She is certain that her husband, and the son who was at home, would not corroborate her statement in writing—her husband in particular having an aversion to signing documents. (4) No note having been taken, nothing that the husband could say now would convince us that he was justified in his conclusion as to the coincidence of the day; and though the date of the death might still be ascertained by independent inquiry, this would not help us, as the exact date of the voice is irrecoverable. The inclusion of such a case would perhaps not have injured our argument; but we have felt it safer to reject it. and as far as {i-160} written testimony goes, the reader will have the same opportunities as we have had for forming an opinion. We have done our best to obtain corroborative evidence of all sorts, whether from private sources, from public notices, or from official records. We have often failed; and these failures, and other evidential flaws, have been brought into (I fear) wearisome prominence. In quotations, care has, of course, been taken to give the exact words of witnesses. The only exceptions are that (1) we have occasionally omitted reflections and other matter which formed no part of the evidence; and (2) we have corrected a few obvious slips of writing, and introduced an occasional word for the sake of grammatical coherence, where the narrative has come to us piecemeal, or where the above-named omissions have been made. But in no case have we made the slightest alteration of meaning, or omitted anything that could by any possibility be held to modify the account given. A few cases have been summarised, in whole or in part; but here the form of the sentences will show that they are not quotations. Any word or phrase interpolated for other than grammatical reasons is clearly distinguished by being placed within square brackets.

One advantage, however, which we ourselves have had, cannot be communicated to our readers—namely, the increased power of judgment which a personal interview with the narrator gives. The effect of these interviews on our own minds has been on the whole distinctly favourable. They have greatly added to our confidence that what we are here presenting is the testimony of trustworthy and intelligent witnesses. And if the collection be taken as a whole, this seems to be a sufficient guarantee. It follows from the very nature of telepathic cases (as distinguished, say, from the alleged phenomena of “ghost-seeing” or of “Spiritualism”) that the evidence often in great measure, so to speak, makes itself—the agent’s side in the matter being beyond dispute. Thus a valid case, as has been shown above, might perfectly well rest on the testimony of a person whose own interpretation of it was totally erroneous, and whose intelligence and memory were only adequate to reporting truthfully that he thought he saw so-and-so in his room yesterday or the day before. But we have naturally preferred to be on the safe side. We have, therefore, excluded all narratives where, on personal acquaintance with the witnesses, we felt that we should be uneasy in confronting them with a critical cross-examiner; and we have frequently thought it right to exclude {i-161} cases, otherwise satisfactory, that depended on the reports of uneducated persons.1 1 First-hand evidence, where the witness cannot be cross-questioned, is at once invalidated by any doubt as to the case that may have been felt by persons who were more immediately cognisant of it. The well-known Norway story is an instance. In Early Years and Late Reflections, by Clement Carlyon, M.D., there is a signed account by Mr. Edmund Norway of a vision of his brother’s murder that he had while in command of the Orient, on a voyage from Manilla to Cadiz. Mr. Arthur S. Norway, son of the murdered man and nephew of Mr. Edmund Norway, tells us that the account was taken down by Dr. Carlyon from his uncle, at the latter’s house; he himself also has heard it from his uncle’s own lips. It describes with some detail how in a vision, on the night of February 8th, 1840, Mr. Edmund Norway saw his brother set upon and killed by two assailants at a particular spot on the road between St. Columb and Wadebridge: and how he immediately mentioned the vision to the second officer, Mr. Henry Wren. The brother was actually murdered by two men at that spot, on that night, and the details—as given in the confession of one of the murderers, William Lightfoot—agree with those of the vision. But Mr. Arthur Norway further tells us that another of his uncles and the late Sir William Molesworth “investigated the dream at the time. Both were clever men, and they were at that time searching deeply and experimenting in mesmerism—so that they were well fitted to form an opinion. They arrived at the conclusion that the dream was imagined.” Mr. Arthur Norway has also heard Mr. Wren speak of the voyage, but without any allusion to the dream. This is just a case, therefore, where we may justly suspect that detail and precision have been retrospectively introduced into the percipient’s experience. It almost goes without saying, in a case like this, that sooner or later we shall be told that the vision was inscribed in the ship’s log; and Mr. Dale Owen duly tells us so. Mr. Arthur Norway expressly contradicts the fact. Nor, I think, will the reader find much to suggest perversion of facts through superstitious à priori fancies. The greater part of our witnesses, as already stated, have had no special belief in the phenomena, except so far as they have themselves come in contact with them; and even where their interest has been awakened, it has seldom been of a more intense kind than might naturally be excited by a remarkable passage of personal or family experience. They have not, for instance, been at all in the attitude towards the subject which is now ours, and which it is hoped that the reader may come to share. Thus even on this score, their common-sense, in the ordinary straightforward meaning of the term, could hardly be impugned. Perhaps even so general a testimony to character as this is somewhat of an impertinence; to give it precision in particular cases would, as a rule, be out of the question. But however little weight such an expression of opinion may have, the mere statement that we are, in the large majority of cases, personally acquainted with our witnesses, has a distinct bearing on the evidence; for it practically implies that they gave us their account in such a way that their good faith is pledged to it.

§ 17. But there is quantity as well as quality to consider: the basis of our demonstration needs to be broad as well as strong. We might have a few correspondences perfect in every detail, a few {i-162} coincidences precise to the moment, established by evidence which was irresistible; and pure accident might still be the true explanation of them. Later, however, it will be proved, as I think, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that that line cannot be taken in respect of the several hundreds of coincidences included in these volumes. And the majority of persons who regard the book from an evidential point of view, and who start with the legitimate à priori prejudice against the whole class of phenomena, will certainly take other ground. They will take exception to the evidence as it stands. They will not be concerned to deny that there would be an enormously strong case for the reality of telepathy, supposing the correspondences and coincidences to have occurred exactly as stated; but they will take the ground that they did not so occur; and will frame various hypotheses, according to which it should be possible that the evidence should be thus, and the facts otherwise.

Now not only is the endeavour to frame such hypotheses legitimate: it has been throughout an indispensable part of our own work. Even improbable hypotheses ought to be carefully considered; for we have no desire to underrate the à priori improbability of our own hypotheses of telepathy. It is extremely difficult to compare the improbability of any particular combination of known conditions with the improbability of the existence of a hitherto unknown condition. But the point on which we desire to lay stress is the number of improbable hypotheses that will have to be propounded if the telepathic explanation is rejected. Of course, this point may be evaded by including all the hypotheses needed in a single sweeping assumption, as to the general untrustworthiness of human testimony. This mode of argument would be perfectly legitimate if we were presenting a collection of unsifted second and third-hand stories; but it will scarcely seem equally so in application to what we do present. The evidence (or at any rate a very large amount of it) is of a sort which merits attention, even from those who most fully share the views that I have endeavoured to express as to the chances of error in the records of unusual occurrences. It cannot be summarily dismissed; if it is to be got rid of, it must be explained away in detail. And it is the continued process of attempts to explain away which may, we think, produce on others the same cumulative effect as it has produced on ourselves. The attempts have been made on the lines already sketched; and so far as any reader agrees that the risks {i-163} and vulnerable points have been carefully considered in the abstract, he may be willing provisionally to accept an assurance that a similar careful and rationally sceptical mode of examination has been applied to the concrete instances. The work is, no doubt, wearisome; but there is no avoiding it, for anyone who wishes to form a fair independent opinion as to what the strength of the case for telepathy really is. The narratives are very various, and their force is derived from very various characteristics; the endeavour to account for them without resorting to telepathy must, therefore, be carried through a considerable number of groups, before it produces its legitimate effect on the mind. That effect arises from the number and variety of the improbable suppositions, now violent, now vague—contradictory of our experience of all sorts of human acts and human relations—that have to be made at every turn. Not only have we to assume such an extent of forgetfulness and inaccuracy, about simple and striking facts of the immediate past, as is totally unexampled in any other range of experience. Not only have we to assume that distressing or exciting news about another person produces a havoc in the memory which has never been noted in connection with distress or excitement in any other form. We must leave this merely general ground, and make suppositions as detailed as the evidence itself. We must suppose that some people have a way of dating their letters in indifference to the calendar, or making entries in their diaries on the wrong page and never discovering the error; and that whole families have been struck by the collective hallucination that one of their members had made a particular remark, the substance of which had never even entered that member’s head; and that it is a recognised custom to write mournful letters about bereavements which have never occurred; and that when A describes to a friend how he has distinctly heard the voice of B, it is not infrequently by a slip of the tongue for C; and that when D says he is not subject to hallucinations of vision, it is through momentary forgetfulness of the fact that he has a spectral illusion once a week; and that when a wife interrupts her husband’s slumbers with words of distress or alarm, it is only her fun, or a sudden morbid craving for undeserved sympathy; and that when people assert that they were in sound health, in good spirits, and wide awake, at a particular time which they had occasion to note, it is a safe conclusion rhat [sic] they were having a nightmare, or were the prostrate victims of nervous hypochondria. Every one of these improbabilities is, perhaps, in itself a possibility; but as the {i-164} narratives drive us from one desperate expedient to another, when time after time we are compelled to own that deliberate falsification is less unlikely than the assumptions we are making, and then again when we submit the theory of deliberate falsification to the cumulative test, and see what is involved in the supposition that hundreds of persons of established character, known to us for the most part and unknown to one another, have simultaneously formed a plot to deceive us—there comes a point where the reason rebels. Common-sense persists in recognising that when phenomena, which are united by a fundamental characteristic and have every appearance of forming a single natural group, are presented to be explained, an explanation which multiplies causes is improbable, and an explanation which multiplies improbable causes becomes, at a certain point, incredible.

§ 18. I am aware that in its abstract form, and apart from actual study of the cases, this reasoning must be wholly unconvincing. But meanwhile the argument for the general trustworthiness of our evidence may be put in another, and, perhaps, clearer light. Amid all their differences, the cases present one general characteristic—an unusual affection of one person, having no apparent relation to anything outside him except the unusual condition, otherwise unknown to him, of another person. It is this characteristic that gives them the appearance, as I have just said, of a true natural group. Now the full significance of these words may easily escape notice. They have an evidential as well as a theoretic bearing. They involve, of course, the hypothesis that the facts, if truly stated, are probably due to a single cause; but they involve, further, a very strong argument that the facts are truly stated. Let us suppose, for the moment, that any amount of laxity of memory and of statement may be expected even from first-hand witnesses, belonging to the educated class. And let us ignore all the heterogeneous improbabilities which we were just now considering; and assume that the mistakes mentioned, and others like them, may occur at any moment. What, then, is the likelihood that all these various causes—all these errors of inference, lapses of memory, and exaggerations and perversions of narration—will issue in a consistent body of evidence, presenting one well-defined type of phenomenon, free in every case from excrescences or inconsistent features and explicable, and completely explicable, by one equally well-defined hypothesis? What is the likelihood that a number of narratives, which are assumed {i-165} to have diverged in various ways from the actual facts, should thus converge to a single result? Several hundreds of independent and first-hand reporters have, wittingly or unwittingly, got loose from the truth, and are well started down the inclined plane of the marvellous. Yet all of them stop short at or within a given line—the line being the exact one up to which a particular explanation, not of theirs but of ours, can be extended, and beyond which it could not be extended. Tempting marvels lie further on—marvels which in the popular view are quite as likely to be true as the facts actually reported, and which the general traditions of the subject would connect with those facts. But our reporters one and all eschew them. To take, for instance, the group of cases which the reader will probably find to be the most interesting, as it is also the largest, in our collection—apparitions at the time of death. Why should not such apparitions hold prolonged converse with the waking friend? Why should they not produce physical effects—shed tears on the pillow and make it wet, open the door and leave it open, or leave some tangible token of their presence? It is surely noteworthy that we have not had to reject, on grounds like these, a single narrative which on other grounds would have been admitted. Have all our informants drawn an arbitrary line, and all drawn precisely the same arbitrary line, between the mistakes and exaggerations of which they will be guilty, and the mistakes and exaggerations of which they will not? We might imagine them as travellers, ignorant of zoology, each of whom reports that he has landed on a strange shore, and has encountered a strange animal. Some of the travellers have been nearer the animal, and have had a better view of him than others, and their accounts vary in clearness; but these accounts, though independently drawn up, all point to the same source; they all present a consistent picture of the self-same animal, and what is more, the picture is one which zoology can find no positive cause to distrust. We find in it none of the familiar features of myth or of untrained fancy; the reports have not given wings to a quadruped, or horns and hoofs to a carnivor; [sic] they contradict nothing that is known. Can we fairly suppose that this complete agreement, alike in what they contain and in what they do not contain, is the accidental result of a hundred disconnected mistakes?

It is most instructive, in this connection, to compare first-hand (and the better sort of second-hand) narratives with others. I have already spoken of the greater general sobriety of the first-hand {i-166} evidence. I may now add that the suspiciously startling details which often characterise the more remote narratives are precisely of the sort which the telepathic hypothesis could by no possibility be made to cover. To wet the pillow or leave the door open would be quite an ordinary breach of manners in the popular “ghost,” or the second-hand apparition of doubtful authority. I have mentioned the real dripping letter conveyed by the phantasmal midshipman. I may further recall the scar reported to have been left on the lady’s wrist by the touch of the well-known “Beresford” apparition; and the wounds alleged to have been produced on the bodies of absent witches, by blows and sword thrusts directed to their “astral” appearances. No marvels in the least resembling these find any place in our firsthand records; yet why should they not, if those records are fundamentally untrustworthy? The existence of such features in other narratives sufficiently shows how wide is the possible range of incidents, in stories where the ordinary limitations of communication between human beings are alleged to have been transcended. Of this wide field, the hypothesis of the action of mind on mind, which we are endeavouring to develop, covers only a single well-defined portion. By what fatality, if error is widely at work in the case of our firsthand evidence, do its results always fall inside and not outside this very limited area? If our witnesses are assumed to sit loose to the facts which they have known, why should they bring their accounts into rigid (though purely accidental) conformity with a theory which they have not known?

§ 19. What I have here indicated is the general impression produced by the evidence in our own minds. In our view, the reality of telepathy (even apart from a consideration of the experimental evidence) may be not unreasonably taken as proved. Having formed this view, we are bound to state it; but we expressly refrain from putting it forward dogmatically, and from saying that to reject it would argue want of candour or intelligence. We hold that, in such a matter, it is idle to attempt to define the line of complete proof; and the proof given—if it be one—is far from being of an éclatant or overwhelming sort. To those who do not realise the strength of the à priori presumption against it, it may easily look more overwhelming than it is. To others, again, it may appear that, on the hypothesis that the faculty has acted as widely as we have supposed, the highest evidential standard ought to have been reached in a larger number of {i-167} cases. To us it rather seems that the evidence that we find is just about what might have been expected. We see nothing in the mere existence of telepathy that would tend to make reserved people mention strange experiences, or to make careless or busy people keep conscientious diaries—or generally that would lead the persons immediately connected with a telepathic case, in which their emotions may be deeply involved, to act with a single eye to producing a clinching piece of evidence for the future benefit of critical psychological inquirers. It would, of course, be useless for us to urge that evidence which falls short of the best is still as good as can be expected, unless we were able to present a certain nucleus of fairly conclusive cases, and this we think we can do. But if the proof is held to demand more cases of the highest evidential quality, we must trust to time for them. The ideal collection would, of course, be one where every independent instance should be so evidentially complete that it must be either (1) telepathic, or (2) a purely accidental coincidence of a most striking kind, or (3) the result of a fraudulent conspiracy to deceive, in which several persons of good character and reputation have taken part. In our view, this point has been reached in a sufficient number of the examples here given to exclude the second and third of these alternatives; but these examples constitute only a very small minority compared with the mass of cases which are merely confirmatory—strongly confirmatory, as we think, but still confirmatory only and not crucial. And the collection so far falls short of the ideal.

In saying, then, that telepathy may not unreasonably be taken as proved, I do not wish for a moment to imply that the proof which we give is the one which we should eventually desire to see given. To no reader, we think, will the various imperfections and weak spots of our case be more patent than they have been to ourselves. Some of these are beyond remedy—as the absence of contemporary documents. Others may possibly be remedied at a later stage—for instance, the suppression of names.1 [☼]1 The suppressed names have in all cases been given to us in confidence; and in some instances with permission to mention them to any persons who have any bonâ fide interest in the subject. Purely anonymous cases can of course have no weight at all. I subjoin a couple of cases which are of a normal type, and have quite the air of being bonâ fide, as samples of a numerous class which have to be treated as waste paper. The following account appeared in the Times for December 26th, 1868, in a review of Scott’s Demonology and Witchcraft. The writer, who is here perforce anonymous, says that it “has quite recently fallen under our own observation.” “A young English lady had been betrothed to an officer before his departure to the East. During her lover’s absence she was taken abroad by her mother, and on their arrival late one evening at a French inn, they found it necessary to occupy rooms on different floors. As Miss C. was in the act of getting into bed late at night, she suddenly beheld the form of her lover standing in a remote corner of her chamber. His countenance was extremely sad, and she observed that round his right arm he wore a band of crape. Indignant at the conduct of her betrothed in entering her sleeping apartment, she called on him loudly to depart; the form of her lover remained speechless, but as she lifted up her voice, his brow grew yet sadder, and as he glided silently out of the room he seemed a prey to the gloomiest feelings. After a time Miss C. summoned up sufficient courage to descend to her mother and recite her adventure. They caused diligent search to be made for the returned officer, but without success. Nor could the smallest trace of him be afterwards discovered. Several weeks later the young lady received the news of her lover’s death in a general action in India.” If such an account as this appeared in a leading newspaper now, we should hope of course to obtain the means of sifting it. But cases like the following could not be pursued without great expense in local advertising. ”Birmingham, December 15th, 1882. “Dear Sir,—I have much pleasure in forwarding the following perfectly authentic account. It has never before been made known beyond our own immediate circle, and I relate it to you in the hope that it may be instrumental, with others of greater importance, in establishing the fact that there is indeed, and in truth, a future existence. “A long time ago when my mother—who is now dead—was a girl, she was staying with her cousin, who was in delicate health; they were reading or chatting when, suddenly, the latter’s attention was drawn to the door, and she exclaimed, with delight, ‘Why, there’s grandma! Why did you not say she was here?’ The two—especially the latter—were great favourites of the old lady. Mother, hearing this, at once turned round, but saw nothing, but at once left the room, fully expecting to find her among the other members of the family. But being told that the old lady was not there she returned with the information to her cousin, who loudly protested that they were deceiving her, as she had been again, during mother’s absence, and she had a ribbon in her cap which she had sent her a short time before, on her birthday anniversary. Mother again went to the other members of the family with this news. They, of course, thought it strange, and told the girl that it was only imagination. On the following day, however, news arrived that at that very time the old lady had passed away. “This is perfectly true, and can, if neccessary, be corroborated by my brother, who is a clergyman. “You may make any use you like of this communication, but I do not wish my name and address to be published, and so subscribe myself, yours, &c., “WELL-WISHER.” The signature probably expresses the truth; but for all that it effectually prevents the narrative from being “instrumental in establishing” any fact whatever. But even more tantalising than anonymity is an insufficient or undecipherable address. The following is a case which this cause has rendered abortive. Inquiries for the locality have been made all over the British Isles without success. “Gurnet Bay. “January 1st, 1884. “I do not believe in supernatural visitations, and the following experiences of my mother may be outside the range of your inquiries. “My mother, while an infant, lost her father by an accident, and was brought up by a maternal uncle, who was greatly attached to her, and for whom she had the most unbounded affection. Learning that he was about to be married, and not being able to endure a divided affection, she left him, came up to Hampshire, married, and settled there, occasionally hearing from him. The night on which her uncle died, she was sleeping with a middle-aged lady named Day. At the moment of her uncle’s death, as it afterwards appeared, she awoke in great agitation, exclaiming, ‘My God! my uncle’s dead,’ and frightened her companion, who awoke at the same time. So vivid was the impression that she made immediate preparation to go to Box, near Bath, where her uncle’s residence was. On her arrival she found that he had died at the time and under exactly the circumstances she had seen in her dream, having strongly desired to see her at the last. “E. J. A’COURT SMITH.” It has been impossible to bring home to all {i-168} our informants that where a person refuses to a phenomenon, belonging to a certain class, the direct testimony which he would give, if needful, to any other sort of personal experience, the world is sure to take the view that he lacks that complete assurance of the reality of the experience which alone can make his evidence worthy of serious {i-169} attention. This is not always just; since the reason why he suppresses his name may be, not that he doubts the truth of his evidence, but that he regards the truth in this particular department of Nature as something disgraceful or uncanny; or it may be mere fear of ridicule, or a shrinking from any form of publicity. But meanwhile the defect must not be extenuated. Even minor points may detract from the businesslike look of the work. Informants whose evidence is otherwise satisfactory sometimes feel it a sort of mysterious duty to throw a veil over something—if it is only to put C—— for Clapham. A dash is the last refuge of the occult. We must not be held to be blind to these blots because we have printed the evidence in which they occur. But the case, as it stands, seemed worth presenting, and the time for presenting it seemed to have arrived. Even if it be weaker than we think it, there is the future as well as the past to think of. By far the greater part of the telepathic evidence, even of the last twenty years, has undoubtedly perished, for all scientific purposes; we want the account for the next twenty years to be different. But it is only by a decided change in the attitude of the public mind towards the subject that the passing phenomena can be caught and fixed; and it is only by a wider knowledge of what there already is to know that this change can come about. Thus our best chance of a more satisfactory harvest hereafter is to exhibit our sheaf of gleanings now. If telepathy is a reality, examples of it may be trusted to go on occurring; and with the increase of intelligent interest in psychical research we may hope that the collection and verification of good first-hand evidence will gradually become easier, and that the necessity of careful contemporary records, and of complete attestation, will be more widely perceived.

§ 20. Meanwhile it may be just worth while to forestall an objection—which, as it has been made before, may be made again—to the argument from numbers. It has been urged that no accumulation of instances can make up a solid case, if no individual instance can be absolutely certified as free from flaw. But the different items of inductive proof are, of course, not like the links of a deductive chain. The true metaphor is the sticks and the faggot; and our right to treat any particular case as a stick depends, not on its being so flawlessly strong, as evidence for our hypothesis, that no other hypothesis can possibly be entertained with regard to it, but on the much humbler {i-170} fact that any other hypothesis involves the assumption of something in itself improbable. Third-hand ghost-stories, and the ordinary examples of popular superstitions, have no claim to be regarded as sticks at all, since the rejection of the popular explanation of them involves no improbable assumptions of any kind; at best they are dry reeds, and no multiplication of their number could ever make a respectable faggot. But in every one of the examples on which we rest the telepathic hypothesis, the rejection of that hypothesis does, as I have pointed out, involve the assumption of something in itself improbable; and every such example adds to the cumulative force of the argument for telepathy. The multiplication of such examples, therefore, makes a faggot of ever-increasing solidity.

When made explicit, this seems too plain to be denied; but an extreme case may perhaps make the point even clearer. If, since the world began, nobody had ever died without a phantasm of him appearing to one or more of his friends, the joint occurrence of the two events would have been a piece of universally recognised knowledge; of the cause of which we should to this day possibly not know more, and could not possibly know less, than we know of the cause of gravitation. Nor, if the attestation had been forthcoming in the case of only half the deaths, would its significance have been much more likely to be disputed; nor if it had been forthcoming in the case of a quarter, or a tenth, or even a hundredth of the number. But those who admit this, practically admit that there is a conceivable number of well attested cases which they would regard as conclusive evidence of telepathy. We may ask them, then, to name their number; and if they do so, we may not unreasonably proceed to inquire the grounds of their selection. A writer on the subject lately named 5000 as the mark; but can he make his reasons explicit for considering 5000 as conclusive, and 4000, or even 1000, as inconclusive? In course of time we hope that his minimum may be reached; but any limit must be to a great extent arbitrary. We shall be content if impartial readers, who do not feel convinced that an adequate inductive proof has been attained, are yet brought to see that our object and method are scientifically defensible; while we, on our side, fully admit that the adequacy of the present collection does not admit of demonstration, and are perfectly willing that it should be regarded as only a first imperfect instalment of what is needed.

{i-171}

§ 21. Perhaps, after all, the difference of instinct as to what really is needed may be considerably less than at first sight appears. For we have not been able to regard the alleged phenomena in the completely detached fashion which most of those who consider them naturally adopt. We are unable to determine how far the impression on our own minds of the evidence for spontaneous telepathy has been dependent on our conviction of the genuineness of cognate experimental cases. These latter being for the most part trivial, recent, and little known, it is not surprising that comparatively few persons should have considered them, and that still fewer should have grasped their bearing on the spontaneous cases. But to anyone who accepts the experimental results, the à priori presumption against other forms of supersensuous communication can hardly retain its former aspect. The presumption is diminished—the hospitality of the mind to such phenomena is increased—in a degree which is none the less important that it does not admit of calculation. A further step of about equal importance is made when we advance to the better-evidenced of the transitional cases; though here again the effect on our own minds, due to our knowledge of the persons concerned, cannot be imparted to others. Attention has been duly drawn to the difficulty of embracing these several classes in a common physical conception; but on psychological ground we cannot doubt that we are justified (provisionally at any rate) in regarding them as continuous. Remembering the existence of the transitional class, we may regard the extremes as not more remote from one another than the electrical phenomena of the cat’s coat from those of the firmament. Electricity, indeed, affords in this way a singularly close parallel to telepathy. “The spontaneous apparitions of the dying” (I quote Mr. Myers’ words) “may stand for the lightning; while the ancient observations on the attraction of amber for straw may fairly be paralleled by our modest experiments with cards and diagrams. The spontaneous phenomena, on the one hand, have been observed in every age, but observed with mere terror and bewilderment. And, on the other hand, candid friends have expressed surprise at our taking a serious interest in getting a rude picture from one person’s mind into another, or proving that ginger may be hot in the mouth by the effect of unconscious sympathy alone. Yet we hold that these trivial cases of community of sensation are the germinal indications of a far-reaching force, whose higher manifestations {i-172} may outshine these as the lightning outshines the sparks on Puss’s back. We hold that the lowest telepathic manifestations may be used to explain and corroborate the highest.” Their conditions differ widely; so widely, indeed, as to supply indirectly an argument for the genuineness of the facts, since totally distinct and independent hypotheses—that of collusion in the one case, and of forgetfulness or exaggeration in the other—would be needed to refute them. Yet, with all this difference of conditions, when we compare the facts of either class with any facts which the accepted psychology includes, we cannot help recognising the great common characteristic—a supersensuous influence of mind on mind—as a true generic bond. Where that characteristic is found, there we have a natural group of phenomena which differ far more fundamentally from all other known phenomena than they can possibly differ among themselves. Their unity is found in contrast. Till more is known of their causes, it may be impossible for science to establish their inner relationships, just as it is impossible to establish the degrees of affinity between casually selected members of a single human community. But they draw together, so to speak, on the field of science, even as men of one race draw together when cast among an alien population.


NOTE ON WITCHCRAFT.

In saying that there is a total absence of respectable evidence, and an almost total absence of any first-hand evidence at all, for those alleged phenomena of magic and witchcraft which cannot be accounted for as the results of diseased imagination, hysteria, hypnotism, and occasionally, perhaps, of telepathy, I have made a sweeping statement which it may perhaps seem that nothing short of a knowledge of the whole witch-literature of the world could justify. I have, of course, no claim to this complete knowledge. My statement depends on a careful search through about 260 books on the subject (including, I think, most of the principal ones of the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries), and a large number of contemporary records of trials.1 1 The greater part of this irksome task has been carried out for me with rare zeal and intelligence by my friend, Miss Porter, to whom I must here once again express my obligations. Such a list is certainly very far from exhaustive. But as, on the one hand, the 450 works which Le {i-173} Loyer professed to have studied, before writing his Livre des Spectres, did not fortify him with the trustworthy record of a single case, so, on the other hand, a much smaller assortment may suffice to support very wide negative conclusions. To those who have travelled over the same ground, the reason will be obvious. Every student of records of abnormal or “supernatural” events must have been struck by the way in which the same cases keep on reappearing in one work after another. Even the most credulous partisans exercise a sort of economy of the marvellous, in so far as they find that copying out old marvels is a great saving of time and responsibility. And this is very specially the case with the literature now in question. Bodin’s Démonomanie and the Malleus Maleficarum supplied generations of theorists with their pittance of facts; and not even the Beresford ghost has done such hard and continuous duty in the cause of superstition as some few of the witch-cases.

Considering the enormous place that lycanthropy, for instance, plays in the interminable discussions as to what the devil could do, and how he did it, it is strange to realise what the evidence (outside confessions1) 1 When we remember the ways in which confessions were obtained, the regard in which they were held appears the most amazing fact in the whole history of witchcraft. The common view is quaintly illustrated in an account of Peter Stubbe (translated from the Dutch, London, 1590); where it is said that Peter “after being put to the rack, and fearing the torture, volluntarilye confessed his whole life.” Even where no violent means were used, the mind of the accused would be unhinged by starvation, enforced sleeplessness, or mere despair. And as if this was not enough, we have the dismal record of cheats and quibbles—e.g., the promising his life to the accused if he would confess, meaning eternal life. We have also, no doubt, to allow for the morbid vanity and shame-lessness which is a symptom of advanced hysteria. (See Richet, Op. cit., p. 364.) actually was. Putting Nebuchadnezzar and Lot’s wife out of the question, the main burden of the proof seems really to rest on about four cases. Either it is the 11th century legend, quoted from William of Malmesbury, of the two old women who kept an inn, and transformed their guests into asses: or it is the equally mythical tale of the woodcutter who wounded three cats, and declared that three women afterwards accused him of having wounded them; or it is Peter Stubbe, against whom the evidence was that the villagers lit on him unexpectedly, while they were hunting a wolf; or it is the man who, having cut off a wolf’s paw, drew from his pocket the hand of his host’s wife, whom he found sitting composedly without it—a story told to Boguet (as a joke for aught we can tell) by a person who professed to have picked it up in travelling through the locality. Even the credulous De l’Ancre2 2 Tableau de l’Inconstance des Mauvais Anges et Démons (Paris, 1612), p. 312. admits that, with wide opportunities, he has not come on the track of any transformations—a fact which seems to have a good deal impressed him. But in the eyes of other writers, perpetual citation seems to have imparted to the classical legends just mentioned the virtue of good first-hand testimony. Glanvil gives {i-174} another case where a panting old woman was suddenly seen in the place of a hunted hare, on the authority of a huntsman;1 1 Sadducismus Triumphatus (London, 1689), p. 387. Glanvil’s own theory is that the hare was a demon, and that the witch was invisibly hurried along with it, to put her out of breath. but there are features in the account which strongly suggest, as Glanvil admits, that the huntsman was a wag. I find another less known English example of the kind; and the manner of its appearance is significant. The record of the trial of the Essex witches in 16452 2 A Collection of Curious Tracts relating to Witchcraft, &c. (London, 1838). contains, first, all manner of first-hand evidence to witches’ “familiars”—evidence which must have been easy enough to get, considering that a man who had looked through a cottage window, and seen a woman holding a lock of wool that cast a shadow, was believed when he described these objects as her white and black imps;3 3 Hutchinson, Historical Essay Concerning Witchcraft (London, 1720), p. 60. It is an interesting instance of the intimate relation between persecution and the vitality of the persecuted doctrines, that imps are little mentioned except in this country, where, as Hutchinson says, “the law makes the feeding, suckling, or rewarding of them to be felony.” and then at last we have a case of transformation into an animal, at which point, sure enough, the evidence becomes second-hand, and the witness has heard the tale from a man who he knew “would not speak an untruth.” A transformation case which Webster mentions as given on first-hand testimony was afterwards confessed to have been an imposture.4 4 The Displaying of Supposed Witchcraft (London, 1677), p. 278. I have found but a single item of independent evidence to the phenomenon which is first-hand, in the sense of having been given direct to the writer who records it. This is in Spina’s Quæstio de Strigibus (Rome, 1576, p. 53), and is to this effect:—a cobbler, being annoyed by a cat, dealt blows at it, after which an old woman turned out to have some hurts which she was not known to have received.5 5 This story also appears as a treasure in the Compendium Maleficarum (Milan, 1620). In the only other case given by Spina (who, be it observed, is one of the very chief authorities) the evidence was that a witch told two people that certain deceased cats had been witches. In the treatment of the old dateless legends, the taste of the narrator counted for something. Thus, Olaus Magnus (Historia de Gentibus Septentrionalibus, Rome, 1555, p. 644) reports that once upon a time an accused person was closely confined and watched, till he duly transformed himself. Majolus, telling the story half a century later, says that the watchers watched in vain. To be quite fair, I should add that Bodin says that one Pierre Mamor wrote a little treatise, in which he professed to have actually seen a transformation—this being the only case that I have come across where a man of sufficient education to write something that was printed is even cited as bearing personal testimony to such marvels.

It is the same with the witches’ compacts, and with the nocturnal rides and orgies. Putting aside confessions, the evidence is of the flimsiest sort, and is copied and re-copied with untiring pertinacity; while many of the miraculous tales are mere country gossip, which do not even pretend to {i-175} rest on any authority. Holland says, “I cannot hear that any wise man or honest man tell us any thing, which hath been himself either a party or a witness of such horrible bargains.”1 1 A Treatise against Witchcraft (Cambridge, 1590), p. 31. “What credible witness is there brought at any time,” says Reginald Scot, “of this their corporal, visible, and incredible bargain; saving the confession of some person diseased both in body and mind, wilfully made or injuriously constrained?”2 2 The Discovery of Witchcraft (London, 1584), p. 48. See also his criticism on Bodin, p. 23; and cf. Christian Thomas, Kurtze Lehrsätze von dem Laster der Zauberey (1706), p. 31. As regards transportations, the most superstitious writers have never themselves come into anything like close contact with the marvels that they record. Habbakuk, and the Sabine peasant who inadvertently dispersed an assembly by a pious ejaculation, figure in the records with almost unbroken regularity. I am aware of only two cases in which it is even rumoured that a person has been actually observed travelling through the air;3 3 Malleus, Vol. i., p. 175; Scot, Op. cit., p. 67. On the general omission of any sort of investigation of stories, see Dell’ Osa, Die Nichtigkeit der Hexerey (Frankfort, 1766), p. 508. and whenever a “Sabbath” has been seen, or persons have been found far from their homes in the morning—presumably because the devil, who was carrying them back from the revels, dropped them at the sound of the Angelus—the witnesses are shepherds or peasants (in one case a butler), who have not been cross-examined or even interviewed. Grillandus4 4 Tractatus de Sortilegiis (Lyons, 1536), cap. 7. says that he had been at first inclined to disbelieve in bodily transportations, but that longer experience had changed his view. He then gives a couple of hearsay stories about people found in the fields, and a few confessions. Binsfeld5 5 Tractatus de Confessionibus Maleficarum et Sagarum (Trèves, 1591), pp. 223–30 and 343–5. considers transportation certain, on the strength of some village gossip (copied in part from Grillandus). A story quoted by Horst from the De Hirco Nocturno of Scherertz, of a young man found on the roof towards morning, is apparently a typical case of natural somnambulism. The Malleus (Vol. I., p. 171) tells how some young men saw a comrade carried off by invisible means; but the prominent fact in the story is that they were having a drinking bout.6 6 See also Spina, Op. cit., p. 108; Remy, Dæmonolatria (Lyons, 1595), pp. 112,115; Glanvil, Op. cit., p. 143. The testimony to the effect that the persons reputed to have been at the nocturnal orgies had never really left their beds, must have been well known—see, e.g., J. Baptista Porta, Magia Naturalis (Naples, 1558), p. 102; Wier, De Præstigiis Dæmonum, &c. (Basle, 1568), p. 275; Godelmann, Tractatus de Magis, Veneficis, et Lamiis (Frankfort 1591), Lib. ii., p. 39; Remy, Op. cit., p. 110; Compendium Maleficarum, p. 81; Menghi, Compendio dell’ Arte Essorcista (Bologna, 1590), p. 439; Elich, Dæmonomagia (Frankfort, 1607), p. 131; Hutchinson, Op. cit., pp. 100, 125; but the figure that remained at home might, of course, be accounted for as an optical delusion caused by the devil, or as due to his direct personation (see Gayot de Pitaval, Causes Célèbres, Amsterdam, 1775, p. 153). But if the superstition could thus defy direct counter-evidence, we get a fresh idea of the feebleness of its own evidential support from the fact that both sceptics and believers seem sometimes to have forgotten that the question was one of evidence at all. Thus G. Tartarotti (Del Congresso Notturno delle Lamie, Venice, 1749) bases his elaborate argument entirely on collateral difficulties—as that, if the witches really feasted at their meetings, they ought to come back surfeited and happy, instead of hungry and tired; and that if they could escape from their bedrooms they ought to be able to escape from prison. And, similarly, the author of the Critiche on this book, (Venice, 1751) refutes Tartarotti by a long chain of theoretic reasoning supported by many orthodox authorities, but not by a single fact.

{i-176}

In all these matters we may be sure that, had there been better evidence to record, it would have been recorded.

Similarly in the trials of witches, where (if we exclude the confessions) nearly all the alleged facts can now be accepted and explained on physiological and psychological principles, the sameness is so great that, after our research has been carried to a certain point, we feel sure that no new types will be forthcoming.1 1 Compare, for instance, the cases in Pitcairn’s Criminal Trials of Scotland (Edinburgh, 1833); Cannaert’s Olim Procès des Sorcières en Belgique (Ghent, 1845); Rueling’s Auszüge einiger merkwürdigen Hexenprozessen (Göttingen, 1786); Müller, Op. cit. See also Reuss, La Sorcellerie au 16me et au 17me Siècle, particulièrement en Alsace (Paris, 1871), p. 107; Haas, Die Hexenprozesse (Tubingen, 1865), p. 80; and Soldan, Geschichte der Hexenprozessen (Stuttgart, 1880), pp. 385–9. A similar repetition of stock stories, and a similar monotony of detail, are observable in the New England records. Even the questions and suggestions used for entrapping the accused seem to have become stereotyped forms, and the very indictments came to be hurried over, as almost taken for granted.2 2 See Haas, Op. cit., p. 79; Lilienthal, Op. cit., p. 93; Rapp, Die Hexenprozesse (Innsbruck, 1874), pp. 21–27. Rapp (p. 143) specially remarks on the sameness of the confessions as due to the sameness of the judge’s questions. Spee says that it never even entered into his head to doubt the existence of witches, till he studied the judicial evidence.3 3 Cautio Criminalis (Frankfort, 1632), p. 398.

On the whole, then, the sweeping statement considered at the beginning of the foregoing chapter—that in modern societies a more or less imposing array of so-called evidence can be obtained for the support of any belief or crotchet that is less than an outrage on the popular common-sense of the time—is very far from receiving support from the history of witchcraft. The stock example which was to prove the view goes, in fact, somewhat surprisingly far to disprove it. For at no period would the conditions seem to be more favourable for a really impressive record of marvellous phenomena than during the 15th and 16th centuries. The art and literature of the epoch show high imaginative development, and a keen appetite for variety and detail; while, at the same time, the majority of able and educated minds were not fore-armed, in at all the same way as now, by a sense of à priori impossibilities and of a uniform Nature, and the belief in the incalculable power and malignity of the devil was nearly universal.4 4 This belief was held alike by the credulous majority and the sensible minority; and it is interesting to see how the latter contrived to make controversial use of it. For instance, G. Gifford, an author who is almost modern in his view of the influence of the mind on the body, in his Dialogue concerning Witches (London, 1603), p. L, argues for the worthlessness of confessions on the ground that “the testimonie of a witch in many things at her death is not any other than the testimonie of the divell, because the divell hath deceived her, and made her beleeve things which were nothing so.” And Hutchinson, Op. cit., p. 99, ridicules the test of torture on similar grounds, “since the devil will pretend torture when he feels none, and fall down when he needs not.” Cf. D’Autun, L’Incrédulité Scavante et la Crédulité Ignorante (Lyons, 1671), p. 791. One would have {i-177} expected, then, that every village would swell the direct testimony to transformations and witches’ “Sabbaths”; and that even philosophers who regarded the Evil One as an abiding source of sensory delusion might occasionally have had their own senses deluded. But we can only take the record that we find, and it is as monotonous as it is meagre. Not only do the philosophers and their friends seem to have enjoyed complete immunity from Satanic visitations, but even in the lower social strata the magical incidents (other than those which modern science can accept and explain) are extremely few and far between; and the evidence for them—if the word be used with any degree of strictness—is practically non-existent.1 1 Writers of the most opposite views confirm what the records of trials would sufficiently prove—that the natural stronghold of witchcraft was among the most ignorant and backward sections of the population. Bodin (Op. cit., p. 168) says that witches were commonest in villages. Bernard (Guide to Grand Jurymen in Cases of Witchcraft, London, 1627, p. 22) says that “fear and imagination make many witches among country-people,” and asserts that only those who think much about witches are ever troubled with them. Glanvil (Op. cit., p. 498) thinks it an important fact that “all people in the country about were fully persuaded” of the reality of one of his cases. D’Autun (Op. cit., p. 507) traces the rumour of witchcraft to the imagination of villagers. Tartarotti (Op. cit., p. 105) describes the supposed attendants at the “Sabbath” as poor, weak, ill-fed creatures. Hutchinson (Op. cit., p. 153) remarks that “country-people are wonderfully bent to make the most of all stories of witchcraft.” Sir G. Mackenzie (The Laws and Customs of Scotland in Matters Criminal, Edinburgh, 1699) says: “Those poor people who are ordinarily accused of the crime, are poor ignorant creatures, and ofttimes women who understand not the nature of what they are accused of”; and Pitcairn speaks of convictions “on the slenderest evidence, afforded by the testimony of ignorant and superstitious country-people.” These extracts might be multiplied to any extent.

I must specially insist on this point; as my view seems completely opposed to that given in the account from which most English readers have probably formed their idea of the subject—the brilliant first chapter of Mr. Lecky’s History of Rationalism. Mr. Lecky’s treatment appears to me to suffer from the want of two important distinctions. In the first place, he does not separate the fact of the wide belief in the magical phenomena, and the array of authorities that could be cited on the side of that belief, from the evidence for particular events—the statements of bonâ fide witnesses. For every grain of testimony there is no difficulty in finding a ton of authority.2 2 Thus Bodin’s chapter on lycanthropy contains, as Mr. Lecky truly observes, “immense numbers of authorities.” But it is surely important to notice that among the chief of them are Homer, Ovid, and Apuleius; that Virgil is quoted as a frequent eye-witness of the phenomenon on the strength of the 8th Eclogue; and that the only instances for which a shadow of evidence is adduced are the following:—Three confessions unsupported by any external evidence, one of which (to be just) is said not to have been extorted; one confession with the additional piece of evidence reported at third-hand, that the accused man had a wound which the witness recognised as one that he had inflicted on a wolf; a report of a prosecution which was abandoned, against some men who had wounded some cats; the eternal story above mentioned of the wood-cutter and the three cats; and Pierre Mamor’s testimony, also mentioned above. The list is surely not an imposing one; and becomes even less so when we find Bodin quite equally impressed with the fact that the author of another book, dedicated to an emperor, had seen a man, not committing the crime, but condemned for it; or that someone who had been in Livonia reported that the people there were all believers. And in the second place, he does not explicitly discriminate between the wholly bizarre {i-178} and incredible side of the subject, and its scientific or pathological side. Of course “belief in witchcraft” may be taken to mean simply a group or system of wrong inferences, drawn under a strong instinct of demonic agency; and in that light the belief can doubtless be treated as a whole—as a single though complex superstition. But “witchcraft” may also be used, and is frequently used in Mr. Lecky’s own pages, to denote the facts alleged—for instance, that old women were carried through the air—and not the inference drawn, that it was the devil who carried them. And this is the meaning that naturally becomes prominent when the question is of the evidence for witchcraft—the actual testimony that men’s senses bore to it. For instance, Mr. Lecky says (pp. 14–16) that “the historical evidence establishing the reality of witchcraft is so vast and varied that it is impossible to disbelieve it without what, on other subjects, we should deem the most extraordinary rashness. … In our own day, it may be said with confidence that it would be altogether impossible for such an amount of evidence to accumulate round a conception which had no substantial basis in fact. … If it were a natural but a very improbable fact, our reluctance to believe it would have been completely stifled by the multiplicity of the proofs.” Here the “evidence” and “proofs” clearly refer rather to facts than to inferences; and it is implied in the whole tone of the passage that the facts referred to belong to the miraculous class which is now universally discredited. I can, therefore, only express my entire dissent from the statements made, at any rate until they receive better support than Mr. Lecky supplies. He tells us, for instance, that Boguet “is said to have burnt 600 persons, chiefly for lycanthropy.” If this be true, it still gives us no hint as to what the evidence was; judging by analogy, we should suppose that it consisted in confessions, probably made under torture.1 1 See Kanoldt, Supplementum iii curieuser und nutzbarer Anmerkungen, &c. (Bautzen, 1728), p. 63. For a proof that even a writer who was rather inclined to ridicule the subject could still regard confession under torture as conclusive of this crime see Peucer, Commentarius de præcipuis Divinationum Generibus (Hanover, 1607) p. 280. Did 600 persons, or 100, or even 10 persons ever bear testimony before Boguet that they had seen a man or woman converted into a wolf? If so, it is surely remarkable that his own book (Discours des Sorciers, Lyons, 1608) contains (besides a few confessions and a few of the stock fables) only two lycanthropy cases—the evidence for one being that a child who had been injured by a wolf declared, in the fever which followed, that the animal’s paws were like hands; and for the other that a peasant woman who had been desperately frightened by a wolf, said afterwards that its hind feet had had human toes. So again, Mr. Lecky (p. 127) seems completely to sympathise with Glanvil’s statement that the evidence for “the belief of things done by persons of despicable power and knowledge, beyond the reach of art and {i-179} ordinary nature,” was overwhelming.1 1 Sadducismus Triumphatus, p. 3. And truly Glanvil does speak of “the attestation of thousands of eye and ear witnesses, and those not of the easily deceivable vulgar only, but of wise and grave discerners.” But this is a typical example of the very confusion which I am trying to clear up. If thousands of wise and grave discerners saw the incredible marvels with their own eyes, how is it that in not a single case has the record been preserved? If on the other hand they saw only the credible marvels—fits and the like—and believed the incredible ones, on extraordinarily feeble testimony but under an extraordinarily strong prepossession, in what sense can it be asserted that there was then “overwhelming evidence” for what would now be denied?

In brief, when it is a question of evidence, we should naturally expect to find a strongly-marked division between that part of the superstition where the wrong inference was drawn from spurious facts, such as lycanthropy and the nocturnal orgies, and that part where the wrong inference was drawn from genuine facts, such as the phenomena of somnambulism or epilepsy. And my contention is that this strongly marked division actually exists, and that for the former class of marvels there was practically no evidence—no professedly first-hand observation. For the latter class, on the other hand, the evidence was naturally abundant, however wrongly interpreted.

To pass now to this latter class—that is to say, to the physiological and psychological aspects of the subject. I have said that many phenomena, which in their way were sufficiently genuine, were misinterpreted, because the sciences which should have explained them were still unborn. But though anything like a complete and critical explanation of these phenomena was impossible, it is to be remarked that the witch-literature presents a constant succession of sensible writers (chiefly English and German), who wholly rejected the common view of them. As early as the 15th century, and often during the 16th, works appeared in which the objective nature of the more bizarre incidents is denied, and they are treated as hallucinations; almost invariably, however, as hallucinations of a supernatural kind, caused directly by the devil.2 2 Molitor, De Lamiis (Cologne, 1489), cap. vi.; Wier, Op. cit., pp. 216, 236, 352, 371; Daneau, Les Sorciers (Geneva, 1574), p. 104; Remy, Op. cit., Lib. ii. cap. v.; Saur, Ein kurtze Warnung, &c. (Frankfort, 1582); Del Rio, Disquisitiones Magicæ (Louvain, 1599), Vol. i., pp. 207–8; Gifford, Op. cit., p. K 3, (but cf. his Discourse of Subtill Practices, London, 1587, p. E, where he attributes to certain of the devil’s “counterfeite shewes of a bodie” a kind of objectivity); Flagellum Hereticorum Fascinariorum (Frankfort, 1581), p. 5; Holland, Op. cit., p. 31. Neuwaldt (Exegesis Purgationis, Helmstedt, 1585, p. D 6) gives an elaborate description of the process. The view could claim the authority of St. Augustine (De Civitate Dei, Lib. xviii.). Godelmann (Tractatus de Magis, Veneficis, et Lamiis, Frankfort 1591) is perhaps the only one of the German 16th century writers—and in this respect may be bracketed with Scot and Montaigne—who gets distinctly beyond this notion; but see also Valrick Von den Zaüberern, Hexen, &c. (translated from the Dutch, Cologne, 1576); Erastus, Deux Dialogues (translated from the Latin, 1579), p. 776; and Scribonius, De Sagarun Naturâ (Marburg, 1588), p. 76. It was naturally in connection with the human organism that the idea of Satanic control survived longest. The devil’s power over the external world—shown, e.g., in raising tempests—was as completely believed in as his power over men, by the ablest writer of the Middle Ages; but on this question Professor Huxley does not stand further from St. Thomas Aquinas than did Wier (Op. cit., p. 264). This comparatively rational view of the transportations, transformations, {i-180} &c., was gradually adopted in the course of the 17th century even by the credulous writers;1 1 E.g., King James I., Dæmonologie (London, 1603), p. 40; Nynauld, Dela Lycanthropie (Paris, 1615), p. 20; Glanvil, Op. cit., p. 507. As to transportations, it remained a very favourite compromise that they were occasionally genuine, but as a rule illusory; see, for instance, the Corollaria to the Disputatio de Fascinatione, held at Coburg in 1764. For a proof that the possibility of a purely subjective hallucination had as little dawned on Glanvil in the 17th century as on Michael Psellus in the 11th, see Sadd. Triumph., p. 405; where the only alternative to supposing an apparition to have been “Edward Avon’s ghost” is to suppose it a “ludicrous dæmon.” D’Autun (L’Incrédulité Scavante, &c.), an author whose desire to be just to both sides gives him a sort of half-way position, still believes, in 1671, that the witch or the devil, and not the brain of the percipient, is responsible for hallucinations (pp. 65, 876). It is more remarkable that Hutchinson, an eminently sensible writer, who belonged to a later date, still seems to believe (Op. cit., p. 106) that the devil assumed the form of the delusive image. while the rational writers come to recognise more distinctly the influence of terror and excitement on weak minds, and hallucination begins to be regarded as a natural phenomenon.2 2 Bekker, De Betoverde Wereld (Leewarden, 1691), p. 247, in the German translation of 1781. Ady even recognises a case (Candle in the Dark, p. 65) where mere entraînement, impulsion apart from terror, was sufficient to produce a hallucination in an excitable “subject”—a boy who was employed to assist in calling up imps, by imitating the quacking of ducks, having so imposed on a minister that, even when shown the cheat, “he would not be persuaded but that he saw real ducks squirming about the room.” And throughout we meet with cases of sensory delusion which may with great probability be referred to hypnotic suggestion; being very similar to the effects which are produced in our day on the platform of professional “mesmerists.” I have mentioned De l’Ancre’s instance of the children supposed to have been taken to a “Sabbath.” Bodin (Op. cit., p. 138) describes how Trois-Eschelles made a circle of spectators mistake a breviary for a pack of cards; Boguet (Op. cit., p. 360) mentions the celebrated Escot de Parme as having been able to make persons see cards differently to what they really were, and mentions another case (Six Advis, p. 89) where a witch made a woman see rubbish as money; Remy and Del Rio describe similar feats performed by one Jean de Vaux. It is of course impossible to be sure that these were not mere conjuring feats; but Del Rio seems to have been awake to that hypothesis, and to have thought it quite untenable.

As specimens of other effects which may fairly be accounted for as hypnotic, I may mention the following. Occasionally witches are said to have shown insensibility to torture; of which a self-induced trance {i-181} affords the readiest explanation.1 1 Wier, Op. cit., 482; Scot, Op. cit., p. 22, quoting Grillandus; Del Rio, Op. cit., Vol. ii., p. 66; Le Loyer, Livre des Spectres, chap. 12; Hexen-processe aus dem, 17en Jahrhundert (Hanover, 1862), p. 78. The phenomenon was much discussed as the “maleficium taciturnitatis.” The same has, of course, been recorded of religious martyrs, and has been ascribed to ecstasy; but we have no reason to suppose the mental and spiritual condition of the supposed witches to have been such as would make that term applicable; and it is difficult to see why merely hysterical anæsthesia should supervene at the critical moment. It is, however, probably to hysteria that we should attribute whatever of truth there may have been in the idea of the devil’s mark—the alleged insensibility of restricted areas of the body. (See Richet, Op. cit., p. 364.) There are occasional cases of inhibition, of a sort to which we have abundant modern parallels in connection with hypnotism, but none, as far as I am aware, except in that connection.2 2 A case in the Pathologia Dæmoniaca of J. Caspar Westphal (Leipzig, 1707), p. 48, which the author seems to have personally observed, closely resembles some of the cases given above in Chap. iii. The mere inhibition of utterance, either produced in the victim by the supposed persecutor’s presence (A Philosophical Endeavour in the Defence of the Being of Witches and Apparitions, London, 1668, p. 129), or by the idea of it (G. More, A True Discourse, &c., London, 1600, p. 20; Witchcraft further Displayed, London, 1712, p. 7); or in the witch herself when attempting to repeat the Lord’s Prayer (Glanvil, Op. cit., p. 377), may, of course, be sufficiently accounted for by hysteria or imagination. Remy (Op. cit., p. 221) gives an apparent example of the inability of the “subject” to drop an object which his controller insists on his holding. In Dr. Lamb Revived, or Witchcraft Condemned, (London, 1653), p. 20, a case of the production of hypnotic sleep is described by an eye-witness. The description in Glanvil (Op. cit., p. 342) of a “subject” who showed the well-known symptoms of muscular rigidity, and of rapport with a single person, is again strongly suggestive of hypnotic trance. The rapport, shown in exclusive sensitiveness to the witch’s touch or approach, reappears in Saint André’s Lettres au Sujet de la Magie (Paris, 1725), p. 213; and in The Tryal of Bridget Bishop at Salem in 1692;3 3 Mather, Wonders of the Invisible World (Boston, 1693), p. 106. where also the “subjects” are described as having displayed the phenomenon of imitation of the witch’s postures and gestures. The “subject’s” craving to get to the witch is another significant feature. (See above, p. 87, note.) We should probably have had a much larger amount of definite hypnotic evidence had such a thing as hypnotism been recognised at the time—observations made under the influence of wrong theories being naturally one-sided and defective.

With respect to demoniacal possession, we find a progress of opinion to some extent parallel with that observed in the treatment of hallucinations; but the belief in the Satanic agency was here naturally more tenacious; and where the actual possession was doubted, the investigators often fell into the opposite error of concluding that the victims could have nothing the matter with them, and must be consciously shamming.4 4 See, for instance, Dr. Harsnet’s Discovery of the Fraudulent Practices of John Darrell, B.A. (London, 1599), and the controversy to which it gave rise. But of course, a certain number of cases were undoubtedly fraudulent; see The Disclosing of a Late Counterfeyted Possession, &c. (London, 1574.) It seems to have depended very much on accidental circumstances whether hysterical girls were pitied as victims or denounced as cheats. {i-182} Webster (Op. cit., p. 248) is, perhaps, the earliest English writer who insists on purely natural causes as sufficient to explain possession. As regards the whole question of the influence of the reputed witches on health, it is here probably that we should have had the most distinct indications of hypnotic agency had the idea of hypnotism been there to colligate the facts.1 1 On the beneficial effects of the supposed witch’s touch and strokings, see, for instance, the sensible Cotta, The Infallible, True and Assured Witch, (London, 1625), p. 138; Deodat Lawson, Further Account of the Trials of the New England Witches (London, 1693), p. 8; Lamberg, Criminal Verfahren (Nuremberg, 1835), p. 27; Miscellany of the Spalding Club (Aberdeen, 1841), Vol. i., pp. 92, 119. Even in the present century mesmeric cures have been attributed to the devil. (See Lecky, Op. cit., p. 109.) And much must, no doubt, be set down to the morbid craving for notoriety which is now one of the best known symptoms of hysteria. But as regards the larger number of the alleged phenomena, the rational inference—that the effects were due to imagination or fright—might, as we now see, have been drawn from the evidence of even the most credulous writers. Bodin, for instance, insists on the necessity of faith on the part of the sufferer,2 2 Cf. A Pleasant Treatise of Witches (London, 1673), p. 109; Remy, Op. cit., p. 348. and reports not a single case of curing where the witch was not actually present.3 3 Bodin has a firm belief that a witch could cause death by a word; but characteristically adduces no evidence. He is also persuaded that the disease which is removed from one person must be transferred to another—a view which he supports by a single supposed instance. His records, and those of many others, are precisely parallel to what our newspapers describe of the “mind-cures” in Boston and Bethshan, and might be accepted to-day without difficulty by orthodox medical opinion.4 4 See, for example, Prof. G. Buchanan’s paper on “Healing by Faith” in the Lancet, for 1885, Vol. i., p. 1117. Cf. Dell’ Osa, Op. cit., pp. 29, 30. Cases where there was rapid improvement in the victim’s health on the condemnation of the supposed witch come into the same category.5 5 See, for instance, Mackenzie, Op. cit., p. 50; and the account of Dorothy Durant’s restoration when the verdict was given against Amy Duny, in the Tryal of Witches at the Assizes held at Bury St. Edmunds, before Sir Matthew Male (London, 1682). Similarly in cases of injurious effects—we constantly hear that the sufferer had been touched, or at the very least fixedly looked at, by the supposed witch.6 6 Remy, Op. cit., p. 312; Del Rio, Op. cit., Vol. i., p. 34; De l’Ancre, L’Incrédulité et Méscréance du Sortilège (Paris, 1622), p. 108; Goldschmidt, Verworffener Hexen- und Zauber-Advocat (Hamburg, 1705), p. 454; Pitcairn, Op. cit., passim. Great stress was laid on the confession of the celebrated Gaufridi that he had breathed on his numerous victims.7 7 Michaelis, Histoire Admirable (Paris, 1613), Part II., p. 118; Calmet, Traité sur les Apparitions (Senones, 1759), Vol. i., pp.37, 138. See also Westphal, Op. cit., p. 48; and the history of Hartley, the kissing witch, in G. More’s True Discourse. And if we bear in mind the prevalent belief that the witch commanded the full powers of the devil, we need not refuse to connect the threats and angry words of unpopular old women with a certain proportion, at any rate, of the {i-183} illnesses which are so freely testified to as having soon after supervened.1 1 Mackenzie, Op. cit., p. 48; D’Autun, Op. cit., p. 480; Miscellany of the Spalding Club, Vol. i., pp. 84, 131, 144; Piteairn, Op. cit., passim. Wagstaffe (The Question of Witchcraft Debated, London, 1671) seems to be the first author who expressly recognises that, in questions of coincidence, allowance must be made for the operation of chance. It must also be borne in mind that the reputed witches possibly included in their ranks a fair sprinkling of the amateur medical practitioners of the time.2 2See P. Christian, Histoire de la Magie (Paris, 1870), p. 400; he gives quite an elaborate witches’ pharmacopæia. Cf. Sir A. C. Lyall, Asiatic Studies, p. 85. This is a feature of the witch-history which is more prominent in foreign than in English records. In Cannaert (Op. cit.) and Reuss (Op. cit.) constant mention is made of bewitched powders; and in the foreign trials generally, more stress is laid on poisoning than on anything else. Reuss is of opinion that the hallucinations were in many cases the result of drugs. At the same time we find that, among the credulous writers of the witch-epoch, a witch and a poisoner were often regarded as synonymous; and the stories of the powders may have rested on much the same evidence as those of the imps. As far as I know, no one ever deposed to having seen the drug administered.3 3 See Saint André, Op. cit., p. 285.

The above slight sketch may serve to suggest that learned opinion on the question of witchcraft has a history of its own of a rather complex kind; and some recognition of this seems necessary to supplement the view of the decline of the belief so forcibly set forth by Mr. Lecky. As regards the place of witchcraft in the popular regard, the effect of the advancing spirit of rationalism was no doubt more unconscious and indiscriminate—undermining the superstition without exactly attacking it in detail; putting the whole subject, so to speak, out of court, not through a reasonable refutation of its claims, but through a general change of instinct and mood in respect of miraculous events. But professed students still felt it their business to analyse the phenomena, and exercised their minds on the various points in turn. And the consequence is that the works of the abler writers present us with a curious and gradually-shifting medley of à priori convictions and scientific reasonings and of beliefs and disbeliefs, often oddly inconsistent and oddly harmonised in the same mind. Binsfield, who firmly believes in the “Sabbaths,” draws the line at the dancing with Diana and Herodias; because as for Diana, there is no such person, and Herodias, though existing in hell, is a soul only and not a woman.4 4 Op. cit., p. 349. Boguet thinks that witches pursue and eat children, but that they are not really wolves. Majolus and Nynauld believe in transportations, but not in transformations. Wier pours scorn alike on lycanthropy and on the night-rides; but he has not the slightest doubt that the devil can transport people, and that he {i-184} does prevent his votaries from feeling torture.1 1 Op. cit., pp. 236, 238, 242. Cf. Cooper, Mystery of Witchcraft (London, 1617), p. 258. Neither he nor Cotta has grasped the idea that hysterical girls can play tricks, and produce from their mouths objects which they have previously placed there.2 2 A case where the fraud was exposed is given by Hutchinson, Op. cit., p. 283. Perkins considers that such effects as transformation, and injury by the mere power of the eye, quite transcend the devil’s range;3 3 A Discourse of the Damned Art of Witchcraft (Cambridge, 1608), pp. 33, 140. but this view in no way shakes his faith in the reality of magical powers. Méric Casaubon, though so far emancipated as to surmise that “supernatural” things may in time be explained, yet writes expressly to confute “the Sadducism of these times,” disapproves of Scot, and can say nothing harsher of Bodin and Remy than that they were “in some things perchance more credulous than I should be.”4 4 Of Credulity and Incredulity (title of the first edition, London, 1668), pp. 28, 147, 169. His impartiality is quite tantalising. Thus, as regards certain alleged cures, he presents us with four alternatives, quoted from Franciscus à Victoria, from which we may suit ourselves:—either the healers cheat; or they heal by the power of the devil; or by the grace of God; or by some specific natural gift. D’Autun, a writer who wholly repudiates the extremer marvels, and who is remarkable for his humanity, yet cannot resist the evidence of confession, which a modern writer regards with mingled scorn and indignation.5 5 Op. cit., p. 164. Even in the 18th century, Acxtelmeir, who does not lack sense, and who attributes the midnight revels to dream, yet cannot shake off the effect on his mind of the feeble stories about the persons found in the fields in the morning;6 6 Misanthropus Audax (Augsburg, 1710), pp. 32, 36. and a little earlier Wagstaffe, one of the most open-minded of all the writers on the subject—who expressly attributes much of the deception to “want of knowledge in the art of physic”—is yet convinced that there were genuine cases of wounding the witch at a distance by striking at her apparition.7 7 Op. cit., pp. 118, 114. Of the more bizarre ideas, this was perhaps the one that lingered longest among rational writers. The author of A Philosophical Endeavour, &c., p. 128, Clanvil (Op. cit., p. 34), and Mather (Op. cit., p. 106), have, of course, no doubt on the subject. A case in which fraud was afterwards discovered is given by Thacker, Essay on Demonology (Boston, 1831), p. 107. Bayle and La Bruyère, as Mr. Lecky has observed, held a similar uncertain position.

For any wide historical analysis of the grounds of opinion and of certainty in the human mind, no literature could better repay detailed study than that which these brief citations illustrate. But enough has perhaps been said for my present purpose—which is merely to show that, if the gradual tendency of the great body of public opinion on the subject of witchcraft was to put aside evidential questions, and simply to {i-185} turn away from the phenomena as incredible and absurd, there was in the reflective and literary world a strong tendency to cling, wherever possible, to tradition and à priori conceptions, and for that purpose to press to the very utmost such items of evidence as were to be found. Had evidence and inference, necessarily and throughout, gone hand in hand, and had the abnormal occurrences all been of a piece—all of that bizarre and incredible kind which Mr. Lecky’s treatment too much implies—then critical as well as uncritical minds might have drifted away from them in the silent and indifferent way which he depicts. But many of the abnormalities were far too real and tangible to be thus drifted away from; and it often happened that these, through the wrong inferences to which they gave rise, lent a sort of unsound support to the more incredible and the worse-attested incidents. Thus, one author after another, in the gradual recession to the rational standpoint, draws and defends what, to us now, looks like an arbitrary line between fact and fable; but the effect of this more critical treatment was, on the whole, to keep in view the large mass of phenomena which science can still accept as fact, and some of which, indeed—notably those of hysteria, hystero-epilepsy, and hypnotism—are only now beginning to make their full importance felt. And thus the position taken up in the foregoing chapter is maintained. The part of the case for witchcraft which is now an exploded superstition had never, even in its own day, any real evidential foundation; while the part which had a real evidential foundation is now more firmly established than ever. It is with the former part that we would directly contrast, and with the latter that we might in some respects compare, our own evidential case for telepathy.

{i-186}

CHAPTER V.

SPECIMENS OF THE VARIOUS TYPES OF SPONTANEOUS TELEPATHY.

§ 1. WE now come to the actual evidence for spontaneous telepathy. As has been explained, the proof is cumulative, and its strength can only be truly estimated by a patient study of a very large mass of testimony. But to wade through a number of the cases is far from an attractive task. They are very unexciting—monotonous amid all their variety—as different from the Mysteries of Udolpho as from the dignified reports of a learned society, and far more likely to provoke slumber in the course of perusal than to banish it afterwards. And for the convenience of those who desire neither to toil nor to sleep, it will be well to disregard logical arrangement, and to present at once a few preliminary samples. This chapter, therefore, will include a small batch of narratives which may serve as types of the different classes of telepathic phenomena, while further illustrating various important evidential points. At the present stage it will, no doubt, be open to anyone who accepts the facts in these cases as essentially correct to regard every one of the coincidences as accidental. The reasoning that will prevent this conclusion must still be taken on trust; it could not be given now without delaying the concrete illustrations till the reader would be weary of waiting for them. Nor would it be profitable at this place to enter fully into the principles of the classification, which can only be made clear in connection with the evidence. I will therefore sketch here the main headings, without comment, trusting to the further development of the work to justify the arrangement adopted.

We find our most distinct line of classification in the nature of the percipient’s impression. This at once divides the cases into two great families—those (A) where the impression is sensory and externalised, and those (B) where it is not sensory or externalised. In the first division the experience is a percept or quasi-percept—something {i-187} which the person seems to see, hear, or feel, and which he instinctively refers to the outer world. In the second division, the impression is of an inward or ideal kind—either a mental image, or an emotion, or a mere blind impulse towards some sort of action. There is also a small group of cases (C) which it is not easy to assign to either division—those, namely, where the experience of the percipient is sensory, without being an external-seeming affection of sight, hearing, or touch—for instance, a physical feeling of illness or malaise. This small group will be most conveniently treated with the emotional division into which it shades. Further, each of these divisions is represented in sleeping as well as in waking life, so that dreams form a comprehensive class (D) of their own; and the externalised division is also strongly represented in a region of experience which is on the borderland (E) between complete sleep and complete normal wakefulness. Lastly, there are two peculiarities, attaching to certain cases in all or nearly all the above divisions, which are of sufficient importance to form the basis of two separate classes. The first of these is the reciprocal class (F), where each of the persons concerned seems to exercise a telepathic influence on the other; and the second is the collective class (G), where more percipients than one take part in a single telepathic incident.

§ 2. Now the logical starting-point for the following inquiry will naturally be found in the cases which present most analogy to the results of experimental thought-transference. All those results, it will be remembered, were of the non-externalised type. I shall therefore start with inward impressions, ideal and emotional, and shall advance, through dreams—where each of us has, so to speak, an outer as well as an inner world of his own—to the “borderland” and waking impressions which seem to fall on the senses in an objective way from the outer world that is common to us all.

But though the impressions received by the percipient in the experimental cases had no external quality, a good many of them were distinctly sensory—one important branch being transference of pains. And if the parallel between experimental and spontaneous effects be a just one, we might fairly expect to find cases where a localised pain has been similarly transferred from one person to another at a distance. I will open this preliminary batch of narratives with just such a case, the simplest possible specimen of group C, and as pure an instance of transference of sensation, unattended by any idea {i-188} or image, as can well be conceived. The parties concerned are Mr. Arthur Severn, the distinguished landscape-painter, and his wife; and the narrative was obtained through the kindness of Mr. Ruskin.

Mrs. Severn says:—

“Brantwood, Coniston.

“October 27th, 1883.

(17) “I woke up with a start, feeling I had had a hard blow on my mouth, and with a distinct sense that I had been cut, and was bleeding under my upper lip, and seized my pocket-handkerchief, and held it (in a little pushed lump) to the part, as I sat up in bed, and after a few seconds, when I removed it, I was astonished not to see any blood, and only then realised it was impossible anything could have struck me there, as I lay fast asleep in bed, and so I thought it was only a dream!—but I looked at my watch, and saw it was seven, and finding Arthur (my husband) was not in the room, I concluded (rightly) that he must have gone out on the lake for an early sail, as it was so fine.

“I then fell asleep. At breakfast (half-past nine), Arthur came in rather late, and I noticed he rather purposely sat farther away from me than usual, and every now and then put his pocket-handkerchief furtively up to his lip, in the very way I had done. I said, ‘Arthur, why are you doing that?’ and added a little anxiously, ‘I know you have hurt yourself! but I’ll tell you why afterwards.’ He said, ‘Well, when I was sailing, a sudden squall came, throwing the tiller suddenly round, and it struck me a bad blow in the mouth, under the upper lip, and it has been bleeding a good deal and won’t stop.’ I then said, ‘Have you any idea what o’clock it was when it happened?’ and he answered, ‘It must have been about seven.’

“I then told what had happened to me, much to his surprise, and all who were with us at breakfast.

“It happened here about three years ago at Brantwood, to me.

“JOAN R. SEVERN.”

In reply to inquiries Mrs. Severn writes:—

“There was no doubt about my starting up in bed wide awake, as I stuffed my pocket-handkerchief into my mouth, and held it pressed under my upper lip for some time before removing it to ‘see the blood,’—and was much surprised that there was none. Some little time afterwards I fell asleep again. I believe that when I got up, an hour afterwards, the impression was still vividly in my mind, and that as I was dressing I did look under my lip to see if there was any mark.”

Mr. Severn’s account, dated Nov. 15, 1883, is as follows:—

“Early one summer morning, I got up intending to go and sail on the lake; whether my wife heard me going out of the room I don’t know; she probably did, and in a half-dreamy state knew where I was going.

“When I got down to the water I found it calm, like a mirror, and remember thinking it quite a shame to disturb the wonderful reflections of the opposite shore. However, I soon got afloat, and as there was no wind, contented myself with pulling up my sails to dry, and putting my boat in order. Soon some slight air came, and I was able to sail about a mile below Brantwood, then the wind dropped, and I was left becalmed for {i-189} half-an-hour or so, when, on looking up to the head of the lake, I saw a dark blue line on the water. At first I couldn’t make it out, but soon saw that it must be small waves caused by a strong wind coming. I got my boat as ready as I could, in the short time, to receive this gust, but some how or other she was taken aback, and seemed to spin round when the wind struck her, and in getting out of the way of the boom I got my head in the way of the tiller, which also swung round and gave me a nasty blow in the mouth, cutting my lip rather badly, and having become loose in the rudder it came out and went overboard. With my mouth bleeding, the mainsheet more or less round my neck, and the tiller gone, and the boat in confusion, I could not help smiling to think how suddenly I had been humbled almost to a wreck, just when I thought I was going to be so clever! However, I soon managed to get my tiller, and, with plenty of wind, tacked back to Brantwood, and, making my boat snug in the harbour, walked up to the house, anxious of course to hide as much as possible what had happened to my mouth, and getting another handkerchief walked into the breakfast-room, and managed to say something about having been out early. In an instant my wife said, ‘You don’t mean to say you have hurt your mouth?’ or words to that effect. I then explained what had happened, and was surprised to see some extra interest on her face, and still more surprised when she told me she had started out of her sleep thinking she had received a blow in the mouth! and that it was a few minutes past seven o’clock, and wondered if my accident had happened at the same time; but as I had no watch with me I couldn’t tell, though, on comparing notes, it certainly looked as if it had been about the same time.

“ARTHUR SEVERN.”

Considering what a vivid thing pain often is, it might seem likely that this form of telepathy, if it exists, would be comparatively common, in comparison with the more ideal or intellectual forms which are connected with the higher senses. This, however, is not so. It is conceivable, of course, that instances occur which go unnoticed. For, apart from injury, even a sharp pain is soon forgotten; and unless the copy reproduced the original with excruciating fidelity, a sudden pang might be referred to some ordinary cause, and the coincidence would never be noted. We, however, can only go by what is noted. I mentioned that even in experimental trials the phenomenon has been little observed except with hypnotised “subjects”; and on the evidence we must allow its spontaneous appearance to be even rarer. The stock instance is that of the brothers, Louis and Charles Blanc, the latter of whom professed to have experienced a strong physical shock at the time that his brother was felled in the streets of Paris by (as was supposed) some Bonapartist bully.11I received this version of the incident from Mrs. Crawford, of 60, Boulevard de Courcelles, Paris, to whom Louis Blanc narrated it in 1871, in a long and intimate tête-à-tête. Charles made his appearance in Paris, unexpectedly, some days after the event alleging as the reason of his visit the anxiety which the shock had caused him; and his brother at any rate, who knew him thoroughly, accepted this as the true reason. The case affords an interesting instance of the transformations which a story that becomes at all celebrated is almost sure to undergo. See, e.g., A Memoir of G. Mayne Young (1871), pp. 341–2, where the injury is localised as a stab in the arm, and the parts of the brothers are inverted. The lady who gave the account to the subject of the memoir professed to have heard it from Louis Blanc, at Dr. Ashburner’s dinner-table; and also to have been shown the scar on Charles Blane’s arm after dinner! A parallel case—where the absent husband was struck by a ball in the forehead, and the wife felt the wound—is recorded by Borel, Historiarum et Observationum Medicophysicarum Centuriœ [sic] iv. (Paris, 1656), Cent. ii., obs. 47; but only on the authority of “persons worthy of credit.” This is the earliest record that I can recall of a non-externalised telepathic impression of at all a definite sort. But this is a third-hand story at best; and the above is our {i-190} only first-hand instance where the pain was of an unusual kind, and was very exactly localised. It is specially for cases of this sort—most interesting to science, but with neither pathos nor dignity to keep them alive—that the chance of preservation will, we trust, be improved by the existence of a classified collection, where they may at once find their proper place.

What has been said of pains applies, mutatis mutandis, with due alteration of details to all affections of the lower senses. In the first place, it is the exception and not the rule for the spontaneous transferences to reproduce in the percipient the exact sensation of the agent (p. 111); and, in the second place, such reproduction (or at any rate the evidence for it) seems almost wholly confined to the higher senses of sight and hearing. Thus, though we found that transference of tastes had been a very successful branch of the experimental work, we have no precisely analogous record in the spontaneous class. The nearest approach is a case which concerned the sense of smell, but where there was no direct transference of sensation as such. The case is, however, worth quoting here on another ground, as illustrating one of the evidential points of the last chapter—namely, that the strength of any evidence, in the sense of the assurance which it produces that the facts are correctly reported, is a very different thing from its strength as a contribution to the proof of telepathy. Thus, no one probably will care to dispute the facts in the following narrative; but the coincidence recorded is little, if at all, more striking than most of us occasionally encounter; and recourse to the telepathic explanation can only be justified by our knowledge that the two persons concerned have, on other occasions, given very much more conclusive signs of their power of super-sensuous communication.11 See pp. 63–9. Mr. Newnham has further told us that coincidences of thought of a more or less striking kind occur to himself and his wife as matters of daily experience. But to differentiate these from the numerous domestic cases which pure accident will account for (Chap. vi, § 1), a written record would have to be accurately kept from day to day. The Rev. P. H. Newnham, of Maker Vicarage, Devonport, writes to us:—

{i-191}

“January 26th, 1885.

(18) “In March, 1861, I was living at Houghton, Hants. My wife was at the time confined to the house, by delicacy of the lungs. One day, walking through a lane, I found the first wild violets of the spring, and took them home to her.

“Early in April I was attacked with a dangerous illness; and in June left the place. I never told my wife exactly where I found the violets, nor, for the reasons explained, did I ever walk with her past the place where they grew, for many years.

“In November, 1873, we were staying with friends at Houghton; and myself and wife took a walk up the lane in question. As we passed by the place, the recollection of those early violets of 12½ years ago flashed upon my mind. At the usual interval of some 20 or 30 seconds my wife remarked, ‘It’s very curious, but if it were not impossible, I should declare that I could smell violets in the hedge.’

“I had not spoken, or made any gesture or movement of any kind, to imdicate [sic] what I was thinking of. Neither had my memory called up the perfume. All that I thought of was the exact locality on the hedge bank; my memory being exceedingly minute for locality.”

Mr. Newnham’s residence at Houghton lasted only a few months, and with the help of a diary he can account for nearly every day’s walking and work. “My impression is,” he says, “that this was the first and only time that I explored this particular ‘drive’; and I feel certain that Mrs. Newnham never saw the spot at all until November, 1873. The hedges had then been grubbed, and no violets grew there.”

The following is Mrs. Newnham’s account:—

“May 28th, 1885.

“I perfectly remember our walking one day in November, 1873, at Houghton, and suddenly finding so strong a scent of violets in the air that I remarked to my husband, ‘If it were not so utterly impossible, I should declare I smelt violets!’ Mr. Newnham then reminded me of his bringing me the first violets in the spring of 1861, and told me that this was just about the spot where he had found them. I had quite forgotten the circumstance till thus reminded.”

§ 3. We may now pass to illustrations of Class B—the class of ideal and emotional impressions. The following is a well-attested case of the transference of an idea. It was sent to us, in 1884, by our friend, the Rev. J. A. Macdonald, who wrote:—

“19, Heywood Street, Cheetham, Manchester.

(19) “When I was in Liverpool, in 1872, I heard from my friend, the late Rev. W. W. Stamp, D.D., a remarkable story of the faculty of second sight possessed by the Rev. John Drake, of Arbroath, in Scotland. I visited Arbroath in 1874, and recounted to Mr. Drake the story of Dr. Stamp, which Mr. Drake assented to as correct, and he called his faculty ‘clairvoyance.’ Subsequently, in 1881, I had the facts particularly verified by Mrs. Hutcheon, who was herself the subject of this clairvoyance of Mr. Drake.

{i-192}

“When the Rev. John Drake was minister of the Wesleyan Church at Aberdeen, Miss Jessie Wilson, the daughter of one of the principal lay office bearers in that church, sailed for India, to join the Rev. John Hutcheon, M.A., then stationed as a missionary at Bangalore, to whom she was under engagement to be married. Mr. Drake, one morning, came down to Mr. Wilson’s place of business and said, ‘Mr. Wilson, I am happy to be able to inform you that Jessie has had a pleasant voyage, and is now safely arrived in India.’ Mr. Wilson said, ‘How do you know that, Mr. Drake?’ to which Mr. Drake replied, ‘I saw it.’ ‘But,’ said Mr. Wilson, ‘it cannot be, for it is a fortnight too soon. The vessel has never made the voyage within a fortnight of the time it is now since Jessie sailed.’ To this Mr. Drake replied: ‘Now you jot it down in your book that John Drake called this morning, and told you that Jessie has arrived in India this morning after a pleasant voyage.’ Mr. Wilson accordingly made the entry, which Mrs. Hutcheon assures me she saw, when she returned home, and that it ran thus: ‘Mr. Drake. Jessie arrived India morning of June 5th, 1860.’ This turned out to have been literally the case. The ship had fair winds all the way, and made a quicker passage by a fortnight than ever she had made before.”

The above account was sent by Mr. Macdonald to Mr. Drake for verification, and the following reply was received from the Rev. Crawshaw Hargreaves, of the Wesleyan Manse, Arbroath:—

“April 29th, 1885.

“MY DEAR SIR,—Mr. Drake is sorry your communication of the 2nd inst. has been so long unanswered; but two days after receiving it he had a paralytic seizure, which has not only confined him to bed, but taken from him the use of one side.

“He now desires me to answer your inquiries, and to say that the account, which you enclosed and which he now returns to you, is correct, except that he has no recollection of ever calling it ‘clairvoyance.’ It was neither a ‘dream,’ nor a ‘vision,’ but an impression that he received between the hours of 8 and 10 in the morning, when his mind was as clear as ever it was, an impression which he believes was given him by God for the comfort of the family. Moreover this impression was so clear and satisfactory to himself that when Mr. Wilson said, ‘It cannot be,’ Mr. Drake replied, ‘You jot it down,’ as warmly as if his statement of any ordinary circumstances had been doubted by a friend.

“Mr. Drake hopes these particulars will be enough for your purpose.—Believe me, dear sir, yours very truly,

“C. HARGREAVES

The following is Mrs. Hutcheon’s account of the incident, given quite independently:—

“Weston-super-Mare.

“February 20th, 1885.

“The facts are simply these. I sailed for India on March 3rd, 1860, in the ‘Earl of Hardwicke,’ a good, but slow, sailing-vessel. About 16 weeks were usually allowed for the voyage, so that we were not due in Madras till about the middle of June. Our voyage, however, being an uncommonly rapid one, we cast anchor in the roads of Madras on the morning of June 5th, taking our friends there quite by surprise.

{i-193}

“On this same morning, my former pastor, an able and much esteemed Wesleyan minister, called on my father at an unusually early hour, when the following conversation passed:—

“‘Why, Mr. D., what takes you abroad at this early hour?’

“‘I have come to bring you good news, Mr. W. Your daughter Jessie has reached India this morning, safe and well.‘

“‘That would indeed be good news, if we could believe it; but you forget that the ship is not due at Madras before the middle of June. Besides, how could you get to know that?’

“‘Such, however, is the fact,’ replied Mr. D., and seeing my father’s incredulous look, he added: ‘You do not believe what I say, Mr. W., but just take a note of this date.’

“To satisfy him, my father wrote in his memo book: ‘Rev. J. D. and Jessie. Tuesday, 5th June, 1860.’

“In due time, tidings confirming Mr. D.’s statement arrived, greatly to the astonishment of my friends. He, however, manifested no surprise, but simply remarked, ‘Had I not known it for a fact, I certainly should not have told you of it.’

“These particulars I received by letter at the time, and on our return home 7 years later, we heard it from my father’s own lips. He is no longer with us, but the above are the plain facts as he gave them, and the little memo, in his handwriting, which he gave me as a curiosity, lies before me now.

“JESSIE HUTCHEON.”

In answer to inquiries, Mrs. Hutcheon adds:—

“March 23rd.

“I felt inclined to smile at the idea that I could possibly be mistaken as to a date so memorable in my life’s history, and immediately preceding my marriage. However, to render assurance doubly sure, I have referred to both my husband’s diary and my own, in each of which my landing in India on the 5th of June has an important place.

“The entry made by my husband is as follows: ‘N.B.—5th June, 1860; a memorable day! The ‘Hardwicke’ has arrived. What a quick voyage! Miss Wilson and mission party well.’”

[Mr. Macdonald tells us that he believes Mr. Drake had many such experiences, but that he found him so reticent that he despaired of getting an account of them from him. And Mr. Drake’s death has now made the attempt impossible.]

As regards the facts here, the narrative will probably be accepted as trustworthy. As regards the inference that may be drawn, the case is eminently of a sort where the character of the professing percipient (in other points than the mere desire to be truthful) ought to be taken into account. From a person “given to little surprises,” or who posed as a diviner if one out of a hundred guesses hit the mark, the evidence would deserve no attention; from a person of grave and reticent character, it is at any rate worthy of careful record.

In the last example, the idea apparently transferred was of a somewhat abstract kind—the impression of a mere event, without any {i-194} concrete imagery. But the ideal class includes many instances of a distinctly pictorial kind, where a scene is as clearly presented to the inward eye as the image of a card or diagram in some of our experimental cases. The following account of a vivid mental picture of this sort was received from Mrs. Bettany, of 2, Eckington Villas, Ashbourne Grove, Dulwich.

“November, 1884.

(20) “When I was a child I had many remarkable experiences of a psychical nature, which I remember to have looked upon as ordinary and natural at the time.

“On one occasion (I am unable to fix the date, but I must have been about 10 years old) I was walking in a country lane at A., the place where my parents then resided. I was reading geometry as I walked along, a subject little likely to produce fancies or morbid phenomena of any kind, when, in a moment, I saw a bedroom known as the White Room in my home, and upon the floor lay my mother, to all appearance dead. The vision must have remained some minutes, during which time my real surroundings appeared to pale and die out; but as the vision faded, actual surroundings came back, at first dimly, and then clearly.

“I could not doubt that what I had seen was real, so, instead of going home, I went at once to the house of our medical man and found him at home. He at once set out with me for my home, on the way putting questions I could not answer, as my mother was to all appearance well when I left home.

“I led the doctor straight to the White Room, where we found my mother actually lying as in my vision. This was true even to minute details. She had been seized suddenly by an attack at the heart, and would soon have breathed her last but for the doctor’s timely advent. I shall get my father and mother to read this and sign it.

“JEANIE GWYNNE-BETTANY.”

Mrs. Bettany’s parents write:—

“We certify that the above is correct.

“S. G. GWYNNE.

“J. W. GWYNNE.”

In answer to inquiries, Mrs. Bettany says:—

(1) “I was in no anxiety about my mother at the time I saw the vision I described. She was in her usual health when I left her.

(2) “Something a little similar had once occurred to my mother. She had been out riding alone, and the horse brought her to our door hanging half off his back, in a faint. This was a long time before, and she never rode again. Heart-disease had set in. She was not in the habit of fainting unless an attack of the heart was upon her. Between the attacks she looked and acted as if in health.

(3) “The occasion I described was, I believe, the only one on which I saw a scene transported apparently into the actual field of vision, to the exclusion of objects and surroundings actually present.

“I have had other visions in which I have seen events happening as they really were, in another place, but I have been also conscious of real surroundings.

{i-195}

In answer to further inquiries, she adds:—

(1) “No one could tell whether my vision preceded the fact or not. My mother was supposed to be out. No one knew anything of my mother’s being ill, till I took the doctor and my father, whom I had encountered at the door, to the room where we found my mother as I had seen her in my vision.

(2) “The doctor is dead. He has no living relation. No one in A. knew anything of these circumstances.

(3) “The White Room in which I saw my mother, and afterwards actually found her, was out of use. It was unlikely she should be there.

“She was found lying in the attitude in which I had seen her. I found a handkerchief with a lace border beside her on the floor. This I had distinctly noticed in my vision. There were other particulars of coincidence which I cannot put here.”

Mrs. Bettany’s father has given the following fuller account:—

“I distinctly remember being surprised by seeing my daughter, in company with the family doctor, outside the door of my residence; and I asked ‘Who is ill?’ She replied, ‘Mamma.’ She led the way at once to the ‘White Room,’ where we found my wife lying in a swoon on the floor. It was when I asked when she had been taken ill, that I found it must have been after my daughter had left the house. None of the servants in the house knew anything of the sudden illness, which our doctor assured me would have been fatal had he not arrived when he did.

“My wife was quite well when I left her in the morning.

“S. G. GWYNNE.”

If this vision suggests clairvoyance, owing to the amount of detail presented, we must still notice that it includes nothing which was not, or had not recently been, within the consciousness of the supposed agent. This point will claim further notice at a later stage. But the case is chiefly useful as illustrating an evidential point, which it will be very important to bear in mind in studying the mass of narratives in the sequel—namely, that possible inaccuracy as to details may leave the substantial fact which makes for telepathy quite untouched. It might, no doubt be fairly urged that the vision described may have assumed its distinctness of detail in the percipient’s mind only after the details of the actual scene had met her eyes. A child’s mind might easily be undiscriminating in this respect; and moreover Mrs. Bettany is by nature a good visualiser; which may perhaps be supposed to involve a slight tendency to retrospective hallucination—to mistaking vividly-conceived images for memories of actual experiences. But even if this hypothesis be pressed to the uttermost, the fact that she unexpectedly fetched the doctor remains; and if her whole impression of her mother’s critical condition was only a subsequent fancy, this very exceptional {i-196} step must have been taken without a reason. That is to say, we can only reject what is the substantial part of the evidence by supposing a distinctly improbable thing to have happened. And that being so, the evidence is a true stick in the telepathic faggot (p. 169).

I will supplement these two last cases by a third, in which their respective points, the abstract idea of an event and the concrete picture of a scene, were both presented. This case will also illustrate an evidential point. It occasionally happens that a number of occurrences, perhaps trivial in character, and each of them likely enough to be dismissed as merely a very odd coincidence, fall to the experience of one person; and if he is observant of his impressions, he may gradually become conscious of a certain similarity between them, which leads him to regard them as telepathic, or at any rate as something more than accidental. Before it can be worth while to consider such evidence, we must have reason to believe that the witness is a good observer, and alive to the very general mistake of noting hits and not misses in these matters. Such an observer we believe that we have found in Mr. Keulemans, of 34, Matilda Street, Barnsbury, N., a well-known scientific draughtsman, of whose care and accuracy we have had several examples. He has experienced so many of these coincidences that, even before our inquiries quickened his interest in the matter, he had been accustomed to keep a record of his impressions—which, according to his own account, were invariably justified by fact. Some more of his cases will be given in the sequel. The one here quoted is trivial enough (except perhaps to the baby who fell out of bed), and of little force if it were a single experience. Yet it will be seen that the impression was precise in character, was at once written down, and proved to be completely correct. We may perhaps assume Mrs. Keulemans to have been the agent.

“October 16th, 1883.

(21) “My wife went to reside at the seaside on September 30th last, taking with her our youngest child, a little boy 13 months old.

“On Wednesday, October 3rd, I felt a strong impression that the little fellow was worse (he was in weak health on his departure). The idea then prevailed on my mind that he had met with a slight accident; and immediately the picture of the bedroom in which he sleeps appeared in my mind’s eye. It was not the strong sensation of awe or sorrow, as I had often experienced before on such occasions; but, anyhow, I fancied he had fallen out of the bed, upon chairs, and then rolled down upon the floor. This was about 11 a.m., and I at once wrote to my wife, asking her to let me know how the little fellow was getting on. I thought it rather bold to tell my wife that the baby had, to my conviction, really met with an {i-197} accident, without being able to produce any confirmatory evidence. Also I considered that she would take it as an insinuation of carelessness on her part; therefore I purposely wrote it as a post scriptum.

“I heard no more about it, and even fancied that this time my impression was merely the consequence of anxiety. But on Saturday last I went to see my wife and child, and asked whether she had taken notice of my advice to protect the baby against such an accident. She smiled at first, and then informed me that he had tumbled out of bed upon the chairs placed at the side, and then found his way upon the floor, without being hurt. She further remarked, ‘You must have been thinking of that when it was just too late, because it happened the same day your letter came, some hours previously.’ I asked her what time of the day it happened. Answer: ‘About 11 a.m.’ She told me that she heard the baby fall, and at once ran upstairs to pick him up.

“I am certain, without the shadow of a doubt, that I wrote immediately after the impression; and that this was between 11 and 11.30 in the morning.”

I have seen the letter which Mr. Keulemans wrote to his wife. The envelope bears the post-mark of Worthing, October 3rd; and the postcript contained the following words:—

“Mind little Gaston does not fall out of bed. Put chairs in front of it. You know accidents soon happen. The fact is, I am almost certain he has met with such a mishap this very morning.”

Mrs. Keulemans’ aunt supplied the following testimony a day or two after Mr. Keulemans’ letter of October 16th.

“36, Teville Street, Worthing.

“Mrs. Keulemans (my niece) and her baby are staying at my house. The baby had fallen out of bed the morning of the day the letter [i.e., Mr. Keulemans’ letter] was received.

“C. GRAY

The next account illustrates an emotional impression, with a certain amount of physical discomfort. The experience appears to have been of a very unusual sort, and the coincidence of time to have been exact; the case is therefore a strong example of a weak class. The narrator is Miss Martyn, of Long Melford Rectory, Suffolk.

“September 4th, 1884.

(22) “On March 16th, 1884, I was sitting alone in the drawing-room, reading an interesting book, and feeling perfectly well, when suddenly I experienced an undefined feeling of dread and horror; I looked at the clock and saw it was just 7 p.m. I was utterly unable to read, so I got up and walked about the room trying to throw off the feeling, but I could not: I became quite cold, and had a firm presentiment that I was dying.11 Cf. cases 70 and 76. The feeling lasted about half-an-hour, and then passed off, leaving me a good deal shaken all the evening; I went to bed feeling very weak, as if I had been seriously ill.

“The next morning I received a telegram telling me of the death of a near and very dear cousin, Mrs. K., in Shropshire, with whom I had been {i-198} most intimately associated all my life, but for the last two years had seen very little of her. I did not associate this feeling of death with her or with anyone else, but I had a most distinct impression that something terrible was happening. This feeling came over me, I afterwards found. [sic] just at the time when my cousin died (7 p.m.). The connection with her death may have been simply an accident. I have never experienced anything of the sort before. I was not aware that Mrs. K. was ill, and her death was peculiarly sad and sudden.

“K. M.”

Mr. White Cooper, through whose kindness we obtained this account, writes as follows:—

“19, Berkeley Square, W.

“April 7th, 1885.

“I have asked Miss Martyn whether she had told anyone about her feeling of horror on March 16th, before she heard of the death of her cousin. She told me she had. She was quite convinced, and perfectly remembered telling Miss Mason the same evening, after Miss Mason had come from church, that she had had a peculiar feeling of horror and dread for which she could give no account. I then questioned Miss Mason, and enclose what she dictated.”

Miss Mason says:—

“The Rectory, Long Melford, Suffolk.

“April 5th, 1885.

“I well remember Miss Martyn telling me that a feeling of horror and an indescribable dread came over her on Sunday evening, March 16th, 1884, while we were in church, and she was alone in the drawing-room; that she was unable to shake it off, and felt very restless, and got up and walked about the room. She did not refer to anyone, and could give no cause for this peculiar feeling. I am under the impression that she told me the same evening (Sunday), and before she heard of the death of her cousin, bnt I am not certain whether it was Sunday or Monday that she told me about it.

“ANNA M. MASON.”

We have verified the date of the death in two local newspapers. The day was a Sunday, which is in accordance with the evidence.

§ 4. The next case illustrates the class of dreams (D). I am aware that the very mention of this class is apt to raise a prejudice against our whole inquiry. I shall explain later why it is extremely difficult to draw conclusive evidence of telepathy from dreams, and why we mark off the whole class of dreams, which are simply remembered as such, from the cases on which we rest our argument; but I shall also hope to show that dreams, though needing to be treated with the greatest caution, have a necessary and instructive place in the conspectus of telepathic phenomena. As to the evidential force of the present case, it will be enough to point out that the percipient states the experience to have been unique in his life; and that the violence of the effect produced, leading to the very unusual entry in the diary, puts the vision outside the common run of dreams which {i-199} may justly be held to afford almost limitless scope for accidental coincidences. The narrative is from Mr. Frederick Wingfield, of Belle Isle en Terre, Côtes du Nord, France.

“20th December, 1883.

(23) “I give you my most solemn assurance that what I am about to relate is the exact account of what occurred. I may remark that I am so little liable to the imputation of being easily impressed with a sense of the supernatural11 This expression cannot be excluded, when the words of our informants are quoted. We, ourselves, of course, regard all these occurrences as strictly natural. that I have been accused, and with reason, of being unduly sceptical upon matters which lay beyond my powers of explanation.

“On the night of Thursday, the 25th of March, 1880, I retired to bed after reading till late, as is my habit. I dreamed that I was lying on my sofa reading, when, on looking up, I saw distinctly the figure of my brother, Richard Wingfield-Baker, sitting on the chair before me. I dreamed that I spoke to him, but that he simply bent his head in reply, rose and left the room. When I awoke, I found myself standing with one foot on the ground by my bedside, and the other on the bed, trying to speak and to pronounce my brother’s name. So strong was the impression as to the reality of his presence and so vivid the whole scene as dreamt, that I left my bedroom to search for my brother in the sitting-room. I examined the chair where I had seen him seated, I returned to bed, tried to fall asleep in the hope of a repetition of the appearance, but my mind was too excited, too painfully disturbed, as I recalled what I had dreamed. I must have, however, fallen asleep towards the morning, but when I awoke, the impression of my dream was as vivid as ever—and I may add is to this very hour equally strong and clear. My sense of impending evil was so strong that I at once made a note in my memorandum book of this ‘appearance,’ and added the words, ‘God forbid.’

“Three days afterwards I received the news that my brother, Richard Wingfield-Baker, had died on Thursday evening, the 25th of March, 1880, at 8.30 p.m., from the effects of the terrible injuries received in a fall while hunting with the Blackmore Vale hounds.

“I will only add that I had been living in this town some 12 months; that I had not had any recent communication with my brother; that I knew him to be in good health, and that he was a perfect horseman. I did not at once communicate this dream to any intimate friend—there was unluckily none here at that very moment—but I did relate the story after the receipt of the news of my brother’s death, and showed the entry in my memorandum book. As evidence, of course, this is worthless; but I give you my word of honour that the circumstances I have related are the positive truth.

“FRED. WINGFIELD.”

“February 4th, 1884.

“I must explain my silence by the excuse that I could not procure till to-day a letter from my friend the Prince de Lucinge-Faucigny, in which he mentions the fact of my having related to him the particulars of my dream on the 25th of March, 1880. He came from Paris to stay a few {i-200} days with me early in April, and saw the entry in my note-book, which I now enclose for your inspection. You will observe the initials R. B. W. B., and a curious story is attached to these letters. During that sleepless night I naturally dwelt upon the incident, and recalled the circumstances connected with the apparition. Though I distinctly recognised my brother’s features, the idea flashed upon me that the figure bore some slight resemblance to my most intimate and valued friend, Colonel Bigge, and in my dread of impending evil to one to whom I am so much attached, I wrote the four initials, R. B. for Richard Baker, and W. B. for William Bigge. When the tidings of my brother’s death reached me I again looked at the entry, and saw with astonishment that the four letters stood for my brother’s full name, Richard Baker Wingfield-Baker, though I had always spoken of him as Richard Baker in common with the rest of my family. The figure I saw was that of my brother; and in my anxious state of mind I worried myself into the belief that possibly it might be that of my old friend, as a resemblance did exist in the fashion of their beards. I can give you no further explanations, nor can I produce further testimony in support of my assertions.

“FRED. WINGFIELD.”

With this letter, Mr. Wingfield sent me the note-book, in which, among a number of business memoranda, notes of books, &c., I find the entry—‘Appearance—Thursday night, 25th of March, 1880. R. B. W. B. God forbid!”

The following letter was enclosed:—

“Coat-an-nos, 2 février, 1884.

“Mon cher ami,—Je n’ai aucun effort de mémoire à faire pour me rappeler le fait dont vous me parlez, car j’en ai conservé un souvenir très net et tres précis. [Translation]"My dear friend, It costs me no effort to recall to memory the event you mention, for I still have a very clear and precise remembrance of it.

“Je me souviens parfaitement que le dimanche, 4 avril, 1880, étant arrivé de Paris le matin même pour passer ici quelques jours, j’ai été déjeûner avec vous. Je me souviens aussi parfaitement que je vous ai trouvé fort ému de la douloureuse nouvelle qui vous était parvenue quelques jours11 The words “quelques jours auparavant,” coupled with the fact that the number of the day is right, suggest that février is a mere slip of the pen for mars. [This and the following superscript refer to the same footnote. —Ed.] auparavant, de la mort de I’un des messieurs vos frères. Je me rappelle aussi comme si le fait s’était passé hier, tant j’en ai été frappé, que quelques jours avant d’apprendre la triste nouvelle, vous aviez un soir, étant déjà couché, vu, ou cru voir, mais en tous cas très distinctement, votre frère, celui dont vous veniez d’apprendre la mort subite, tout près de votre lit, et que, dans la conviction où vous ètiez que céetait bien lui que vous perceviez, vous vous étiez levé et lui aviez addressé la parole, et qu’à ce moment vous aviez cessé de le voir comme s’il s’était évanoui ainsi qu’un spectre. Je me souviens encore que, sous l’impression de l’émotion bien naturelle qui avait été la suite de cet évènement, vous l’aviez inscrit dans un petit carnet où vous avez l’habitude d’écrire les faits saillants de votre très paisible existence, et que vous m’avez fait voir ce carnet. Cette apparition, cette vision, ou ce songe, comme vous voudrez l’appeler, est inscrit, si j’ai bon souvenir, à la date du 24 ou du 25 février,11 The words “quelques jours auparavant,” coupled with the fact that the number of the day is right, suggest that février is a mere slip of the pen for mars. [This and the preceding superscript refer to the same footnote. —Ed.] et ce n’est que deux ou trois {i-201} jours après que vous avez reçu la nouvelle officielle de la mort de votre frère. [Translation]I remember perfectly that on Sunday, April 4, 1880, having arrived from Paris that same morning in order to spend a few days here, I went to lunch with you. I also remember perfectly that I found you deeply affected by the painful news you had received some days earlier of the death of one of your brothers. Because I was so struck by it, I also remember, as though it were yesterday, that after having gone to bed one evening several days before hearing that sad news, you saw distinctly, or thought you saw, the brother whose sudden death you had learned of, right by your bed. You were convinced it was indeed he you were seeing, and so you got up and spoke to him. At that moment you could no longer see him; it was as though he had vanished like a ghost. I also remember that, while under the quite natural emotional effects of this incident, you wrote it down in a small notebook in which you had the habit of writing down the major facts of your very quiet existence, and I remember your showing it to me. If memory serves, this apparition, or vision, or dream, however you wish to call it, was registered under February 24 or 25, and it was only two or three days later that you received formal notice of the death of your brother.

“J’ai été d’autant moins surpris de ce que vous me disiez alors, et j’en ai aussi conservé un souvenir d’autant plus net et précis, comme je vous le disais en commençant, que j’ai dans ma famille des faits similaires auxquels je crois absolument. [Translation]My surprise at what you told me then was all the less, and my memory all the clearer and more precise, as I told you at the outset, for my having in my own family similar phenomena, in which I believe absolutely.

“Des faits semblables arrivent, croyez-le bien, bien plus souvent qu’on ne le croit généralement; seulement on ne veut pas toujours les dire, parceque l’on se méfie de soi ou des autres. [Translation]Believe, me, this sort of thing happens much more often than is generally thought, but people don't always want to let on, out of mistrust, either of oneself, or of others.

“Au revoir, cher ami, à bientôt, je l’espère, et croyez bien à l’expression des plus sincères sentiments de votre tout devoué [Translation]Farewell, dear friend; I hope to see you soon, and I remain yours sincerely . . .

“FAUCIGNY, PRINCE LUCINGE.”

In answer to inquiries, Mr. Wingfield adds:—

“I have never had any other startling dream of the same nature, nor any dream from which I woke with the same sense of reality and distress, and of which the effect continued long after I was well awake. Nor have I upon any other occasion had a hallucination of the senses.”

The Times obituary for March 30th, 1880, records the death of Mr. R. B. Wingfield-Baker, of Orsett Hall, Essex, as having taken place on the 25th. The Essex Independent gives the same date, adding that Mr. Baker breathed his last about 9 o’clock.

It will be seen here that the impression followed the death by a few hours—a feature which will frequently recur. The fact, of course, slightly detracts from the evidential force of a case, as compared with the completely simultaneous coincidences; inasmuch as the odds against the accidental occurrence of a unique impression of someone’s presence within a few hours of his death, enormous as they are, are less enormous than the odds against a similar accidental occurrence within five minutes of the death. But the deferment of the impression, though to this slight extent affecting a case as an item of telepathic evidence, is not in itself any obstacle to the telepathic explanation. We may recall that in some of the experimental cases the impression was never a piece of conscious experience at all; while in others the latency and gradual emergence of the idea was a very noticeable feature (pp. 56, 63–71, 84). This justifies us in presuming that an impression which ultimately takes a sensory form may fail in the first instance to reach the threshold of attention. It may be unable to compete, at the moment, with the vivid sensory impressions, and the crowd of ideas and images, that belong to normal seasons of waking life; and it may thus remain latent till darkness and quiet give a chance for its development. This view seems at any rate supported by the fact that it is usually at night that the delayed impression—if such it be—emerges into the percipient’s consciousness. It is {i-202} supported also by analogies which recognised psychology supplies. I may refer to the extraordinary exaltation of memory sometimes observed in hypnotic and hystero-epileptic “subjects”; or even to the vivid revival, in ordinary dreaming, of impressions which have hardly affected the waking consciousness.

Mr. Wingfield’s vision had another unusual feature besides the violence of its effect on him. It represented a single figure, without detail or incident. It was, so to speak, the dream of an apparition; and in this respect bears a closer affinity to “borderland” and waking cases than to dreams in general. It will be worth while to quote here one dream-case of a more ordinary type so far as its content is concerned, but resembling the last in its unusual and distressing vividness. The supposed agent in this instance experienced nothing more than a brief sense of danger and excitement, which, however, may have been sufficiently intense during the moments that it lasted. The account is from Mrs. West, of Hildegarde, Furness Road, Eastbourne.

“1883.

(24) “My father and brother were on a journey during the winter. I was expecting them home, without knowing the exact day of their return. The date, to the best of my recollection, was the winter of 1871–2. I had gone to bed at my usual time, about 11 p.m. Some time in the night I had a vivid dream, which made a great impression on me. I dreamt I was looking out of a window, when I saw father driving in a Spids sledge, followed in another by my brother. They had to pass a cross-road, on which another traveller was driving very fast, also in a sledge with one horse. Father seemed to drive on without observing the other fellow, who would without fail have driven over father if he had not made his horse rear, so that I saw my father drive under the hoofs of the horse. Every moment I expected the horse would fall down and crush him. I called out ‘Father! father!’ and woke in a great fright. The next morning my father and brother returned. I said to him, ‘I am so glad to see you arrive quite safely, as I had such a dreadful dream about you last night.’ My brother said, ‘You could not have been in greater fright about him than I was,’ and then he related to me what had happened, which tallied exactly with my dream. My brother in his fright, when he saw the feet of the horse over father’s head, called out, ‘Oh! father, father!’

“I have never had any other dream of this kind, nor do I remember ever to have had another dream of an accident happening to anyone in whom I was interested. I often dream of people, and when this happens I generally expect to receive a letter from them, or to hear of them in the course of the next day. I dreamt of Mrs. G. Bidder the night before I received her letter asking me for an account of this dream; and I told Mr. West, before we went down to breakfast, that I should have a letter that day from her. I had no other reason to expect a letter from her, nor had I received one for some time, I should think some years, previously.

“HILDA WEST.”

{i-203}

Mrs. West’s father, Sir John Crowe, late Consul-General for Norway, is since dead; but her brother, Mr. Septimus Crowe, of Librola, Mary’s Hill Road, Shortlands, sends us the following confirmation:—

“I remember vividly, on my return once with my father from a trip to the north of Norway in the winter time, my sister meeting us at the hall-door as we entered, and exclaiming how pleased she was to see us, and that we were safe, as she said at once to me that she had had such an unpleasant dream the evening before. I said, ‘What was it?’ She then minutely explained to me the dream, as she related it to you, and which is in accordance with the facts. It naturally astonished my father and myself a good deal, that she so vividly in her sleep saw exactly what happened, and I should say, too, she dreamt it at the very time it happened, about 11.30 p.m.

“Septimus Crowe.”11 Our friend Mrs. Bidder, the wife of Mr. G. Bidder, Q.C., sends us the following recollection of the narrative as told at her table by Mr. S. Crowe, who is her husband’s brother-in-law. “Ravensbury Park, Mitcham, Surrey. “10th January, 1883. “The following was related at our table by my husband’s brother-in-law, Mr. Septimus Crowe. His father, since dead, was Sir John Crowe, Consul-General for Norway. “‘My father and I were travelling one winter in Norway. We had our carrioles as sledges, and my father drove first, I following. One day we were driving very quickly down a steep hill, at the bottom of which ran a road, at right angles with the one we were on. As we neared the bottom of the hill we saw a carriole, going as quickly as ourselves, just ready to cross our path. My father reined in suddenly, his horse reared and fell over, and I could not, at first, see whether he was hurt or not. He, luckily, had sustained no injury, and in due time we reached home. My sister, on our approach, rushed out, exclaiming: “Then you are not hurt? I saw the horse rear, but I could not see whether you were hurt or not.”’” It will be seen that if Mrs. Bidder’s report is strictly accurate, there is a discrepancy as to which of the two horses it was that reared. But even eye-witnesses of a sudden and confusing accident might afterwards differ in such a point as this.

This, again, is a good example of a weak class. But in the present instance we at any rate possess Mrs. West’s testimony that her experience was unique; and we have, further, Mr. Crowe’s testimony that the dream was accurately described before the facts were known. It was described, no doubt, in a conversation with him—a person whose mind was full of the facts, and he probably did not keep silence during the whole course of his sister’s narration: I have already noted that the unprepared actors in these cases are not likely to conduct themselves at the moment with a deliberate eye to the flawlessness of their evidence for our purposes some years afterwards. But it would be straining a sceptical hypothesis too far to assume that his interposed comments formed the real basis of the scene in Mrs. West’s memory, while he himself remained completely unconscious that he was supplying the information which he appeared to be receiving.

§ 5. We now come to an example of the “borderland” class (E)—the class where the percipient, though not asleep, was not, or cannot be {i-204} proved to have been, in a state of complete normal wakefulness. The case was first published in the Spiritual Magazine for 1861, by Dr. Collyer, who wrote from Beta House, 8, Alpha Road, St. John’s Wood, N.W.

“April 15th, 1861.

(25) “On January 3rd, 1856, my brother Joseph being in command of the steamer ‘Alice,’ on the Mississippi, just above New Orleans, she came in collision with another steamer. The concussion caused the flagstaff or pole to fall with great violence, which, coming in contact with my brother’s head, actually divided the skull, causing, of necessity, instant death. In October, 1857, I visited the United States. When, at my father’s residence, Camden, New Jersey, the melancholy death of my brother became the subject of conversation, my mother narrated to me that at the very time of the accident, the apparition of my brother Joseph was presented to her. This fact was corroborated by my father and four sisters. Camden, New Jersey, is distant from the scene of the accident, in a direct line, over 1,000 miles, and nearly double that distance by the mail route. My mother mentioned the fact of the apparition on the morning of the 4th of January to my father and sisters; nor was it until the 16th, or 13 days after, that a letter was received confirming in every particular the extraordinary visitation. It will be important to mention that my brother William and his wife lived near the locality of the dreadful accident, now being in Philadelphia; they have also corroborated to me the details of the impression produced on my mother.”

Dr. Collyer then quotes a letter from his mother, which contains the following sentences:—

“Camden, New Jersey, United States.

“March 27th, 1861.

“My beloved Son,—On the 3rd of January, 1856, I did not feel well, and retired to bed early. Some time after, I felt uneasy and sat up in bed; I looked round the room, and to my utter amazement, saw Joseph standing at the door, looking at me with great earnestness, his head bandaged up, a dirty night-cap on, and a dirty white garment on, something like a surplice. He was much disfigured about the eyes and face. It made me quite uncomfortable the rest of the night. The next morning, Mary came into my room early. I told her that I was sure I was going to have bad news from Joseph. I told all the family at the breakfast table; they replied, ‘It was only a dream, and all nonsense,’ but that did not change my opinion. It preyed on my mind, and on the 16th of January I received the news of his death; and singular to say, both William and his wife, who were there, say that he was exactly attired as I saw him.

“Your ever affectionate Mother,

“ANNE E. COLLYER.”

Dr. Collyer continues:—

“It will no doubt be said that my mother’s imagination was in a morbid state, but this will not account for the fact of the apparition of my brother presenting himself at the exact moment of his death. My mother had never seen him attired as described, and the bandaging of the head did not take place until hours after the accident. My brother William told me that his head was nearly cut in two by the blow, and that his face was dreadfully disfigured, and the night-dress much soiled.

{i-205}

“I cannot wonder that others should be sceptical, as the evidences I have had could not have been received on the testimony of others; we must, therefore, be charitable towards the incredulous.

“Robert H. Collyer, M.D., F.C.S., &c.”

On our applying to Dr. Collyer, he replied as follows:—

“25, Newington Causeway, Borough, S.E.

“March 15th, 1884.

“In replying to your communication, I must state that, strange as the circumstances narrated in the Spiritual Magazine of 1861 are, I can assure you that there is not a particle of exaggeration. As there stated, my mother received the mental impression of my brother on January 3rd, 1856. My father, who was a scientific man, calculated the difference of longitude between Camden, New Jersey, and New Orleans, and found that the mental impression was at the exact time of my brother’s death. I may mention that I never was a believer in any spiritual intercourse, or that any of the phenomena present during exalted conditions of the brain are spiritual. I am, and have been for the last 40 years, a materialist, and think that all the so-called spiritual manifestations admit of a philosophical explanation, on physical laws and conditions. I do not desire to theorise, but to my mind the sympathetic chord of relationship existed between my mother and my brother (who was her favourite son), when that chord was broken by his sudden death, she being at the time favourably situated to receive the shock.

“In the account published in the Spiritual Magazine, I omitted to state that my brother Joseph, prior to his death, had retired for the night in his berth; his vessel was moored alongside the levee, at the time of the collision by another steamer coming down the Mississippi. Of course, my brother was in his nightgown. He ran on deck on being called and informed that a steamer was in close proximity to his own. These circumstances were communicated to me by my brother William, who was on the spot at the time of the accident. I do not attempt to account for the apparition having a bandage, as that could not have been put for some time after death. The difference of time between Camden, New Jersey, and New Orleans is nearly 15°, or one hour.

“My mother retired for the night on 3rd January, 1856, at 8 p.m., which would mark the time at New Orleans 7 p.m. as the time of my brother’s death.”

Mr. Podmore says:—

“I called upon Dr. Collyer on 25th March, 1884. He told me that he received a full account of the story verbally from his father, mother, and brother in 1857. All are now dead; but two sisters—to one of whom I have written—are still living. Dr. Collyer was quite certain of the precise coincidence of time.”

The following is from one of the surviving sisters:—

“Mobile, Alabama, 12th May, 1884.

“I resided in Camden, New Jersey, at the time of my brother’s death. He lived in Louisiana. His death was caused by the collision of two steamers on the Mississippi. Some part of the mast fell on him, splitting his head open, causing instantaneous death. The apparition appeared to my mother at the foot of her bed. It stood there for some time gazing at her {i-206} and disappeared. The apparition was clothed in a long white garment, with its head bound in a white cloth. My mother was not a superstitious person, nor did she believe in Spiritualism. She was wide awake at the time. It was not a dream. She remarked to me when I saw her in the morning, ‘I shall hear bad news from Joseph,’ and related to me what she had seen. Two or three days1 [☼]1 This is probably incorrect, as it differs from Dr. Collyer’s and the mother’s statement; but the point does not seem important. For a piece of independent testimony respecting Captain Collyer’s death, see the “Additions and Corrections” which precede Chap. I.[☼] The hour there mentioned is 10 p.m.; but this can hardly weigh against Dr. Collyer’s evidence. After 30 years’ interval, a mistake of 3 hours might easily be made as to the time of an event which occurred after dark on a winter’s night. from that time we heard of the sad accident. I had another brother who was there at the time, and when he returned home I inquired of him all particulars, and how he was laid out. His description answered to what my mother saw, much to our astonishment.

“A. E. COLLYER.”

Here we have no direct proof of the exactness of the coincidence; but Dr. Collyer is clear on the fact that the matter was carefully inquired into at the time. As to the alleged resemblances between the phantasm and the real figure, we shall find reason further on to think that the impression of the white garment may have been really transferred. But the criticism made above in respect of Mrs. Bettany’s narrative again applies: we cannot account it certain that points were not read back into the vision, after Mrs. Collyer had learnt the actual aspect which the dead man presented. It will be observed, too, that the more striking details—especially that of the bandage—could not in any case help the telepathic argument. For if the son who was killed was the “agent” of his mother’s impression, any correspondence of the phantasmal appearance with features of reality which did not come into existence till after death must plainly have been accidental. We shall afterwards encounter plenty of instances where the percipient supplements the impression that he receives with elements from his own mind, and especially, in death-cases, with elements symbolic of death; and it is not impossible that in the present instance the white garment and bandaged head were a dim representation of grave-clothes.

Mrs. Collyer would probably have affirmed that at the time of her vision she was completely awake. That the percipient in the next example was completely awake is, I think, nearly certain; but as he was in bed, the account may serve as a transition to the cases where the matter admits of no doubt. Mr. Marchant, of Linkfield Street, Redhill, formerly a large farmer, wrote to us in the summer of 1883:—

{i-207}

(26) “About 2 o’clock on the morning of October 21st, 1881, while I was perfectly wide awake, and looking at a lamp burning on my washhand-stand, a person, as I thought, came into my room by mistake, and stopped, looking into the looking-glass on the table. It soon occurred to me it represented Robinson Kelsey, by his dress and wearing his hair long behind. When I raised myself up in bed and called out, it instantly disappeared.11 As to the disappearance on sudden speech or movement, see Vol. ii., p. 91, first note. The next day22 This means the day following the night of the experience; but, two lines lower, that day should no doubt be the next day, as Oct. 21, 1881, was a Friday. I mentioned to some of my friends how strange it was. So thoroughly convinced was I, that I searched the local papers that day (Saturday) and the following Tuesday, believing his death would be in one of them. On the following Wednesday, a man, who formerly was my drover, came and told me Robinson Kelsey was dead. Anxious to know at what time he died, I wrote to Mr. Wood, the family undertaker at Lingfield; he learnt from the brother-in-law of the deceased that he died at 2 a.m. He was my first cousin, and was apprenticed formerly to me as a miller; afterwards he lived with me as journeyman; altogether, 8 years. I never saw anything approaching that before. I am 72 years old, and never feel nervous; I am not afraid of the dead or their spirits. I hand you a rough plan of the bedroom, &c.”

In answer to inquiries, Mr. Marchant replied:—

“Robinson Kelsey had met with an accident. His horse fell with him, and from that time he seemed at times unfit for business. He had a farm at Penshurst, in Kent. His friends persuaded hin to leave it. He did, and went to live on his own property, called Batnors Hall, in the parish of Lingfield, Surrey. I had not been thinking about him, neither had I spoken to him for 20 years. About 3 or 4 years before his death I saw him, but not to speak to him. I was on the up-side platform of Redhill Station, and I saw him on the opposite down-side. In the morning after seeing the apparition, I spoke about it to a person in the house. In the evening, I again spoke about it to two persons, how strange it was. It was several days after our conversation about what I had seen that I heard of the death. These people will confirm my statement, for after I heard of his death I spoke of it to the same people, that my relation died the same night as I saw the apparition. When I spoke to these three persons I did not know of his death, but had my suspicions from what I had seen. As the apparition passed between my bed and the lamp I had a full view of it; it was unmistakeable. When it stopped looking in the glass I spoke to it, then it gently sank away downwards.

“Probably it was 10 days before I found out, through Mr. Wood, the hour he died, so that these persons I spoke to knew nothing of his death at the time.

“GEORGE MARCHANT.”

We have received the following confirmation of this incident:—

“July 18th, 1883.

“We are positive of hearing Mr. Marchant one day say that he saw the apparition of Robinson Kelsey during the previous night.

“ANN LANGERIDGE, Linkfield Street, Redhill.

“MATILDA FULLER, Station Road, Redhill.

“WILLIAM MILES, Station Road, Redhill.”

{i-208}

Mr. Anthony Kelsey, of Lingfield, Surrey, brother-in-law and cousin of Robinson Kelsey, has confirmed October 21st, 1881, as the date of the death (which we have also verified in the Register of Deaths), but he has forgotten the hour; and Mr. Robinson Kelsey’s widow having since died, Mr. Marchant’s recollection on this point cannot now be independently confirmed. As to the hour of the apparition, again, Mr. Marchant’s statement is only a conclusion, drawn from his regular habit of waking once in the middle of the night at about 2. But there can be no reasonable doubt that the day of the death and of the vision was the same.

On February 12th, 1884, I had an interview with Mr. Marchant, who is a very vigorous and sensible old man, with a precise mind. He went through all the details of his narrative in a methodical manner, and his description corresponded in every particular with the written account, which was sent to me many months before. Mr. Marchant was positive that he never had any other hallucination of the senses, and laughed at the very idea of such things. He quite realised the ordinary criticisms which might be made about a nocturnal vision, e.g., that he had had a glass too much, and also realised their absurdity as applied to his own case. I cannot doubt his statement that he has been a most temperate man. He showed me in his bedroom the precise line that the figure took; appearing at his right hand, then passing along in front of a lamp which was on the washhand-stand, and finally standing between the foot of his bed and the dressing-table. He described Kelsey’s long and bushy black hair as a very distinct peculiarity. In answer to inquiries on this point he says: “I have not any doubt whatever that Robinson Kelsey did have that peculiarity of the hair at the day of his death. My recollection of him is as clear as if I had his photo before me.” The figure was visible, he thinks, for nearly a minute; but the length of time in such cases is of course likely to be over-estimated.

I likewise saw Mrs. Langeridge, a sensible person, without any belief in “ghosts,” who at once volunteered the remark that Mr. Marchant described his vision to her next morning.

This case is remarkable from the fact that there was no immediate interest between the two parties—though it is of course possible that the dying man’s thoughts reverted to his kinsman and old employer. But comments on this point must be reserved.

§ 6. We now come to examples of the most important class of all, Class A—externalised impressions, occurring to persons who are up, and manifestly in the full possession of their waking senses. Of this class the most important examples are visual impressions, or apparitions. But I will first give a case which is on the line between Classes A and B, a vision not absolutely externalised in space, but where the mental image took on a sort of vividness and objectivity which the percipient believes to have been unexampled in his experience. The coincidence with the death of the agent was {i-209} apparently quite exact; and we have the testimony of a third person to the fact that the percipient mentioned his impression immediately on its occurrence. The narrator is Mr. Rawlinson, of Lansdown Court West, Cheltenham.

“September 18th, 1883.

(27) “I was dressing one morning in December, 1881, when a certain conviction came upon me that someone was in my dressing-room. On looking round, I saw no one, but then, instantaneously (in my mind’s eye, I suppose), every feature of the face and form of my old friend, X., arose. This, as you may imagine, made a great impression on me, and I went at once into my wife’s room and told her what had occurred, at the same time stating that I feared Mr. X. must be dead. The subject was mentioned between us several times that day. Next morning, I received a letter from X.’s brother, then Consul-General at Odessa, but who I did not know was in England, saying that his brother had died at a quarter before 9 o’clock that morning. This was the very time the occurrence happened in my dressing-room. It is right to add that we had heard some two months previously that X. was suffering from cancer, but still we were in no immediate apprehension of his death. I never on any other occasion had any hallucination of the senses, and sincerely trust I never again shall.

“ROB. RAWLINSON.”

The following is Mrs. Rawlinson’s account:—

“June 18th, 1883.

“My husband was dressing, a few months ago, one morning about a quarter to 9 o’clock, when he came into my room, and said: ‘I feel sure X.’ (an old friend of his) ‘is dead.’ He said all at once he felt as if there was someone in the room with him, and X.’s face came vividly before his mind’s eye; and then he had this extraordinary conviction of X.’s death. He could not get the idea out of his mind all day. Strange to say, the next morning he had a letter saying X. had died the morning before, at a quarter to 9, just the very time my husband came into my room. About two months before, we had heard that X. had an incurable complaint, but we had heard nothing more, and his name had not been mentioned by anyone for weeks. I ought to tell you that my husband is the last person in the world to imagine anything, and he had always been particularly unbelieving as to anything supernatural.”11 See p. 199, note. ‘X.’ in the above accounts is our own substitution for the real name.

A reference to the Consul’s letter, and to the Times obituary, has fixed the date of the death as December 17th; but the date of the vision was not written down at the time: we therefore have to trust to Mr. and Mrs. Rawlinson’s memory for the fact that it took place on the day before the letter was received. Not, however—be it observed—to their memory now, but to their memory at the time when the letter was received; and considering the effect that the {i-210} occurrence had on their minds, we can scarcely suppose them to have agreed in referring it to the preceding day, if several days had really intervened.

In the next case the coincidence was certainly close to within a very few minutes, and may have been exact. The impression was again completely unique in the percipient’s experience, and was at once communicated to a third person, whose testimony to that point we have obtained. “N. J. S.,” who, though he uses the third person, is himself the narrator, is personally known to us. Occupying a position of considerable responsibility, he does not wish his name to be published; but it can be given to inquirers, and he “will answer any questions personally to anyone having a wish to arrive at the truth.” The account was received within a few weeks of the occurrence.

(28) “N. J. S. and F. L. were employed together in an office, were brought into intimate relations with one another, which lasted for about eight years, and held one another in very great regard and esteem. On Monday, March 19th, 1883, F. L., in coming to the office, complained of having suffered from indigestion; he went to a chemist, who told him that his liver was a little out of order, and gave him some medicine. He did not seem much better on Thursday. On Saturday he was absent, and N. J. S. has since heard he was examined by a medical man, who thought he wanted a day or two of rest, but expressed no opinion that anything was serious.

“On Saturday evening, March 24th, N. J. S., who had a headache, was sitting at home. He said to his wife that he was what he had not been for months, rather too warm; after making the remark he leaned back on the couch, and the next minute saw his friend, F. L., standing before him, dressed in his usual manner. N. J. S. noticed the details of his dress, that is, his hat with a black band, his overcoat unbuttoned, and a stick in his hand; he looked with a fixed regard at N. J. S., and then passed away. N. J. S. quoted to himself from Job, ‘And lo, a spirit passed before me, and the hair of my flesh stood up.’ At that moment an icy chill passed through him,11 See Vol. ii., p. 37, first note, and the addition thereto in the “Additions and Corrections” at the beginning of Vol. ii.[☼] and his hair bristled. He then turned to his wife and asked her the time; she said, ‘12 minutes to 9.’ He then said, ‘The reason I ask you is that F. L. is dead. I have just seen him.’ She tried to persuade him it was fancy, but he most positively assured her that no argument was of avail to alter his opinion.

“The next day, Sunday, about 3 p.m., A. L., brother of F. L., came to the house of N. J. S., who let him in. A. L. said, ‘I suppose you know what I have come to tell you?’ N. J. S. replied, ‘Yes, your brother is dead.’ A. L. said, ‘I thought you would know it.’ N. J. S. replied, ‘Why?’ A. L. said, ‘Because you were in such sympathy with one another.’

N. J. S. afterwards ascertained that A. L. called on Saturday to see his brother, and on leaving him noticed the clock on the stairs was 25 minutes to 9 p.m. F. L.’s sister, on going to him at 9 p.m., found him dead from rupture of the aorta.

{i-211}

“This is a plain statement of facts, and the only theory N. J. S. has on the subject is that at the supreme moment of death, F. L. must have felt a great wish to communicate with him, and in some way by force of will impressed his image on N. J. S.’s senses.”

In reply to our inquiries Mr. S. says:—

“May 11th, 1883.

“(1) My wife was sitting at a table in the middle of the room under a gas chandelier, either reading or doing some wool work. I was sitting on a couch at the side of the room in the shade; she was not looking in the direction I was. I studiously spoke in a quiet manner to avoid alarming her; she noticed nothing particular in me.

“(2) I have never seen any appearance before, but have disbelieved in them, not seeing any motive.

“(3) Mr. A. L. told me that in coming to inform me of his brother’s death, he wondered what would be the best way of breaking the matter to me, when, without any reason except the knowledge of our strong mutual regard, it seemed to flash upon his mind that I might know it.

“There had been no instances of thought-transmission between us.

“There are many slight details which it is nearly impossible to describe in writing, so I may say that I shall be most willing to give you a personal account and answer any questions at any time you should be in town.

“There is one thing which strikes me as singular—the instant certainty I felt that my friend was dead, as there was nothing to lead up to the idea; and also that I seemed to accept all that passed without feeling surprise, and as if it were an ordinary matter of course.

“N. J. S.”

Mrs. S. supplies the following corroboration:—

“September 18th, 1883.

“On the evening of the 24th March last, I was sitting at a table reading, my husband was sitting on a couch at the side of the room; he asked me the time, and on my replying 12 minutes to 9, he said, ‘The reason why I ask is that L. is dead, I have just seen him.’ I answered, ‘What nonsense, you don’t even know that he is ill; I dare say when you go to town on Tuesday you will see him all right.’ However, he persisted in saying he had seen L., and was sure of his death. I noticed at the time that he looked very much agitated and was very pale

“MARIA S.”

We find from the Times obituary that F. L.’s death took place on March 24th, 1883.

In a later communication Mr. S. says:—

“February 23rd, 1885.

“In compliance with your request, I have asked Mr. A. L. to send you the statement of what came to his knowledge with reference to the time of his brother’s death.

“I have often thought the matter over since. I am unable to satisfy my own mind as to the why of the occurrence, but I still adhere to every particular, having nothing to add or withdraw.”

{i-212}

Mr. L.’s brother corroborates as follows:—

“Bank of England.

“February 24th, 1885.

“Mr. S. having informed me that you have expressed a wish that I should corroborate some statements made by him relative to my brother Frederick’s sudden death, I beg to send you the following particulars.

“On Saturday, March 24th, 1883, my brother having been absent from business, I called about 8 p.m. to see him, and found him sitting up in his bedroom. I left him, apparently much better, and came down to the dining-room about 8.40, where I remained with my sister for about half-an-hour, when I left, and she, going upstairs, immediately upon my departure, found her brother lying dead upon the bed, so that the exact time of his death will never be known. On my way over to Mr. S. the next day, to break the news to him, the thought occurred to me—knowing the strong sympathy between them—‘I should not be surprised if he has had some presentiment of it’; and when he came to the door to meet me, I felt certain from his look that it was so, hence I said, ‘You know what I have come for,’ and he then told me that he had seen my brother Frederick in a vision a little before 9 on the previous evening. I must tell you I am no believer in visions, and have not always found presentiments correct; yet I am perfectly certain of Mr. S.’s veracity, and having been asked to confirm him, willingly do so, though I strengthen a cause I am not a disciple of.

“A. C. L.”

An attempt to form a numerical estimate of the probability (or improbability) that the coincidence in this case was accidental will be found in a subsequent chapter on “The Theory of Chance-Coincidence” (Vol. II, pp. 18–20).

The next case again exhibits the slight deferment of the percipient’s experience which I have already mentioned (p. 201). But its chief interest is as illustrating what may be called a local, as distinct from a personal, rapport between the parties concerned.11 As to this point, see Vol. ii., pp. 268 and 301–2. The percipient, at the moment of his impression, was contemplating a spot with which the agent was specially connected, and which may even have had a very distinct place in her dying thoughts; and it is natural to find in this fact a main condition why he, of all people, should have been the one impressed. The case was thus narrated to us by the Rev. C. T. Forster, Vicar of Hinxton, Saffron Walden:—

“August 6th, 1885.

(29) “My late parishioner, Mrs. de Fréville, was a somewhat eccentric lady, who was specially morbid on the subject of tombs, &c.

“About two days after her death, which took place in London, May 8th, in the afternoon, I heard that she had been seen that very night by Alfred Bard. I sent for him, and he gave me a very clear and circumstantial account of what he had seen.

{i-213}

“He is a man of great observation, being a self-taught naturalist, and I am quite satisfied that he desires to speak the truth without any exaggeration.

“I must add that I am absolutely certain that the news of Mrs. de Fréville’s death did not reach Hinxton till the next morning, May 9th. She was found dead at 7.30 p.m. She had been left alone in her room, being poorly, but not considered seriously or dangerously ill.

“C. T. FORSTER.”

The following is the percipient’s own account:—

“July 21st, 1885.

“I am a gardener in employment at Sawston. I always go through Hinxton churchyard on my return home from work. On Friday, May 8th, 1885, I was walking back as usual. On entering the churchyard, I looked rather carefully at the ground, in order to see a cow and donkey which used to lie just inside the gate. In so doing, I looked straight at the square stone vault in which the late Mr. de Fréville was at one time buried. I then saw Mrs. de Fréville leaning on the rails, dressed much as I had usually seen her, in a coal-scuttle bonnet, black jacket with deep crape, and black dress. She was looking full at me. Her face was very white, much whiter than usual. I knew her well, having at one time been in her employ. I at once supposed that she had come, as she sometimes did, to the mausoleum in her own park, in order to have it opened and go in. I supposed that Mr. Wiles, the mason from Cambridge, was in the tomb doing something. I walked round the tomb looking carefully at it, in order to see if the gate was open, keeping my eye on her and never more than five or six yards from her. Her face turned and followed me. I passed between the church and the tomb (there are about four yards between the two), and peered forward to see whether the tomb was open, as she hid the part of the tomb which opened. I slightly stumbled on a hassock of grass, and looked at my feet for a moment only. When I looked up she was gone. She could not possibly have got out of the churchyard, as in order to reach any of the exits she must have passed me.11 See the remark within brackets, which follows the case. So I took for granted that she had quickly gone into the tomb. I went up to the door, which I expected to find open, but to my surprise it was shut and had not been opened, as there was no key in the lock. I rather hoped to have a look into the tomb myself, so I went back again and shook the gate to make sure, but there was no sign of any one’s having been there. I was then much startled and looked at the clock, which marked 9.20. When I got home I half thought it must have been my fancy, but I told my wife that I had seen Mrs. de Fréville.

“Next day, when my little boy told me that she was dead, I gave a start, which my companion noticed, I was so much taken aback.

“I have never had any other hallucination whatever.

“ALFRED BARD.”

Mrs. Bard’s testimony is as follows:—

“July 8th, 1885.

“When Mr. Bard came home he said, ‘I have seen Mrs. de Fréville to-night, leaning with her elbow on the palisade, looking at me. I turned again to look at her and she was gone. She had cloak and bonnet on.’ {i-214} He got home as usual between 9 and 10; it was on the 8th of May, 1885

“SARAH BARD.”

The Times obituary confirms the date of the death.

[Mr. Myers was conducted over Hinxton churchyard by Mr. Forster, and can attest the substantial accuracy of Mr. Bard’s description of the relative position of the church, the tomb, and the exits. The words “must have passed me,” however, give a slightly erroneous impression; “must have come very near me” would be the more correct description.]

The next case is of a more abnormal type. We received the first account of it—the percipient’s evidence—through the kindness of Mrs. Martin, of Ham Court, Upton-on-Severn, Worcester.

“Antony, Torpoint, December 14th, 1882.

(30) “Helen Alexander (maid to Lady Waldegrave) was lying here very ill with typhoid fever, and was attended by me. I was standing at the table by her bedside, pouring out her medicine, at about 4 o’clock in the morning of the 4th October, 1880. I heard the call-bell ring (this had been heard twice before during the night in that same week), and was attracted by the door of the room opening,11 See p. 102, note. and by seeing a person entering the room whom I instantly felt to be the mother of the sick woman. She had a brass candlestick in her hand, a red shawl over her shoulders, and a flannel petticoat on which had a hole in the front. I looked at her as much as to say, ‘I am glad you have come,’ but the woman looked at me sternly, as much as to say, ‘Why wasn’t I sent for before?’ I gave the medicine to Helen Alexander, and then turned round to speak to the vision, but no one was there. She had gone. She was a short, dark person, and very stout. At about 6 o’clock that morning Helen Alexander died. Two days after her parents and a sister came to Antony, and arrived between 1 and 2 o’clock in the morning; I and another maid let them in, and it gave me a great turn when I saw the living likeness of the vision I had seen two nights before. I told the sister about the vision, and she said that the description of the dress exactly answered to her mother’s, and that they had brass candlesticks at home exactly like the one described. There was not the slightest resemblance between the mother and daughter.

“FRANCES REDDELL.”

This at first sight might be taken for a mere delusion of an excitable or over-tired servant, modified and exaggerated by the subsequent sight of the real mother. If such a case is to have evidential force, we must ascertain beyond doubt that the description of the experience was given in detail before any knowledge of the reality can have affected the percipient’s memory or imagination. This necessary corroboration has been kindly supplied by Mrs. Pole-Carew, of Antony, Torpoint, Devonport.

“December 31st, 1883.

“In October, 1880, Lord and Lady Waldegrave came with their Scotch maid, Helen Alexander, to stay with us. [The account then describes how Helen was discovered to have caught typhoid fever.] She did not seem to be very ill in spite of it, and as there seemed no fear of danger, and Lord {i-215} and Lady Waldegrave had to go a long journey the following day (Thursday), they decided to leave her, as they were advised to do, under their friends’ care.

“The illness ran its usual course, and she seemed to be going on perfectly well till the Sunday week following, when the doctor told me that the fever had left her, but the state of weakness which had supervened was such as to make him extremely anxious. I immediately engaged a regular nurse, greatly against the wish of Reddell, my maid, who had been her chief nurse all through the illness, and who was quite devoted to her. However, as the nurse could not conveniently come till the following day, I allowed Reddell to sit up with Helen again that night, to give her the medicine and food, which were to be taken constantly.

“At about 4.30 that night, or rather Monday morning, Reddell looked at her watch, poured out the medicine, and was bending over the bed to give it to Helen, when the call-bell in the passage rang. She said to herself, ‘There’s that tiresome bell with the wire caught again.’ (It seems it did occasionally ring of itself in this manner.) At that moment, however, she heard the door open, and looking round, saw a very stout old woman walk in. She was dressed in a nightgown and red flannel petticoat, and carried an old-fashioned brass candlestick in her hand. The petticoat had a hole rubbed in it. She walked into the room, and appeared to be going towards the dressing-table to put her candle down. She was a perfect stranger to Reddell, who, however, merely thought, ‘This is her mother come to see after her,’ and she felt quite glad it was so, accepting the idea without reasoning upon it, as one would in a dream. She thought the mother looked annoyed, possibly at not having been sent for before. She then gave Helen the medicine, and turning round, found that the apparition had disappeared, and that the door was shut. A great change, meanwhile, had taken place in Helen, and Reddell fetched me, who sent off for the doctor, and meanwhile applied hot poultices, &c., but Helen died a little before the doctor came. She was quite conscious up to about half-an-hour before she died, when she seemed to be going to sleep.

“During the early days of her illness Helen had written to a sister, mentioning her being unwell, but making nothing of it, and as she never mentioned anyone but this sister, it was supposed by the household, to whom she was a perfect stranger, that she had no other relation alive. Reddell was always offering to write for her, but she always declined, saying there was no need, she would write herself in a day or two. No one at home, therefore, knew anything of her being so ill, and it is, therefore, remarkable that her mother, a far from nervous person, should have said that evening going up to bed, ‘I am sure Helen is very ill.’

“Reddell told me and my daughter of the apparition, about an hour after Helen’s death, prefacing with, ‘I am not superstitious, or nervous, and I wasn’t the least frightened, but her mother came last night,’ and she then told the story, giving a careful description of the figure she had seen. The relations were asked to come to the funeral, and the father, mother, and sister came, and in the mother Reddell recognised the apparition, as I did also, for Reddell’s description had been most accurate, even to the expression, which she had ascribed to annoyance, but which was due to deafness. It was judged best not to speak about it to the mother, but Reddell told the sister, who said the description of the figure corresponded {i-216} exactly with the probable appearance of her mother if roused in the night; that they had exactly such a candlestick at home, and that there was a hole in her mother’s petticoat produced by the way she always wore it. It seems curious that neither Helen nor her mother appeared to be aware of the visit. Neither of them, at any rate, ever spoke of having seen the other, nor even of having dreamt of having done so.

“F. A. POLE-CAKEW.”

Frances Reddell states that she has never had any hallucination, or any odd experience of any kind, except on this one occasion. The Hon. Mrs. Lyttelton, of Selwyn College, Cambridge, who knows her, tells us that “she appears to be a most matter-of-fact person, and was apparently most impressed by the fact that she saw a hole in the mother’s flannel petticoat, made by the busk of her stays, reproduced in the apparition.”

Mrs. Pole-Carew’s evidence goes far to stamp this occurrence as having been something more than a mere subjective hallucination. But it will be observed that there is some doubt as to who was the agent. Was it the mother? If so, we find nothing more definite on the agent’s part, as a basis for the distant effect, than a certain amount of anxiety as to her daughter’s condition; while the fact that Reddell and she were totally unknown to one another, would show, even more conclusively than the two preceding narratives, that a special personal rapport between the parties is not a necessary condition for spontaneous telepathic transference. Thus regarded, the case would considerably resemble the instance of local rapport last quoted—the condition of the telepathic impression being presumably the common occupation of the mind of both agent and percipient with one subject, the dying girl. But it is also conceivable that Helen herself was the agent; and that in her dying condition a flash of memory of her mother’s aspect conveyed a direct impulse to the mind of her devoted nurse.

The last five cases have all been recent. I will now give an example which is 70 years old. It will show the value that even remote evidence may have, if proper care is exercised at the time; and it points the moral which must be enforced ad nauseam, as to the importance of an immediate written record on the percipient’s part. The account was received from Mrs. Browne, of 58, Porchester Terrace, W. On May 29th, 1884, Mr. Podmore wrote:—

“May 29th, 1884.

(31) “I called to-day on Mrs. Browne, and saw (1) a document in the handwriting of her mother, Mrs. Carslake (now dead), which purported to be a copy of a memorandum made by Mrs. Browne’s father, the late Captain John Carslake, of Sidmouth. Appended to this was (2) a note, {i-217} also in Mrs. Carslake’s handwriting, and signed by her; and (3) a copy also in Mrs. Carslake’s handwriting, of a letter from the Rev. E. B——r, of Sidmouth.

“Mrs. Browne told me that, as far as she knows, the originals of (1) and (3) are no longer in existence.

“Document (4) is a note from Mrs. Browne herself.

“The Middleburg referred to is apparently the town of that name in the Netherlands.”

(1)

“Thursday, July the 6th, 1815.—On returning to-day from Middleburg with Captain T., I was strongly impressed with the idea that between 2 and 3 I saw my uncle John cross the road, a few paces before me, and pass into a lane on the left leading to a mill, called Olly Moulin, and that when he arrived at the edge of the great road, he looked round and beckoned to me.

“Query.—As he has long been dangerously ill, may not this be considered as an omen of his having died about this time?

“JOHN CARSLAKE.”

(2)

“He had not been thinking of his uncle, but talking with Captain T. about a sale where they had been; he was quite silent afterwards, and would not tell the reason. On going on board, he went to his cabin and wrote the time he saw his uncle, and wrote to Mr. B.

“T. CARSLAKE.”

(3)

“Long, in all probability, before this can reach you, you will have been informed that, precisely at the minute in which his apparition crossed your path in the neighbourhood of Middleburg, your dear and venerable uncle expired. I think it proves, beyond all contradiction, that his last and affectionate thoughts were fixed on you. The fact you have stated is the strongest of the kind, in which I could place such full confidence in the parties, that I ever knew.—E. B.”

[Judging from Mr. Carslake’s own account, it seems unlikely that the writer of this can have known the coincidence to have been as close as he describes.]

(4)

“May 29th, 1884.

“I remember more than once hearing this story, exactly as it is told here, from my father’s own lips. I remember that he added that the figure wore a peculiar hat, which he recognised as being like one worn by his uncle.

“T. L. BROWNE.”

The next example repeats the peculiarity that the percipient’s impression, though unique in his experience, did not at the moment suggest the agent; but it differs, as will be seen, from Frances Reddell’s case. We received it from the Rev. Robert Bee, now residing at 12, Whitworth Road, Grangetown, near Southbank, Yorkshire.

{i-218}

“Colin Street, Wigan.

“December 30th, 1883.

(32) “On December 18th, 1873, I left my house in Lincolnshire to visit my wife’s parents, then and now residing in Lord Street, Southport. Both my parents were, to all appearance, in good health when I started. The next day after my arrival was spent in leisurely observation of the manifold attractions of this fashionable seaside resort. I spent the evening in company with my wife in the bay-windowed drawing-room upstairs, which fronts the main street of the town. I proposed a game at chess, and we got out the board and began to play. Perhaps half-an-hour had been thus occupied by us, during which I had made several very foolish mistakes. A deep melancholy was oppressing me. At length I remarked: ‘It is no use my trying to play, I cannot for the life think about what I am doing. Shall we shut it up and resume our talk? I feel literally wretched.’

“‘Just as you like,’ said my wife, and the board was at once put aside.

“This was about half-past 7 o’clock; and after a few minutes’ desultory conversation, my wife suddenly remarked: ‘I feel very dull to-night. I think I will go downstairs to mamma, for a few minutes.’

“Soon after my wife’s departure, I rose from my chair, and walked in the direction of the drawing-room door. Here I paused for a moment, and then passed out to the landing of the stairs.

“It was then exactly 10 minutes to 8 o’clock. I stood for a moment upon the landing, and a lady, dressed as if she were going on a business errand, came out, apparently, from an adjoining bedroom, and passed close by me. I did not distinctly see her features, nor do I remember what it was that I said to her.

“The form passed down the narrow winding stairs, and at the same instant my wife came up again, so that she must have passed close to the stranger, in fact, to all appearance, brushed against her.

“I exclaimed, almost immediately, ‘Who is the lady, Polly, that you passed just now, coming up?’

“Never can I forget, or account for, my wife’s answer. ‘I passed nobody,’ she said.

“‘Nonsense,’ I replied; ‘You met a lady just now, dressed for a walk. She came out of the little bedroom. I spoke to her. She must be a visitor staying with your mother. She has gone out, no doubt, at the front door.’

“‘It is impossible,’ said my wife. ‘There is not any company in the house. They all left nearly a week ago. There is no one in fact at all indoors, but ourselves and mamma.’

“‘Strange,’ I said; ‘I am certain that I saw and spoke to a lady, just before you came upstairs, and I saw her distinctly pass you;11 In conversation Mr. Bee reiterated to me his certainty as to having seen the two figures simultaneously. so that it seems incredible that you did not perceive her.’

“My wife positively asserted that the thing was impossible. We went downstairs together, and I related the story to my wife’s mother, who was busy with her household duties. She confirmed her daughter’s previous statement. There was no one in the house but ourselves.

{i-219}

“The next morning, early, a telegram reached me from Lincolnshire; it was from my elder sister, Julia (Mrs T. W. Bowman, of Prospect House, Stechford, Birmingham), and announced the afflicting intelligence that our dear mother had passed suddenly away the night before; and that we (i.e., myself and wife) were to return home to Gainsborough by the next train. The doctor said it was heart-disease, which in a few minutes had caused her death.”

After giving some details of his arrival at home, and of the kindness of friends, Mr. Bee continues:—

“When all was over and Christmas Day had arrived, I ventured to ask my brother the exact moment of our mother’s death.

“‘Well, father was out,’ he said, ‘at the school-room, and I did not see her alive. Julia was just in time to see her breathe her last. It was, as nearly as I can recollect, 10 minutes to 8 o’clock.’

“I looked at my wife for a moment, and then said: ‘Then I saw her in Southport, and can now account, unaccountably, for my impressions.’

“Before the said 19th of December I was utterly careless of these things; I had given little or no attention to spiritual apparitions or impressions.

“ROBT. BEE.

In answer to inquiries, Mr. Bee adds:—

“My mother died in her dress and boots; she was taken ill in the street, and had to be taken to a neighbour’s house in Gainsborough a few paces from her own house. The figure resembled my mother exactly as to size, dress, and appearance, but it did not recall her to my mind at the time. The light was not so dim that, if my mother had actually passed me in flesh and blood, I should not have recognised her.”

We learn from the obituary notice in the Lincolnshire Chronicle that Mr. Bee’s mother died on December 19, 1873, in Mr. Smithson’s shop, in Gainsborough, of heart-disease; and that her usual health was pretty good.

In answer to the question whether this is the only case of hallucination that he has experienced, Mr. Bee answers “Yes.”

He further adds:—

“The gas light over the head of the stairway shone within a frosted globe, and was probably not turned on fully.

“The fact is, there was ample light to see the figure in, but just as the face might have been turned to me, or was turned to me, I could not, or did not, clearly discern it. Many, many times, my regret and disappointment when I recall this fact have been deeply felt.”

Mrs. Bee writes to us as follows:—

“January 9th, 1884.

“If anything I can say to you will be of any use, I will willingly give my testimony to all my husband has said. I remember perfectly ten years ago my visit to my mother’s, and my husband’s unaccountable restlessness on the particular evening mentioned, also Mr. Bee asking me, after I had been downstairs, if I had met a lady on the stairs. I said, ‘No, I do not think there is any one in the house but us.’ Mr. Bee then said, ‘Well, a lady has passed me just now on the landing; she came out of the small {i-220} bedroom and went downstairs; she was dressed in a black bonnet and shawl.’ I said, ‘Nonsense, you must be mistaken.’ He said, ‘I am certain I am not, and I assure you I feel very queer.’ I then went to ask mamma if there was anyone in the house, and she said no, only ourselves; still Mr. Bee insisted someone had passed him on the landing, although we tried to reason him out of it.

“In the morning while we were in bed, we received a telegram stating that Mrs. Bee had died suddenly the night before. I said at once, ‘Robert, that was your mother you saw last night.’ He said it was. When we got to Gainsborough we asked what time she died; we were told about 10 minutes to 8, which was the exact time; also that she was taken suddenly ill in the street (wearing at the time a black bonnet and shawl) and died in 10 minutes.

“MARY ANN BEE.”

Mrs. Bourne, a sister of Mr. Bee’s, writes to us:—

“Eastgate Lodge, Lincoln.

“October 2nd, 1885.

“My mother died on December 19th, 1873, about 10 minutes to 8 in the evening; it might be a little later or a little earlier. Her attack resembled a fainting fit, and lasted from 30 to 40 minutes. At the commencement of it, she said a few words to my sister, when I was not present; afterwards I believe she never opened her eyes or spoke again, though we tried our utmost to induce her to do so.

“MARIAN BOURNE.”

If this case is accurately reported, the figure seen cannot be supposed to have been a real person; for—to say nothing of the unlikelihood that a strange lady would be on the upper floor on some unknown errand—Mrs. Bee, who seemed to her husband to come into actual contact with the figure, could hardly have failed to observe that some one passed her on the stairs. The fact that the form did not at the moment suggest Mr. Bee’s mother tends, no doubt, to weaken the case as evidence for telepathy, to this extent,—that if a person has the one hallucination of his life at the moment that a near relative dies, this singular coincidence may with less violence be ascribed to accident if the hallucination is merely an appearance—an unrecognised figure—than if it is the appearance of that; particular relative. The phantasm not being individualised, the conditions for the operation of chance are so far widened. Still, there are two strong evidential points. The coincidence of time seems to have been precise; and the resemblance to the supposed agent “as to size, dress, and appearance” is described as exact. As for any theoretic difficulty that might be felt in the fact of non-recognition, I will make at this point only one remark.

{i-221}

If we are prepared (as experiment has prepared us) to admit that telepathic impressions need not even affect consciousness at all—if it is possible for some of them to remain completely unfelt—it does not seem specially surprising that others should issue on the mental stage with various degrees of distinctness and completeness.

§ 7. So much for visual examples. I will now give an illustration of externalised impressions of the auditory sort. The case differs in another respect from the foregoing visual examples; for though, as in most of them, the agent died, the percipient’s experience preceded the death by some hours; and that being so, we must clearly connect this experience with the serious condition in which her friend actually was, not with that in which he was about to be. The narrative is from a lady who prefers that her name and address should not be published. She is a person of thorough good sense, and with no appetite for marvels.

“1884.

(33) “On the morning of October 27th, 1879, being in perfect health and having been awake for some considerable time, I heard myself called by my Christian name by an anxious and suffering voice, several times in succession. I recognised the voice as that of an old friend, almost playfellow, but who had not been in my thoughts for many weeks, or even months. I knew he was with his regiment in India, but not that he had been ordered to the front, and nothing had recalled him to my recollection. Within a few days I heard of his death from cholera on the morning I seemed to hear his call. The impression was so strong I noted the date and fact in my diary before breakfast.”

In answer to inquiries, the narrator says:—

“I was never conscious of any other auditory hallucination whatever. I do not think I mentioned the subject to any one, as I believe we had friends with us. I still have my diary preserved.”

The present writer has seen the page of the diary, and the reference to the strange experience, under the date of Monday, October 27th, 1879.

“We find from the East India Service Register for January, 1880, that the death of Captain John B., Native Infantry (Bombay Division), took place on October 27th, 1879, at Jhelum. (This is the gentleman referred to in the account.) The Times obituary of November 4th, 1879, mentions that the death was due to cholera.

Our informant was requested to find out the exact hour of the death, and learnt that it took place, not in the morning, as she had supposed, but at 10 p.m. (about 5 p.m. in England). She adds: “So that would not make the time agree with the hour of hearing his call, The cry may have come, however, when the illness began first.”

In the last-quoted visual example, the figure seen was unrecognised. {i-222} I will now give a parallel auditory case, where the sound heard by the percipient suggested at the moment no particular person. The account is from a gentleman of good position, whom I must term Mr. A. Z. He is as far removed as possible from superstition, and takes no general interest in the subject. He has given us the full names of all the persons concerned, but is unwilling that they should be published, on account of the painful character of the event recorded.

“May, 1885.

(34) “In 1876, I was living in a small agricultural parish in the East of England, one of my neighbours at the time being a young man, S. B.,11These are not the right initials of the name. who had recently come into the occupation of a large farm in the place. Pending the alteration of his house, he lodged and boarded with his groom at the other end of the village, furthest removed from my own residence, which was half a mile distant and separated by many houses, gardens, a plantation, and farm buildings. He was fond of field sports, and spent much of his spare time during the season in hunting. He was not a personal friend of mine, only an acquaintance, and I felt no interest in him except as a tenant on the estate. I have asked him occasionally to my house, as a matter of civility, but to the best of my recollection was never inside his lodgings.

“One afternoon in March, 1876, when leaving, along with my wife, our railway station to walk home, I was accosted by S. B.; he accompanied us as far as my front gate, where he kept us in conversation for some time, but on no special subject. I may now state that the distance from this gate, going along the carriage drive, to the dining and breakfast room windows is about 60 yards; both the windows of these rooms face the north-east and are parallel with the carriage drive.22 The position of the house, as I found on visiting it, is particularly retired and quiet. On S. B. taking leave of us my wife remarked, ‘Young B. evidently wished to be asked in, but I thought you would not care to be troubled with him.’ Subsequently—about half-an-hour later—I again met him, and, as I was then on my way to look at some work at a distant part of the estate, asked him to walk with me, which he did. His conversation was of the ordinary character; if anything, he seemed somewhat depressed at the bad times and the low prices of farming produce. I remember he asked me to give him some wire rope to make a fence on his farm, which I consented to do. Returning from our walk, and on entering the village, I pulled up at the crossroads to say good evening, the road to his lodgings taking him at right angles to mine. I was surprised to hear him say, ‘Come and smoke a cigar with me to-night.” To which I replied, ‘I cannot very well, I am engaged this evening.’ ‘Do come,’ he said. ‘No,’ I replied, ‘I will look in another evening.’ And with this we parted. We had separated about 40 yards when he turned around and exclaimed, ‘Then if you will not come, good-bye.’ This was the last time I saw him alive.

“I spent the evening in my dining-room in writing, and for some hours I may say that probably no thought of young B. passed through my mind. The night was bright and clear, full or nearly full moon, still, and without {i-223} wind. Since I had come in slight snow had fallen, just sufficient to make the ground show white.

“At about 5 minutes to 10 o’clock I got up and left the room, taking up a lamp from the hall table, and replacing it on a small table standing in a recess of the window in the breakfast-room. The curtains were not drawn across the window. I had just taken down from the nearest bookcase a volume of ‘Macgillivray’s British Birds’ for reference, and was in the act of reading the passage, the book held close to the lamp, and my shoulder touching the window shutter, and in a position in which almost the slightest outside sound would be heard, when I distinctly heard the front gate opened and shut again with a clap, and footsteps advancing at a run up the drive; when opposite the window the steps changed from sharp and distinct on gravel to dull and less clear on the grass slip below the window, and at the same time I was conscious that someone or something stood close to me outside, only the thin shutter and a sheet of glass dividing us. I could hear the quick panting laboured breathing of the messenger, or whatever it was, as if trying to recover breath before speaking. Had he been attracted by the light through the shutter? Suddenly, like a gunshot, inside, outside, and all around, there broke out the most appalling shriek—a prolonged wail of horror, which seemed to freeze the blood. It was not a single shriek, but more prolonged, commencing in a high key, and then less and less, wailing away towards the north, and becoming weaker and weaker as it receded in sobbing pulsations of intense agony. Of my fright and horror I can say nothing—increased tenfold when I walked into the dining-room and found my wife sitting quietly at her work close to the window, in the same line and distant only 10 or 12 feet from the corresponding window in the breakfast-room. She had heard nothing. I could see that at once; and from the position in which she was sitting, l knew she could not have failed to hear any noise outside and any footstep on the gravel. Perceiving I was alarmed about something, she asked, ‘What is the matter?’ ‘Only someone outside,’ I said. ‘Then why do you not go out and see? You always do when you hear any unusual noise.’ I said, ‘There is something so queer and dreadful about the noise. I dare not face it. It must have been the Banshee shrieking.’

“Young S. B., on leaving me, went home to his lodgings. He spent most of the evening on the sofa, reading one of Whyte Melville’s novels. He saw his groom at 9 o’clock and gave him orders for the following day. The groom and his wife, who were the only people in the house besides S. B., then went to bed.

“At the inquest the groom stated that when about falling asleep, he was suddenly aroused by a shriek, and on running into his master’s room found him expiring on the floor. It appeared that young B. had undressed upstairs, and then came down to his sitting-room in trousers and nightshirt, had poured out half-a-glass of water, into which he emptied a small bottle of prussic acid (procured that morning under the plea of poisoning a dog, which he did not possess). He walked upstairs, and on entering his room drank off the glass, and with a scream fell dead on the floor. All this happened, as near as I can ascertain, at the exact time when I had been so much alarmed at my own house. It is utterly impossible that any sound short of a cannon shot could have reached me from B.’s lodgings, {i-224} through closed windows and doors, and the many intervening obstacles of houses and gardens, farmsteads and plantations, &c.

“Having to leave home by the early train, I was out very soon on the following morning, and on going to examine the ground beneath the window found no footsteps on grass or drive, still covered with the slight sprinkling of snow which had fallen on the previous evening.

“The whole thing had been a dream of the moment—an imagination, call it what you will; I simply state these facts as they occurred, without attempting any explanation, which, indeed, I am totally unable to give. The entire incident is a mystery, and will ever remain a mystery to me. I did not hear the particulars of the tragedy till the following afternoon, having left home by an early train. The motive of suicide was said to be a love affair.”

In a subsequent letter dated June 12th, 1885, Mr. A. Z. says:—

“The suicide took place in this parish on Thursday night, March 9th, 1876, at or about 10 p.m. The inquest was held on Saturday, 11th, by ——, the then coroner. He has been dead some years, or I might perhaps have been able to obtain a copy of his notes then taken. You will probably find some notice of the inquest in the —— of March 17th. I did not myself hear any particulars of the event till my return home on Friday afternoon, 17 hours afterwards. The slight snow fell about 8 o’clock—not later. After this the night was bright and fine, and very still. There was also a rather sharp frost. I have evidence of all this to satisfy any lawyer.

“I went early the next morning under the window to look for footsteps, just before leaving home for the day. Perhaps it is not quite correct to call it snow; it was small frozen sleet and hail, and the grass blades just peeped through, but there was quite enough to have shown any steps had there been any.

“I was not myself at the inquest, so in that case only speak from hearsay. In my narrative I say the groom was awoke by ‘a shriek.’ I have asked the man [name given], and cross-questioned him closely on this point; and it is more correct to say by ‘a series of noises ending in a crash’ or ‘heavy fall.’ This is most probably correct, as the son of the tenant [name given], living in the next house, was aroused by the same sort of sound coming through the wall of the house into the adjoining bedroom in which he was sleeping.

“I do not, however, wish it to be understood that any material noises heard in that house or the next had any connection with the peculiar noises and scream which frightened me so much, as anyone knowing the locality must admit at once the impossibility of such sounds travelling under any conditions through intervening obstacles. I only say that the scene enacted in the one was coincident with my alarm and the phenomena attending it in the other.

“I find by reference to the book of ——, chemist, of ——, that the poison was purchased by young S. B., on March 8th. I enclose a note from Mrs. A. Z., according to your request.”

The enclosed note, signed by Mrs. A. Z., also dated June 12th, 1885, is as follows:—

{i-225}

“I am able to testify that on the night of March 9th, 1876, about 10 o’clock, my husband, who had gone into the adjoining room to consult a book, was greatly alarmed by sounds which he heard, and described as the gate clapping, footsteps on the drive and grass, and heavy breathing close to the window—then a fearful screaming.

“I did not hear anything. He did not go to look round the house, as he would have done at any other time, and when I afterwards asked him why he did not go out, he replied, ‘Because I felt I could not.’ On going to bed he took his gun upstairs; and when I asked him why, said, ‘Because there must be someone about.’

“He left home early in the morning, and did not hear of the suicide of Mr. S. B. until the afternoon of that day.”

An article which we have seen in a local newspaper, describing the suicide and inquest, confirms the above account of them.

Asked if he had had any similar affections which had not corresponded with reality, Mr. A. Z. replied in the negative.

The criticism made on Mr. Bee’s case will of course apply again here; the percipient’s failure to connect his impression with the agent is, pro tantoto that extent an evidential defect. But the fact remains that he received an impression of a vividly distressful and horrible kind—of a type, too, rarely met with as a purely subjective hallucination among sane and healthy persons11 See Chapter xi., § 4.—at the very time that his companion of a few hours back was in the agony of a supreme crisis.

§ 8. Telepathic impressions of the sense of touch are naturally hard to establish, unless some other sense is also affected. In the cases in our collection, at all events, a mere impression of touch has rarely, if ever, been sufficiently remarkable or distinctive for purposes of evidence. The case, therefore, which I select to illustrate tactile impression is one where the sense of hearing was also concerned. And the example, as it happens, will serve a double purpose; for it will also illustrate the phenomenon of reciprocality, which, as I have said, we make the basis of a separate class (F). The narrator is again the Rev. P. H. Newnham, of whose telepathic rapport with his wife we have had such striking experimental proof, and who describes himself as “an utter sceptic, in the true sense of the word.”

(35) “In March, 1854, I was up at Oxford, keeping my last term, in lodgings. I was subject to violent neuralgic headaches, which always culminated in sleep. One evening, about 8 p.m., I had an unusually violent one; when it became unendurable, about 9 p.m., I went into {i-226} my bedroom, and flung myself, without undressing, on the bed, and soon fell asleep.

“I then had a singularly clear and vivid dream, all the incidents of which are still as clear to my memory as ever. I dreamed that I was stopping with the family of the lady who subsequently became my wife. All the younger ones had gone to bed, and I stopped chatting to the father and mother, standing up by the fireplace. Presently I bade them goodnight, took my candle, and went off to bed. On arriving in the hall, I perceived that my fiancée had been detained downstairs, and was only then near the top of the staircase. I rushed upstairs, overtook her on the top step, and passed my two arms round her waist, under her arms, from behind. Although I was carrying my candle in my left hand, when I ran upstairs, this did not, in my dream, interfere with this gesture.

“On this I woke, and a clock in the house struck 10 almost immediately afterwards.

“So strong was the impression of the dream that I wrote a detailed account of it next morning to my fiancée.

Crossing my letter, not in answer to it, I received a letter from the lady in question: ‘Were you thinking about me, very specially, last night, just about 10 o’clock? For, as I was going upstairs to bed, I distinctly heard your footsteps on the stairs, and felt you put your arms round my waist.’

“The letters in question are now destroyed, but we verified the statement made therein some years later, when we read over our old letters, previous to their destruction, and we found that our personal recollections had not varied in the least degree therefrom. The above narratives may, therefore, be accepted as absolutely accurate.

‘P. H. NEWNHAM.”

Asked if his wife has ever had any other hallucinations, Mr. Newnham replied, ‘No, Mrs. N. never had any fancy of either myself or any one else being present on any other occasion.”

The following is Mrs. Newnham’s account:—

“June 9th, 1884.

“I remember distinctly the circumstance which my husband has described as corresponding with his dream. I was on my way up to bed, as usual, about 10 o’clock, and on reaching the first landing I heard distinctly the footsteps of the gentleman to whom I was engaged, quickly mounting the stairs after me, and then I as plainly felt him put his arms round my waist. So strong an impression did this make upon me that I wrote the very next morning to the gentleman, asking if he had been particularly thinking of me at 10 o‘clock the night before, and to my astonishment I received (at the same time that my letter would reach him) a letter from him describing his dream, in almost the same words that I had used in describing my impression of his presence.

“M. NEWNHAM.”

[It is unfortunate that the actual letters cannot be put in evidence. But Mr. Newnham’s distinct statement that the letters were examined, and the coincidence verified, some years after the occurrence, strongly confirms his own and his wife’s recollections of the original incident.]

{i-227}

In this case it would, no doubt, be possible to suppose that Mr. Newnham was the sole agent, and that his normal dream was the source of his fiancée’s abnormal hallucination. But it is at least equally natural to suppose a certain amount of reciprocal percipience—a mutual influence of the two parties on one another. We shall meet with more conclusive examples of the mutual effect further on; and it need in no way disturb our conception of telepathy. For if once the startling fact that A’s mind can affect B’s at a distance be admitted, there seems no à priori reason for either affirming or denying that the conditions of this affection are favourable to a reverse telepathic communication from B’s mind to A’s. Indeed, if in our ignorance of the nature of these conditions any sort of surmise were legitimate, it might perhaps rather lean to the probability of the reciprocal influence; and the natural question might seem to be, not why this feature is present, but why it is so generally absent. Meanwhile it is enough to note the type, and observe that the telepathic theory, as so far evolved, will sufficiently cover it.

§ 9. Finally, the class of collective percipience (G) may be illustrated by an instance which (since visual cases have preponderated in this chapter) I will again select from the auditory group. It was received in the summer of 1885, from Mr. John Done, of Stockley Cottage, Stretton, Warrington.

(36) “My sister-in-law, Sarah Eustance, of Stretton, was lying sick unto death, and my wife was gone over to there from Lowton Chapel (12 or 13 miles off), to see her and tend her in her last moments. And on the night before her death (some 12 or 14 hours before) I was sleeping at home alone, and awaking, heard a voice distinctly call me. Thinking it was my niece, Rosanna, the only other occupant of the house, who might be sick or in trouble, I went to her room and found her awake and nervous. I asked her whether she had called me. She answered, ‘No; but something awoke me, when I heard someone calling!’

“On my wife returning home after her sister’s death, she told me how anxious her sister had been to see me, ‘craving for me to be sent for,’ and saying, ‘Oh, how I want to see Done once more!’ and soon after became speechless. But the curious part was that about the same time she was ‘craving,’ I and my niece heard the call.

“John Done.”

In a subsequent letter Mr. Done writes:—

“In answer to your queries respecting the voice or call that I heard on the night of July 2nd, 1866, I must explain that there was a strong sympathy and affection between myself and my sister-in-law, of pure brotherly and sisterly love; and that she was in the habit of calling me by the title of ‘Uncle Done,’ in the manner of a husband calling his wife {i-228} ‘mother’ when there are children, as in this case. Hence the call being ‘Uncle, uncle, uncle!’ leading me to think that it was my niece (the only-other occupant of the house that Sunday night) calling to me.

“Copy of funeral card: ‘In remembrance of the late Sarah Eustance, who died July 3rd, 1866, aged 45 years, and was this day interred at Stretton Church, July 6th, 1866.’

“My wife, who went from Lowton that particular Sunday to see her sister, will testify that as she attended upon her (after the departure of the minister), during the night she was wishing and craving to see me, repeatedly saying, ‘Oh, I wish I could see Uncle Done and Rosie once more before I go!’ and soon after then she became unconscious, or at least ceased speaking, and died the next day; of which fact I was not aware until my wife returned on the evening of the 4th of July.

“I hope my niece will answer for me; however, I may state that she reminds me that she thought I was calling her and was coming to me, when she met me in the passage or landing, and I asked her if she called me.

“I do not remember ever hearing a voice or call besides the above case.”

On August 7th, 1885, Mr. Done writes:—

“My wife being sick and weak of body, dictates the following statement to me:—

“I, Elizabeth Done, wife of John Done, and aunt to Rosanna Done (now Sewill), testify that, on the 2nd of July, 1866, I was attending upon my dying sister, Sarah Eustance, at Stretton, 12 miles from my home at Lowton Chapel, Newton le Willows; when during the night previous to her death, she craved for me to send for my husband and niece, as she wished to see them once more before she departed hence, saying often ‘Oh, I wish Done and Rosie were here. Oh, I do long to see Uncle Done.’ Soon after she became speechless and seemingly unconscious, and died some time during the day following.

“ELIZABETH DONE.”

Mr. Done adds:—

“Several incidents have come to my mind, one of which is that, feeling unsettled in my mind during the day after having heard the voice calling me, and feeling a presentiment that my dear sister-in-law was dead, I, towards evening, set off to meet a train at Newton Bridge, which I believed my wife would come by, returning home, if her sister was dead as I expected. There was an understanding that she was to stay at Stretton to attend upon Mrs. Eustance until her demise or convalescence.

“I met my wife some few hundred yards from the station, and could see by her countenance that my surmises were correct. She then told me the particulars of her sister’s death, how she longed to see me and Rosanna. I then told her of our being called by a voice resembling hers some time in the night previous, when she (my wife) said she (Mrs. Eustance) often repeated our names during the night before becoming unconscious.”

The niece, Mrs. Sewill, writes as follows:—

“11, Smithdown Lane, Paddington, Liverpool.

“August 21st, 1885.

“At my uncle’s and your request, I write to confirm the statement of uncle respecting the voice I heard, as follows: I was awakened suddenly without apparent cause, and heard a voice call me distinctly, thus: ‘Rosy, {i-229} Rosy, Rosy!’11 Each of the percipients, it will be noted, heard his or her own name. This point receives its explanation in Chap. xii., § 5. Thinking it was my uncle calling, I rose and went out of my room, and met my uncle coming to see if I was calling him.22 Mrs. Sewill, (who was 14 or 15 at the time) is certain that she is correct on this point; and in conversation with her uncle, I found that his memory agrees with hers. We were the only occupants of the house that night, aunt being away attending upon her sister. The night I was called was between 2nd and 3rd of July, 1866. I could not say the time I was called, but I know it was the break of day. I never was called before or since.

“ROSANNA SEWILL.”

[The last words—an answer to the question whether the narrator had ever experienced any other hallucination—perhaps need correction, as I learnt in conversation that on another occasion she (and two other persons in the same house) had been woke by a voice resembling that of a deceased relative. But she is by no means a fanciful or superstitious witness.]

The percipients in this case may perhaps have been in a somewhat anxious and highly-wrought state. Now that is a condition which—as we shall see in the sequel—tends occasionally to produce purely subjective hallucinations of the senses. It is true that the impression of a call which was imagined to be that of a healthy person close at hand, and was in no way suggestive of the dying woman, does not seem a likely form for subjective hallucination due to anxiety about her to take; still, the presence of the anxiety would have prevented us from including such a case in our evidence, had only a single person been impressed. But it must be admitted as a highly improbable accident that two startling impressions, so similar in character, and each unique in the life of the person who experienced it, should have so exactly coincided.

§ 10. The above may serve as examples of the several groups classified with reference to the nature of the percipient’s impression. But it will be seen that the agent has also been exhibited in a great variety of conditions—in normal waking health, in apparently dreamless sleep (pp. 103–9), in dream, in physical pain, in a swoon, in the excitement of danger, in dangerous illness, and in articulo mortis, at the moment of death the death being in one case accidental and instantaneous, in another the result of a sudden seizure, and in others the conclusion of a prolonged illness. And amid this variety the reader will, no doubt, have been struck by the large proportion of death cases—a proportion which duly represents their general preponderance among alleged cases of spontaneous telepathy. They constitute about half of our whole collection. Now this fact raises a question with respect to the interpretation of the phenomena which may be conveniently noticed at once since it bears an equal relation to nearly all the {i-230} chapters that follow, while such answer as I can give to it depends to some extent on what has preceded.

We are, of course, accustomed to regard death as a completely unique and incomparably important event; and it might thus seem, on a superficial glance, that if spontaneous telepathy is possible, and the conditions and occasions of its occurrence are in question, no more likely occasion than death could be suggested. But on closer consideration, we are reminded that the actual psychical condition that immediately precedes death often does not seem to be specially or at all remarkable, still less unique; and that it is this actual psychical condition—while it lasts, and not after it has ceased—that really concerns us here. Our subject is phantasms of the living: we seek the conditions of the telepathic impulse on the hither side of the dividing line, in the closing passage of life; not in that huge negative fact—the apparent cessation or absence of life—on which the common idea of death and of its momentous importance is based. And the closing passage of life, in some of the cases above quoted and in many others that are to follow, was, to all appearance, one of more or less complete lethargy; a state which (on its psychical side at any rate) seems in no way distinguishable from one through which the agent has passed on numerous previous occasions—that of deep sleep. Nor are the cases which issue in death the only ones to which this remark applies: in the more remarkable cases of Chap. III., the agent was actually in deep sleep; Mrs. Bettany’s mother was in a swoon (p. 194); and other similar instances will meet us. Here, then, there appears to be a real difficulty. For how can we attribute an extraordinary exercise of psychical energy to a state which on its psychical side is quite ordinary, and in which psychical and physical energies alike seem reduced to their lowest limits?

It may, no doubt, be replied that we have no right to assume that the psychical condition is ordinary; that the nervous condition in the lethargy of approaching death, and even in a fainting-fit, may differ greatly from that of normal sleep, and that this difference may be somehow represented on the psychical side, even though the ostensible psychical condition is approximately nil. But a completer answer may possibly be found in some further development of the idea of the “unconscious intelligence” which was mentioned above (pp. 69, 70). We there noted stray manifestations of psychical action that seemed unconnected with the more or less coherent stream of experience which we recognise as a self; and a probable relation of these was pointed {i-231} out to those curious cases of “double consciousness,” in which two more or less coherent streams of experience replace one another by turns, and the same person seems to have two selves. Many other cognate facts might be mentioned, which enable us to generalise to some extent the conceptions suggested by the more prominent instances. But since for present purposes the topic only concerns us at the point where it comes into contact with telepathy, I must ask the reader to seek those further facts elsewhere; and to accept here the statement that the more these little-known paths of psychology are explored, the more difficult will it appear to round off the idea of personality, or to measure human existence by the limits of the phenomenal self.11 In addition to Dr. Azam’s well-known case of Félida, I may refer specially to Professor Verriest’s “Observation de trois existences cérébrales distinctes chez le même sujet,” in the Bulletin de l’Académic Royale de Médecine de Belgique, 3rd Series, Vol. xvi.; the case of Louis V——, with his six different personalities, reported by various French observers (Camuset, Annales Médico-psychologiques,1882, p. 75; Jules Voisin, Archives de Neurologie, September, 1885; Bourru and Burot, Revue Philosophique, October, 1885, and Archives de Neurologie, November, 1885); and the hypnotic experiments described by Mr. Myers, in his paper on “Human Personality,” Proceedings of the S.P.R. Part x. A theory of the transcendental self, in its relation to various abnormal states, has been worked out at length in Du Prel’s Philosophie der Mystik (Leipzig, 1885). Now the very nature of this difficulty cannot but suggest a deeper solution than the mere connection of various streams of psychic life in a single organism. It suggests the hypothesis that a single individuality may have its psychical being, so to speak, on different planes; that the stray fragments of “unconscious intelligence,” and the alternating selves of “double consciousness,” belong really to a more fundamental unity, which finds in what we call life very imperfect conditions of manifestation; and that the self which ordinary men habitually regard as their proper individuality may after all be only a partial emergence. And this hypothesis would readily embrace and explain the special telepathic fact in question; while itself drawing from that fact a fresh support. By its aid we can at once picture to ourselves how it should be that the near approach of death is a condition exceptionally favourable to telepathic action, even though vital faculties seem all but withdrawn, and the familiar self has lapsed to the very threshold of consciousness. For to the hidden and completer self the imminence of the great change may be apparent in its full and unique impressiveness; nay, death itself may be recognised, for aught we can tell, not as a cessation but as a liberation of energy. But this line of thought, though worth pointing out as that along which the full account of certain phenomena of telepathy may in time be sought, is not one that I can here pursue.

{i-232}

CHAPTER VI.

TRANSFERENCE OF IDEAS AND OF MENTAL PICTURES.

§ 1. THE advance-guard of cases in the last chapter has afforded a glance at the whole range of the phenomena. But I must now start on a methodical plan, and take the narratives in groups according to their subject-matter. The groups will follow the same order as the preceding specimens; but though theoretically the best, this order has the practical disadvantage that it puts the weakest classes first. Of the two great divisions, the externalised impressions are by-far the most remarkable in themselves, and by far the most conclusive as evidence; but as they constitute the extreme examples of telepathic action, they are logically led up to through the non-externalised group, which presents more obvious analogies with the experimental basis of our inquiry. I must, therefore, beg the reader who may be disappointed by much of the evidence in this and the two following chapters, to note that it is no way presented as conclusive; and that though it is well worthy of attention if the case for spontaneous telepathy is once made out, it is only when we come to the “borderland” examples of Chap. IX. that the strength of the case begins rapidly to accumulate.

The great point which connects many of the more inward impressions of spontaneous telepathy with the experimental cases is this—that what enters the percipient’s mind is the exact reproduction of the agent’s thought at the moment. It is to this class of direct transferences, especially between persons who are in close association with one another, that popular belief most readily inclines—as a rule, without any sufficient grounds. Nothing is commoner than to hear instances of sympathetic flashes between members of the same household—cases where one person suddenly makes the very remark that another was about to make—adduced as evidence of some sort of supersensuous communication. But it is tolerably evident that a {i-233} number of such “odd coincidences” are sure to occur in a perfectly normal way. Minds which are in habitual contact with one another will constantly react in the same way, even to the most trifling influences of the moment; and the sudden word which proves them to have done so would have nothing startling in it, if the whole train of association that led up to it could be exposed to view. Moreover, physical signs which would be imperceptible to a stranger, may be easily and half-automatically interpreted by a familiar associate; and thus what looks sometimes like divination may perfectly well be due to unconscious inference. It is very rarely that conditions of this sort can be with certainty excluded. Still, experimental thought-transference would certainly prepare us to encounter the phenomenon occasionally in ordinary social and domestic life; and one or two examples may be given which have a strong primâ facie air of being genuine specimens.

One frequent form of the alleged transferences is that of tunes. It is matter of very common observation that one person begins humming the very tune that is running in some one else’s head. This admits, as a rule, of a perfectly simple explanation. It is easy to suppose that some special tune has been a good deal “in the air” of a house, half unconsciously hummed or whistled, as tunes often are, and that thus the coincidence is an accident which may very readily occur. At the same time, if the telepathic faculty exists tunes should apparently be a form of “thought” well calculated for transference. With many people the imagining of a tune is the sort of idea which comes nearest to the vividness of actual sensation. And moreover, it contains not only the representation of sensory experience, but also a distinct motor element—an impulse to reproduction. A person with a musical ear can silently reproduce a tune, with such an inward force as almost produces the illusion of driving it into objective existence. Such an incident as the following therefore, where there is no question of a family knowledge of the tune, or of its having been in any way in the air, is of decided interest; though, of course, the actual force of any single case of the sort is very small.1 1 The phenomenon is not without experimental support. Just a century ago, Puységur wrote, of one of his “magnetised” subjects: “Je le forçais à se donner beaucoup de mouvement sur sa chaise, comme pour danser sur un air, qu’en chantant mentalement je lui faisais répéter tout haut.” (Mémoires, &c., du Magnetisme Animal, 3rd edition, p. 22. See also Dr. Macario, Du Sommeil, des Rêves, et du Somnambulisme, p. 184.) Mr. Guthrie has successfully repeated the experiment several times with a “subject” in a normal state (Proceedings of the S.P.R., Vol. iii.)—with contact, it is true, which prevents the results from being quite conclusive. Still, the only element in a tune which could be conveyed with any accuracy by minute movements is the rhythm. Now this could only be conveyed by sudden movements at definite moments—a very different matter from the continuous slightly-varied pressure of the willing-game; while even supposing that these discrete and accurate indications could be unconsciously given, it is hard to believe that they could lead to the identification of the tune, unless their rhythmic character were consciously perceived. We received the account from Sir Lepel Griffin, K.C.S.I.

{i-234}

“53A, Pall Mall.

“February 14th, 1884.

(37) “Colonel Lyttleton Annesley, Commanding Officer of the 11th Hussars, was staying in my house some time ago, and one afternoon, having nothing to do, we wandered into a large unoccupied room, given up to lumber and packing cases. Colonel A. was at one end of this long room reading, to the best of my recollection, while I opened a box, long forgotten, to see what it contained. I took out a number of papers and old music, which I was turning over in my hand, when I came across a song in which I, years before, had been accustomed to take a part, ‘Dal tuo stellato soglio,’ out of ‘Mosé in Egitto,’ if I remember right. As I looked at this old song, Colonel A., who had been paying no attention whatever to my proceedings, began to hum, ‘Dal tuo stellato soglio.’ In much astonishment I asked him why he was singing that particular air. He did not know. He did not remember to have sung it before; indeed I have not ever heard Colonel A. sing, though he is exceedingly fond of music. I told him that I was holding the very song in my hand. He was as much astonished as I had been, and had no knowledge that I had any music in my hand at all. I had not spoken to him, nor had I hummed the air, or given him any sign that I was looking over music. The incident is curious, for it is outside all explanation on the theory of coincidence.”

Later, Sir L. Griffin wrote:—

“28th April, 1884.

“I promised to write to you when I received a reply from General Lyttleton Annesley, to whom I had written, in the same words I had used to you, the little incident which struck you as noteworthy. I may mention that it had never formed the subject of conversation or correspondence between us from the day that it happened until now. He says: ‘I perfectly recollect the incident you refer to about the song “Dal tuo stellato soglio.” I had my back to you at the time you were taking out the music, and did not even know what you were doing. I was close to a window and you were at the bottom end of the room. In fact your account is exact to the minutest point.’

“LEPEL GRIFFIN

We have other cases in which the transferred impression was not of a tune, but of a word or phrase, while still apparently of an auditory sort, conveying the sound of the word rather than its meaning. When the two persons concerned have been in close proximity, it is, of course, difficult to make sure that some incipient sound or movement of the lips, on the part of the supposed agent, did not {i-235} supply an unconscious suggestion.1 1 For instance, we should not be justified in laying stress on such an occurrence as the following, described to us by Mr. Dismorr, of Thelcrest Lodge, Gravesend. “November 19th, 1884. “A somewhat curious little incident occurred this morning, which, though not of any value, might be of interest to you. “Last evening a friend of mine, Mr. F. P., and I, unable to fix upon a suitable name for a new invention of ours, agreed to think it over and communicate the names selected this morning. The only names I could think of at all suitable were three, ‘Matchless,’ ‘Marvel,’ and ‘Express.’ “We met in the train, and I said to P., ‘Have you thought of any name?’he replied ‘Yes,’and leant across to mention it, but suddenly stopped short, and said, ‘Tell me yours.’ I at once commenced, as I thought, to give the three I had selected in the order named; but quite as much to my surprise as that of Mr. P., the first name I mentioned was the word ‘Superb,’ a name that had never entered my mind, but strangely enough the actual name that P. had settled on and was about to mention. “As there was not any reflection whatever, nor time for it, between P.’s question and my rejoinder, it struck me as rather curious. “J. S. DISMORR.” [Mr. P. admits the fact, but would rather his name did not appear.] This may have been a lucky chance, or it may have been that Mr. P., before checking himself, had given a hint of the coming word. But the following case cannot be so explained. We received it from Mr. J. G. Keulemans, who was mentioned above (p. 196) as having had a number of similar experiences.

“November, 1882,

(38) “In the summer of the year 1875, about eight in the evening, I was returning to my home in the Holloway Road, on a tramcar, when it flashed into my mind that my assistant, Herr Sehell, a Dutchman, who knew but little English (who was coming to see me that evening), would ask me what the English phrase, ‘to wit,’ meant in Dutch. So vivid was the impression that I mentioned it to my wife on arriving at my house, and I went so far as to scribble it down on the edge of a newspaper which I was reading. Ten minutes afterwards Schell arrived, and almost his first words were the inquiry, ‘Wat is het Hollandsch voor “to wit”?’ (The words scribbled on the newspaper were not in his sight, and he was a good many yards from it.) I instantly showed him the paper, with the memorandum on it, saying, ‘You see I was ready for you.’ He told me that he had resolved to ask me just before leaving his house in Kentish Town, as he was intending that evening to do a translation of an English passage in which the words occurred. He was in the habit of making such translations in order to improve his knowledge of English. The time of his resolution corresponded (as far as we could reckon) with that of my impression.”

[Unfortunately no corroboration of this occurrence is now obtainable; but the incident of the newspaper does not seem a likely one to have been unconsciously invented.]

The next case, if correctly reported, is of a transitional sort; for though it was a distinct idea, and not a mere sound-image, that seems to have been transferred, the transference was probably connected with the fact that the words were actually on the tip of the agent’s tongue. This fact, of course, suggests again the chance of unconscious suggestion by actual sound or movement of the lips; {i-236} but such an explanation seems here practically excluded by the length of the sentence. The case was recorded in the Spectator of June 24th, 1882, and has been confirmed to us by the writer.

“Ferndene, Abbeydale, near Sheffield.

“June 22nd.

(39) “I had one day been spending the morning in shopping, and returned by train just in time to sit down with my children to our early family dinner. My youngest child—a sensitive, quick-witted little maiden of two years and six weeks old—was one of the circle. Dinner had just commenced, when I suddenly recollected an incident in my morning’s experience which I had intended to tell her; and I looked at the child with the full intention of saying, ‘Mother saw a big, black dog in a shop, with curly hair,’ catching her eyes in mine, as I paused an instant before speaking. Just then something called off my attention, and the sentence was not uttered. What was my amazement, about two minutes afterwards, to hear my little lady announce, ‘Mother saw a big dog in a shop.’ I gasped. ‘Yes, I did!’ I answered; ‘but how did you know?’ ‘With funny hair,’ she added, quite calmly, and ignoring my question. ‘What colour was it, Evelyn?’ said one of her elder brothers; ‘was it black?’ She said, ‘Yes.’

“Now, it was simply impossible that she could have received any hint of the incident verbally. I had had no friend with me when I had seen the dog. All the children had been at home, in our house in the country, four miles from the town; I had returned, as I said, just in time for the children’s dinner, and I had not even remembered the circumstance until the moment when I fixed my eyes upon my little daughter’s. We have had in our family circle numerous examples of spiritual or mental insight or foresight; but this, I think, is decidedly the most remarkable that has ever come under my notice.

“CAROLINE BARBER.

Mrs. Barber has shown to Mr. Podmore the note-book in which she noted the occurrence, and from which her letter to the Spectator was taken almost verbatim. The incident was recorded on Jan. 11, 1880, as having taken place on Jan. 6. She adds that the governess and the other children at table were positive that she had not said anything about the dog, and were as much astonished as she was.

§ 2. In the next case (which might fairly have been included under the head of experiments) we break away altogether from the auditory symbols of thought, and have a transference of an idea pure and simple. For even if the agent was formulating his thought to himself, he would naturally do so in English, while the percipient described his impression in Italian. The account is from Mr. Robert Browning, and was first cited by Mr. James Knowles, in a letter to the Spectator of January 30th, 1869.

(40) “Mr. Robert Browning tells me that when he was in Florence some years since, an Italian nobleman (a Count Giunasi, of Ravenna), visiting at Florence, was brought to his house without previous introduction, by an intimate friend. The Count professed to have great mesmeric or {i-237} clairvoyant faculties, and declared, in reply to Mr. Browning’s avowed scepticism, that he would undertake to convince him, somehow or other, of his powers. He then asked Mr. Browning whether he had anything about him then and there, which he could hand to him, and which was in any way a relic or memento. This, Mr. Browning thought, was, perhaps, because he habitually wore no sort of trinket or ornament, not even a watch-guard, and might, therefore, turn out to be a safe challenge. But it so happened, that by a curious accident, he was then wearing under his coat-sleeves some gold wrist-studs to his shirt, which he had quite recently taken into wear, in the absence (by mistake of a sempstress) of his ordinary wrist-buttons. He had never before worn them in Florence or elsewhere, and had found them in some old drawer, where they had lain forgotten for years. One of these studs he took out and handed to the Count, who held it in his hand awhile, looking earnestly in Mr. Browning’s face, and then he said, as if much impressed, ‘C’é qualche cosa che mi grida nell‘ orecchio, “Uccisione, uccisione!”’ [There is something here which cries out in my ear, ‘Murder, murder!’]

“‘And truly,’ says Mr. Browning, ‘those very studs were taken from the dead body of a great-uncle of mine, who was violently killed on his estate in St. Kitts, nearly 80 years ago. These, with a gold watch and other personal objects of value, were produced in a court of justice, as proof that robbery had not been the purpose of the slaughter, which was effected by his own slaves. They were then transmitted to my grandfather, who had his initials engraved on them, and wore them all his life. They were taken out of the night-gown in which he died, and given to me, not my father. I may add that I tried to get Count Giunasi to use his clairvoyance on this termination of ownership, also; and that he nearly hit upon something like the fact, mentioning a bed in a room, but he failed in attempting to describe the room—situation of the bed with respect to windows and door. The occurrence of my great-uncle’s murder was known only to myself, of all men in Florence, as certainly was also my possession of the studs.’”

Mr. Browning, in a letter to us, dated the 21st of July, 1883, affirms that the account “is correct in every particular”—adding, “My own explanation of the matter has been that the shrewd Italian felt his way by the involuntary help of my own eyes and face. The guess, however attained to, was a good one.”

If a spurious diviner can thus feel his way as far as murder, and even Mr. Browning’s expression is so inadequate to veil his thought, then indeed is our daily life compassed with dangers of which genuine telepathy has shown no trace.

With this account it is interesting to compare the following, from Miss Caroline B. Morse, of Northfield, Vermont.

“April, 1884.

(41) “I early became conscious of a peculiar sensitiveness to the undertones—the unuttered thoughts—of others. Later, this tendency developed into an occasional lightning-like reading of facts that apparently came to me through none of the ordinary sensory {i-238} channels, and which always, whatever their nature, gave me a shock of surprise. As an instance: About 13 years ago I went with an uncle to a jeweller’s shop to see a wonderful clock. I had never met the proprietor of the shop; he was known to my uncle, who introduced him as he came forward and stood with us before the clock. At that instant came a sensation as if every nerve in my body had been struck. The affable jeweller had extended his hand, but with a shudder, that only habitual self-control repressed, I said within myself: ‘I cannot touch your hand—there is blood upon it—you are a murderer.’ Outwardly, I merely bowed and looked at the clock, as if nothing could interest me so much, thus ignoring the proffered hand. Several weeks after, I learned that the jeweller and a companion, when young men, had been accused of and tried for the murder of a pedlar. They escaped conviction through the garbled testimony of the chief witness, who at the preliminary hearing had made a clear statement strongly against them.

“CAROLINE B. MORSE.”

The following corroboration is from Mr. B. T. Merrill:—

“Montpelier, Vermont.

“May 31st, 1884.

“I think it was in the fall of 1871 that I asked my niece, Miss C. B. Morse, to go with me to see a musical clock. We went into the shop. I introduced the jeweller; he reached out his hand to shake hands with her, but she refused to take his hand. After we left the shop, I asked her why she did not shake hands with him. She did not make much reply, and I did not know the real reason till long afterwards. I did not then know that the jeweller had been tried for murder, but some time after learned the facts from some of the residents of this place.

“BENJAMIN T. MERRILL.”1

1 Compare case 379, where the impression seems to have been received when the agent’s hand was actually touched. The following account of a parallel incident occurs in the Zoist, Vol. x., p. 409, in a letter from the Rev. C. H. Townshend to Dr. Elliotson. “October 6th, 1852. “There is a curious story that M. Woodley de Cerjat wanted you to know. I believe he wrote it to Dickens to tell you again. However, I may as well repeat it. “A young lady, a friend of M. Cerjat’s, who had been with her family at Lausanne, was taken ill at Berne with typhus fever. Her doctor found her one day in a lucid interval (she was generally delirious), but no sooner had he touched her hand than she seemed to pass into an extraordinary state, and cried out, ‘Oh that poor child! that poor little boy! why did you cut his head open? How is he now?’ The doctor, astonished, replied, ‘I left him well; I hope he will recover,’ and tried to calm the patient. But when he got out of the room, he said, ‘That was the most extraordinary thing I ever knew in my life. I am come from trepanning a boy whose head had been injured, but there was no human means by which Miss —— could have known it, as I am only this moment come direct from the boy here, and no one knew of the accident, nor had Miss ——’s nurse ever left the room.’ The explanation seems to be that the touch of the doctor’s hand threw the young lady into clairvoyance. She is since dead, and M. de Cerjat attended her funeral.”

In contrast to this purely ideal sort of horror, I may quote the following two cases where the impression, though still extremely indefinite in character, was yet sufficiently concrete to suggest the very presence of the object.

The first account was given to us by Miss Charlotte E. Squire, then residing at Feltham Hill, Middlesex (now Mrs. Fuller Maitland).

{i-239}

“January 17th, 1884.

(42) “My brother and I were travelling together from Cologne to Flushing. We were alone in the carriage when suddenly my brother, who had been half asleep, said to me that he had an odd idea that some one else was in the carriage sitting opposite to me. The very same idea had struck me just before he spoke.

“Though my feet were on the opposite seat, I was certain that some one was there, though I was wide awake and never saw the slightest appearance of anything. The impression only lasted for a moment, but it was strange that our thoughts should have been simultaneous. This happened three years ago.”

Asked if this impression was a unique experience in her life, Miss Squire replied that it was.

The following corroboration is from Mr. W. Barclay Squire:—

“The incident took place in the second week of February, 1881. My sister and myself had been to Hanover, and were returning home viâ Flushing. We were alone in a first-class carriage, I sitting with my face to the engine, she with her back, at the diagonal corners of the carriage. In the evening, as we drew near to Flushing, I was dozing, or rather in that half-awake, half-asleep state when dreams become mixed up with reality, and actual objects become mingled with dream images. From this state I suddenly woke, under the vivid impression that a figure was seated in the corner of the carriage opposite my sister, i.e., at the other end of the seat on which I was. The impression was quite transitory, but so vivid as to wake me thoroughly, though the figure was vague and dark, as if muffled up in a cloak, no features being visible. I immediately mentioned the hallucination to my sister, when she told me she had a similar one. I was careful to note that there were no bags or rugs on the seat on which I saw the figure, which could have given rise to its appearance by some fanciful combination.

“W. BARCLAY SQUIRE.”

Asked whether he had ever had any other hallucinations of vision, Mr. Squire replied that when quite a child he had seen figures, which were to be accounted for by an “almost continual state of delicate health. I never saw figures from the time I was about 7 or 8 until this experience in the railway carriage.”

It naturally occurred to us that the impression might have been unconsciously suggested to one of the two persons by the other, through some unconscious gesture or sudden change of feature. But the following communications seem decisive against this hypothesis:—

“39, Phillimore Gardens, W.

“March 15th, 1885.

“The idea of a third presence in the railway carriage occurred to both my brother and myself, without either of us ever having seen the other’s face. I had my eyes closed at the time, and as we were sitting on the same side of the carriage we could not see each other’s faces.

“C. E. FULLER MAITLAND.”

“I am certain the impression on my part was entirely spontaneous and not suggested by any action or look of my sister.

“W. BARCLAY SQUIRE.”

{i-240}

[It will be seen, however, that there is a discrepancy as to the positions in the carriage.]

Supposing this incident to have been telepathic, it is natural to regard Mr. Squire as the agent, and his impression of the strange presence as the momentary survival of a dream. But in the next example, if we surmise that a sort of waking nightmare of one of the three sisters affected the other two, we cannot at all assign their respective shares in the occurrence. The writer of the narrative is well known as an authoress and practical philanthropist.

“1884.

(43) “It was on a Saturday night, the end of October, or early in November, 1848, that I was staying at St. M——’s Vicarage, Leicester. My two sisters were at home, at H., about 14 or 15 miles from Leicester. The room in which I slept was large and low, opening into a broad, low corridor; the nursery was on the same floor; the rest of the family slept on the one below. I had been asleep for some time, and was not consciously dreaming at all. I was awoke instantaneously, not by any sound, but intensely awake, starting up in a panic—not of fear, but of horror, knowing that something horrible was close by. The room was still dimly lighted by the dying-out fire. I suppose it was seeing the room empty made me at once know that whatever it was, it was still outside the door, for I rushed at once to lock it. The impression I had was so vivid that I can only describe it by speaking of ‘It’ as objective. ‘It’ was living, not human, not physically dangerous; I think it was malevolent, but the overpowering consciousness I had was horrible; I did not represent it to myself in any shape even, except as an indefinite blackness, like a cloudy pillar, I suppose. The presence seemed to stay outside the door five minutes (but probably it was a much shorter time), and then it simply was not there. Whilst it was there I knew that it was nearly 2 o’clock, and the church bells chimed 2, about ten minutes, as I suppose, after it ceased. Whilst it was there I was very angry with myself for being so absurd; and I remember wondering whether a young German, who was living there as a pupil, a protégé of Chauncey Townsend’s, could be mesmerising me. He had been telling us about mesmerism and clairvoyance the day before, but I had not the slightest faith in either, at any rate not in C. H. T.’s accuracy of observation.

“I went home on the following Tuesday, and that night, in talking over my visit with my two sisters, I told them what a strange delusion I had had.

“They were both astonished, and related a similar experience each had had on the same Saturday night, or rather Sunday morning, for both agreed their impression at the time had been it was about or near 2. They were sleeping in separate rooms, but next each other.

“R. was awoke in the same sudden manner, with the consciousness that something dreadful or harmful was near, not in her room, but a little way off. Her impression was the same in character, but less vivid than mine.

“E. was awoke suddenly, as I had been, with a sense of intense horror, [sic] {i-241} Some presence, fearful, evil and powerful, was standing close by her side; she was unable to move or cry out; it seemed to her also to be a spiritual presence. Her room was quite dark, so she could see nothing. Her impression was at the time so much more overpowering, and it was so much closer to her, that it seemed to me, on talking it over, to have been the cause of ours. Not one of us for a moment connected it with a ghost. That notion never occurred to us.

“R. and E. had told each other before my return, I believe on the next day. Afterwards we told the strange coincidence to my father and mother. She thought she had also been awoke by a cry, if I remember right, that night; but her recollection was too vague to be relied upon.

“Nothing ever came of it, except that the known date of the commencement of E.’s fatal illness was the Saturday following. But neither she, so far as I know, nor we ever thought of it in this connection. She was very much interested in it afterwards, but not in the slightest degree uneasy or alarmed at it, only eager to find out how the coincidence could be accounted for. I was 28 at the time; E. was just 25.”

[R. remembers this incident vaguely, and can add nothing.]

§ 3. I now come to cases where the impression was of a more definite sort, representing actual people and actual events. We sometimes encounter persons who allege that they have repeatedly experienced some occult sort of perception of what was happening to friends or relatives at a distance. As a rule their statements have no force at all as evidence for telepathy; partly because we have no means of judging how far the idea of the distant event may have been suggested in some normal way; partly because the impressions have not been recorded at the time, and it is specially easy to suppose that failures may have been forgotten, while a lucky guess has been remembered. We have, however, one example of marked correspondence where two witnesses were concerned, each of whom professes to have had other similar experiences, and where the particular incident narrated is adequately confirmed. The witnesses are Mr. and Mrs. L. H. Saunders, of St. Helen’s, near Ryde. As to former experiences, Mr. Saunders says:—

“I have mentally noted frequent ‘vivid impressions’ during many years past, and in the majority of instances, when such impressions have appeared to be spontaneous and intuitive, the facts have actually corresponded.”

Mrs. Saunders says:—

“I have had other similar strong impressions at distant intervals, and as far as I can recollect they have corresponded with the reality. I cannot say if I have had any such impressions which have not corresponded with the reality, but my opinion is that I have had none such.”

Mr. Saunders’ account of the particular incident is as follows:—

{i-242}

“San Claudio, Sandown, Isle of Wight.

“March 12th, 1883.

(44) “On Thursday evening last (8th inst.) in the house of friends with whom we were staying at Tavistock, Devon, I suddenly asked my wife ‘What she was thinking of?’ She replied, ‘I cannot get M. R. and A. F. out of my head all day; they will run through all my thoughts.’ I replied, ‘What makes you think of them?’ She said, ‘I don’t know, but it seems just as if they were married,’ to which I asked, ‘Have you any reason to suppose they would be married to-day?’ She replied, ‘Oh no! I am sure Mary would not be married during Lent.’ I then allowed my mind to travel to the house where M. R. resided in London, when I became immediately conscious of receiving the strongest possible conviction that they were married that day, so that I quickly but firmly replied, ‘They are married to-day, and we shall see the wedding announced in the Times on Saturday,’ at which there was a general titter. However, I was so convinced of the accuracy of our joint thoughts that I foolishly offered to wager the whole of my belongings on the truth of it, and until seeing the confirmation, I was anxious to risk anything in support of my belief. I may here mention that there were present, who could testify to the foregoing conversation, three independent witnesses, quite unknown to the persons referred to as M. R. and A. F. Neither of the latter had been seen nor communicated with by my wife for nearly six months, but I had seen them once about three months before. We knew they were to be married, but understood not until April or May. This knowledge and the question of Lent made my wife doubtful as to the fulfilment of her presentiment when I pressed her finally at noon on Saturday; soon after which, on reaching Exeter station, I procured a copy of the Times, and before opening it again declared my conviction absolutely unshaken. As you may have guessed, there was the notice of marriage, as having taken place on the 8th inst., all right. [We have verified this fact independently.] I may conclude by saying this notice is all we know of the wedding, no communication having passed between us and any member of the bride’s or bridegroom’s family, &c. Further, if you deem it of sufficient importance I will supply correct names and addresses of all parties interested, as I feel sure our Tavistock friends could not object to contributing to scientific truth by testifying to the facts.”

The ladies who were present when Mr. and Mrs. Saunders had this impression corroborate as follows, in a letter written to Mr. Saunders from Harleigh House, Tavistock:—

“After a lengthy discussion you both emphatically concluded that she was married on that day. We were quite sceptical at the time, but on receipt of the Times the proofs were quite convincing.

“LILY SAMPSON.

“KATHLEEN SAMPSON.”

Here the state of the supposed agent or agents was presumably excitement of a happy nature. This, however, is rarely the case—which may perhaps be taken as indicating the superior vividness of pains over pleasures. Impressions of death, illness, or accident are {i-243} the almost unbroken rule. I will first quote cases where a distinct idea of the particular event was produced, without any distinct representation of the actual scene.

The following account is from Mrs. Herbert Davy, of 1, Burdon Place, Newcastle-on-Tyne.

“December 20th, 1883.

(45) “A very old gentleman, living at Hurworth, a friend of my husband’s and with whom I was but slightly acquainted, had been ill many months. My sister-in-law, who resides also at H., often mentioned him in her letters, saying he was better or worse as the case might be.

“Late last autumn, my husband and I were staying at the Tynedale Hydropathic Establishment. One evening I suddenly laid down the book I was reading, with this thought so strong upon me I could scarcely refrain from putting it into words: ‘I believe that Mr. C. is at this moment dying.’ So strangely was I imbued with this belief—there had been nothing whatever said to lead to it—that I asked my husband to note the time particularly, and to remember it for a reason I would rather not state just then. ‘It is exactly 7 o’clock,’ he said, and that being our dinner hour, we went downstairs to dine. The entire evening, however, I was haunted by the same strange feeling, and looked for a letter from my sister-in-law next morning. None came. But the following day there was one for her brother. In it she said: ‘Poor old Mr. C. died last night at 7 o’clock. It was past post time, so I could not let you know before.’”

Mr. Davy corroborates as follows:—

“December 27th, 1883.

“I have a perfect recollection of the night in question, the 20th October, 1882, when my wife asked me to tell her the time. I told her the time, as she ‘had a reason for knowing it,’ she said. She afterwards told me that reason.

“HERBERT DAVY.”

The following is a copy of an obituary card, referring to the Mr. C. of the narrative:—

“In loving memory of John Colling, of Hurworth-on-Tees, who died October the 20th, 1882, aged 84 years.”

Mrs. Davy has had one other experience, to be quoted later (case 395), which also corresponded with a death. With this exception, she states that the present case was quite unique in her experience.

In an interview with Professor Sidgwick, on April 15th, 1884, Mrs. Davy described the impression as strong and sudden, not emotional, but merely the sudden conviction that Mr. Colling was at that moment dying, though a strange feeling of sadness followed and remained during the evening. “She called it strange,” says Professor Sidgwick, “meaning (as I understand) that her interest in Mr. C. was too slight to account for it; and she has no reason to suppose that he thought of her at the moment of death. In this case her recollection of the uniqueness and strength of her conviction is confirmed by her request to her husband to note the time: she was certain that she had never on any other occasion made a similar request in consequence of a similar impression. Her belief at the time {i-244} was not the result of any reasoning process leading her to have confidence in her impression.” More than two years later, in conversation with the present writer, Mrs. Davy mentioned the surprise which she herself afterwards felt at having made the request to her husband.

The next case is from Miss A. S. Jarry, of Settle, Yorkshire.

“June 2nd, 1884.

(46) “I was making a hurried tour in the North of Italy, having left a sister at home,