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Esalen CTR: Human Personality and its Survival of Bodily Death





Cessas in vota precesque,

Tros, ait, Aenea, cessas? Neque enim ante dehiscent

Adtonitæ magna ora domus.—VIRGIL.

“Nay!” quoth the Sybil, “Trojan! wilt thou spare

The impassioned effort and the conquering prayer?

Nay! not save thus those doors shall open roll,—

That Power within them burst upon the soul.”




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Human Personality and Its Survival of Bodily Death by Frederic W. H. Myers, published in London by Longmans, Green in 1903, is a major classic of early psychical research and indeed of psychology in general. Although it was published two years after Myers's death, most of it had been finished and was ready for publication at the time of his passing. The book consists of 10 chapters plus lengthy appendices that present empirical data and case reports supporting the primary material. Myers begins by outlining his overall purposes and introducing his unifying conception of the nature of human personality—the Subliminal Self. Chapters 2 and 3 begin fleshing out this theory by discussing hysteria and genius, two seemingly different phenomena that Myers believed are closely related psychologically. Chapters 4 and 5 discuss the emergence of subliminal functioning in sleep and hypnosis. Chapters 6 through 9 present a wide variety of evidence, both spontaneous and experimental, for psychological automatisms, conceived as messages sent up to everyday consciousness by the subliminal consciousness in sensory or motor form. The final chapter is an epilogue assembled by the editors from some of Myers's more speculative writings, consisting largely of a "Provisional Sketch of a Religious Synthesis" and several related appendices in which Myers outlines his hope and belief that science and religion will ultimately come together so that the methods of science can be applied to the great questions of life that the religions alone have thus far asked.

Myers's work was extraordinary in its scope, character, and content. His friend and colleague William James declared that "through him for the first time, psychologists are in possession of their full material, and mental phenomena are set down in an adequate inventory." Gardner Murphy praised the heroic accumulation of data and amazing integration that the work represents. Henri Ellenberger, the historian of dynamic psychiatry, described Myers as one of the great systematizers of the notion of the unconscious mind and his book as an unparalleled collection of source material on the topics of somnambulism, hypnosis, hysteria, dual personality, and parapsychological phenomena, containing a complete theory of the unconscious mind, with its regressive, creative, and mythopoetic functions. Aldous Huxley found Myers's conceptual scheme far more congenial than those subsequently propounded by Freud and Jung and their followers, and declared, "How strange and how unfortunate it is that this amazingly rich, profound, and stimulating book should have been neglected in favor of descriptions of human nature less complete and of explanations less adequate to the given facts." The fundamental soundness of Myers's work has been abundantly confirmed by a century of further empirical research on its central topics, as demonstrated in a companion volume, recently produced under the auspices of Esalen's Center for Theory and Research, entitled Irreducible Mind: Toward a Psychology for the 21st Century.

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THE book which is now at last given to the world is but a partial presentation of an ever-growing subject which I have long hoped to become able to treat in more adequate fashion. But as knowledge increases life rolls by, and I have thought it well to bring out while I can even this most imperfect text-book to a branch of research whose novelty and strangeness call urgently for some provisional systematisation, which, by suggesting fresh inquiries, further accumulation of evidence may tend as speedily as possible to its own supersession. Few critics of this book can, I think, be more fully conscious than its author of its defects and its lacunæ; but also few critics, I think, have yet realised the importance of the new facts which in some fashion the book does actually present.

The help derived from these departed colleagues, Henry Sidgwick and Edmund Gurney, although of a kind and quantity absolutely essential to the existence of this work, is not easy to define in all its fulness under the changed circumstances of today. There was indeed much which is measurable;—much of revision of previous work of my own, of collaborative experiments, of original thought and discovery. Large quotations purposely introduced from Edmund Gurney indicate, although imperfectly, how closely interwoven our work on all these subjects continued to be until his death. But the benefit which I drew from the association went deeper still. The conditions under which this inquiry was undertaken were such as to emphasise the need of some intimate moral support. A recluse, perhaps, or an eccentric,—or a man living mainly with his intellectual inferiors, may find it easy to work steadily and confidently at a task which he knows that the bulk of educated men will ignore or despise. But this is more difficult for a man who feels manifold links with his kind, a man whose desire it is to live among minds equal or superior to his own. It is hard, I say, for such a man to disregard altogether the expressed or implied disapproval of those groups of weighty personages to whom in other matters he is accustomed to look up.

I need not say that the attitude of the scientific world—of all the intellectual world—then was very much more marked than now. Even now I write in full consciousness of the low value commonly attached to inquiries of the kind which I pursue. Even now a book on such a subject must still expect to evoke, not only legitimate criticism of many kinds, but also much of that disgust and resentment which novelty and heterodoxy naturally excite. But I have no wish to exalt into a deed of daring an enterprise which to the next generation must seem the most obvious thing in the world. Nihil ausi nisi vana contemnereI have dared nothing except to slight empty things will certainly be the highest compliment which what seemed to us our bold independence of men {i-ix} will receive. Yet gratitude bids me to say that however I might in the privacy of my own bosom have ‘dared to contemn things contemptible,’ I should never have ventured my amateurish acquirements on a publication of this scale were it not for that slow growth of confidence which my respect for the judgment of these two friends inspired. Their countenance and fellowship, which at once transformed my own share in the work into a delight, has made its presentation to the world appear as a duty.

My thanks are due also to another colleague who has passed away, my brother, Dr. A. T. Myers, F.R.C.P., who helped me for many years in all medical points arising in the work.

To the original furnishers of the evidence my obligations are great and manifest, and to the Council of the S.P.R. I also owe thanks for permission to use that evidence freely. But I must leave it to the book itself to indicate in fuller detail how much is owing to how many men and women:—how widely diffused are the work and the interest which have found in this book their temporary outcome and exposition.

The book, indeed, is an exposition rather than a proof. I cannot summarise within my modest limits the mass of evidence already gathered together in the sixteen volumes of Proceedings and the nine volumes of the Journal of the S.P.R., in Phantasms of the Living and other books hereafter referred to, and in MS. collections. The attempt indeed would be quite out of place. This branch of knowledge, like others, must be studied carefully and in detail by those who care to understand or to advance it.

What I have tried to do here is to render that knowledge more assimilable by co-ordinating it in a form as clear and intelligible as my own limited skill and the nature of the facts themselves have permitted. I have tried to give, in text and in Appendices, enough of actual evidence to illustrate each step in my argument:—and I have constantly referred the reader to places where further evidence will be found.


In minor matters I have aimed above all things at clearness and readiness in reference. The division of the book into sections, with Appendices bearing the same numbers, will, it is hoped, facilitate the use both of syllabus and of references in general. I have even risked the appearance of pedantry in adding a glossary. Where many unfamiliar facts and ideas have to be dealt with, time is saved in the end if the writer explains precisely what his terms mean.

.        .        .        .        .        .        .

F. W. H. MYERS.    


This unfinished preface consists of several passages written at different times by the author, who died on January 17th, 1901. In 1896, he arranged that the completion of his book should be in the hands of Dr. Richard Hodgson in case of his death before its publication. In the meantime he had entrusted the general supervision of the press work and much of the detail in marshalling the Appendices to Miss Alice Johnson of Newnham College, Cambridge, who has therefore been associated with Dr. Hodgson also in the editorial work needed for the completion of the book, and much the greater part of the labour involved has fallen to her share. At the time of the author's death, Chapters I.–VI., part of Chapter VII., and the whole of Chapter VIII. were in the first proof, the rest of Chapter VII. and Chapter X. were ready for printing. Most of the Appendices were in type, but required much revision and rearrangement. The substance of nearly all Chapter IX. had been written, in one form or another, but had to be pieced together. The asterisks on p. 209 (Vol. II.) mark the end of the part which had been consecutively composed by the author. Some of the questions involved in that chapter would doubtless have been treated much more fully by him had he lived to complete it. Mr. Myers left on record his wish to express gratitude to Mr. F. N. Hales, of Trinity College, Cambridge, for help in the preparation of some Appendices, especially in Chapters II. and V.

ALICE JOHNSON.           



[NOTE.—The words and phrases here included fall under three main heads:—

(1) Words in common philosophical or medical use, to which no new shade of meaning is given in this inquiry, e.g. ecmnesia. Introducing a few of these words for the ordinary reader's convenience, I have generally taken the definition from Hack Tuke's Dictionary of Psychological Medicine (London: Churchill, 1892), which is the most authoritative—almost the only—English work of its kind.

(2) Words or phrases in themselves not new, but used in psychical research with some special significance;—as, for instance, “systematised anæsthesia,” “negative hallucination.” These two phrases are constantly used by writers on hypnotism: but mere familiarity with the words themselves would not explain their meaning in that context to a reader fresh to hypnotic discussions.

(3) A few words, distinguished by an asterisk, for which I am myself responsible. I must leave it to my readers to judge how far these words are likely to be useful. But I would suggest that when a subject so novel as ours is made the subject of discussion in many countries, there is a convenience in using words of Greek or Latin derivation, which can be adapted to all languages, and can be made to bear a clearly defined signification.]

Aboulia. —Loss of power of willing. I have used the word hyperboulia to express that increased power over the organism, resembling the power which we call will when it is exercised over the voluntary muscles, which is seen in the bodily changes effected by self-suggestion.

After-image.—The picture of an object seen after removing the gaze from the object. It is called positive when it reproduces, negative when it reverses the true illumination or colours of the actual object. After-images are regarded as retinal or entoptic, belonging to the interior of the eye. After-images must be distinguished from memory-images, which may appear spontaneously, or may be summoned by an effort of will, long after the original sight of the object.

Agent.—The person on whose condition a telepathic impression seems to be dependent; who seems to initiate the telepathic transmission.

Agraphia.—See Aphasia

Alexia.—See Aphasia

Alternation of personality.—See disintegration of personality.

Anæsthesia, or the loss of sensation generally, must be distinguished from analgesia, or the loss of the sense of pain alone. Many hypnotic subjects are{i-xiv}analgesic but not anæsthetic. Systematized anæsthesia or negative hallucination signifies the condition of an entranced subject who has been told (for instance) that Mr. A. is not in the room, while he is in reality present. The subject may thus be said to have a negative hallucination, or to have been deprived of a certain group or system of perceptions, in that he fails to see Mr. A. Other words descriptive of the general sensory condition are dysæsthesia, impaired or painful sensation; paræsthesia, erroneous or morbid sensation; hyperæsthesia, unusually keen sensation, which may or may not be a morbid symptom. Hyperæsthesia may be peripheral, when it affects nerve-endings near the surface of the body, or central, when the excessive sensitiveness belongs to the central sensorium;—such parts, namely, of the brain as are concerned in receiving or generating sensory images and impressions. Hemi-anæsthesia means anæsthesia of half the body, the median line (down the middle of the body) separating normal sensation from absence of sensation. Anæsthetic zones or patches (formerly deemed characteristic of witches) are common in hysteria. Cœnesthesia means that consensus or agreement of many organic sensations which is a fundamental element in our conception of personal identity. Finally, I have suggested the word *panæsthesia to express the undifferentiated sensory capacity of the supposed primal germ.

Analgesia.—Insensibility to pain.

Aphasia.—Incapacity of coherent utterance, not caused by structural impairment of the vocal organs, but by lesion of the cerebral centres for speech. Distinguished from congenital or acquired aphonia, due to paralysis or imperfect approximation of the vocal cords, and also from hysterical mutism, when the patient is obstinately and involuntarily silent, although the vocal organs are uninjured and the cerebral centres of speech are only functionally affected, with no visible lesion. All the four forms of verbalisation are subject to separate disorders of the type of aphasia. Lack of power to write words is called agraphia or agraphy; lack of power to understand words written, Alexia or word-blindness; lack of power to understand words uttered, word-deafness. In each case the trouble may lie in the brain and not in the organ of sense or other organs. For instance, a man's sight even for printed musical notes may be unimpaired, while yet he is unable to understand printed words.

Aphonia.—Incapacity of uttering sounds.

Attaque de sommeil.—This French term is more correct than the word “trance,” to express those spontaneous lapses into prolonged and profound sleep which sometimes occur in hysterical subjects.

Automatism.—The words automatism and automatic are used in somewhat different senses by physiologists and psychologists. Thus Sir M. Foster says (Foster'sPhysiology,5th edition, p. 920), “We speak of an action of an organ or of a living body as being spontaneous or automatic when it appears to be not immediately due to any changes in the circumstances in which the organ or body is placed, but to be the result of changes arising in the organ or body itself and determined by causes other than the influences of the circumstances of the moment. The most striking automatic actions of the living body [are] those which we attribute to the working of the will and which we call voluntary or volitional.” That is to say, to the physiologist an action is “self-moved” when it is determined, not by the environment, but by the organism itself. The word thus becomes hardly more than a synonym for spontaneous. The psychologist, on the other hand, regards an action as “self-moved” when it is determined {i-xv} in an organism apart from the central will or control of that organism Thus when an act at first needing voluntary guidance, by practice comes to need such guidance no longer, it is called “secondarily automatic.” I have used the word in a wider sense, as expressing such images as arise, as well as such movements as are made, without the initiation, and generally without the concurrence, of conscious thought and will. Sensory automatism will thus include visual and auditory hallucinations; motor automatism will include messages written without intention (automatic script) or words uttered without intention (as in “speaking with tongues,” trance-utterances, &c.). I ascribe these processes to the action of submerged or subliminal elements in the man's being. Such phrases as “reflex cerebral action,” or “unconscious cerebration,” give therefore, in my view, a very imperfect conception of the facts.

Automnesia.—Spontaneous revival of memories of an earlier condition of life.

Autoscope.—Any instrument which reveals a subliminal motor impulse or sensory impression; e.g. a divining rod, a tilting table, or a planchette reveals by its visible motion the imperceptible, involuntary, and unconscious muscular action of the person holding or touching it; a crystal or other speculum externalises the subliminal impressions of the person who sees visions in it.

Bilocation.—The sensation of being in two different places at once, namely, where one's organism is, and a place distant from it, involving some degree of perception (whether veridical or falsidical) of the distant scene.

Catalepsy.—“An intermittent neurosis, characterised by the patient's inability to change the position of a limb, while another person can place the muscles in a state of flexion or contraction as he will.”—(Tuke's Dict.)Catalepsy may also be induced as a stage of hypnotism; although Charcot's view, which erected catalepsy, lethargy, somnambulism (their relative positions sometimes varied) into three typical or necessary stages in a hypnotic trance, is now commonly considered to have been a too hasty generalisation from the habits—largely imitative—of the group of hypnotic patients at the Salpêtrière (a hospital in Paris).

Census of Hallucinations.—An inquiry undertaken to determine the frequency of hallucinations in sane and healthy persons; described inProceedingsS.P.R., vol. x. (See 612 A.)

Centre of Consciousness.—The place where a percipient imagines himself to be. The point from which he seems to himself to be surveying some phantasmal scene.

Chromatism.—See Secondary Sensations.

Clairaudience.—See Clairvoyance.

Clairvoyance(Lucidite).—The faculty or act of perceiving, as though visually, with some coincidental truth, some distant scene; used sometimes, but hardly properly, fortranscendental vision,or the perception of beings regarded as on another plane of existence. Clairaudience is generally used of the sensation of hearing an internal (but in some way veridical) voice. I have preferred to use the term telæsthesia for distant perception. For the faculty has seldom any close analogy with an extension of sight; the perception of distant scenes being often more or less symbolical and in other ways out of accord with what actual sight would show in the locality of the vision. On the other hand, telæsthesia merges into telepathy, since we cannot say how far the perception of a distant scene may in essential be the perception of the content of a distant mind.


Cœnesthesia.—See Anæsthesia.

Coincidental.—This word is used when there is some degree of coincidence in time of occurrence between a supernormal incident and an event at a distance, which makes it seem probable that some causal connection exists between the two. An apparition, for instance, seen at or about the time when the person whose phantasm is seen dies, is a coincidental apparition.

Collective.—Applied to cases where two or more persons together perceive a hallucination or phantasm.

Control.—This word is used of the intelligence which purports to communicate messages which are written or uttered by the automatist, sensitive, or medium. The word is used for convenience' sake, but should not imply that the source of the messages need be other than the automatist's own subliminal intelligence.

*Cosmopathic.—Open to the access of supernormal knowledge or emotion, apparently from the transcendental world, but whose precise source we have no means of defining.

Cryptomnesia.—Submerged or subliminal memory of events forgotten by the supraliminal self.

Crystal-gazing.—The act of looking into a crystal, glass ball, or other speculum, or reflecting surface, with the object of inducing hallucinatory pictures. The person doing this is called a seer or scryer. The pictures, of course, exist in the mind and not in the crystal. See Shell-hearing.

Delusion and Delusive.—Applied generally to all cases whether of hallucination or illusion, when there is no corresponding reality whatever;—i.e. when the case is not coincidental or in any other way veridical.

*Dextro-cerebral (opposed to *Sinistro-cerebral); of left-handed persons, as employing preferentially the right hemisphere of the brain.

Diathesis.—Habit, capacity, or disposition. (In Medicine, a permanent condition of the body which renders it liable to certain special diseases or affections; a constitutional predisposition or tendency.) See Psychorrhagic diathesis.

Dimorphism.—In crystals, the property of assuming two incompatible forms; in plants and animals, difference of form between members of the same species. Used of a condition of alternating personalities; a kind of psychical dimorphism in which memory, character, faculty, &c., present themselves at different times in different forms in the same person. Similarly, polymorphism is the property of assuming many forms.

Discarnate.—Disembodied, opposed to incarnate. Used of that part of man which still subsists after bodily death.

Disintegration of personality.—Used of any condition where the sense of personality is not unitary and continuous; especially when secondary and transitory personalities intervene; as, for instance, when a hysterical subject calls herself at one time Rose, at another Adrienne, &c., with separate chains of memory for each condition.

Dissolutive.—Opposed to Evolutive; of changes which tend not towards progress but towards decay.

Dynamogeny.—The increase of nervous energy by appropriate stimuli; often opposed to inhibition.

Dysæsthesia.—See Anæsthesia.

Ecmnesia.—A gap in memory: “a form of amnesia [forgetfulness] in which there is a normal memory of occurrences prior to a given date, with loss of {i-xvii} memory of what happened for a certain time after that date.”—(Tuke's Dict.). It should be added that the gap of memory may include some period of time previous to the shock or accident which caused it.

Ecstasy.—A trance during which the spirit of the automatist partially quits his body, entering into a state in which the spiritual world is more or less open to its perception, and in which it so far ceases to occupy its organism as to leave room for an invading spirit to use it in somewhat the same fashion as its owner is accustomed to use it. See Possession.

*Entencephalic.—On the analogy of entoptic; of sensations, &c., which have their origin within the brain, not in the external world.

Eugenics.—The science of improving the race.

Externalise.—This word is used to represent the process by which an idea or impression on the percipient's mind is transformed into a phantasm apparently outside him.

Falsidical.—See Hallucination.

Glossolaly.—“Speaking with tongues,” i.e. automatic utterance of words not belonging to any real language.

Hallucination.—Any supposed sensory perception which has no objective counterpart within the field of vision, hearing, &c., is termed a hallucination. Hallucinations may be delusive or falsidical, when there is nothing whatever to which they correspond; or veridical, when they correspond (as those of which we treat generally correspond) to real events happening elsewhere. A pseudohallucination is a quasi-percept not sufficiently externalised to rank as a “full-blown” hallucination. Contrast with illusion and delusion.

Hemi-anæsthesia.—See Anæsthesia.

Heteræsthesia.—A form of sensibility decidedly different from any of those which can be referred to the action of the known senses—e.g. the perception of a magnetic field, specific sensibilities to running water, crystals, metals (See Metallæsthesia), &c.

Hyperboulia.—See Aboulia.

Hyperæsthesia.—See Anæsthesia.

Hypermnesia.—Defined in Tuke's Dict. as “over-activity of the memory, a condition in which past acts, feelings, or ideas are brought vividly to the mind, which, in its natural condition, has wholly lost the remembrance of them.” In my view the subliminal memory retains these remembrances throughout, and their supraliminal evocation implies an increased grasp of natural faculty. *Panmnesia would imply a potential recollection of all impressions.

*Hyperpromethia.—Supernormal power of foresight; attributed to the subliminal self as a hypothesis by which to explain premonitions without assuming either that the future scene is shown to the percipient by any mind external to his own, or that circumstances which we regard as future are in any sense already existent.

Hypnagogic.Illusions hypnagogiques (Maury) are the vivid illusions of sight or sound—“faces in the dark,” &c.—which sometimes accompany the oncoming of sleep. To similar illusions accompanying the departure of sleep, as when a dream-figure persists for a few moments into waking life, I have given the name *hypnopompic.

Hypnogenous.—See Hysterogenous.

*Hypnopompic.—See Hypnagogic.

Hypnotism.—See Mesmerism.


Hysteria.—“A disordered condition of the nervous system, the anatomical seat and nature of which are unknown to medical science, but of which the symptoms consist in well-marked and very varied disturbances of nerve-function” (Ency. Brit.). For further definition and discussion, see below, Chapter II.

Hysterical blindness, contractures, mutism, œdema, paralysis, &c., signify affections not dependent on any discoverable lesion, but on the defects of nervous co-ordination characteristic of hysteria. Such affections, even when of long standing, may quite suddenly disappear.

Hysterogenous zones.—Points or tracts on the skin of a hysterical person pressure on which will induce a hysterical attack. Hypnogenous zones are regions by pressure on which hypnosis is induced in a hysterical person, by a similar process of self-suggestion.

Ideational.—Used of impressions which convey some distinct notion, but not of sensory nature.

Idiognomonic.—Not symptomatic of any other condition; indicative only of itself.

Idiopathic.—Symptomatic of some special morbid state or condition, which exhibits no other symptom—e.g. idiopathic somnambulism is sleep-walking not associated with any other disease.

Illusion.—The misinterpretation of some object actually present to sight, hearing, &c., as when a hanging coat is taken for a man, a ringing in the ears for the sound of a bell, &c.

Imaginal.—A word used of characteristics belonging to the perfect insect or imago;—and thus opposed to larval;—metaphorically applied to transcendental faculties shown in rudiment in ordinary life.

Induced.—Of phantasms, &c., intentionally produced.

Levitation.—A raising of objects from the ground by supposed supernormal means: especially of living persons; asserted in the case of St. Joseph of Copertino, and many other saints; of D. D. Home, and of W. Stainton Moses.

Medium.—A person through whom communication is deemed to be carried on between living men and spirits of the departed. As commonly used in spiritist literature, this word is liable to the objection that it assumes a particular theory for phenomena which admit of explanation in various ways. It is often better replaced by automatist or sensitive.

Mesmerism.—This is the oldest widely-recognised word for a large group of phenomena discussed below in Chapter V. The name need imply nothing more than the fact that Mesmer was the conspicuous introducer of many of the phenomena to the European public. But it is also specially used to imply something of his theory of their production, by a vital effluence from the mesmeriser, conveyed partly by mesmeric passes, or wavings of the hands. The term Animal Magnetism implies a somewhat different theory. The term Hypnotism, when first started by Braid, was again meant to imply a theory of the genesis of these phenomena, but it is now generally used with no theoretical implication.

Message.—Used for any communication, not necessarily verbal, from one to another stratum of the automatist's personality, or from an external intelligence to one or other stratum of the automatist. Thus any automatic script may be called a message, even if incoherent.


Metallæsthesia.—A form of sensibility alleged to exist which enables some hypnotised or hysterical subjects to discriminate between the contacts of various metals by sensations not derived from their ordinary properties of weight, &c.

Metastasis.—Change of the seat of a bodily function from one place (e.g. a brain-centre) to another.

*Metetherial.—That which appears to lie after or beyond the ether; the metetherial environment denotes the spiritual or transcendental world in which the soul exists.

*Methectic.—Of communications between one stratum of a man's intelligence and another; as when he writes messages whose origin is in his own subliminal self. Some word is needed to express this novel conception: and Plato's use of the word μέθεξις, participation (Parm. 132 D), suggests methectic as the most appropriate term of Greek origin.

Mirror-writing (écriture renversée, Spiegel-schrift). Writing so inverted, or, more exactly, perverted, as to resemble writing reflected in a mirror, or blotted off on to a sheet of blotting paper. This form of writing is natural to some left-handed persons. It also frequently appears in automatic script.

Mnemonic chain.—A continuous series of memories, especially when the continuity persists after an interruption. See Disintegration of personality.

Monition.—A message involving counsel or warning, when that counsel is based upon facts already in existence, but not normally known to the person who receives the monition.

Motor.—Used of an impulse to action not carrying with it any definite idea or sensory impression.

Negative hallucination.—See Anæsthesia.

Number forms.—See Secondary Sensations.

Objectify.—To externalise a phantom in three dimensions; to see it as a solid object fitted into the waking world.

*Panæsthesia.—See Anæsthesia.

*Panmnesia.—See Hypermnesia.

Paræsthesia.—See Anæsthesia.

Paramnesia.—See Promnesia.

Paraphasia.—The erroneous and involuntary use of one word for another, or of one syllable for another. Cf. Aphasia

Percipient.—The correlative term to Agent; the person on whose mind the telepathic impact falls; or more generally, the person who perceives any motor or sensory impression.

Phantasm and Phantom.—Phantasm and phantom are, of course, mere variants of the same word; but since phantom has become generally restricted to visual hallucinations, it is convenient to take phantasm to cover a wider range, and to signify any hallucinatory sensory impression, whatever sense—whether sight, hearing, touch, smell, taste, or diffused sensibility—may happen to be affected.

Phantasmogenetic centre.—A point in space so modified by the presence of a spirit that it becomes perceptible to persons materially present near it. The conception of psychical excursion or invasion implies that some movement bearing some relation to space as we know it is accomplished; that the invading spirit modifies a certain portion of space, not materially nor {i-xx} optically, but in such a manner that specially susceptible persons may perceive it. Cf. psychorrhagy.

Phobies (term adopted from the French).—Irrational restricting or disabling pre-occupations or fears; morbid aversions for certain things or actions, e.g. agoraphobia, fear of open spaces; mysophobia, fear of uncleanliness.

Photism.—See Secondary Sensations.

Point de repère.—Guiding mark. Used of some (generally inconspicuous) real object which a hallucinated subject sometimes sees along with his hallucination, and whose behaviour under magnification, &c., suggests to him similar changes in the hallucinatory figure.

Polymorphism.—See Dimorphism.

Polyzoism.—The property, in a complex organism, of being composed of minor and quasi-independent organisms (like the polyzoa or “sea-mats”). This is sometimes called “colonial constitution,” from animal colonies; but the metaphor implied is not always suitable. The word polypsychism is sometimes used to express the psychical aspect of polyzoism.

Possession.—A developed form of motor automatism, in which the automatist's own personality disappears for the time, while there is a more or less complete substitution of personality, writing or speech being given by another spirit through the entranced organism.

Post-hypnotic.—Used of a suggestion given during the hypnotic trance, but intended to operate after that trance has ceased.

Precognition.—A knowledge of impending events supernormally acquired.

Premonition.—A supernormal indication of any kind of event still in the future.

*Preversion.—A tendency to characteristics assumed to lie at a further point of the evolutionary progress of a species than has yet been reached; opposed to reversion.

Proleptic.—Anticipatory; assuming a knowledge of a fact not yet communicated. A dream is called proleptic when it assumes some fact which is only made known to the dreamer later in the dream. For instance, a person in one's dream may ask one a riddle, and not tell one the answer for some time; yet a knowledge of that answer must have existed in one's mind all the time, since one did in fact ask the riddle oneself.

*Promnesia.—The paradoxical sensation of recollecting a scene which is only now occurring for the first time; the sense of the déjà vu. The term paramnesia, which is sometimes given to this sensation, should, I think, cover all forms of erroneous memory, and cannot without confusion be used to express specifically this one anomalous sensation.

Pseudo-hallucination.—See Hallucination.

*Psychorrhagy.—A special idiosyncrasy which tends to make the phantasm of a person easily perceptible; the breaking loose of a psychical element, definable mainly by its power of producing a phantasm, perceptible by one or more persons, in some portion of space. Cf. Phantasmogenetic centre.

*Psychorrhagic diathesis.—A habit or capacity of detaching some psychical element, involuntarily and without purpose, in such a manner as to produce a phantasm.

Psychotherapeutics.—“Treatment of disease by the influence of the mind on the body” (Tuke's Dict.). All suggestion of course comes under this head.


Quasi-percept.—The more or less objectified phantasm, which the percipient does, in a certain sense, perceive.

Reciprocal.—Used of cases where there is both agency and percipience at each end of the telepathic chain, so that (in a complete or developed case) A perceives P, and P perceives A also.

*Retrocognition.—Knowledge of the Past, supernormally acquired.

Secondary Personality.—It sometimes happens, as the result of shock, disease, or unknown causes, that a man or a woman experiences an alteration of memory and character, amounting to a change of personality, which generally seems to have come on during sleep. The new personality is in that case termed secondary. It generally disappears after a time, or alternates with the original, or primary, personality.

Secondary Sensations (Secundärempfindungen, audition colorée, sound-seeing, synæsthesiæ, &c.).—With some persons every sensation of one type is accompanied by a sensation of another type; as, for instance, a special sound may be accompanied by a special sensation of colour or light (chromatisms or photisms). This phenomenon is analogous to that of number-forms,—a kind of diagrammatic mental pictures which accompany the conception of a progression of numbers. See Galton's Inquiries into Human Faculty.

Shell-hearing.—The induction of hallucinatory voices, &c., by listening to a shell. Analogous to crystal-gazing.

Spectrum of consciousness.—A comparison of man's range of consciousness or faculty to the solar spectrum, as seen by us after passing through a prism or as examined in a spectroscope.

Spiritualism or Spiritism.—A religion, philosophy, or mode of thinking, based on the belief that the spirits of the dead communicate with living men. Since the words spiritualisme and spiritualiste have long been used in France for a school of philosophy opposed to materialism, there is some advantage in choosing the word Spiritism for the belief in spirit intercourse.

Stigmatisation.—The production of blisters or other cutaneous changes on the hands, feet, or elsewhere, by self-suggestion or meditation. These marks were said to have been produced on St. Francis of Assisi, on Louise Lateau, &c., by meditation on the sufferings of Christ. Similar marks are producible by suggestion in some hypnotic subjects, and even vesication (the formation of blisters) seems to have been thus induced.

Subliminal.—Of thoughts, feelings, &c., lying beneath the ordinary threshold (limen) of consciousness, as opposed to supraliminal, lying above the threshold. Excitations are termed subliminal when they are too weak to rise into direct notice; and I have extended the application of the term to feeling, thought, or faculty, which is kept thus submerged, not by its own weakness, but by the constitution of man's personality. The threshold (Schwelle) must be regarded as a level above which waves may rise,—like a slab washed by the sea,—rather than as an entrance into a chamber.

Suggestion.—The process of effectively impressing upon the subliminal intelligence the wishes of the man's own supraliminal self or of some other person. The mechanism of this process is obscure, nor is it known why some persons are much more suggestible than others. Self-suggestion (sometimes called auto-suggestion by a barbarism easily avoidable in English) means a suggestion conveyed by the subject himself from one stratum of his personality to another, without external intervention.


*Supernormal.—Of a faculty or phenomenon which goes beyond the level of ordinary experience, in the direction of evolution, or as pertaining to a transcendental world. The word supernatural is open to grave objections; it assumes that there is something outside nature, and it has become associated with arbitrary interference with law. Now there is no reason to suppose that the psychical phenomena with which we deal are less a part of nature, or less subject to fixed and definite law, than any other phenomena. Some of them appear to indicate a higher evolutionary level than the mass of men have yet attained, and some of them appear to be governed by laws of such a kind that they may hold good in a transcendental world as fully as in the world of sense. In either case they are above the norm of man rather than outside his nature.

Supraliminal.—See Subliminal.

Synæsthesia.—See Secondary Sensations.

Synergy.—A number of actions correlated together, or combined into a group.

Telekinesis.—Used of alleged supernormal movements of objects, not due to any known force.

*Telepathy and *telæsthesia.—It has become possible, I think, to discriminate between these two words somewhat more sharply than when I first suggested them in 1882. Telepathy may still be defined as “the communication of impressions of any kind from one mind to another, independently of the recognised channels of sense.” The distance between agent and percipient which the derivation of the word—“feeling at a distance”—implies, need, in fact, only be such as to prevent the operation of whatever known modes of perception are not excluded by the other conditions of the case. Telepathy may thus exist between two men in the same room as truly as between one man in England and another in Australia, or between one man still living on earth and another man long since departed. Telæsthesia—perception at a distance—may conveniently be interpreted in a similar way, as implying any direct sensation or perception of objects or conditions independently of the recognised channels of sense, and also under such circumstances that no known mind external to the percipient's can be suggested as the source of the knowledge thus gained.

*Telergy.—The force exercised by the mind of an agent in impressing a percipient,—involving a direct influence of the extraneous spirit on the brain or organism of the percipient.

Veridical.—See Hallucination.



In each volume of the book the argument runs on continuously through the Chapters placed at the beginning of the volume. A few illustrative cases are included in these Chapters, but the great mass of cases, together with detailed discussions of individual points, are placed in the Appendices corresponding to the Chapters, at the end of each volume (in vol. i. from p. 298 onwards), in order not to interrupt the argument.

The Appendices are divided according to the Chapters to which they belong, as “Appendices to Chapter II.,” “Appendices to Chapter IV.,” &c. (Chapters I. and III. having no Appendices); see page-headings in last part of volume.

The Chapters are divided into numbered sections. In these numbers, the hundreds correspond to the number of the Chapter; thus, in Chapter I. the sections are numbered from 100 onwards; in Chapter II. they are numbered from 200 onwards, and so on. The result of this is that the numbers of sections run on continuously through each Chapter, with a break in the series at the end of each chapter; e.g. the last section of Chapter I. (p. 33) is 128, and the first section of Chapter II. (p. 34) is 200.

To facilitate reference to the sections, their numbering is repeated in the inner corners of the page-headings.

The Appendices are also numbered, to correspond with the sections which they are intended to illustrate; the numbers of the Appendices being distinguished from the numbers of the sections by letters being added to the former. Thus the first Appendix is numbered 207 A (see p. 298), this being an illustration of section 207.

Some of the sections have more than one illustrative Appendix; in that case, the same number is repeated with a different letter. Thus section 223 (p. 60) has two Appendices, which are numbered 223 A and 223 B (pp. 305 and 306). On the other hand, many sections have no Appendices corresponding to them. The result is that the numbering of the Appendices is not continuous, but has many gaps in it. The numbering of the Appendices—like that of the sections—is repeated in the inner corners of the page-headings.

Whenever, therefore, a reference occurs to a number alone, this is to be found among the sections; but when a reference is to a number with a letter, it is to be found among the Appendices.

In the Syllabuses which immediately follow, the references to the Appendices are given in connection with the sections to which they belong.





100. Man has never yet applied the method of science to the problem of his own survival of death.

101. There has been much belief in survival,—both definite belief and vague belief,—but nevertheless no attempt to test that belief by observation and experiment.

102. In fact, the very importance of the belief has barred methodical inquiry; men have adopted it as a faith, and have then been reluctant to analyse it. The Christian Church has absorbed the question into theology, and has treated theology as based on tradition and intuition, not on fresh experiment.

103. From time to time various significant phenomena have occurred, which recall traditional marvels, but are now gradually being brought into line with the results of modern science; e.g. Witchcraft has been greatly elucidated by modern investigations into hysteria.

104. Mesmerism foreshadowed hypnotic suggestion and psychotherapeutics.

105. Swedenborg originated the notion of science in the spiritual world, and must be regarded as a true and early precursor of our enquiry into the nature of trance-manifestations.

106. Sir W. Crookes was the first who seriously endeavoured to apply scientific tests to the alleged supernormal influence of the spiritual on the material world. On these alleged facts, a scheme of belief known as Modern Spiritualism has been founded.

107. Next a group of Cambridge friends became convinced that the questions at issue could only be decided through experiment and observation of contemporary phenomena. On this basis the S.P.R. was founded. The first definite and important point towards which all the evidence converged was the thesis of Telepathy, the evidence for which was set forth in Phantasms of the Living.

108. Telepathy, rendered probable, leads on to evidence of man's survival of death; but we need first a searching review of the capacities of his incarnate personality.

109. Contrasted views of Personality from which we start. Reid: the old-fashioned view of a single unitary personality.

110. Ribot: the modern view that the self is a co-ordination.


111. The new evidence adduced in this book, while supporting the conception of the composite structure of the Ego, does also bring the strongest proof of its abiding unity, by showing that it withstands the shock of death.

112. The words supraliminal and subliminal may be used to express the mental life which goes on above and below the ordinary threshold of consciousness. The subliminal (or ultramarginal) mental life is sufficiently complex and continuous to justify us in speaking of a subliminal Self.

113. This view may be attacked, on the one hand, as being too elaborate for the facts; on the other hand, as ascribing to some part of our own personality perceptions and impulses which are really due to extraneous and perhaps discarnate minds.

114. The theory of the subliminal self need not, however, be pushed so far as altogether to negative spirit-intervention; in fact, the two views support each other.

115. The study of these subliminal workings is the more necessary now that we realise the slow and complex evolution of man, with the probable lapse from consciousness of much that was once vividly present.

116. The difference between old and new conceptions of consciousness is like the difference between the old simple conception of sunlight and our present conception of the ray fanned out into a spectrum, and barred with lines of varying darkness.

117. Just as the solar spectrum has been prolonged by artifice beyond both red and violet ends, so may the spectrum of conscious human faculty be artificially prolonged beyond both the lower end (where consciousness merges into mere organic operation) and the higher end (where consciousness merges into reverie or ecstasy).

118. Sketch of the general line of inquiry to be pursued in this book—an advance from the analysis of normal to the evidence for supernormal faculty, ending with a discussion of the nature of the proof acquired as to the persistence of human personality after bodily death.

119. Of the chapters following on this first or introductory one, the second will contain a discussion of the ways in which human personality disintegrates and decays.

120. The third, utilising the insight thus gained, will discuss the line of evolution which enables man to maintain and intensify his true normality.

121. The fourth will discuss man's normal alternating phase of personality—sleep, and introduces us to certain supernormal phenomena, which sometimes occur in that state.

122. The fifth chapter will deal with hypnotism, considered as an empirical development of sleep. Hypnotic suggestion intensifies the physical recuperation of sleep, and aids the emergence of those supernormal phenomena which ordinary sleep and spontaneous somnambulism sometimes afford.

123. From hypnotism we pass on in the sixth chapter to a range of experiment and observation of still wider scope, namely, to the consideration of all the sensory messages which the subliminal sends upwards to the supraliminal self; phantasmal externalisations of internal vision and audition. Many of these messages are telepathic—involve, that is to say, direct transmission of thought from one living person to another.

124. Nor does such transmission cease with the bodily death of the transmitting {i-xxvi} agent. The seventh chapter shows that veridical messages may be given phantasmally to mortal men by spirits after bodily death.

125. The eighth chapter introduces another class of subliminal messages—those unwilled writings and utterances which may be styled motor automatisms. Automatic writing, especially, furnishes the opportunity for experiments more prolonged and continuous than the phantasms or pictures of sensory automatisms can often give.

126. These motor automatisms, moreover, as the ninth chapter shows, are apt to become more complete, more controlling, than sensory automatisms. They culminate in the possession of the sensitive by some extraneous spirit, who writes and talks through the temporarily vacated organism, giving proof of his own surviving identity.

127. The conceptions thus gained will be seen to have bearings on the fundamental problems of the relation of spiritual phenomena to Space, to Time, and to the material world.

128. Finally, we shall resume in a tenth chapter, or Epilogue, some of the reflections, philosophical or religious, to which these new facts inevitably give rise.



200. Each man is at once profoundly unitary and almost infinitely composite.

201. I believe that the unifying principle of his personality is an indwelling soul, and that souls have actually been observed in operation apart from the organisms which they possess, both while those organisms are still living and after they have decayed.

202. Our aim must be to draw from a study of the disintegrations of human personality some hints which may tend towards its more complete integration.

203. We shall have to discuss consciousness in various ways, and we shall find it convenient to use the word conscious as equivalent to potentially memorable. That will be in our view a conscious act which we imagine as capable of forming under any conceivable circumstances (not necessarily on this planet) a link in a mnemonic chain. We must, therefore, feel no prepossession against any given arrangement or division of the total mass of consciousness which exists within us.

204. As to the mode of original integration of consciousness up to the human level science can tell us nothing; we must wait for the discovery of laws affecting the spiritual world.

205. We have, therefore, no right to assume that all our psychical operations will fall at the same time, or at any time, into the same central current of perception. More probably natural selection has determined what elements shall rise above the conscious threshold. In processes of disintegration these needed elements sink below the threshold again.

206. The series of these degenerations seems to pass through a certain {i-xxvii} critical point where the demarcation between the phases of personality is sufficiently marked to involve a trance-state in passing from one to the other. We begin with minor and partial disaggregations—insistent ideas and the like.

207. These fixed ideas show themselves amenable to psychological rather than to physiological treatment, and are best described as small displacements of the normal level of voluntary control. 207 A. Janet's cases of forgotten terrors giving rise to hysterical attacks.

208. They thus lead up to hysteria, which consists essentially in an undue “permeability of the psychical diaphragm,” or confused interchange of elements which should lie above and elements which should lie below the threshold of waking consciousness.

209. In hysteria the field of consciousness is narrowed, so that hysterical anæsthesia is not a real loss of sensibility, but a mere distraction of attention from the affected part.

210. Anæsthetic patches are determined not by anatomical demarcations, but by caprices of the hypnotic stratum—dream-like self-suggestions emanating from partially intelligent subliminal centres.

211. The fragments of perceptive power over which the hysteric has lost control still exist below the threshold, and are capable of being again raised by suggestion into waking consciousness.

212. Example from the recovery by hysterics of their normal field of vision on the presentation of an exciting object.

213. Examples of the partial regression of specific senses in the hysteric to the vagueness of primitive irritability.

214. Similar dissociation of the sense of personality from purposive movements.

215. But a hysteric who squeezes the dynamometer like a weak child can exert great muscular force under the influence of emotion.

216. Hysteria, however, does not necessarily show initial weakness of mind. It may result from the shock of painful circumstances upon natures originally intelligent and refined.

217. Case of Miss Lucy R., as given by Drs. Breuer and Freud.

218. Case of Fräulein Anna O., by the same physicians.

219. Gradual transformation of hysterical malady in this case into a secondary personality.

220. The subliminal convictions or fixed ideas which become morbid when they are encysted in the mind may become sources of power and influence when they are worked in with the products of supraliminal reason, as in martyrs, reformers, &c.

221. From these cases of isolation of certain emotional groups from the psychical complex I pass on to more profound cleavages;—our best starting point for the study of these lies among the phenomena of dreams—especially in their dramatic character. 221 A. R. L. Stevenson's dream of possessing a double personality.

222. In some cases the new personality seems a dramatisation of some dominant morbid emotion. 222 A. Janet's case of “demoniacal possession.”

223. Somnambulisms, developing from accesses of sleep-waking, may merge into dimorphic personalities. 223 A. Dyce's case. 223 B. Mesnet's case.


224. Somewhat similar are post-epileptic alternations of personality. 224 A. Case of Sörgel.

225. Other alternations—though possibly post-epileptic in origin—seem dimorphic or allotropic rather than degenerative. 225 A. Case of Ansel Bourne, in which the memory of the secondary state was recovered through hypnotism.

226. Two similar cases, in which the secondary state was perhaps to be referred to a form of hysteria. 226 A. Proust's case. 226 B. Boeteau's case.

227. Case reported by Sidis in which an accident was followed by amnesia and the development of two personalities.

228. A case of the “ambulatory” type, apparently associated with a definite physical lesion. 228 A. Drewry's case.

229. In some cases the alternating state seems due to lack of sufficient vitality to maintain the normal personality without intermission. 229 A. Skae's case.

230. Allied with these degenerative alternations are the factitious alternations which are developed in hysterical persons by hypnotic suggestion or self-suggestion. Janet's cases: 230 A. Léonie; 230 B. Lucie. 230 C. Jules Janet's case: Marceline R.

231. In other cases the secondary state is in some ways an improvement on the primary. 231 A. Case of Félida X. 231 B. Barrett's case.

232. In the case of Mary Reynolds, the second state showed a childish gaiety and insouciance, and the two states gradually coalesced into a third phase superior to both. 232 A. Details of the case.

233. An extreme example of dissociations dependent on time-relations; complex ecmnesia with subjacent hypermnesia. 233 A. Case of Louis Vivé.

234. Example of a subliminal self showing a grotesque hostility to the ordinary self. 234 A. Morton Prince's case of “Sally Beauchamp.”

235. Osgood Mason's case of Alma Z., in whom the recurring secondary personality was always associated with immediate and marked improvement in the physical condition.

236. In the case of Mollie Fancher, there were several secondary personalities with a childish character fitted to each; and her case shows indications of supernormal faculty. 236 A. Newbold's review of the case.

237. The case of Anna Winsor presents a contrast and conflict between positive insanity on the part of the organism generally with wise and watchful sanity on the part of a single limb—the right arm—which appeared to become the permanent possession of the sane secondary personality. 237 A. Barrows' report on the case.

238. The “Watseka Wonder” must be regarded as a pseudo-possession determined by suggestion in a hysterical child. 238 A. Details of the case.

239. This series illustrates the complex and separable nature of the elements of human personality. Hysteria the most delicate form of psychical dissection.

240. Hysteria exhibits acquisitions as well as losses of faculty.

241. If the elements of emergence increase, and the elements of submergence diminish, the permeability of the psychical diaphragm may mean genius instead of hysteria.

242. And the sleeping phase may develop into sleep-waking conditions with manifestations of submerged faculty, which hypnotism can fix and utilise.


243. As the hysteric stands in relation to ordinary men, so do we ordinary men stand in relation to a not impossible ideal of sanity and integration.

244. We may be as unable to conceive of the ideal beyond us as the hysteric is unable to conceive, except by fitful flashes, our normal sanity.

245. We have, at any rate, learnt the lesson of our profound modifiability; and we have seen that it is by appeals to the subliminal self that we have the best chance of being modified in the directions that we desire.



300. Our study, in the last chapter, of the disintegrations of personality will teach us to seek our type of normal manhood in some example of strongly centralised control over as many elements of the personality as possible.

301. It has been suggested that the nervous development of our race tends rather to degeneracy; and Professor Lombroso, for instance, regards “the man of genius” as an aberrant and almost a morbid type.

302. I hold, on the other hand, that Genius may be best defined as a capacity of utilising powers which lie too deep for the ordinary man's control; so that an inspiration of genius is in truth a subliminal uprush of helpful faculty.

303. But before proceeding further we must clearly realise that by no means all that is subliminal in us is potentially “inspiration”; but that what lies beneath the threshold is at least as mixed in quality as what lies above.

304. The descriptive metaphor of highest-level, middle-level, and lowest-level centres, useful in distinguishing great classes of nervous activities, may be extended to different forms of automatic or subliminal manifestation.

305. I explain these inequalities by the assumption of a soul which exercises an imperfect and fluctuating control over the organism, along two main channels, only partly coincident; and I claim the title of genius for states in which some rivulet is drawn into supraliminal life from the undercurrent stream. And as psychologists we are bound to define genius by the mode of its operation;—not by the pleasure-giving properties of the result achieved;—by the source, not the quality, of the output.

306. Now as to normality, I urge that in a constantly evolving species the norm is best represented by the farthest evolutionary stage yet reached.

307. Comparison of genius to an intensification of the glow of a banded spectrum.

308. The form of genius, or of subliminal uprush, most easily measurable is the gift of the “calculating boy.” This gift is usually first observed in childhood, and often disappears in a few years.

309. Table of principal Arithmetical Prodigies.

310. These “prodigies”—who are not “degenerates”—are generally unable to explain their own methods, which remain purely subliminal. Case of Mr. Blyth. Details of some other cases.


311. Further cases of similar definiteness of subliminal cooperation. Experiences of Mr. W. Higton.

312. Sir John Herschel's “Geometrical Spectres,” which he regarded as “evidence of an intelligence distinct from that of our ordinary personality.”

313. Vaguer impressions of subliminal mentation. Case quoted from Dr. Paul Chabaneix.

314. Co-ordination of the sleeping and waking phases of existence. R. L. Stevenson's elaboration of stories in his dreams.

315. On the other hand, Lombroso's collection of anecdotes of the degeneracy of men of genius is on several grounds very weak evidentially.

316. Nervous diseases are no doubt relatively more prominent in modern life, mainly on account of the diminution of diseases due to hunger, filth, and exposure.

317. Rapid nervous development also induces a perturbation which masks evolution, as more advanced forms of faculty come into play.

318. The planetary scheme of man's evolution regards as mere by-products such joys and powers as are not due to that survival of the fittest which adapts man for success in the material world.

319. But, in fact, the history of life on earth has been a history not merely of adaptation to an environment known once for all, but of gradual discovery of the environment. The dawn of new faculty has again and again manifested a wider Cosmos to which life must react.

320. And thus the higher gifts of genius are no by-products, but are fresh perceptions of truth, and lie in the main stream of human evolution.

321. Yet since the output of genius is largely subliminal, and thus nearer to the extra-terrene source of life, it may sometimes be out of harmony with terrene existence; just as imaginal characteristics in the larva may be out of harmony with larval existence.

322. Thus, for example, subliminal mentation, while capable, with great poets, of using words much after the manner of music, does not, on the other hand, seem to be so closely and inevitably linked with speech as is mental action above the conscious threshold.

323. Speech and writing are summarisations of certain forms of complex gesture, inevitably inadequate to symbolise our whole psychical being.

324. Certain other forms of symbolism,—as observation and experiment seem to show,—are often more natural than speech for subliminal self-expression.

325. In this fact, indeed, one may roughly say, lies the need and the genesis of Art, which abandons logical definiteness of statement for the sake of a nearer approach to truth hidden in the ideal world.

326. The internal audition which externalises itself in poetry or music;—the internal visualisation which externalises itself as plastic art;—these represent for us something truer and more permanent than the products of supraliminal thought.

327. We are here in danger of transcending our definition of genius as the crystallisation by subliminal uprushes of the content of supraliminal thought. But genius is inevitably linked both with trance and with automatism.

328. The flash of genius is a brief automatism, and certain prolonged efforts of genius remind us of the complexity of cerebral re-growth,—the “substitution of function” which takes place beneath the conscious level.


329. The talent of improvisation also, as with George Sand, may reach a point almost indistinguishable from automatism.

330. In some cases, as with M. de Curel, the act of invention merges into a quasi-hallucinatory perception of the imagined personages.

331. We may then naturally ask what is the relation of the man of genius to the sensitive? Do his inspirations bring with them any supernormal knowledge? He may get true impressions, although not definite impressions, of a supersensory world.

332. For evidence on this point we must consult the utterances of philosophers or poets.

333. In Wordsworth's Prelude we find an honest and deliberate attempt to answer this very question.

334. The subliminal uprush may bring to the poet a vague but genuine consciousness of the spiritual environment.

335. And similarly to the lover it may bring a consciousness of that universal link of spirit with spirit which is the generalisation of telepathy. The controversy as to the planetary or cosmical scope of the passion of Love is, in fact, central to our whole subject.

336. The planetary view, eloquently illustrated by Professor Pierre Janet, regards the sexual instinct as the nucleus of reality around which baseless fancies gather.

337. On the other hand, the Platonic view (as expressed in the Symposium and elsewhere) regards earthly passion as the initiation and introduction into cosmic sanctity and joy.

338. Platonic Love represents in effect what would now be rather termed Religion; an attitude of devotion and worship towards an Eternal Goodness and Beauty.

339. The psychical type to which we have applied the name of genius may thus be recognised in every region of thought and emotion, and appears essential to the evolution of the race.

340. But whence comes this wisdom of the subliminal Self? Within what limits can these favourable “sports” occur?

341. My own argument, while not insisting on Platonic reminiscences, yet assumes a Soul in man and in the Universe an answering Spirit. These are familiar religious postulates, but we must extend the idea of indrawal from the spiritual world to the whole range of our psychical phenomena.

342. That process of indrawal appears healthy and joyous; it is to the child, not to the madman, that genius is near akin.

343. And men of genius, among whom we must reckon the group of saints, have made a palmary experiment on the development of our race,—a sane and fruitful effort to absorb strength and grace from an accessible and inexhaustible source.



400. In the two preceding chapters I have reviewed the main disturbances and alternations of man's personality, and have then considered the {i-xxxii} norm of the waking phase of that personality. The sleeping phase must now be discussed;—what its characteristics are, how its special faculties can be developed, and what light the study of its manifestations may throw upon the constitution of man.

401. A physiological definition of sleep has never yet been achieved, and is rendered increasingly difficult by what we now know of hypnotic sleep;—induced in apparent independence of the supposed physiological requisites of slumber.

402. On the psychological side, sleep is the suspension of waking consciousness. But this is only a negative definition. We must seek its positive characteristics, regarding it as a secondary personality. The abeyance of the supraliminal life may be the liberation of the subliminal.

403. To begin with, the mere break of waking consciousness is somehow associated with a potent physiological change—of a kind whose induction lies beyond the spectrum of our ordinary consciousness.

404. And when we pass on within the limits of powers consciously exercised in waking hours, we find that sleep, although it habitually suspends, yet does occasionally enhance those powers. Thus muscular control is enhanced in somnambulism.

405. And the power of visualisation is heightened in illusions hypnagogiques,—inward vision on the verge of sleep.

406. And also in hypnopompic pictures,—or the prolongation of dream-images into waking life.

407. Sometimes sensory imagination, inward vision, inward audition, and the like,—seem to be heightened and intensified in dream. 407 A. Case of Dr. Hodgson.

408. R. L. Stevenson utilised this sleep-faculty by self-suggestion to secure visual and dramatic interest for imagined scenes.

409. And similarly, as though by an unwilled self-suggestion, a dream may leave permanent nervous injury, or nervous benefit. 409 A. Faure's case. 409 B. Case of Dr. Holbrook.

410. Even stigmata may apparently be caused by self-suggestion in sleep: Krafft-Ebing's case.

411. Dream-memory and hypnotic memory seem to be connected;—suggesting some subliminal continuity of memory through all phases of personality.

412. And in fact we find that, where the memories of several states can be compared, it is the memory furthest from waking life whose span is generally the widest.

413. And dream-memory does at least sometimes include ecmnesic periods, as a case of Charcot's shows.

414. Dream-memory may include facts once known but now forgotten; and also facts which have indeed fallen within the sensory field, but which waking attention has never observed.

415. Example from Delbœuf of the recovery in dream of a forgotten memory. Cases of: 415 A. Mrs. Bickford-Smith. 415 B. Col. A.v.S.

416. Example of the recovery through dream of an object whose position seemed beyond the range of waking myopic vision: Case of Mr. Lewis.

417. Examples of dreams which reason as well as remember. 417 A. {i-xxxiii} Davey's case. 417 B. Case of Professor Lamberton. 417 C. Case of Professor Hilprecht.

418. Analogy between the achievements of dream and the achievements of genius. Possibility that sleep may stand in closer relation than vigilance to a spiritual environment. Ancient universality of this belief.

419. Both telæsthesia and *telepathy—terms between which we may roughly divide our first groups of supernormal faculty,—meet us indistinguishably in the phenomena of dream. Other groups, as premonitions, present further difficulties for any logical scheme of classification.

420. Nor can the distinction between excursive dreams and receptive dreams serve as a definite mark of division. A fuller scheme will be discussed in Chapter VI. For the present we shall take first those phenomena most nearly allied to our ordinary perceptions of the material world, and shall proceed to those which suggest relations to a spiritual world.

421. Visions of objects during sleep, no longer explicable as revivals of facts which had once fallen, though unnoticed, within the field of vision, but suggesting supernormal perception or excursion by the dreamer. Cases of: 421 A. Mr. Squires. 421 B. Mr. Watts. 421 C. Mrs. Wilkie. 421 D. Judge Howe. 421 E. Mr. Brighten. 421 F. Captain Scott. 421 G. Miss Luke. 421 H. Sir L. Jones. 421 J. Mr. Nascimento.

422. Cases where there is an apparently telepathic link between the dreamer and the scene discerned:—Case of Canon Warburton. Cases of: 422 A. Mrs. West. 422 B. Sir J. Drummond Hay.

423. Case of Mr. Boyle: vision of a death-scene.

424. Case of Sir E. Hamilton: dream of injury to brother's arm. Cases of: 424 A. Mr. Crewdson. 424 B. Mrs. Richardson. 424 C. Mr. William Tudor.

425. Precognitive dreams. Indeterminate whether due to the subliminal self of the dreamer or to other spirits incarnate or discarnate. Case of Duchess of Hamilton. Cases of: 425 A. Mr. Pratt. 425 B. Mr. Ivey. 425 C. Lady Z. 425 D. Mr. Haggard. 425 E. Lady Q.

426. Prolonged vision of a scene of death: 426 A. Case of Dr. Bruce.

427. Case of Mrs. Storie. Symbolical presentation of a scene of death.

428. Illustrations of the theory of “psychical invasion” by the spirits of living persons: case of Mrs. T. Cases of: 428 A. Mr. Pike. 428 B. Mrs. Manning. 428 C. Mr. Newnham. 428 D. Mr. W. 428 E. Mrs. Shagren. 428 F. Mrs. Venter.

429. Sometimes this invasion appears to come from departed spirits. Cases of: 429 A. Mrs. Menneer. 429 B. Mrs. Lightfoot. 429 C. Mr. Wingfield. 429 D. Mrs. Green. 429 E. Mr. Dignowity. 429 F. Professor Dolbear.

430. Summary of the lines of inquiry dealt with in the preceding sections, and the conclusion suggested that the self of sleep is a spirit freed from ordinary material limitations.

431. This conclusion accords with the hypothesis that we are living a life in two worlds. The waking personality is adapted to the needs of earthly life; the personality of sleep maintains the fundamental connection between the organism and the spiritual world by supplying it with spiritual energy during sleep, and itself develops by the exercise of its own spiritual faculties.

432. This conclusion will be further justified in later chapters, and especially in those dealing with states analogous to sleep; somnambulistic and hypnotic trance—possession and ecstasy.



500. Preliminary survey of the chapter. I first show that hypnotism is an experimental development of the sleeping phase of personality. Then, reviewing the various accredited modes of inducing hypnotic effects, I show that these resolve themselves into suggestion and self-suggestion; and, further, that suggestion from hypnotisers resolves itself, in its turn, into self-suggestion; and I define suggestion as a successful appeal to the subliminal self.

Analysing, in the next place, the main achievements of hypnotism, I find that these seem all of them to imply an increased subliminal vitalisation of the organism; and, again, that self-suggestion is exercised most effectively when it is supported by strong faith in some external vitalising or succouring power. I conclude that man's spirit does actually draw in energy from some spiritual environment; and that “by Grace we are saved through Faith.”

501. Our study of sleep in the last chapter, even more than our study of genius in the chapter preceding, has suggested the desirability of reproducing and consolidating by experiment some part of that sporadic and spontaneous faculty which has come to the surface especially in vision and sleep-waking states.

502. Yet at the same time, if it were not for the knowledge which hypnotism has almost accidentally brought to us, we should find it hard to devise any appropriate scheme of experiment. Important lesson conveyed by the fact that a phenomenon so easily produced and so impressive as the hypnotic trance should have remained virtually unknown until so recent a period.

503. Hypnotism has now, in fact, been discovered, and has opened an easy road of exploration. Yet we should realise beforehand that we are only likely to reach experimentally such portions of our subliminal being as hysteria and somnambulism have affected in their spontaneous and sporadic way. We shall probably reach, so to say, only “middle-level centres” of the subliminal self.

504. These reflections, at any rate, show that hypnotism is no disconnected or extraneous insertion into experimental psychology, but rather a summary name for a group of necessary, although empirical and isolated, attempts to bring under control that range of submerged faculty which has already from time to time risen into our observation.

505. Mesmer showed broadly that a profound nervous change, often therapeutic, would often follow upon an obscure stimulus which he regarded as a specific effluence passing from hypnotiser to subject.

506. De Puységur developed this nervous change into its most important phase, namely, induced somnambulism, and in this phase obtained indications of supernormal faculty.

507. Elliotson and Esdaile, using mesmeric passes, effected remarkable cures, with deep anæsthesia under surgical operations.

508. Braid and Fahnestock showed that hypnotic results could be produced without passes by suggestion and self-suggestion.

509. Charcot, by strongly defending a definite, but mistaken, conception of {i-xxxv} hypnotism, gave a fresh impulse to its study. 509 A. Bramwell's criticism of Charcot.

510. Liébeault, Bernheim, and other hypnotists representing what was at first identified with “the Nancy School,” but is now the generally accepted view, insisted that hypnotic phenomena are wholly due to suggestion and self-suggestion, but left these terms unexplained.

511. On a closer analysis it is seen that “suggestibility” means nothing more than increased internal responsiveness of the organism, which is the result which we wish to effect, not the means by which we effect it.

512. This plasticity, or readier response of the organism to our desire for its modification, is, in fact, aimed at by the use of various nervous stimuli, massive or specialised. Drugs afford a form of massive stimulus which is sometimes effective. 512 A. Chloroform may sometimes act simply as a suggestion (Herrero's cases). 512 B. Voisin's view of chloroform as facilitating attention. 512 C. Influence of opium in adding force to self-suggestion: Case of Dr. Parsons.

513. Sudden shock has also been tried, but the resultant “cataplexy” is not identical with hypnotic trance. 513 A. Bramwell on hypnosis in animals. 513 B. Mesmerisation of animals regarded as a test of existence of mesmeric effluence. 513 C. Liébeault on hypnotisation of infants.

514. Hypnotic trance is induced in some hysterical persons by pressure on certain patches of skin called hypnogenous zones. This method, however, seems to be merely a form of hysterical self-suggestion.

515. Monotonous stimulation (as used by Voisin, Braid, &c.), has some predisposing effect, but its apparent effect may often be more truly referred to suggestion.

516. And mesmeric passes involve too little monotonous stimulation to be thus explicable. Their effect must be due either to suggestion or to some influence or effluence akin to telepathy.

517. All forms of nervous stimulation, resulting in increased plasticity, tend thus to resolve themselves into the unexplained efficacy of “suggestion,” while, on the other hand, unless there exist some influence or effluence of unknown type, suggestion by hypnotisers can mean little more than self-suggestion.

518. Self-suggestion is itself capricious and unintelligible; although it is in practice observed to work more readily along certain main lines. 518 A. Fahnestock and Delbœuf on self-suggestion. 518 B. Bramwell and the elder Despine on the same. 518 C. Forel's experience. 518 D. Wingfield's experiments in self-suggestion.

519. I define suggestion as “successful appeal to the subliminal self”; and thus, in the first place, I present the puzzle of the capriciousness of successful suggestion as part and parcel of the larger problem of the relationships of the supraliminal and the subliminal self.

520. This conception should throw light on the phenomena of hypnotism. In the first place, since the subliminal self is specially concerned with the sleeping phase of personality, we may expect that hypnotism will involve some developed form of sleep.

521. The hypnotic trance is not identical with ordinary sleep. The subliminal self comes to the front in reply to our appeal, and displaces just so much of the supraliminal self as may be needful for its purposes.

522. The stages of hypnotism do not follow any fixed physiological law,—as {i-xxxvi} Charcot, for instance, supposed. 522 A. Jules Janet's case. 522 B. Gurney on hypnotic stages.

523. Rather, as Gurney has shown, they resemble alternating personalities, of shallow type. 523 A. Gurney on stages of memory in hypnosis. 523 B. Mrs. Sidgwick on the same.

524. Beneath and between the alert states lies the profound hypnotic trance, which resembles a scientific rearrangement of sleep;—at once more stable and more responsive than ordinary sleep.

525. This generalised conception of hypnotism needs a survey, wider than has been usually attempted, of hypnotic results. The impracticability of framing a physiological scheme of these results teaches us to fall back on psychological considerations. Inhibition and dynamogeny form a convenient contrast of conceptions; both factors entering into all processes of education.

526. It is possible that the influence of suggestion begins before birth. At any rate, we may regard hypnotic suggestion as a summarised education, and may discuss the rôle of inhibition and dynamogeny from the nursery onwards. 526 A. Liébeault's case of suggested birth-mark. 526 B. Galton's case of suggested connate idiosyncrasy. 526 C. Maston's case.

527. Inhibition of childish tricks (acquired morbid synergies) by hypnotic suggestion. 527 A. Bérillon's cases of cures of childish tricks, &c. 527 B. Vlavianos' cure of similar tricks in an adult.

528. Inhibition of kleptomania and of violence. 528 A. Cases and references re kleptomania. 528 B. Janet's cases.

529. Inhibition of organic proclivities—dipsomania, nicotinism. 529 A. Cases and references re dipsomania. 529 B. Bramwell on dipsomania. 529 C. Cure of nicotinism.

530. Inhibition of morphinomania. 530 A. Marot's cure of a case.

531. Inhibition of aberrant sexual impulse and imagination.

532. Inhibition of morbid memory and attention,—of idées fixes.obsessions 532 A. References to cures of phobies professionnelles.occupational phobias 532 B. Vlavianos' cure of agoraphobia. 532 C. Mavroukakis' cure of the same. 532 D. Bramwell's cures of obsessions.

533. Inhibition of inconvenient elements of normal memory:—cure of shyness, &c. Hypnosis not a state of mono-ideism. 533 A. Bramwell shows it to be rather one of poly-ideism.

534. Inhibition of pain;—the most forcible control of attention. 534 A. Delbœuf's experiment of the two burns. 534 B. References to some cases of hypnotic analgesia. 534 C. Delbœuf's cure of neuralgia. 534 D. A cure of sycosis menti. 534 E. Hypnotic analgesia in accouchements.childbirth

535. Is this inhibited pain altogether abrogated, or translated to some other plane of consciousness? 535 A. Green's cases. 535 B. Bramwell's cases.

536. In any case suggestion has the power of dissociating vital phenomena hitherto conjoined, and thus allowing a man to retain in consciousness only such selection of faculties as may suit his immediate purpose.

537. Turning now to the dynamogenic results of suggestion, we find that even the results already classed as inhibitive are in the last resort dynamogenic; since although external acts may be inhibited, there must be a dynamogenic reinforcement of the ideas which check the acts. The more obviously dynamogenic results may now be arranged in an order resembling that which {i-xxxvii} we try to follow in education;—proceeding from external senses to internal sensory and other central operation; and thence again to attention and will, and so to character, which is a kind of resultant of all these.

538. Sensory dynamogeny; correction and reinforcement of defective end-organs by suggestion. 538 A. Liébeault on cases of Aubry and Loué. 538 B. Bramwell's subject, as examined by Hewetson. 538 C. Cullerre's case of suggestion by motor images. 538 D. Connection of hypnotic suggestion with Restitution of Function.

539. Hyperæsthesiæ of sight and hearing produced by suggestion. 539 A. Bergson's case of cornea-reading.

540. Hyperæsthesiæ of the less defined sense-organs merge into what we may term heteræsthesiæ, or new varieties of sensibility. 540 A. Kropotkin on primitive sense-organs.

541. Difficulties in the investigation of these; different types of heteræsthesiæ. 541 A. Sensibility to inorganic objects; e.g. running water. 541 B. Barren on “dowsing.” 541 C. Metallæsthesia. 541 D. Sensibility to magnets. 541 E. Sensibility to dead or living organisms; or to mesmerised objects. 541 F. Medical Clairvoyance. 541 G. Richet's experiments. 541 H. Richet's case of clairvoyant diagnosis accompanied by some prevision. 541 J. Suggestive dynamogeny thus leads up to supernormal faculty. 541 K. Braid on medicamentous substances, &c.

542. Dynamogenic effects of suggestion continued. Effects of suggestion on the vaso-motor system. 542 A. De Jong's cure of hæmorrhage. 542 B. Various cases of vaso-motor effects. 542 C. Bramwell's cure of hyperhydrosis.

543. Stigmatisation. 543 A. Case of Louise Lateau. 543 B. Biggs' cases. 543 C. Coomes' case. 543 D. Krafft-Ebing's case. 543 E. Cases by Janet, Backman, &c. 543 F. Charcot's production of œdema by suggestion. 543 G. Artigalas' cure of hæmorrhage. 543 H. Schrenck-Notzing's experiments.

544. Dynamogeny of the central sensorium; visual and auditory hallucinations.

545. Certain points peculiar to hypnotic hallucinations. Their capability of deferment.

545. Certain points peculiar to hypnotic hallucinations. Their capability of deferment.

546. So-called “negative hallucinations,” or “systematised anæsthesiæ,” imply a watchful adaptation of the hallucination to circumstances unpredictable when the suggestion was first given. 546 A. Mrs. Sidgwick's experiments.

547. Organic effects of hypnotic hallucinations may be profounder than in spontaneous cases.

548. Possibility of utilising this vividness and durability of hallucinatory sensation in such a manner as to extend human faculty.

549. The so-called “transposition of senses” is perhaps a hallucinatory self-suggestion in explanation of a real emergence of telæsthetic capacity. 549 A. Experiments of Pététin, Fahnestock, &c. 549 B. Fontan's experiments.

550. Dynamogenic efficacy of suggestion on attention, will, and character.

551. Suggestions à échéance,delayed-action and post-hypnotic calculation of time-intervals, &c. Experiments of: 551 A. Gurney; 551 B. Delbœuf; 551 C. Bramwell.

552. Vivification of memory, reinforcement of histrionic capacity, &c. 552 A. Dufay's case. 552 B. Bramwell on memory in hypnosis. 552 C. Memory of secondary states recovered by hypnosis.


553. Capacity for attention strengthened and waste of intelligence checked by suggestion. 553 A. Forel's warders. 553 B. Bramwell's subject, &c.

554. Reinforcement of will-power. Backman's experiment. Control over involuntary muscles.

555. Supposed danger of loss of independence; how avoidable. 555 A. Liégeois, Liébeault, &c., on subject's will-power and “suggested crimes.” 555 B. Bramwell on the same.

556. Influence of suggestion on character. 556 B. Voisin and Dufour on moral reforms.

557. Types of faults and relative probability of hypnotic amelioration. 557 A. Bourdon's cure of morbid jealousy.

558. Faults from which the erring person does not desire to be free.

559. Merging of hypnotic suggestibility into susceptibility to religious influences.

560. We have thus reviewed that branch of hypnotic results which develop the capacity of the subliminal self for organic recuperation in the sleeping phase of personality. We must turn to the results which develop its capacity for self-liberation in the same phase:—as shown by the emergence of supernormal powers.

561. Before expanding this theme I must introduce another subject whose consideration has thus far been postponed, namely, spontaneous somnambulisms.

562. These sleep-waking states form a development of dream, and show the middle-level elements of the subliminal self operating unchecked, with supernormal faculties, for the most part aimlessly and incoherently employed.

563. Sleep-waking parallels to genius. 563 A. Case of Rachel Baker.

564. Sleep-waking sagacity and organic prevision. 564 A. Teste's case and references to others.

565. Telæsthesia and telepathy in spontaneous sleep-waking. 565 A. Dufay's case. References to cases of Elizabeth Squirrell, Jane Rider, &c.

566. Transition from spontaneous sleep-waking to the trance of “possession.”

567. This evidence shows us that the supernormal powers which we have traced in each of the preceding chapters in turn present themselves in much the same fashion in spontaneous sleep-waking states also. We must now return to hypnotism, and ask whether these powers are also manifest in sleep-waking states experimentally induced.

568. And first, as to the supernormal induction of hypnotic states. Can hypnosis be telepathically produced from a distance? Experiments of: 568 A. Janet and Gibert. 568 B. Héricourt. 568 C. Dusart. 568 D. Dufay. 568 E. Other cases.

569. If, then, a supernormal influence is exercised from a distance, it may presumably be exercised from close at hand, and we may thus be better able to analyse its true nature. Experiments in the telepathic production of local organic effects and in silent willing in proximity. 569 A. Experiments in the production of local anæsthesia by Gurney. 569 B. The same, by Mrs. Sidgwick. 569 C. Experiments in silent willing by Barrett, H. S. Thompson, &c.

570. Possible physical effluence as a hypnotic agent in proximity, perhaps indicated by the occasional sensations accompanying mesmeric passes.


571. Supernormal response of the hypnotised subject. Rapport, and community of sensation with hypnotiser. 571 A. Bramwell on rapport. 571 B. Experiments in community of sensation by Gurney. 571 C. The same, by Guthrie.

572. Perception of past sensation or action; retrocognitive telæsthesia. 572 A. Dobbie's cases. 572 B. Case of Ellen Dawson.

573. Perception of existing facts out of sensory range; telepathy and travelling clairvoyance, &c., with occasional elements of precognition. 573 A. Professor and Mrs. Sidgwick's experiments. 573 B. Case of “Jane.” 573 C. Backman's experiments. 573 D. Fahnestock's experiments. 573 E. Major Buckley's experiments. 573 F. Case of prediction of result of operation.

574. We have now traced out the second line in which hypnotism is a development of the sleeping phase of personality;—the supernormal phenomena, as contrasted with the therapeutic. The chapter might here conclude; save that it is felt that, if hypnotism be thus generalised as an appeal to the subliminal self, that appeal should not be the mere appanage of medical practice, but should be based for mankind at large upon some deep-seated instinct or faith.

575. Such faiths or instincts form what I have called “schemes of self-suggestion”;—which do, in fact, shape themselves for man at each stage in turn of human progress. 575 A. Cases of efficacy of charms.

576. Transition from fetichistic to polytheistic conceptions of cure, and from polytheism to monotheism; the so-called “miracles of Lourdes.”

577. Transition from monotheism to metaphysical abstraction; faith-healing; Christian science; mind-healing. Reasons for not here treating these faiths in detail. They are crude attempts at a practical realisation of the profound conception of the superior reality of mind over matter.

578. The “miracles of Lourdes,” on the other hand, depend on a complex resuscitation of antique methods of self-suggestion. No evidence for the agency of the Virgin Mary, or that the cures belong to a different category from hypnotic cures. 578 A. The Lourdes legend.

579. The Lourdes legend must needs be fully discussed, since it is important to clear away all that we can of superstition and delusion from the essential truth that it is possible by a right disposition of our own minds to draw energy from an environing world of spiritual life. The practical result of hypnotic artifice has been to strengthen in us that intelligent central force which guides organic metabolism to useful ends.

580. I can conceive that force in no other way than by saying that man is a spirit, controlling an organism irregularly and variably, and controlling more intimately those deeper strata which hypnotic suggestion reaches.

581. Thus in hypnotic or trance states the spirit can more easily either modify the organism, with self-sanative results, or partially quit the organism, with telæsthetic results.

582. The life of the organism depends on a perpetual and varying indraft from the cosmic energy, and there will be effective therapeutical or ethical self-suggestion whenever by any artifice subliminal attention to a bodily function or to a moral purpose is carried to some unknown pitch of intensity which draws fresh energy from the metetherial world.

583. We cannot at present define the form of faith which may be most effective in this illation of spiritual strength and grace. Yet we may at once {i-xl} realise that our most comprehensive duty, in this or other worlds, is intensity of spiritual life;—nay, that our own spirits are part and parcel of the ultimate vitalising Power.



600. Summary of preceding chapters. While various kinds of manifestations of the Subliminal Self are disintegrative or morbid in character, we find in each class indications of higher faculties and of an evolutive potency. The converging lines of evidence lead to the conception of the subliminal Self as the principal, deepest, and most permanent element of the Self; although much that is incoherent or outworn is also subliminal

601. The distinctive subliminal faculty of Telepathy or Telæsthesia is emancipated from the ordinary limitations of organic life, and also persists after organic death; thus showing a relation between the subliminal and the surviving self. All subliminal action may be called Automatism and regarded under the form of messages conveying information from the subliminal to the supraliminal self, in either a sensory or a motor form.

602. Supraliminal life is here regarded as a special or privileged case of the whole personality, and consequently each ordinary faculty or sense will appear as a special case of some more general power, towards which its evolution may be tending. Each sense is generally supposed to obtain fresh information only through its own end-organ, but it will appear that new and true perceptions are also generated in the brain.

603. Vestiges of the primitive undifferentiated sensitivity persist in the form of synæsthesiæ, e.g. when the hearing of an external sound carries with it, by some arbitrary association of ideas, the seeing of some form or colour. These phenomena are apparently entencephalic. 603 A. Flournoy's case. 603 B. Gruber's case.

604. The successive stages leading from these entencephalic percepts towards ordinary vision are: Entoptic impressions due to mechanical stimuli of the optic nerve or eye.

605. After-images: the retinal sequelæ of ordinary vision.

606. Ordinary external vision.

607. The further stages from entencephalic vision towards the more internal forms are: Memory-images; either cerebral sequelæ of external vision, or a psychical rearrangement of these. 607 A. Flourney on memory-images.

608. Dreams, mostly consisting of confused memory-images.

609. Imagination-images, psychical rearrangements of visual imagery.

610. All these forms of internal vision lead up to the most completely developed form, viz., hallucinations. 610 A. Mrs. Verrall on visualisation.

611. A hallucination is an intensified internal vision, a case of central hyperæsthesia. The faculty of internal vision varies in different persons, and only rarely attains to hallucination. Hallucinations sometimes arise from well-known morbid causes, but those which occur in normal conditions are more instructive, being apparently spontaneous modifications of central percepts.


612. The popular assumption that a hallucination was proof of some morbid condition was shown to be without foundation by Gurney's statistics of hallucinations occurring to persons “in good health, free from anxiety, and completely awake.” Through the investigation initiated by Gurney and resumed later by a Committee of the S.P.R., a far larger collection, and one more completely representative of all classes of hallucinations than had ever existed before, was formed. It showed that for the majority of hallucinations, as for the great majority of dreams, no special explanation (either physiological or supernormal) can be offered. In most of the coincident cases, the events coinciding with the hallucinations were unknown to the percipients at the time. 612 A. Summary of the Report on the “Census of Hallucinations.”

613. These veridical hallucinations afford evidence of a development of fresh faculty. The usual conformity of visual hallucinations to optical laws is the result of self-suggestion; this is true of veridical as of falsidical hallucinations.

614. But in that case, is the apparent spatial relation between percipient and percept due only to self-suggestion? Or is it not possible that real spatial relations may still exist in percepts—whether of embodied or of disembodied percipients—which have nothing to do with the sense-organs?

615. If so, veridical mental visions may symbolically represent material objects from a point of view outside the bodily organism of the percipient, and in the place to which he imagines himself to have travelled. This excursive theory may be applied to many telepathic and to all telæsthetic cases. A corollary to it would be the possible perception of the percipient, in the place where he imagines himself to be, by other persons actually present there.

616. Mental visions can be controlled; e.g. the most effective means of checking morbid and harmful hallucinations is the influence of hypnotic suggestion on the submerged mental strata.

617. Another instance of control is the production of harmless hallucinations by hypnotic suggestion. This differs from ordinary suggestion, in which only the ordinary powers of the subject are brought into play, since it involves at least a great increase in his ordinary visualising power, and forms another example of hypnotic evocations of fresh faculty, such as were given in Chapter V. The present cases are stimulations of central sensory tracts. The subliminal formation of these complex centrally initiated images is fostered by the suggestion which also projects them into the ordinary consciousness.

618. Hallucinations, then, have no necessary connection with disease, though they may often accompany it, since the central sensory tracts are of course capable of morbid as well as of healthful stimulus. The therapeutic study of hallucinations naturally preceded their psychological study; but in the newer practical study of eugenics—the study which aims at improving the human organism, instead of merely conserving it—experimental psychology is indispensable, and one branch of this is the experimental study of mental visions.

619. For this purpose it would be convenient to dispense with external suggestion, and confine our attention to the mind of the percipient. There are already in ordinary life indications of some faculty of projecting supraliminally visual images apparently matured elsewhere; e.g. in dreams, memory-images, illusions hypnagogiques.

620. Crystal-vision affords a simple empirical method of finding the correlation {i-xlii} between all these types of internal vision, by facilitating in the seers the externalisation of subliminal concepts or ideas. 620 A. Résumé of history of crystal-gazing.

621. Hypnotisation, which is sometimes induced by prolonged gazing, may occur in crystal-gazing and facilitate hallucination. And the visions are sometimes determined by points de repère.

622. But crystal-visions generally occur without hypnotisation, and develop in a way independent of points de repère.

623. Crystal-gazing is a harmless empirical method of developing internal vision. Experiments have been tried to test if the visions follow optical laws, independently of suggestion;—and should be tried again. 623 A. Discussion of optical effects in hallucinations.

624. A hypnotised person may be made to see visions on waking from the trance, and, as in the cases quoted in the Appendix, the seer, having forgotten the suggestion, may be unaware of the origin of the pictures and unable to explain what their subject or meaning is. 624 A. Post-hypnotic crystal visions recorded by the present writer.

625. These experiments illustrate the transition between post-hypnotic hallucinations and crystal-visions, and afford further evidence of the genuine occurrence of the latter. Crystal-visions of: 625 A. Mrs. Verrall; 625 B. Miss Goodrich-Freer; 625 C.“Miss A.”; 625 D. “Miss Angus.”

626. These are really instances of the control of inward vision; although at first sight appearing lawless and arbitrary,—a random mixture of normal and supernormal knowledge with mere imagination.

627. Induced crystal-visions illustrate the various types of spontaneous sensory automatism; and these—to have any objective validity—must represent knowledge supernormally acquired, or direct communication between the subliminal strata of two minds,—that is, telepathy.

628. Telepathy must exist if any disembodied intelligences exist. On the principle of continuity, evolution from the lower carries with it a presumption of development into the higher. Conversely, the ancient belief in the possibility of telepathic communication with higher minds, as in prayer, might well have suggested that such communication was possible between minds on the same level. This notion has occurred from time to time to philosophic thinkers, but has only recently been systematised by actual experiment.

629. The operation of telepathy is probably constant and far-reaching, and intermingled with ordinary modes of acquiring knowledge. But since we know nothing of its method of action, we can only specifically postulate it when all other known causes are excluded. The best experimental evidence is where the ideas to be transferred are trivial, and devoid of all association or emotion.

630. An account of the history and development of this form of experimentation, and the varied yet concordant results obtained, was given by Gurney in 1886 in Phantasms of the Living, and some part of this history is reproduced in our Appendices, with examples of the additional evidence received since as to experimental thought-transference in the normal state. 630 A. Note on “Number-habits.” Experiments with agent and percipient in the same room by: 630 B. Mr. Guthrie; 630 C. Mr. Rawson. Experiments with agent and percipient at a distance from one another by: 630 D. Mr. Kirk; 630 E. Mr. Glardon; 630 F. Dr. and Mrs. S.; 630 G. Miss Despard.


631. Thus telepathy may produce definitely sensory, or vague, or ideational impressions; it may sometimes be assisted by hypnotisation; and we find a continuous transition from experimental to spontaneous telepathy. The apparently favourable effect of proximity may be due to self-suggestion alone.

632. We cannot as yet command success in the experiments;—(a) the idea to be transferred may not reach the percipient's mind; or (b) if it does, it may be prevented from emerging into his ordinary consciousness. It has been suggested that telepathy is propagated by “brain-waves,” that is, by ether waves passing from brain to brain.

633. But this suggestion rests on very superficial analogies, since the mental images of agent and percipient are generally dissimilar, the percipient greatly modifying the impression before externalising it.

634. Nor does it meet cases of collective percipience, or of varying time-relation, or of telepathy from discarnate spirits. We can at present say little more in the way of explanation than that Life has the power of manifesting itself to Life. Such manifestation may involve the lower animals also. 634 A. Case of animal apparition: Mrs. Bagot.

635. Hypothesis of a possible mode of psychical interaction: a “psychical invasion” by the agent, creating a “phantasmogenetic centre” in the place invaded; the spirit of the agent being actually transferred to the distant scene, which it perceives, but may or may not remember; while its presence may or may not be perceived by the persons materially present in the scene.

636. Mere telepathy may explain an apparition coinciding with the death of the person seen; but the hypothesis of “psychical invasion” seems to apply better to (1) collective cases; (2) telepathic clairvoyance; (3) reciprocal cases.

637. The increased evidence for communications from the dead must affect our view of telepathy; as may also the increasing evidence for precognition; and theorising must simply follow the evidence.

638. The present theory starts from the conception that different segments of the personality can operate independently of and unknown to each other, and sometimes apart from the organism; (this latter is implied in the assumption of telepathy,—still more in that of survival). Through hypnotism the first important step has been proved possible, namely, the independent operation of different segments, with separate streams of memory and consciousness, all working through the same organism.

639. Between these minor dissociations expressing themselves through the brain and the complete dissociation from the brain itself occurring at death come the apparently intermediate cases of spiritual activity at a distance during the comatose condition sometimes preceding death.

640. The cases now to be considered are regarded as coming within the formula “Dissociation of personality, combined with activity in the metetherial environment”; and the word “spirit” is here used to mean that element of the personality which operates, before or after death, in this environment.

641. Hallucinations, however, were shown by Gurney's Census to be too frequent to have any evidential force apart from some correspondence with external events. They can easily be produced by hypnotic suggestion, and the percipient's subjective impression as to their validity is at best a very doubtful criterion.

642. The only valid evidence, then, for veridicality depends on a coincidence with some external event. Thus apparitions of the dying show primâ {i-xliv} facieat first sight a causal connection between apparition and death unless the coincidence can be attributed to chance. The questions of evidence and chance coincidence were dealt with fully both by Gurney and in the Report of the later Census, with the conclusion that these coincidences could not be due to chance alone. 642 A. Gurney's general criticism of the evidence for telepathy. 642 B. Contemporary documentary evidence, with references to some cases supported by such evidence. 642 C. Hallucinations and illusions of memory: Royce and Parish on “pseudo-presentiments”; replies by Gurney and Hodgson.

643. Coincidental hallucinations have been classified from different points of view according to (a) the external event to which they correspond; (b) the condition, waking or sleeping, of the percipient; (c) the sense affected; (d) the collectivity, or otherwise, of the perception. We take here as the basis of our scheme of classification the conception of psychical invasion by the agent.

644. We begin with cases where the action of the invader is of the weakest kind, so as to be hardly, if at all, evidential; e.g., case of Col. Bigge seeing phantasm of Col. Reed shortly before his actual arrival. In “arrival cases” the agent is probably imagining himself in the place where he is seen.

645. In other cases there is no obvious link with the place; but the phantasm is probably veridical if seen either repeatedly by different persons, or collectively; e.g. repeated apparitions of Mrs. Hawkins; and the evidence is still stronger when the apparitions are both repeated and collective. Cases of: 645 A. Mr. Williams. 645 B. Mrs. Stone. 645 C. Mrs. Beaumont. 645 D. Canon Bourne. 645 E. Miss Maughan.

646. In some cases, the percipience is merely collective, not repeated, and coincides with no crisis; e.g. apparition of Miss E. seen by her two sisters.

647. Apparition of Mrs. Hall seen by herself and three other persons.

648. Collective percipience has sometimes been explained by telepathy, but is here attributed to psychical invasion by the agent; since in some cases there is no link between him and any of the percipients. Further, the frequent absence of any crisis on his part suggests a special facility of psychical dissociations of a kind to make his phantom visible. The supposed idiosyncrasy is here called the “psychorrhagic diathesis.”

649. Canon Bourne's case may be regarded as an instance. The same idiosyncrasy may exist in discarnate spirits, thus causing “haunts.”

650. This hypothesis of a non-material effect produced on space is supported by cases in which the phantasm is perceived—not by the person apparently most appropriate as percipient, but by some comparatively uninterested person present with him, who happens to possess greater sensitivity; e.g. case of Mrs. Reddell.

651. Two other cases of the same kind are those of Mrs. Clerke, and 651 A. Mr. Brown.

652. The next stage of psychical invasion consists of cases where the agent is seen in a place where he is probably imagining himself to be at the time. A few cases of precognitions of intended suicide are especially strong evidence of this; e.g. case of Mrs. McAlpine.

653. As already mentioned, phantasms seen just before arrival are of the same type; e.g. case of Mr. Carroll.

654. Any accessories to the picture (carriages, horses, &c.) are merely parts of the subliminal dream or scene imagined and projected by the agent. Cases of: 654 A. Mr. Mountford. 654 B. Major W.


655. The supposed space-modification may take the form of a phantasmal voice (not heard acoustically), instead of a figure; e.g. case of Mr. Stevenson. 655 A. Case of Mr. Fryer.

656. Other “arrival cases” and cases where contents of letters just arrived are discerned, as if mere vicinity aided clairvoyant perception, point to some spatial relation. Cases of: 656 A. Miss R. 656 B. Dr. Holmes.

657. We come next to cases where the supposed psychical invader or agent himself supernormally acquires information. This may be done through (a) hyperæsthesia, (b) crystal-gazing or shell-hearing, (c) telepathy, leading to telæsthesia, (d) telæsthetic dreams or visions; in all of which the percipient often has the impression of travelling to the distant scene.

658. The constitutional habits of the brain would dispose the perception to take a sensory form, but it is often symbolic, showing psychical shaping of the percept.

659. Such symbolism is no proof of any mental agency beyond our own, since all our percepts are ultimately symbolic, or indirectly representative of external realities. To incarnate spirits the material world seems the easiest to perceive, and consequently immaterial percepts are apt to assume a material symbolism. For discarnate spirits this position may be reversed.

660. There may be a continuous transition between supernormal perceptions of ideas and of matter. In travelling clairvoyance there seem to be all forms of supernormal faculty, and a power of perceiving objects or events distant either in space or time, and sometimes with no assignable link with any living person.

661. Cases of this kind occur more often in dreams than in waking hallucinations; e.g. case of Dr. ——. In many of these cases there is no clear indication of an agent; they suggest rather an active impulse on the part of the percipient. The scene perceived may or may not be of special interest to him.

662. Sometimes a scene may be discerned as in crystal vision; e.g., in cases of: 662 A. Mr. Keulemans. 662 B. Mr. Gottschalk. 662 C. Mr. Searle. 662 D. Mrs. Taunton.

663. Clairvoyant visions representing a past scene (e.g. case of Mrs. Paquet) suggest either latency of the impression, or—more strongly—a sense of time-relations different from the ordinary. The latter conception is suggested also by cases of premonition. 663 A. Case of Dr. Wiltse. References to Hulin's cases and to Ermacora's theory of premonition.

664. The next case (that of Mr. Dyne) suggests yet another explanation—a picture of its last scenes on earth impressed by a spirit on a surviving friend.

665. Next come cases where there was probably some real projection of will or desire by the agent-invader, who (himself retaining no memory of his excursion) is seen by the percipient in his own vicinity; e.g. the case of Mrs. Elgee and Mrs. Ramsay, which, being collective, specially suggests invasion by the agent. Cases of: 665 A. Mr. Kearne. 665 B. Mr. Lodge. 665 C. Mr. Dickinson.

666. A still further stage is reached when the agent perceives and remembers the scene which he has been perceived to invade; i.e. in “reciprocal” cases. Cases of: 666 A. Mrs. Parker. 666 B. Mrs. S. 666 C. Mr. Wilmot.

667. Premature fulfilments of “death-compacts,” when the agent is seen at the time of some dangerous but not fatal accident. Cases of: 667 A. Miss R. 667 B. Commander Aylesbury.


668. Apparitions produced experimentally; that is, when the agent is perceived at a time when he is strongly willing to appear, though he may not himself know of his success; e.g. case of Mr. S. H. B. Cases of: 668 A. Mr. Godfrey. 668 B. Mr. Kirk. 668 C. Dr. G. 668 D. Miss Maughan. 668 E. “Miss Danvers.” 668 F. Mr. Sinclair. 668 G. Councillor Wesermann.

669. Experiments should be tried as to whether self-projection could not be facilitated by hypnotic suggestion. Also the agent might be made to recall his visit by hypnotic suggestion.

670. These self-projections represent the most extraordinary achievements of the human will, and are perhaps acts which a man might perform equally well before and after death.




Maior agit deus, atque opera in maiora remittit.


The greater god acts, and sends [you] back into greater deeds. [Aen. 12.429]

100. In the long story of man's endeavours to understand his own environment and to govern his own fates, there is one gap or omission so singular that, however we may afterwards contrive to explain the fact, its simple statement has the air of a paradox. Yet it is strictly true to say that man has never yet applied to the problems which most profoundly concern him those methods of inquiry which in attacking all other problems he has found the most efficacious.

The question for man most momentous of all is whether or no he has an immortal soul; or—to avoid the word immortal, which belongs to the realm of infinities—whether or no his personality involves any element which can survive bodily death. In this direction have always lain the gravest fears, the farthest-reaching hopes, which could either oppress or stimulate mortal minds.

On the other hand, the method which our race has found most effective in acquiring knowledge is by this time familiar to all men. It is the method of modern Science—that process which consists in an interrogation of Nature entirely dispassionate, patient, systematic; such careful experiment and cumulative record as can often elicit from her slightest indications her deepest truths. That method is now dominant throughout the civilised world; and although in many directions experiments may be difficult and dubious, facts rare and elusive, Science works slowly on and bides her time,—refusing to fall back upon tradition or to launch into speculation, merely because strait is the gate which leads to valid discovery, indisputable truth.

I say, then, that this method has never yet been applied to the all-important problem of the existence, the powers, the destiny of the human soul.

101. Nor is this strange omission due to any general belief that the problem is in its nature incapable of solution by any observation whatever which mankind could make. That resolutely agnostic view—I may almost say that scientific superstition—“ignoramus et ignorabimus”We do not and shall not know—is no doubt held at the present date by many learned minds. But it has never been {i-2} the creed, nor is it now the creed, of the human race generally. In most civilised countries there has been for nearly two thousand years a distinct belief that survival has actually been proved by certain phenomena observed at a given date in Palestine. And beyond the Christian pale—whether through reason, instinct, or superstition—it has ever been commonly held that ghostly phenomena of one kind or another exist to testify to a life beyond the life we know.

But, nevertheless, neither those who believe on vague grounds nor those who believe on definite grounds that the question might possibly be solved, or has actually been solved, by human observation of objective facts, have hitherto made any serious attempt to connect and correlate that belief with the general scheme of belief for which Science already vouches. They have not sought for fresh corroborative instances, for analogies, for explanations; rather they have kept their convictions on these fundamental matters in a separate and sealed compartment of their minds, a compartment consecrated to religion or to superstition, but not to observation or to experiment.

It is my object in the present work—as it has from the first been the object of the Society for Psychical Research, on whose behalf most of the evidence here set forth has been collected,—to do what can be done to break down that artificial wall of demarcation which has thus far excluded from scientific treatment precisely the problems which stand in most need of all the aids to discovery which such treatment can afford.

Yet let me first explain that by the word “scientific” I signify an authority to which I submit myself—not a standard which I claim to attain. Any science of which I can here speak as possible must be a nascent science—not such as one of those vast systems of connected knowledge which thousands of experts now steadily push forward in laboratories in every land—but such as each one of those great sciences was in its dim and poor beginning, when a few monks groped among the properties of “the noble metals,” or a few Chaldean shepherds outwatched the setting stars.

What I am able to insist upon is the mere Socratic rudiment of these organisms of exact thought—the first axiomatic pre-requisite of any valid progress. My one contention is that in the discussion of the deeper problems of man's nature and destiny there ought to be exactly the same openness of mind, exactly the same diligence in the search for objective evidence of any kind, exactly the same critical analysis of results, as is habitually shown, for instance, in the discussion of the nature and destiny of the planet upon which man now moves.

Obvious truism although this statement may at first seem, it will presently be found, I think, that those who subscribe to it are in fact committing themselves to inquiries of a wider and stranger type than any to which they are accustomed;—are stepping outside certain narrow limits {i-3} within which, by ancient convention, disputants on either side of these questions are commonly confined.

102. A brief recall to memory of certain familiar historical facts will serve to make my meaning clearer. Let us consider how it has come about that, whereas the problem of man's survival of death is by most persons regarded as a problem in its nature soluble by sufficient evidence, and whereas to many persons the traditional evidence commonly adduced appears insufficient,—nevertheless no serious effort has been made on either side to discover whether other and more recent evidence can or cannot be brought forward.

A certain broad answer to this inquiry, although it cannot be said to be at all points familiar, is not in reality far to seek. It is an answer which would seem strange indeed to some visitant from a planet peopled wholly by scientific minds. Yet among a race like our own, concerned first and primarily to live and work with thoughts undistracted from immediate needs, the answer is natural enough. For the fact simply is that the intimate importance of this central problem has barred the way to its methodical, its scientific solution.

There are some beliefs for which mankind cannot afford to wait. “What must I do to be saved?” is a question quite otherwise urgent than the cause of the tides or the meaning of the marks on the moon. Men must settle roughly somehow what it is that from the Unseen World they have reason to fear or to hope. Beliefs grow up in direct response to this need of belief; in order to support themselves they claim unique sanction; and thus along with these specific beliefs grows also the general habit of regarding matters that concern that Unseen World as somehow tabooed or segregated from ordinary observation or inquiry.

Let us pass from generalities to the actual history of Western civilisation. In an age when scattered ritual, local faiths—tribal solutions of cosmic problems—were destroying each other by mere contact and fusion, an event occurred which in the brief record of man's still incipient civilisation may be regarded as unique. A life was lived in which the loftiest response which man's need of moral guidance had ever received was corroborated by phenomena which have been widely regarded as convincingly miraculous, and which are said to have culminated in a Resurrection from the dead. To those phenomena or to that Resurrection it would at this point be illegitimate for me to refer in defence of my argument. I have appealed to Science, and to Science I must go;—in the sense that it would be unfair for me to claim support from that which Science in her strictness can set aside as the tradition of a pre-scientific age. Yet this one great tradition, as we know, has, as a fact, won the adhesion and reverence of the great majority of European minds. The complex results which followed from this triumph of Christianity have been discussed by many historians. But one result which here appears to us in a new light was this—that the Christian religion, the Christian Church, became for Europe the accredited representative {i-4} and guardian of all phenomena bearing upon the World Unseen. So long as Christianity stood dominant, all phenomena which seemed to transcend experience were absorbed in her realm—were accounted as minor indications of the activity of her angels or of her fiends. And when Christianity was seriously attacked, these minor manifestations passed unconsidered. The priests thought it safest to defend their own traditions, their own intuitions, without going afield in search of independent evidence of a spiritual world. Their assailants kept their powder and shot for the orthodox ramparts, ignoring any isolated strongholds which formed no part of the main line of defence.

103. Meantime, indeed, the laws of Nature held their wonted way. As ever, that which the years had once brought they brought again; and every here and there some marvel, liker to the old stories than any one cared to assert, cropped up between superstition on the one hand and contemptuous indifference on the other. Witchcraft, Mesmerism, Swedenborgianism, Spiritism—these especially, amid many minor phenomena, stood out in turn as precursory of the inevitable wider inquiry. A very few words on each of these four movements may suffice here to show their connection with my present theme.

Witchcraft.—The lesson which witchcraft teaches with regard to the validity of human testimony is the more remarkable because it was so long and so completely misunderstood. The belief in witches long passed—as well it might—as the culminant example of human ignorance and folly; and in so comparatively recent a book as Mr. Lecky's “History of Rationalism,” the sudden decline of this popular conviction, without argument or disapproval, is used to illustrate the irresistible melting away of error and falsity in the “intellectual climate” of a wiser age. Since about 1880, however, when French experiments especially had afforded conspicuous examples of what a hysterical woman could come to believe under suggestion from others or from herself, it has begun to be felt that the phenomena of witchcraft were very much what the phenomena of the Salpêtrière would seem to be to the patients themselves, if left alone in the hospital without a medical staff. And in Phantasms of the Living, Edmund Gurney, after subjecting the literature of witchcraft to a more careful analysis than any one till then had thought it worth while to apply, was able to show that practically all recorded first-hand depositions (made apart from torture) in the long story of witchcraft may quite possibly have been true, to the best belief of the deponents; true, that is to say, as representing the conviction of sane (though often hysterical) persons, who merely made the almost inevitable mistake of confusing self-suggested hallucinations with waking fact. Nay, even the insensible spots on the witches were no doubt really anæsthetic—involved a first discovery of a now familiar clinical symptom—the zones analgésiques of the patients of Pitres or Charcot. Witchcraft, in fact, was a gigantic, a cruel psychological and pathological experiment conducted by inquisitors upon hysteria; {i-5} but it was conducted in the dark, and when the barbarous explanation dropped out of credence much of possible discovery was submerged as well.

104. Mesmer.—Again, the latent possibilities of “suggestion,”—though not yet under that name, and mingled with who knows what else?—broke forth into a blaze in the movement headed by Mesmer;—at once discoverer and charlatan. Again the age was unripe, and scientific opposition, although not so formidable as the religious opposition which had sent witches to the stake, was yet strong enough to check for the second time the struggling science. Hardly till our own generation—hardly even now—has a third effort found better acceptance, and hypnotism and psychotherapeutics, in which every well-attested fact of witchcraft or of mesmerism finds, if not its explanation, at least its parallel, are establishing themselves as a recognised and advancing method of relieving human ills.

105. This brief sketch of the development as it were by successive impulses, under strong disbelief and discouragement, of a group of mental tendencies, faculties, or sensibilities now recognised as truly existing and as often salutary, is closely paralleled by the development, under similar difficulties, of another group of faculties or sensibilities, whose existence is still disputed, but which if firmly established may prove to be of even greater moment for mankind.

At no time known to us, whether before or since the Christian era, has the series of trance-manifestations,—of supposed communications with a supernal world,—entirely ceased. Sometimes, as in the days of St. Theresa, such trance or ecstasy has been, one may say, the central or culminant fact in the Christian world. Of these experiences I must not here treat. The evidence for them is largely of a subjective type, and they may belong more fitly to some future discussion as to the amount of confidence due to the interpretation given by entranced persons to their own phenomena.

But in the midst of this long series, and in full analogy to many minor cases, occurs the exceptional trance-history of Emmanuel Swedenborg. In this case, as is well known, there appears to have been excellent objective evidence both of clairvoyance or telæsthesia and of communication with departed persons;—and we can only regret that the philosopher Kant, who satisfied himself of some part of Swedenborg's 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 everyday life. By higher (either in a psychical or physiological sense) I mean, apparently belonging to a more advanced stage of evolution. gift, did {i-6} not press further an inquiry surpassed in importance by none of those upon which his mastermind was engaged. Apart, however, from these objective evidences, the mere subject-matter of Swedenborg's trance-revelations was enough to claim respectful attention. I cannot here discuss the strange mixture which they present of slavish literalism with exalted speculation, of pedantic orthodoxy with physical and moral insight far beyond the level of that age. It is enough to say here that even as Socrates called down philosophy from heaven to earth, so in a somewhat different sense it was Swedenborg who called up philosophy again from earth to heaven;—who originated the notion of science in the spiritual world, as earnestly, though not so persuasively, as Socrates originated the idea of science in this world which we seem to know. It was to Swedenborg first that that unseen world appeared before all things as a realm of law; a region not of mere emotional vagueness or stagnancy of adoration, but of definite progress according to definite relations of cause and effect, resulting from structural laws of spiritual existence and intercourse which we may in time learn partially to apprehend. For my own part I regard Swedenborg,—not, assuredly, as an inspired teacher, nor even as a trustworthy interpreter of his own experiences,—but yet as a true and early precursor of that great inquiry which it is our present object to advance.

106. The next pioneer—fortunately still amongst us—whom I must mention even in this summary notice, is the celebrated physicist and chemist, Sir W. Crookes. Just as Swedenborg was the first leading man of science who distinctly conceived of the spiritual world as a world of law, so was Sir W. Crookes the first leading man of science who seriously endeavoured to test the alleged mutual influence and interpenetration of the spiritual world and our own by experiments of scientific precision.11 Other savants of eminence—the great name of Alfred Russel Wallace will occur to all—had also satisfied themselves of the reality of these strange phenomena; but they had not tested or demonstrated that reality with equal care. I am not able in this brief sketch to allude to distinguished men of earlier date—Richard Glanvil, John Wesley, Samuel Johnson, &c., who discerned the importance of phenomena which they had no adequate means of investigating. Beyond the establishment of certain supernormal facts Crookes declined to go. But a large group of persons have founded upon these and similar facts a scheme of belief known as Modern Spiritualism, or Spiritism. Later chapters in this book will show how much I owe to certain observations made by members of this group—how often my own conclusions concur with conclusions at which they have previously arrived. And yet this work of mine is in large measure a critical attack upon the main Spiritist position, as held, say, by Mr. A. R. Wallace, its most eminent living supporter,—the belief, namely, that all or almost all supernormal phenomena are due to the action of spirits of the dead. By far the larger proportion, as I hold, are due to the action of the still embodied spirit of the agent or percipient himself. Apart from speculative differences, {i-7} moreover, I altogether dissent from the conversion into a sectarian creed of what I hold should be a branch of scientific inquiry, growing naturally out of our existing knowledge. It is, I believe, largely to this temper of uncritical acceptance, degenerating often into blind credulity, that we must refer the lack of progress in Spiritualistic literature, and the encouragement which has often been bestowed upon manifest fraud,—so often, indeed, as to create among scientific men a strong indisposition to the study of phenomena recorded or advocated in a tone so alien from Science.

107. I know not how much of originality or importance may be attributed by subsequent students of the subject to the step next in order in this series of approximations. To those immediately concerned, the feeling of a new departure was inevitably given by the very smallness of the support which they for a long time received, and by the difficulty which they found in making their point of view intelligible to the scientific, to the religious, or even to the spiritualistic world. In about 1873—at the crest, as one may say, of perhaps the highest wave of materialism which has ever swept over these shores—it became the conviction of a small group of Cambridge friends that the deep questions thus at issue must be fought out in a way more thorough than the champions either of religion or of materialism had yet suggested. Our attitudes of mind were in some ways different; but to myself, at least, it seemed that no adequate attempt had yet been made even to determine whether anything could be learnt as to an unseen world or no; for that if anything were knowable about such a world in such fashion that Science could adopt and maintain that knowledge, it must be discovered by no analysis of tradition, and by no manipulation of metaphysics, but simply by experiment and observation;— simply by the application to phenomena within us and around us of precisely the same methods of deliberate, dispassionate, exact inquiry which have built up our actual knowledge of the world which we can touch and see. I can hardly even now guess to how many of my readers this will seem a truism, and to how many a paradox. Truism or paradox, such a thought suggested a kind of effort, which, so far as we could discover, had never yet been made. For what seemed needful was an inquiry of quite other scope than the mere analysis of historical documents, or of the origines originsof any alleged revelation in the past. It must be an inquiry resting primarily, as all scientific inquiries in the stricter sense now must rest, upon objective facts actually observable, upon experiments which we can repeat today, and which we may hope to carry further tomorrow. It must be an inquiry based, to use an old term, on the uniformitarian hypothesis; on the presumption, that is to say, that if a spiritual world exists, and if that world has at any epoch been manifest or even discoverable, then it ought to be manifest or discoverable now.

It was from this side, and from these general considerations, that the group with which I have worked approached the subject. Our methods, {i-8} our canons, were all to make. In those early days we were more devoid of precedents, of guidance, even of criticism that went beyond mere expressions of contempt, than is now readily conceived. Seeking evidence as best we could—collecting round us a small group of persons willing to help in that quest for residual phenomena in the nature and experience of man—we were at last fortunate enough to discover a convergence of experimental and of spontaneous evidence upon one definite and important point. We were led to believe that there was truth in a thesis which at least since Swedenborg and the early mesmerists had been repeatedly, but cursorily and ineffectually, presented to mankind—the thesis that a communication can take place from mind to mind by some agency not that of the recognised organs of sense. We found that this agency, discernible even on trivial occasions by suitable experiment, seemed to connect itself with an agency more intense, or at any rate more recognisable, which operated at moments of crisis or at the hour of death. Edmund Gurney—the invaluable collaborator and friend whose loss in 1888 was our heaviest discouragement—set forth this evidence in a large work, Phantasms of the Living, in whose preparation Mr. Podmore and I took a minor part. The fifteen years which have elapsed since the publication of this book in 1886 have added to the evidence on which Gurney relied, and have shown (I venture to say) the general soundness of the canons of evidence and the lines of argument which it was his task to shape and to employ.11 The Society for Psychical Research was founded in 1882, Professor W. F. Barrett taking a leading part in its promotion. Henry Sidgwick was its first President, and Edmund Gurney was its first Honorary Secretary—he and I being joint Honorary Secretaries of its Literary Committee, whose business was the collection of evidence.

108. Of fundamental importance, indeed, is this doctrine of telepathy—the first law, may one not say?—laid open to man's discovery, which, in my view at least, while operating in the material, is itself a law of the spiritual or metetherial22 For this term see Glossary. world. In the course of this work it will be my task to show in many connections how far-reaching are the implications of this direct and supersensory communion of mind with mind. Among those implications none can be more momentous than the light thrown by this discovery upon man's intimate nature and possible survival of death.

We gradually discovered that the accounts of apparitions at the moment of death—testifying to a supersensory communication between the dying man and the friend who sees him—led on without perceptible break to apparitions occurring after the death of the person seen, but while that death was yet unknown to the percipient, and thus apparently due, not to mere brooding memory, but to a continued action of that departed spirit. The task next incumbent on us therefore seemed plainly to be the collection and analysis of evidence of this and other types, pointing directly to the survival of man's spirit. But after pursuing this task for some years I felt that in reality the step from the action of embodied to the action of {i-9} disembodied spirits would still seem too sudden if taken in this direct way. So far, indeed, as the evidence from apparitions went, the series seemed continuous from phantasms of the living to phantasms of the dead. But the whole mass of evidence primâ facie pointing to man's survival, was of a much more complex kind. It consisted largely, for example, in written or spoken utterances, coming through the hand or voice of living men, but claiming to proceed from a disembodied source. To these utterances, as a whole, no satisfactory criterion had ever been applied.

In considering cases of this kind, then, it became gradually plain to me that before we could safely mark off any group of manifestations as definitely implying an influence from beyond the grave, there was need of a more searching review of the capacities of man's incarnate personality than psychologists unfamiliar with this new evidence had thought it worth their while to undertake.

It was only slowly, and as it were of necessity, that I embarked on a task which needed for its proper accomplishment a knowledge and training far beyond what I could claim. The very inadequate sketch which has resulted from my efforts is even in its author's view no more than preparatory and precursive to the fuller and sounder treatment of the same subject which I doubt not that the new century will receive from more competent hands. The truest success of this book will lie in its rapid supersession by a better. For this will show that at least I have not erred in supposing that a serious treatise on these topics is nothing else than the inevitable complement and conclusion of the slow process by which man has brought under the domain of science every group of attainable phenomena in turn—every group save this.

109. Let me then without further preamble embark upon that somewhat detailed survey of human faculty, as manifested during various phases of human personality, which is needful in order to throw fresh light on these unfamiliar themes. My discussion, I may say at once, will avoid metaphysics as carefully as it will avoid theology. I avoid theology, as already explained, because I consider that in arguments founded upon experiment and observation I have no right to appeal for support to traditional or subjective considerations, however important. For somewhat similar reasons I do not desire to introduce the idea of personality with any historical résumé of the philosophical opinions which have been held by various thinkers in the past, nor myself to speculate on matters lying beyond the possible field of objective proof. I shall merely for the sake of clearness begin by the briefest possible statement of two views of human personality which cannot be ignored, namely, the old-fashioned or commonsense view thereof, which is still held by the mass of mankind, and the newer view of experimental psychology, bringing out that composite or “colonial” character which on a close examination every personality of men or animals is seen to wear.


The following passage, taken from a work once of much note, Reid's “Essay on the Intellectual Powers of Man,” expresses the simple primâ facie view with care and precision, yet with no marked impress of any one philosophical school:—

The conviction which every man has of his identity, as far back as his memory reaches, needs no aid of philosophy to strengthen it; and no philosophy can weaken it without first producing some degree of insanity.… My personal identity, therefore, implies the continued existence of that indivisible thing which I call myself. Whatever this self may be, it is something which thinks, and deliberates, and resolves, and acts, and suffers. I am not thought, I am not action, I am not feeling; I am something that thinks, and acts, and suffers. My thoughts and actions and feelings change every moment: they have no continued, but a successive existence; but that self or I, to which they belong, is permanent, and has the same relation to all succeeding thoughts, actions, and feelings which I call mine.… The identity of a person is a perfect identity; wherever it is real it admits of no degrees; and it is impossible that a person should be in part the same and in part different, because a person is a monad, and is not divisible into parts. Identity, when applied to persons, has no ambiguity, and admits not of degrees, or of more and less. It is the foundation of all rights and obligations, and of all accountableness; and the notion of it is fixed and precise.

110. Contrast with this the passage with which M. Ribot concludes his essay on “Les Maladies de la Personnalité.”

It is the organism, with the brain, its supreme representative, which constitutes the real personality; comprising in itself the remains of all that we have been and the possibilities of all that we shall be. The whole individual character is there inscribed, with its active and passive aptitudes, its sympathies and antipathies, its genius, its talent or its stupidity, its virtues and its vices, its torpor or its activity. The part thereof which emerges into consciousness is little compared with what remains buried, but operative nevertheless. The conscious personality is never more than a small fraction of the psychical personality. The unity of the Ego {i-11} is not therefore the unity of a single entity diffusing itself among multiple phenomena; it is the co-ordination of a certain number of states perpetually renascent, and having for their sole common basis the vague feeling of our body. This unity does not diffuse itself downwards, but is aggregated by ascent from below; it is not an initial but a terminal point.

Does then this perfect unity really exist? In the rigorous, the mathematical sense, assuredly it does not. In a relative sense it is met with,—rarely and for a moment. When a good marksman takes aim, or a skilful surgeon operates, his whole body and mind converge towards a single act. But note the result; under those conditions the sentiment of real personality disappears, for the conscious individual is simplified into a single idea, and the personal sentiment is excluded by the complete unification of consciousness. We thus return by another route to the same conclusion; the Self is a co-ordination. It oscillates between two extremes at each of which it ceases to exist;—absolute unity and absolute incoherence.

The last word of all this is that since the consensus of consciousness is subordinated to the consensus of the organism, the problem of the unity of the Ego is in its ultimate form a problem of Biology. Let Biology explain, if it can, the genesis of organisms and the solidarity of their constituent parts. The psychological explanation must needs follow on the same track.

111. Here, then, we have two clear and definite views,—supported, the one by our inmost consciousness, the other by unanswerable observation and inference,—yet apparently incompatible the one with the other. And in fact by most writers they have been felt and acknowledged to be even hopelessly incompatible. The supporters of the view that “The Self is a co-ordination,”—and this, I need hardly say, is now the view prevalent among experimental psychologists,—have frankly given up any notion of an underlying unity,—of a life independent of the organism,—in a word, of a human soul. The supporters of the unity of the Ego, on the other hand, if they have not been able to be equally explicit in denying the opposite view, have made up for this by the thorough-going way in which they have ignored it. I know of no source from which valid help has been offered towards the reconcilement of the two opposing systems in a profounder synthesis. If I believe—as I do believe—that in the present work some help in this direction is actually given, this certainly does not mean that I suppose myself capable of stitching the

threadbare metaphysical arguments into a more stable fabric. It simply means that certain fresh evidence can now be adduced, which has the effect of showing the case on each side in a novel light;—nay, even of closing the immediate controversy by a judgment more decisively in favour of both parties than either could have expected. On the one side, and in favour of the co-ordinators,—all their analysis of the Self into its constituent elements, all that they urge of positive observation, of objective experiment, must—as I shall maintain on the strength of the new facts which I shall adduce—be unreservedly conceded. Let them push their analysis as far as they like,—let them get down, if they can, to those ultimate infinitesimal psychical elements from which is upbuilt the complex, the composite, the “colonial” structure and constitution of man. All this may well be valid and important work. It is only on their negative side that the conclusions of this school need a complete overhauling. Deeper, bolder inquiry along their own line shows that they have erred when they asserted that analysis showed no trace of faculty beyond such as the life of earth—as they conceive it—could foster, or the environment of earth employ. For in reality analysis shows traces of faculty which this material or planetary life could not have called into being, and whose exercise even here and now involves and necessitates the existence of a spiritual world.

On the other side, and in favour of the partisans of the unity of the Ego, the effect of the new evidence is to raise their claim to a far higher ground, and to substantiate it for the first time with the strongest presumptive proof which can be imagined for it;—a proof, namely, that the Ego can and does survive—not only the minor disintegrations which affect it during earth-life—but the crowning disintegration of bodily death. {i-12} In view of this unhoped-for ratification of their highest dream, they may be more than content to surrender as untenable the far narrower conception of the unitary Self which was all that “commonsense philosophies” had ventured to claim. The “conscious Self” of each of us, as we call it,—the empirical, the supraliminal Self, as I should prefer to say,—does not comprise the whole of the consciousness or of the faculty within us. There exists a more comprehensive consciousness, a profounder faculty, which for the most part remains potential only so far as regards the life of earth, but from which the consciousness and the faculty of earth-life are mere selections, and which reasserts itself in its plenitude after the liberating change of death.

Towards this conclusion, which assumed for me something like its present shape some fourteen years since,11 See, for instance, Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research (henceforth in this book referred to as the Proceedings S.P.R.), vol. iv. p. 256, Jan. 1887. a long series of tentative speculations, based on gradually accruing evidence, has slowly conducted me. The conception is one which has hitherto been regarded as purely mystical; and if I endeavour to plant if upon a scientific basis I certainly shall not succeed in stating it in its final terms or in supporting it with the best arguments which longer experience will suggest. Its validity, indeed, will be impressed—if at all—upon the reader only by the successive study of the various kinds of evidence which this book will set forth.

112. Yet so far as the initial possibility or plausibility of such a widened conception of human consciousness is concerned;—and this is all which can be dealt with at this moment of its first introduction;—I have not seen in such criticism as has hitherto been bestowed upon my theory any very weighty demurrer. I summarise in a note an attack of this kind, with what seems to me an adequate reply from a colleague's pen.22 See an article in Proceedings S.P.R., vol. xi. pp. 317 to 325, entitled “Subliminal Self or Unconscious Cerebration,” by Mr. A. H. Pierce, of Harvard University. Mr. Pierce maintains (1) that the hypothesis of a subliminal self or secondary consciousness is chiefly based on a study of hysteria, in which sensations and movements are not governed by the primary consciousness. But these hysterical phenomena are, he argues, simply analogous to the actions of animals deprived of their cerebral hemispheres, and it is unnecessary to suppose that they are accompanied by any consciousness at all. (2) The ordinary automatic actions of normal persons are ascribed by some to a secondary consciousness. But “if this theory be made to do its full duty, the doctrine that habits are due to well-worn nervous paths must be abandoned, and all the phenomena now ascribed to habit must be classed under the head of relegations to a secondary consciousness.” Further, the secondary consciousness is, ex hypothesi, divided into two parts,—one associated with physiological functions and the other with the highest mental processes, such as the “inspirations of genius”; and if we once admit the possibility of such subdivision, consistency demands that we should posit a separate consciousness for each physical process. (3) We have no direct testimony for the existence of a split-off consciousness. The dream-consciousness is said to be thus split off because dream-images—forgotten on waking—are sometimes observed to recur in another dream. But this in itself proves that the fact of recurrence and knowledge of the recurring events were present in the primary consciousness, which is thereby shown not to be separate from the dream-consciousness. If the primary consciousness attempts to bear witness to the existence of a secondary dissociated fragment, “it thereby proves that the fragment is a portion of itself and therefore no fragment at all.” “All the facts usually taken in support of a double-consciousness theory appear explicable in terms of brain alone.” In reply to this, Mr. Podmore (op. cit. pp. 325 to 332) has well pointed out that the criticism rests almost wholly on an attempt to explain mental phenomena on a physical basis. The fact is that, accompanying the mental phenomena—states of consciousness, there are physical phenomena—brain-changes; but no knowledge of the one throws any light on the other. The physical explanation cannot be substituted for the mental one, because it applies to a different category of facts. The two sets may indeed be diverse aspects of the same essential fact, but for practical purposes we have to regard them as distinct and treat them separately. From the actions of brainless animals we cannot therefore argue to the consciousness of hysterics. Again, to ascribe mental habits to well-worn brain-paths has no bearing on the question whether they are accompanied by consciousness or not. With regard to direct testimony to the existence of a secondary consciousness, perhaps the strongest is to be found in the hypnotic condition. “The hypnotised subject presents, or may present, all the phenomena which we associate with consciousness, not merely in our own case, but in the case of the same person when in his normal state. He talks, acts, reasons; exhibits emotion, judgment, volition.” His actions “are frequently so difficult and complicated as necessarily to imply the exercise of the fullest intelligence of which [he] is capable. Moreover, the re-hypnotised subject remembers the performance of the enjoined act, and can explain any peculiarities in its performance, and correct mistakes made. It would surely be extravagant to refuse to admit that such acts are deliberately and consciously performed.” “And the consciousness of the hypnotic is certainly not identical with the consciousness of the waking state. With rare exceptions it is more extensive; it includes the waking consciousness as a larger includes a smaller concentric circle, itself not included by it”


“Normally at least,” says another critic, summarising in a few words the ordinary view, “all the consciousness we have at any moment corresponds to all the activity which is going on at that moment in the brain. There is one unitary conscious state accompanying all the simultaneous brain excitations together, and each single part of the brain-process contributes something to its nature. None of the brain-processes split themselves off from the rest and have a separate consciousness of their own.” This is, no doubt, the apparent dictum of consciousness, but it is nothing more. And the dicta of consciousness have already been shown to need correction in so many ways which the ordinary observer could never have anticipated that we have surely no right to trust consciousness, so to say, a step further than we can feel it,—to hold that anything whatever—even a separate consciousnes

s in our own organisms—can be proved not to exist by the mere fact that we—as we know ourselves—are not aware of it.

But indeed this claim to a unitary consciousness tends to become less forcible as it is more scientifically expressed. It rests on the plain man's conviction that there is only one of him; and this conviction the experimental psychologist is always tending to weaken or narrow by the admission of coexistent localised degrees of consciousness in the brain, which are at any rate not obviously reducible to a single state. Even those who would stop {i-14} far short of my own position find it needful to resort to metaphors of their own to express the different streams of “awareness” which we all feel to be habitually coexistent within us. They speak of “fringes” of ordinary consciousness; of “marginal” associations; of the occasional perception of “currents of low intensity.” These metaphors may all of them be of use, in a region where metaphor is our only mode of expression; but none of them covers all the facts now collected. And on the other side, I need not say, are plenty of phrases which beg the question of soul and body, or of the man's own spirit and external spirits, in no scientific fashion. There seems to be need of a term of wider application, which shall make as few assumptions as possible. Nor is such a term difficult to find.

The idea of a threshold (limen, Schwelle,) of consciousness;—of a level above which sensation or thought must rise before it can enter into our conscious life;—is a simple and familiar one. The word subliminal,—meaning “beneath that threshold,”—has already been used to define those sensations which are too feeble to be individually recognised. I propose to extend the meaning of the term, so as to make it cover all that takes place beneath the ordinary threshold, or say, if preferred, outside the ordinary margin of consciousness;—not only those faint stimulations whose very faintness keeps them submerged, but much else which psychology as yet scarcely recognises; sensations, thoughts, emotions, which may be strong, definite, and independent, but which, by the original constitution of our being, seldom emerge into that supraliminal current of consciousness which we habitually identify with ourselves. Perceiving (as this book will try to show) that these submerged thoughts and emotions possess the characteristics which we associate with conscious life, I feel bound to speak of a subliminal or ultramarginal consciousness,11 It is naturally impossible to express by the help of any single metaphor the complex and changing relation between that part of our personality with which in waking life we consciously identify ourselves, and that part which is not habitually represented in our consciousness. A field of view is quite as natural a metaphor as a threshold, and we may naturally speak of intra-marginal and extra-marginal. These terms, of course, are merely superficial,—denoting a relationship to consciousness which is capable of frequent change, and is not in itself fundamental. We may attempt, indeed, deeper distinctions, and speak of the empirical self on the one hand, and the surviving or the transcendental self on the other hand. But my object at present is to use whatever title makes the least assumption; and to leave it to our evidence gradually to give definite meaning to a distinction at first apprehended in a vague superficial way.—a consciousness which we shall see, for instance, uttering or writing sentences quite as complex and coherent as the supraliminal consciousness could make them. Perceiving further that this conscious life beneath the threshold or beyond the margin seems to be no discontinuous or intermittent thing; that not only are these isolated subliminal processes comparable with isolated supraliminal processes (as when a problem is solved by some unknown procedure in a dream), but that there also is a {i-15} continuous subliminal chain of memory (or more chains than one) involving just that kind of individual and persistent revival of old impressions, and response to new ones, which we commonly call a Self,—I find it permissible and convenient to speak of subliminal Selves, or more briefly of a subliminal Self. I do not indeed by using this term assume that there are two correlative and parallel selves existing always within each of us. Rather I mean by the subliminal Self that part of the Self which is commonly subliminal; and I conceive that there may be,—not only cooperations between these quasi-independent trains of thought,—but also upheavals and alternations of personality of many kinds, so that what was once below the surface may for a time, or permanently, rise above it. And I conceive also that no Self of which we can here have cognisance is in reality more than a fragment of a larger Self,—revealed in a fashion at once shifting and limited through an organism not so framed as to afford it full manifestation.

113. Now this hypothesis is exposed manifestly to two main forms of attack, which to a certain extent neutralise each other. On the one hand it has been attacked, as has already been indicated, as being too elaborate for the facts,—as endowing transitory moments of subconscious intelligence with more continuity and independence than they really possess. These ripples over the threshold, it may be said, can be explained by the wind of circumstance, without assuming springs or currents in the personality deep below.

But soon we shall come upon a group of phenomena which this view will by no means meet. For we shall find that the subliminal uprushes,—the impulses or communications which reach our emergent from our submerged selves,—are (in spite of their miscellaneousness) often characteristically different in quality from any element known to our ordinary supraliminal life. They are different in a way which implies faculty of which we have had no previous knowledge, operating in an environment of which hitherto we have been wholly unaware. This broad statement it is of course the purpose of my whole work to justify. Assuming its truth here for argument's sake, we see at once that the problem of the hidden self entirely changes its aspect. Telepathy and telæsthesia—the perception of distant thoughts and of distant scenes without the agency of the recognised organs of sense;—those faculties suggest either incalculable extension of our own mental powers, or else the influence upon us of minds freer and less trammelled than our own. And this second hypothesis,—which would explain by the agency of discarnate minds, or spirits, all these supernormal phenomena,—does at first sight simplify the problem, and has by Mr. A. R. Wallace and others been pushed so far as to remove all need of what he deems the gratuitous and cumbrous hypothesis of a subliminal self.

114. I believe, indeed, that it will become plain as we proceed that some such hypothesis as this,—of almost continuous spirit-intervention and {i-16} spirit-guidance,—is at once rendered necessary if the subliminal faculties for which I argue are denied to man. And my conception of a subliminal self will thus appear, not as an extravagant and needless, but as a limiting and rationalising hypothesis, when it is applied to phenomena which at first sight suggest Mr. Wallace's extremer view, but which I explain by the action of man's own spirit, without invoking spirits external to himself. I do not indeed say that the explanation here suggested is applicable in all cases, or to the complete exclusion of the spirit-hypothesis. On the contrary, the one view gives support to the other. For these faculties of distant communication exist none the less, even though we should refer them to our own subliminal selves. We can, in that case, affect each other at a distance, telepathically;—and if our incarnate spirits can act thus in at least apparent independence of the fleshly body, the presumption is strong that other spirits may exist independently of the body, and may affect us in similar manner.

The much-debated hypothesis of spirit-intervention, in short, still looms behind the hypothesis of the subliminal Self; but that intermediate hypothesis should, I think, in this early stage of what must be a long inquiry, prove useful to the partisans of either side. For those who are altogether unwilling to admit the action of agencies other than the spirits of living men, it will be needful to form as high an estimate as possible of the faculties held in reserve by these spirits while still in the flesh. For those, on the other hand, who believe in the influence of discarnate spirits, this scheme affords a path of transition, and as it were a provisional intelligibility.

115. These far-reaching speculations make the element of keenest interest in the inquiry which follows. But even apart from its possible bearing on a future life, the further study of our submerged mentation,—of the processes within us of which we catch only indirect, and as it were, refracted glimpses,—seems at this time especially called for by the trend of modern research. For of late years we have realised more and more fully upon how shifting and complex a foundation of ancestral experience each individual life is based. In recapitulation, in summary, in symbol, we retraverse, from the embryo to the corpse, the history of life on earth for millions of years. During our self-adaptation to continually wider environments, there may probably have been a continual displacement of the threshold of consciousness;—involving the lapse and submergence of much that once floated in the main stream of our being. Our consciousness at any given stage of our evolution is but the phosphorescent ripple on an unsounded sea. And, like the ripple, it is not only superficial but manifold. Our psychical unity is federative and unstable; it has arisen from irregular accretions in the remote past; it consists even now only in the limited collaboration of multiple groups. These discontinuities and incoherences in the Ego the elder psychologists managed to ignore. Yet infancy, idiocy, sleep, insanity, decay;—these breaks and stagnancies in {i-17} the conscious stream were always present to show us, even more forcibly than more delicate analyses show us now, that the first obvious conception of man's continuous and unitary personality was wholly insecure; and that if indeed a soul inspired the body, that soul must be sought for far beneath these bodily conditions by which its self-manifestation was clouded and obscured.

116. The difference between older and newer conceptions of the unifying principle or soul (if soul there be) in man, considered as manifesting through corporeal limitations, will thus resemble the difference between the older and newer conceptions of the way in which the sun reveals himself to our senses. Night and storm-cloud and eclipse men have known from the earliest ages; but now they know that even at noonday the sunbeam which reaches them, when fanned out into a spectrum, is barred with belts and lines of varying darkness;—while they have learnt also that where at either end the spectrum fades out into what for us is blackness, there stretches onwards in reality an undiscovered illimitable ray.

It will be convenient for future reference if I draw out this parallel somewhat more fully. I compare, then, man's gradual progress in self-knowledge to his gradual decipherment of the nature and meaning of the sunshine which reaches him as light and heat indiscernibly intermingled. So also Life and Consciousness,—the sense of a world within him and a world without—come to the child indiscernibly intermingled in a pervading glow. Optical analysis splits up the white ray into the various coloured rays which compose it. Philosophical analysis in like manner splits up the vague consciousness of the child into many faculties;—into the various external senses, the various modes of thought within. This has been the task of descriptive and introspective psychology. Experimental psychology is adding a further refinement. In the sun's spectrum, and in stellar spectra, are many dark lines or bands, due to the absorption of certain rays by certain vapours in the atmosphere of sun or stars or earth. And similarly in the range of spectrum of our own sensation and faculty there are many inequalities—permanent and temporary—of brightness and definition. Our mental atmosphere is clouded by vapours and illumined by fires, and is clouded and illumined differently at different times. The psychologist who observes, say, how his reaction-times are modified by alcohol is like the physicist who observes what lines are darkened by the interposition of a special gas. Our knowledge of our conscious spectrum is thus becoming continually more accurate and detailed.

117. But turning back once more to the physical side of our simile, we observe that our knowledge of the visible solar spectrum, however minute, is but an introduction to the knowledge which we hope ultimately to attain of the sun's rays. The limits of our spectrum do not inhere in the sun that shines, but in the eye that marks his shining. Beyond each end of that prismatic ribbon are ether-waves of which our retina takes no cognisance. {i-18} Beyond the red end come waves whose potency we still recognise, but as heat and not as light. Beyond the violet end are waves still more mysterious; whose very existence man for ages never suspected, and whose intimate potencies are still but obscurely known. Even thus, I venture to affirm, beyond each end of our conscious spectrum extends a range of faculty and perception, exceeding the known range, but as yet indistinctly guessed. The artifices of the modern physicist have extended far in each direction the visible spectrum known to Newton. It is for the modern psychologist to discover artifices which may extend in each direction the conscious spectrum as known to Plato or to Kant. The phenomena cited in this work carry us, one may say, as far onwards as fluorescence carries us beyond the violet end. The “X rays” of the psychical spectrum remain for a later age to discover.

Our simile, indeed—be it once for all noted—is a most imperfect one. The range of human faculty cannot be truly expressed in any linear form. Even a three-dimensional scheme,—a radiation of faculties from a centre of life,—would ill render its complexity. Yet something of clearness will be gained by even this rudimentary mental picture;—representing conscious human faculty as a linear spectrum whose red rays begin where voluntary muscular control and organic sensation begin, and whose violet rays fade away at the point at which man's highest strain of thought or imagination merges into reverie or ecstasy.

At both ends of this spectrum I believe that our evidence indicates a momentous prolongation. Beyond the red end, of course, we already know that vital faculty of some kind must needs extend. We know that organic processes are constantly taking place within us which are not subject to our control, but which make the very foundation of our physical being. We know that the habitual limits of our voluntary action can be far extended under the influence of strong excitement. It need not surprise us to find that appropriate artifices—hypnotism or self-suggestion—can carry the power of our will over our organism to a yet further point.

The faculties that lie beyond the violet end of our psychological spectrum will need more delicate exhibition and will command a less ready belief. The actinic energy which lies beyond the violet end of the solar spectrum is less obviously influential in our material world than is the dark heat which lies beyond the red end. Even so, one may say, the influence of the ultra-intellectual or supernormal faculties upon our welfare as terrene organisms is less marked in common life than the influence of the organic or subnormal faculties. Yet it is that prolongation of our spectrum upon which our gaze will need to be most strenuously fixed. It is there that we shall find our inquiry opening upon a cosmic prospect, and inciting us upon an endless way.

118. Even the first stages of this progress are long and labyrinthine; and it may be useful to conclude this introductory chapter by a brief sketch of the main tracts across which our winding road must lie. It will {i-19} be my object to lead by transitions as varied and as gradual as possible from phenomena held as normal to phenomena held as supernormal, but which like the rest are simply and solely the inevitable results and manifestations of universal Law.

Our inquiry will naturally begin by discussing the subliminal structure, in disease or health, of those two familiar phases of human personality, ordinary waking and ordinary sleep. I shall go on to consider in what way the disintegration of personality by disease is met by its reintegration and purposive modification by hypnotism and self-suggestion. By that time enough will have been said of subliminal phenomena in general to make it possible to deal with their various groups in separate fashion. I shall go on, then, to their mode of automatic manifestation, and first (Chapter VI.) to the sensory automatism which is the basis of hallucination. This includes phenomena claiming an origin outside the automatist's own mind. It will be found that that origin is often to be sought in the minds of other living men; and various forms of telepathy will be brought under

review. The conception of telepathy is not one that in its nature need be confined to spirits still incarnate; and we shall find evidence (Chapter VII.) that intercourse of similarly direct type can take place between discarnate and incarnate spirits. The remainder of the book will discuss the methods and results of this supernormal intercourse.

This scheme will be developed in a series of chapters whose general drift and connection I am anxious that the reader should clearly grasp before he studies them in detail.

119. My second chapter may at first sight appear to stray somewhat far from my main purport. It is of the evolution of human personality that this work proposes to treat;—of faculties newly dawning, and of a destiny greater than we know. Yet I must begin with a detailed discussion of certain modes of that personality's disintegration and decay. The extreme instances of such decay—actual imbecility or insanity—do indeed lie outside my province. But there are many cases where there is no actual insanity,—probably no organic disease of the brain,—but in which nevertheless there are disturbances of personality which teach us more than any theoretical treatise can do as to that complex structure or synergy which it is our object to upbuild or to develop. Alternations of personality and hysterical phenomena generally are in fact spontaneous experiments of precisely the type most instructive to us. For my own argument, indeed, I urgently need some true conception of the psychological meaning of hysteria,—a vague range of phenomena called by a meaningless name;—and when that conception has been reached, the support which it gives by analogy to my own principal thesis will be found to be of the most striking kind. For in hysteria (as my second chapter will show) we have before us a contraction, an effacement of the spectrum of consciousness, which leaves the hysteric occupying much the same position relatively to ourselves as our own supraliminal consciousness occupies (in my view) relatively to our whole self. Or, to return to our {i-20} other metaphor:—the essence of hysteria is an instability of the thresholds of consciousness and of voluntary movement,—insomuch that many perceptions which should be fully conscious are for the time submerged, and many actions or motor syntheses which should be subject to waking will have sunk out of that will's control. Occasionally, indeed, and as a sort of incident of the general disturbance, some faculties habitually submerged may rise into apprehension, and there may thus be at some points an analogy between hysteria and genius. But on the whole these two conditions are fundamentally opposed; genius consisting (as we shall presently see) in an intensification of the conscious spectrum,—hysteria in its dimming and interruption by dark belts of anæsthesia and aboulia,—defect of perception and of will;—genius consisting in the uprush of subliminal faculty,—hysteria in the descent and disappearance of faculty which should be supraliminal into depths from which it cannot voluntarily be recalled.

120. Continuing this inquiry in my third chapter, I shall consider what kind of man he is to whom the epithet of normal,—an epithet often obscure and misleading,—may be most fitly applied. I shall urge that in a rapidly altering genus—and such the genus homo undoubtedly is—the word normal may be best used to signify such a combination of new with old powers as can at the present stage be effected without dangerous instability. If, however, it be held that man's development is not in any given direction sufficiently definite to admit of this mode of measurement, then I shall at least claim that that man shall be regarded as normal who has the fullest grasp of faculties which inhere in the whole race. Among these faculties I shall venture to count subliminal as well as supraliminal powers;—the mental processes which take place below the conscious threshold as well as those which take place above it. What class of men, then, can we regard as reaping most advantage from this submerged mentation? Men of genius, I shall reply;—if to the vague word genius we may give a definite or psychological meaning, which, while adhering pretty closely to general usage, shall distinguish it in some real manner from other forms of capacity. Such a definition, I think, we shall attain if we describe an “inspiration of genius” as a subliminal uprush;—an emergence into ordinary consciousness of ideas matured below the threshold. Falling back upon our simile of the spectrum, this process would be represented by the brightening of lines previously dimmed by interposing vapours;—such a brightening as seems often due to an intensification of the central incandescence. The man who thus receives the upward message of his submerged self may or may not find in it something of value to the world. But at any rate he tends towards the employment of the whole range of his faculty, and thus also (as will be seen later on) towards a profounder realisation of his environment than is as yet possible for the mass of men.

This view differs widely from the estimate of genius now in fashion with a certain school of anthropologists, who regard the man of genius as in some sense an aberrant or even degenerate type,—and class him with {i-21} the criminal and the lunatic. The alleged nervous disorder of men of genius, on which this apparent paradox is based, is largely, I think, the creation of mere gossip and anecdote. So far as it really exists, I regard it as illustrating the instability which in a rapidly changing species is apt to characterise those very organs which on the whole are moving most decisively along the path of progress. There is a perturbation which masks evolution; and just as at the child's birth into the world, or at his entrance into the wider emotions of adolescence, there may be much that is disturbing and strange, so too in that new birth, that entry into the emotions of a vaster world, for which Earth-life at its best is one great opportunity, there is likely to be some straining and disruption of the spiritual organism adapted to the earlier phase. The true analogue of the genius is not the criminal nor the lunatic, but the child.

121. In the fourth chapter I shall deal with the alternating phase through which man's personality is constructed habitually to pass. I speak of sleep; which I regard as a phase of personality, adapted to maintain our existence in the spiritual environment, and to draw from thence the vitality of our physical organisms. Both sleep and waking will thus be developed phases of an earlier and less differentiated condition, from which waking life has been developed by practical needs, while sleep, less changed externally from the primitive state, may nevertheless have undergone some parallel evolution in its relations to that metetherial world. And thus I regard the passage back from waking into sleep as including elements both of reversion and of what I may term preversion. There is firstly a relapse or reversion to an earlier animal condition;—a condition where the conscious part of the spectrum lay nearer to the red end; consisting mainly of organic faculties and sensations many of which are no longer present to waking consciousness. But sleep also represents a stage of wider potentiality; a stage where a longer spectrum is more faintly seen; whereas the waking state represents a stage in which natural selection on this planet has operated both to intensify the range of faculty, and also to confine it within the limits serviceable for earthly life. When waking faculty, thus confined and thus intensified, is dimmed by sleep, we are able to catch some scattered lines of feeble radiance beyond each end of our ordinary spectrum. Of the ultra-red activities I have spoken just above. But there are traces of ultra-violet luminosity also. Those faculties which form man's link with the spiritual world,—telepathy and telæsthesia—are apt (as dreams obscurely show us) to make in sleep their first rudimentary appearance; or to use another metaphor, sleep-waking states teach us to think of sleep as a kind of “primitive magma” or “mother-solution” from which various phases of personality have a tendency to crystallise out. Somnambulism, trance, ecstasy, are such crystallisations; representing co-ordinations of faculty unfitted indeed for man's self-preservation upon this planet, but which it may be worth his while to develop experimentally, when once that preservation has been secured.


Or I may put the matter in yet another way, so as to bring out a certain parallel between the forms of dissolution and of evolution to which each phase of our personality—the waking phase and the sleeping—has shown itself liable.

What hysteria is to ordinary waking life, that is morbid somnambulism to sleep; what genius is to ordinary waking life, that is hypnotic trance to sleep.

In somnambulism, as in waking hysteria, there is a narrowing of the field of attention, accompanied by an arbitrary unsettlement of the threshold of consciousness. Some of the normal faculties of sleep,—as its organic recuperative power,—may in somnambulism be concealed or arrested; and on the other hand some faculties not normal for sleep,—as acute sensory perception, delicate muscular co-ordination, may rise into prominence. This exactly resembles the hysteric instability; and we need not wonder that in some hysterical conditions there is a mere confusion and jumble of states of imperfect sleep and of imperfect waking.

On the other hand,—as we are now about to see,—the sleeping phase of personality may be greatly improved, its beneficent effects greatly extended, by certain artifices which evoke in the sleeper a power of self-suggestion which corresponds to what in the waking phase we call an inspiration of genius.

122. Thus far I shall have been dealing with conditions or phases of personality which, whether for good or evil, appear spontaneously and without artificial induction. Were we limited to such a review alone, I should still trust that the importance and in a certain sense the independence of the subliminal portion of our consciousness might be brought out by careful inference. But we are not in fact thus restricted. We are not confined to observation only. We are able to mix therewith an element of experiment which, although yet in its infancy, has already, in my view, given us an insight into much of man's nature which no mere speculation or introspection could ever have reached. First among our experimental methods I must speak of hypnotism. That word indeed, as now used, is a vague one. It includes all the methods—and they are all of them frankly empirical—which have been found successful in inducing in man,—whether apparently waking or sleeping,—what is in fact a development and concentration of his sleeping phase;—and in thus reaching organic processes over which his supraliminal will has no control. The chief—some say the only—method which has been found thus effective is called “suggestion”;—a mere name for an appeal to subliminal faculty which sometimes succeeds and sometimes fails, without our being able either to predict or to explain its success or its failure. Long opposed or ignored by orthodox Science, this mode of acting on man's hidden being is now in most countries established in medical practice, and is increasingly successful in the direction especially of relieving pain. At the same time the psychophysiological problems at the root {i-23} of its success are quite unsolved; and its profounder influences on personality have hardly yet been approached.

The discussion in my fifth chapter—that on Hypnotism—will naturally fall under three main heads. I shall first briefly discuss the psychology of hypnotism. I shall consider what actually are the methods which succeed in hypnotism,—whether this be called mesmerism on the one hand or suggestion on the other;—different aspects of an influence which no name fully expresses and which no theory fully explains. In the next place I shall describe some of the triumphs of psychotherapeutics. These cures effected by suggestion belong to the very core of my subject. They are, so to say, the public advertisement or commercial application of just those hidden and subliminal faculties which for the most part show themselves in less easily apprehended fashion. Like the application of the “X rays” to the discovery and extraction of bullets or needles, these cures must at least bring home to the most conservative reader the fact that there is some unexplained agency operating upon human nature,—something of extraordinary potency which orthodox science has thus far completely failed to grasp. So surprising, indeed, are some of these cures,—they reproduce so startlingly certain cures held of old as miraculous,—that many men have been led to ask whether it be not in some way or other religion rather than science which is answerable for the marvels. A question, this, of deeper import than the literature either of the Lourdes miracles or of American “mental science” might lead the sceptical reader to suppose! On this point I shall dwell at some length; nor is there, I think, any line of inquiry more essential to the physical well-being of mankind.

Less conspicuously important, but of equal significance for my argument, is that group of hypnotic results which I shall in the third place briefly discuss. These phenomena I shall consider first as they occur in spontaneous sleep-waking states or somnambulisms, and then as they appear in cases experimentally induced, where they are manifested in a more marked degree. We see here the influence exercised by suggestion and self-suggestion on higher types of faculty, supernormal as well as normal, on character, on personality. It is on this side, indeed, that the outlook is the most deeply interesting. Man is in course of evolution; and the most pregnant hint which these nascent experiments have yet given him is that it may be in his power to hasten his own evolution in ways previously unknown.

123. In the following chapter on Sensory Automatism (Chapter VI.) I shall proceed to describe certain other experiments, less familiar to the public than those classed as hypnotic, but which give a still further insight into our subliminal faculty. With those experiments will be intermingled many spontaneous phenomena; and the chapter will take up and continue the spontaneous phenomena of Chapters III. and IV. as well as the experiments of Chapter V. Its theme will be the messages which the subliminal self sends up to the supraliminal in sensory form;—the visions {i-24} fashioned internally, but manifested not to the inward eye alone; the voices which repeat as though in audible tones the utterance of the self within. In this way we shall be in continued connection with the phenomena of Chapter II. also; but, instead of the morbid hallucinations which were there described, we shall be dealing with hallucinations which not only are consistent with health and sanity, but also resemble and in a sense surpass the inspirations of genius in their manifestation of important faculty, habitually screened from our view.

Even so long as these subliminal messages convey to us knowledge of no new kind,—even while they are still occupied with the known spectrum,—they are nevertheless full of instruction as regards the extent of subliminal faculty. They are the products of internal vision ejected into apparent externality; and the sights projected outwards from within us are to the psychologist even more interesting than the sights projected inwards from without.

But at this point, and amid these subjective hallucinations which, although they extend, do not fundamentally modify previous conceptions, we come face to face with a class of perceptions which, although in one sense hallucinatory, are in another sense the messengers of a truth deeper and more direct from the source than any which our ordinary senses convey to us. We come upon experiments which prove telepathy;—the transference of ideas and sensations from one mind to another without the agency of the recognised organs of sense. We shall already have encountered some telepathic and telæsthetic incidents among the phenomena of dreams and of hypnosis. But we shall now find that telepathy and telæsthesia occur in waking moments also; occur sometimes as the result of direct experiment; oftener as the spontaneous and apparently casual convergence of forces which we may be led to suppose to be normally operative between all of us. This is the central theme of Edmund Gurney's Phantasms of the Living; and subsequent experiment and observation, while they have strengthened the evidence for the conclusions of that book, have in no way diminished their startling importance. Believe though we may in the ultimate continuity of all existence and operation, there is still a vast and sudden separation—unbridgeable at present by any hypothesis of etherial vibrations or the like—between the smallest act of telepathic transmission and all that we have previously known concerning matter and motion. Even if there be no true Rubicon disparting the ocean of things, we have here for mortal minds the Rubicon between the mechanical and the spiritual conceptions of the Universe. I at least can see no logical halting-place between the first admission of supersensory faculty and the conclusion that such faculty is

exercised by somewhat within us which is not generated from material elements, nor confined by mechanical limitations, but which may survive and operate uninjured in a spiritual world.

There is one particular line of telepathic experiment and observation {i-25} which seems to lead us by an almost continuous pathway across that hitherto impassable gulf. Among telepathic experiments, to begin with, none is more remarkable than the occasional power of some agent to project himself phantasmally; to make himself manifest, as though in actual presence, to some percipient at a distance. The mechanism of such projection is entirely unknown to the agent himself; nor is the act always preceded by any effort of the supraliminal will. But our records of such cases do assuredly suggest a quite novel disengagement of some informing spirit from the restraint of the organism;—a form of distant operation in which we cannot say whether the body in its apparent passivity co-operates or no.

With these experiments in mind, let us turn to the main groups of spontaneous telepathic phenomena which fill the work on Phantasms of the Living above alluded to. These are apparitions of a distant person mainly at moments of crisis, and at the moment of death. Now these spontaneous apparitions at moments when the agent whose phantasm appears is actually passing through some external or internal crisis, are separated by no clear line from the experimentally induced projection of a man's phantasmal figure of which I have spoken above. Sometimes, as I have already implied, we hardly know whether to call such a self-projection experimental or not, since the agent does not know how to accomplish it, and may not even have been conscious of desiring it at the precise moment when it occurred. Thus far the series of phenomena is plainly continuous. And it remains continuous as we gradually pass on from apparitions coincident with crises—crises often involving great danger or even apparent death—to apparitions coincident with the coma which frequently precedes death, or with the moment of death itself.

124. And thus (Chapter VII.) we come face to face with the supreme problem;—if not of all theoretical knowledge, at least of all knowledge as bearing upon the fate and the duty of man. The theoretical question of primary importance may be simply that of the existence or nonexistence of a spiritual world. The human or practical question of supreme importance is that of man's presence or portion in that world, if it does exist. To prove that telepathy implies a spiritual environment would be at once to lift our knowledge of the Cosmos to a higher level. To prove that man survives death would also be to transform and transfigure his whole life here and now. Before us, as of old, is that all-embracing problem; but before us also, for the first time, is some hint and indication as to the track which may be pursued towards its solution.

The old conception of the ghost—a conception which seemed to belong only to primitive animism and to modern folk-lore—has received a new meaning from observations of phenomena occurring between living men. We realise that a phantasmal figure may bear a true relation to some distant person whose semblance is thus shown; we learn by {i-26} instances of directly provable coincidence that wraiths of this kind correspond with death too often to leave the correspondence attributable to chance alone. The vague question of former times narrows down, then, to the more precise question: Are there still coincidences, is there still evidence of some such definite type as this, showing that a phantasm can appear not only at but after a man's bodily death, and can still indicate connection with a persistent and individual life?

To this distinct question there can now be given, as I believe, a distinct and affirmative answer. When evidence has been duly analysed, when alternative hypotheses have been duly weighed, it seems to me that there is no real break in the appearance of veridical phantasms, or in their causation at the moment of bodily death; but rather that (after setting aside all merely subjective post-mortem apparitions) there is evidence that the self-same living spirit is still operating, and it may be in the self-same way. And thus my general dogma will have received its specific confirmation. Telepathy, I have said, looks like a law prevailing in the spiritual as well as in the material world. And that it does so prevail, I now add, is proved by the fact that those who communicated with us telepathically in this world communicate with us telepathically from the other. Man, therefore, is not a planetary or a transitory being; he persists as very man among cosmic and eternal things.

If this bare fact be gained, we have a basis for such an edifice of knowledge as will take many generations to uprear. At first, indeed, the mere observation of these phantasms does not seem as though it could lead us far. It is like the observation of shooting stars—of meteors which appear without warning and vanish in a flash of fire. Yet systematic observation has learnt much as to these meteors; has learnt, for instance, the point in heaven from which they issue; their orbital relation to earth and sun. Somewhat similarly, continuous observation of these brief phantasmal appearances may tell us much of them at last; much, for instance, as to their relative frequency at different epochs after death; something as to their apparent knowledge of what has happened on earth since they left it. From the study of meteorites, again, a further unexpected discovery has been made. “The stone that fell down from Jupiter” is nowhere alone in its glory. The solid earth, the ocean's floor, are covered with meteoric dust;—the dust of the cosmic wayside, which we have gathered in our rush through the constellations. Even thus we come to find that there are traces over all the earth of indeterminate and unrecognised communication from a world of unembodied intelligences;—hauntings of unknown purport, and bearing no perceptible relation to the thoughts or deeds of living men.

125. Much more, indeed, than would at first seem likely can be learnt by mere prolonged observation of spontaneous phantasms of the {i-27} dead. Yet here as everywhere,—here more than anywhere,—the need of actual experiment is felt. For experiment here would mean the conversion of the scarce decipherable flash which flits before our spectroscope into a steady glow; it would mean the enlistment of the departed in conscious and willing cooperation,—the long-desired opportunity to hear and to answer;—veras audire et reddere hear true voices and to answer [Aen. 1.409] And in fact such experiment turns out to be actually feasible. It is feasible in connection with each of the four forms of communication, of verbalisation, with which human life is familiar. There is a possibility of inducing a spiritual hearing and a spiritual picture-seeing or reading; and also a spiritually-guided writing and speech. Both our sensory automatism and our motor automatism may be initiated and directed by intelligence outside our own.

In Chapter VI., on Sensory Automatism, we shall already have discussed the passive methods in which communications of this kind may be awaited. We have now (in Chapter VIII.), to consider in what ways Motor Automatism,—the unwilled activity of hand or voice,—may be used to convey messages which come to the automatist as though from without himself.

As though from without himself, I say; but of course their apparent externality does not prove that they have not originated in submerged strata of his own mind. In most cases, indeed, with motor as with sensory automatism, this is probably what really occurs. We find that a tendency to automatic writing is by no means uncommon among sane and healthy persons. But we also find that the messages thus given do not generally rise above the level of an incoherent dream. They seem to emerge from a region where scraps of thought and feeling exist confusedly, with no adequate central control. Yet sometimes the vague scrawling changes its character. It becomes veridical; it begins to convey a knowledge of actual facts of which the automatist has no previous information; it indicates some subliminal activity of his own, or some telepathic access to an external mind. Apparitions may flash their signals; the automatic script will lay the wire. For however inchoate and ill-controlled these written messages may be, if once they have been received at all we can assign no limit to their development as the expression of thought that passes incorporeally from mind to mind.

From mind to mind, as we have already seen ground to hope, independently of the question whether both minds, or one only, be still clad in flesh. There will often be great difficulty of interpretation; great perplexity as to the true relation between a message and its alleged source. But every year of late has added,—every year ought to add,—both to the mass of matter and to the feasibility of interpretation. These are not the hieroglyphs of the dead, but the hieroglyphs of the living.

126. Side by side with the automatism of arm and hand we must place the automatism of throat and tongue (Chapter IX.). Automatic utterance parallels automatic script throughout the scale of degrees by this time familiar. It begins, that is to say, with mere incoherence; but it {i-28} assumes in some cases a veridical character; with knowledge delivered from some subliminal stratum or some external mind. And in some cases the special knowledge displayed in the utterances lends probability to their claim to proceed from a departed spirit.

When this occurs, when the utterance reaches this point of veracity and intensity, it is sometimes accompanied by certain other phenomena which for those who have witnessed them carry a sense of reality which description can hardly reproduce. The ordinary consciousness of the automatist appears to be suspended; he passes into a state of trance,—which in its turn seems but the preparation for an occupation by an invading intelligence,—by the surviving spirit, let us boldly say, of some recognisable departed friend. This friend then disposes of voice and hand almost as freely as though he were their legitimate owner. Nay, more than one intelligence may thus operate simultaneously, and the organism may thus appear as indeed no more than the organ of spiritual influences which make and break connection with it at will.

And here we reach a point which has become,—without my anticipation, and—as a matter (so to say) of mere scientific policy—even against my will,—the principal nodus of the present work. This book, designed originally to carry on, as continuously and coherently as possible, the argument and exposition of facts which in Phantasms of the Living I had aided in setting before serious readers, has been forced unexpectedly forward by the sheer force of evidence, until it must now dwell largely on the extreme branch of the subject, far beyond the reserves and cautious approaches of the earlier work.

For in truth during the last ten years the centre of gravity of our evidence has shifted so profoundly that it can no longer be said that the relative masses of evidence for each class of phenomenon correspond roughly to the degree of strangeness—of apparent difficulty—which the phenomena themselves exhibit. Ten years ago there was most evidence for telepathy between the living; next most for phantasms of the dead; least, perhaps, for that actual possession and control of human organisms by departed spirits, which of all our phenomena is likely to be the hardest for the scientific mind to accept,—since it carries us back to the most outrageously savage group among the superstitions of the early world. With the recent development of trance-phenomena, however, this semblance of logical proportion has been quickly altered. We seem suddenly to have arrived, by a kind of short cut, at a direct solution of problems which we had till then been approaching by difficult inference or laborious calculation of chances. What need of computing coincidental death-wraiths,—of analysing the evidential details of post-mortem apparitions,—if here we have the departed ready to hear and answer questions, and to tell us frankly of the fate of souls? Might not these earlier lines of inquiry be now abandoned altogether?—nay, must not our former results seem useless now, in view of this overwhelming proof?


I reply to this, that it was soon evident, in the first place, that our previous disciplined search had been by no means wasted. There was need of our canons of evidence, our analysis of the sources of subliminal messages, in order to satisfy ourselves that these trance-utterances could in part, but in part only, be explained by telæsthesia and telepathy,—operating among actual scenes and the minds of living men. Nay, further, that old evidence of ours at once explained and was explained by the new. Fresh light was thrown on many previous groups of phenomena, and they in their turn were seen to have preluded to the new phenomena in such fashion that the continuity of the whole series—albeit a series advancing by leaps and bounds—was intelligibly maintained for us.

Following on the first revelation of Mrs. Piper's trance-phenomena came the permission accorded to me by the executors of Mr. Stainton Moses to read and analyse his private records after his death. The strong impression which his phenomena had made upon me during his life was increased,—as the reader will afterwards see,—by this posthumous and intimate study; and his history was seen to be in many respects analogous to Mrs. Piper's. Further parallels have been afforded since by more than one other medium;—and it seems to me now that the evidence for communication with the spirits of identified deceased persons through the trance-utterances and writings of sensitives apparently controlled by those spirits is established beyond serious attack.

In saying this, however, I desire to explain,—in anticipation of obvious and legitimate criticism,—that throughout all this discussion of “spirit-possession” I use purposely the simplest and most popular terms, without by any means denying that terms more accurate and philosophical may be ultimately attainable. What I feel sure of is that such more accurate terms have not yet been attained;—that we are not yet justified in using any nomenclature which assumes that we possess a deeper knowledge of what is going on than the messages themselves have given us. I do not of course mean that we ought to accept the messages unquestioningly as being in all cases literally what they claim to be. We know of various veræ causæ,true causes—conscious or unconscious fraud, self-suggestion, telepathy between the living, and the like, which we are bound to regard as possibly operative, and which enable us to resolve many automatic messages into mere illustrations of agencies previously known. But I mean that where we get beyond these simpler causes,—where we are forced to accept the messages as representing in some way the continued identity of a former denizen of earth,—I do not think that either tradition or philosophy affords us any solid stand-point from which to criticise those messages;—any such knowledge of the nature or destiny of the human soul as can at present justify us in translating them, so to say, into any would-be interpretative terminology of our own. Such critical power we may perhaps achieve in the future; but we shall have to achieve it, I think, by careful collation of many more such messages than we as yet possess.


127. The reader who may feel disposed to give his adhesion to this culminating group of the long series of evidences which have pointed with more and more clearness to the survival of human personality, and to the possibility for men on earth of actual commerce with a world beyond, may feel perhaps that the desiderium orbis catholici,desire for a universal world the intimate and universal hope of every generation of men, has never till this day approached so near to fulfilment. There has never been so fair a prospect for Life and Love. But the goal to which we tend is not an ideal of personal happiness alone. The anticipation of our own future is but one element in the prospect which opens to us now. Our inquiry has broadened into a wider scope. The point from which we started was an analysis of the latent faculties of man. The point towards which our argument has carried us is the existence of a spiritual environment in which those faculties operate, and of unseen neighbours who speak to us thence with slowly gathering power. Deep in this spiritual environment the cosmic secret lies. It is our business to collect the smallest indications; to carry out from this treasury of Rhampsinitus so much as our bare hands can steal away. We have won our scraps of spiritual experience, our messages from behind the veil; we can try them in their connection with certain enigmas which philosophy hardly hoped to be able to put to proof. Can we, for instance, learn anything,—to begin with fundamental problems,—of the relation of

spiritual phenomena to Space, to Time, to the material world?

As to the idea of Space, the evidence which will have been presented will enable us to speak with perhaps more clearness than could have been hoped for in such a matter. Spiritual life, we infer, is not bound and confined by space-considerations in the same way as the life of earth. But in what way is that greater freedom attained? It appears to be attained by the mere extension of certain licenses (so to call them) permitted to ourselves. We on earth submit to two familiar laws of the physical universe. A body can only act where it is. Only one body can occupy the same part of space at the same moment. Applied to common affairs these rules are of plain construction. But once get beyond ponderable matter,—once bring life and ether into play, and definitions become difficult indeed. The orator, the poet, we say, can only act where he is;—but where is he? He has transformed the sheet of paper into a spiritual agency;—nay, the mere memory of him persists as a source of energy in other minds. Again, we may say that no other body can be in the same place as this writing-table; but what of the ether? What we have thus far learnt of spiritual operation seems merely to extend these two possibilities. Telepathy indefinitely extends the range of an unembodied spirit's potential presence. The interpenetration of the spiritual with the material environment leaves this ponderable planet unable to check or to hamper spiritual presence or operation. Strange and new though our evidence may be, it needs at present in its relation to space nothing more than an immense extension of conceptions which {i-31} the disappearance of earthly limitations was certain immensely to extend.

How, then, does the matter stand with regard to our relation to Time? Do we find that our new phenomena point to any mode of understanding, or of transcending Time fundamentally different from those modes which we have at our command?

In dealing with Time Past we have memory and written record; in dealing with Time Future we have forethought, drawing inferences from the past.

Can, then, the spiritual knowledge of Past and Future which our evidence shows be explained by assuming that these existing means of knowledge are raised to a higher power? Or are we driven to postulate something in the nature of Time which is to us inconceivable;—some coexistence of Past and Future in an eternal Now? It is plainly with Time Past that we must begin the inquiry.

The knowledge of the past which automatic communications manifest is in most cases apparently referable to the actual memory of persons still existing beyond the tomb. It reaches us telepathically, as from a mind in which remote scenes are still imprinted. But there are certain scenes which are not easily assigned to the individual memory of any given spirit. And if it be possible for us to learn of present facts by telæsthesia as well as by telepathy;—by some direct supernormal percipience without the intervention of any other mind to which the facts are already known,—may there not be also a retrocognitive telæsthesia by which we may attain a direct knowledge of facts in the past?

Some conception of this kind may possibly come nearest to the truth. It may even be that some World-Soul is perennially conscious of all its past; and that individual souls, as they enter into deeper consciousness, enter into something which is at once reminiscence and actuality. But nevertheless a narrower hypothesis will cover the actual cases with which we have to deal. Past facts are known to men on earth not from memory only, but by written record; and there may be records, of what kind we know not, which persist in the spiritual world. Our retrocognitions seem often a recovery of isolated fragments of thought and feeling, pebbles still hard and rounded amid the indecipherable sands over which the mighty waters are “rolling evermore.”

When we look from Time Past to Time Future we are confronted with essentially the same problems, though in a still more perplexing form, and with the world-old mystery of Free Will versus Necessity looming in the background. Again we find that, just as individual memory would serve to explain a large proportion of Retrocognition, so individual forethought—a subliminal forethought, based often on profound organic facts not normally known to us—will explain a large proportion of Precognition. But here again we find also precognitions which transcend what seems explicable by the foresight of any mind such as we know; {i-32} and we are tempted to dream of a World-Soul whose Future is as present to it as its Past. But in this speculation also, so vast and vague an explanation seems for the present beyond our needs; and it is safer—if aught be safe in this region which only actual evidence could have emboldened us to approach—to take refuge in the conception of intelligences not infinite, yet gifted with a foresight which strangely transcends our own.

Closely allied to speculations such as these is another speculation, more capable of being subjected to experimental test, yet which remains still inconclusively tested, and which has become for many reasons a stumbling-block rather than a corroboration in the spiritual inquiry. I refer to the question whether any influence is exercised by spirits upon the gross material world otherwise than through ordinary organic structures. We know that the spirit of a living man controls his own organism, and we shall see reason to think that discarnate spirits may also control, by some form of “possession,” the organisms of living persons,—may affect directly, that is to say, some portions of matter which we call living, namely, the brain of the entranced sensitive. There seems to me, then, no paradox in the supposition that some effect should be produced by spiritual agency—possibly through the mediation of some kind of energy derived from living human beings—upon inanimate matter as well. And I believe that as a fact such effects have been observed and recorded in a trustworthy manner by Sir W. Crookes, the late Dr. Speer, and others, in the cases especially of D. D. Home and of W. Stainton Moses. If, indeed, I call these and certain other records still inconclusive, it is mainly on account of the mass of worthless narratives with which they have been in some sense smothered; the long history of so-called investigations which have consisted merely in an interchange of credulity and fraud. For the present the evidence of this kind which has real value is better presented, I think, in separate records than collected or discussed in any generalised form. All that I purpose in this work, therefore, is briefly to indicate the relation which these “physical phenomena” hold to the psychical phenomena with which my book is concerned. Alongside of the faculty or achievement of man's ordinary or supraliminal self I shall demarcate the faculty or achievement which I ascribe to his subliminal self; and alongside of this again I shall arrange such few well-attested phenomena as seem primâ facie to demand the physical intervention of discarnate intelligences.

128. I have traced the utmost limits to which any claim to a scientific basis for these inquiries can at present be pushed. Yet the subject-matter has not yet been exhausted of half its significance. The conclusions to which our evidence points are not such as can be discussed or dismissed as a mere matter of speculative curiosity. They affect every {i-33} belief, every faculty, every hope and aim of man; and they affect him the more intimately as his interests grow more profound. Whatever meaning be applied to ethics, to philosophy, to religion, the concern of all these is here.

It would have been inconsistent with my main purpose had I interpolated considerations of this kind into the body of this work. For that purpose was above all to show that realms left thus far to philosophy or to religion,—too often to mere superstition and idle dream,—might in the end be brought under steady scientific rule. I contend that Religion and Science are no separable or independent provinces of thought or action; but rather that each name implies a different aspect of the same ideal;— that ideal being the completely normal reaction of the individual spirit to the whole of cosmic law.

Assuredly this deepening response of man's spirit to the Cosmos deepening round him must be affected by all the signals which now are glimmering out of night to tell him of his inmost nature and his endless fate. Who can think that either Science or Revelation has spoken as yet more than a first half-comprehended word? But if in truth souls departed call to us, it is to them that we shall listen most of all. We shall weigh their undesigned concordances, we shall analyse the congruity of their message with the facts which such a

message should explain. To some thoughts which may thus be generated I shall try to give expression in an Epilogue to the present work.




θάνατός ἐστιν ὁκόσα ἐγερθέντες ὁρέομεν, ὁκόσα δὲ εὕδοντες, ὕπνος.


Death is as many things as we see when awake, sleep is as many things as we see when asleep.

200. Of the race of man we know for certain that it has been evolved through many ages and through countless forms of change. We know for certain that its changes continue still; nay, that more causes of change act upon us in “fifty years of Europe” than in “a cycle of Cathay.” We may reasonably conjecture that the race will continue to change with increasing rapidity, and through a period in comparison with which our range of recorded history shrinks into a moment.

The actual nature of these coming changes, indeed, lies beyond our imagination. Many of them are probably as inconceivable to us now as eyesight would have been to our eyeless ancestors. All that we can do is to note so far as possible the structural laws of our personality as deduced from its changes thus far; inferring that for some time to come, at any rate, its further changes will proceed upon similar lines.

I have already (Chapter I.) indicated the general view as to the nature of human personality which is maintained in this work. I regard each man as at once profoundly unitary and almost infinitely composite, as inheriting from earthly ancestors a multiplex and “colonial” organism—polyzoic and perhaps polypsychic in an extreme degree; but also as ruling and unifying that organism by a soul or spirit absolutely beyond our present analysis—a soul which has originated in a spiritual or metetherial environment; which even while embodied subsists in that environment; and which will still subsist therein after the body's decay.

It is, of course, impossible for us to picture to ourselves the way in which the individual life of each cell of the body is reconciled with the unity of the central life which controls the body as a whole. But this difficulty is not created or intensified by the hypothesis of a separate and persistent soul. On no hypothesis can we really understand the collaboration and the subordination of the cell-lives of any multicellular animal. It is as mysterious in the starfish as it is in Plato; and the “eight brains of Aurelia” with their individual and their common life are as inconceivable {i-35} as the life of the phagocytes in the philosopher's veins, in their relation to his central thought.11 The difficulty of conceiving any cellular focus, either fixed or shifting, has actually led some psychologists to demand a unifying principle which is not cellular, and yet is not a soul.

201. I claim, in fact, that the ancient hypothesis of an indwelling soul, possessing and using the body as a whole, yet bearing a real, though obscure relation to the various more or less apparently disparate conscious groupings manifested in connection with the organism and in connection with more or less localised groups of nerve-matter, is a hypothesis not more perplexing, not more cumbrous, than any other hypothesis yet suggested. I claim also that it is conceivably provable,—I myself hold it as actually proved,—by direct observation. I hold that certain manifestations of central individualities, associated now or formerly with certain definite organisms, have been observed in operation apart from those organisms, both while the organisms were still living, and after they had decayed. Whether or no this thesis be as yet sufficiently proved, it is at least at variance with no scientific principle nor established fact whatever; and it is of a nature which continued observation may conceivably establish to the satisfaction of all. The negative thesis, on the other hand, is a thesis in unstable equilibrium. It cannot be absolutely proved by any number of negative instances; and it may be absolutely disproved by a single positive instance. It may have at present a greater scientific currency, but it can have no real scientific authority as against the view defended in these pages.

202. Leaving these questions, however, aside for the present, we may agree that in the organism as we can observe it in common life we have no complete or unchanging unity, but rather a complex hierarchy of groups of cells exercising vaguely limited functions, and working together with rough precision, tolerable harmony, fair success. That these powers ever work perfectly together we have no evidence. Our feeling of health is but a rough haphazard register of what is passing within us. Nor would it ever be possible to define a permanently ideal status in an organism in moving equilibrium,—an organism which lives by exploding unstable compounds, and which is constantly aiming at new ends at the expense of the old.

Many disturbances and disintegrations of the personality must presently fall [sic] to be described. But the reader who may follow me must remember the point of view from which I am writing. The aim of my analysis is not to destroy but to fulfil;—or say, rather, my hope is that observation of the ways in which the personality tends to disintegrate may suggest methods which may tend on the other hand to its more complete integration.

Such improvements upon the natural conditions of the organism are not unknown. Just as the study of hysteria deals mainly with instabilities in {i-36} the threshold of consciousness, so does the study of zymotic disease deal mainly with instabilities in the constitution of the blood. The ordinary object of the physician is to check these instabilities when they occur; to restore healthy blood in the place of vitiated. The experimental biologist has a further aim. He wishes to provide men with better blood than nature has bestowed; to elicit from virus and decay some element whose infusion into the veins may give immunity against microbic invasion. As the adult is safer against such attacks than the child by dint of his more advanced development, so is the immunised adult safer than the common man. The change in his blood which healthy maturity has induced has made him safe against whooping-cough. The change in his blood which we effect by injecting antitoxin makes him temporarily safe against diphtheria. We have improved upon nature;—and our artifice has been prophylactic by virtue of being in a certain sense developmental.

Even such, I trust, may be the achievement of experimental psychology in a later day. I shall be well content if in this chapter I can give hints for some future colligation of such evolutive phenomena as may lurk amid a mass of phenomena mainly dissolutive—phenomena whose records are scattered and imperfect, and have as yet only in some few directions, and by quite recent writers, been collated or systematised on any definite plan.

203. The discussion of these disintegrations of personality needs, I think, some little clearing of the ground beforehand, if it is to avoid confusion. It will be needful to speak of concurrent and alternating streams of consciousness,—of subliminal and supraliminal strata of personality and the like;—phrases which save much trouble when used with care, but which need some words of preliminary explanation. It is not easy to realise that anything which deserves the name of consciousness can be going on within us, apart from that central stream of thought and feeling with which we identify ourselves in common life. Something of definition is needed;—not indeed of any formal or dogmatic kind;—but enough to make clear the sense given to such words as consciousness, memory, personality, in the ensuing pages.

I begin, then, with the obvious remark that when we conceive any act other than our own as a conscious act, we do so either because we regard it as complex, and therefore purposive, or because we perceive that it has been remembered. Thus we call the fencer or the chess-player fully conscious; or, again, we say, “The man who seemed stunned after that blow on the head must really have been conscious all the time; for he afterwards recalled every incident.” The memorability of an act is, in fact, a better proof of consciousness than its complexity. Thus consciousness has been denied both to hypnotised subjects and to dogs; but it is easier to prove that the hypnotised subject is conscious than that the dog is conscious. For the hypnotised subject, though he may forget the incidents of the trance when he awakes, will remember them in the next trance; or he may be trained to remember them in the waking state also; while with {i-37} regard to the dog we cannot decide from the mere complexity of his actions how far he is conscious of their performance. With him, too, the best line of proof lies in his obvious memory of past acts. And yet, although all agree that our own memory, broadly speaking, proves our past consciousness, some persons would not admit that a dog's memory does so too. The dog's organism, they would say, responds, no doubt, in a new manner to a second repetition of a previous stimulus; but this is more or less true of all living organisms, or parts of organisms, even far below what we generally regard as a conscious level.

Reflections of this kind naturally lead to a wider conception of consciousness. It is gradually seen that the earlier inquiries which men have made about consciousness have been of a merely ethical or legal character;—have simply aimed at deciding whether at a given moment a man was responsible for his acts, either to a human or to a divine tribunal. Common sense has seemed to encourage this method of definite demarcation; we judge practically either that a man is conscious or that he is not; in the experience of life intermediate states are of little importance.

As soon, however, as the problem is regarded as a psychological one, to be decided by observation and experiment, these hard and fast lines grow fainter and fainter. We come to regard consciousness as an attribute which may possibly be present in all kinds of varying degrees in connection with the animal and vegetable worlds; as the psychical counterpart of life; as conceivably the psychical counterpart of all phenomenal existence. Or, rather, we may say this of mind, to which, in its more elementary forms, consciousness bears somewhat the same relation as self-consciousness bears to consciousness, or some higher evolution may bear to self-consciousness.

This being so, I cannot see how we can phrase our definition more simply than by saying that any act or condition must be regarded as conscious if it is potentially memorable;—if it can be recollected, under any circumstances, by the subject concerned. It does not seem needful that the circumstances under which such recollection may occur should arise while the subject is still incarnated on this planet. We shall never on this planet remember the great majority of our dreams; but those dreams were presumably no less conscious than the dreams which a sudden awakening allowed us to keep in memory. Certain hypnotic subjects, indeed, who can be made to remember their dreams by suggestion, apparently remember dreams previously latent just as easily as dreams previously remembered. And we shall have various other examples of the unexpected recollection of experiences supposed to have been entirely devoid of consciousness.

We are bound, I think, to draw at least this negative conclusion: that we must not take for granted that our apparently central consciousness is something wholly different in kind from the minor consciousnesses out of which it is in some sense elaborated. I do indeed believe it to be in an {i-38} important sense different; but this difference must not be assumed on the basis of our subjective sensations alone. We must approach the whole subject of split or duplicated personalities with no prepossession against the possibility of any given arrangement or division of the total mass of consciousness which exists within us.

204. Before we can picture to ourselves how that mass of consciousness may disintegrate, we ought, were it possible, to picture to ourselves how it is in the first instance integrated. That, however, is a difficulty which does not begin with the constitution of man. It begins when unicellular develop into multicellular organisms. It is, of course, a mystery how a single cell can hold together, and what kind of unity it can possess. But it is a fresh mystery when several cells cohere in a conjoint and independent life. In the collective unity of certain “colonial animals” we have a kind of sketch or parody of our own complex being. Higher intelligences may possibly see us as we see the hydrozoon—a creature split up into different “persons,” a “hydriform person” who feeds, a “medusiform person” who propagates, and so on—elements of the animal differentiated for different ends—interconnected from one point of view as closely as our stomach and brain, yet from another point of view separable existences, capable of detachment and of independent regeneration in all kinds of different ways. Still more composite, though less conspicuously composite, is every animal that we meet as we rise through the scale; and in man we reach the summit both of colonial complexity and of centralised control.

I need hardly say that as regards the inner nature of this close coordination, this central government, science can at present tell us little or nothing. The growth of the nervous mechanism may be to some extent deciphered; but how this mechanism is centrally governed; what is the tendency which makes for unity; where precisely this unity resides, and what is its exact relation to the various parts of the multicellular organism—all these are problems in the nature of life, to which as yet no solution is known.

The needed clue, as I believe, can be afforded only by the discovery of laws affecting primarily that unseen or spiritual plane of being where I imagine the origin of life to lie. If we can suppose telepathy to be a first indication of a law of this type, and to occupy in the spiritual world some such place as gravitation occupies in the material world, we might imagine something analogous to the force of cohesion as operating in the psychical contexture of a human personality. Such a personality, at any rate, as the development of higher from lower organisms shows, involves the aggregation of countless minor psychical entities, whose characteristics still persist, although in a manner consistent with the possibility that one larger psychical entity, whether pre-existent or otherwise, is the unifying continuum of which those smaller entities are fragments, and exercises over them a pervading, though an incomplete, control.


205. It is plainly impossible to say beforehand what will be the relation to the ordinary stream of consciousness of a personality thus composed. We have no right to assume that all our psychical operations will fall at the same time, or at any time, into the same central current of perception, or rise above what we have called the ordinary conscious threshold. We can be sure, in fact, that there will be much which will not so rise; can we predict what will rise?

We can only reply that the perception of stimuli by the supraliminal consciousness is a kind of exercise of function; and that here, as in other cases where a function is exercised, part of its range will consist of such operation as the primary structure of the organism obliges it to perform, and part will consist of such operation as natural selection (after the structure has come into being) has trained it to perform. There will be something which is structurally inevitable, and something which was not structurally inevitable, but which has proved itself practically advantageous.

Thus it may be inevitable—a necessary result of nervous structure—that consciousness should accompany unfamiliar cerebral combinations;—that the “fraying of fresh channels” should carry with it a perceptible tingle of novelty. Or it is possible, again, that this vivid consciousness of new cerebral combinations may be a later acquisition, and merely due to the obvious advantage of preventing new achievements from stereotyping themselves before they have been thoroughly practised;—as a musician will keep his attention fixed on a difficult novelty, lest his execution should become automatic before he has learnt to

render the piece as he desires. It seems likely, at any rate, that the greater part of the contents of our supraliminal consciousness may be determined in some such fashion as this, by natural selection so operating as to keep ready at hand those perceptions which are most needed for the conduct of life.

The notion of the upbuilding of the personality here briefly given is of use, I think, in suggesting its practical tendencies to dissolution. Subjected continually to both internal and external stress and strain, its ways of yielding indicate the grain of its texture.

206. It is possible that if we could discern the minute psychology of this long series of changes, ranging from modifications too minute to be noted as abnormal to absolute revolutions of the whole character and intelligence, we might find no definite break in all the series; but rather a slow, continuous detachment of one psychical unit or element of consciousness after another from the primary synthesis. It is possible, on the other hand, that there may be a real break at a point where there appears to our external observation to be a break, namely, where the personality passes into its new phase through an interval of sleep or trance. And I believe that there is another break, at a point much further advanced, and not to be reached in this chapter, where some external intelligence begins in some way to possess the organism and to replace for a time the ordinary {i-40} intellectual activity by an activity of its own. Setting, however, this last possibility for the present aside, we must adopt some arrangement on which to hang our cases. For this purpose the appearance of sleep or trance will make a useful, although not a definite line of demarcation.

We may begin with localised psychical hypertrophies and isolations,—terms which I shall explain as we proceed; and then pass on through hysterical instabilities (where intermediate periods of trance may or may not be present) to those more advanced sleep-wakings and dimorphisms which a barrier of trance seems always to separate from the primary stream of conscious life. All such changes, of course, are generally noxious to the psychical organism; and it will be simpler to begin by dwelling on their noxious aspect, and regarding them as steps on the road—on one of the many roads—to mental overthrow.

The process begins, then, with something which is to the psychical organism no more than a boil or a corn is to the physical. In consequence of some suggestion from without, or of some inherited tendency, a small group of psychical units set up a process of exaggerated growth which shuts them off from free and healthy interchange with the rest of the personality.

The first symptom of disaggregation is thus the idée fixe, that is to say, the persistence of an uncontrolled and unmodifiable group of thoughts or emotions, which from their brooding isolation,—from the very fact of deficient interchange with the general current of thought,—become alien and intrusive, so that some special idea or image presses into consciousness with undue and painful frequency. We may perhaps suppose that the fixed idea here represents the psychological aspect of some definite, although ultra-microscopic, cerebral lesion. One may look for analogy sometimes, as I have said, to a corn, sometimes to a boil, sometimes to an encysted tumour, sometimes to a cancer. The idée fixe may be little more than an indurated prejudice, which hurts when pressed upon. Or, again, it may be like a hypertrophied centre of inflammation, which sends its smart and ache abroad through the organism. Or for certain hysterical fixed ideas we shall find our best parallel if, accepting a well-known hypothesis, we suppose that a tumour may originate in the isolated and extravagant growth of some fragment of embryonic matter, accidentally nipped off or extruded from the embryo's concordant development. Such tumours may be encysted or encapsuled, so that they injure surrounding tissues by pressure, while yet their own contents can only be discovered by incision. Just such, one may say, are the forgotten and irrecoverable terrors which Dr. Janet has shown us as giving rise to hysterical attacks. (See 207 A, in Appendices at end of volume.) Such tumours of the mind may sometimes be psychologically cut down upon and removed by free discussion; “talked out,” as Dr. Breuer has it.11 For a series of independent, but fully concordant observations, see “The Use of Hypnotism in the First Degree,” by Dr. Russell Sturgis (Boston, 1894). Worst of all, of course, are {i-41} the cancer-like cases, where the degeneration, beginning it hardly matters where, invades with rapid incoherence the whole compass of the mind.

The fixed idea, thus originating probably from various causes, may develop in different ways. It may become a centre of explosion, or a nucleus of separation, or a beginning of death. It may induce an access of hysterical convulsions, thus acting like a material foreign body which presses on a sensitive part of the organism. Or it may draw to its new parasitic centre so many psychical elements that it forms a kind of secondary personality, coexisting secretly with the primary one, or even able at times (as in some well-known cases) to carry the whole organism by a coup-de-mainraid, surprise attack. (Such changes, it may be noted in passing, are not always for the worse.) Or, again, the new quasi-independent centres may be merely anarchical; the revolt may spread to every cell; and the forces of the environment, ever making war upon the organism, may thus effect its total decay.

207. Let us dwell for a few moments on the nature of these fixed or insistent ideas. They are not generally or at the first outset extravagant fancies,—as that one is made of glass, or the like. Rather will “fixed ideas” come to seem a mere expression for something in a minor degree common to most of us. Hardly any mind, I suppose, is wholly free from tendencies to certain types of thought or emotion for which we cannot summon any adequate check—useless recurrent broodings over the past or anxieties for the future, perhaps traces of old childish experience which have become too firmly fixed ever wholly to disappear. Nay, it may well be that we must look even further back than our own childhood for the origin of many haunting troubles. Inherited tendencies to terror, especially, seem to reach back far into a prehistoric past. In a recent “Study of Fears,” which Professor Stanley Hall has based on a wide statistical collection,11 Stanley Hall's “Study of Fears,” American Journal of Psychology, vol. viii., No. 2, January 1897. it would seem that the fears of childhood,—indications of the nervous instability of the yet immature system,—often correspond to no existing cause for uneasiness, but rather to the vanished perils of primitive man. The fear of darkness, for instance, the fear of solitude, the fear of thunderstorms, the fear of the loss of orientation, speak of primitive helplessness,—just as the fear of animals, the fear of strangers, suggest the fierce and hazardous life of early man. To all such instinctive feelings as these a morbid development is easily given.

Of what nature must we suppose this morbid development to be? Does it fall properly within our present discussion? or is it not simply a beginning of brain-disease, which concerns the physician rather than the psychologist? The psychologist's best answer to this question will be to show cases of fixed ideas cured by psychological means. (For instances of such cures, see 207 A, in Appendices at end of volume.) And indeed there are few cases to show which have been cured by any methods except the {i-42} psychological; if hypnotic suggestion does not succeed with an idée fixe, it is seldom that any other treatment will cure it. We may, of course, say that the brain troubles thus cured were functional, and that those which went on inevitably into insanity were organic, although the distinction between functional and organic is not easily demonstrable in this ultra-microscopic realm.

At any rate, we have actually on record,—and that is what our argument needs,—a great series of idées fixes, of various degrees of intensity, cured by suggestion;—cured, that is to say, by a subliminal setting in action of minute

nervous movements which our supraliminal consciousness cannot in even the blindest manner manage to set to work. Some such difference as exists on a gross scale between striped and unstriped muscle seems to exist on a minute scale among these smallest involved cells and fibres, or whatever they be. Some of them obey our conscious will, but most of them are capable of being governed only by subliminal strata of the self.

If, however, it be the subliminal self which can reduce these elements to order, it is often probably the subliminal self to which their disorder is originally due. If a fixed idea, say agoraphobia, grows up in me, this may probably be because the proper controlling co-ordinations of thought, which I ought to be able to summon up at will, have sunk below the level at which will can reach them. I am no longer able, that is to say, to convince myself by reasoning that there is no danger in crossing the open square. And this may be the fault of my subliminal self, whose business it is to keep the ideas which I need for common life easily within my reach, and which has failed to do this, owing to some enfeeblement of its grasp of my organism.

208. If we imagine these obscure operations under some such form as this, we get the advantage of being able to connect these insistent ideas in a coherent sequence with the more advanced phenomena of hysteria. We have seen that the insistent ideas are essentially a kind of small displacements of the habitual level of consciousness. They imply that some small but necessary scraps of supraliminal equipment have dropped, so to say, through chinks in the floor of the waking mind (as where the visual field has been narrowed hysterically), and have sunk to a point whence only hypnotic suggestion is likely to be able to call them back to use. Or in some cases we may go a step further, and say that these fixed ideas show us, not merely an ordinary supraliminal instinct functioning without due check, but rather a submerged and primitive instinct rising with a subliminal uprush into undesired prominence, and functioning wildly instead of remaining hidden and quiescent. That is to say, we have to do with an instability of the conscious threshold which often implies or manifests a disorderly or diseased condition of the hypnotic stratum,—of that region of the personality which, as we shall see, is best known to us through the fact that it is reached by hypnotic suggestion.


Now we shall find, I think, that all the phenomena of hysteria are reducible to the same general conception. To understand their many puzzles we have to keep our eyes fixed upon just these psychological notions—upon a threshold of ordinary consciousness above which certain perceptions and faculties ought to be, but are not always, maintained, and upon a “hypnotic stratum” or region of the personality to which hypnotic suggestion appeals; and which includes faculty and perception which surpass the supraliminal, but whose operation is capricious and dreamlike, inasmuch as they lie, so to say, in a debateable region between two rules—the known rule of the supraliminal self, adapted to this life's experience and uses, and the conjectured rule of a fuller and profounder self, rarely reached by any artifice which our present skill suggests. Some of these conscious groupings have got separated from the ordinary stream of consciousness. These may still be unified in the subliminal, but they need to be unified in the supraliminal also. The normal relation between the supraliminal and the subliminal may be disturbed by the action of either.

Let us now see how far this view, which I suggested in the S.P.R. Proceedings as far back as 1892,11 See vol. vii. p. 309. fits in with those modern observations of hysteria, in Paris and Vienna especially, which are transforming all that group of troubles from the mere opprobrium of medicine into one of the most fertile sources of new knowledge of body and mind.

209. First, then, let us briefly consider what is the general type of hysterical troubles. Speaking broadly, we may say that the symptoms of hysteria form, in the first place, a series of phantom copies of real maladies of the nervous system; and, in the second place, a series of fantasies played upon that system—of unreal, dreamlike ailments, often such as no physiological mechanism can be shown to have determined. These latter cases are often due, as we shall see, not to purely physiological, but rather to intellectual causes; they represent, not a particular pattern in which the nervous system tends of itself to disintegrate, but a particular pattern which has been imposed upon it by some intellectual process;—in short, by some form of self-suggestion.

Let us briefly review some common types of hysterical disability,—taking as our first guide Dr. Pierre Janet's admirable work, L'Etat Mental des Hystériques (Paris, 1893).

What, then, to begin with, is Dr. Janet's general conception of the psychological states of the advanced hysteric? “In the expression I feel,” he says (L'Etat Mental, p. 39), “we have two elements: a small new psychological fact, ‘feel,’ and an enormous mass of thoughts already formed into a system ‘I.’ These two things mix and combine, and to say I feel is to say that the personality, already enormous, has seized and absorbed this small new sensation;…as though the I were an amœba {i-44} which sent out a prolongation to suck in this little sensation which has come into existence beside it.” Now it is in the assimilation of these elementary sensations or affective states with the perception personnelle, as Janet terms it, that the advanced hysteric fails. His field of consciousness is so far narrowed that it can only take in the minimum of sensations necessary for the support of life. “One must needs have consciousness of what one sees and hears, and so the patient neglects to perceive the tactile and muscular sensations with which he thinks that he can manage to dispense. At first he could perhaps turn his attention to them, and recover them at least momentarily within the field of personal perception. But the occasion does not present itself, and the psychological bad habit is formed.… One day the patient—for he is now veritably a patient—is examined by the doctor. His left arm is pinched, and he is asked whether he feels the pinch. To his surprise the patient realises that he can no longer feel consciously, can no longer bring back into his personal perception sensations which he has neglected too long—he has become anæsthetic.… Hysterical anæsthesia is thus a fixed and perpetual distraction, which renders its subjects incapable of attaching certain sensations to their personality; it is a restriction of the conscious field.”

The proof of these assertions depends on a number of observations, all of which point in the same direction, and show that hysterical anæsthesia does not descend so deep into the personality, so to say, as true anæsthesia caused by nervous decay, or by the section of a nerve.

Thus the hysteric is often unconscious of the anæsthesia, which is only discovered by the physician. There is none of the distress caused by true anæsthesia, as, for instance, by the “tabetic mask,” or insensibility of part of the face, which sometimes occurs in tabes dorsalislocomotor ataxia; a slow degeneration of the nerve cells and nerve fibers that carry sensory information to the brain. An incident reported by Dr. Jules Janet illustrates this peculiarity. A young woman cut her right hand severely with broken glass, and complained of insensibility in the palm. The physician who examined her found that the sensibility of the right palm was, in fact, diminished by the section of certain nerves. But he discovered at the same time that the girl was hysterically anæsthetic over the whole left side of her body. She had never even found out this disability, and the doctor twitted her with complaining of the small patch of anæsthesia, while she said nothing of that which covered half her body. But, as Dr. Pierre Janet remarks, she might well have retorted that these were the facts, and that it was for the man of science to say why the small patch annoyed her while the large one gave her no trouble at all.

Of similar import is the ingenious observation that hysterical anæsthesia rarely leads to any accident to the limb;—differing in this respect, for instance, from the true and profound anæsthesia of syringomyelitis, in which burns and bruises frequently result

from the patient's forgetfulness of the part affected. There is usually, in fact, a supervision—a subliminal supervision—exercised over the hysteric's limbs. Part of her personality {i-45} is still alive to the danger, and modifies her movements, unknown to her supraliminal self.

This curious point, I may remark in passing, well illustrates the kind of action which I attribute to the subliminal self in many phases of life. Thus it is that the hypnotised subject is prevented (as I hold) from committing a real as opposed to a fictitious crime; thus it is that fresh ideas are suggested to the man of genius; thus it is—I will even say—that in some cases monitory hallucinations are generated, which save the supraliminal self from some sudden danger.

210. I pass on to another peculiarity of hysterical anæsthesiæ;—also in my eyes of deep significance. The anæsthetic belts or patches do not always, or even generally, correspond with true anatomical areas, such as would be affected by the actual lesion of any given nerve. They follow what may be called fancy arrangements;—sometimes corresponding to rough popular notions of divisions of the body,—sometimes seeming to reflect a merely childish caprice. “It is not,” says Dr. Janet, “the region innervated by the cubital or the median nerve which is anæsthetic; it is the hand or the wrist. The whole arm, shoulder included, is insensible, not the region innervated by the brachial plexus.… In hysterical blindness the anæsthesia is not confined to the retina, but extends to the conjunctiva and even to the eyelids; the amaurotic hysterical patient has a pair of anæsthetic spectacles across her face. That is to say, she has lost the use of the eye, taking the eye not in the physiological but in the popular sense, as including all that is contained in the orbit.”

Now to ordinary notions it will seem very strange that a crude, vulgar conception of this kind—a conception, moreover, upon which the patient may never have consciously dwelt—should be able to modify the state of the nervous system in so marked a way. A mere silly fancy seems to have produced an effect which is not merely fanciful;—which is objective, measurable, and capable of causing long and serious disablement. This result, however, is quite accordant with my view of what I have termed the hypnotic stratum of the personality. I hold, as our coming discussion of hypnotism will more fully explain, that the region into which the hypnotic suggestion gives us access is one of strangely mingled strength and weakness;—of a faculty at once more potent and less coherent than that of waking hours. I think that in these cases we get at the subliminal self only somewhat in the same sense as we get at the supraliminal self when the “highest-level centres” are for the time inoperative (as in a dream) and only “middle-level centres” are left to follow their own devices without inhibition or co-ordination. I hold that this is the explanation of the strange contrasts which hypnosis makes familiar to us—the combination of profound power over the organism with childish readiness to obey the merest whims of the hypnotiser. The intelligence which thus responds is in my view only a fragmentary intelligence; it is a dreamlike scrap of the {i-46} subliminal self, functioning apart from that self's central and profounder control.

What happens in hypnotism in obedience to the hypnotiser's caprice happens in hysteria in obedience to the caprice of the hypnotic stratum itself. Some middle-level centre of the subliminal self (to express a difficult idea by the nearest phrase I can find) gets the notion that there is an “anæsthetic bracelet,” say, round the left wrist;—and lo, this straightway is so; and the hysteric loses supraliminal sensation in this fantastic belt. The fact, indeed, is most instructive; for it begins to show us divisions of the human body based not upon local innervation but upon ideation (however incoherent);—upon intellectual conceptions like “a bracelet,” “a cross,”—applied though these conceptions may be with dreamlike futility.

211. This mode of description,—it may be convenient to point out,—is thoroughly concordant with Professor Janet's phrase of rétrécissement de la personnaliténarrowing of personality [Richet's term]. As he justly insists, the hysterical loss of sensibility is due to a state of misère psychologiquepsychological or psychic misery,—to a “psychical poverty,” a slackness of the grip with which the known or apparent personality holds and controls the organism's capacity of sensation. Over a certain part of the mechanism of sensation this grasp gives way; there is a deep and prolonged distraction of attention, which ends in the permanent loss of the power to recognise the sensations of the special part affected. With all this I agree; these words describe the phenomena from the supraliminal point of view. From the point of view of the first subliminal region—of the hypnotic stratum—matters look slightly different. There we see certain dreamlike incoherent faculties functioning with undue freedom, for the same reason which affected the supraliminal attention, namely, the enfeebled hold which the personality now has upon the organism. Acting in dreamlike fashion these fragments of subliminal faculty disturb and confuse the weakened threshold,—the psychical diaphragm, now grown too permeable,—above which should lie all the faculty needed for the conduct of life by the supraliminal self. The morbid subliminal activity attracts or sucks down scraps of supraliminal activity,—scraps often quite fantastic in their delimitation,—and deprives the supraliminal self of thus much of its due scope of control. And observe that even at this early stage the conception here given of subliminal operation is needed to fill gaps which remain in the explanation which is given from above the threshold alone. Whence comes, for instance, the notion of the “anæsthetic bracelet”? Not from the hysteric's supraliminal self; for she is generally unaware of its existence until the physician discovers it. Nor is it a chance combination;—even were there such a thing as chance. It is a dream of the hypnotic stratum;—an incoherent self-suggestion starting from and affecting a region below the reach of conscious will.

In this view, then, we regard the fragments of perceptive power over which the hysteric has lost control as being by no means really extinguished, {i-47} but rather as existing immediately beneath the threshold, in the custody, so to say, of a dreamlike or hypnotic stratum of the subliminal self, which has selected them for reasons sometimes explicable as the result of past suggestions, sometimes to us inexplicable. If this be so, we may expect that the same kind of suggestions which originally cut off these perceptions from the main body of perception may stimulate them again to action either below or above the conscious threshold.

212. We have already, indeed, seen reason to suppose that the submerged perceptions are still at work, when Dr. Janet pointed out how rare a thing it was that any accident or injury followed upon hysterical loss of feeling in the limbs. A still more curious illustration is afforded by the condition of the field of vision in a hysteric. It often happens that the field of vision is much reduced, so that the hysteric, when tested with the perimeter, can discern only objects almost directly in front of the eye. But if an object which happens to be particularly exciting to the hypnotic stratum—for instance, the hypnotiser's finger, used often as a signal for trance—is advanced into that part of the hysteric's normal visual field of which she has apparently lost all consciousness, there will often be an instant subliminal perception,—shown by the fact that the subject promptly falls into trance. A hysterical boy, a patient of Professor Janet's, with great retrenchment of the visual field, had been frightened into his first attack by a conflagration, and the sight of a flame near him was enough to bring on an attack again. Professor Janet, with due precautions, moved a lighted match into the normal visual field, far beyond his hysterically narrowed range of conscious sight. Almost at once the boy cried, “Fire! fire!” and fell into hysterical convulsions. The same experiment was tried by M. Laurent with a girl who had first been frightened into hysteria by the sight of a mouse. A stuffed mouse—held quite outside her narrowed field of conscious

vision—had the same effect upon this girl as the lighted match upon the boy.

In these cases the action of the submerged perceptions, while provoked by very shallow artifices, continued definitely subliminal. The patient herself, as we say, does not know why she does not burn her anæsthetic limbs, or why she suddenly falls into a trance while being subjected to optical tests.

But it is equally easy to devise experiments which shall call these submerged sensations up again into supraliminal consciousness. A hysteric has lost sensation in one arm; Dr. Janet tells her that there is a caterpillar on that arm; and the reinforcement of attention thus generated brings back the sensibility. A patient of Professor Pitres is hysterically unable to see with the left eye. On a screen before her he places a word or sentence so arranged that her right eye can only see half the print. The attention thus generated enables the left eye to aid her in reading the whole inscription.

213. These hysterical anæsthesiæ, it may be added here, may be not {i-48} only very definite but very profound. Just as the reality,—though also the impermanence,—of the hysterical retrenchment of field of vision of which I have been speaking can be shown by optical experiments beyond the patient's comprehension, so the reality of some profound organic hysterical insensibilities is sometimes shown by the progress of independent disease. A certain patient feels no hunger or thirst; this indifference might be simulated for a time; but her ignorance of severe inflammation of the bladder is easily recognisable as real. Throw her into hypnosis and her sensibilities return. The disease is for the first time felt, and the patient screams with the pain. This result well illustrates one main effect of hypnosis, viz., to bring the organism into a more normal state. The deep organic anæsthesia of this patient was dangerously abnormal; the missing sensibility had first to be restored, although it might be desirable afterwards to remove the painful elements in that sensibility again, under, so to say, a wiser and deeper control.

Another peculiarity of interest for us in these anæsthesiæ lies in what I may term a partial regression to the vagueness of primitive irritability. The patient M., Dr. Janet tells us, has been for years totally anæsthetic.

“Under certain circumstances, and particularly after she has long been kept in the somnambulic state, she recovers for a time, but incompletely, tactile sensations. Sometimes sensibility seems to return in the vague form of pain or distress, with no distinctive sign. Her sensations are indefinite; heat, cold, a pinch, an object placed in her hands,—each of these stimuli produces only a vague sense of something disagreeable.” And even when the sense of touch becomes more definite, confusion and error of localisation still persist. Thus may hysteria present to us in a few minutes a series of stages through which our early ancestors have slowly travelled;—stages to which we may fall back in dementia, but through which only in this quasi-experiment which nature offers us can we see the spirit pass and repass unmoved.

214. What has been said of hysterical defects of sensation might be repeated for motor defects. There, too, the powers of which the supraliminal self has lost control continue to act in obedience to subliminal promptings.

“I cannot in the least understand what is going on,” said Maria, when she entered the hospital [I quote Dr. Janet again]; “for some time past I have been working in am odd way; it is no longer I who am working, but only my hands. They get on pretty well, but I have no part in what they do. When it is over I do not recognise my work at all. I see that it is all right; but I feel that I am quite incapable of having accomplished it. If any one said, ‘It is not you who did that!’ I would answer, ‘True enough, it is not I.’ When I want to sing it is impossible to me; yet at other times I hear my voice singing the song very well. It is certainly not I who walk; I feel like a balloon which jumps up and down of itself. When I want to write I find nothing to say, my head is empty, and I must let my hand write what it chooses, and it fills four pages, and if the stuff is silly I cannot help it.”


“The curious point is,” continues M. Janet, “that in this fashion she produces some really good things. If she makes up a dress or writes a letter she sometimes shows real talent, but it is all done in a bizarre way. She looks absorbed in her work, but yet unconscious of it; when she lifts her head she seems dazed as if she was coming out of a dream, and does not recollect what she has been doing. Her way of acting recalls what is said of men of genius who obey their inspiration without being themselves aware of accomplishing their masterpieces.… To take a humbler comparison, she acts as we occasionally do when we let our hand write of itself a word which we have forgotten how to spell. But what with us is accidental is with her perpetual; although she has still activity she has no longer the personal consciousness of this activity, and her acts therefore can no longer be called voluntary.… Some patients, on the other hand, will not or cannot abandon themselves to this automatic activity. They try to perform the actions consciously and voluntarily, and then they fail altogether.”

215. I pass on to one of M. Janet's most acute observations11 Etat Mental des Hystériques, p. 171.The Mental State of Hysterics—a case where the difference between the faculty still at the command of the supraliminal personality and the faculty transmissible only by automatic impulse from the subliminal self reaches its maximum point, and suggests some reflections of novel import.

“If we tell hemiplegics or amyotrophics to squeeze the dynamometer, we get such figures as 5 and 10,—very much what these hysterics manage to reach. But with the truly paralysed such figures do not surprise us. We know that we are dealing with impotent persons whose every action shows their weakness. But our hysterics who mark 5 and 10 are by no means impotent; they sew, they work, they carry burdens without any apparent trouble. Célestine, for instance, is a robust country girl, accustomed to hard work, and still asking as a favour to be allowed to sweep and rub the floors. She is quick-tempered, and when things do not go just as she likes she shakes the beds, changes their places, and lifts with one arm the wooden armchairs. She has terrible fits of passion; and in some asylums where she has been she has soundly thrashed strong men. Well, I stop this young woman in the middle of her work, and give her the dynamometer to squeeze. To begin with, she is absolutely anæsthetic on both sides of her body, and must needs look at the instrument in order to be able to squeeze it at all. I have tried this experiment often; and the dynamometer generally marks 9 with the squeeze of her right hand, 5 with that of her left. Now I repeat that such indications of feeble muscular power are in complete contradiction with what I see her doing every minute. I have made the trial myself, and although I can squeeze the same dynamometer up to 50, I cannot lift and move the chairs and beds as Célestine does.… It is clear that in the hysteric there is a special modification of muscular power when she is made the subject of an experiment, when she is told to pay attention, and to squeeze an instrument with personal will in order to show her personal strength. She can {i-50} then no longer get at her strength; she cannot use it in this fashion; albeit the strength is really there, and is lavishly expended in all the acts of common life when the patient is not thinking of it. What we have here is a defect not of muscle but of will.”

216. The above examples, which might be greatly multiplied, especially from French sources, will suffice to give a notion of dissolutive hysterical processes, as now observed with closer insight than formerly, in certain great hospitals. But, nevertheless, these hospital observations do not exhaust what has recently been learnt of hysteria. Dealing almost exclusively with a certain class of patients, they leave almost untouched another group, smaller, indeed, but

equally instructive for our study.

Hysteria is no doubt a disease, but it is by no means on that account an indication of initial weakness of mind, any more than an Arctic explorer's frost-bite is an indication of bad circulation. Disease is a function of two variables: power of resistance and strength of injurious stimulus. In the case of hysteria, as in the case of frost-bite, the inborn power of resistance may be unusually great, and yet the stimulus may be so excessive that that power may be overcome. Arctic explorers have generally, of course, been among the most robust of men. And with some hysterics there is an even closer connection between initial strength and destructive malady. For it has often happened that the very feelings which we regard as characteristically civilised, characteristically honourable, have reached a pitch of vividness and delicacy which exposes their owners to shocks such as the selfish clown can never know. It would be a great mistake to suppose that all psychical upsets are due to vanity, to anger, to terror, to sexual passion. The instincts of personal cleanliness and of feminine modesty are responsible for many a breakdown of a sensitive, but not a relatively feeble organisation. The love of one's fellow-creatures and the love of God are responsible for many more. And why should it not be so? There exist for many men and women stimuli far stronger than self-esteem or bodily desires. Human life rests more and more upon ideas and emotions whose relation to the conservation of the race or of the individual is indirect and obscure. Feelings which may once have been utilitarian have developed wholly out of proportion to any advantage which they can gain for their possessor in the struggle for life. The dangers which are now most shudderingly felt are often no real risks to life or fortune. The aims most ardently pursued are often worse than useless for man regarded as a mere over-runner of the earth.

There is thus real psychological danger in fixing our conception of human character too low. Some essential lessons of a complex perturbation of personality are apt to be missed if we begin with the conviction that there is nothing before us but a study of decay. As I have more than once found need to maintain, it is his steady advance, and not his occasional regression, which makes the chief concern of man.

To this side of the study of hysteria Drs. Breuer and Freud (in, e.g., their {i-51} Studien über Hysterie, Leipzig, 1895) have made valuable contribution Drawing their patients not from hospital wards, but from private practice, they have had the good fortune to encounter, and the penetration to understand, some remarkable cases where unselfish but powerful passions have proved too much for the equilibrium of minds previously well-fortified both by principle and by education. A somewhat detailed account of two of these cases may serve my purpose in this chapter in more ways than one. In the first case we shall see the insistent idea in its most interesting form, midway between the unreachable subliminal reminiscences, which give the signal (as in Janet's cases) for hysterical attacks, and the supraliminal and recognised idée fixe, which is the torment of many waking existences. Nowhere have we a better example of the mutual convertibility of moral and physical sensations—the way in which an emotional idea may be symbolised for the sufferer by the affection of an external sense. Here is the converse process to psychotherapeutics, a kind of psychical self-infection—self-suggestion in a powerful and a noxious form.

In the second case to be here analysed we see a still stranger process of disintegration at work. Here also the first symptoms are subliminal idées fixes, translating themselves into somatic symptoms, whose origin is only recovered by help of the profounder memory of hypnotic trance. But with Fräulein Anna these submerged ideas, these hidden ulcers of the mind, become, so to say, confluent. We have a transition from idées fixes to a secondary personality, dominated by those ideas, and sinking into incoherent insanity. Yet even from that depth a certain resolute firmness of the patient's temper, aided by Dr. Breuer's skill in suggestion, raises her once more, and replaces her uninjured among sane and vigorous women.

217. Miss Lucy R., the heroine of the first case, was an English governess in the family of a German manufacturer. She was thirty years of age, in perfect health, except for a local inflammation of the nose. It is interesting to note that this local trouble probably suggested the special sense on which a hallucination could most readily fix itself.

The symptom for which Miss R. consulted Dr. Freud was, in fact, a persistent hallucinatory smell of burnt pudding. Careful inquiry traced the origin of this smell to a scene when the children under her charge, affectionately sporting with her, had allowed some pudding which was on the schoolroom fire to burn. It was not obvious why this incident should have carried so much emotional import. Gradually the truth came out, a truth which Miss R.—and this is an essential point—had concealed from herself with all the resolution of which she was capable. She had unconsciously fallen in love with her employer, a widower, whose children she had promised their dying mother to care for always. The scene of the burnt pudding represented a moment at which an obscure scruple of conscience urged her to quit her trust, to leave these children, who were now devoted to her, on account of something dimly felt to be unsuitable {i-52} in her own attitude of mind towards their father. When once this confession had been made—a confession new to herself as well as to the physician—the hallucinatory smell of burnt pudding disappeared. Its persistence had indicated that the emotional memory on which it was based had not, so to say, been absorbed into the general psychical circulation, but had remained encysted in the personality, a cause of pressure and distress.

But now occurred a symptom which to a less skilful or patient observer would have seemed merely baffling and capricious, but from which Dr. Freud drew a psychological lesson which illustrates with curious delicacy the superposition of strata more and more segregated from waking consciousness.

As the scent of burnt pudding went off it became clear that another scent had underlain it, which still persisted—a scent of tobacco-smoke. It seemed impossible to trace the moment of origin of so everyday an odour. But by strong suggestions in a waking or lightly hypnotised state,—placing his hand on the patient's forehead,—Dr. Freud was able to evoke a stream of pictorial memory, closely analogous to crystal-vision. He called upon her to picture thus the scene required. Then slowly and fragmentarily “a picture rises to the surface” (auftauchtappears [precise translation given in text]). But it represents only the dining-room of her employer's house, where she is waiting with the children for his return to early dinner from the manufactory. “And now,” she says, “we are all sitting down at table—the gentlemen, the French governess, the housekeeper, the children, and I. But this is just an everyday scene!” “Go on looking at the picture,” replies Dr. Freud, “it will develop and specialise itself.” “I see that there is a guest, the head cashier, an old gentleman who loves the children like an uncle; but he comes so often to dinner that there is nothing unusual in his presence.” “Patience! go on looking at the picture; I am sure that something will happen.” “Nothing particular happens. Now we are rising from table; the children are leaving the room, and are going into the next room with the French governess and myself as they always do.” “Well, what next?” “Ah! here is an unusual circumstance, and now I recognise the scene completely! As the children leave the room the cashier makes as though to kiss them. The father jumps up and calls out roughly, ‘Don't kiss the children!’ I feel a kind of stab in my heart. The gentlemen are smoking; hence it is that the smell of cigars remains fixed in my memory.”

The point is easy to understand. It was this harshness, pride, aloofness in the nature of the manufacturer, who treated thus roughly a subordinate who was also an old friend, which burnt itself upon the brain, as we say, of this other subordinate who had obscurely hoped that her employer had a gentler and more accessible heart. She put aside the painful impression; but the thought which was kept out of the supraliminal lodged in the hypnotic stratum.


The way to minister to a mind thus diseased was not hard to discover. There

was nothing in this deep-hidden affection which was unworthy of a pure heart. There was only the maidenly shame at having, however secretly, entertained it for one who was above her in worldly fortune, and who was not prepared to respond. By sympathy, by suggestion, the tone of the affection was changed. “Gewiss, ich liebe ihn, aber das macht mir weiter nichts. Man kann ja bei sich denken und empfinden was man will.” With the disappearance of all personal claim or hope the love ceased to perturb, and the patient recovered health and spirits.

218. Still more remarkable was the case of Fräulein Anna O., of which a brief record must now be given. Dr. Breuer asserts, and the details of the story support his view, that Fräulein O. was greatly above the average standard in character, education, and physical vigour. There was here no misère psychologiquepsychological or psychic misery, no thinness or feebleness in the original structure of the personality. Fräulein O. led an active and happy life: her strongest attachment was to her father. Her thoughts did not dwell on love or marriage (in the whole range of her hallucinations and delirium there was no trace of this), but she had great imaginative activity in day-dreams, the invention of stories, and the like.

The cause of her breakdown lay in a long, distressing, and ultimately fatal illness of her father's (1880–81) when she was twenty-one years old. She nursed him with a passionate self-devotion, which was, no doubt, unwise, but which can hardly be called morbid. Her nervous system gave way, and a quantity of hysterical affections set in. There were headaches, strabismus, disturbances of sight and of speech, positive and negative hallucinations, the influence of idées fixes, contractions, anæsthesiæ, &c. The condition of extreme instability thus induced, varying from hour to hour, gave rise at times to a secondary personality which lay outside the primary memory. We thus have a very direct transition from isolated disturbances to a cleavage of the whole personality.

Disturbances of speech may give very delicate indications of internal turmoil of the personality; and Fräulein O.'s great linguistic gift made her perhaps the most interesting example on record of hysterical aphasia and paraphasia. Sometimes she was altogether speechless. Sometimes she talked German in the ungrammatical, negro-like fashion which so often accompanies trance or secondary states;—well indicating, in my view, the incoherent character of the then operative control. Sometimes she spoke English, apparently believing it to be German, but understood German; sometimes she spoke English and could not understand German. (The English phrases of hers which Dr. Breuer quotes are, be it noted, remarkably neat and well chosen.) Sometimes she spoke French or Italian; and in French or Italian states she had no memory of English states, and vice versâ. Sometimes, however, in an English state she could understand French or Italian books; but if she read them aloud she read them in English, apparently unaware that they were not in that language.


The origin of this tendency to English was afterwards explained in the hypnotic state. Each of the specific hysterical symptoms took its rise from some incident which had happened in hours of anxious anguish by her father's bedside. In an hour of bewildered exhaustion she had suffered from a kind of half-waking nightmare, had striven to pray, could find no words, and had at last remembered only a line from an English child's hymn. This effort, with this casual result, seemed to have given a persistent suggestion of English speech, in a manner somewhat reminding us of the phrase which has been last uttered before aphasia sets in, and which often persists for the aphasic as his single utterance. Throughout the year 1881 these symptoms continued, and as the time of year came round when she was first taken ill, a singular time-hallucination sprang up. This was, in fact, a duplex existence at two dates, reminding us of Louis Vivé (see Section 233) and some other hysterics who can be set back by artifice to a former period of their lives. Healthy hypnotic subjects, as I have seen, can sometimes be thus transported backwards, although in a less profound manner.

219. “The two conditions,” says Dr. Breuer, “no longer differed, as formerly, only in the fact that in the first condition she was normal and in the second practically insane. For now in her first condition she lived, like the rest of us, in the winter of 1881–82, while in her second condition she lived in the winter of 1880–81, and in that state all that had happened subsequently was clean forgotten. Only the consciousness that her father was dead seemed to persist throughout. The set-back into the past year was so definite and strong that in her new house she was subject to the hallucination of her former bedroom; and when she wished to go to the door she ran to the stove, which in her new room stood in the same place relatively to the window as the door had stood in the old room. The transition from one state to another came on spontaneously, and could also be easily summoned up by means of any sense-impression which vividly reminded her of the previous year. It was enough to hold before her an orange (oranges had been her main food in her illness), to put her back from 1882 to 1881. And this return to the past year took place in no vague or general fashion, but she lived each day through each corresponding day of the past winter. I discovered this in two ways: in the evening's hypnosis she confessed day by day the troubles or illusions which had disturbed her on the corresponding day of 1881, and also a private diary of her mother's showed me the absolute accuracy of the external facts of the previous winter as revived in the hysterical illusion.

“It was curious to see how these revived psychical stimuli exercised an effect from the second condition upon the first or normal condition. It happened, for instance, that the patient said to me laughingly in the morning that she did not know why, but she was angry with me. Thanks to the mother's diary I found out what was the matter, and removed it by ‘talking it out’ in the evening's hypnosis. I had in point of fact greatly {i-55} angered the patient on that evening in the previous year. Or she said another day that there was something wrong with her eyes; she saw colours untruly; she knew that her dress was brown, but she saw it blue. Experiment showed that she could perfectly well distinguish tints on test-papers, and that the disturbance affected only her vision of the stuff of her dress. The reason was that on that day in the previous year she had been very busy with a dressing-gown for her father, made of the same stuff as this dress, but blue instead of brown.”

A most distressing inability to drink came on in the summer of 1882, and lasted for six weeks, obliging the patient to live mainly on melons,—until it was discovered that this shuddering incapacity to swallow liquids was the result of a disgust experienced at a like period in 1881, at the sight of a dog allowed to drink from an acquaintance's glass. Fräulein O. had concealed this disgust at the time, out of politeness, but the unexpressed loathing had so worked itself out in her organism, as to produce a kind of hydrophobic spasm when the subliminally remembered time of year came round.

During the nights the “second condition,” which still reproduced the previous year, was dominant. Consequently, since the family had changed houses since that date, the patient, if she awoke in the night, was liable to greater alarm than in the day, thinking, in the loss of correction from recent memories, that she had been carried away from home. This awkwardness was averted by a suggestion from Dr. Breuer that she could not open her eyes at night; although once when she wept in her sleep her eyelids were, so to say, forced open by the tears, and she was seized with the same terror at her surroundings.

Here, as in so many cases, hypnotism showed itself the exact correlative, the specific antidote, of hysteria. Exactly the symptoms which hysteria had caused hypnotic suggestion could remedy. Exactly the puzzles which hysteria had woven hypnotic suggestion could unlock.

“The talking cure” or “chimney-sweeping,” as Fräulein O. called it, was practically equivalent to confession under hypnosis. Every evening Dr. Breuer hypnotised her, and then inquired as to the origin of each symptom in turn. For each symptom there did exist such a moment of origin; often a trivial accident originating a long and serious trouble. For instance, the “macropsy and

strabismus convergens” which had long troubled the patient were traced to a moment when her father asked her what time it was, and she, looking hastily while she wept, saw the dial of her watch magnified and distorted through her tears. So soon as the cause of each accident of this kind was traced and discussed, with special arguments to remove any self-blame thereto attaching, the perversion of sensibility or of motricity disappeared. The isolated, hypertrophied memory was brought back, as I have said, into the general current of the psychical circulation. It is as though the past passage of life was re-lived, and altered in the re-living.


220. In certain cases of Janet's, indeed, a new and false, but helpful memory was substituted for the old distressing memory; as where a hysteric, suffering from horror at the recollection of having been made to sleep as a child along with another child suffering from skin-disease, was persuaded by hypnotic suggestion that this other child had really been perfectly sound and well. In Fräulein O.'s case no deception was needful. All that was necessary was to make her see past events in their true proportion. The confession was cathartic; it cleared away the morbid products and strengthened the coherence of the sane personality; it restored Fräulein O. to mental and bodily vigour.

“Wax to receive and marble to retain;” such, as we all have felt, is the human mind in moments of excitement which transcend its resistant powers. This may be for good or for evil, may tend to that radical change in ethical standpoint which is called conversion, or to the mere setting-up of some hysterical disability. Who shall say how far we desire to be susceptible to stimulus? Most rash would it be to assign any fixed limit, or to class as inferior those whose main difference from ourselves may be that they feel sincerely and passionately what we feel torpidly, or perhaps only affect to feel. “The term degenerate,” says Dr. Milne Bramwell, “is applied so freely and widely by some modern authors that one cannot help concluding that they rank as such all who do not conform to some primitive, savage type, possessing an imperfectly developed nervous system.” Our “degenerates” may sometimes be in truth progenerate; and their perturbation may mask an evolution which we or our children needs must traverse when they have shown the way.

Let us pause for a moment and consider what is here implied. We are getting here among the hystériques qui mènent le mondehysterics who rule the world. We have advanced, that is to say, from the region of idées fixes of a paltry or morbid type to the region of idées fixes which in themselves are reasonable and honourable, and which become morbid only on account of their relative intensity. Here is the debateable ground between hysteria and genius. The kind of genius which we approach here is not, indeed, the purely intellectual form. Rather it is the “moral genius,” the “genius of sanctity,” or that “possession” by some altruistic idea which lies at the root of so many heroic lives.

The hagiology of all religions offers endless examples of this type. That man would hardly be regarded as a great saint whose conduct seemed completely reasonable to the mass of mankind. The saint in consequence is apt to be set unduly apart, whether for veneration or for ridicule. He is regarded either as inspired or as morbid; when in reality all that his mode of life shows is that certain idées fixes, in themselves of no unworthy kind, have obtained such dominance that their impulsive action may take and retake, as accident wills, the step between the sublime and the ridiculous.

Martyrs, missionaries, crusaders, nihilists,—enthusiasts of any kind {i-57} who are swayed by impulses largely below the threshold of ordinary consciousness,—these men bring to bear on human affairs a force more concentrated and at higher tension than deliberate reason can generate. They are virtually carrying out self-suggestions which have acquired the permanence of idées fixes. Their fixed ideas, however, are not so isolated, so encysted as those of true hysterics. Although more deeply and immutably rooted than their ideas on other matters, these subliminal convictions are worked in with the products of supraliminal reason, and of course can only thus be made effective over other minds. A deep subliminal horror, generated, say, by the sight of some loathsome cruelty, must not only prompt hallucinations,—as it might do in the hysteric and has often done in the reformer as well,—it must also, if it is to work out its mission of reform, be held clearly before the supraliminal reason, and must learn to express itself in writing or speech adapted to influence ordinary minds.

221. We may now pass from the first to the second of the categories of disintegration of personality suggested at the beginning of this chapter. The cases which I have thus far described have been mainly cases of isolation of elements of personality. They have exhibited minor detachments from the main personality, assuming a quasi-independent existence either as recognisable fixed ideas, or as the physical representations or somatic equivalents of obscure fixed ideas,—as, for instance, persistent hallucinations or disturbances of smell or of sight. We have not dealt as yet with secondary personalities as such. There is, however, a close connection between these two classes. We have seen that in Fräulein O.'s case, for example, a kind of secondary state at times intervened—a sort of bewilderment arising from confluent idées fixes and overrunning her whole personality. This new state was preceded or accompanied by something of somnambulic change. It is this new feature of which we have here a first hint which seems to me of sufficient importance for the diagnosis of my second class of psychical disintegrations. This second class starts from sleep-wakings of all kinds, and includes all stages of alternation of personality, from brief somnambulisms up to those permanent and thorough changes which deserve the name of dimorphisms.

We are making here a transition somewhat resembling the transition from isolated bodily injuries to those subtler changes of diathesis which change of climate or of nutrition may induce. Something has happened which makes the organism react to all stimuli in a new way. Our best starting-point for the study of these secondary states lies among the phenomena of dream.

We shall in a later chapter discuss certain rare characteristics of dreams; occasional manifestations in sleep of waking faculty heightened, or of faculty altogether new. We have now to consider ordinary dreams in their aspect as indications of the structure of our personality, and as agencies which tend to its modification.


In the first place, it should be borne in mind that the dreaming state, though I will not call it the normal form of mentation, is nevertheless the form which our mentation most readily and habitually assumes. Dreams of a kind are probably going on within us both by night and by day, unchecked by any degree of tension of waking thought. This view—theoretically probable—seems to me to be supported by one's own actual experience in momentary dozes or even momentary lapses of attention. The condition of which one then becomes conscious is that of swarming fragments of thought or imagery, which have apparently been going on continuously, though one may become aware of them and then unaware at momentary intervals;—while one tries, for instance, to listen to a speech or to read a book aloud between sleep and waking.

This, then, is the kind of mentation from which our clearer and more coherent states may be supposed to develop. Waking life implies a fixation of attention on one thread of thought running through a tangled skein. In hysterical patients we see some cases where no such fixation is possible, and other cases where the fixation is involuntary, or follows a thread which it is not desirable to pursue.

There is, moreover, another peculiarity of dreams which has hardly attracted sufficient notice from psychologists, but which it is essential to review when we are dealing with fractionations of personality.11 On this subject see Du Prel, “Philosophy of Mysticism,” Eng. trans., vol. i., passim. I allude to their dramatic character.

In dream, to begin with, we have an environment, a surrounding scene which we have not wittingly invented, but which we find, as it were, awaiting our entry. And in many cases our dream contains a conversation in which we await with eagerness and hear with surprise the remarks of our interlocutor, who must, of course, all the time represent only another segment or stratum of ourselves. This duplication may become either painful or pleasant. A feverish dream may simulate the confusions of insanity—cases where the patient believes himself to be two persons at once, and the like.22 See R. L. Stevenson's dream (221 A). Note.—The lettering of cases refers to their place in the Appendices. On the other hand, a relatively coherent dream may agreeably split off visual memories and imagination from the consciousness with which the dreamer identifies himself. One may walk in dream through a picture-gallery criticising pictures which another element of one's personality has hung on the walls. Again, one may be able to identify a division of date between two mental strata; the first stratum being puzzled by a scrap of memory which the second stratum retains. In other cases one's higher and one's lower moral impulses may be arrayed against each other in dream; the dreamer identifying himself sometimes with his worse, sometimes with his better impulse. These complications rarely cause the dreamer any surprise. One may even say that with the first touch of sleep the superficial unity of consciousness disappears, and that the dream world gives a truer representation than {i-59} the waking world of the real fractionation or multiplicity existing beneath that delusive simplicity which the glare of waking consciousness imposes upon the mental field of view.

Bearing these analogies in mind, we shall see that the development of somnambulism out of ordinary dream is no isolated oddity. It is parallel to the development of a secondary state from idées fixes when these have passed a certain pitch of intensity. The sleep-waking states which develop from sleep have the characteristics which we should expect from their largely subliminal origin. They are less coherent than waking secondary personalities, but richer in supernormal faculty. It is in connection with displays of such faculty—hyperæsthesia or telæsthesia—that they have been mainly observed, and that I shall, in a future chapter, have most need to deal with them. But there is also great interest simply in observing what fraction of the sleep-waker's personality is able to hold intercourse with other minds. A trivial instance of such intercourse reduced to its lowest point has often recurred to me. When I was a boy another boy sleeping in the same room began to talk in his sleep. To some slight extent he could answer me; and the names and other words uttered—Harry, the boat, &c.—were appropriate to the day's incidents, and would have been enough to prove to me, had I not otherwise known, who the boy was. But his few coherent remarks represented not facts but dreaming fancies—the boat is waiting, and so forth. This trivial jumble, I say, has since recurred to me as precisely parallel to many communications professing to come from disembodied spirits. There are other explanations, no doubt, but one explanation of such incoherent utterances would be that the spirit was speaking under conditions resembling those in which this sleeping boy spoke.

There are, of course, many stages above this. Spontaneous somnambulistic states become longer in duration, more coherent in content, and may gradually merge, as in the well-known case of Félida X. (see 231) into a continuous or dimorphic new personality.

222. The transition which has now to be made is a very decided one. We have been dealing with a class of secondary personalities consisting of elements emotionally selected from the total or primary personality. We have seen some special group of feelings grow to morbid intensity, until at last it dominates the sufferer's mental being, either fitfully or continuously, but to such an extent that he is “a changed person,” not precisely insane, but quite other than he was when in normal mental health. In such cases the new personality is of course dyed in the morbid emotion. It is a kind of dramatic impersonation, say, of jealousy or of fear, like the case of “demoniacal possession,” quoted from Dr. Janet in the Appendix (222 A). In other respects the severance between the new and the old self is not very profound. Dissociations of memory, for instance, are seldom beyond the reach of hypnotic suggestion. The cleavage has not gone down to the depths of the psychical being.


223. We must now go on to cases where the origin of the cleavage seems to us quite arbitrary, but where the cleavage itself seems even for that very reason to be more profound. It is no longer a question of some one morbidly exaggerated emotion, but rather of a scrap of the personality taken at random and developing apart from the rest. To recur to our physical simile, we are dealing no longer with a corn, a boil, a cancer, but with a tumour starting apparently from some scrap of embryonic tissue which has become excluded from the general development of the organism.

The commonest mode of origin for such secondary personalities is from some access of sleep-waking, which, instead of merging into sleep again, repeats and consolidates itself, until it acquires a chain of memories of its own, alternating with the primary chain.

An old case of Dr. Dyce's forms a simple example of this type. Dr. Mesnet's case also should be referred to here (see Appendices). In these instances the secondary state is manifestly a degeneration of the primary state, even when certain traces of supernormal faculty are discernible in the narrowed psychical field.

may to all outward semblance closely resemble normality,—differing mainly by a lack of rational purpose, and perhaps by a recurrence to the habits and ideas of some earlier moment in the patient's history. Such a condition resembles some hypnotic trances, and some factitious personalities as developed by automatic writing. Or, again, the post-epileptic state may resemble a suddenly developed idée fixe triumphing over all restraint, and may prompt to serious crime, abhorrent to the normal, but premeditated in the morbid state. There could not, in fact, be a better example of the unchecked rule of middle-level centres;—no longer secretly controlled, as in hypnotic trance, by the higher-level centres;—which centres in the epileptic are in a state not merely of psychological abeyance, but of physiological exhaustion. I give in an Appendix a remarkable narrative from the Zoist, which shows the inevitable accomplishment of a post-epileptic crime in such a way as to bring out its analogy with the inevitable working out of a Post-hypnotic suggestion (224 A).

225. The case of Ansel Bourne, which I give next in an Appendix, is a very unusual one. It is perhaps safest to regard his change of personality as post-epileptic, although I know of no recorded parallel to the length of time during which the influence of the attack must have continued. The effect on mind and character would suit well enough with this hypothesis. The “Brown” personality showed the narrowness of interests and the uninquiring indifference which is common in such {i-61} states. But on this theory the case shows one striking novelty, namely, the recall by the aid of hypnotism of the memory of the post-epileptic state. It is doubtful, I think, whether any definite post-epileptic memory had ever previously been recovered. On the other hand, it is doubtful whether serious recourse had ever been had at such times to hypnotic methods, whose increasing employment certainly differentiates the later from the earlier cases of split personality in a very favourable way. And this application of hypnotism to post-epileptic states affords us possibly our best chance—I do not say of directly checking epilepsy, but of getting down to the obscure conditions which predispose to each attack.

226. The two cases reported by Dr. Proust and M. Boeteau quoted in the next Appendices belong to the same general type as Ansel Bourne's. There does not seem, however, to be any definite evidence that the secondary state was connected with epileptic attacks. It was referred rather by the physicians

who witnessed it to a functional derangement analogous to hysteria, though it must be remembered that there are various forms of epilepsy, which are not completely understood, and some of which may be overlooked by persons who are not familiar with the symptoms. In both these cases, again, the memory of the secondary states was recovered through hypnotism.

227. Another remarkable case was that of the Rev. Thomas C. Hanna,11 For full details of this, see Dr. Boris Sidis' work, “The Psychology of Suggestion: a Research into the Subconscious Nature of Man and Society” (New York, 1898). in whom complete amnesia followed an accident. By means of a method which Dr. Sidis (who studied the case) calls “hypnoidisation,” he was able to prove that the patient had all his lost memories stored in his subliminal consciousness, and could temporarily recall them to the supraliminal. By degrees the two personalities which had developed since the accident were thus fused into one and the patient was completely cured.

228. The next case I give (228 A) is one reported by Dr. Drewry. This is of the “ambulatory” type, like Ansel Bourne's, but is remarkable in that it was apparently associated with a definite physical lesion—an abscess in the ear—the cure of which was followed by the rapid return of the patient to his normal condition. There was also in this case an inherited tendency to eccentricity, if not to insanity.

229. I may next cite a case in which the secondary state seems to owe its origination to a kind of tidal exhaustion of vitality, as though the repose of sleep were not enough to sustain the weakened personality, which lapsed on alternate days into exhaustion and incoherence (229 A).

230. The secondary personalities thus far dealt with have been the spontaneous results of some form of misère psychologique[explained in text in Myers's terms] literally “psychological or psychic misery”, of defective integration of the psychical being. We shall now see that when cohesion is thus relaxed a slight touch from without can effect dissociations which, {i-62} however shallow and almost playful in their first inception, may stiffen by repetition into phases as marked and definite as those secondary states which spring up of themselves, that is to say, from self-suggestions which we cannot trace. I quote in Appendices some examples of these factitious secondary personalities, drawn from Dr. Pierre Janet, the most ingenious and indefatigable of workers in this field.

231. Up to this point the secondary states which we have considered, however startling to old-fashioned ideas of personality, may, at any rate, be regarded as forms of mental derangement or decay—varieties on a theme already known. Now, however, we approach a group of cases to which it is difficult to make any such definition apply. They are cases where the secondary state is not obviously a degeneration;—where it may even appear to be in some ways an improvement on the primary; so that one is left wondering how it came about that the man either originally was what he was, or—being what he was—suddenly became something so very different. There has been a shake given to the kaleidoscope, and no one can say why either arrangement of the component pieces should have had the priority.

In the classical case of Félida X. the second state is, as regards health and happiness, markedly superior to the first (see 231 A).

232. The old case of Mary Reynolds, which I next cite (232 A), is again remarkable in respect of the change of character involved. The deliverance from gloomy preoccupations—the childish insouciance of the secondary state—again illustrates the difference between these allotropic changes or reconstructions of personality and that mere predominance of a morbid factor which marked the cases of idée fixe and hysteria. Observe, also, in Mary Reynolds's case the tendency of the two states gradually to coalesce apparently in a third phase likely to be preferable to either of the two already known.

233. The next two cases which I shall cite—Louis Vivé and “Sally Beauchamp”—while extremely different from each other, are among the most remarkable of all. In Louis Vivé we have the extreme example of dissociations dependent on time-relations, on the special epoch of life in which the subject is ordered to find himself. My readers may have witnessed the amusing hypnotic experiment which consists in putting back the adult into early childhood by suggestion—in making the grown man write round hand and play with his tin soldiers, the grown woman give a tea-party to her dolls. But Louis Vivé, as will be seen in the detailed account in the Appendix to this section, is put back into earlier stages of life in a much profounder way. Among various conditions of his organism—all but one of them implying, or at least simulating, some grave central lesion—any given condition can be revived in a moment, and the whole gamut of changes rung on his nervous system as easily as if one were setting back or forward a continuous cinematograph. It is hard to frame a theory of memory which shall admit of these sudden reversions,—of {i-63} playing fast and loose in this manner with the accumulated impressions of years.

234. Yet if Louis Vivé's case thus strangely intensifies the already puzzling notion of ecmnesia—as though the whole organism could be tricked into forgetting the events which had most deeply stamped it—what are we to say to Dr. Morton Prince's case of “Sally Beauchamp,” with its grotesque exaggeration of a subliminal self—a kind of hostile bedfellow which knows everything and remembers everything—which mocks the emotions and thwarts the projects of the ordinary reasonable self which can be seen and known? The case must be studied in full as it stands (see 234 A); its later developments may help to unravel the mysteries which its earlier stages have already woven.

235. I quote in full in the text the next case, reported by Dr. R. Osgood Mason (in a paper entitled “Duplex Personality: its Relation to Hypnotism and to Lucidity,” in the Journal of the American Medical Association, November 30th, 1895). Dr. Mason writes:—

Alma Z. was an unusually healthy and intellectual girl, a strong and attractive character, a leading spirit in whatever she undertook, whether in study, sport, or society. From overwork in school, and overtaxed strength in a case of sickness at home, her health was completely broken down, and after two years of great suffering suddenly a second personality appeared. In a peculiar child-like and Indian-like dialect she announced herself as “Twoey,” and that she had come to help “Number One” in her suffering. The condition of “Number One” was at this time most deplorable; there was great pain, extreme debility, frequent attacks of syncope, insomnia, and a mercurial stomatitis which had been kept up for months by way of medical treatment and which rendered it nearly impossible to take nourishment in any form. “Twoey” was vivacious and cheerful, full of quaint and witty talk, never lost consciousness, and could take abundant nourishment, which she declared she must do for the sake of “Number One.” Her talk was most quaint and fascinating, but without a trace of the acquired knowledge of the primary personality. She gave frequent evidence of supranormal intelligence regarding events transpiring in the neighbourhood. It was at this time that the case came under my observation, and has remained so for the past ten years. Four years later, under depressing circumstances, a third personality made its appearance and announced itself as

“The Boy.” This personality was entirely distinct and different from either of the others. It remained the chief alternating personality for four years, when “Twoey” again returned.

All these personalities, though absolutely different and characteristic, were delightful each in its own way, and “Twoey” especially was, and still is, the delight of the friends who are permitted to know her, whenever she makes her appearance; and this is always at times of unusual fatigue, mental excitement, or prostration; then she comes and remains days at a time. The original self retains her superiority when she is present, and the others are always perfectly devoted to her interest and comfort. “Number One” has no personal knowledge of either of the other personalities, but she knows them well, and especially “Twoey,” from the report of others and from characteristic letters which are often received from her; and “Number One” greatly enjoys the spicy, {i-64} witty, and often useful messages which come to her through these letters and the report of friends.

Dr. Mason goes on to say:—

Here are three cases [the one just given, that of another patient of his own, and that of Félida X.] in which a second personality—perfectly sane, thoroughly practical, and perfectly in touch and harmony with its surroundings—came to the surface, so to speak, and assumed absolute control of the physical organisation for long periods of time together. During the stay of the second personality the primary or original self was entirely blotted out, and the time so occupied was a blank. In neither of the cases described had the primary self any knowledge of the second personality, except from the report of others or letters from the second self, left where they could be found on the return of the primary self to consciousness. The second personality, on the other hand, in each case, knew of the primary self, but only as another person—never as forming a part of, or in any way belonging to their own personalities. In the case of both Félida X. and Alma Z., there was always immediate and marked improvement in the physical condition when the second personality made its appearance.

236. The case of Mollie Fancher, of which I quote (in 236 A) such brief and imperfect account as is accessible, might have been one of the most instructive of all, had it been observed and recorded with scientific accuracy—nay, even with the most ordinary diligence and care. It is true that at the remote date when Miss Fancher's phenomena were at their best an observer both willing and capable would have been as hard to find among professed savants as among professed spiritualists. And there is at least this good point in the case, that the probity of the whole group has always been held above suspicion. The indications of supernormal faculty, which occur throughout the story, were not, at any rate, invented as a self-advertisement. And the sudden changes of personality, with a childish character fitted to each, seem to stand midway between the transformations of Louis Vivé,—each of them frankly himself at a different epoch of life,—and the “pseudo-possessions” of imaginary spirits with which we shall in a later chapter have to deal.

237. The case of Anna Winsor, next to be cited, goes so far further in its suggestion of interference from without, that it presents to us, at any rate, a contrast and even conflict between positive insanity on the part of the organism generally with wise and watchful sanity on the part of a single limb, with which that organism professes to have no longer any concern.

Perhaps, indeed, the conception which this case suggests is not so much that of an external spirit intervening on the sufferer's behalf, as of her own spirit, coexisting in gentleness and wisdom alongside of all that wild organic excitement and decay. Of course I do not press so strange a notion; yet to myself, I must in fairness add, it is by no means ludicrous. Indeed, I think that all these sudden changes and recuperations should teach us our inability to say how deep even the severest {i-65} psychical lesion goes—whether there may not at the worst be that within us which persists unmutilated and untarnished through all confusion of the flesh.

238. The case which I place last in this series, the “Watseka Wonder,” must plainly be presented to the reader as a duplication of personality—a pseudo-possession, if you will—determined in a hysterical child by the suggestion of friends. Thus, I repeat, the story must for the present be offered and received. At a later stage, and when some other wonders have become to us more familiar—not less wonderful—than now, we may perhaps consider once more what further lessons this singular narrative may have to teach us.

239. We have now briefly surveyed a series of disintegrations of personality ranging from the most trifling idée fixe to actual alternations or permanent changes of the whole type of character. All these form a kind of continuous series, and illustrate the structure of the personality in concordant ways. There do exist, it must be added, other forms of modified personality with which I shall not at present deal. Those are cases where some telepathic influence from outside has been at work, so that there is not merely dissociation of existing elements, but apparent introduction of a novel element. Such cases also pass through a long series, from small phenomena of motor automatism up to trance and so-called possession. But all this group I mention here merely in order to defer their discussion to later chapters.

The brief review already made will suffice to indicate the complex and separable nature of the elements of human personality. Of course a far fuller list might have been given; many phenomena of actual insanity would need to be cited in any complete conspectus. But hysteria is in some ways a better dissecting agent than any other where delicate psychical dissociations are concerned. Just as the microscopist stains a particular tissue for observation, so does hysteria stain with definiteness, as it were, particular synergies—definite complexes of thought and action—more manifestly than any grosser lesion, any more profound or persistent injury could do. Hysterical mutism, for instance (the observation is Charcot's11 Revue de l'Hypnotisme, July 1889.), supplies almost the only cases where the faculty of vocal utterance is attacked in a quite isolated way. In aphasia dependent upon organic injury we generally find other word-memories attacked also,—elements of agraphy, of word-blindness, of word-deafness appear. In the hysteric the incapacity to speak may be the single symptom. So with anæsthesiæ; we find in hysteria a separation of sensibility to heat and to pain, possibly even a separate subsistence of electrical sensibility. It is worth remarking here that it was during the hypnotic trance, which in delicacy of discriminating power resembles hysteria, that (so far as I can make out) the distinctness of the temperature-sense from the pain-sense was first observed. Esdaile, {i-66} when removing tumours under mesmerism in Calcutta, noticed that patients, who were actually undergoing capital operations without a murmur, complained if a draught blew in upon them from an open window.

240. Nor is it only as a dissecting agent that hysteria can aid our research. There are in hysteria frequent acquisitions as well as losses of faculty. It is not unusual to find great hyperæsthesia in certain special directions—of touch, hearing, perception of light, &c.—combined with hysterical loss of sensation of other kinds. This subject will be more conveniently treated along with the hyperæsthesia of the hypnotic trance. But I may note here that just such occasional quickenings of faculty were, in my view, almost certain to accompany that instability of psychical threshold which is the distinguishing characteristic of hysteria, since I hold that subliminal faculty habitually overpasses supraliminal. These also are a kind of capricious idée fixes; only the caprice in such cases raises what was previously submerged instead of exaggerating what was previously emergent.

And from this point it is that our inquiries must now take their fresh departure. We in this work are concerned with changes which are the converse of hysterical changes. We are looking for integrations in lieu of disintegrations; for intensifications of control, widenings of faculty, instead of relaxation, scattering, or decay.

241. Suppose, then, that in a case of instability of the psychical threshold,—ready permeability, if you will, of the psychical diaphragm separating the supraliminal from the subliminal self,—the elements of emergence tend to increase and the elements of submergence to diminish. Suppose that the permeability depends upon the force of the uprushes from below the diaphragm rather than on the tendency to sink downwards from above it. We shall then reach the point where the vague name of hysteria must give place to the vague name of genius. The uprushes from the subliminal self will now be the important feature; the down-draught from the supraliminal, if it still exists, will be trivial in comparison. The content of the uprush will be congruous with the train of voluntary thought; and the man of genius will be a man more capable than others of utilising for his waking purposes the subliminal region of his being.

242. Next in order to the uprushes of genius will come the uprushes of dream. All men pass normally and healthily into a second phase of personality, alternating with the first. That is sleep, and sleep is characterised by those incoherent forms of subliminal uprush which we know as dreams. It is here that our evidence for telepathy and telæsthesia will first present itself for discussion. Sleep will indicate the existence of submerged faculty of a rarer type than even that to which genius has already testified.

There are, moreover, other states, both spontaneous and induced, analogous to sleep, and these will form the subject of my fifth chapter, that on Hypnotism. Hypnotism, however, does not mean trance or {i-67} somnambulism only. It is a name, if not for the whole ensemble, yet for a large group of those artifices which we have as yet discovered for the purpose of eliciting and utilising subliminal faculty. The results of hypnotic suggestion will be found to imitate sometimes the subliminal uprushes of genius and sometimes the visions of spontaneous somnambulism; while they also open to us fresh and characteristic accesses into subliminal knowledge and power.

243. Further than this point our immediate forecast need not go. But when we shall have completed the survey here indicated, we shall see, I think, how significant are the phenomena of hysteria in any psychological scheme which aims at including the hidden powers of man. For much as the hysteric stands in comparison with us ordinary men, so perhaps do we ordinary men stand in comparison with a not impossible ideal of faculty and of self-control.

For might not all the hysteric tale be told, mutato nomine,with the name changed of the whole race of mortal men? What assurance have we that from some point of higher vision we men are not as these shrunken and shadowed souls? Suppose that we had all been a community of hysterics; all of us together subject to these shifting losses of sensation, these inexplicable gaps of memory, these sudden defects and paralyses of movement and of will. Assuredly we should soon have argued that our actual powers were all with which the human organism was or could be endowed. We should have thought it natural that nervous energy should only just suffice to keep attention fixed upon the action which at the moment we needed to perform. We should have pointed out that our lack of sensation over large tracts of the body rarely led to positive injury; but by what means such injury was averted, by the action of what subjacent intelligence our skin was saved from steel or fire—of this we should have been too contentedly ignorant even to ask the question. Nor, again, should we have been astonished at our capricious lack of power over our organisms, our intermittent defect of will. We should have held, and with some reason, that the mystery as to how our will could ever move any limb of our bodies was far greater than the mystery as to why certain limbs at certain moments failed to obey it. And as for defects of recollection;—is the reader inclined to think that the hysterical memory could never have been accepted as normal? That some guess of a more continuous consciousness, of an identity unmoved and stable beneath the tossing of the psychic storm, must needs have been suggested by all those strange interruptions?—by the lapses into other phases of personality, by the competing fields of reminiscence, by the clean sweep and blank destruction of great slices and cantles of the Past? I ask in turn how much of guess at an underlying continuity has been suggested, I do not say to the popular, but even to the scientific mind, by life broken as we know it now?—by our nightly lapses into a primitive phase of personality? by the competing fields of recollection which shift around the hypnotic trance? by the irrecoverable {i-68} gaps in past existence when the sun's ray or the robber's bludgeon has struck too rudely on the skull?

244. Nay, if we had been a populace of hysterics we should have acquiesced in our hysteria. We should have pushed aside as a fantastic enthusiast the fellow-sufferer who strove to tell us that this was not all that we were meant to be. As we now stand,—each one of us totus, teres, atque rotunduscomplete, polished, and rounded off [Hor. Sat. 2.7.84] in his own esteem,—we see at least how cowardly would have been that contentment, how vast the ignored possibilities, the forgotten hope. Yet who assures us that even here and now we have developed into the full height and scope of our being? A moment comes when the most beclouded of these hysterics has a glimpse of the truth. A moment comes when, after a profound slumber, she wakes into an instant clair—a flash of full perception, which shows her as solid vivid realities all that she has in her bewilderment been apprehending phantasmally as a dream. Ἒξ ὀνείρου δαὐτίκαἮν ὕπαρ.And then, out of the dream, lo, a vision Is there for us also any possibility of a like resurrection into reality and day? Is there for us any sleep so deep that waking from it after the likeness of perfect man we shall be satisfied; and shall see face to face; and shall know even as also we are known?

245. But apart from these broader speculations, it will surely have become evident, as we have studied the evidence in this chapter, that human personality is, at any rate, a much more modifiable complex of forces than is commonly assumed, and is a complex, moreover, which has hitherto been dealt with only in crude, empirical fashion. Each stage, each method of disintegration, suggests a corresponding possibility of integration. Two points have been especially noticeable throughout the chapter. In the first place, we observe in many of the narratives some rudiment of supernormal perceptivity cropping up; probably something in itself useless, yet enough to indicate to us how great a reserve of untapped faculty is latent at no great depth beneath our conscious level. In the second place, we observe that in the more recent cases, where it has been possible to appeal, mainly through hypnotic suggestion, to the deeper strata of the personality, that appeal has seldom been made in vain. In almost every case something more has been thus learnt of the actual mischief which was going on, something effected towards the re-establishment of psychical stability. These disturbances of personality are no longer for us—as they were even for the last generation—mere empty marvels, which the old-fashioned sceptic would often plume himself on refusing to believe. On the contrary, they are beginning to be recognised as psycho-pathological problems of the utmost interest;—no one of them exactly like another, and no one of them without some possible aperçu into the intimate structure of man.

The purpose of this book, of course, is not primarily practical. It aims rather at the satisfaction of scientific curiosity as to man's

psychical structure; esteeming that as a form of experimental research which the {i-69} more urgent needs of therapeutics have kept in the background too long. Yet it may not have been amiss to realise thus, on the threshold of our discussion, that already even the most delicate speculations in this line have found their justification in helpful act; that strange bewilderments, paralysing perturbations, which no treatment could alleviate, no drug control, have been soothed and stablished into sanity by some appropriate and sagacious mode of appeal to a natura medicatrixNature the physician deep-hidden in the labouring breast.




Igneus est ollis vigor et cœlestis origo

Seminibus, quantum non noxia corpora tardant

Terrenique hebetant artus moribundaque membra.



First to each seed a fiery force is given; And every creature was begot in heaven; Only their flight must hateful flesh delay And gross limbs moribund and cumbering clay. [Aen. 6.730-32 (Myers trans.)]

300. In my second chapter I made no formal attempt to define that human personality which is to form the main subject of this book. I was content to take the conception roughly for granted, and to enter at once on the study of the lapses of personality into abnormal conditions,—short of the lowest depths of idiocy or madness. From that survey it appeared that these degenerations could be traced to some defect in that central control which ought to clasp and integrate into steady manhood the hierarchies of living cells which compose the human organism. This insight into the Self's decay was the needed prerequisite to our present task—that of apprehending its true normality, and thereafter of analysing certain obscurer faculties which indicate the line of its evolution during and after the life of earth.

Strength and concentration of the inward unifying control—that must be the true normality which we seek; and in seeking it we must remember how much of psychical operation goes on below the conscious threshold, imperfectly obedient to any supraliminal appeal. What advance can we make in inward mastery? how far extend our grasp over the whole range of faculty with which we are obscurely endowed?

301. “Human perfectibility” has been the theme of many enthusiasts; and many Utopian schemes of society have been and still are suggested, which postulate in the men and women of the future an increase in moral and physical health and vigour. And it is plain that in a broad and general way natural selection, sexual selection, and the advance of science are working together towards improvements of these kinds. But it is plain also that these onward tendencies, at least in comparison with our desires and ideals, are slow and uncertain; and it is possible to argue that the apparent advance in our race is due merely to the improvement which science has effected in its material environment, and not to any real development, during the historical period, in the character or faculties of man himself. Nay, since we have no means {i-71} of knowing to what extent any genus has an inward potentiality of improvement, it is possible for the pessimist to argue that the genus homo has reached its fore-ordained evolutionary limit; so that it cannot be pushed further in any direction without risk of nervous instability, sterility, and ultimate extinction. Somewhat similarly (it might be urged) you cannot domesticate some wild tribes of animals (perhaps some wild tribes of men) without checking their fertility; and even among animals most susceptible to domestication, and to the induction of varieties in the domesticated state,—as, for instance, pigeons,—you cannot at present exaggerate fantail or pouter beyond a certain limit without bringing on a fragility of constitution which would soon extinguish the overpressed variety. Some dim apprehension of this kind lends plausibility to many popular diatribes. Dr. Max Nordau's works afford a well-known example of this line of protest against the present age as an age of overwork and of nervous exhaustion. And narrowing the vague discussion to a somewhat more definite test, Professor Lombroso and other anthropologists have discussed the characteristics of the “man of genius”; with the result of showing (as they believe) that this apparently highest product of the race is in reality not a culminant but an aberrant manifestation; and that men of genius must be classed with criminals and lunatics, as persons in whom a want of balance or completeness of organisation has led on to an over-development of one side of their nature;—helpful or injurious to other men as accident may decide.

302. On this point I shall join issue; and I shall suggest, on the other hand, that Genius—if that vaguely used word is to receive anything like a psychological definition—should rather be regarded as a power of utilising a wider range than other men can utilise of faculties in some degree innate in all;—a power of appropriating the results of subliminal mentation to subserve the supraliminal stream of thought;—so that an “inspiration of Genius” will be in truth a subliminal uprush, an emergence into the current of ideas which the man is consciously manipulating of other ideas which he has not consciously originated, but which have shaped themselves beyond his will, in profounder regions of his being. I shall urge that there is here no real departure from normality; no abnormality, at least in the sense of degeneration; but rather a fulfilment of the true norm of man, with suggestions, it may be, of something supernormal;—of something which transcends existing normality as an advanced stage of evolutionary progress transcends an earlier stage.

303. But before proceeding further I wish to guard against a possible misapprehension. I shall be obliged in this chapter to dwell on valuable aid rendered by subliminal mentation; but I do not mean to imply that such mentation is ipso factoby that fact itself superior to supraliminal, or even that it covers a large proportion of practically useful human achievement. When I say “The differentia of genius lies in an increased control over subliminal mentation,” I express, I think, a well-evidenced thesis, and I suggest an {i-72} important inference, namely, that the man of genius is for us the best type of the normal man, in so far as he effects a successful cooperation of an unusually large number of elements of his personality—reaching a stage of integration slightly in advance of our own. Thus much I wish to say: but my thesis is not to be pushed further:—as though I claimed that all our best thought was subliminal, or that all that was subliminal was potentially “inspiration.”

Hidden in the deep of our being is a rubbish-heap as well as a treasure-house;—degenerations and insanities as well as beginnings of higher development; and any prospectus which insists on the amount of gold to be had for the washing should describe also the mass of detritus in which the bright grains lie concealed. The range of the subliminal is wide: nor will it be waste of time if I pause here to expound it.

The distinction, then, between supraliminal and subliminal,—between intra-marginal and extra-marginal;—in short, between the thoughts and sensations which fall within our ordinary waking consciousness and those which find place beneath or outside it,—cannot possibly be a distinction at once applicable to practical ends;—as though (for instance) one were able to say at once that the subliminal idea or impulse was always wiser than the supraliminal. On the contrary, the basis of the distinction is, as I have just said, a purely psychological one: it is founded on the attempt to analyse the relation of one chain of memory to another chain of memory, of one type to another type of human perception and faculty. Our simplest observation indeed must be that that which extends beneath the threshold, beyond the margin of a field of consciousness specialised for our ordinary needs, will probably be both more extensive and more miscellaneous than that which is contained within those limits. The range of our subliminal mentation is more extended than the range of our supraliminal. At one end of the scale we find dreams,—a normal subliminal product, but of less practical value than any form of sane supraliminal thought. At the other end of the scale we find that the rarest, most precious knowledge comes to us from outside the ordinary field,—through the eminently subliminal processes of telepathy, telæsthesia, ecstasy. And between these two extremes lie many subliminal products, varying in value according to the dignity and trustworthiness of the subliminal mentation concerned.

304. This last phrase,—inevitably obscure,—may be illustrated by reference to that hierarchical arrangement of supraliminal action and perception which Dr. Hughlings Jackson has so used as to clear up much previous confusion of thought. Following him, we now speak of highest-level nerve-centres, governing our highest, most complex thought and will; of middle-level centres, governing movements of voluntary muscles, and the like; and of lowest-level centres (which from my point of view are purely subliminal), governing those automatic processes, as respiration and circulation, which are independent of conscious rule, but necessary to the maintenance of life. We can roughly judge from the nature of any observed action {i-73} whether the highest-level centres are directing it, or whether they are for the time inhabited, so that middle-level centres operate uncontrolled.

Thus ordinary speech and writing are ruled by highest-level centres. But when an epileptic discharge of nervous energy has exhausted the highest-level centres, we see the middle-level centres operating unchecked, and producing the convulsive movements of arms and legs in the “fit.” As these centres in their turn become exhausted, the patient is left to the guidance of lowest-level centres alone;—that is to say, he becomes comatose, though he continues to breathe as regularly as usual.

Now this series of phenomena,—descending in coherence and. co-ordination from an active consensus of the whole organism to a mere automatic maintenance of its most stably organised processes,—may be pretty closely paralleled by the series of subliminal phenomena also.

Sometimes we seem to see our subliminal perceptions and faculties acting truly in unity, truly as a Self;—co-ordinated into some harmonious “inspiration of genius,” or some profound and reasonable hypnotic self-reformation, or some far-reaching supernormal achievement of clairvoyant vision or of self-projection into a spiritual world. Whatever of subliminal personality is thus acting corresponds with the highest-level centres of supraliminal life. At such moments the subliminal represents (as I believe) most nearly what will become the surviving Self.

But it seems that this degree of clarity, of integration, cannot be long preserved. Much oftener we find the subliminal perceptions and faculties acting in less co-ordinated, less coherent ways. We have products which, while containing traces of some faculty beyond our common scope, involve, nevertheless, something as random and meaningless as the discharge of the uncontrolled middle-level centres of arms and legs in the epileptic fit. We get, in short, a series of phenomena which the term dream-like seems best to describe.

In the realm of genius,—of uprushes of thought and feeling fused beneath the conscious threshold into artistic shape,—we get no longer masterpieces but half-insanities,—not the Sistine Madonna, but Wiertz's Vision of the Guillotined Head; not Kubla Khan, but the disordered opium dream. Throughout all the work of William Blake (I should say) we see the subliminal self flashing for moments into unity, then smouldering again in a lurid and scattered glow.

In the realm of hypnotism, again, we sink from the reasonable self-suggestion to the “platform experiments,” the smelling of ammonia, the eating of tallow candles;—all the tricks which show a profound control, but not a wise control, over the arcana of organic life. I speak, of course, of the subject's own control over his organism; for in the last resort it is he and not his hypnotiser who really exercises that directive power. And I compare these tricks of middle-level subliminal centres to the powerful yet irrational control which the middle-level centres ruling the epileptic's {i-74} arms and legs exercise over his muscles in the violence of the epileptic attack.

And so again with the automatisms which are, one may say, the subliminal self's peculiar province. Automatic script, for instance, may represent highest-level subliminal centres, even when no extraneous spirit, but the automatist's own mind alone, is concerned. It will then give us true telepathic messages, or perhaps messages of high moral import, surpassing the automatist's conscious powers. But much oftener the automatic script is regulated by what I have called middle-level subliminal centres only;—and then, though we may have scraps of supernormal intelligence, we have confusion and incoherence as well. We have the falsity which the disgusted automatist is sometimes fain to ascribe to a devil; though it is in reality not a devil, but a dream.

And hence again, just as the epileptic sinks lower and lower in the fit,— from the incoordinated movements of the limbs down to the mere stertorous breathing of coma,—so do these incoherent automatisms sink down at last, through the utterances and drawings of the degenerate and the paranoiac,—through mere fragmentary dreams, or vague impersonal bewilderment,—into the minimum psychical concomitant, whatever that be, which must coexist with brain-circulation.

305. Such is the apparent parallelism; but of course no knowledge of a hierarchy of the familiar forms of nervous action can really explain to us the mysterious fluctuations of subliminal power. When we speak of the highest-level and other centres which govern our supraliminal being, and which are fitted to direct this planetary life in a material world, we can to some extent point out actual brain-centres whose action enables us to meet those needs. What are the needs of our cosmic life we do not know; nor can we indicate any point in our organism (as in the “solar plexus,” or the like), which is adapted to meet them. We cannot even either affirm or deny that such spiritual life as we maintain while incarnated in this material envelope involves any physical concomitants at all.

For my part, I feel forced to fall back upon the old-world conception of a soul which exercises an imperfect and fluctuating control over the organism; and exercises that control, I would add, along two main channels, only partly coincident—that of ordinary consciousness, adapted to the maintenance and guidance of earth-life; and that of subliminal consciousness, adapted to the maintenance of our larger spiritual life during our confinement in the flesh.

We men, therefore, clausi tenebris et carcere cæco,in an enclosure of shadows and a blind prison [Democritus Jr., Anatomy of Melancholy] can sometimes widen, as we must sometimes narrow, our outlook on the reality of things. In mania or epilepsy we lose control even of those highest-level supraliminal centres on which our rational earth-life depends. But through automatism and in trance and allied states we draw into supraliminal life some rivulet from the undercurrent stream. If the subliminal centres which we thus impress into our waking service correspond to the middle-level only, they {i-75} may bring to us merely error and confusion; if they correspond to the highest-level, they may introduce us to previously unimagined truth.

It is to work done by the aid of some such subliminal uprush, I say once more, that the word “genius” may be most fitly applied. “A work of genius,” indeed, in common parlance, means a work which satisfies two quite distinct requirements. It must involve something original, spontaneous, unteachable, unexpected; and it must also in some way win for itself the admiration of mankind. Now, psychologically speaking, the first of these requirements corresponds to a real class, the second to a purely accidental one. What the poet feels while he writes his poem is the psychological fact in his history; what his friends feel while they read it may be a psychological fact in their history, but does not alter the poet's creative effort, which was what it was, whether any one but himself ever reads his poem or no.

And popular phraseology justifies our insistence upon this subjective side of genius. Thus it is common to say that “Hartley Coleridge” (for example) “was a genius, although he never produced anything worth speaking of.” Men recognise, that is to say, from descriptions of Hartley Coleridge, and from the fragments which he has left, that ideas came to him with what I have termed a sense of subliminal uprush,—with an authentic, although not to us an instructive, inspiration.

As psychologists, I maintain, we are bound to base our definition of genius upon some criterion of this strictly psychological kind, rather than on the external tests which as artists or men of letters we should employ:—and which consider mainly the degree of delight which any given achievement can bestow upon other men. The artist will speak of the pictorial genius of Raphael, but not of Haydon; of the dramatic genius of Corneille, but not of Voltaire. Yet Haydon's Autobiography—a record of tragic intensity, and closing in suicide—shows that the tame yet contorted figures of his “Raising of Lazarus” flashed upon him with an over-mastering sense of direct inspiration. Voltaire, again, writes to the president Hénault of his unreadable tragedy Catilina: “Five acts in a week! I know that this sounds ridiculous; but if men could guess what enthusiasm can do,—how a poet in spite of himself, idolising his subject, devoured by his genius, can accomplish in a few days a task for which without that genius a year would not suffice;—in a word, si scirent donum Dei,—if they knew the gift of God,—their astonishment might be less than it must be now.” I do not shrink from these extreme instances. It would be absurd, of course, to place Haydon's “Raising of Lazarus” in the same artistic class as Raphael's “Madonna di San Sisto.” But in the same psychological class I maintain that both works must be placed. For each painter, after his several kind, there was the same inward process,—the same sense of subliminal uprush;—that extension, in other words, of mental concentration which draws into immediate cognisance some workings or elements of the hidden self.


Let me illustrate this conception by a return to the metaphor of the “conscious spectrum” to which I introduced my reader in the first chapter. I there described our conscious spectrum as representing but a small fraction of the aurai simplicis ignis,of air and of simple fire or individual psychical ray;—just as our visible solar spectrum represents but a small fraction of the solar ray. And even as many waves of ether lie beyond the red end, and many beyond the violet end, of that visible spectrum, so have I urged that much of unrecognised or subliminal faculty lies beyond the red (or organic) end, and much beyond the violet (or intellectual) end of my imaginary spectrum. My main task in this book will be to prolong the psychical spectrum beyond either limit, by collecting traces of latent faculties, organic or transcendental:—just as by the bolometer, by fluorescence, by other artifices, physicists have prolonged the solar spectrum far beyond either limit of ordinary visibility.

306. But at present, and before entering on that task of rendering manifest supernormal faculty, I am considering what we ought to regard as the normal range of faculty from which we start;—what, in relation to man, the words norm and normal should most reasonably mean.

The word normal in common speech is used almost indifferently to imply either of two things, which may be very different from each other—conformity to a standard and position as an average between extremes. Often indeed the average constitutes the standard—as when a gas is of normal density; or is practically equivalent to the standard—as when a sovereign is of normal weight. But when we come to living organisms a new factor is introduced. Life is change; each living organism changes; each generation differs from its predecessor. To assign a fixed norm to a changing species is to shoot point-blank at a flying bird. The actual average at any given moment is no ideal standard; rather, the furthest evolutionary stage now reached is tending, given stability in the environment, to become the average of the future. Human evolution is not so simple or so conspicuous a thing as the evolution of the pouter pigeon. But it would be rash to affirm that it is not even swifter than any variation among domesticated animals. Not a hundred generations separate us from the dawn of history;—about as many generations as some microbes can traverse in a month;—about as many as separate the modern Derby-winner from the war-horse of Gustavus Adolphus. Man's change has been less than the horse's change in physical contour,—probably only because man has not been specially bred with that view;—but taking as a test the power of self-adaptation to environment, man has traversed in these thirty centuries a wider arc of evolution than separates the race-horse from the eohippus. Or if we go back further, and to the primal germ, we see that man's ancestors must have varied faster than any animal's, since they have travelled farthest in the same time. They have varied also in the greatest number of directions; they have evoked in greatest multiplicity the unnumbered faculties latent in the irritability of a speck of slime. Of {i-77} all creatures man has gone furthest both in differentiation and in integration; he has called into activity the greatest number of those faculties which lay potential in the primal germ,—and he has established over those faculties the strongest central control. The process still continues. Civilisation adds to the complexity of his faculties; education helps him to their concentration. It is in the direction of a still wider range, a still firmer hold, that his evolution now must lie. I shall maintain that this ideal is best attained by the man of genius.

Let us consider the way in which the maximum of faculty is habitually manifested; the circumstances under which a man does what he has never supposed himself able to do before. We may take an instance where the faculty drawn upon lies only a little way beneath the surface. A man, we say, outdoes himself in a great emergency. If his house is on fire, let us suppose, he carries his children out over the roof with a strength and agility which seem beyond his own. That effective impulse seems more akin to instinct than to calculation. We hardly know whether to call the act reflex or voluntary. It is performed with almost no conscious intervention of thought or judgment, but it involves a new and complex adaptation of voluntary muscles such as would need habitually the man's most careful thought to plan and execute. From the point of view here taken the action will appear to have been neither reflex nor voluntary in the ordinary sense, but subliminal;—a subliminal uprush, an emergence of hidden faculty,—of nerve co-ordinations potential in his organism, but till now unused,—which takes command of the man and guides his action at the moment when his being is deeply stirred.

This stock instance of a man's possible behaviour in moments of great physical risk does but illustrate in a gross and obvious manner, and in the motor region, a phenomenon which, as I hold, is constantly occurring on a smaller scale in the inner life of most of us. We identify ourselves for the most part with a stream of voluntary, fully conscious ideas,—cerebral movements connected and purposive as the movement of the hand which records them. Meantime we are aware also of a substratum of fragmentary, automatic, liminal ideas, of which we take small account. These are bubbles that break on the surface; but every now and then there is a stir among them. There is a rush upwards as of a subaqueous spring; an inspiration flashes into the mind for which our conscious effort has not prepared us. This so-called inspiration may in itself be trivial or worthless; but it is the initial stage of a phenomenon to which, when certain rare attributes are also present, the name of genius will be naturally given.

I am urging, then, that where life is concerned, and where, therefore, change is normality, we ought to place our norm somewhat ahead of the average man, though on the evolutionary track which our race is pursuing. I have suggested that that evolutionary track is at present leading him in the direction of greater complexity in the perceptions which he forms of things without, and of greater concentration in his own will and thought,— {i-78} in that response to perceptions which he makes from within. Lastly, I have argued that men of genius, whose perceptions are presumably more vivid and complex than those of average men, are also the men who carry the power of concentration furthest;—reaching downwards, by some self-suggestion which they no more than we can explain, to treasures of latent faculty in the hidden Self.

307. I am not indeed here assuming that the faculty which is at the service of the man of genius is of a kind different from that of common men, in such a sense that it would need to be represented by a prolongation of either end of the conscious spectrum. Rather it will be represented by such a brightening of the familiar spectrum as may follow upon an intensification of the central glow.

The solar spectrum itself, as all know, is by no means a uniform or continuous band of coloured light. It contains many dark lines, where some element held in vaporous suspension absorbs the special line of light which the still hotter vapour of that same element characteristically emits. Still more dimmed and interrupted are the spectra of some other stars. Bands and bars of comparative darkness stud their dispersed light. Even thus the spectrum of man's conscious faculty is not a continuous but a banded spectrum. There are groups of the dark lines of obstruction and incapacity, and even in the best of us a dim unequal glow.

It will, then, be the special characteristic of genius that its uprushes of subliminal faculty will make the bright parts of the habitual spectrum more brilliant, will kindle the dim absorption-bands to fuller brightness, and will even raise quite dark lines into an occasional glimmer. But if, as I believe, we can best give to the idea of genius some useful distinctness by regarding it in some such way as this, we shall find also that genius will fall into line with many other sensory and motor automatisms to which the word could not naturally be applied. Genius represents a narrow selection among a great many cognate phenomena;—among a great many uprushes or emergences of subliminal faculty both within and beyond the limits of the ordinary conscious spectrum.

It will be more convenient to study all these together, under the heading of sensory or of motor automatism. It will then be seen that there is no kind of perception which may not emerge from beneath the threshold in an indefinitely heightened form, with just that convincing suddenness of impression which is described by men of genius as characteristic of their highest flights. Even with so simple a range of sensation as that which records the lapse of time there are subliminal uprushes of this type, and we shall see that a man may have a sudden and accurate inspiration of what o'clock it is, in just the same way as Virgil might have an inspiration of the second half of a difficult hexameter.

308. For the purpose of present illustration of the workings of genius it seems well to choose a kind of ability which is quite indisputable, and which also admits of some degree of quantitative measurement. I would {i-79} choose the higher mathematical processes, were data available; and I may. say in passing how grateful I should be to receive from mathematicians any account of the mental processes of which they are conscious during the attainment of their highest results. Meantime there is a lower class of mathematical gift which by its very specialisation and isolation seems likely to throw light on our present inquiry.

During the course of the present century,—and alas! the scientific observation of unusual specimens of humanity hardly runs back further, or so far,—the public of great cities has been from time to time surprised and diverted by some so-called “calculating boy,” or “arithmetical prodigy,” generally of tender years, and capable of performing “in his head,” and almost instantaneously, problems for which ordinary workers would require pencil and paper and a much longer time. In some few cases, indeed, the ordinary student would have no means whatever of solving the problem which the calculating boy unriddled with ease and exactness.

The especial advantage of the study of arithmetical prodigies is that in their case the subjective impression coincides closely with the objective result. he subliminal computator feels that the sum is right, and it is right. Forms of real or supposed genius which are more interesting are apt to be less undeniable.

An American and a French psychologist11 Professor Scripture in the American Journal of Psychology, vol. iv., No. 1, April 1891; Professor Binet in the Revue Philosophique, 1895. Professor Binet's article deals largely with Jacques Inaudi, the most recent prodigy, who appears to differ from the rest in that his gift is auditile rather than visual. His gift was first observed in childhood. His general intelligence is below the average. Another recent prodigy, Diamanti, seems, on the other hand, to be in other ways quick-witted. have collected such hints and explanations as these prodigies have given of their methods of working; methods which one might naturally hope to find useful in ordinary education. The result, however, has been very meagre, and the records left to us, imperfect as they are, are enough to show that the main and primary achievement has in fact been subliminal, while conscious or supraliminal effort has sometimes been wholly absent, sometimes has supervened only after the gift has been so long exercised that the accesses between different strata have become easy by frequent traversing. The prodigy grown to manhood, who now recognises the arithmetical artifices which he used unconsciously as a boy, resembles the hypnotic subject trained by suggestion to remember in waking hours the events of the trance.

In almost every point, indeed, where comparison is possible, we shall find this computative gift resembling other manifestations of subliminal faculty,—such as the power of seeing hallucinatory figures,—rather than the results of steady supraliminal effort, such as the power of logical analysis. In the first place, this faculty, in spite of its obvious connection with general mathematical grasp and insight, is found almost at random,—among non-mathematical and even quite stupid persons, as well as among {i-80} mathematicians of mark. In the second place, it shows itself mostly in early childhood, and tends to disappear in later life;—in this resembling visualising power in general, and the power of seeing hallucinatory figures in particular; which powers, as both Mr. Galton's inquiries and our own tend to show, are habitually stronger in childhood and youth than in later years. Again, it is noticeable that when the power disappears early in life it is apt to leave behind it no memory whatever of the processes involved. And even when, by long persistence in a reflective mind, the power has become, so to say, adopted into the supraliminal consciousness, there nevertheless may still be flashes of pure “inspiration,” when the answer “comes into the mind” with absolutely no perception of intermediate steps.

309. I subjoin a table, compiled by the help of Dr. Scripture's collection, which will broadly illustrate the main points above mentioned. Some more detailed remarks may then follow.


Name (alphabetically).Age when gift
was observed.
Duration of gift.Intelligence.
  Ampère4?    eminent
  Bidder10through life    good
  Buxton??    low
  Colburn6few years    average
  Dase [or Dahse]boyhoodthrough life    very low
  Fullerboyhood?    low
  Gauss3?    eminent
  Mangiamele10few years    average?
  Mondeux10few years    low
  Prolongeau6few years    low
  Safford6few years    good
  "Mr. Van R., of Utica"6few years    average?
  Whately3few years    good

Now among these thirteen names we have two men of transcendent, and three of high ability. What accounts have they given us of their methods?

310. Of the gift of Gauss and Ampère we know nothing except a few striking anecdotes. After manifesting itself at an age when there is usually no continuous supraliminal mental effort worth speaking of, it appears to have been soon merged in the general blaze of their genius. With Bidder the gift persisted through life, but grew weaker as he grew older. His paper in Vol. XV. of the Proceedings of the Institute of Civil Engineers, while furnishing a number of practical hints to the calculator, indicates also a singular readiness of communication between different mental strata. “Whenever,” he says (p. 255), “I feel called upon to make use of the stores of my mind, they seem to rise with the rapidity of lightning.” {i-81} And in Vol. CIII. of the same Proceedings, Mr. W. Pole, F. R. S., in describing how Mr. Bidder could determine mentally the logarithm of any number to 7 or 8 places, says (p. 252): “He had an almost miraculous power of seeing, as it were, intuitively what factors would divide any large number, not a prime. Thus, if he were given the number 17,861, he would instantly remark it was 337×53.… He could not, he said, explain how he did this; it seemed a natural instinct to him.”

Mr. Bidder's case is well known; but it may be of interest to quote here some passages from an autobiographical statement kindly furnished to me by Mr. Blyth, of Edinburgh, the well-known civil engineer, whose own gift, like that of the younger Mr. Bidder, though not such as to entitle him to rank as a “prodigy,” yet marks him out distinctly from ordinary mankind.

(From Proceedings S.P.R., vol. viii. p. 352.)

February 28th, 1892.                   

I shall now endeavour, in response to your request, to give some account of my late brother's and my own faculty of arithmetical calculation mentally, and it may be interesting if I allude to influences even before birth which I have always felt may have had something to do with my brother's great power.

Benjamin Hall Blyth was born on July 6th, 1819. Our mother had a natural arithmetical gift—not to any very marked degree, but decidedly above the average, and especially so among females. Some months before Benjamin's birth the wonderful calculating boy, Bidder (then, I think, about 12 or 14 years of age), was exhibiting in Edinburgh, and made a private exhibition in my father's house. My mother was greatly astonished and interested, put various questions to Bidder, and some weeks later requested my father to invite him to another séance, which was done. Her interest increased on this second occasion, and the wonderful boy continued to occupy her mind frequently.

It is, I believe, admitted by physiologists, that anything greatly occupying a mother's mind certainly may, and frequently does, influence the character of her unborn child. At all events, my brother, whether from this or heredity, or both, very early manifested a marvellous power of mental calculation. When almost exactly six years of age Benjamin was walking with his father before breakfast, when he said, “Papa, at what hour was I born?” He was told four A.M.

Ben.—“What o'clock is it at present?”

Ans.—“Seven fifty A.M.” [My father always took exercise before breakfast in summer.]

The child walked on a few hundred yards, then turned to his father and stated the number of seconds he had lived. My father noted down the figures, made the calculation when he got home, and told Ben he was 172,800 seconds wrong, to which he got a ready reply: “Oh, papa, you have left out two days for the leap-years—1820 and 1824,” which was the case.

This latter fact of the extra day in leap-year is not known to many children of six, and if any one will try to teach an ordinary child of these years the multiplication table up to 12×12 he will be better able to realise how extraordinary was this calculation for such an infant.

I am conscious of an intuitive recognition of the relation of figures. For {i-82} instance, in reading statements of figures in newspapers, which are very often egregiously wrong, it seems to come to me intuitively that something is wrong, and when that occurs I am usually right.

I have always felt that there were times when my power was much weaker than others, not only when tired, but, like a musician, when not in the mood. I have not the same confidence now at 66 years of age as when younger. That is to say, I like to check a calculation before stating it, though I can do nearly as difficult ones as at any time of my life, though not so rapidly.

As to there being any degree of connection between this arithmetical power and ambidexterity, there is none, I think, in my case. I do not possess the latter gift consciously, though I may perhaps be able to use the left hand better than the average of people, but I should not for a moment claim to be ambidextrous.… Left-handedness runs in our family on both sides, and so I say I may have some little ambidexterity without knowing it.


Mr. Blyth's interesting record contains other illustrations of several points above mentioned;—the early and instinctive appearance of the faculty; its gradual subjection to supraliminal guidance; yet the persistence of occasional “subliminal uprushes,” which give the problem's answer without its intermediate steps.

Passing on to the two other men of high ability known to have possessed this gift, Professor Safford and Archbishop Whately, we are struck with the evanescence of the power after early youth,—or even before the end of childhood. I quote from Dr. Scripture Archbishop Whately's account of his powers:—

There was certainly something peculiar in my calculating faculty. It began to show itself at between five and six, and lasted about three years.… I soon got to do the most difficult sums, always in my head, for I knew nothing of figures beyond numeration. I did these sums much quicker than any one could upon paper, and I never remember committing the smallest error. When I went to school, at which time the passion wore off, I was a perfect dunce at ciphering, and have continued so ever since.

Still more remarkable, perhaps, was Professor Safford's loss of power. Professor Safford's whole bent was mathematical; his boyish gift of calculation raised him into notice; and he is now a Professor of Astronomy. He had therefore every motive and every opportunity to retain the gift, if thought and practice could have retained it. But whereas at ten years old he worked correctly in his head, in one minute, a multiplication sum whose answer consisted of 36 figures, he is now, I believe, neither more nor less capable of such calculation than his neighbours.

Similar was the fate of a personage who never rises above initials, and of whose general capacity we know nothing.

“Mr. Van R., of Utica,” says Dr. Scripture on the authority of Gall, “at the age of six years distinguished himself by a singular faculty for calculating in his head. At eight he entirely lost this faculty, and after that time he could calculate neither better nor faster than any other person. {i-83} He did not retain the slightest idea of the manner in which he performed his calculations in childhood.”

Turning now to the stupid or uneducated prodigies, Dase alone seems to have retained his power through life. Colburn and Mondeux, and apparently Prolongeau and Mangiamele, lost their gift after childhood.

A few hints as to processes have been gleaned from this group;—the most interesting point being that Colburn was for some years unable, but afterwards to some extent able, to explain his own processes. “His friends tried to elicit a disclosure of the methods by which he performed his calculations, but for nearly three years he was unable to satisfy their inquiries. He positively declared that he did not know how the answers came into his mind.”11 Scripture, op. cit., p. 50. Later on he did give an account of his artifices, which, however, showed no great ingenuity.

But on the whole the ignorant prodigies seldom appear to have been conscious of any continuous logical process, while in some cases the separation of the supraliminal and subliminal trains of thought must have been very complete. “Buxton would talk freely whilst doing his questions, that being no molestation or hindrance to him.”22 Scripture, op. cit., p. 54. Fixity and clearness of inward visualisation seems to have been the leading necessity in all these achievements; and it apparently mattered little whether the mental blackboard (so to say) on which the steps of the calculation were recorded were or were not visible to the mind's eye of the supraliminal self.

I have been speaking only of visualisation; but it would be interesting if we could discover how much actual mathematical insight or inventiveness can be subliminally exercised. Here, however, our materials are very imperfect. From Gauss and Ampère we have, so far as I know, no record. At the other end of the scale, we know that Dase (perhaps the most successful of all these prodigies) was singularly devoid of mathematical grasp. “On one occasion Petersen tried in vain for six weeks to get the first elements of mathematics into his head.” “He could not be made to have the least idea of a proposition in Euclid. Of any language but his own he could never master a word.” Yet Dase received a grant from the Academy of Sciences at Hamburg, on the recommendation of Gauss, for mathematical work; and actually in twelve years made tables of factors and prime numbers for the seventh and nearly the whole of the eighth million,—a task which probably few men could have accomplished, without mechanical aid, in an ordinary lifetime. He may thus be ranked as the only man who has ever done valuable service to Mathematics without being able to cross the Ass's Bridge.

On the other hand, in the case of Mangiamele, there may have been real ingenuity subliminally at work. Our account of this prodigy is authentic, but tantalising from its brevity.


In the year 1837 Vito Mangiamele, who gave his age as 10 years and 4 months, presented himself before Arago in Paris. He was the son of a shepherd of Sicily, who was not able to give his son any instruction. By chance it was discovered that by methods peculiar to himself he resolved problems that seemed at the first view to require extended mathematical knowledge. In the presence of the Academy Arago proposed the following questions: What is the cubic root of 3,796,416?” In the space of about half a minute the child responded 156, which is correct. “What satisfies the condition that its cube plus five times its square is equal to 42 times itself increased by 40?” Everybody understands that this is a demand for the root of the equation x3 + 5 x2 − 42 x − 40 = 0. In less than a minute Vito responded that 5 satisfied the condition; which is correct. The third question related to the solution of the equation x5 − 4 x − 16779 = 0. This time the child remained four to five minutes without answering: finally he demanded with some hesitation if 3 would not be the solution desired. The secretary having informed him that he was wrong, Vito, a few moments afterwards, gave the number 7 as the true solution. Having finally been requested to extract the 10th root of 282,475,249 Vito found in a short time that the root is 7.

At a later date a committee, composed of Arago, Cauchy, and others, complains that “the masters of Mangiamele have always kept secret the methods of calculation which he made use of.”11 Scripture, op. cit., p. 17.

There is another point on which something might have been learnt from the study of so marked a group of automatists—utilisers of subliminal capacity—as these “prodigies” form. Their bodily characteristics might have been examined with a view to tracing such physical concomitants as may go with this facility of communication between psychical strata. We have, however, few data available for this purpose. Colburn inherited supernumerary digits, and Mondeux is reported to have been hysterical. On the other hand the “prodigies” of whose lives after childhood anything is known seem to have been free from nervous taint. No one, for instance, could well be more remote from hysteria than the elder Bidder;—or than his son, the late Mr. Bidder, Q. C., or than Mr. Blyth of Edinburgh, perhaps the best living English representative of what we may call the calculating diathesis.

It is plain, then, that no support is given by what we know of this group to the theory which regards subliminal mentation as necessarily a sign of some morbid dissociation of psychical elements. Is there, on the other hand, anything to confirm a suggestion which will occur in some similar cases, namely, that,—inasmuch as the addition of subliminal to supralimmal mentation may often be a completion and integration rather than a fractionation or disintegration of the total individuality,—we are likely sometimes to find traces of a more than common activity of the right or less used cerebral hemisphere? Finding no mention of ambidexterity in the meagre notices which have come down to us of the greater “prodigies,” I begged Mr. Blyth and the late {i-85} Mr. Bidder, Q. C, to tell me whether their left hands possessed more than usual power. Mr. Blyth's reply has been already given above; I now quote Mr. Bidder's.

(From Proceedings

S.P.R., vol. viii. p. 356.)

RAVENSBURY PARK,             
September 11th, 1891.   

As to ambidexterity. Of course I am ignorant of the train of thought that led you to ask the question; but oddly enough I am a very good example of it. I am not aware that my father was ambidextrous; nor are any of my children, so far as I know. For myself, in all sports,—bowling, throwing, fishing, tennis, racquets, &c.,—I almost invariably use the left hand. I cannot throw to any purpose with the right. In cricket, however, I bat with the right hand. In shaving, I shave one half of the face with the left hand and the other with the right, in each case taking the part which shaves forwards, so as to have no backward shaving. In writing I write with the right hand, being so taught; but some years ago I discovered that if I let my left hand move unconstrainedly and without conscious thought as to how it should form the letters, I could write with equal fluency, though not so well-formed letters. But the direction of the writing is reversed; so that it is requisite either to look through the paper or view it in a looking-glass to read the writing. My left hand and nerve system seems to have learnt by sympathy what the right had acquired by education and practice.

Further, I found that taking two pencils one in each hand I could write simultaneously with both hands,—the two writings proceeding in opposite directions. I have occasionally found since that other people could to some extent do the same. I repeatedly tried very hard to write one word with one hand and another with the other;—but it won't do; the result is always a nondescript production of parts of both words,—something like the nonsense words in Alice in Wonderland. I enclose a specimen which will show the simultaneous writing.

It thus appears that in the only two cases in which I have been able to make inquiry there is somewhat more of dextro-cerebral capacity than in the mass of mankind.

311. We may now pass on to review some further instances of subliminal cooperation with conscious thought;—first looking about us for any cases comparable in definiteness with the preceding; and then extending our view over the wider and vaguer realm of creative and artistic work.

Before we proceed to the highly-specialised senses of hearing and sight, let us see whether we can find traces of subliminal intensification of those perceptions of a less specialised kind which underlie our more elaborate modes of cognising the world around us. The sense of the efflux of time, and the sense of weight, or of muscular resistance, are amongst the profoundest elements in our organic being. And the sense of time is indicated in several ways as a largely subliminal faculty. {i-86} There is much evidence to show that it is often more exact in men sleeping than in men awake, and in men hypnotised than in men sleeping. The records of spontaneous somnambulism are full of predictions made by the subject as to his own case, and accomplished, presumably by self-suggestion, but without help from clocks, at the precise minute foretold. Or this hidden knowledge may take shape in the imagery of dream, as in a case published by Professor Royce, of Harvard,11 Proceedings of American S.P.R., vol. i. No. 4, p. 360. where his correspondent describes “a dream in which I saw an enormous flaming clock-dial with the hands standing at 2.20. Awaking immediately, I struck a match, and upon looking at my watch found it was a few seconds past 2.20.

I should, however, have been puzzled to produce any clear example of the subliminal time-sense as manifesting itself in a sane and waking person, had not a Mr. Higton sent to me some years ago the following record of personal experiences on which he desired my opinion. I made his acquaintance, and found him a sensible, serious witness; but I did not then perceive the full significance of his communication, and I have, unfortunately, lost sight of him.

(From Proceedings S.P.R., vol. viii. p. 337.)

Mr. W. Higton, 27 St. Leonard Street, Pimlico, S.W., sends me, September 1889, the following experiences—abbreviated from a long paper which I have returned to him.

1. “It is now some three years since the exact time of day presented itself to my mind independently of any internal knowledge or of any external physical appearances” (as of clock, &c.).

Mr. Higton had no idea of the exact time, when “within a few yards of Tattersall's there instantaneously appeared before me the face of a clock of an immense size. Every figure was perfectly visible; and the huge black hands distinctly indicated 11.25; while at the same moment or, correctly speaking, a fraction of a second later, I felt convinced and absolutely certain that the time indicated on the dial was the right time” (as in fact it was by his watch). “The phenomenon has recurred during the past three years at least five and, I think, six times; the first three occurring at intervals of about three months, and the last two or three being divided by a considerably longer interval.”

2. On another occasion Mr. Higton was walking through a field as to which a legend ran that a young lady was murdered there, while she held a sprig of thyme, and that any one passing through the field and not thinking of the murder would smell thyme. Mr. Higton paid no credit to this legend;—often walked through the field, but thought about the murder. “However, I did walk through the field one gloomy November afternoon, absorbed so deeply in some new practical scheme that I did not think about the murder, and most certainly should not have thought about it if the strongest conceivable smell of thyme that ever rose to human nostrils had not risen to mine. The odour of it lasted at least a quarter {i-87} of a minute, until my concentrated thoughts were disorganised, and made to dwell on the magical subject.”

3. “When I was at home assisting my father in his business it used to be my work to weigh the hides which were taken from the beasts we killed, preparatory to sending them to the dealer; and it was my custom before placing them in the scale to see how near the weight I would guess them to be. By this means I became tolerably expert in estimating their weight, invariably being not more than three or four pounds out. Now on several occasions before I guessed, or even thought of guessing, a certain weight came into my mind which (as in the case of the time indicated on the dial) I was inwardly assured was correct. I remember one case distinctly, in which the hide weighed 87¾ lb., which were the exact figures which occurred to me prior to weighing, and independently of any computation whatever. Indeed, on one occasion, the fourth, I think, I ventured to ticket the hide, without weighing it, in accordance with the figures which came into my mind; and on the following Tuesday exactly the number of pounds named on the ticket were paid for at the market to which the hides were delivered. As you will easily believe, I did not tell my father I had not weighed the hide on the ground that I knew the weight without doing so!”

Setting aside for the moment the hallucination of the sense of smell, I would point out that we have here precisely such uprushes of subliminal faculty, concerned with the deep organic sensations of the efflux of time and of muscular resistance, as theory had led us to expect. We need not postulate any direct or supernormal knowledge,—but merely a subliminal calculation, such as we shall see in the case of “arithmetical prodigies,” expressing itself supraliminally, sometimes in a phantasmal picture, sometimes as a mere “conviction,” without sensory clothing. And I would interpret in much the same way the story of the smell of thyme in the haunted field. We may suppose, I think, that although Mr. Higton was not “consciously” thinking of the local legend, his subliminal self remembered it, and produced the appropriate hallucination of smell in the same way in which it produced the picture of the clock-face, as indicating that it knew the precise hour. Thus we have, I think, a reasonable explanation of what seems at first sight an extravagant ghost story;—an explanation which is the more probable insomuch as it is deduced from our own analysis of Mr. Higton's evidence, and does not seem to have occurred to himself.

312. Passing on here to subliminal products of visual type, I am glad to be able to quote the following passage, which seems to me to give in germ the very theory for which I am now contending on the authority of one of the most lucid thinkers of the last generation.

The passage occurs in an article by Sir John Herschel on “Sensorial Vision,” in his Familiar Lectures on Scientific Subjects, 1816. Sir John describes some experiences of his own, “which consist in the {i-88} involuntary production of visual impressions, into which geometrical regularity of form enters as the leading character, and that, under circumstances which altogether preclude any explanation drawn from a possible regularity of structure in the retina or the optic nerve.”11 On this point see Professor James's Principles of Psychology, vol. ii. p. 84, note. Goethe's well-known phantasmal flower was clearly no mere representation of retinal structure. A near analogy to these patterns lies in the so-called “spirit drawings,” or automatic arabesques, discussed elsewhere in this chapter (see Section 324). Twice these patterns appeared in waking daylight hours,—with no illness or discomfort at the time or afterwards. More frequently they appeared in darkness; but still while Sir John was fully awake. They appeared also twice when he was placed under chloroform; “and I should observe that I never lost my consciousness of being awake and in full possession of my mind, though quite insensible to what was going on.… Now the question at once presents itself—What are these Geometrical Spectres? and how, and in what department of the bodily or mental economy do they originate? They are evidently not dreams. The mind is not dormant, but active and conscious of the direction of its thoughts; while these things obtrude themselves on notice, and by calling attention to them, direct the train of thought into a channel it would not have taken of itself.… If it be true that the conception of a regular geometrical pattern implies the exercise of thought and intelligence, it would almost seem that in such cases as those above adduced we have evidence of a thought, an intelligence, working within our own organisation distinct from that of our own personality.” And Sir John further suggests that these complex figures, entering the mind in this apparently arbitrary fashion, throw light upon “the suggestive principle” to which “we must look for much that is determinant and decisive of our volition when carried into action.” “It strikes me as not by any means devoid of interest to contemplate cases where, in a matter so entirely abstract, so completely devoid of any moral or emotional bearing, as the production of a geometrical figure, we, as it were, seize upon that principle in the very act, and in the performance of its office.”

From my point of view, of course, I can but admire the acumen which enabled this great thinker to pierce to the root of the matter by the aid of so few observations. He does not seem to have perceived the connection between these “schematic phantasms,” to borrow a phrase from Professor Ladd,22 See Professor Ladd's paper on this subject in Mind, April 1892. and the hallucinatory figures of men or animals seen in health or in disease. But even from his scanty data his inference seems to me irresistible;—“we have evidence of a thought, an intelligence, working within our own organisation, distinct from that of our own personality.” I shall venture to claim him as the first originator of the theory to which the far fuller evidence now accessible had independently led myself.


313. Cases observed as definitely as those just quoted are few in number; and I must pass on into a much-trodden—even a confusedly trampled—field;—the records, namely, left by eminent men as to the element of subconscious mentation, which was involved in their best work. Most of these stories have been again and again repeated;—and they have been collected on a large scale in a celebrated work,—to me especially distasteful, as containing what seems to me the loose and extravagant parody of important truth. It is not my business here to criticise Dr. Von Hartmann's Philosophy of the Unconscious in detail; but I prefer to direct my readers' attention to a much more modest volume, in which a young physician has put together the results of a direct inquiry addressed to some Frenchmen of distinction as to their methods especially of imaginative work.11 “Le Subconscient chez les Artistes, les Savants, et les Ecrivains,” par le Dr. Paul Chabaneix, Paris, 1897. I quote a few of the replies addressed to him, beginning with some words from M. Sully Prudhomme,—at once psychologist and poet,—who is here speaking of the subconscious clarification of a chain of abstract reasoning. “I have sometimes suddenly understood a geometrical demonstration made to me a year previously without having in any way directed thereto my attention or will. It seemed that the mere spontaneous ripening of the conceptions which the lectures had implanted in my brain had brought about within me this novel grasp of the proof.”

With this we may compare a statement of Arago's—“Instead of obstinately endeavouring to understand a proposition at once, I would admit its truth provisionally;—and next day I would be astonished at understanding thoroughly that which seemed all dark before.”

Condillac similarly speaks of finding an incomplete piece of work finished next day in his head.

Somewhat similarly, though in another field, M. Retté, a poet, tells Dr. Chabaneix that he falls asleep in the middle of an unfinished stanza, and when thinking of it again in the morning finds it completed. And M. Vincent d'Indy, a musical composer, says that he often has on waking a fugitive glimpse of a musical effect which (like the memory of a dream) needs a strong immediate concentration of mind to keep it from vanishing.

De Musset writes, “On ne travaille pas, on écoute, c'est comme un inconnu que vous parle à l'oreille.”One does not work, one listens, it's like a stranger who speaks at your ear.

Lamartine says,“Ce n'est pas moi qui pense; ce sont mes idées qui pensent pour moi.”It is not I who thinks; it is my ideas which think through me.

Rémy de Gourmont: “My conceptions rise into the field of consciousness like a flash of lightning or like the flight of a bird.”

M.S. writes: “In writing these dramas I seemed to be a spectator at the play; I gazed at what was passing on the scene in an eager, {i-90} wondering expectation of what was to follow. And yet I felt that all this came from the depth of my own being.”

Saint-Saens had only to listen, as Socrates to his Dæmon: and M. Ribot, summing up a number of similar cases, says: “It is the unconscious which produces what is vulgarly called inspiration. This condition is a positive fact, accompanied with physical and psychical characteristics peculiar to itself. Above all, it is impersonal and involuntary, it acts like an instinct, when and how it chooses; it may be wooed, but cannot be compelled. Neither reflection nor will can supply its place in original creation.… The bizarre habits of artists when composing tend to create a special physiological condition,—to augment the cerebral circulation in order to provoke or to maintain the unconscious activity.”

In what precise way the cerebral circulation is altered we can hardly at present hope to know. Meantime a few psychological remarks fall more easily within our reach.

314. In the first place, we note that a very brief and shallow submergence beneath the conscious level is enough to infuse fresh vigour into supraliminal trains of thought. Ideas left to mature unnoticed for a few days, or for a single night, seem to pass but a very little way beneath the threshold. They resemble pebbles which the earthworm sucks into its burrow and re-ejects upon the lawn, rather than an uprushing lava-stream from caves of hidden fire. They represent, one may say, the first stage of a process which, although often inconspicuous, is not likely to be discontinuous,—the sustenance, namely, of the supraliminal life by impulse or guidance from below.

In the second place, we see in some of these cases of deep and fruitful abstraction a slight approach to duplication of personality. John Stuart Mill, intent on his Principles of Logic, as he threaded the crowds of Leadenhall Street, recalls certain morbid cases of hysterical distraction;—only that with Mill the process was an integrative one and not a dissolutive one—a gain and not a loss of power over the organism.

And thirdly, in some of these instances we see the man of genius achieving spontaneously, and unawares, much the same result as that which is achieved for the hypnotic subject by deliberate artifice. For he is in fact co-ordinating the waking and the sleeping phases of his existence. He is carrying into sleep the knowledge and the purpose of waking hours;—and he is carrying back into waking hours again the benefit of those profound assimilations which are the privilege of sleep. Hypnotic suggestion aims at cooperations of just this kind between the waking state in which the suggestion, say, of some functional change, is planned and the sleeping state in which that change is carried out,—with benefit persisting anew into waking life. The hypnotic trance, which is a developed sleep, thus accomplishes for the ordinary man what ordinary sleep accomplishes for the man of genius.


The coming chapters on Sleep and Hypnotism will illustrate this point more fully. But I may here anticipate my discussion of dreams by quoting one instance where dreams, self-suggested by waking will, formed, as one may say, an integral element in distinguished genius.

The late Robert Louis Stevenson, being in many ways a typical man of genius, was in no way more markedly gifted with that integrating faculty—that increased power over all strata of the personality—which I have ascribed to genius, than in his relation to his dreams (see “A Chapter on Dreams” in his volume Across the Plains). Seldom has the essential analogy between dreams and inspiration been exhibited in such a striking way. His dreams had always (he tells us) been of great vividness, and often of markedly recurrent type. But the point of interest is that, when he began to write stories for publication, the “little people who managed man's internal theatre” understood the change as well as he.

When he lay down to prepare himself for sleep, he no longer sought amusement, but printable and profitable tales; and after he had dozed off in his box-seat, his little people continued their evolutions with the same mercantile designs.… For the most part, whether awake or asleep, he is simply occupied—he or his little people—in consciously making stories for the market.…

The more I think of it, the more I am moved to press upon the world my question: “Who are the Little People?” They are near connections of the dreamer's beyond doubt; they share in his financial worries and have an eye to the bank-book; they share plainly in his training;…they have plainly learned like him to build the scheme of a considerate story and to arrange emotion in progressive order; only I think they have more talent; and one thing is beyond doubt,—they can tell him a story piece by piece, like a serial, and keep him all the while in ignorance of where they aim.

That part [of my work] which is done while I am sleeping is the Brownies' part beyond contention; but that which is done when I am up and about is by no means necessarily mine, since all goes to show the Brownies have a hand in it even then.

Slight and imperfect as the above statistics and observations admittedly are, they seem to me to point in a more useful direction than do some of the facts collected by that modern group of anthropologists who hold that genius is in itself a kind of nervous malady, a disturbance of mental balance akin to criminality or even to madness. I must here pause and briefly consider the evidence advanced in support of a thesis almost directly contradictory of my own.

315. Professor Lombroso especially, in his popular if somewhat superficial book on the Man of Genius, has gathered together many anecdotes of the follies and frailties of eminent men. Striking, however, though his collection is, there are many reasons for caution in drawing from it the deductions which he suggests. In the first place (and this the author himself to a great extent admits) the distinguished men with whom he {i-92} deals do not and cannot form any true psychological class. They are merely a somewhat random selection from a much larger number of persons whose acts or writings have made them well known in the ancient or in the modern world. Many of them succeeded by means of qualities as remote as possible from those elsewhere in the book assumed as characteristic of genius; rose in their professions, for instance, by mere hard work and worldly wisdom, or were brought into prominence by political accidents. Were any charge of degeneracy or “nervosity” made out against all these eminent men as a body, it would merely seem to prove the paradox that degeneracy makes for success. But in truth many of the cases alleged admit of a much simpler explanation. There are in most of us some traits of human nature which we are not very anxious to reveal. If the great world looks at us too closely these traits tend to come out. The case is the same with those who are born great as with those who achieve greatness. Lombroso's chronique scandaleusescandal sheet of poets and painters might be well matched by the chronique scandaleuse of princes and peers. The Mémoires de St. Simon, for instance, would amply suffice to prove the thesis that a trace of the blood royal—or even a place at court—in itself implied a neurotic heredity. But it is scarcely worth while to go to history for what any valet de chambrea personal attendant will maintain of any hero. What you have to prove is rather that the average man is any less degenerate than his betters. And this is not easy; for we must reckon in our account abnormalities of defect as well as of exaggeration; bluntness and opacities must be set against irritabilities and illusions; and hardly a good easy man among us but might be analysed into half neuropath and half Philistine, if it would serve a theory.

316. Yet while thus demurring at many points both to Professor Lombroso's statistics themselves and to the conclusions based upon them, I recognise that there are underlying facts of great importance which give to his view such plausibility as it possesses. It is certainly not true, as I hold, either that the human race in general is nervously degenerating, or that nervous degeneration tends to a maximum in its most eminent members. But it can be plausibly maintained that the proportion of nervous to other disorders tends to increase. And it is certain that not nervous degeneration but nervous change or development is now proceeding among civilised peoples more rapidly than ever before, and that this self-adaptation to wider environments must inevitably be accompanied in the more marked cases by something of nervous instability. And it is true also that from one point of view these changes might form matter for regret; and that in order to discern what I take to be their true meaning we have to regard the problem of human evolution from a somewhat unfamiliar standpoint.

The thesis which I have called plausible only,—the increased modern importance of nervous in comparison with other disorders—is quite untrustworthy unless in the first place we remember that such increase is {i-93} probably relative only, other types of disease having positively declined, as their common causes—hunger, filth, and exposure—have become rarer among civilised men. Moreover, our standard of health and sanity becomes constantly higher. Savages and rude populations probably suffer from nervous instabilities as often as we, but they notice it less intelligently, and care less about it. The second proposition, that nervous development is now proceeding more rapidly than ever before, is I think proved by the great general advance in all achievements needing rapid and precise nervous adjustment. The perpetual “record breaking” in athletics, which we take in this age as a matter of course, is far more of a nervous than of a muscular affair, and the standard of modern capacity for every kind of work of brain and hand (I do not say the standard of industrial probity, or of imaginative elevation), rises as steadily as the standard of the machinery with which we supplement our bodily powers.

317. I pass on to the second point mentioned just above. The nervous system itself is probably tending in each generation to become more complex and more delicately ramified. As is usual when any part of an organism is undergoing rapid evolutive changes, this nervous progress is accompanied with some instability. Those individuals in whom the hereditary or the acquired change is the most rapid are likely also to suffer most from this perturbation which masks evolution—this occasional appearance of what may be termed “nervous sports” of a useless or even injurious type. Such are the fancies and fanaticisms, the bizarre likes and dislikes, the excessive or aberrant sensibilities, which have been observed in some of the eminent men whom Lombroso discusses. Their truest analogue, as we shall presently see more fully, lies in the oddities or morbidities of sentiment or sensation which so often accompany the development of the human organism into its full potencies, or precede the crowning effort by which a fresh organism is introduced into the world.

Such at least is my view; but the full acceptance of this view must depend upon some very remote and very speculative considerations bearing upon the nature and purport of the whole existence and evolution of man. Yet however remote and speculative the thesis which I defend may be, it is not one whit remoter or more speculative than the view which, faute de mieux,for want of a more satisfactory alternative is often tacitly assumed by scientific writers. My supposed opponent and I are like two children who have looked through a keyhole at the first few moves in a game of chess,—of whose rules we are entirely ignorant. My companion urges that since we have only seen pawns moved, it is probable that the game is played with the pawns alone; and that the major pieces seen confusedly behind the pawns are only a kind of fringe or ornament of the board. I reply that those pieces stand on the board like the pawns; and that since they are larger and more varied than the pawns, it is probable that they are meant to play some even more important rôle in the game as it develops. We agree that we must wait and see whether the pieces are moved; and I now {i-94} maintain that I have seen a piece moved although my companion has not noticed it.

The chessboard in this parable is the Cosmos; the pawns are those human faculties which make for the preservation and development on this planet of the individual and the race; the pieces are faculties which may either be the mere by-products of terrene evolution, or on the other hand may form an essential part of the faculty with which the human germ or the human spirit is originally equipped, for the purpose of self-development in a cosmical, as opposed to a merely planetary, environment.

318. I know not where to find what I may call the planetary scheme of man's evolution set forth at length. Perhaps one of its supporters might argue somewhat as follows: “The basis from which we start must be the existence of the material universe. This universe has certain laws, presumably antecedent to living matter, and to which living matter, however it may have come to exist in the universe, must inevitably conform. Living creatures, if life is to persist, must eat and must propagate; and the germ from which they sprang must have involved the faculties necessary for thus persisting. That germ developed along various lines into various animals; and the higher animals prove their superiority by out-living and dominating the lower. The main set and tendency of man's faculties points to a more and more complete dominion over the material world. But the way in which faculties develop is largely by the occurrence of sports,—of unpredictable varieties. Some of these, although they may not tend to increase man's power over the material world, tend to his pleasure in other ways, and are fostered by him. And, apart from actual sports, the brain is such a complex affair, and the inter-connections of faculty are so subtle, that the mere development of those useful faculties which lie in the direct track of evolution tends also to the formation of by-products,—instincts, appetites, and powers, which tend to persist and grow, and which gradually come to fill a large part of human consciousness. Religion, Art, spiritual love, &c., are such by-products; their existence proves that the brain is a complex thing; but it does not prove that any spiritual world exists which can satisfy their cravings.”

These arguments of course receive many answers from theological and philosophical standpoints. It is urged in various ways that the qualities here described as by-products are at once too fundamental and too elevated to be thus regarded as the mere incidental concomitants of faculties of far lower range.

Arguments of this type, however, for the most part ignore altogether the evolutionary scheme put forward on the other side, and rest upon considerations which in this work I am myself precluded from urging. I must now try to show that the evolutionary scheme itself, when more closely considered, points to a wider than planetary scope.

319. The weak point in the materialistic synthesis, briefly given above, is of course the superficial way in which it is forced to treat the appearance {i-95} of life on the planet. In our absolute ignorance of the source from whence life came, we have no ground for assuming that it was a purely planetary product, or that its unknown potentialities are concerned with purely planetary ends. It would be as rash for the biologist to assume that life on earth can only point to generations of further life on earth as it would have been for some cosmic geologist to assume—before the appearance of life on earth—that geological forces must needs constitute all the activity which could take place on this planet.

Since the germ of life appeared on earth, its history has been a history not only of gradual self-adaptation to a known environment, but of gradual discovery of an environment, always there, but unknown. What we call its primitive simple irritability was in fact a dim panæsthesia; a potential faculty, as yet unconscious of all the stimuli to which it had not yet learnt to respond. As these powers of sensation and of response have developed, they have gradually revealed to the living germ environments of which at first it could have no conception.

It is probable, to begin with, that the only environment which the vast majority of our ancestors knew was simply hot water. For the greater part of the time during which life has existed on earth it would have been thought chimerical to suggest that we could live in anything else. It was a great day for us when an ancestor crawled up out of the slowly-cooling sea;—or say rather when a previously unsuspected capacity for directly breathing air gradually revealed the fact that we had for long been breathing air in the water;—and that we were living in the midst of a vastly extended environment,—the atmosphere of the earth. It was a great day again when another ancestor felt on his pigment-spot the solar ray; or say rather when a previously unsuspected capacity for perceiving light revealed the fact that we had for long been acted upon by light as well as by heat; and that we were living in the midst of a vastly extended environment,—namely, the illumined Universe that stretches to the Milky Way. It was a great day when the first skate (if skate he were) felt an unknown virtue go out from him towards some worm or mudfish;—or say rather when a previously unsuspected capacity for electrical excitation demonstrated the fact that we had long been acted upon by electricity as well as by heat and by light; and that we were living in an inconceivable and limitless environment,—namely, an ether charged with infinite energy, overpassing and interpenetrating alike the last gulf of darkness and the extremest star. All this,—phrased perhaps in some other fashion,—all men admit as true. May we not then suppose that there are yet other environments, other interpretations, which a further awakening of faculty still subliminal is yet fated by its own nascent response to discover? Will it be alien to the past history of evolution if I add: It was a great day when the first thought or feeling flashed into some mind of beast or man from a mind distant from his own? when a previously unsuspected capacity of telepathic percipience revealed the fact {i-96} that we had long been acted upon by telepathic as well as by sensory stimuli; and that we were living in an inconceivable and limitless environment,—a thought-world or spiritual universe charged with infinite life, and interpenetrating and overpassing all human spirits,—up to what some have called World-Soul, and some God?

This, as I conceive, is the scheme of Evolution, so far as we can as yet guess it. This is the progress of the game of chess, from the play of pawns to the play of pieces; and in telepathy, as I take it, we have seen a piece already moved.

320. It is not, however, with the more advanced moves in this game that I am at present concerned. I am dealing not with supernormal sensitivities, but with genius,—defined as the cooperation of the submerged with the emergent self,—as the integration of subliminal with supraliminal faculty within the limits of the range of faculties which all men admit and know. Yet it seemed needful to look for a moment somewhat further, in order to show the true position of genius in the evolutionary scale, in which it forms by no means either an extreme term or an accidental deviation. For it will be easily understood that one of the corollaries from the conception of a constantly widening and deepening perception of an environment infinite in infinite ways, will be that the faculties which befit the material environment have absolutely no primacy, unless it be of the merely chronological kind, over those faculties which science has often called by-products, because they have no manifest tendency to aid their possessor in the struggle for existence in a material world. The higher gifts of genius—poetry, the plastic arts, music, philosophy, pure mathematics—all of these are precisely as much in the central stream of evolution—are perceptions of new truth and powers of new action just as decisively predestined for the race of man—as the aboriginal Australian's faculty for throwing a boomerang or for swarming up a tree for grubs. There is, then, about those loftier interests nothing exotic, nothing accidental; they are an intrinsic part of that ever-evolving response to our surroundings which forms not only the planetary but the cosmic history of all our race.

What inconsistencies, what absurdities, underlie that assumption that evolution means nothing more than the survival of animals fittest to conquer enemies and to overrun the earth. On that bare hypothesis the genus homo is impossible to explain. No one really attempts to explain him except on the tacit supposition that Nature somehow tended to evolve intelligence—somehow needed to evolve joy; was not satisfied with such an earth-over-runner as the rabbit, or such an invincible conqueror as the influenza microbe. But how much intelligence, what kind of joy Nature aimed at—is this to be left to be settled by the instinct of l'homme sensuel moyen?the average man or ought we not rather to ask of the best specimens of our race what it is that they live for?—whether they labour for the meat that perisheth, or for Love and Wisdom? To more and more among mankind {i-97} the need of food is supplied with as little conscious effort as the need of air; yet these are often the very men through whom evolution is going on most unmistakably—who are becoming the typical figures of the swiftly-changing race.

321. Once more. If this point of view be steadily maintained, we shall gain further light on some of those strangenesses and irregularities of genius which have led to its paradoxical juxtaposition with insanity as a divergence from the accepted human type. The distinctive characteristic of genius is the large infusion of the subliminal in its mental output; and one characteristic of the subliminal in my view is that it is in closer relation than the supraliminal to the spiritual world, and is thus nearer to the primitive source and extra-terrene initiation of life. And earthly Life itself—embodied as it is in psycho-physically individualised forms—is, on the theory advanced in these pages, a product or characteristic of the etherial or metetherial and not of the gross material world. Thence in some unknown fashion it came; there in some unknown fashion it subsists even throughout its earthly manifestation; thither in some unknown fashion it must after earthly death return. If indeed the inspirations of genius spring from a source one step nearer to primitive reality than is that specialised consensus of faculties which natural selection has lifted above the threshold for the purposes of working-day existence, then surely we need not wonder if the mind and frame of man should not always suffice for smooth and complete amalgamation; if some prefiguration of faculties adapted to a later stage of being should mar the symmetry of the life of earth. An often-quoted analogy has here a closer application than is often apprehended. The grub comes from the egg laid by a winged insect, and a winged insect it must itself become; but meantime it must for the sake of its own nurture and preservation acquire certain larval characters—characters sometimes so complex that the observer may be excused for mistaking that larva for a perfect insect destined for no further change save death. Such larval characters, acquired to meet the risks of a temporary environment, I seem to see in man's earthly strength and glory. I see the human analogues of the poisonous tufts which choke the captor—the attitudes of mimicry which suggest an absent sting—the “death's head” coloration which disconcerts a stronger foe.

But meantime the adaptation to aerial life is going on; something of the imago or perfect insect is preformed within the grub; and in some species, even before they sink into their transitional slumber, the rudiments of wings still helpless protrude awkwardly beneath the larval skin. Those who call Shelley, for instance, “a beautiful but ineffectual angel beating his wings in the void,” may adopt, if they choose, this homelier but exacter parallel. Shelley's special gifts were no more by-products of Shelley's digestive system than the wings are by-products of the grub.

Or at any rate this new use of a well-worn simile may serve to suggest that for a long time yet it must be on the future as much as on the past, {i-98} on what is now in process of evolution as much as on what has already been evolved, that the attention of psychologists should be fixed. We are watching the emergence of unguessed potentialities from the primal germ. The mind is no walled plot which a diagram will figure; it is a landscape with lines which stretch out of view, and an ever-changing horizon.

322. And thus there may really be something at times incommensurable between the inspirations of genius and the results of conscious logical thought. Just as the calculating boy solves his problems by methods which differ from the methods of the trained mathematician, so in artistic matters also that “something of strangeness” which is in “all excellent beauty,” may be the expression of a real difference between subliminal and supraliminal modes of perception. I cannot help thinking that such a difference is perceptible in subliminal relations to speech; that the subliminal self will sometimes surpass conscious effort, if it is treating speech as a branch of Art, in Poetry;—or else in some sense will fall short of conscious effort, when it is merely using words as an unavoidable medium to express ideas which common speech was hardly designed to convey.

Thus, on the one hand, when in presence of one of the great verbal achievements of the race—say the Agamemnon of Æschylus—it is hard to resist the obscure impression that some form of intelligence other than supraliminal reason or conscious selection has been at work. The result less resembles the perfection of rational choice among known data than the imperfect presentation of some scheme based on perceptions which we cannot entirely follow.

But, on the other hand, even though words may thus be used by genius with something of the mysterious remoteness of music itself, it seems to me that our subliminal mentation is less closely bound to the faculty of speech than is our supraliminal. There is a phrase in common use which involves perhaps more of psychological significance than has yet been brought out. Of all which we can call genius, or which we can ally with genius—of art, of love, of religious emotion—it is common to hear men say that they transcend the scope of speech.

Now, to many persons this seems a mere vague sentimental expression. They hold, perhaps, that language—in however inward and abbreviated a form—is the absolutely necessary instrument of all definite thinking. Or even if they do not insist upon this view a priori, they consider that just as at the opera, ce qui ne vaut pas la peine d'être dit, on le chante,one sings what is not worth saying so in a more general way the assertion that an idea is not expressible in words, can but mean that it in some way falls short of the standard implied in articulate speech.

From the point of view of this work no such presumption can be formed. On the contrary, the relation to language of the subliminal self is a question which obviously stands in need of special inquiry.

323. Let us consider the position of speech among human modes of {i-99} self-expression. The whole person of one human being is more or less expressive to others of his kind. In repose it tells of action and emotion in the past; in movement it shows action and emotion as now going forward. Gesture—the way in which the body is held—is even now used along with speech as the most general term for communication.

Now, if we are thus communicating by the movement of our muscles, we shall naturally seek out such groups of muscles as we can move the most rapidly and delicately. There are four such groups, namely: the muscles (1) of the eye and orbit; (2) of the mouth and throat; (3) of the fingers, and (4) of the toes.

Three of these groups we all of us use. With the muscles of the eye and orbit we express emotion; with the muscles of mouth and throat we express both emotion and definite ideas; with the fingers we write; and the experience moreover of such men as are born without fingers has shown us that the toes can be trained to nearly equal efficiency; as with certain handless copyists of pictures familiar for many years now in Continental galleries.

Now among many ways of self-expression which can be educed from these groups of muscles, taken singly or together, one great system has dominated the rest. Above all things men have needed definite sound to carry the message to a distance in space, and fixed record in order to preserve it in time. Spoken language has become an absolute necessity for any intellectual life much above the level of brutes; and written language—a symbolic and summarised gesture—has become an absolute necessity for anything which we can call civilisation. The constant use of throat and fingers for verbalisation has relegated to the background all other forms of gesture.

There is, however, no a priori ground for supposing that language will have the power to express all the thoughts and emotions of man. It may indeed be maintained that the inevitable course of its development tends to exhibit more and more clearly its inherent limitations. “Every language,” it has been said, “begins as poetry and ends as algebra.” To use the terms employed in this work, every language begins as a subliminal uprush and ends as a supraliminal artifice. Organic instincts impel to primitive ejaculation; unconscious laws of mind shape early grammar. But even in our own day—and we are still in the earth's infancy—this naïveté of language is fast disappearing. The needs of science and of commerce have become dominant. Science has deliberately created for herself an arbitrary system of signs;—either actual arrangements of letters and numerals, or technical vocabularies, constructed on elaborate plans. Commerce is endeavouring to reach the same algebraical pitch, with bookkeeping, telegraphic codes, pidgin English, Volapuk and the like.

Of course, the development of language is not left entirely to the counting-house and the laboratory. In other directions a spiritualisation of human speech is being pushed on, and our vocabulary, based as it is on {i-100} concrete objects and direct sensations, is refined for the expression of philosophical thought. But this is as though one were to try to chip flint arrow-heads into razors; nor can we wonder if our supraliminal manipulation leaves us with an instrument less and less capable of expressing the growing complexity of our whole psychical being.

324. What then, we may ask, is the attitude and habit of the subliminal self likely to be with regard to language? Is it not probable that other forms of symbolism may retain a greater proportional importance among those submerged mental operations which have not been systematised for the convenience of communication with other men?

I think that an intelligent study of visual and motor automatism will afford us sufficient proof that symbolism, at any rate pictorial symbolism, becomes increasingly important as we get at the contents of those hidden strata. Telepathic messages, especially, which form, as we shall see, the special prerogative or characteristic of subliminal communication, seem to be conveyed by vague impression or by inward or externalised picture oftener than by articulate speech. And I may so far anticipate later discussion of automatic writings (whether self-inspired or telepathic), as to point out a curious linguistic quality which almost all such writings share. The “messages” of a number of automatists, taken at random, will be sure to resemble each other much more closely than do the supraliminal writings of the same persons. Quite apart from their general correspondence in ideas—which belongs to another branch of our subject—there is among the automatic writings of quite independent automatists a remarkable correspondence of literary style. There is a certain quality which reminds one of a translation, or of the compositions of a person writing in a language which he is not accustomed to talk. These characteristics appear at once in automatic script, even of the incoherent kind; they persist when there is no longer any dream-like incoherence; they are equally marked, even when, as often happens, the automatic script surpasses in intelligence, and even in its own kind of eloquence, the products of the waking or supraliminal mind.

And side by side and intercurrent with these written messages come those strange meaningless arabesques which have been baptized as “spirit-drawings”though they rarely show any clear trace of the operation of an external intelligence. Instances of this form of automatism are described in a book called Spirit Drawings: a Personal Narrative, by W. M. Wilkinson, some account of which is given in Appendix 811 A (Vol. II.). These complex and fanciful compositions—often absolutely automatic

—appear to me like a stammering or rudimentary symbolism; as though the subliminal intelligence were striving to express itself through a vehicle perhaps more congenial to its habits than articulate language.

325. Returning, then, from these illustrations drawn from actual automatism to our proper subject of genius,—that happy mixture of subliminal with supraliminal faculty—we may ask ourselves in what kind of subliminal {i-101} uprush this hidden habit of wider symbolism, of self-communion beyond the limits of speech, will be likely to manifest itself above the conscious threshold.

The obvious answer to this question lies in the one word Art. The inspiration of Art of all kinds consists in the invention of precisely such a wider symbolism as has been above adumbrated. I am not speaking, of course, of symbolism of a forced and mechanical kind—symbolism designed and elaborated as such—but rather of that pre-existent but hidden concordance between visible and invisible things, between matter and thought, between thought and emotion, which the plastic arts, and music, and poetry, do each in their own special field discover and manifest for human wisdom and joy.

In using these words, I must repeat, I am far from adopting the formulæ of any special school. The symbolism of which I speak implies nothing of mysticism. Nor indeed, in my view, can there be any real gulf or deep division between so-called realistic and idealistic schools. All that exists is continuous; nor can Art symbolise any one aspect of the universe without also implicitly symbolising aspects which lie beyond.

326. And thus in the Arts we have symbolism at every stage of transparency and obscurity; from symbolisms which merely summarise speech to symbolisms which transcend it. Sometimes, as with Music, it is worse than useless to press for too close an interpretation. Music marches, and will march for ever, through an ideal and unimaginable world. Her melody may be a mighty symbolism, but it is a symbolism to which man has lost the key. Poetry's material, on the other hand, is the very language which she would fain transcend. But her utterance must be subliminal and symbolic, if it is to be poetry indeed; it must rise (as has been already hinted) from a realm profounder than deliberate speech; it must come charged, as Tennyson has it, with that “charm in words, a charm no words can give.”

This branch, indeed, of internal audition,—that which involves complexity rather than intensity of imagined sounds,—offers, so to say, the richest opportunities for subliminal manifestation,—the readiest vent-holes for the uprush of the hidden fire. The sounds that rise within our waking consciousness from a source beyond the will do not confine themselves to the mere shaping of scattered sentences,—the airy syllabling of phrases that tend to nought. There is an inward consonance, an obscure concent, which forms the groundwork of Poetry the fount of Song,—the cradle from whence those “sphere-born harmonious sisters, Voice and Verse,” issue in preformed divinity into the common day. This is true not only for Song, strictly so termed, but also for Poetry unaccompanied by music; that is to say, for interrelations of rhythm and articulation taken apart from interrelations of pitch, definite time-intervals, or timbre. For the true poet—as Goethe has somewhere said—the melody of his coming poem floats as a self-created and impalpable entity within him, before {i-102} words have shaped themselves or thought itself is born. Io mi son un, said a greater even than Goethe,—

“Io mi son un, che quando

Amore spira, noto, ed in quel modo

Che delta dentro, vo significando.” 


I am one who, when Love inspires me, takes note, and gives meaning according to what is dictated within.[Dante, Divina Commedia, Purgatorio, XXIV, 52–54]

And here a reflection may be made which, while it clears up (as seems to me) an old confusion, will also well illustrate the latent capacities of the subliminal consciousness; its power to convey potent and intimate messages through mechanism of the slenderest kind. We know that as we advance from sounds non-human to human sounds, from sounds non-vocal to sounds which the human throat can produce, our conception of any given sound increasingly needs, to make it complete, a motor as well as an auditory representation within us. Our grasp, say, of the word London is imperfect if we cannot articulate the word with our mind's voice as well as hear it with our mind's ear.

In all definite inward audition there is, then, probably a motor element as well as a sensory. And I hold that one difference between imagined poetry and imagined music or song lies in the fact that imagined verbal rhythm may be almost wholly motor, while imagined tunes must be largely sensory as well. To those, then, who are perplexed at the fact that many poets have lacked musical ear it may be answered that the mental imagery of such poets may have been mainly motile;—may have consisted in a delicate imagination of such laryngeal movements as are concerned in the utterance of melodious speech. I believe that with careful self-observation many men “with an ear for verse” will recognise that the essential part of poetic excitation has lain in scarcely perceptible changes of tension in the muscles of the throat. The rhythmical modulations, indeed, have their birth beyond the will; but it is about that physical centre of imagined utterance that the emotional stress will gather and the inexplicable promptings throng; through that motor channel the reverberating tremors rise and fall;—and flood the flats of common consciousness as with the earthquake-wave of an unfathomed sea.

And there is yet another and even stranger form of inward audition. There exists among men a mighty complex of conceptions which lie apart from—some say beyond—articulate speech and reasoned thought. There is a march and uprising through ideal spaces which some hold as the only true ascent; there is an architecture which some count as alone abiding,—

      “seeing it is built

Of music, therefore never built at all,

And, therefore, built for ever.”

Whether considered in regard to its development in the race, or to its activity in the individual, Music resembles not so much a product of terrene needs and of natural selection as a subliminal capacity attaining to {i-103} an accidental manifestation independently of the requirements or of the external stimuli of the supraliminal self. We know the difficulty of explaining its rise on any current theory of the evolution of human faculty. We know that it is like something discovered, not like something manufactured;—like wine found in a walled-up cellar, rather than like furniture made in the workshop above. And the subjective sensations of the musician himself accord with this view of the essentially subliminal character of the gift with which he deals. In no direction is “genius” or “inspiration” more essential to true success. It is not from careful poring over the mutual relations of musical notes that the masterpieces of melody have been born. They have come as they came to Mozart—whose often-quoted words I need not cite again—in an uprush of unsummoned audition, of unpremeditated and self-revealing joy. They have come, as to Browning's Abt Vogler, with a sense of irrecoverable commingling of depths of soul and heights of heaven.11 More definite than most of the descriptions of this type in musical literature are the following words of Schumann (Robert Schumann's Early Letters, p. 268): “The piano is getting too limited for me. It is most extraordinary how I write almost everything in canon, and then only detect the imitation afterwards,—and often find inversions, rhythms in contrary motion, &c.” And again, p. 271: “I do not realise all this while I am composing; it only comes to me afterwards; you who are at the top of the tree will understand what I mean.” Translating the phrases of poetry into such terms as we here employ, we may say that we have reached a point where the subliminal uprush is felt by the supraliminal personality to be deeper, truer, more permanent than the products of voluntary thought.

Here, too, we must dwell for a moment upon another and higher kind of internal visualisation. I have spoken of the arithmetical prodigy as possessing a kind of internal blackboard, on which he inscribes with ease and permanence his imaginary memoranda. But blackboards are not the only surfaces on which inscriptions can be made. There are other men—prodigies of a different order—whose internal tabula is not of blackened wood, but of canvas or of marble; whose inscriptions are not rows of Arabic numerals, but living lines of colour, or curves of breathing stone. Even the most realistic art is something more than transcript and calculation; and for art's higher imaginative achievements there must needs be moments of inward idealisation when visible beauty seems but the token and symbol of beauty unrevealed; when Praxiteles must “draw from his own heart the archetype of the Eros that he made”; when Tintoret must feel with Heraclitus that “whatsoever we see waking is but deadness, and whatsoever sleeping, is but dream.”

327. But when we reach this point we have begun (as I say) to transcend the special province to which, in Chapter I., I assigned the title of genius. I there pointed out that the influence of the subliminal on the supraliminal might conveniently be divided under three main heads. When {i-104} the subliminal mentation co-operates with and supplements the supraliminal, without changing the apparent phase of personality, we have genius. When subliminal operations change the apparent phase of personality from the state of waking in the direction of trance, we have hypnotism. When the subliminal mentation forces itself up through the supraliminal, without amalgamation, as in crystal-vision, automatic writing, &c., we have sensory or motor automatism. In accordance with this definition, the content of the inspirations of genius is supposed to be of the same general type as the content of ordinary thought. We have regarded genius as crystallising fluid ideas; or, if you will, as concentrating and throwing upwards in its clear fountain a maze of subterranean streams. But we have not regarded it as modifying, in such operation, the ordinary alert wakefulness of the thinker, nor as providing him with any fresh knowledge, obtainable by supernormal methods alone.

It is plain, however, that such distinctions as those which I have drawn between genius, trance, automatism, cannot possibly be rigid or absolute. They are distinctions made for convenience between different phases of what must really be a continuous process—namely, the influence of the Self below the threshold upon the Self above it. Between each of these definite phases all kinds of connections and intermediate stages must surely exist.

Connections between trance and automatism, indeed, are obvious enough. The difficulty has rather lain in their clear separation. Trance, when habitual, is pretty sure to lead to automatic speech or writing. Automatism, when prolonged, is similarly apt to induce a state of trance.

The links between Genius and these cognate states are of a less conspicuous kind. They do, however, exist in such variety as to confirm in marked fashion the analogies suggested above.

328. And first, as to the connection between genius and automatism, one may say that just as anger is a brief madness, so the flash of Genius is essentially a brief automatism.

Wordsworth's moments of inspiration, when, as he says,

“Some lovely image in the song rose up

Full-formed, like Venus rising from the sea,”

were in effect moments of automatic utterance; albeit of utterance held fast in immediate cooperation with the simultaneous workings of the supraliminal self. Such a sudden poetic creation, like the calculating boy's announcement of the product of two numbers, resembles the sudden rush of planchette or pencil, in haste to scrawl some long-wished-for word.

Now extend this momentary automatism a little further. We come then to what is called the faculty of improvisation. How much is meant by this term? Is the extempore oration, “the unpremeditated lay,” in truth a subliminal product? or have we to do merely with the rapid exercise of ordinary powers?


In the first place, it is clear that much of what is called improvisation is a matter of memory. The so-called secondary automatism which enables the pianist to play a known piece without conscious attention passes easily into improvisations which the player himself may genuinely accept as original; but which really consist of remembered fragments united by conventional links of connection. Thus also the orator, “thinking on his legs,” trusts himself at first to the automatic repetition of a few stock phrases, but gradually finds that long periods flow unforeseen and unremembered from his tongue.

We thus get beyond the range of stereotyped synergies, of habituations of particular groups of nerve-centres to common action. There is some adaptability and invention; some new paths are traversed; adjustments are made for which no mere recurrence to old precedents will suffice.

The problem here resembles that well-known difficulty of explaining what goes on during the restoration or “substitution” of function after an injury to the brain. In that case, the brain-elements which remain uninjured slowly assume functions which they apparently never exercised before,—rearranging paths of cerebral communication in order to get the old efficiency out of the damaged and diminished brain-material. This recovery is not rapid like an extemporisation, but gradual, like a healing or re-growth, and it therefore does not suggest an intelligent control so much as a physiological process, like the re-budding on a certain preordained pattern of the severed claw of a crab. Of course this restoration of brain-functions is inexplicable, as all growth is at present inexplicable. We may call it indeed with some reason the highest process of human growth. So viewed, it forms a kind of middle term between ordinary growth of bone or muscle, always on a predetermined plan, and that sudden creation of new cerebral connections or pathways which is implied in an inspiration of genius. Such a juxtaposition need not weaken my claim that the inspirations of genius represent a co-operant stream of submerged mentation, fully as developed in its own way as the mentation of which we are conscious above the threshold. The nature and degree of subliminal faculty must of course be judged by its highest manifestations. And this analogy between the hidden operations of genius and of growth would rather support me in regarding organic growth also as controlled by something of intelligence or memory, which under fitting conditions—as in the hypnotic trance—may be induced to co-operate with the waking will.

329. The talent of improvisation, which suggested these analogies, will sometimes act much more persistently than in the case of the orator or the musician. There is reason to believe (both from internal style and from actual statements) that it plays a large part in imaginative literature even of the more commonplace kind. And in one instance at least the improvising diathesis, so to term it, has given birth to a mass of literature which formed for a generation one of the most potent emotional elements in European thought. One needs to know George Sand's life and writings {i-106} well before one can venture to discriminate in her self-revelations between the ingeniously false and the naïvely, transparently true. My own belief is that, except in certain cases where she had an urgent motive for falsehood in self-defence, she is almost as veracious an introspective psychologist as Wordsworth himself. Various passages from her life-history, one or two of which represent I believe actual fact, are corroborated, or at least not contradicted, by the statements of other persons familiar with her methods of working. If taken as accurate, they reveal an unusual vigour and fertility of literary outflow going on in an almost dream-like condition; a condition midway between the actual inventive dreams of R. L. Stevenson and the conscious labour of an ordinary man's composition. Or another parallel would be the day-dreaming habit; which, as is well known, has led in some morbid cases to a bewildering confusion between the actual and the imaginary life.

George Sand's career was not without moral faults; but they were the faults, not of a morbid, but of a prepotent organisation; and they belonged, moreover, almost wholly to her early life. Throughout long years of healthy maturity and age she formed a striking example of the combination of enormous imaginative productiveness with inward tranquillity and meditative calm. What George Sand felt in the act of composition was a continuous and effortless flow of ideas, sometimes with and sometimes without an apparent externalisation of the characters who spoke in her romances. Turning now to another author, as sane and almost as potent as George Sand herself, we find a phenomenon which would have suggested to us actual insanity if observed in a mind less robust and efficient. If the allusions to the apparent independence of Dickens's characters which are scattered through his letters be read with our related facts in view, it will no longer be thought that they are intended as a mystification. Mrs. Gamp, his greatest creation, spoke to him, he tells us (generally in church), as with an inward monitory voice.

330. And note further that as scientific introspection develops we are likely to receive fuller accounts of these concurrent mental processes, these partial externalisations of the creatures of the romancer's brain. One such account, both definite and elaborate, has been published by M. Binet in L'Année Psychologique for 1894, and I summarise it here.11 L'Année Psychologique, i. 1894, p. 124, F. de Curel, par A. Binet.

M. de Curel, a French dramatist of distinction, while apparently quite unaware of the phenomena described either by Dickens or by Stevenson, does nevertheless carry the waking experiences of the one to a point where they closely approach the dream-experiences of the other. M. de Curel's personages, after a period of painful incubation, seem to assume an independent type; they carry on their conversations independently of his will, nor need he even keep his attention fixed on them. The process of invention thus continues without conscious fatigue. We are here reminded {i-107} of certain performances under hypnotic suggestion, where mental or bodily feats, as play-acting, are accomplished without effort or exhaustion.

M. de Curel is an ingenious and refined, if not a widely popular dramatist. His work is of a sufficiently high class to give real interest to his careful and serious analysis of his methods, or rather his experiences while working.

He begins in an ordinary way, or with even more than the usual degree of difficulty and distress in getting into his subject. Then gradually he begins to feel the creation of a number of quasi-personalities within him;—the characters of his play, who speak to him;—exactly as Dickens used to describe Mrs. Gamp as speaking to him in church. These personages are not clearly visible, but they seem to move round him in a scene—say a house and garden—which he also dimly perceives, somewhat as we perceive the scene of a dream. He now no longer has the feeling of composition, of creation, but merely of literary revision; the personages speak and act for themselves, and even if he is interrupted while writing, or when he is asleep at night, the play continues to compose itself in his head. Sometimes while out shooting, &c., and not thinking of the play, he hears sentences rising within him which belong to a part of this play which he has not yet reached. He believes that subliminally the piece has been worked out to that further point already. M. de Curel calls these minor duplications of personality a bourgeonnement or budding of his primary personality;—into which they gradually, though not without some painful struggle, re-enter after the play is finished.

It will be seen that this account,—contributed as serious evidence, as M. Binet's long article shows,—is thoroughly concordant with several other cases already known to us. It comes midway between Stevenson's dreams and the hysteric's idées fixes.

M. de Curel's insistent ideas are self-suggested. Just that power of crystallising round a nucleus which, when hysterically started, makes the idée obsédante,obsession—makes, when supraliminally started and well directed, the living personage of the play.

331. I have thus far endeavoured to show that Genius represents not only the crystallisation of ideas already existing in floating form in the supraliminal intelligence, but also an independent, although concurrent, stream of mentation, spreading often to wider range, although still concerned with matters in themselves cognisable by the normal intelligence.

Let us proceed to push the inquiry a step further. It has been claimed in this work for subliminal uprushes generally that they often contain knowledge which no ordinary method of research could acquire. Is this supernormal knowledge—we ought now to ask—ever represented in the uprushes to which we give the name of Genius?

What is the relation, in short, of the man of Genius to the sensitive?

If the man of Genius be, as I have urged, on the whole the completest type of humanity, and if the sensitive's special gift be in itself one of the {i-108} most advanced forms of human faculty, ought not the inspirations of genius to bring with them flashes of supernormal knowledge as intimate as those which the sensitive—perhaps in other respects a commonplace person—from time to time is privileged to receive?

Some remarkable instances of this kind undoubtedly do exist. The most conspicuous and most important of all cannot, from motives of reverence, be here discussed. Nor will I dwell upon other founders of religions, or on certain traditional saints or sages. But among historical characters of the first mark the names of Socrates and of Joan of Arc are enough to cite. I shall try in a later chapter to show that the monitions of the Dæmon of Socrates,—the subliminal self of a man of transcendent genius,—have in all probability been described to us with literal truth: and did in fact convey to that great philosopher precisely the kind of telæsthetic or precognitive information which forms the sensitive's privilege today. We have thus in Socrates the ideal unification of human powers.

It must, however, be admitted that such complete unification is not the general rule for men of genius; that their inspirations generally stop short of telepathy or of telæsthesia. I think we may explain this limitation somewhat as follows. The man of genius is what he is by virtue of possessing a readier communication than most men possess between his supraliminal and his subliminal self. From his subliminal self, he can only draw what it already possesses; and we must not assume as a matter of course that the subliminal region of any one of us possesses that particular sensitivity—that specific transparency—which can receive and register definite facts from the unseen. That may be a gift which stands as much alone—in independence of other gifts or faculties—in the subliminal region, as say, a perfect musical ear in the supraliminal. The man of genius may draw much from those hidden wells of being without seeing reflected therein any actual physical scene in the universe beyond his ordinary ken.

And yet neither must we hastily assume that because the man of genius gets no definite impression of a world beyond our senses he does not therefore get any true impression, which is all his own.

I believe, on the contrary, that true, though vague, impressions of a world beyond the range of sense are actually received—I do not say by all men of genius, but by men of genius of certain types.

332. Certain very important types of genius, indeed,—those, for instance, concerned with numbers, forms, and sounds,—do not seem habitually to tend towards the apprehension of deeper aspects of the cosmic mystery. Or perhaps I ought rather to say that the mathematician, on the one hand, is unlikely to give expression to any such supernormal intimations, while the painter and the musician, on the other hand, command acts of expression so subtly and obscurely suggestive, that it is hard for the mere onlooker to infer what the artist's own spiritual attitude may in fact have been. Deeply interesting, therefore, as such discussions may be—discussions as to what was the inward experience of a Raphael or a {i-109} Beethoven—the content of that experience must at present be too uncertain for any psychological analysis, such as we wish to make here, of its veritable truth,—of its trustworthiness as actual insight into a spiritual world.

It would seem, then, that for any valid appreciation of what I may call the vague supernormal content of moments of inspiration, we shall have to examine a very limited group of men of genius. Chiefly, perhaps, of the philosopher and the poet must we needs feel that if any genius reaches out into an interpenetrating spiritual world, theirs must do so; that they ought to have some message corroborating, even though but in vague general fashion, the results to which sensitives have been led by a plainer, if a narrower, way.

Even among this small class, however, our choice of instructive examples is still further limited. Few philosophers have been men of genius in the sense in which we are using the word in the present chapter; and few poets have spoken with enough of weight and sincerity to make their testimony to subjective moods worth quoting in serious argument. Yet it must be mainly in the works of poets of pronounced subjective type—rather than in epos or drama—that passages to us instructive are likely to be found.

333. I shall not attempt an anthology of such passages. We all know that their general tone supports, as far as it goes, the thesis here advanced:—namely, that moments of poetical inspiration are apt to be moments also of some sense of insight or entrance into a supernal world. Most poets have been Platonists; their influence tends to swell that ancient stream of idealistic thought which lies at the root of all civilised religions.

For our present purposes, however, one single poet—almost one single poem—will practically suffice. In whatever rank Wordsworth may be placed as an artist in language, there can be no doubt as to his conscientious veracity as an introspective psychologist. “The Prelude, or Growth of a Poet's Mind,” has been regarded by some critics as a tedious and egotistical poem. But whether or not it is suited to give wide poetic pleasure, its value as a “human document” is, for our present purposes, I venture to say, unique. In Goethe indeed, in Browning, in Tennyson above all, we find introspective passages of extreme interest and beauty. But no one save Wordsworth—not even Goethe—has treated his own faculties so seriously or on so ample a scale. The “Prelude” is a deliberate, persistent attempt to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, about exactly these emotions and intuitions which differentiate the poet from common men. And it must be added, as a judgment established above the ebb and flow of popular criticism, that Wordsworth had a valid right to deal thus with himself as a kind of typical poet. Whether recognised coldly or enthusiastically, his position is secure.

It must be remembered, too, that Wordsworth was not only particularly {i-110} anxious to tell the truth about himself, but particularly capable of doing so. His self-esteem never took the form of making him wish to appear other than he was. As he genuinely was, so did he clearly see himself; and although both his experience and his appreciativeness had serious limitations, yet, from a psychological point of view, his limitations were rather advantages. What can we want more than this kind of sworn and unbiassed deposition as to the growth and content of a mind which in sheer force of what we call original genius—as distinguished from subtlety, acquirement, universality, and so forth—has hardly ever been surpassed? Here was a great motor force in the world of mind; how was that force worked from inside?

Let us begin with the strictly limited inquiry from which we started, and let us consider merely the description given by this one poet of the apparent content of moments of profound inspiration. We find Wordsworth insisting, in the first place, upon the distinctive character of this subliminal uprush.

He speaks of the “haze within,” which becomes

“A tempest, a redundant energy

Vexing its own creation.”

Of “imagination” he says (Book VI.):—

“That awful Power rose from the mind's abyss,

Like an unfathomed vapour that enwraps,

At once, some lonely traveller. I was lost;

Halted without an effort to break through;

But to my conscious soul I now can say—

‘I recognise thy glory;’ in such strength

Of usurpation, when the light of sense

Goes out, but with a flash that has revealed

The invisible world, doth greatness make abode.”

This passage expresses in the language of poetry the very relations between the supraliminal and the subliminal on which I have in this chapter dwelt.

The influence rises from no discoverable source; for a moment it may startle or bewilder the conscious mind; then it is recognised as a source of knowledge, arriving through inner vision; while the action of the senses is suspended in a kind of momentary trance. The knowledge gained, however, is simply a perception of “the invisible world”; there is no claim to any more definite revelation.

Concordant with this passage are other descriptions of “these fleeting moods of shadowy exultation”; they bear an unmistakable, though hardly a translatable message. Of childish hours the poet says (Book I.):—

                 “Even then I felt

Gleams like the flashing of a shield; the earth

And common face of Nature spake to me

Rememberable things.”


And since it is mainly by inward vision that these rememberable things are in truth discerned, there is a growing fusion between subjective and objective; between that which is generated in the seer himself and that of which the visible universe conveys the half-caught intimation (Book II.):—

                                    “An auxiliar light

Came from my mind, which on the setting sun

Bestowed new splendour.”

Or at a still further stage (Book II.):—

                                 “Bodily eyes

Were utterly forgotten, and what I saw

Appeared like something in myself, a dream,

A prospect in the mind.”

Thus it fares, Wordsworth repeats in a later passage (Book XIV.), with minds sustained by recognition of transcendent power:—

                              “In a world of life they live,

By sensible impressions not enthralled,

But by their quickening impulse made more prompt

To hold fit converse with the spiritual world.”

334. Vague though these passages (and others like them) may be, they nevertheless carry more conviction than do the more definite visions of the saints and illuminés of various creeds. The sane simplicity of Wordsworth has been subject to less of prepossession; he, if any man, has kept his mind, as Bacon advised, concentric to the universe; and there is nothing in his revelation which any other revelation can invalidate or contradict.

A vague but genuine consciousness of the spiritual environment; that (it seems) is the degree of revelation which artistic or philosophic genius is capable of conferring. subliminal uprushes, in other words, so far as they are intellectual, tend to become telæsthetic. They bring with them indefinite intimations of what I hold to be the great truth that the human spirit is essentially capable of a deeper than sensorial perception, of a direct knowledge of facts of the universe outside the range of any specialised organ or of any planetary view.

335. But this conclusion points the way to a speculation more important still. Telæsthesia is not the only spiritual law, nor are subliminal uprushes affairs of the intellect alone. Beyond and above man's innate power of world-wide perception, there exists also that universal link of spirit with spirit which in its minor earthly manifestations we call telepathy. Our submerged faculty—the subliminal uprushes of genius—can expand in that direction as well as in the direction of telæsthesia. The emotional content, indeed, of those uprushes is even profounder and more important than the intellectual;—in proportion as Love and Religion are profounder and more important than Science or Art.


That primary passion, I repeat, which binds life to life, which links us both to life near and visible and to life imagined but unseen;—that is no mere organic, no mere planetary impulse, but the inward aspect of the telepathic law. Love and religion are thus continuous; they represent different phases of one all-pervading mutual gravitation of souls. The flesh does not conjoin, but dissever; although through its very severance it suggests a shadow of the union which it cannot bestow. We have to do here neither with a corporeal nor with a purely human emotion— Love is the energy of integration which makes a Cosmos of the Sum of Things.

But here there is something of controversy to traverse before a revived Platonic conception of love can hope to be treated by the physiologist as more than a pedantic jest. And naturally so; since there is no emotion subliminal over so wide a range of origin,—fed so obscurely by “all thoughts, all passions, all delights,”—and consequently so mysterious even to the percipient himself. At one end of its scale love is based upon an instinct as primitive as the need of nutrition; even if at the other end it becomes, as Plato has it, the ἑρμηνεῦον καὶ διαπορθμεῦον, “the Interpreter and Mediator between God and Man.” The controversy as to the planetary or cosmical scope of the passion of Love is in fact central to our whole subject.

336. It will give clearness to the question in dispute if I quote here a strong expression of each view in turn. For the physiological or materialist conception of the passion of love,—where love's subliminal element is held to be of the organic type,—set forth in no light or cynical spirit, but with the moral earnestness of a modern Lucretius, I can turn to no better authority than Professor Pierre Janet. The passage which follows is no mere boutadewitticism or paradox; it is a kind of culminating expression of the theory which regards the supraliminal man as the normal man, and distrusts all deep disturbance of his accustomed psychical routine.

It is commonly said that love is a passion to which man is always liable, and which may surprise him at any moment of his life from 15 to 75. This does not seem to me accurate; and a man is not throughout all his life and at every moment susceptible of falling in love (de devenir amoureux). When a man is in good physical and moral health, when he has easy and complete command of all his ideas, he may expose himself to circumstances the most capable of giving rise to a passion, but he will not feel it. His desires will be reasonable and obedient to his will, leading the man only so far as he wishes to go, and disappearing when he wishes to be rid of them. On the other hand if a man is morally below the mark (malade au moral),—if in consequence of physical fatigue or excessive intellectual work, or of violent shocks and prolonged sorrow, he is exhausted, melancholy, distracted, timid, incapable of controlling his ideas,—in a word, depressed,—then he will fall in love, or receive the germ of some kind of passion, on the first and most trivial occasion.… The least thing is then enough; the sight of some face, a gesture, a word, which previously would have left us altogether indifferent, strikes us, and {i-113} becomes the starting-point of a long amorous malady. Or more than this, an object which had made no impression on us, at a moment when our mind was healthier and not capable of inoculation, may have left in us some insignificant memory which reappears in a moment of morbid receptivity. That is enough; the germ is sown in a favourable soil; it will develop itself and grow.

There is at first, as in every virulent malady, a period of incubation; the new idea passes and repasses in the vague reveries of the enfeebled consciousness; then seems for a few days to have disappeared and to leave the mind to recover from its passing trouble. But the idea has done its work below the surface; it has become strong enough to shake the body; and to provoke movements whose origin lies outside the primary consciousness. What is the surprise of a sensible man when he finds himself piteously returning beneath the windows of his charmer, whither his wandering feet have taken him without his knowledge;—or when in the midst of his daily work he hears his lips murmuring perpetually the well-known name!…Such is passion in its reality; not as idealised by fantastic description, but reduced to its essential psychological characteristics. (L'Automatisme Psychologique, p. 466.)

337. On the other side I will appeal to Plato himself, giving a brief sketch merely of one of the leading passages (Symposium, 192–212) where the Platonic conception of love is set forth.11 In the passage which follows some use has been made of Jowett's translation. It is noticeable that this utterance, unsurpassed among the utterances of antiquity, has been placed by Plato in the mouth of a woman—the prophetess Diotima—with the express intention, as I think, of generalising it, and of raising it above the region of sexual passion. There is nothing else in antiquity resembling the position thus ascribed to Diotima in reference to Socrates,—the woman being represented as capable of raising the highest and of illumining the wisest soul.

Plato begins by recognising, as fully as pessimist or cynic could do, the absolute inadequacy of what is called on earth the satisfaction of this profound desire. Lovers who love aright will feel that no physical nearness can content them, but what will content them they cannot say. “Their soul,” says Plato, “is manifestly desiring something else; and what it is she cannot tell, only she darkly prophesies thereof and guesses it from afar. But if Hephæstus with his forging fire were to stand beside that pair and say: ‘Is this what ye desire—to be wholly one? to be together by night and day?—for I am ready to melt you together and to make you grow in one, so that from two ye shall become one only, and in this life shall be undivided, and dying shall die together, and in the underworld shall be a single soul;’—there is no lover who would not eagerly accept the offer, and acknowledge it as the expression of the unknown yearning and the fulfilment of the ancient need.” And through the mouth of Diotima, Plato insists that it is an unfailing sign of true love that its desires are for ever; nay, that love may be even defined as the desire of the everlasting possession of

the good. And in all love's acts he finds the impress of man's craving for immortality,—for immortality whose only visible image for us on earth is the birth of children to us as we ourselves decay,—so that when the slow self-renewal of our own everchanging bodies {i-114} has worn out and ceased, we may be renewed in brighter, younger bodies which we desire to be born to us from whomsoever we find most fair. “And then,” says Plato, rising, as ever, from visible to invisible things, “if active bodies have so strong a yearning that an endless series of lovely images of themselves may constitute, as it were, an earthly immortality for them when they have worn away, how greatly must creative souls desire that partnership and close communion with other souls as fair as they may bring to birth a brood of lofty thoughts, poems, statutes, institutions, laws,—the fitting progeny of the soul?

“And he who in his youth hath the need of these things in him, and grows to be a godlike man, wanders about in search of a noble and well-nurtured soul; and finding it, and in presence of that beauty which he forgets not night or day, brings forth the beautiful which he conceived long ago; and the twain together tend that which he hath brought forth, and are bound by a far closer bond than that of earthly children, since the children which are born to them are fairer and more immortal far. Who would not choose to have Homer's offspring rather than any sons or daughters of men? Who would not choose the offspring which Lycurgus left behind him, to be the very salvation of Lacedæmon and of Greece? or the children of Solon, whom we call Father of our Laws? or of other men like these, whether Greeks or barbarians, who by great deeds that they have done have become the begetters of every kind of virtue?—ay, and to these men's children have temples been set up, and never to any other progeny of man.…”

“He, then, who to this end would strive aright, must begin in youth to seek fair forms, and should learn first to love one fair form only, and therein to engender noble thoughts. And then he will perceive that the beauty of one fair form is to the beauty of another near akin; and that if it be Beauty's self he seek, it were madness not to account the beauty of all forms as one same thing; and considering this, he will be the lover of all lovely shapes, and will abate his passion for one shape alone, despising and deeming it but a little thing. And this will lead him on to see that the beauty of the soul is far more precious than any beauty of outward form, so that if he find a fair soul, though it be in a body which hath but little charm, he will be constant thereunto, and bring to birth such thoughts as teach and strengthen, till he lead that soul on to see the beauty of actions and of laws, and how all beauty is in truth akin, and the body's beauty is but a little matter; and from actions he will lead him on to sciences, that he may see how sciences are fair; and looking on the abundance of beauty may no longer be as the slave or bondman of one beauty or of one law; but setting sail into the ocean of beauty, and creating and beholding many fair and glorious thoughts and images in a philosophy without stint or stay, he may thus at last wax strong and grow, and may perceive that there is one science only, the science of infinite beauty.

“For he who hath thus far had intelligence of love, and hath beheld all {i-115} fair things in order and aright,—he drawing near to the end of things lovable shall behold a BEING marvellously fair; for whose sake in truth it is that all the previous labours have been undergone: One who is from everlasting, and neither is born nor perisheth, nor can wax nor wane, nor hath change or turning or alteration of foul and fair; nor can that beauty be imagined after the fashion of face or hands or bodily parts and members, nor in any form of speech or knowledge, nor as dwelling in aught but in itself; neither in beast nor man nor earth nor heaven nor any other creature; but Beauty only and alone and separate and eternal, which, albeit all other fair things partake thereof and grow and perish, itself without change or increase or diminution endures for everlasting. And whoso being led on and upward by human loves begins to see that Beauty, he is not far, I say, from reaching the end of all. And surely then, O Socrates (said that guest from Mantinea), man's life is worth the living, when he beholds that Primal Fair; which when thou seest it shall not seem to thee to be made after the fashion of gold or raiment or those forms of earth,—whom now beholding thou art stricken dumb, and fain, if it were possible, without thought of meat or drink, wouldst look and love for ever. What would it be then, were it granted to any man to see Very Beauty clear;—incorruptible and undefiled, not mingled with colour or flesh of man, or with aught that can consume away, but single and divine? Could man's life, in that vision and beatitude, be poor or low? or deemest thou not (said she), that then alone it will be possible for this man, discerning spiritual beauty with those eyes by which it is spiritually discerned, to beget no shadows of virtue, since that is no shadow to which he clings, but virtue in very truth, since he hath the very Truth in his embrace? and begetting and rearing Virtue as his child, he must needs become the friend of God; and if there be any man who is immortal, that man is he.”

338. Between the aspects of love here expressed in extreme terms,—the planetary aspect, if I may so term it, and the cosmical,—the choice is momentous. I do not indeed say that in our estimate of love is involved our estimate of Religion; for Religion should mean the sane response of the spirit to all that is known of Cosmic Law. But Religion in the sense in which it is often used,—our emotional and ethical attitude towards Life Unseen;—this is in reality too closely parallel to Platonic Love to allow the psychologist who denies reality in the one to assume reality in the other. For the Platonic lover the image of the Beloved one,—no longer a matter of conscious summons and imagination,—has become the indwelling and instinctive impulse to noble thought and deed. Even such to a Francis or to a Theresa is the image of the Divinity whom they adore; and if they claim that sometimes in moments of crisis they feel a sway, a guidance, a communicatio idiomatumsharing of divine and human natures with the Divine, we may point in reply to the humbler, but more tangible, evidence which assures us that even between souls still inhabiting and souls who have quitted the {i-116} flesh there may exist a telepathic intercommunication and an impalpable confluence from afar.

339. Brief as this survey has been, it has served to indicate that the psychical type to which we have applied the name of genius may be recognised in every region of thought and emotion. In each direction a man's everyday self may be more or less permeable to subliminal impulses. The man who is in but small degree thus permeable, who acts uniformly on supraliminal considerations,—on ratiocination, as he will say, and not on impulse,—this man is likely to be safe in prudent mediocrity. He subsists upon a part of human nature which has already been thoroughly trained and prepared for this world's work. The man, on the other hand, who is more readily permeable to subliminal uprushes, takes the chance of wider possibilities, and moves through life on a more uncertain way. Nature rears such men from seed and not from cuttings; she does not simply reproduce the common conformation, but gives a chance to whatever of untried potency may lurk within the germ.

But how much may there be which is thus hidden and undeveloped? Within what limits of variation may we expect these psychical “sports” to find their play? To help in deciding this question we must go back once more to our simplest and, so to say, diagrammatic examples of genius.

340. If I have dwelt at some length on arithmetical prodigies, this is not, of course, because I regard this gift of subliminal computation as a high form of genius, but because the definiteness of the achievements presents some vague and illusive problems in a comparatively manageable form. Thus it is easier in the case of a Mangiamele than in the case of a Dante to ask oneself with exactness which is the least improbable of the conceivable answers—all of them largely conjectural—to the question, “Whence did the child get his genius?”—a question which the evolutionist, although he cannot solve it, must not ignore.

It appears to me that the answers which have been implicitly or explicitly given to such a question are reducible under four main heads. I shall cite these in the order in which they push the required answer further and further back. But the reader must remember that there is absolutely no difference in point of the mystery involved between one reply and another. All have to deal with the same ultimately inexplicable facts, and the most Lamarckian of answers is in reality as mystical as the most Platonic.

(1) First, then, I place what I have called the Lamarckian reply,—according to which the eminent capacity of the individual under discussion was inherited from the acquired capacities of self-improving ancestors. To this we must here answer that even assuming acquired characteristics to be inheritable, there were as a rule no such acquired capacities for our prodigies to inherit. Mangiamele the father, the rough Sicilian peasant, who did not teach his son his letters; Mondeux the father, the woodcutter of Tours, who did not teach his son the numerals,—these were not {i-117} men who had developed their mathematical gifts as the Lamarckian giraffe developed the bones of his neck. The only case where heredity could be pleaded is that of the younger (not of the elder) Bidder—unless we count under this head the pre-natal suggestion which Mr. Blyth believes to have been efficacious in his own and his brother's case.

(2) Next comes the reply which I suppose would now be commonly given, and which, to avoid the ambiguities of the word Darwinian, I will call the protoplasmic solution. Mangiamele's gift, in this view, was a sport or by-product occurring in the course of evolution,—a new quality derived from old qualities not obviously resembling it. It was one of those favourable spontaneous variations of which natural selection has often been able to take advantage; and whose occasional unpredictable occurrence has raised our race to its present level. Now the cause of such sports, I need not say, Darwin expressly leaves unexplained. All that he says is that to sport in this way is characteristic of living matter. Sudden differentiation in unpredictable directions must, in short, be a latent capacity of protoplasm; and the explanation of Mangiamele's gift is virtually referred to the nature of the stock of protoplasm with which his earliest ancestors started operations.

This answer has the logical advantage over the Lamarckian answer (which, of course, at bottom is protoplasmic also), that, being hardly more than a mere restatement of the facts, it cannot help being true so far as it goes. But it does not supply, and was not propounded by Darwin as supplying an explanation of the ultimate source of faculty, but only of certain incidents in its terrene development.

(3) In direct contrast to these terrene explanations comes the preterrene explanation of Plato. A man learns geometrical truths easily, Plato said, because in reality he is only remembering them. He is remembering them because he learnt them originally in the ideal world, before his incarnation “in this body, which is our tomb.” One wishes that Plato had had the facts now before us to work up into a dialogue, “Dase, or Inspiration.” If he thought his hypothesis of reminiscence necessary in order to explain the mental effort of an intelligent adult mastering such startling novelties as are now contained in the first books of Euclid—what would he have said of Pascal, who παῖς ἐὼν ἄθυρε μεγάλα ἔργαas a boy played at great deeds, sported with cosmic laws in childish play; of Gauss flinging down his slate with the answer alone written upon it—“Da liegt esThere it lies!!”—the moment that the master had dictated the question which was to occupy the class for an hour; or above all, as I say, of the crass and stolid Dase, as it were an idiot supported from the Prytaneum, to declare secrets which the gods had hid from men?

(4) Lastly, the view which I am here suggesting is in some sort a renewal of the old Platonic “reminiscence,” in the light of that fuller knowledge which is common property today. I hold, of course, that in the protoplasm or primary basis of all organic life there must have been {i-118} an inherent adaptability to the manifestation of all faculties which organic life has in fact manifested. I hold, of course, that sports or variations occur, which are at present unpredictable, and which reveal in occasional offspring faculties which their parents showed no signs of possessing. But I differ from those who hold that the faculty itself thus manifested is now for the first time initiated in that stock by some chance combination of hereditary elements. I hold that it is not initiated, but only revealed; that the “sport” has not called a new faculty into being, but has merely raised an existing faculty above the threshold of supraliminal consciousness.

This view, if pushed back far enough, is no doubt inconsistent with the way in which evolution is generally conceived. For it denies that all human faculties must have been evoked by terrene experience. It assumes a subliminal self, with unknown faculties, originated in some unknown way, and not merely by contact with the needs which the terrene organism has had to meet. It thus seems at first sight to be introducing a new mystery, and to be introducing it in a gratuitous way.

To this I reply in the first place that so far as the origin of man's known powers is concerned, no fresh mystery is in fact introduced. All human powers, to put the thing broadly, have somehow or other to be got into protoplasm and then got out again. You have to explain first how they became implicit in the earliest and lowest living thing, and then how they have become thus far explicit in the latest and highest. All the faculties of that highest being, I repeat, existed virtually in the lowest, and in so far as the admitted faculties are concerned the difference between my view and the ordinary view may be said to be little more than a difference as to the sense which that word virtually is here to assume.

341. The real difference between the two views appears when the faculties which I have called unknown come to be considered. If they are held to be real, my view is certainly the better able to embrace them. I hold that telepathy and telæsthesia do in fact exist—telepathy, a communication between incarnate mind and incarnate mind, and perhaps between incarnate minds and minds unembodied; telæsthesia, a knowledge of things terrene which overpasses the limits of ordinary perception, and which perhaps also achieves an insight into some other than terrene world. And these faculties, I say, cannot have been acquired by natural selection, for the preservation of the race, during the process of terrene evolution; they were (as we may phrase it) the products of extra-terrene evolution. And if they were so, man's other powers may well have been so also. The specialised forms of terrene perception were not real novelties in the universe, but imperfect adaptations of protoplasm to the manifestation of the indwelling general perceptive power. The mathematical faculty, for instance (we may, perhaps, say with Plato), pre-existed. When Dase solved all those sums in his head, his power of solving them was not a fresh development in his ancestral stock, but depended on the accidental adaptation of his organism to the manifestation of the indwelling computative power. I do not indeed {i-119} venture to follow Plato in his ontogenetic argument—his claim that the individual computator has had already an individual training in computation. I do not say that Dase himself learnt or divined the multiplication-table in some ideal world. I only say that Dase and all the rest of us are the spawn or output of some unseen world in which the multiplication-table is, so to speak, in the air. Dase trailed it after him, as the poet says of the clouds of glory, when he “descended into generation” in a humble position at Hamburg.

In him and in his ancestors were many faculties which were called out by the struggle for existence, and became supraliminal. But there were many faculties also which were not thus called out, and which consequently remained subliminal To these faculties, as a rule, his supraliminal self could get no access. But by some chance of evolution—some sport—a vent-hole was opened at this one point between the different strata of his being, and a subliminal uprush carried his computative faculty into the

open day.

Two things, of course, are assumed in this argument for which Science offers no guarantee. I assume in the man a soul which can draw strength and grace from a spiritual Universe, and conversely I assume in the Universe a Spirit accessible and responsive to the soul of man. These are familiar postulates. Every religion has claimed them in turn; although every religion in turn has so narrowed their application as grievously to narrow the evidence available for their support. But that which religions have claimed for their Founders or for their Saints—and what is sanctity but the genius of the ethical realm?—Psychology must claim for every form of spiritual indrawing, every form of spiritual response; for sleeping vision, for hypnotic rejuvenation, for sensory and motor automatisms, for trance, for ecstasy. The philosopher who has cried with Marcus Aurelius “Either Providence or atoms!”—who has declared that without this basis in the Unseen, “the moral Cosmos would be reduced to a Chaos”;—should he not welcome even the humblest line of research which fain would gather from every unsolved problem some hint as to the spiritual law unknown which in time may give the solution of all?

342. We know not in what directions—directions how definitely predetermined—even physical organisms can vary from the common type. We know not what amount of energy any given plant or animal can absorb and incorporate from earth and air and sun. Still less can we predict or limit the possible variations of the soul, the fulness which it may receive from the World-Soul, its possible heritage of grace and truth. But in genius we can watch at each stage the processes of this celestial nurture. We can imagine the outlook of joyous trustfulness; we can almost seem, with Wordsworth, to remember the child's soul entering into the Kingdom of Heaven. Childhood is genius without capacity; it makes for most of us our best memory of inspiration, and our truest outlook upon the real, which is the ideal, world.


343. From a greater distance we can watch the inward stir of mighty thought, the same for Æschylus, for Newton, for Virgil;—a stir independent of worldly agitation; like the swing and libration of the tide-wave across the ocean, which takes no note of billow or of storm.

Nay, we can see against the sun “the eagle soaring above the tomb of Plato,” and in Paul, as in Plotinus, we can catch that sense of self-fulfilment in self-absorption, of rapture, of deliverance, which the highest minds have bequeathed to us as the heritage of their highest hours.

These our spiritual ancestors are no eccentrics nor degenerates; they have made for us the sanest and most fruitful experiment yet made by man; they have endeavoured to exalt the human race in a way in which it can in truth be exalted; they have drawn on forces which exist, and on a Soul which answers; they have dwelt on those things “by dwelling on which it is,” as Plato has it, “that even God is divine.”




ὀλβίᾳ δ’ ἅπαντες αἴσᾳ λυσίπονον μετανίσσονται τελευτάν.

καὶ σῶμα μὲν πάντων ἕπεται θανάτῳ περισθενεῖ,

ζωὸν δ’ ἔτι λείπεται αἰῶνος εἴδωλον · τὸ γάρ ἐστι μόνον

ἐκ θεῶν· εὕδει δὲ πρασσόντων μελέων, ἀτὰρ εὑδόντεσσιν ἐν πολλοῖς ὀνείροις

δείκνυσι τερπνῶν ἐφέρποισαν χαλεπῶν τε κρίσιν.



“But all by a happy fate pass over to a death that is free from toil.” And the body of all men follows overpowering death, but a living image of life still remains: for this alone is from the gods. This sleeps while the limbs are still active, but in many dreams it shows to the sleeper the approaching choice between pleasant and difficult things.[Plutarch, Consolatio ad Apollonium]

400. The preceding chapters have carried us two steps upon our way. In Chapter II we gained some insight into the structure of human personality by analysing some of the accidents to which it is subject;—the insistent ideas, the hysterical instabilities, the splits and alternations which seem to destroy that inward unity to the sense of which we instinctively cling. In the third chapter we viewed this personality in its normal waking state, and considered how that norm should be defined, and in what manner certain fortunate persons had extended the grasp of that inward concentration, and had integrated the personality still further by utilising uprushes of subliminal faculty to supplement or to crystallise the products of supraliminal thought.

The review of these two chapters indicates clearly enough what my next step must be. It is obvious that in my review of phases or alternations of personality I have left out of sight the most constant, the most important alternation of all. I have thus far said nothing of sleep. Yet that change of personality, at least, has been borne in on every one's notice;—not, certainly, as a morbid curiosity, but as an essential part of life.

Sleep must assuredly now be studied, and from two points of view.

Regarding sleep as an alternating phase of personality, we must consider what are its special characteristics and faculties. Regarding it as an integral factor in our earthly existence, and on an equal footing with the waking state, we must consider how the faculties of sleep, as of waking, can be improved and concentrated in the course of the physical and psychical evolution of man. Such improvement or concentration, however, presupposes a comprehension of the true nature of sleep which we are by no means entitled to take for granted.

401. First, then, let us consider the specific characteristics of sleep. {i-122} The definition of sleep is an acknowledged crux in physiology. And I would point out that the increased experience of hypnotic sleep which recent years have afforded has made this difficulty even more striking than before. A physiological explanation must needs assume that some special bodily condition,—such, for instance, as the clogging of the brain by waste-products,—is at least the usual antecedent of sound sleep. But it is certain, on the other hand, that with a large percentage of persons profound and prolonged sleep can be induced, in any bodily condition, by simple suggestion. Hypnosis, indeed (as Wetterstrand and others have shown) may be prolonged, with actual benefit to the sleeper, far beyond the point which the spontaneous sleep of a healthy subject ever reaches. A good subject can be awakened and thrown into hypnosis again almost at pleasure, and

independently of any state either of nutrition or of fatigue. Such sleep belongs to those phenomena which we may call nervous if we will, but which we can observe or influence from the psychological side alone.

402. We can hardly hope, from the ordinary data, to arrive at a definition of sleep more satisfactory than others have reached. We must defer that attempt until we have collected something more than the ordinary evidence as to what occurs or does not occur during the abeyance of waking life. One point, however, is plain at once. We cannot treat sleep,—as it has generally been treated,—in its purely negative aspect. We cannot be content merely to dwell, with the common text-books, on the mere absence of waking faculties;—on the diminution of external perception, the absence of controlling intelligence. We must treat sleep positively, so far as we can, as a definite phase of our personality, co-ordinate with the waking phase. Each phase, as I believe, has been differentiated alike from a primitive indifference;—from a condition of lowly organisms which merited the name neither of sleep nor of waking. Nay, if there were to be a contest as to which state should be deemed primary and which secondary, sleep might put forward its claim to be regarded as the more primitive phase. It is sleep rather than vigilance which prenatal and infantile life suggest; and even for us adults, however much we may associate ourselves in thought with the waking state alone, that state has at least thus much of secondary and adventitious that it is maintained for short periods only, which we cannot artificially lengthen, being plainly unable to sustain itself without frequent recourse to that fuller influx of vitality which slumber brings.

Out of slumber proceeds each fresh arousal and initiation of waking activities. What other activities may in slumber be aroused and initiated the evidence to be set forth in this chapter should help us to say. To some extent at least the abeyance of the supraliminal life must be the liberation of the subliminal To some extent the obscuration of the noonday glare of man's waking consciousness must reveal the far-reaching faint corona of his unsuspected and impalpable powers.


403. Entering, then, upon a review of sleeping faculty, thus inevitably imperfect, we may best begin from the red end of our spectrum of consciousness;—the red end, which represents the deepest power which waking effort can exert upon our physical organism.

Our survey of the efficacy of sleep, indeed, must make its beginning beyond that limit For assuredly in sleep some agency is at work which far surpasses waking efficacy in this respect. It is a fully admitted, although an absolutely unexplained fact, that the regenerative quality of healthy sleep is something sui generis,of its own type which no completeness of waking quiescence can rival or approach. A few moments of sleep—a mere blur across the field of consciousness—will sometimes bring a renovation which hours of lying down in darkness and silence would not yield. A mere bowing of the head on the breast, if consciousness ceases for a second or two, may change a man's outlook on the world. At such moments,—and many persons, like myself, can fully vouch for their reality,—one feels that what has occurred in one's organism,—alteration of blood-pressure, or whatever it be,—has been in some sense discontinuous; that there has been a break in the inward régime, amounting to much more than a mere brief ignoring of stimuli from without. The break of consciousness is associated in some way with a potent physiological change. That is to say, even in the case of a moment of ordinary sleep we already note the appearance of that special recuperative energy which is familiar in longer periods of sleep, and which, as we shall presently see, reaches a still higher level in hypnotic trance.

404. This recuperative power, then, lies just beyond the red end of our spectrum of waking faculty. In that obscure region we note only added power; an increased control over organic functions at the foundation of bodily life. But when we pass on within the limits of our spectrum of waking consciousness;—when we come to control over voluntary muscles, or to sensory capacity, we find that our comparison between sleeping and waking faculty is no longer a simple one. On the one hand, there is of course a general blank and abeyance of control over the realm of waking energies;—or in partial sleep a mere fantastic parody of those energies in incoherent dream. On the other hand, we find that sleep is capable of strange developments,—and that night can sometimes suddenly outdo the most complex achievements of day.

Take first the degree of control over the voluntary muscles. In ordinary sleep this is neither possessed nor desired; in nightmare its loss is exaggerated, in quasi-hysterical fashion, into an appalling fear; while in somnambulism,—a kind of new personality developed ad hoc,—the sleeper (as we shall see later on) walks on perilous ridges with steady feet. I have already said that morbid somnambulism bears to sound sleep a relation something like that which hysteria bears to normal life. But between the healthy somnambulist and the subject of nightmare we find from another point of view a contrast resembling that between the man of genius and the {i-124} hysteric. The somnambulist, like the man of genius, brings into play resources which are beyond ordinary reach. On the other hand, just as in many hysterics certain ordinary powers of movement have lapsed below voluntary control, so also the dreamer who dimly wishes to move a constrained limb is often unable to send thither a sufficient current of motor energy to effect the desired change of position. That nightmare inability to move, which we thus feel in dream,—“when neither he that fleeth can flee, nor he that pursueth pursue,”—that sensation which both Homer and Virgil have selected as the type of paralysing bewilderment,11 Iliad, xxii. 199; Æneid, xii. 908.—this is just the aboulia of the hysteric;—the condition when it takes a man half-an-hour to put on his hat, or when a woman sits all the morning looking at her knitting, but unable to add a stitch.

“Somnambulism,” however, is too vague and undefined a term for our present discussion. It will only be by a comparison with hypnotism, in the next chapter, that we can hope to get some clearer notion of “sleep-waking” states.

405. Let us pass on to consider entencephalic sensory faculty,—“mind's eye” faculty,—as shown in sleep or dream. Here too we shall find the same rule to prevail as with motor faculty. That is to say, on the whole the sensory faculty is of course dimmed and inhibited by sleep; but there are nevertheless indications of a power subsisting as vividly as ever, or with even added acuteness.

There seems, of course, at first sight, something of paradox in expecting hyperæsthesia from somnolence;—vivid sensation from a condition usually described as a progressive dulling or subsidence of one sense after another. And, naturally, it will be in the generation of internal rather than in the perception of external imagery that we may expect to find the closed eye active,—

ὁρῶντα λαμπρὸν ἐν σκότῳ νωμῶντ‘ ὀφρὺν.

Seeing clearly, although moving his eyes in the dark[Aeschylus, Choephoroe 285]

There is in fact a phenomenon, by no means uncommon, and very conspicuous, which, like many other human phenomena whose interest is really scientific rather than therapeutic, remained unnoticed by science until a very recent date. Baillarger in France and Griesinger in Germany (both about 1845) were among the first to call attention to the vivid images which rise before the internal vision of many persons, between sleep and waking. M. Alfred Maury, the well-known Greek scholar and antiquary, gave to these images a few years later the

title of illusions hypnagogique, and published a remarkable series of observations upon himself. Mr. Galton has further treated of them in his Inquiry into Human Faculty; and cases will be found in Phantasms of the Living, vol. i. pp. 390, 473, &c.

These visions may be hypnopompic as well as hypnagogic;—may appear, that is to say, at the moment when slumber is departing as well as at the {i-125} moment when it is coming on;—and in either case they are closely related to dreams; the “hypnagogic illusions” or pictures being sometimes repeated in dream (as with Maury), and the hypnopompic pictures consisting generally in the persistence of some dream-image into the first moments of waking. In either case they testify to an intensified power of inward visualisation at a very significant moment;—a moment which is actually or virtually one of sleep, but which yet admits of definite comparison with adjacent moments of waking. We may call the condition one of cerebral or “mind's eye” hyperæsthesia,—an exalted sensibility of special brain-centres in response to those unknown internal stimuli which are always giving rise to similar but fainter inward visions even in broadly waking hours.

For those who are already good visualisers such phenomena as these, though striking enough, present no quite unique experience. For bad visualisers, on the other hand, the vividness of these hypnagogic pictures may be absolutely a revelation. For myself, I may say that were it not for an occasional flash of this kind between sleep and waking, I should be unable to conceive what good visualisation really is. The dim, blurred, unstable images which are all that my waking will can summon up are every now and then replaced in a moment of somnolence by a picture—say of a wet hedge in the sun—which seems, to my hurried glance, to be absolutely as clear and brilliant as the object itself could be. The difference is like that between an instantaneous photograph (and in natural colours!) and a dim dissolving view cast by a magic lantern on the point of going out. Many men must have had this experience; and must have been struck with the unguessed reserve of faculty which for a moment was thus revealed.

406. Equally remarkable are the hypnopompic pictures, as I have termed them; those, namely, which accompany the departure of sleep. For it often happens (as in the cases cited by Gurney in Phantasms of the Living) that a figure which has formed part of a dream continues to be seen as a hallucination for some moments after waking;—a strong testimony to the vividness of dream-visualisation. The generation of a hallucinatory figure (however useless an achievement) marks probably the highest point which man's visualising faculty ever reaches; and it is noteworthy that with most persons this point should be attained in dream alone. Sometimes, it may be, this prolongation of hallucination may best be described as an after-image, sometimes as the result of a “suggestion” inspired by the dream. In these hypnopompic cases the vivid visualisation seems to originate in sleep; while in illusions hypnagogiques the vividness belongs to an intermediate phase.

407. The degree of acuteness of all the senses in dream is a subject for direct observation, and even—for persons who can at all control their dreams—for direct experiment. I have elsewhere described11 S.P.R. Proceedings, vol. iv. p. 241. some efforts {i-126} of my own to test my own power of visualisation in dream; with the result, as I must confess, that I have not found it superior to my very low waking capacity. Some correspondents, however, report a considerable apparent accession of sensory power in dream. An impressive dream, dreamt by Mrs. A. W. Verrall, of Cambridge, and at once carefully recorded, had for its theme an intensification of each sense in turn. Mrs. Verrall has poor musical perceptions, and when told in her dream that the sense of sound was next to be exalted, she anticipated little pleasure. The sensation came, however, as something entirely new,—as “very harmony, which I had only heard till then in echoes,—in the rhythm of verse, or in the sighing of the wind among the pine-trees. My hearing was purified, not by the fulfilment of desire, but by the creation of desire, which in its very birth attained fruition.” (See Dr. Hodgson's experience in 407 A.) Others speak of the increased vividness of dramatic conception, or of what has been called in a hypnotic subject “objectivation of types.” “In each of these dreams,” writes one lady, “I was a man;—in one of them a low brute, in the other a dipsomaniac. I never had the slightest conception of how such persons felt or thought until these experiences.” Another correspondent speaks of dreaming two disconnected dreams,—one emotional and one geometrical,—simultaneously, and of consequent sense of confusion and fatigue.

408. The “Chapter on Dreams,” in R. L. Stevenson's volume, Across the Plains (already referred to in Section 314), contains a description of the most successful dream-experiments thus far recorded. By self-suggestion before sleep Stevenson could secure a visual and dramatic intensity of dream-representation which furnished him with the motives for some of his most striking romances. His account, written with admirable psychological insight, is indispensable to students of this subject. I am mentioning these well-known phenomena, as the reader will understand, with a somewhat novel purpose—to show, namely, that the internal sensory perceptions or imaginative faculty of sleep may exceed that of vigilance in something the same way as the recuperative agency of sleep surpasses the vis medicatrixhealing power of waking hours.

409. I pass on to a less frequent phenomenon, which shows us at once intense imagination during sleep, and a lasting imprint left by these imaginations upon the waking organism;—an unintended self-suggestion which we may compare with Stevenson's voluntary self-suggestion mentioned just above.

The permanent result of a dream, I say, is sometimes such as to show that the dream has not been a mere superficial confusion of past waking experiences, but has had an unexplained potency of its own,—drawn, like the potency of hypnotic suggestion, from some depth in our being which the waking self cannot reach. Two main classes of this kind are conspicuous enough to be easily recognised—those, namely, where the dream has led to a “conversion” or marked religious change, and those where it {i-127} has been the starting-point of an “insistent idea” or of a fit of actual insanity.11 See Dr. Féré in Brain for January 1887. The dreams which convert, reform, change character and creed, have of course a primâ facie claim to be considered as something other than ordinary dreams; and their discussion may be deferred till a later stage of our inquiry. Those, on the other hand, which suddenly generate an insistent idea of an irrational type are closely and obviously analogous to post-hypnotic self-suggestions, which the self that inspired them cannot be induced to countermand. Such is the dream related by M. Taine,22 De l'Intelligence, vol. i. p. 119. where a gendarme, impressed by an execution at which he has assisted, dreams that he himself is to be guillotined, and is afterwards so influenced by the dream that he attempts suicide. Several cases of this kind have been collected by Dr. Faure;33 Archives de Médecine, vol. i. 1876, p. 554. and Dr. Tissié, in his interesting little work, Les Rêves, has added some striking instances from his own observation. I quote, in 409 A, one of M. Faure's cases as a sample, showing that in an apparently healthy subject an apparently causeless dream may leave traces quite as persistent as any hypnotic suggestion

could implant from without. The dream is in fact a self-suggestion of the most potent kind. The case of Dr. Holbrook (409 B) seems to belong to the same category.

410. A still more striking illustration may be drawn from the following incident in the story of Dr. Krafft-Ebing's patient,44 An Experimental Study in Hypnotism, by Dr. R. von Krafft-Ebing, translated by Dr. C. G. Chaddock, p. 91. Ilma S., the genuineness of whose stigmata seems proved by that physician's care in observation, and by the painfulness of certain experiments performed upon her by students as practical jokes and against her will:—

May 6th, 1888.—The patient is disturbed today. She complains to the sister of severe pain under the left breast, thinks that the professor has burnt her in the night, and begs the sister to obtain a retreat for her in a convent, where she will be secure against such attacks. The sister's refusal causes a hystero-epileptic attack. [At length, in the hypnotic trance] the patient gives the following explanation of the origin of the pain: “Last night an old man came to me; he looked like a priest and came in company with a Sister of Charity, on whose collet there was a large golden B. I was afraid of her. The old man was amiable and friendly. He dipped a pen in the sister's pocket, and with it wrote a W and B on my skin under the left breast. Once he dipped his pen badly and made a blot in the middle of the figure. This spot and the B pain me severely, but the W does not. The man explained the W as meaning that I should go to the M church and confess at the W confessional.”

After this account the patient cried out and said, “There stands the man again. Now he has chains on his hands.”

When the patient woke into ordinary life she was suffering pain in the place indicated, where there were “superficial losses of substance, penetrating {i-128} to the corium, which have a resemblance to a reversed W and B,” with “a hyperæmic raised spot between the two.” Nowhere in this peculiar neurotrophic alteration of the skin, which is identical with those previously produced experimentally, are there traces of inflammation. The pain and the memory of the dream were removed by the doctor's suggestion; but the dream self-suggestion to confess at the M church persisted; and the patient, without knowing why, did actually go and confess to the priest of her vision.

In this last case we have a dream playing the part of a powerful post-hypnotic suggestion. The meaning of this vague term “suggestion” we shall have to discuss in a later chapter. It is enough to notice here the great power of a subliminal suggestion which can make an impression so much stronger not only than the usual evanescent touch of dream, but than the actual experiences of waking day.

411. But this case may also serve to lead us on to further reflections as to the connection between dream-memory and hypnotic memory, a connection which points, as we shall presently see, towards the existence of some subliminal continuity of memory, lying deeper down than the evocable memory of common life—the stock of conscious reminiscences on which we can draw at will.

With regard to memory, as with regard to sensation, we seem in waking life to be dealing with a selection made for purposes of earthly use. From the pre-conscious unselective memory which depends on the mere organisation of living matter, it is the task of consciousness, as it dawns in each higher organism, to make its own appropriate selection and to develop into distinctness certain helpful lines of reminiscence. The question of self-preservation,—What must I needs be aware of in order to escape my foes?—involves the question, What must I needs remember in order to act upon the facts of which I am aware? The selected currents of memory follow the selected avenues of sensation; what by disuse I lose the power of noticing at the time, I also lose the power of recalling afterwards.

For simpler organisms this rule may perhaps suffice. Man needs a more complex formula. For it may happen, as we have already seen, that two or more phases of personality in one man may each select from the mass of potential reminiscences a special group of memories of its own. These special groups, moreover, may bear to one another all kinds of relations; one may include another, or they may alternate and may be apparently co-exclusive.

From these dissociations and alternations of memory there will be many lessons to learn. The lesson which here presents itself is not the least important. What is the relation of the sleeping state to these dissociated, these parallel or concentric memories? Is it the case that when one memory includes another it is the waking memory—as one might expect from that state's apparently superior vividness—which shows itself the deeper, the more comprehensive record? Or can it be that other states—sleep and its congeners—less finished and effective though they be {i-129} for life's common purposes, may yet show by this test of comparative memory that they embrace and underlie that specialised vigilance which we commonly take for the whole of our intellectual being?

412. The answer of actual experience to these questions is unexpectedly direct and clear. In every recorded instance—so far at least as my memory serves me, where there has been any unification between alternating states, so as to make comparison possible—it is the memory furthest from waking life whose span is the widest, whose grasp of the organism's upstored impressions is the most profound. Inexplicable as this phenomenon has been to observers who have encountered it without the needed key, the independent observations of hundreds of physicians and hypnotists have united in affirming its reality. The commonest instance, of course, is furnished by the ordinary hypnotic trance. The degree of intelligence, indeed, which finds its way to expression in that trance or slumber varies greatly in different subjects and at different times. But whensoever there is enough of alertness to admit of our forming a judgment, we find that in the hypnotic state there is a considerable memory—though not necessarily a complete or a reasoned memory—of the waking state; whereas with most subjects in the waking state—unless some special command be imposed upon the hypnotic self—there is no memory whatever of the hypnotic state. In many hysterical conditions also the same general rule subsists; namely, that the further we get from the surface the wider is the expanse of memory which we encounter.

If all this be true, there are several points on which we may form expectations definite enough to suggest inquiry. Ordinary sleep is roughly intermediate between waking life and deep hypnotic trance; and it seems a priori probable that its memory will have links of almost equal strength with the memory which belongs to waking life and the memory which belongs to the hypnotic trance. And this is in fact the case; the fragments of dream-memory are interlinked with both these other chains. Thus, for example, without any suggestion to that effect, acts accomplished in the hypnotic trance may be remembered in dream; and remembered under the illusion which was thrown round them by the hypnotiser. Thus Dr. Auguste Voisin suggested to a hypnotised subject to stab a patient—really a stuffed figure—in the neighbouring bed.11 Revue de l'Hypnotisme, June 1891, p. 302. The subject did so; and of course knew nothing of it on waking. But three days afterwards he returned to the hospital complaining that his dreams were haunted by the figure of a woman, who accused him of having stabbed and killed her. Appropriate suggestion laid this ghost of a doll.

Conversely, dreams forgotten in waking life may be remembered in the hypnotic trance. Thus Dr. Tissié's patient, Albert, dreamt that he was about to set out on one of his somnambulic “fugues,” or aimless journeys, and when hypnotised mentioned to the physician this dream, which in his {i-130} waking state he had forgotten.11 Les Rêves

Dreams, p. 135. This remarkable patient afforded examples of many forms of communication of memory between different states of personality. See pp. 192–200 for a conspectus of these complex recollections. The probable truth of this statement was shown by the fact that he did actually set out on the journey thus dreamt of, and that his journeys were usually preceded and incited by remembered dreams.

I need not dwell on the existence, but at the same time the incompleteness, of our dream-memory of waking life; nor on the occasional formation of a separate chain of memory, constructed from successive and cohering dreams. It should be added that we do not really know how far our memory in dream of waking life may have extended; since we can only infer this from our notoriously imperfect waking memory of past dreams.

413. A cognate anticipation to which our theory will point will be that dream-memory will occasionally be found to fill up gaps in waking memory, other than those due to hypnotic trance; such so-called “ecmnesic” periods, for instance, as sometimes succeed a violent shock to the system, and may even embrace some space of time anterior to the shock. These periods themselves resemble prolonged and unremembered dreams. Such accidents, however, are so rare, and such dream-memory so hard to detect, that I mention the point mainly for the sake of theoretical completeness; and must think myself fortunate in being able to cite a case of M. Charcot's which affords an interesting confirmation of the suggested view.22 Revue de Médecine, February 1892. A full account and discussion of the case of Madame D. is contained in Dr. P. Janet's Névroses et Idées fixesNeuroses and Obsessions, vol. i. pp. 116 et seq.

A certain Madame D., a healthy and sensible woman of thirty-four, was subjected, on August 28th, 1891, to a terrible shock. Some scoundrel who has not been identified entered her cottage and told her brusquely that her husband was dead, and that his corpse was being brought home. This was absolutely false; but the news threw her into a state of profound agitation; and when some indiscreet friend, seeing the husband approach, cried out Le voilà!There he is! the poor woman, supposing that the corpse was thus announced, fell into a prolonged hysterical attack. After two days of raving she came to herself;—but had lost the memory of all events since July 14th; i.e. since a date six weeks before the shock. This kind of retroactive ecmnesia—inexplicable as it is—is known to occur sometimes after a physical concussion. In Madame D.'s case the shock had been wholly a mental one; yet the forgetfulness continued, and had spread over all the period up to M. Charcot's lecture on the case, December 22nd, 1891. Madame D. was then possessed of full recollection of her life up to July 14th, 1891; but she could recall no event whatever which had occurred since that date. She endeavoured to continue her domestic duties; but if she wished to recollect anything she had to write it down instantly in a note-book to which she constantly referred. For instance, she was bitten by a dog believed to be mad. She instantly made a written note of the fact; but except {i-131} when actually referring to her note-book she retained no recollection whatever of the bite or of her subsequent treatment in M. Pasteur's laboratory.

Here, surely, was a case where it might have seemed that there had been some absolute evanescence, absolute abolition of whatsoever traces or tendencies may be held to constitute memory.

But one fact was observed which threw a decisive light upon this puzzling case. The patients in the two beds adjoining Madame D.'s were told to observe her at night. They reported that she was in the habit of talking in her sleep; and that in the fragments of dreams thus revealed she made frequent allusions to the mad dog's bite, and to other events which had occurred during her ecmnesic period. This hint, of course, was enough for M. Charcot. Classing her ecmnesia as a kind of prolongation of a hystero-epileptic attack, he hypnotised the patient, and found that in the hypnotic trance her memory for the ecmnesic period was absolutely intact. Post-hypnotic suggestions to remember the lost days are now slowly restoring the poor woman to the possession of her whole past.

The fact which interests us here is the accidentally discovered persistence in dream of memories which had vanished from the supraliminal consciousness. This shows that in dream Madame D. had got down—not merely to a stratum of confusion,—but to a state so far deeper than the waking state that the memories of which shock or hysteria had robbed the waking state were there found to be uninjured. This well-observed case may here stand as representative of the gap-filling dream-memory which I ventured to anticipate. Other cases will be noticeable when spontaneous somnambulism comes under review,—in its complex relations with common dreams, hypnotism, hysteria, and even epilepsy.

414. I pass on to the still more novel and curious questions involved in the apparent existence of a dream-memory which, while accompanying the memory of ordinary life, seems also to have a wider purview, and to indicate that the record of external events which is kept within us is far fuller than we know.

Let us consider what stages such a memory may show.

I. It may include events once known to the waking self, but now definitely forgotten.

II. It may include facts which have fallen within the sensory field, but which have never been supraliminally “apperceived” or cognised in any way. And thus also it may indicate that from this wider range of remembered facts dream-inferences have been drawn;—which inferences may be retrospective, prospective, or,—if I may use a word of Pope's with a new meaning, circumspective,—that is to say, relating not to the past or to the future, but to the present condition of matters beyond the range of ordinary perception. It is plain that inferences of this kind (if they exist) will be liable to be mistaken for direct retrocognition, direct premonition, direct clairvoyance; while yet they need not actually prove anything more than a perception on the part of the subliminal self more far-reaching,— {i-132} a memory more stable,—than is the perception or the memory of the supraliminal self which we know.

These hypermnesic dreams, then, may afford a means of drawing our lines of evidence more exactly; of relegating some marvellous narratives to a realm of lesser marvel, and at the same time of realising more clearly what it is in the most advanced cases which ordinary theories are really powerless to explain.

415. As to the first of the above-mentioned categories no one will raise any doubt. It is a familiar fact—or a fact only sufficiently unfamiliar to be noted with slight surprise—that we occasionally recover in sleep a memory which has wholly dropped out of waking consciousness. As an example, we may take the dream of M. Delbœuf's, discussed in his interesting book, Le Sommeil et les RêvesSleep and Dreams In that dream the name of the “Asplenium Ruta Muralis” figured as a familiar phrase. On waking, he puzzled himself in vain to think where he could have learnt that botanical appellation. Long afterwards he discovered the name “Asplenium Ruta Muraria” in his own handwriting,—in a little collection of flowers and ferns to which he had added their designations, under the dictation of a botanical friend.

In this and similar cases the original piece of knowledge had at the time made a definite impress on the mind,—had come well within the span of apprehension of the supraliminal consciousness. Its reappearance after however long an interval is a fact to which there are already plenty of parallels. But the conclusion to which the cases about to be cited seem to me to point is one of a much stranger character. I think that there is

evidence to show that many facts or pictures which have never even for a moment come within the apprehension of the supraliminal consciousness are nevertheless retained by the subliminal memory, and are occasionally presented in dreams with what seems a definite purpose.11 See cases given in Appendix 415.

The same point, as we shall hereafter see, is illustrated by the phenomena of crystal-vision. Miss Goodrich-Freer,22 Proceedings S.P.R., vol. v. p. 507. for example, saw in the crystal the announcement of the death of a friend;—a piece of news which certainly had never been apprehended by her ordinary conscious self. On referring to the Times, it was found that an announcement of the death of some one of the same unusual name was contained in a sheet with which she had screened her face from the fire;—so that the words may have fallen within her range of vision, although they had not reached what we broadly call her waking mind.

This instance was of value from the strong probability that the news could never have been supraliminally known at all;—since it was too important to have been merely glanced at and forgotten.

416. I quote another case which raises a somewhat curious point as {i-133} to the relation of what I may call the subliminal gaze to defects of ordinary vision.

From Proceedings S.P.R., vol. viii. p. 389; related by Mr. Herbert J. Lewis, 19 Park Place, Cardiff.

In September 1880, I lost the landing order of a large steamer containing a cargo of iron ore, which had arrived in the port of Cardiff. She had to commence discharging at six o'clock the next morning. I received the landing order at four o'clock in the afternoon, and when I arrived at the office at six I found that I had lost it. During all the evening I was doing my utmost to find the officials of the Custom House to get a permit, as the loss was of the greatest importance, preventing the ship from discharging. I came home in a great degree of trouble about the matter, as I feared that I should lose my situation in consequence.

That night I dreamed that I saw the lost landing order lying in a crack in the wall under a desk in the Long Room of the Custom House.

At five the next morning I went down to the Custom House and got the keeper to get up and open it. I went to the spot of which I had dreamed, and found the paper in the very place. The ship was not ready to discharge at her proper time, and I went on board at seven and delivered the landing order, saving her from all delay.


I can certify to the truth of the above statement.


(Herbert Lewis's father),

H. WALLIS.        

July 14th, 1884.

[Mr. E. J. Newell, of the George and Abbotsford Hotel, Melrose, adds the following corroborative note:—]

August 14th, 1884.

I made some inquiries about Mr. Herbert Lewis's dream before I left Cardiff. He had been searching throughout the room in which the order was found. His theory as to how the order got in the place in which it was found is that it was probably put there by some one (perhaps with malicious intent), as he does not see how it could have fallen so.

The fact that Mr. H. Lewis is exceedingly short-sighted adds to the probability of the thing which you suggest, that the dream was simply an unconscious act of memory in sleep. On the other hand he does not believe it was there when he searched.

E. J. NEWELL.      

Can there have been a momentary unnoticed spasm of the ciliary muscle, with the result of extending the range of vision? It may suffice here to quote—that my suggestion may not seem too fantastic—a few lines from a personal observation of a somnambule by Dr. Dufay.11 Revue Scientifique, 3>e série, xxxii. p. 167.

“It is eight o'clock; several workwomen are busy around a table, on which a lamp is placed. Mdlle. R. L. directs and shares in the work, chatting cheerfully meantime. Suddenly a noise is heard; it is her head which has fallen sharply on the edge of the table. This is the beginning {i-134} of the access. She picks herself up in a few seconds, pulls off her spectacles with disgust, and continues the work which she had begun;—having no further need of the concave glasses which a pronounced myopia renders needful to her in ordinary life;—and even placing herself so that her work is less exposed to the light of the lamp.” Similarly, and yet differently, Miss Goodrich-Freer has had an experience where the title of a book quite unknown to her, which she had vainly endeavoured to read where it lay at some distance from her, presented itself in the crystal. In such a case we can hardly suppose any such spasmodic alteration in ocular conditions as may perhaps occur in trance.

417. In the cases which I have thus far quoted the dream-self has presented a significant scene,—has chosen, so to say, from its gallery of photographs the special picture which the waking mind desired,—but has not needed to draw any more complex inference from the facts presumably at its disposal. I have now to deal with a small group of dreams which reason as well as remember;—if indeed in some of them there be not something more than mere reasoning on facts already in some way acquired,—something which overpasses the scheme prescribed for the present chapter.

In the first place we cannot doubt that definite data already known may sometimes be treated in somnambulism or ordinary dream with more than waking intelligence. Such are the cases of mathematical problems solved in somnambulism, or of the skeletal arrangement discovered by Agassiz in common sleep for scattered bones which had baffled his waking skill. I give in Appendices some striking cases. The first case is of old date, but it was reported by the dreamer about a month after its occurrence to Dr. Davey, a physician well known in his day, and was sent by him to Dr. Elliotson, who printed it in the Zoist, where it is published as a case of clairvoyance. But the needed data had passed before the waking eyes, although it was left for dream to interpret them fruitfully. Professor Lamberton's case is about the best of the dream-solutions of mathematical problems which I have seen recorded. And Professor Hilprecht's second case carries dream-intelligence to its highest point. Professor Romaine Newbold (who records these cases) is well versed in the analysis of evidence making for supernormal powers, and his explanation of the vision as the result of “processes of associative reasoning analogous to those of the upper consciousness” must, I think, be taken as correct. But had the incident occurred in a less critical age of the world,—in any generation, one may say, but this,—how majestic a proof would the phantasmal Babylonian's message be held to have afforded of his veritable cooperation with the modern savant in the reconstruction of his remote past!

418. I repeat that with this case of Professor Hilprecht's we seem to have reached the utmost intensity of sleep-faculty within the limits of our ordinary spectrum. In almost every region of that spectrum we {i-135} have found that the sleeper's faculty, under its narrow conditions, shows scattered signs of at least a potential equality with the faculty of waking hours.

We have already seen this as regards muscular movements, as regards inward vision and audition, and as regards memory; and these last records complete the series by showing us the achievement in sleep of intellectual work of the severest order. Coleridge's Kubla Khan had long ago shown the world that a great poet might owe his masterpiece to the obscuration of waking sense.11 Cædmon's poem was traditionally said to have come to him in like fashion. And the very imperfection of Kubla Khan—the memory truncated by an interruption—may again remind us how partial must ever be our waking knowledge of the achievements of sleep.

May I not, then, claim a real analogy between certain of the achievements of sleep and the achievements of genius? In both there is the same triumphant spontaneity, the same sense of drawing no longer upon the narrow and brief endurance of nerves and brain, but upon some unknown source exempt from those limitations.

Thus far, indeed, the sleep-faculties which we have been considering, however strangely intensified, have belonged to the same class as the normal faculties of waking life. We have now to consider whether we can detect in sleep any manifestation of supernormal faculty—any experience which seems to suggest that man is a cosmical spirit as well as a terrestrial organism, and is in some way in relation with a spiritual as well as with a material world. It will seem, in this view, to be natural that this commerce with a spiritual environment should be more perceptible in sleep than in waking. The dogma which my point of view thus renders probable is perhaps, as a mere matter of history, the dogma of all dogmas which has been most universally believed by mankind.

“Quod semper, quod ubique, quod ab omnibus”—for how many narrow theological propositions have we not heard this proud claim—that they have been believed everywhere, and by everybody, and in every age? Yet what can approach the antiquity, the ubiquity, the unanimity of man's belief in the wanderings of the spirit in dream? In the Stone Age, the sceptic would have been rash indeed who ventured to contradict it. And though I grant that this “palæolithic psychology” has gone out of fashion for the last few centuries, I do not think that (in view of the telæsthetic evidence now collected) we can any longer dismiss as a mere bizarrerie of dream-imagery the constant recurrence of the idea of visiting in sleep some distant scene,—with the acquisition thereby of new facts not otherwise accessible.

419. Starting, then, not from savage authority, but from the evidential scrutiny of modern facts, we shall find, I think, that there are coincidences of dream with truth which neither pure chance nor any subconscious mentation of an ordinary kind will adequately explain. We shall find that there is a perception of concealed material objects or of distant scenes, {i-136} and also a perception of or communion with the thoughts and emotions of other minds. Both these phenomena have been noted sporadically in many ages and countries, and were observed with serious attention especially by the early French mesmerists. The first group of phenomena was called Clairvoyance or lucidité, and the second communication de pensées, or in English, thought-transference. These terms are scarcely comprehensive enough to satisfy a more systematic study. The distant perception is not optical, nor is it confined even to the apparent sense of sight alone. It extends to all the senses, and includes also impressions hardly referable to any special sense. Similarly the communication between distant persons is not a transference of thought alone, but of emotion, of motor impulses, and of many impressions not easy to define. I ventured in 1882 to suggest the wider terms telæsthesia sensation at a distance, and telepathy, fellow-feeling at a distance, and shall use these words in the present work. But I am far from assuming that these terms correspond with definite and clearly separated groups of phenomena, or comprise the whole field of supernormal faculty. On the contrary, I think it probable that the facts of the metetherial world are far more complex than the facts of the material world; and that the ways in which spirits perceive and communicate, apart from fleshly organisms, are subtler and more varied than any perception or communication which we know. Just as each organism is in fact a system of forces, influencing and influenced by similar systems of forces in known and unknown ways, so also must we regard human spirits as interacting systems of forces, yet more complex, and yet further beyond our ken. Specially manifest is this when we have to deal with premonitions, of which a few instances are given in this chapter, which seem even further away from our ordinary processes of perception than the phenomena of telepathy or telæsthesia.

It follows from what has been said that there is no one logical order in which to arrange these supernormal phenomena. They do not spring one from another in traceable sequence; rather they are emergent and scattered manifestations of some deeper and more comprehensive law. The distinction suggested above between telepathy and telæsthesia—between supernormal knowledge apparently acquired through another mind, and supernormal knowledge apparently acquired directly, and without another mind's intervention—even this distinction, I say, cannot be made fundamental. We cannot really tell in what cases, and to what extent, some external mind has aided the percipient's perception of the distant scene. We do not even know whether in any supernormal perception one mind alone can be concerned.

420. I have hinted above at another line of demarcation which the dreamer's own sensations suggest,—the distinction between active psychical excursion or invasion and the passive reception of psychical invasion from without. But even here, as was also hinted, a clear line of division is hard to draw. For whether we are dealing with dream-perceptions of distant {i-137} material scenes, or of distant living persons, or of discarnate spirits, it is often impossible for the dreamer himself to say either from what point he is himself observing, or where the scene of the vision is laid. Where is he when he is taking part in a scene which is still in the future? and in what way does his apparent presence in the future scene differ from his apparent presence in an actually existing, although distant, scene;—in the midst of which his own phantasmal presence may perhaps be discerned by some one of the actors? Our answers to such questions—imperfect at the best—must be deferred until we have before us not dreams alone, but that whole range of sensory automatisms which bears throughout such perplexing relations to our current notions of Space and Time.

For the present I must confine myself to a brief sketch of some of the main types of supernormal dreams, arranged in a kind of ascending order. I shall begin with such dreams as primarily suggest a kind of heightening or extension of the dreamer's own innate perceptive powers, as exercised on the world around him. And I shall end with dreams which suggest his entrance into a spiritual world, where commerce with incarnate or discarnate spirits is subject no longer to the conditions of earthly thought.

421. I begin, then, with some dreams which seem to carry perceptive faculty beyond the point at which (as in Mr. Lewis's dream of the landing order, Section 416) some unusual form of common vision can be plausibly suggested in explanation. In the first of these cases (Mr. Squires's), given in full in 421 A, a young man sees in a dream the place where his friend's watch has fallen in a lonely field. In another case (Mr. Watts's, 421 B) there is a vision of a broken statue, whose injury seems to have been known to no other mind than the dreamer's;—so that we cannot here invoke—as we still might invoke in Mr. Squires's case—some subliminal knowledge of another man's as possibly suggesting the dream. And similarly in other cases cited in the Appendix,—while telepathy from the living or the dead may be theoretically conceivable,—the simplest hypothesis is that which goes no further than telæsthetic perception by the dreamer's own subliminal self.

422. I will next refer to certain cases where the sleeper by clairvoyant vision discerns a scene of direct interest to a mind other than his own;—as the danger or death of some near friend. Sometimes there is a flash of vision, which seems to represent correctly the critical scene. Sometimes there is what seems like a longer gaze, accompanied, perhaps, by some sense of communion with the invaded person. And in some few cases—the most interesting of all—the circumstances of a death seem to be symbolically shown to a dreamer, as though by the deceased person, or by some intelligence connected with him (see Section 427).

One of the best instances of the flash of vision is Canon Warburton's, which I quote from Phantasms of the Living, vol. i. p. 338—a case whose remoteness is rendered less of a drawback than usual by the character of the narrator and the simplicity and definiteness of the fact attested.


The following is his account:—

THE CLOSE, WINCHESTER, July 16th, 1883.     

Somewhere about the year 1848 I went up from Oxford to stay a day or two with my brother, Acton Warburton, then a barrister, living at 10 Fish Street, Lincoln's Inn. When I got to his chambers I found a note on the table apologising for his absence, and saying that he had gone to a dance somewhere in the West End, and intended to be home soon after 1 o'clock. Instead of going to bed, I dozed in an armchair, but started up wide awake exactly at 1, ejaculating “By Jove! he's down!” and seeing him coming out of a drawing-room into a brightly illuminated landing, catching his foot in the edge of the top stair, and falling headlong, just saving himself by his elbows and hands. (The house was one which I had never seen, nor did I know where it was.) Thinking very little of the matter, I fell a-doze again for half-an-hour, and was awakened by my brother suddenly coming in and saying, “Oh, there you are! I have just had as narrow an escape of breaking my neck as I ever had in my life. Coming out of the ballroom, I caught my foot, and tumbled full length down the stairs.”

That is all. It may have been “only a dream,” but I always thought it must have been something more.


In a second letter Canon Warburton adds:—

July 20th, 1883.    

My brother was hurrying home from his dance, with some little self-reproach in his mind for not having been at his chambers to receive his guest, so the chances are that he was thinking of me. The whole scene was vividly present to me at the moment, but I did not note particulars any more than one would in real life. The general impression was of a narrow landing brilliantly illuminated, and I remember verifying the correctness of this by questions at the time.

This is my sole experience of the kind.

[The last words are in answer to the question whether he had had similar vivid visions which had not corresponded with any real event.]

The impression here produced is as though a jerk were given to some delicate link connecting the two brothers. The brother suffering the crisis thinks vividly of the other; and one can of course explain the incident, as we did on its first publication, as the endangered man's projection of the scene upon his brother's mind. The passive dozing brother, on the other hand, feels as though he were suddenly present in the scene,—say in response to some sudden call from the brother in danger,—and I am here bringing into relief that aspect of the incident, on account of its analogy with cases soon to be quoted. But the main lesson no doubt may be that no hard and fast line can be drawn between the two explanations. I quote another case, that of Mrs. West, in 422 A.

423. I next quote a case investigated by Edmund Gurney shortly before his death, and printed in S.P.R. Journal, vol. iii. pp. 265, 266.

From Mr. R. V. BOYLE, 3 Stanhope Terrace, W.

July 30th, 1884.    

In India, early on the morning of November 2nd, 1868 (which would be about 10 to 11 P.M. of November 1st in England), I had so clear and striking {i-139} a dream or vision (repeated a second time after a short waking interval) that, on rising as usual between 6 and 7 o'clock, I felt impelled at once to write an entry in my diary, which is now before me.

At the time referred to my wife and I were in Simla, in the Himalayas, the summer seat of the Governor-General, and my father-in-law and mother-in-law were living in Brighton. We had not heard of or from either of them for weeks, nor had I been recently speaking or thinking of them, for there was no reason for anxiety regarding them.11 It is right, however, to say that my wife's father had gone to Brighton some months before on account of his health, though he was not more delicate than his elder brother, who is (1884) still living.

It seemed in my dream that I stood at the open door of a bedroom in a house in Brighton, and that before me, by candlelight, I saw my father-in-law lying pale upon his bed, while my mother-in-law passed silently across the room in attendance on him. The vision soon passed away, and I slept on for some time. On waking, however, the nature of the impression left upon me unmistakably was that my father-in-law was dead. I at once noted down the dream, after which I broke the news of what I felt to be a revelation to my wife, when we thought over again and again all that could bear upon the matter, without being able to assign any reason for my being so strongly and thoroughly impressed. The telegraph from England to Simla had been open for some time, but now there was an interruption, which lasted for about a fortnight longer, and on the 17th (fifteen days after my dream) I was neither unprepared nor surprised to receive a telegram from England, saying that my father-in-law had died in Brighton on November 1st. Subsequent letters showed that the death occurred on the night of the 1st.

Dreams, as a rule, leave little impression on me, and the one above referred to is the only one I ever thought of making a note of, or of looking expectantly for its fulfilment.

I may mention that at a much earlier period of my life I was sitting occupied in a room of a house, from which I could not see the approach to the hall door, when suddenly my thoughts were arrested, and I turned away from my papers, feeling that a person whom I had not been thinking of, nor had seen for years, was at that moment within a few steps of the house, noiselessly, but rapidly, approaching. I listened intently for a knock, which instantly followed. I did not move from my seat, feeling satisfied that what did follow would follow, viz., that a servant immediately afterwards announced the heretofore invisible, but unaccountably sudden, expected visitor. These occurrences I have often thought over, without being able in any way to satisfactorily account for them; they stand out in relief upon a memory but lightly charged with, though not insensible to, such things.


[Mrs. Boyle writes as follows:—]

6th August 1887.    

I well remember my husband telling me one morning, early in November, 1868, when at Simla, in India, that he had had a striking dream (repeated) in which my father, then at Brighton, seemed to be dying. We were both deeply impressed, and then anxiously awaited news from home. A telegram first reached us, in about a fortnight, which was afterwards confirmed by letters, {i-140} telling of my father's death having occurred on the same night when my husband had the dream.



[Gurney adds:—]

The following entries were copied by me from Mr. Boyle's diary:—

the night of1

1 These three words were added above the line after the subsequent receipt of the letter. But there must apparently have been some misunderstanding; as the evidence which follows seems conclusive as to the hour of the death.

“Nov. 2. Dreamed of E.'s F[ather] early this morning.
Written before dressing.

“Nov. 17. Got telegram from L[ouis] H[ack] this morning
of his father's death on 1st Nov. inst.”

The following obituary notice of the decease of Mr. Boyle's father-in-law occurred in the Times for 4th November 1868:—

“On 1st Nov., at Brighton, William Hack, late of Dieppe, aged 72,”

On September 17th, 1887, I received from Mr. Boyle a copy (made by Miss P. Hack, niece of the deceased) of an entry made by his mother (sister-in-law of deceased) in her journal, on Sunday, November 1st, 1868, which shows the hour of death. In this entry, after some details of the last hours, occur the words: “At a few minutes after 2 o'clock [P.M.] he ceased to breathe.”

Mr. Boyle informed me that he is a “particularly sound sleeper, and very rarely dreams.” This dream was a very unique and impressive experience, apart from the coincidence.

There was a regular correspondence between Mrs. Boyle and her mother, but for several mails the letters had contained no mention of her father, on whose account absolutely no anxiety was felt.

E. G.    

It will be seen that in this case there is an entry made before the death was known in Mr. Boyle's diary. The vision, which recurred twice, was of a simple kind; and here again might be interpreted as an impression from the mind of the wife who had been watching beside the dying man, transferred some nine hours later to the sleeping son-in-law. So far as the wife's conscious thought turned to others at that time, it would probably turn to her daughter rather than to her son-in-law. Mr. Boyle's other experience indicates a psychical sensibility which might deflect the message from Mrs. Boyle to himself; although even on that view his special proximity to Mrs. Boyle may have been a necessary factor in his percipience.

424. The single dream which a man has noted down in all his life Stands evidentially in almost as good a position as a single waking hallucination. Compare the single dream noted down in all his life by Mr. (now Sir Edward) Hamilton, Journal S.P.R., vol. iii, p. 267, which may fitly be quoted here in illustration, although perhaps not precisely of the same type. It suggests rather the projection of the suffering brother's {i-141} conception of himself, especially if he were writing to the brother at home at the time.


April 6th, 1888.                        

On Tuesday morning, March 20th, 1888, I woke up with the impression of a very vivid dream. I had dreamt that my brother, who had long been in Australia, and of whom I had heard nothing for several months, had come home; that after an absence of twelve years and a half he was very little altered in appearance, but that he had something wrong with one of his arms; it looked horribly red near the wrist, his hand being bent back.

When I got up that morning the dream recurred constantly to my thoughts, and I at last determined to take a note of it, notwithstanding my natural prejudices against attaching any importance to dreams, to which, indeed, I am not much subject. Accordingly, in the course of the day, I made in my little Letts's Diary a mark thus: X, with my brother's name after it.

On the following Monday morning, the 20th March, I received a letter from my brother, which bore the date of the 21st March, and which had been posted at Naples (where the Orient steamers touch), informing me that he was on his way home, and that he hoped to reach London on or about the 30th March, and adding that he was suffering from a very severe attack of gout in the left arm.

The next day I related to some one this curious incident, and I commented on the extraordinary coincidence of facts with the dream with all but one detail, and that was, that the arm which I had seen in my dream did not look as if it were merely affected with gout: the appearance it had presented to me was more like extremely bad eczema.

My brother duly reached England on the 29th, having disembarked at Plymouth, owing to the painful condition of his arm. It turned out that the doctor on board ship had mistaken the case; it was not gout, but a case of blood-poisoning, resulting in a very bad carbuncle or abscess over the wrist joint.

Since my brother's return, I have endeavoured to ascertain from him the exact hour at which he wrote to me on March 21st. He is not certain whether the letter to me was written before noon or after noon of that day. He remembers writing four short letters in the course of that day—two before luncheon and two after luncheon. Had the note addressed to me been written in the forenoon, it might nearly have coincided in time with my dream, if allowance be made for the difference of time between Greenwich and Naples; for, having no recollection of the dream when I woke, according to custom, at an early hour on the morning of the 21st, I presume I must have dreamt it very little before eight o'clock, the hour at which I am called.

I may add that, notwithstanding an absence of twelve years and a half, my brother has altered very little in appearance; and that I have not to my knowledge ever noted a dream before in my life.


[Gurney adds:—]

April 12th, 1888.       

I have seen the diary with the entry (X, Clem.) under Tuesday, March 20th, 1888, though, as Mr. Hamilton says, “it was early the next morning that {i-142} I had the dream; for I generally consider all that appertains to bed relates to the day on which one gets into it.”

I have seen the letter, signed Clement E. Hamilton, and dated Naples, March 21st, 1888, which says, “Am suffering from very severe attack of gout in left arm.”—E. G.

Somewhat similar again, is a case which I give in 424 A, where a little boy of four years old absent from his home, with his father, becomes aware, while asleep, of the unexpected fact that “there is a little baby in bed with mamma.” “What makes you think that?” asked the father, to whom, probably, rather than to little Hughie, the mother might have wished to send this information. “Because I saw it laying beside her in the bed,” was the ungrammatical, but decisive reply.

Next I quote in 424 B, a case where a wife between sleeping and waking sees her husband carried wounded off the field of battle, and hears his voice saying, “Take this ring off my finger and send it to my wife.”

A third case which I also give (in 424 C), exemplifies the communication of an emotional distress from a lady to her distant husband, who was waked by hearing her call him on the night after she had heard of a dangerous accident to her nephew.

425. And here I feel bound to introduce some samples of a certain class of dreams,—more interesting, perhaps, and certainly more perplexing than any others;—but belonging to a category of phenomena which at present I can make no attempt to explain. I mean precognitive dreams;—pictures or visions in which future events are foretold or depicted, generally with more or less of symbolism,—and generally also in a mode so remote from the previsions of our earthly sagacity that we shall find ourselves driven, in a later discussion, to speak in vague terms of glimpses into a cosmic picture-gallery;—or of scenic representations composed and offered to us by intelligences higher and more distant than any spirit whom we have known. I give in the text a thoroughly characteristic example;—characteristic alike in its definiteness, its purposelessness, its isolated unintelligibility;—and others are quoted in Appendices.

(From Proceedings S.P.R., vol. xi. p. 505.)

From Mr. Alfred Cooper, of 9 Henrietta Street, Cavendish Square, W.

[This account was orally confirmed by him to Mr. E. Gurney, June 6th, 1888. It is written by Mr. Cooper, but attested also by the Duchess of Hamilton.]

A fortnight before the death of the late Earl of L ——, in 1882, I called upon the Duke of Hamilton, in Hill Street, to see him professionally. After I had finished seeing him we went into the drawing-room, where the Duchess was, and the Duke said to me, “Oh, Cooper; how is the Earl?”

The Duchess said, “What Earl?” and on my answering “Lord L ——,” she replied, “That is very odd. I have had a most extraordinary vision. I went to bed, but after being in bed a short time, I was not exactly asleep, but {i-143} thought I saw a scene as if from a play before me. The actors in it were Lord L ——, in a chair, as if in a fit, with a man standing over him with a red beard. He was by the side of a bath, over which bath a red lamp was distinctly shown.”

I then said, “I am attending Lord L—— at present; there is very little the matter with him; he is not going to die; he will be all right very soon.”

Well, he got better for a week and was nearly well, but at the end of six or seven days after this I was called to see him suddenly. He had inflammation of both lungs.

I called in Sir William Jenner, but in six days he was a dead man. There were two male nurses attending on him; one had been taken ill. But when I saw the other the dream of the Duchess was exactly represented. He was standing near a bath over the Earl and, strange to say, his beard was red. There was the bath with the red lamp over it. It is rather rare to find a bath with a red lamp over it, and this brought the story to my mind.

The vision seen by the Duchess was told two weeks before the death of Lord L ——. It is a most remarkable thing.

This account, written in 1888, has been revised by the [late] Duke of Manchester, father of the Duchess of Hamilton, who heard the vision from his daughter on the morning after she had seen it.

(Signed)          MARY HAMILTON.
           ALFRED COOPER.

Her Grace had been reading and had just blown out the candle.

Her Grace has had many dreams which have come true years after.


[The Duchess only knew Lord L—— by sight, and had not heard that he was ill. She knew she was not asleep, for she opened her eyes to get rid of the vision and, shutting them, saw the same thing again.]

An independent and concordant account has been given to me (F.W.H.M.) orally by a gentleman to whom the Duchess related the dream on the morning after its occurrence.

426. Dr. Bruce's narrative, which I next give in 426 A, written by an intelligent man, while the facts were yet fresh, seems to me of high importance. If we accept the rest of his story, we must, I think, suppose that the sense of spiritual presence with which the incident began was more than a mere subjective fancy. Shall we refer it to the murdered man's sister;—with whom the dreamer seemed afterwards to be in telepathic relation? Or shall we interpret it as a kind of summons from the dying man, drawing on, as it were, his friend's spirit to witness the actual murder and the subsequent scene? The fact that another friend, in another locality apparently, had a vision of similar nature, tells somewhat in favour of the supposition that the decedent's spirit was operative in both cases; since we very seldom—if ever—find an agent producing an impression in two separate places at once—or nearly so—except at or just after the moment of death.

In this view, the incident resembles a scene passing in a spiritual {i-144} world. The dying man summons his brother-in-law; the brother-in-law visits the scene of murder, and there spiritually communicates with his wife, the sister, who is corporeally in that scene, and then sees further details of the scene, which he does not understand, and which are not explained to him.

Fantastic though this explanation seems, it is not easy to hit on a simpler one which will cover the facts as stated. Could we accept it, we should have a kind of transition between two groups of cases, which although apparently so different may form parts of a continuous series. I mean the cases where the dreamer visits a distant scene, and the cases where another spirit visits the dreamer.

427. Taking, then, Dr. Bruce's case to bridge the interval between these two groups, I go on to a case which properly belongs to the second, though it still has much in common with the first. I shall quote Mrs. Storie's narrative at full length in the text; because the case is, in my judgment, both evidentially very strong, and also in the naïveté of its confusion, extremely suggestive of the way in which these psychical communications are made. Mrs. Storie, who is now dead, was, by the testimony of Edmund Gurney, Professor Sidgwick, and others, a witness eminently deserving of trust; and, besides a corroboration from her husband of the manifestation of a troubled dream, before the event was known, we have the actual notes written down by her, as she informed us, the day, or the day after, the news of the fatal accident arrived, solely for her own use, and unmistakably reflecting the incoherent impressiveness of the broken vision. These notes form the narrative given in Phantasms of the Living (vol. i. p. 370) which I reproduce here. The fact that the deceased brother was a twin of Mrs. Storie's adds interest to the case, since one clue (a vague one as yet) to the causes directing and determining telepathic communications lies in what seems their exceptional frequency between twins;—the closest of all relations.

HOBART TOWN, July 1874.       

On the evening of the 18th July, I felt unusually nervous. This seemed to begin [with the occurrence of a small domestic annoyance] about half-past 8 o'clock. When I went to my room I even felt as if some one was there. I fancied, as I stepped into bed, that some one in thought tried to stop me. At 2, o'clock I woke from the following dream. It seemed like in dissolving views. In a twinkle of light I saw a railway, and the puff of the engine. I thought, “What's going on up there? Travelling? I wonder if any of us are travelling and I dreaming of it” Some one unseen by me answered, “No; something quite different—something wrong.” “I don't like to look at these things,” I said. Then I saw behind and above my head William's upper half reclining, eyes and mouth half shut; his chest moved forward convulsively, and he raised his right arm. Then he bent forward, saying, “I suppose I should move out of this.” Then I saw him lying, eyes shut, on the ground, flat. The chimney of an engine at his head. I called in excitement, “That will strike him!” The “some one” answered “Yes—well, here's what it was”; and immediately I saw William sitting in the open air—faint moonlight—on a raised {i-145} place sideways. He raised his right arm, shuddered, and said, “I can't go on, or back, No.” Then he seemed lying flat. I cried out, “Oh! Oh!” and others seemed to echo, “Oh! Oh!” He seemed then upon his elbow, saying, “Now it comes.” Then as if struggling to rise, turned twice round quickly, saying, “Is it the train? the train, the train,” his right shoulder reverberating as if struck from behind. He fell back like fainting; his eyes rolled. A large dark object came between us like panelling of wood, and rather in the dark something rolled over, and like an arm was thrown up, and the whole thing went away with a swish. Close beside me on the ground there seemed a long dark object. I called out, “They've left something behind; it's like a man.” It then raised its shoulders and head, and fell down again. The same some one answered, “Yes, sadly.” [?“Yes,” sadly.] After a moment I seemed called on to look up, and said, “Is that thing not away yet?” Answered, “No.” And in front, in light, there was a railway compartment in which sat Rev. Mr. Johnstone, of Echuca. I said, “What's he doing there?” Answered, “He's there.” A railway porter went up to the window asking, “Have you seen any of ——.” I caught no more, but I thought he referred to the thing left behind. Mr. Johnstone seemed to answer “No”; and the man went quickly away—I thought to look for it. After all this the some one said close to me, “Now I'm going.” I started, and at once saw

a tall dark figure at my head

William's back at my side.      He put his right hand (in grief) over his face, and the other almost touching my shoulder, he crossed in front, looking stern and solemn. There was a flash from the eyes, and I caught a glimpse of a fine pale face like ushering him along, and indistinctly another. I felt frightened, and called out, “Is he angry?” “Oh, no.” “Is he going away?” Answered, “Yes,” by the same some one, and I woke with a loud sigh, which woke my husband, who said, “What is it?” I told him I had been dreaming “something unpleasant”—named a “railway,” and dismissed it all from my mind as a dream. As I fell asleep again I fancied the “some one” said, “It's all gone,” and another answered, “I'll come and remind her.”

The news reached me one week afterwards. The accident had happened to my brother on the same night about half-past 9 o'clock. Rev. Mr. Johnstone and his wife were actually in the train which struck him. He was walking along the line, which is raised two feet on a level country. He seemed to have gone 16 miles—must have been tired and sat down to take off his boot, which was beside him, dozed off and was very likely roused by the sound of the train; 76 sheep-trucks had passed without touching him, but some wooden projection, likely the step, had touched the right side of his head, bruised his right shoulder, and killed him instantaneously. The night was very dark. I believe now that the some one was (from something in the way he spoke) William himself. The face with him was white as alabaster, and something like this [a small sketch pasted on] in profile. There were many other thoughts or words seemed to pass, but they are too many to write down here.

The voice of the “some one” unseen seemed always above the figure of William which I saw. And when I was shown the compartment of the carriage with Mr. Johnstone, the some one seemed on a line between me and, it—above me.

[In an account-book of Mrs. Storie's, on a page headed July 1874, we find the 18th day marked, and the words, “Dear Willie died,” and “Dreamed, dreamed of it all,” appended.

The first letter, from the Rev. J. C. Johnstone to the Rev. John Storie, {i-146} announcing the news of the accident, is lost. The following are extracts from his second and third letters on the subject:—]

ECHUCA, 10th August 1874.    

The place where Hunter was killed is on an open plain, and there was consequently plenty of room for him to escape the train had he been conscious; but I think Meldrum's theory is the correct one, that he had sat down to adjust some bandages on his leg and had thoughtlessly gone off to sleep. There is only one line of rails, and the ground is raised about 2 feet—the ground on which the rails rest. He had probably sat down on the edge, and lain down backwards so as to be within reach of some part of the train. It was not known at the time that an accident had occurred. Mrs. Johnstone and myself were in the train. Meldrum says he was not very much crushed. The top of the skull was struck off, and some ribs were broken under the armpit on one side. His body was found on the Sunday morning by a herd-boy from the adjoining station.

August 29th, 1874.    

The exact time at which the train struck poor Hunter must have been about 9.55 P.M., and his death must have been instantaneous.

[The above corresponds with the account of the inquest in the Riverine Herald for July 22nd. The Melbourne Argus also describes the accident as having taken place on the night of Saturday, the 18th.

The following remarks are taken from notes made by Professor Sidgwick, during an interview with Mrs. Storie, in April 1884, and by Mrs. Sidgwick after another interview in September 1885:—]

Mrs. Storie cannot regard the experience exactly as a dream, though she woke up from it. She is sure that it did not grow more definite in recollection afterwards. She never had a series of scenes in a dream at any other time; and she has never had anything like a hallucination. They were introduced by a voice in a whisper, not recognised as her brother's. He had sat on the bank as he appeared in the dream. The engine she saw behind him had a chimney of peculiar shape, such as she had not at that time seen; and she remembers that Mr. Storie thought her foolish about insisting on the chimney—unlike (he said) any which existed; but he informed her when he came back from Victoria, where her brother was, that engines of this kind had just been introduced there. She had no reason to think that any conversation between the porter and the clergyman actually occurred. The persons who seemed to lead her brother away were not recognised by her, and she only saw the face of one of them.

Mr. Storie confirms his wife having said to him at the time of the dream, “What is that light?” Before writing the account first quoted, she had just mentioned the dream to her husband, but had not described it. She desired not to think of it, and also was unwilling to worry him about it because of his Sunday's work. This last point, it will be observed, is a confirmation of the fact that the dream took place on the Saturday night; and “it came out clearly” (Mrs. Sidgwick says) “that her recollection about the Saturday night was an independent recollection, and not read back after the accident was known.” The strongly nervous state that preceded the dream was quite unique in Mrs. S.'s experience. But as it appeared that, according to her recollection, it commenced at least an hour before the accident took place, it must be regarded as of no importance evidentially. The feeling of a presence in the room was also quite unique.


“Here,” says Gurney, “the difficulty of referring the true elements of the dream to the agent's mind [is very great]. For Mr. Hunter was asleep; and even if we can conceive that the image of the advancing engine may have had some place in his mind, the presence of Mr. Johnstone could not have been perceived by him. But it is possible, of course, to regard this last item of correspondence as accidental, even though the dream was telepathic. It will be observed that the dream followed the accident by about four hours; such deferment is, I think, a strong point in favour of telepathic, as opposed to independent, clairvoyance.”

I propose as an alternative explanation,—for reasons which I endeavour to justify in later chapters,—that the deceased brother, aided by some other dimly discerned spirit, was endeavouring to present to Mrs. Storie a series of pictures representing his death—as realised after his death. I add this last clause, because one of the marked points in the dream was the presence in the train of Mr. Johnstone of Echuca—a fact which (as Gurney remarks) the dying man could not possibly know.

I have dwelt on these two cases of Dr. Bruce and Mrs. Storie, because the reader will, I think, come to feel, as our evidence unrolls itself, that he has here complex experiences which are confirmed at various points by simpler experiences, in such a way as to make these stories seem a confused but an intimate transcript of what other narratives show in hints and glimpses alone.

428. In Mrs. Storie's case the whole experience, as we have seen, presented itself as a dream; yet as a dream of quite unusual type, like a series of pictures presented to the sleeper who was still conscious that she was lying in bed. In other cases the “psychical invasion” of the spirit either of a living or of a deceased person seems to set up a variety of sleep-waking states—both in agent and percipient. In one bizarre narrative (that of Mr. Pike) which I give in 428 A, a man dreaming that he has returned home is heard in his home calling for hot water—and has himself a singular sense of “bilocation” between the railway carriage and his bedroom. The case of Mrs. Manning (428 B) is closely similar, except that Mrs. Manning is not, like Mr. Pike, looking forward in her dream to the immediate future, but is reviving with singular spontaneous force the life of the childish past In each case the dream has set the dreamer at a different point of time and place in his career,—with such vividness that others also seem to perceive him at that imaginary point.

Somewhat similar is a narrative of Mr. Newnham's (428 C), but in that instance he himself seems not only to be transported to his fiancée's close neighbourhood, but actually to touch her (as she also feels herself touched by him) at a special moment (of going upstairs to bed) which he could not have hit upon precisely by mere calculation. This case tells strongly for “psychical invasion”—a conception which we shall have to discuss more fully in a later chapter. In another Appendix (428 D) I give a singular {i-148} story of a kind of encounter in dreamland, apparently more or less remembered by both persons.

An invasion of this type coming upon a sleeping person is apt to induce some change in the sleeper's state, which, even if he regards it as a complete awakening, is generally shown not to be so in fact by the dreamlike character of his own recorded feelings and utterances. Gurney called these “Borderland Cases,” and the whole collection in Phantasms of the Living will repay perusal. I introduce one such case here in my text as being at once very perplexing, and, I think, very strongly attested. I knew Mr. and Mrs. T., who certainly were seriously anxious for complete accuracy, and who had (as the narrative shows) made a brief memorandum and consulted various persons on the incident at the time. (I may add that November 18th, 1863, was a Wednesday, so that Mr. T. returned three days after the vision.) I quote the case from Phantasms of the Living, vol. i. p. 425, with Edmund Gurney's comments. The account was written by Mrs. T. in 1883.

On November 18th, 1863, I was living near Adelaide, and not long recovered from a severe illness at the birth of an infant, who was then five months old. My husband had also suffered from neuralgia, and had gone to stay with friends at the seaside for the benefit of bathing. One night during his absence the child woke me about midnight; having hushed him off to sleep, I said, “Now, sir, I hope you will let me rest!” I lay down, and instantly became conscious of two figures standing at the door of my room. One, M.N. [these are not the real initials], whom I recognised at once, was that of a former lover, whose misconduct and neglect had compelled me to renounce him. Of this I am sure, that if ever I saw him in my life, it was then. I was not in the least frightened; but said to myself, as it were, “You never used to wear that kind of waistcoat.” The door close to which he stood was in a deep recess close to the fireplace, for there was no grate; we burnt logs only. In that recess stood a man in a tweed suit. I saw the whole figure distinctly, but not the face, and for this reason: on the edge of the mantelshelf always stood a morocco leather medicine chest, which concealed the face from me. (On this being stated to our friends, the Singletons, they asked to go into the room and judge for themselves. They expressed themselves satisfied that would be the case to any one on the bed where I was.) I had an impression that this other was a cousin of M.N.'s, who had been the means of leading him astray while in the North of England. I never saw him in my life; he died in India.

M.N. was in deep mourning; he had a look of unutterable sorrow upon his face, and was deadly pale. He never opened his lips, but I read his heart as if it were an open book, and it said, “My father is dead, and I have come into his property,” I answered, “How much you have grown like your father!” Then in a moment, without appearing to walk, he stood at the foot of the child's cot, and I saw distinctly the blueness of his eyes as he gazed on my boy, and then raised them to Heaven as if in prayer.

All vanished. I looked round and remarked a trivial circumstance, viz., that the brass handles of my chest of drawers had been rubbed very bright. Not till then was I conscious of having seen a spirit, but a feeling of awe (not fear) came over me, and I prayed to be kept from harm, although there was no {i-149} reason to dread it. I slept tranquilly, and in the morning I went across to the parsonage and told the clergyman's wife what I had seen. She, of course, thought it was merely a dream. But no—if it were a dream should I not have seen him as I had known him, a young man of twenty-two, without beard or whiskers? But there was all the difference that sixteen years would make in a man's aspect.

On Saturday my husband returned, and my brother having ridden out to see us on Sunday afternoon, I told them both my vision as we sat together on the verandah. They treated it so lightly that I determined to write it down in my diary and see if the news were verified. And from that diary I am now quoting. Also I mentioned it to at least twelve or fourteen other people, and bid them await the result.

And surely enough, at the end of several weeks, my sister-in-law wrote that M.N.'s father died at C—— Common on November 18th, 1863, which exactly tallied

with the date of the vision. He left £45,000 to be divided between his son and daughter, but the son has never been found.

Many people in Adelaide heard the story before the confirmation came, and I wrote and told M.N.'s mother. She was much distressed about it, fearing he was unhappy. She is now dead. My husband was profoundly struck when he saw my diary corresponding exactly to the news in the letter I had that moment received in his presence.

Gurney adds the following note and comments:—

Mr. T. has confirmed to us the accuracy of this narrative, and Mrs. T. has shown to one of us a memorandum of the appearance of two figures, under date November 18th, in her diary of the year 1863, and a newspaper obituary confirms this as the date of the death. We learn from a gentleman who is a near relative of M.N.'s, that M.N., though long lost sight of, was afterwards heard of, and outlived his father.

If we regard this vision as telepathic, the agent can apparently only have been the dying man; and the case would then seem to be an extreme instance of the very rare type where the agent's personality does not appear, but some idea or picture in his mind is reproduced in the percipient's mind with a force that leads to an actual percept. For, as the narrator herself suggests, had she bodied forth the idea of M.N. from her own unaided resources, she would almost certainly have pictured him with the aspect that had been familiar to her. But though we have to draw on the father's mind for the unfamiliar features, we must not forget the possibilities of agency below the threshold of consciousness. And it is at least worth suggesting that the percipient's mind brought its own affinities to bear—exercised, so to speak, a selective influence; and that thus it was rather owing to her special interest in the son than to the conscious occupation of his father's mind with him, that the telepathic impulse manifested itself to her in this particular form. As for the appearance of the second figure, it may possibly have been also telepathically produced; but I prefer to lay stress on it simply as one of the numerous indications that these waking percepts are really dream-creations, not objective presences.

I should not now take it for granted that the agent here “can apparently only have been the dying man.” I think it possible, in the light of our now somewhat fuller knowledge, that M.N.'s spirit was aware of his {i-150} father's death,—even though possibly M.N.'s supraliminal self may not have heard of it;—so that the invading presence in this case may have been the discarded lover himself,—dreaming on his own account at a distance from Mrs. T. The second figure I regard as having been an object in M.N.'s dream;—symbolical of his own alienation from Mrs. T. All this sounds fanciful; but I may remark here (as often elsewhere), that I think that we gain little by attempting to enforce our own ideas of simplicity upon narratives of this bizarre type.

429. These cases of invasion by the spirits of living persons pass on into cases of invasion by the dying, of which several instances are given in the next Appendix, the impression being generally that of the presence of the visitant in the percipient's surroundings. Sometimes the phantasm is seen as nearly as can be ascertained at the time of death. But there is no perceptible break in the series at this point. Some appear shortly after death (e.g. in the cases of Mr. Wingfield, 429 C, Mrs. Green, 429 D, and Mr. Dignowity, 429 E), before the death is known to the percipient. Finally, there are cases, of which I give one (429 F), when the appearance takes place some time after death, but presents features unknown to the percipient.

430. We have now briefly reviewed certain phenomena of sleep from a standpoint somewhat differing from that which is commonly taken. We have not (as is usual) fixed our attention primarily on the negative characteristics of sleep, or the extent to which it lacks the capacities of waking hours. On the contrary, we have regarded sleep as an independent phase of personality, existing with as good a right as the waking phase, and dowered with imperfectly expressed faculties of its own. In investigating those faculties we have been in no wise deterred by the fact of the apparent uselessness of some of them for our waking ends. Useless is a pre-scientific, even an anti-scientific term, which has perhaps proved a greater stumbling-block to research in psychology than in any other science. In science the use of phenomena is to prove laws, and the more bizarre and trivial the phenomena, the greater the chance of their directing us to some law which has been overlooked till now. In reviewing the phenomena of sleep, then, we found in the first place that it possesses a specific recuperative energy which the commonly accepted data of physiology and psychology cannot explain. We saw that in sleep there may be an increased co-ordination or centralisation of muscular control, and also an increased vividness of entencephalic perception, indicating a more intimate appreciation of intra-peripheral changes than is manifest in waking life. In accordance with this view, we found that the dreaming self may undergo sensory and emotional experiences apparently more intense than those of vigilance, and may produce thereby lasting effects upon the waking body and mind. Similarly again, we saw that that specific impress on body and mind which we term memory, may in sleeping or hypnotic states be both wider in range and fuller in content than the evocable {i-151} memory of the waking day. Nay, not memory only, but power of inference, of argument, may be thus intensified, as is shown by the solution in sleep of problems which have baffled waking effort.

All these are fragmentary indications,—useless for practical purposes if you will,—of sleeping faculty exercised on the same order of things as waking faculty, and with comparable or even superior power. But we were bound to push our inquiry further still—we were bound to ask whether the self of sleep showed any faculty of a quite different order from that by which waking consciousness maintains the activity of man. We found that this was so indeed; that there was evidence that the sleeping spirit was susceptible of relations unfettered by spatial bonds; of telæsthetic perception of distant scenes; of telepathic communication with distant persons, or even with spirits of whom we can predicate neither distance nor nearness, since they are released from the prison of the flesh.

431. The inference which all this evidence suggests is entirely in accordance with the hypothesis on which my whole work is based.

I have assumed that man is an organism informed or possessed by a soul. This view obviously involves the hypothesis that we are living a life in two worlds at once; a planetary life in this material world, to which the organism is intended to react; and also a cosmic life in that spiritual or metetherial world, which is the native environment of the soul. From that unseen world the energy of the organism needs to be perpetually replenished. That replenishment we cannot understand: we may figure it to ourselves as a protoplasmic process;—as some relation between protoplasm, ether, and whatever is beyond ether, on which it is at present useless to speculate.

Admitting, for the sake of argument, these vast assumptions, it will be easy to draw the further inference that it may be needful that the soul's attention should be frequently withdrawn from the business of earthly life, so as to pursue with greater intensity what we may call its protoplasmic task,—the maintenance of the fundamental, pervading connection between the organism and the spiritual world. Nay, this profounder condition, as responding to more primitive, more fundamental needs, will itself be more primitive than the waking state. And this is so: sleep is the infant's dominant phase: the pre-natal state resembles sleep rather than waking; and so does the whole life-condition of our lowly ancestors. And as the sleeping state is the more primitive, so also is it the more generalised, and the more plastic. Out of this dreamy abeyance between two worlds, the needs of the material world are constantly developing some form of alert activity, some faculty which was potential only until search for food and the defence against enemies compelled a closer heed to “the life of relation,” lest the relation should become only that of victim to devourer.

We shall thus have two phases of personality developing into separate purposes and in separate directions from a parent stem. The waking personality will develop external sense organs and will fit itself progressively {i-152} for the life of relation to the external world. It will endeavour to attain an ever completer control over the resources of the personality, and it will culminate in what we term genius when it has unified the subliminal as far as possible with the supraliminal in its pursuit of deliberate waking ends.

The sleeping personality will develop in ways less easy to foresee. What, on any theory, will it aim at, beyond the familiar intensification of recuperative power? We can only guess, on my theory, that its development will show some increasing trace of the soul's less exclusive absorption in the activity of the organism. The soul has withdrawn from the specialised material surface of things (to use such poor metaphor as we can) into a realm where the nature of the connection between matter and spirit— whether through the intermediacy of the ether or otherwise—is more profoundly discerned. That same withdrawal from the surface which, while it diminishes power over complex muscular processes, increases power over profound organic processes, may at the same time increase the soul's power of operating in that spiritual world to which sleep has drawn it nearer.

On this view of sleep, be it observed, there will be nothing to surprise us in the possibility of increasing the proportion of the sleeping to the waking phase of life by hypnotic suggestion. All we can say is that, while the soul must insist on at least the minimum quantity of sleep needful to keep the body alive, we can see no superior limit to the quantity of sleep which it may choose to take,—the quantity of attention, that is, which it may choose to give to the special operations of sleep as compared with those of waking life.

432. At this point we must for the present pause. The suggested hypothesis will indeed cover the actual facts as to sleep adduced in this chapter. But it covers them by virtue of assumptions too vast to be accepted without further confirmation. It must necessarily be our duty in later chapters to trace the development of the sleeping personality in both the directions indicated above;—in the direction of organic recuperation through the hypnotic trance, and in the direction of the soul's independent operation through that form of trance which leads to possession and to ecstasy. We shall begin at once in the next chapter to trace out that great experimental modification of sleep, from which, under the names of mesmerism or of hypnotism, results of such conspicuous practical value have already been won.




εἵλετο δὲ ῥάβδον, τᾖ τ’ ἀνδρῶν ὂμματα θέλγει,

ὧν ἐθέλει, τοὺς δ’ αὖτε καὶ ὑπνώοντας ἐγείρει.



He took the wand, with which he charms the eyes of men, whomever he chooses, and straightaway he rouses them from sleep. [Homer, Iliad 24.343–44]

500. A very complex subject must in this chapter be discussed with as much completeness as brevity will allow. It will be convenient to lay at once before the reader the main divisions under which Hypnotism will be treated here.

(α) In the first place (sections 500504), I shall endeavour to trace the connection of hypnotism with the subjects of the former chapters,—especially with sleep and hysteria,—and to indicate what kind of advance in faculty may be expected from such experimental developments of sleep-waking states, and of subliminal activity in general, as those to which the broad general title of hypnotism (or hypnotic suggestion) is now commonly given. Hypnotism is too often presented as though it comprised a quite isolated group of phenomena. Until it is more definitely correlated with other phases of personality, it can hardly occupy the place which it merits in any psychological scheme.

(β) The ordinary methods and theories of hypnotism must occupy the second division of this chapter (505516). I shall not, indeed, repeat the customary historical survey;—feeling that the history of hypnotism is a history rather of isolated and scattered reconnaissances than of systematic advance upon the unknown. Rather I shall try to analyse the intrinsic nature of the stimuli employed, and to compare them with the results attained. My general conclusion will be one which has now become widely prevalent—namely, that small physiological causes cannot be credited with these profound psychological effects. Faute de mieux,for want of a more satisfactory alternative and with some reserves as to telepathic action, I shall assent to the dogma of the Nancy school,—that hypnotic agencies may be simplified into suggestion and self-suggestion.

(γ) In the third place, however (517525), I shall show that these words bring no true solution;—that they are mere names which disguise our ignorance. We do not know either why a subject obeys any suggestion which may be made to him, or how he obeys it. We do not {i-154} know this even when the suggestion bears upon some easy, external matter. Still deeper is the mystery when the suggestion is an organic or therapeutic command;—when the subject is told (for instance) not to feel an aching tooth. If he cannot stop feeling the ache by his own strong desire, how can he stop feeling it out of deference to a doctor? Unless there be some supernormal influence or effluence—telepathic or mesmeric—from doctor to patient, we cannot credit the doctor with doing more than set in motion some self-suggestive machinery by which the patient cures his toothache himself. Where no such telepathic influence is exercised (and I do not claim that it is often exercised, although I believe that it is exercised sometimes), suggestion is merely equivalent to self-suggestion;—and self-suggestion remains for our solution as an inexplicable and capricious responsiveness;—a sudden obedience of subliminal agencies to supraliminal commands, which at certain times will modify both body and mind far more effectively than any exertion of the ordinary will. No serious attempt has yet been made to explain this obedience to control; and before trying to explain it we must review its range and limits from a psychological as well as from a physiological standpoint. In the meantime I define suggestion as successful appeal to the subliminal self.

(δ) My fourth sub-chapter, therefore (526562), will briefly set forth the main achievements of suggestion;—including that most important of all achievements, the suggestive or hypnotic induction of supernormal powers. Even apart from these new powers, which indefinitely extend the significance of the whole inquiry, it will be found that the work of suggestion, even when it seems to be purely inhibitive, is in fact essentially dynamogenic;—that however capricious or grotesque its effects may be, they are, nevertheless, effects of vitalisation;—that some energy is added, though in an irregular fashion, to both organic and psychical operations.

(ε) In the fifth place (563578), our task must be to inquire as to the nature and source of this energy which both telepathic suggestion and self-suggestion imply. Self-suggestion,—which is probably still in its infancy,—has thus far proved successful on a large scale mainly when applied according to one or other of two popular schemes,—the “Miracles of Lourdes,” and “Christian Science” or Mind-healing. As to the value of the Lourdes legend I shall give the reader ample opportunity of judging for himself. But as to “Christian Science,” I shall endeavour to show that here, at least, beneath a mask of vulgar crudity, certain ancient philosophic conceptions of permanent value are reasserting themselves in the modern world.

(ζ) Lastly, then (579583), we are driven—here as elsewhere—to consider how far it may be possible for science to confirm and utilise man's ancient instinct of trust in the unseen. I shall state in answer my belief that that trust has never as yet (save in the very highest of our race) {i-155} risen within measurable distance of the actual and provable truth; that even now the organism of each man is passing and must pass increasingly under the control of his spirit; and that his spirit indraws from the metetherial environment an energy limited only by the intensity of its own appeal. In things physical as well as in things spiritual, “by grace we are saved, through faith.”

501. In the course of this study of human personality and human evolution, it is to be hoped that at every stage of our collection and discussion of evidence we may attain a somewhat wider conception of the directions in which that evolution may be looked for, or may even be actively pursued.

Our discussion in Chapter II. of the ways in which human personality is apt to disintegrate helped us to grasp in Chapter III. the conception of genius as an integration of subliminal faculty with supraliminal,—an utilisation of a greater proportion of man's psychical being in subservience to ends desired by his supraliminal control. Genius, indeed, seems at present attainable rather by fortunate sports of heredity than by any systematic training; but it is, nevertheless, important to realise that a level thus definitely higher than our own has already often been reached in the normal progress of the race.

In Chapter IV. we reviewed the sleeping phase of our personality. Dreams introduced us—though incoherently and obscurely—into a strangely widened conception of man's environment and his destiny. They showed him in relation with a world profounder than even genius had apprehended, and on the threshold of powers to which not even genius has aspired.

We were led on, indeed, into a conception of sleep which, whether or not it prove ultimately in any form acceptable by science, is at any rate in deep congruity with the evidence brought forward in this work. Our human life, in this view, exists and energises, at the present moment, both in the material and in the spiritual world. Human personality, as it has developed from lowly ancestors, has become differentiated into two phases; one of them mainly adapted to material or planetary, the other to spiritual or cosmic operation. The subliminal self, mainly directing the sleeping phase, is able either to rejuvenate the organism by energy drawn in from the spiritual world;—or, on the other hand, temporarily and partially to relax its connection with that organism, in order to expatiate in the exercise of supernormal powers;—telepathy, telæsthesia, ecstasy.

Such were the suggestions of the evidence as to dream and vision; such, I may add, will be seen to be the suggestions of spontaneous somnambulism, which has not yet fallen under our discussion. Yet claims so large as these demand corroboration from observation and experiment along many different lines of approach. Some such corroboration we have, in anticipatory fashion, already acquired. Discussing in Chapter II. the {i-156} various forms of disintegration of personality, we had frequent glimpses of beneficent subliminal powers. We saw the deepest stratum of the self intervening from time to time with a therapeutic object (in the cases, e.g. of “Léonie III.” or “Léonore” in 230 A, or Anna Winsor in 237 A), or we caught it in the act of exercising, even if aimlessly or sporadically, some faculty beyond supraliminal reach. And we observed, moreover, that the agency by which these subliminal powers were invoked was generally the hypnotic trance. Of the nature of that trance I then said nothing; it was manifest only that here was some kind of induced or artificial somnambulism, which seemed to systematise that beneficial control of the organism which spontaneous sleep-waking states had exercised in a fitful way. It must plainly be our business to understand ab initiofrom the beginning these hypnotic phenomena; to push as far as may be what seems like an experimental evolution of the sleeping phase of personality.

502. Let us suppose, then, that we are standing at our present point, but with no more knowledge of hypnotic phenomena than existed in the boyhood of Mesmer. We shall know well enough what, as experimental psychologists, we desire to do; but we shall have little notion of how to set about it. We desire to summon at our will, and to subdue to our use, these rarely emergent sleep-waking faculties. On their physical side, we desire to develop their inhibition of pain and their reinforcement of energy; on their intellectual side, their concentration of attention; on their emotional side, their sense of freedom, expansion, joy. Above all, we desire to get hold of those supernormal faculties—telepathy and telæsthesia—of which we have caught fitful glimpses in somnambulism and in dream.

Yet to such hopes as these the so-called “experience of ages” (generally a very short and scrappy induction!) will seem altogether to refuse any practical outcome. History, indeed,—with the wonted vagueness of history,—will offer us a long series of stories of the strange sanative suggestion or influence of man on man;—beginning, say, with David and Saul, or with David and Abishag, and ending with Valentine Great-rakes,—or with the Stuarts' last touch for the King's evil. But in knowledge of how actually to set about it, we should still be just on the level of the Seven Sages.11 Long ago Solon had said, apparently of mesmeric cure— Tὸν δὲ κακαῖς νούσοισι κυκώμενον ἀργαλέαις τε ἁΨάμενος χειροῖν αἶΨα τίθησ’ ὑγιη̑. [Translation] Another man, stricken by evil and severe disease, is immediately made well by the touch of a doctor's hands. [Solon, fr. 13, l. 61–62]

And now let the reader note this lesson on the unexhausted possibilities of human organisms and human life. Let him take his stand at one of the modern centres of hypnotic practice,—in Professor Bernheim's hospital-ward, or Dr. van Renterghem's clinique; let him see the hundreds of patients thrown daily into hypnotic trance, in a few moments, and as a matter of course; and let him then remember that this process, which {i-157} now seems as obvious and easy as giving a pill, was absolutely unknown not only to Galen and to Celsus, but to Hunter and to Harvey; and when at last discovered was commonly denounced as a fraudulent fiction, almost up to the present day. Nay, if one chances to have watched as a boy some cure effected in Dr. Elliotson's Mesmeric

Hospital, before neglect and calumny had closed that too early effort for human good;—if one has seen popular indifference and professional prejudice check the new healing art for a generation;—is not one likely to have imbibed a deep distrust of all à priori negations in the matter of human faculty;—of all obiter dictaincidental remarks of eminent men on subjects with which they do not happen to be acquainted? Would not one, after such an experience, rather choose (with Darwin) “the fool's experiment” than any immemorial ignorance which has stiffened into an unreasoning incredulity?

503. Mesmer's experiment was almost a “fool's experiment,” and Mesmer himself was almost a charlatan. Yet Mesmer and his successors,—working from many different points of view, and following many divergent theories,—have opened an ever-widening way, and have brought us now to a position where we can fairly hope, by experiments made no longer at random, to reproduce and systematise most of those phenomena of spontaneous somnambulism which once seemed to lie so tantalisingly beyond our grasp.

That promise is great indeed; yet it is well to begin by considering precisely how far it extends. We must not suppose that we shall at once be subduing to our experiment a central, integrated, reasonable Self. On the contrary (as has already been explained in Chapter III., section 304), it has been characteristic of hysteria and usually also of somnambulism that the spontaneous changes, although subliminal, have been piecemeal changes; that (to adopt Hughlings-Jackson's well-known phraseology) they have involved not highest-level but middle-level centres; not those centres which determine highest perception and ideation, but centres which control complex co-ordinated movements, such as the synergies necessary for walking or for sight or for dreamlike unintelligent speech.

This metaphor of higher and lower, although it may sound inappropriate, is still of service when we are dealing with stages of faculty all of them ex hypothesiaccording to the hypothesis below the level of the conscious threshold. For our general evidence as to subliminal processes has by this time obliged us to assume that there exists in that submerged region also a gradation of somewhat similar type. We may reach by artifice (that is to say) some subliminal faculty, and yet we may not be reaching any central or controlling judgment. We may be reaching centres which exercise over those subliminal faculties only a fragmentary sway; so that we shall have no reason for surprise if there be something dreamlike, something of bizarrerie or of incoherence, in the manifestation which our experiment evokes. We must be content (at first at any rate) if we can affect the {i-158} personality in the same limited way as hysteria and somnambulism have affected it; but yet can act deliberately and usefully where these have acted hurtfully and at random. It is enough to hope that we may inhibit pain, as it is inhibited for the hysteric; or concentrate attention, as it is concentrated for the somnambulist; or change the tastes and passions, as these are changed in alternating personalities; or (best of all) recover and fix something of that supernormal faculty of which we have caught fugitive glimpses in vision and dream. Our proof of the origination of any phenomenon in the deeper strata of our being must lie in the intrinsic nature of the faculty exhibited;—not in the wisdom of its actual direction. That must often depend on the order given from above the threshold; just as the magic mill of the fable continues magical, although, for lack of the proper formula to stop it, it be still grinding out superfluous salt at the bottom of the sea.

504. I hope that this brief introduction may be of service in two different ways. In the first place, it may show the reader that hypnotism, with its bewildering labyrinth of marvels, has yet a legitimate, an essential, almost a predictable place in experimental psychology. It is no longer possible for the philosopher to relegate it to the physician;—any more than for the physician to relegate it to the quack. It is a discovery which has been achieved almost at random, and which is still used in tentative ignorance; but it is just the kind of discovery which was to be desired and expected; and if it had not come to us in one way, it must, sooner or later, have come to us in another. And in the second place, this preliminary notion of what might be expected from the experimental control of sleep-waking states should prepare the student for what has seemed to many an observer a strange anomaly—the contrast, namely, between the intrinsic potency of the faculties thus evoked and the absurd ends to which (in public exhibitions especially) they often seem to be directed. We have advanced, so to say, within sight of the great stream of our being, but we must not expect as yet to control more than some eddying back-water or subsidiary channel.

The early history of mesmerism or hypnotism was certain, on these showings, to be but a confused and disjointed story. The achievements of hypnotisers (even when cleared from much needless or exaggerated controversy) are not like a series of parallel advances, all of them arrested by the same obstacle at the same point. Rather they resemble a handful of rapid incursions into an unknown country, each of them more or less successful, but encountering difficulties of various kinds, which no persistent effort is made to overcome. That is to say, true inquiry has been mainly the work of a few distinguished men, who have each of them pushed some useful ideas as far as they could, but whose work has not been adequately supported by successors. I should much doubt whether there have been a hundred men in all countries together, at the ordinary level of professional intelligence, who during the century since Mesmer have {i-159} treated hypnotism as the serious study of their lives. Some few of the men who have so treated it have been men of great force and strong convictions; and it will be found that there has consequently been a series of sudden developments of groups of phenomena, differing much from each other, but corresponding with the special beliefs and desires of the person who headed each movement in turn. I will mention some of the chief examples, so as to show the sporadic nature of the efforts made, and the great variety of the phenomena elicited. Such a review should suggest also that if some of those phenomena have seldom been repeated since the burst of novel interest when they were first observed, this by no means proves that they may not again recur if sufficiently sought for. There has not been as yet experience enough for more than a mere beginning in some few of the many directions in which the problem of the limits of suggestion—of the capacity of the subliminal self—must sooner or later be pushed.

505. The first name, then, that must be mentioned is, of course, that of Mesmer himself. He believed primarily in a sanative effluence, and his method seems to have been a combination of passes, suggestion, and a supposed “metallotherapy” or “magneto-therapy”—the celebrated baquetAn oaken tub, 4–5 feet in diameter, with iron and glass parts, which Mesmer used to store magnetic fluid.—which no doubt was merely a form of suggestion. His results, though very imperfectly described, seem to have been peculiar to himself. The crise which many of his patients underwent sounds like a hysterical attack; but there can be no doubt that rapid improvement in symptoms often followed it, or he would not have made so great an impression on savants as well as on the fashionable world of Paris. To Mesmer, then, we owe the first conception of the therapeutic power of a sudden and profound nervous change. To Mesmer, still more markedly, we owe the doctrine of a nervous influence or effluence passing from man to man,—a doctrine which, though it must assume a less exclusive importance than he assigned to it, cannot, in my view, be altogether ignored or denied.

506. The leading figure among his immediate successors, the Marquis de Puységur, seems from his writings11 Recherches Physiologiques sur l'Homme (Paris, 1811); Mémoires pour servir à l'Histoire et à l'Etablissement du Magnétisme Animal; Du Magnétisme Animal considéré dans ses Rapports avec diverses branches de la Physique Générale; &c. Notes on the History and Establishment of Animal Magnetism; Animal Magnetism and its Relations with the Various Branches of General Physics &c. to have been one of the ablest and most candid men who have practised mesmerism; and he was one of the very few who have conducted experiments, other than therapeutic, on a large scale. The somnambulic state may almost be said to have been his discovery; and he obtained clairvoyance or telæsthesia in so many instances, and recorded them with so much of detail, that it is hard to attribute all to mal-observation, or even to telepathy from persons present. Other observers, as Bertrand, a physician of great promise, followed in the same track, and this brief period was perhaps the most fertile in disinterested experiments that our subject has yet known. Much was then {i-160} done in Germany also; and there, too, there is scattered testimony to supernormal powers.11 See Nasse's Zeitschrift für Hypnotismus, passim.

507. Next came the era of Elliotson in England, and of Esdaile in his hospital at Calcutta. Their method lay in mesmeric passes, Elliotson's object being mostly the direct cure of maladies, Esdaile's a deep anæsthesia, under which he performed hundreds of serious operations. His success in this direction was absolutely unique;—was certainly (setting aside supernormal phenomena) the most extraordinary performance in mesmeric history. Had not his achievements been matters of official record, the apparent impossibility of repeating them would probably by this time have been held to have disproved them altogether.

508. The next great step which hypnotism made was actually regarded by Elliotson and his group as a hostile demonstration. When Braid discovered that hypnosis could be induced without passes, the mesmerists felt that their theory of a sanative effluence was dangerously attacked. And this was true; for that theory has in fact been thrown into the shade,—too completely so, in my opinion,—first by the method used in Braid's earlier work of the production of hypnotic phenomena by means of the upward and inward squint, and, secondly, by the much wider and more important discovery of the efficacy of mere suggestion, set forth in his later writings. Braid's hypnotic experience differed much from that of hypnotists before and after him. His early method of the convergent squint produced results which no one else has been able to produce; and the state which it induced appeared in his view to arrest and dissipate even maladies of which neither hypnotist nor patient had thought as capable of cure. But he afterwards abandoned this method in favour of simple verbal suggestion, as he found that what was required was merely to influence the ideas of his patients. He showed further that all so-called phrenological phenomena and the supposed effects of magnets, metals, &c., could be produced equally well by suggestion.22 This later work of Braid's has been generally overlooked, and his theories were stated again as new discoveries by recent observers who ignored what he had already accomplished. See Dr. Bramwell's paper on “James Braid, his Work and Writings,” in Proceedings S.P.R., vol. xii. pp. 127–166. This contains a complete list of Braid's writings, and references to his work by other writers. He also laid stress on the subject's power both of resisting the commands of the operator and of inducing hypnotic effects in himself without the aid of an operator. To my mind the most important novelty brought out by Braid was the possibility of self-hypnotisation by concentration of will. This inlet into human faculty, in some ways the most important of all, has been as yet but slackly followed. But it is along with Braid's group of ideas that I should place those of an able but much inferior investigator, Dr. Fahnestock, although it is not clear that the latter knew of Braid's work. His book, Statuvolism, or Artificial Somnambulism (Chicago, 1871), has {i-161} received less attention than it merits;—partly perhaps from its barbarous title, partly from the crudities with which it is encumbered, and partly from the fact of its publication at what was at that date a town on the outskirts of civilisation. Fahnestock seems to have obtained by self-suggestion with healthy persons results in some ways surpassing anything since recorded.

There is no reason to doubt these results, except the fact that they have not yet been repeated with equal success; and my present purpose is to show how little importance can as yet be attached in the history of hypnotic experiment to the mere absence thus far of successful repetition.

509. The next great stage was again strikingly different It was mainly French; the impulse was given largely by Professor Charles Richet, whose work has proved singularly free from narrowness or misconception; but the movement was developed in a special and a very unfortunate direction by Charcot and his school. It is a remarkable fact that although Charcot was perhaps the only man of eminence whose professional reputation has ever been raised by his dealings with hypnotism, most of his work thereon is now seen to have been mistaken and aberrant,—a mere following of a blind alley, from which his disciples are now gradually returning. Charcot's leading phenomena (as with several of his predecessors above mentioned) were of a type which has seldom since been obtained. The once celebrated “three stages” of the grand hypnotismedeep hypnosis [Charcot's term] are hardly anywhere now to be seen. But in this case the reason is not that other hypnotists could not obtain the phenomena if they would; it is rather (as I have already indicated) that experience has convinced them that the sequences and symptoms on which Charcot laid stress were merely very elaborate products of the long-continued, and, so to say, endemic suggestions of the Salpêtrière (see 509 A).

510. We come next to the movement which is now on the whole dominant, and to which the greatest number of cures may at present be credited. The school of Nancy—which originated with Liébeault, and which is now gradually merging into a general consensus of hypnotic practice—threw aside more and more decisively the supposed “somatic signs” of Charcot,—the phenomena of neuro-muscular irritability and the like, which he regarded as the requisite proof of hypnosis;—until Bernheim boldly affirmed that hypnotic trance was no more than sleep, and that hypnotic suggestion was at once the sole cause of hypnotic responsiveness and yet was undifferentiated from mere ordinary advisory speech. This was unfortunately too good to be true. Not one sleep in a million is really hypnosis; not one suggestion in a million reaches or influences the subliminal self. If Bernheim's theories, in their extreme form, were true, there would by this time have been no sufferers left to heal.

What Bernheim has done is to cure a number of people without mesmeric passes, and without any special predisposing belief on either side,—beyond a trust in his own power. And this is a most valuable {i-162} achievement, especially as showing how much may be dispensed with in hypnotic practice—to how simple elements it may be reduced.

“Hypnotic trance,” says Bernheim, in effect, “is ordinary sleep; hypnotic suggestion is ordinary command. You tell the patient to go to sleep, and he goes to sleep; you tell him to get well, and he gets well immediately.” Even thus (one thinks) has one heard the conjuror explaining “how it's done,”—with little resulting hope of emulating his brilliant

performance. An ordinary command does not enable an ordinary man to get rid of his rheumatism, or to detest the previously too acceptable taste of brandy. In suggestion, in short, there must needs be something more than a name; a profound nervous change must needs be started by some powerful nervous stimulus from without or from within. Before contenting ourselves with Bernheim's formula, we must consider yet again what change we want to effect, and whether hypnotists have actually used any form of stimulus which was likely to effect it.

511. According to Bernheim we are all naturally suggestible, and what we want to effect through suggestion is increased suggestibility. But let us get rid for the moment of that oracular word. What it seems to mean here is mainly a readier obedience of the organism to what we wish it to do. The sleep or trance with which hypnotism is popularly identified is not essential to our object, for the subliminal modifications are sometimes attained without any trace of somnolence. Let us consider, then, whether any known nervous stimuli, either massive or specialised, tend to induce—not mere sleep or catalepsy—but that kind of ready modifiability,—of responsiveness both in visible gesture and in invisible nutritive processes,—for the sake of which hypnosis is in serious practice induced.

512. Now of the external stimuli which influence the whole nervous system the most conspicuous are narcotic drugs. Opium, alcohol, chloroform, cannabis indica, &c., affect the nerves in so many strange ways that one might hope that they would be of use as hypnotic agents. And some observers have found that slight chloroformisation rendered subjects more suggestible (see Appendices). Janet has cited one case where suggestibility was developed during recovery from delirium tremens. Other hypnotisers (as Bramwell) have found chloroform fail to render patients hypnotisable; and alcohol is generally regarded as a positive hindrance to hypnotic susceptibility. More experiment with various narcotics is much needed; but thus far the scantiness of proof that narcotics help towards hypnosis goes rather against the view that hypnosis is a direct physiological sequence from any form of external stimulus.

The apparent resemblance, indeed, between narcosis and hypnosis diminishes on a closer analysis. A stage may occur both in narcotised and in hypnotised subjects where there is incoherent, dream-like mentation; but in the narcotised subject this is a step towards inhibition of the whole nervous energy—the highest centres being paralysed first; whereas {i-163} in hypnosis the inhibition of supraliminal faculty seems often at least to be merely a necessary preliminary to the liberation of fresh faculty which presently manifests itself from a profounder region of the self.

513. Next take another group of massive effects produced on the nervous system by external stimuli;—those forms, namely, of trance and cataplexy which are due to sudden shock. With human beings this phenomenon varies from actual death from failure of heart-action, or paralysis, or stupor attonitusa terrified stupor (a recognised form of insanity), any of which may result from a mere alarming sight or unwelcome announcement, down to the cataleptic immobility of a Salpêtrière patient, when she hears a sudden stroke on the gong.

Similar phenomena in certain animals, as frogs, beetles, &c., are well known. It is doubtful, however, whether any of these sudden disablements should be classed as true hypnoses. It has not, I think, been shown that in any case they have induced any real responsiveness to control, or power of obeying suggestion; unless it be (as in some Salpêtrière cases) a form of suggestion so obvious and habitual that the obedience thereto may be called part of the actual cataplexy itself. Thus the “wax-like flexibility” of the cataleptic, whose arms remain in the position where you place them, must not be regarded as a readier obedience to control, but rather as a state which involves not a more but a less alert and capable responsiveness of the organism to either external or internal stimuli.

So with regard to animals—crocodiles, frogs, and the like. I hold theoretically that animals are probably hypnotisable and suggestible; and the records of Rarey's horse-taming, &c., seem to point in that direction (see also Zoist cases of mesmerisation of animals in 513 B and Dr. Liébeault's experiments with infants in 513 C). But in the commoner experiments with frogs, where mere passivity is produced, the resemblance seems to extend only to the lethargic stage in human beings (see Dr. Bramwell's discussion of the subject in 513 A), and what relation that lethargy bears to suggestibility is not, I think, really known; although I shall later on suggest some explanation on psychological grounds.

It seems plain, at any rate, that it must be from stimuli applied to men and not to animals, and from stimuli of a special and localised rather than of a massive kind, that we shall have to learn whatever can be learnt as to the genesis of the true hypnotic control.

514. Now there exists a way of inducing hypnosis in some hysterical persons which seems intermediate between massive and localised stimulations. It is indeed a local stimulation; but there seems no reason beyond some deep-seated caprice of the organism why the special tract which is thus sensitive should have become developed in that direction.

I speak of the induction of trance in certain subjects by pressure upon so-called hypnogenous zones. These zones form a curious development of hysterical cliniques. Their starting-point is the well-known phenomenon {i-164} of patches of anæsthesia found upon hysterical subjects—the “witchmarks” of our ancestors.

So far as we at present know, the situation of these “marks” is altogether capricious. It does not apparently depend, that is to say, upon any central lesion, in the same way as do the “referred pains,” familiar in deep-seated organic complaints, which manifest themselves by superficial patches of tenderness, explicable by the distribution of nerve-trunks. The anæsthetic patches are an example of what I have called the irrational self-suggestions of the hypnotic stratum;—determined by dreamlike fancies rather than necessitated by purely physiological antecedents.

Quite in accordance with this view, we find that under favourable conditions—especially in a hospital of hysterics—these anomalous patches or zones develop and specialise themselves in various ways. Under Dr. Pitres at Bordeaux (for example), we have zones hystérogènes, zones hypnogènes, zones hypnofrénatrices, &c.; that is to say, he finds that pressure on certain spots in certain subjects will bring on or will check hysterical accesses, or accesses of what is ranked as hypnotic sleep. There is no doubt that this sleep does in certain subjects follow instantly upon the pressure of certain spots,—constant for each subject, but different for one subject and for another;—and this without any conscious cooperation, or even foreknowledge, on the patient's part. Stated thus nakedly, this seems the strongest possible instance of the induction of hypnosis by localised stimulus. The reader, however, will at once understand that in my view there is here no simple physiological sequence of cause and effect. I must regard the local pressure as a mere signal—an appeal to the preformed capacities of lawlessly acting centres in the hypnotic stratum. A scrap of the self has decided, in dreamlike fashion, that pressure on a certain point of the body's surface shall produce sleep;—just as it has decided that pressure on that same point or on some other point shall not produce pain. Self-suggestion, and no mere physiological nexus, is responsible for the sleep or the hysterical access which follows the touch. The anæsthetic patches are here a direct, but a capriciously chosen avenue to the subliminal being, and the same random self-suggestiveness which is responsible for frequent determinations that hysterical subjects shall not be hypnotised has in this case decided that they shall be hypnotised, if you go about it in exactly the right way.


. Next in order among forms of localised stimulus used for inducing hypnosis may be placed monotonous stimulation,—to whatever part of the body it be applied. It was at one time the fashion to attribute almost all hypnotic phenomena to this cause, and Edmund Gurney and I endeavoured to point out the exaggeration.11 This view unfortunately dominates Professor M'Kendrick's article on “Hypnotism” in the Encyclopædia Britannica. Of this presently; but first let us consider the few cases where the monotonous stimulation has undoubtedly {i-165} been of a kind to affect the organism strongly. The late Dr. Auguste Voisin, of Paris, was perhaps more markedly successful than any physician in producing hypnosis in extreme cases;—in maniacal persons especially, whose attention it seemed impossible to fix. He often accomplished this by holding their eyes open with the blepharostat, and compelling them to gaze, sometimes for hours together, at a brilliant electric light. Exhaustion produces tranquillity and an almost comatose sleep—in which the physician has often managed to give suggestions of great value. This seems practically the only class of cases where a directly physiological antecedent for the sleep can be proved; and even here the provable effect is rather the exhaustion of morbid excitability than any direct induction of suggestibility. This dazzling process is generally accompanied with vigorous verbal suggestion; and it is, of course, quite possible that the patients might have been thrown into hypnosis by that suggestion alone, had their minds been capable at first of sufficient attention to receive it.

Braid's upward and inward squint has an effect of the same deadening kind as the long gazing at a light, and helps in controlling wandering attention; but Braid himself in later years (as mentioned above) attributed his hypnotic successes wholly to suggestion.

516. From monotonous excitations which, whatever their part in inducing hypnosis, are, at any rate, such as can sensibly affect the organism, I come down to the trivial monotonies of watch-tickings, “passes,” &c., which are still by a certain school regarded as capable of producing a profound change in the nervous condition of the person before whose face the hypnotiser's hands are slowly waved for ten or twenty minutes. I regard this as a much exaggerated view. The clock's ticking, for instance, if it is marked at all, is at least as likely to irritate as to soothe; and the constant experience of life shows that continued monotonous stimuli, say the throbbing of the screw at sea, soon escape notice and produce no hypnotic effect at all. It is true, indeed, that monotonous rocking sends some babies to sleep; but other babies are merely irritated by the process, and such soporific effect as rocking may possess is probably an effect on spinal centres or on the semicircular canals. It depends less on mere monotony than on massive movement of the whole organism.

I think, then, that there is no real ground for supposing that the trivial degree of monotonous stimulation produced by passes often repeated can induce in any ordinary physiological manner that “profound nervous change” which is recognised as the prerequisite condition of any hypnotic results. I think that passes are effectual generally as mere suggestions, and must primâ facie be regarded in that light, as they are, in fact, regarded by many experienced hypnotisers (as Milne Bramwell) who employ them with good effect. Afterwards, when reason is given for believing in a telepathic influence or impact occasionally transmitted from the operator to the subject at a distance, we shall consider whether passes {i-166} may represent some other form of the same influence, operating in close physical contiguity.

517. First, however, let us consider the point which we have now reached. We have successively dismissed various supposed modes of physiologically inducing hypnotic trance. We stand at present in the position of the Nancy school;—we have found nothing but suggestion which really induces the phenomena.

But on the other hand we cannot possibly regard the word suggestion as any real answer to the important question how the hypnotic responsiveness is induced, on what conditions it depends.

Does suggestion (asks Dr. Bramwell1)1 “What is Hypnotism?” By Dr. J. Milne Bramwell. Proceedings S.P.R., vol. xii. p. 224. explain hypnosis and its phenomena?

The answer to this question must, I think, be a distinctly negative one. The success of suggestion depends, not on the suggestion itself, but on conditions inherent in the subject. These are (1) willingness to accept and carry out the suggestion, and (2) the power to do so. In the hypnotised subject, except in reference to criminal or improper suggestions, the first condition is generally present. The second varies according to the depth of the hypnosis and the personality of the patient. For instance, I might suggest analgesia, in precisely similar terms, to three subjects and yet obtain quite different results. One might become profoundly analgesic, the second slightly so, and the third not at all. Just in the same way, if three jockeys attempt to make their horses gallop a certain distance in a given time, the suggestions conveyed by voice, spur, and whip may be similar, and yet the results quite different. One horse, in response to suggestion, may easily cover the required distance in the allotted time. It was both able and willing to perform the feat. The second, in response to somewhat increased suggestion, may nearly do so. It was willing, but had not sufficient staying power. The third, able but unwilling, not only refuses to begin the race, but bolts off in the contrary direction. With this horse we have the exact opposite of the result obtained in the first instance; and yet possibly the amount of suggestion it received largely exceeded that administered to the others. As Mr. Myers has pointed out, the operator directs the condition upon which hypnotic phenomena depend, but does not create it. “Professor Bernheim's command, ‘Feel pain no more,’ is no more a scientific instruction HOW not to feel pain, than the prophet's ‘Wash in Jordan and be clean’ was a pharmacopœal prescription for leprosy.” In hypnosis the essential condition is not the means used to excite the phenomena, but the peculiar state which enables them to be evoked. Suggestion no more explains the phenomena of hypnotism than the crack of a pistol explains a boat race. Both are simply signals, mere points of departure, and nothing more. In Bernheim's hands the word “suggestion” has acquired an entirely new signification, and differs only in name from the odyllic force of the mesmerists. It has become mysterious and all-powerful, and is supposed to be capable, not only of evoking and explaining all the phenomena of hypnotism, but also of originating, nay even of being, the condition itself. According to his view, suggestion not only starts the race, but also creates the rowers and builds the boat!

Besides what is here said with obvious truth, it must be remembered {i-167} that many of the results which follow upon suggestion are of a type which no amount of willingness to follow the suggestion could induce, since they lie quite outside the voluntary realm. However disposed a man may be to believe me, however anxious to please me, one does not see how that should enable him, for instance, to govern the morbidly-secreting cells in an eruption of erysipelas. He already fruitlessly wishes them to stop their inflammation; the mere fact of my expressing the same wish can hardly alter his cellular tissue.

Here, then, we come to an important conclusion which cannot well be denied, yet is seldom looked fully in the face. Suggestion from without must for the most part resolve itself into suggestion from within. Unless there be some telepathic or other supernormal influence at work between hypnotiser and patient (which I shall presently show ground for believing to be sometimes, though not often, the case), the hypnotiser can plainly do nothing by his word of command beyond starting a train of thought which the patient has in most cases started many times for himself with no result; the difference being that now at last the patient starts it again, and it has a result. But why it thus succeeds on this particular occasion, we simply do not know. We cannot predict when the result will occur; still less can we bring it about at pleasure.

Nay, we do not even know whether it might not be possible to dispense altogether with suggestion from outside in most of the cases now treated in this way, and merely to teach the patient to make the suggestions for himself. If there be no “mesmeric effluence” passing from hypnotiser to patient, the hypnotiser seems little more than a mere objet de luxe;—a personage provided simply to impress the imagination, who must needs become even absurdly useless so soon as it is understood that he has no other function or power.

518. Self-suggestion, whatever this may really mean, is thus in most cases, whether avowedly or not, at the bottom of the effect produced. It has already been used most successfully, and it will probably become much commoner than it now is;—or, I should rather say (since every one no doubt suggests to himself when he is in pain that he would like the pain to cease), I anticipate that self-suggestion, by being in some way better directed, will become more effective, and that the average of voluntary power over the organism will rise to a far higher level than it at present reaches. I believe that this is taking place even now; and that certain schemes of self-suggestion, so to call them, are coming into vogue, where patients in large masses are supplied with effective conceptions, which they thus impress repeatedly upon themselves without the need of a hypnotiser's attendance on each occasion. I shall presently explain that the “Miracles of Lourdes” and the cures effected by “Christian Science” fall, in my view, under this category. We have here suggestions given to a quantity of more or less suitable people en masse, much as a platform hypnotiser gives suggestions to a mixed audience, some of whom may then {i-168} be affected without individual attention from himself. The suggestion of the curative power of the Lourdes water, for instance, is thus thrown out, partly in books, partly by oral addresses; and a certain percentage of persons succeed in so persuading themselves of that curative efficacy that when they bathe in the water they are actually cured.

These schemes of self-suggestion, as I have termed them, constitute one of the most interesting parts of my subject, and will need careful study at a later point. But here it is important to point out that in order to make self-suggestion operative, no strong belief or enthusiasm, such as those schemes imply, is really necessary. No recorded cases of self-suggestion, I think, are more instructive than those published by Dr. Hugh Wingfield in Proceedings S.P.R., vol. v. p. 279. (The paper was printed anonymously.) Dr. Wingfield was a Demonstrator in Physiology in the University of Cambridge, and his subjects were mainly candidates for the Natural Sciences Tripos. In these cases there was no excitement of any kind, and no previous belief. The phenomena occurred incidentally during a series of experiments on other points, and were a surprise to every one concerned. The results achieved were partly automatic writing and partly phenomena of neuro-muscular excitability;—stiffening of the arms, and so forth. The passage quoted in 518 D goes far to prove Dr. Wingfield's general thesis (p. 283), “It seems probable that…all phenomena capable of being produced by the suggestion of the hypnotiser can also be produced by self-suggestion in a self-suggestive subject.”

Experiments like these,—confirming with modern care the conclusions reached by Fahnestock (see 518 A) and others at various points in hypnotic history,—seem to me to open a new inlet into human faculty, as surprising in its way as those first wild experiments of Mesmer himself. Who would have supposed that a healthy undergraduate could “by an effort of mind throw his whole body into a state of cataleptic rigidity, so that he could rest with his heels on one chair and head on another, and remain supported in that condition”? or that other healthy young men could “close their own eyes so that they were unable to open them,” and the like? The trivial character of these laboratory experiments makes them physiologically the more remarkable. There is the very minimum of predisposing conditions, of excited expectation, or of external motive prompting to extraordinary effort. And the results are not subjective merely—relief of pain and so on—but are definite neuro-muscular changes, capable of unmistakable test.

Yet, important though these and similar experiments in self-suggestion maybe, they do not solve our problem as to the ultimate origin and distribution of the faculty thus displayed. We know no better with self-suggestion than with suggestion from outside why it is that one man succeeds where others fail, or why a man who succeeds once fails in his next attempt. Within the ordinary range of physiological explanations nothing (I repeat) has as yet been discovered which can guide us to the {i-169} true nature or exciting causes of this characteristic responsiveness of hypnosis. If we are to find any light, it must be in some direction which has as yet been little explored.

519. The hint which I have to offer here involves, I hope, something more than a mere change of appellation. I define suggestion as “successful appeal to the subliminal self;—not necessarily to that self in its most central, most unitary aspect; but to some one at least of those strata of subliminal faculty which I have in an earlier chapter described.

I do not indeed pretend that my explanation can enable us to reduce hypnotic success to a certainty. I cannot say why the process should be so irregular and capricious; so that now and then we seem to touch a spring which gives instant access to profound recesses; then all is closed and inaccessible again. But I can show that this puzzle is part of a wider problem, which meets us in all departments of subliminal operation. In split personalities, in genius, in dreams, in sensory and motor automatisms, we find the same fitfulness, the same apparent caprice. The answer to the problem of the uncertainty of hypnotism must be involved in the answer to all these other problems too. Hypnotic success or failure cannot depend, as some have fancied, on some superficial difference in the kind of suggestion given. It is part and parcel of a wider mystery;—of the obscure relationships and interdependencies of the supraliminal and the subliminal self.

For light upon such a problem as this we must wait, I believe, until a much later stage of our inquiry, when the possibility of the possession of the organism by a discarnate intelligence comes to be considered. As has been already observed, the acquisition of a standpoint—even of a somewhat unstable and shifting standpoint—outside the incarnate human personality should enable us, with clearer eyes, to see much which is now too intimate, too deeply rooted in us, for our unaided analysis.

520. Leaving perforce this problem for the present unsolved, let us consider other ways in which this conception of subliminal operation may throw light on the actual phenomena of hypnotism;—phenomena at present scattered in bewildering confusion.

In the first place, then, since we have found that it is in the sleeping phase of personality that subliminal faculty is most readily exercised, we shall expect that any evocation of that faculty will involve some kind of development of sleep. Let us here pause and consider the validity of this presumption. The place in our argument is suitable for such an inquiry. We have already discussed the empirical ways in which hypnotism has been induced. We must presently go on to discuss the therapeutic effects which hypnotism brings in its train. It is fitting that we should here briefly review the familiar phenomena of the hypnotic condition itself.

Now the word hypnotism itself implies that some kind of sleep or trance is regarded as its leading characteristic. And although so-called hypnotic suggestions do sometimes take effect in the waking state, our usual test of {i-170} the hypnotiser's success lies in the slumber—light or deep—into which his subject is thrown. It is, indeed, a slumber which admits at times of strange wakings and activities; but it is also manifestly profounder than the sleep which we habitually enjoy.

The true nature of this hypnotic sleep has been a subject of much debate. At first it was regarded as a specific form of trance, brought on by a specific agency—namely, the mesmeric or magnetic effluence, communicated from the baquet or

from the hands or eyes of the mesmerist. Similarly Elliotson and Esdaile continued to treat the mesmeric sleep as a condition sui generis,of its own type evoked by the mesmeric effluence in which they also believed.

When, however, it became known that hypnosis could often be induced by mere verbal suggestion or by self-suggestion, under circumstances which precluded the idea of any transmission of effluence, it was found very hard to explain the nature of the characteristic sleep;—until at last Bernheim and his followers took the bull by the horns, and declared that the sleep was not characteristic; but that the hypnotic trance was identical with ordinary slumber,—ordinary slumber “rendered by suggestion more suggestible.” That is to say, out of ordinary sleep, regarded as a definite result of certain physiological conditions, Bernheim nevertheless develops (without further physiological agency of any kind) a psychological condition which differs obviously and profoundly from ordinary sleep, and which is even consistent with apparently complete vigilance. This, surely, is a mere abandonment of the real problem.

521. From my point of view, on the other hand, the problem here is merely an inevitable part of a problem already faced (albeit not solved) in a wider form. If sleep be the phase of personality specially consecrated to subliminal operation, it follows that any successful appeal to the subliminal self will be likely to induce some form of sleep. And further, if that form of sleep be in fact not an inevitable result of physiological needs, but a response to a psychological appeal, it seems not unlikely that we should be able to communicate with it without interrupting it;—and should thus be able to guide or supplement subliminal operations, just as in genius the subliminal self guided or supplemented supraliminal operations.

For my part, then, I shall abandon the attempt to force all the varied trances, lethargies, sleep-waking states, to which hypnotism introduces us into the similitude of ordinary sleep. Rather I shall say that in these states we see the subliminal self coming to the surface in ways already familiar to us, and displacing just so much of the supraliminal as may from time to time be needful for the performance of its own work. That work, I say, will be of a character which we know already; the difference is that what we have seen done spontaneously we now see done in response to our appeal.

522. Armed with this simplifying conception,—simplifying in spite of its frank admission of an underlying mystery,—we shall find no added {i-171} difficulty in several points which have been the subjects of eager controversy. The sequence of hypnotic phenomena, the question of the stages of hypnotism, is one of these. I have already briefly described how Charcot propounded his three stages—lethargy, catalepsy, somnambulism—as though they formed the inevitable development of a physiological law;—and how completely this claim has now had to be withdrawn. Other schemes have been drawn out, by Liébeault, &c., but none of them seem to do more than reflect the experience of some one hypnotist's practice. The simplest arrangement is that of Edmund Gurney, who spoke only of an “alert stage” and a “deep stage” of hypnosis (522 B); and even here we cannot say that either stage invariably precedes the other. The alert stage, which often came first with Gurney's subjects, comes last in Charcot's scheme; and it is hardly safe to say more than that hypnotism is apt to show a series of changes from sleep-waking to lethargy and back again, and that the advanced stages show more of subliminal faculty than the earlier ones. There is much significance in an experiment of Dr. Jules Janet, who, by continued “passes,” carried on Wittman, Charcot's leading subject, beyond her usual somnambulic state into a new lethargic state, and out again from thence into a new sleep-waking state markedly superior to the old (522 A).

523. Gurney held the view that the main distinction of kind between his “alert” and his “deep” stage of hypnosis was to be found in the domain of memory, while memory also afforded the means for distinguishing the hypnotic state as a whole from the normal one. As a general rule (though with numerous exceptions), the events of ordinary life are remembered in the trance, while the trance events are forgotten on waking, but tend to recur to the memory on rehypnotisation. But the most interesting part of his observations (see 523 A) consisted in showing alternations of memory in the alert and deep stages of the trance itself;—the ideas impressed in the one sort of state being almost always forgotten in the other, and as invariably again remembered when the former state recurs. On experimenting further, he met with a stage in which there was a distinct third train of memory, independent of the others;—and this, of course, suggests a further doubt as to there being any fixed number of stages in the trance. The later experiments of Mrs. Sidgwick on the same subject (recorded in 523 B), in which eight or nine distinct trains of memory were found—each recurring when the corresponding stage of depth of the trance was reached—seem to show conclusively that the number may vary almost indefinitely. We have already seen that in cases of alternating personalities the number of personalities similarly varies,11 Besides those mentioned in Chapter II. (especially sections 233 to 236), see a remarkable recent case recorded by Dr. Bramwell in Brain, Summer Number, 1900, on the authority of Dr. Albert Wilson, of Leytonstone. In this case there were sixteen different stages or personalities, with distinct memories and different characteristics. and the student who now follows or repeats {i-172} Gurney's experiments, with the increased knowledge of split personalities which recent years have brought, cannot fail to be struck with the analogies between Gurney's artificial light and deep states,—with their separate chains of memory,—and those morbid alternating personalities, with their complex mnemonic cleavages and lacunæ, with which we dealt in Chapter II. The hypnotic stages are in fact secondary or alternating personalities of very shallow type, but for that very reason all the better adapted for teaching us from what kinds of subliminal disaggregation the more serious splits in personality take their rise.

524. And beneath and between these awakenings into limited, partial alertness lies that profound hypnotic trance which one can best describe as a scientific or purposive rearrangement of the elements of sleep;—a rearrangement in which what is helpful is intensified, what is merely hindering or isolating is removed or reduced. A man's ordinary sleep is at once unstable and irresponsive. You can wake him with a pin-prick, but if you talk to him he will not hear or answer you, until you rouse him with the mere noise. That is sleep as the needs of our timorous ancestors determined that it should be.

Hypnotic sleep, on the contrary, is at once stable and responsive; strong in its resistance to such stimuli as it chooses to ignore; ready in its accessibility to such appeals as it chooses to answer.

Prick or pinch the hypnotised subject, and although some stratum of his personality may be aware, in some fashion, of your act, the sleep will generally remain unbroken. But if you speak to him,—or even speak before him,—then, however profound his apparent lethargy, there is something in him which will hear.11 I am inclined to think that this is always the case. For a long time the lethargic state was supposed at the Salpêtrière to preclude all knowledge of what was going on; and I have heard Charcot speak before a deeply-entranced subject as if there were no danger of her gathering hints as to what he expected her to do. I believe that his patients did subliminally receive such hints, and work them out in their own hypnotic behaviour. On the other hand, I have heard the late Dr. Auguste Voisin, one of the most persistent and successful of hypnotisers, make suggestion after suggestion to

a subject apparently almost comatose,—which suggestions, nevertheless, she obeyed as soon as she awoke.

All this is true even of earlier stages of trance. Deeper still lies the stage of highest interest;—that sleep-waking in which the subliminal self is at last set free,—is at last able not only to receive but to respond; when it begins to tell us the secrets of the sleeping phase of personality, beginning with directions as to the conduct of the trance or of the cure, and going on to who knows what insight into who knows what world afar?

Without, then, entering into more detail as to the varying forms which hypnosis at different stages may assume, I have here traced its central characteristic;—the development, namely, of the sleeping phase of personality in such fashion as to allow of some supraliminal guidance of the subliminal self.


525. We have here a definition of much wider purview than any which has been habitually applied to the process of hypnotisation or to the state of hypnosis. To test its validity, to explain its scope, we need a survey of hypnotic results much wider in range than any enumeration of the kind at present usual in text-books,—than any mere list of neuromuscular and vaso-motor phenomena provoked, or of maladies cured by hypnotic suggestion. Regarding hypnotic achievements mainly in their mental aspects, I must seek for some broad principle of classification which on the one hand may not be so exclusively moral as to be physiologically untranslatable,—like the distinction between vice and virtue;—or on the other hand so exclusively physiological as to be morally untranslatable,—like the distinction between cerebral anaemia and hyperæmia.

Perhaps the broadest contrast which is expressible in both moral and physiological terms is the contrast between check and stimulus,—between inhibition and dynamogeny. Not, indeed, that such terms as check and stimulus can be pressed in detail; it is quite possible, for instance, that the action of what we call inhibitory nerves may give a sense of increased moral activity. Yet the terms do correspond well enough with a deep distinction in our practical education,—the distinction between the checking or countermanding on the one hand of impulses already existent, and the heightening, on the other hand, of existent powers, or the infusion of new impulses. The central power,—the ruling agency within the man which gives the command,—is no doubt the same in both cases. But the common contrast between negative and positive exhortations,—“this you shall not do,” “this you shall do,”—will help to give clearness to our review of the influences of hypnotism in its bearings on intelligence and character,—its psychological efficacy.

526. Let us then regard hypnotic suggestion as a summarised education, and consider over what range of inhibition and dynamogeny an ordinary education is expected to extend. I deal in Appendices with the obscure but important question of prenatal suggestion, and pass on to the point when education admittedly begins; that is, of course, in the cradle. There it enters at once upon its double task of repression and stimulus. Repression is needed long before moral teaching begins, from the mere fact that all kinds of impulses tend to express themselves in act,—and that many of the resultant acts, if often repeated, are unbecoming or injurious. The prevention and cure of bad tricks is a main business of the nursery. Hardly more than bad tricks, in their inception, are various other impulses of haste, anger, greed, sensuality, which if left unchecked may develop into deep-seated vice. And even when the frame is matured and self-control in most other matters assured, the special attractiveness of certain stimulants for certain organisms overcomes the whole inhibitory strength—the most needful prudence—of no small proportion of the human race.

The field over which inhibition is necessary is thus a very wide one. {i-174} We shall presently find that hypnotic suggestion is able to exert effective control at every point.

The work of stimulus or dynamogeny in education is even more difficult to execute properly than that of inhibition. We know pretty well what we wish to prevent the child from doing. It is harder to discover all that a judicious education might advantageously teach him to do. The very first lesson which we have to impress upon him—attention—is really of unknown scope. We are usually satisfied with the inhibitory side of the lesson; with the restraint of wandering thought. The intensity of the attention thus steadied is a different matter; and I shall presently quote certain experiments which point to possibilities in this direction as yet seldom realised. Intellectual education, rendered possible by attention, includes the training of perception, memory, and imagination; and all these faculties will be found to have been sometimes much heightened by hypnotic suggestion.

Moral education, again, presupposes a training of attention, mainly in emotional directions, and by methods often both inhibitive and dynamogenic. We restrain morbid fears by inculcating courage and self-respect; we use “the expulsive power of a new affection” to banish unworthy desire. A review of certain hypnotic triumphs will presently illustrate the potency of suggestion in cases where a life has seemed irretrievably ruined by some insistent pre-occupation or inescapable fear.

The self-regarding virtues, as has been said, depend largely upon power of inhibition; and where dynamogeny is needed for the attainment of those virtues,—where it is important to stimulate rather than to control,—the stimulus is applied to instincts which we are pretty sure to find already existing. Every man wishes with more or less energy for health, wealth, consideration, success. But when from the self-regarding we pass on to the altruistic virtues, we cannot be equally sure of finding an impulse ready for development.

After a certain point of helpfulness and kindliness has been reached, the higher strains of generosity, self-abnegation, impersonal enthusiasm, lie outside the field of ordinary education. Similarly they seem as yet to lie outside the field of ordinary hypnotic suggestion. We shall indeed presently find that the cured dipsomaniac or morphinomaniac is reported as leading a life which wins the esteem of his fellow-men. He reaches, one may say, a position of ethical stability; but we have no evidence of his attaining to any eminent virtue.

In point of fact no one is likely to apply to a physician to hypnotise him into a saint. Nor again,—and this is of more practical importance,—is any selfish successful man likely to ask to be rendered generous and unworldly. He has in his own way adapted himself to his environment; he does not wish to be profoundly changed.

It is not, therefore, from the hospital or the consulting-room that we should expect to hear of great changes of character for lofty ends. Such {i-175} changes have not been made, and perhaps can hardly be made, the subjects of experiments in cold blood. They occur, nevertheless. In every race, in every age, there have been conversions—changes and elevations of character ascribed to Divine Grace. We shall find as we proceed that at this point our review of hypnotic effects merges—as on any satisfactory theory it ought to merge—into a wider consideration of the spiritual strength of man.

To some such widened outlook we must gradually lead up, reviewing in turn the various forms—first of inhibition, then of dynamogeny—of which ordinary education, from the nursery onwards, is wont to consist.

527. The most rudimentary form of restraint or inhibition, as already said, lies in our effort to preserve the infant or young child from acquiring what we call “bad tricks.” These morbid affections of motor centres, trifling in their inception, will sometimes grow until they are incurable by any régime or medicament;—nay, till an action so insignificant as sucking the thumb may work the ruin of a life.

In no direction, perhaps, do the results of suggestion appear more inexplicable than here. Nowhere—as the cases in my Appendices (527 A and B) show—have we a more conspicuous touching of a spring;—a more complete achievement, almost in a single moment, of the deliverance which years of painful effort have failed to effect.

These cases stand midway between ordinary therapeutics and moral suasion. No one can here doubt the importance of finding the shortest and swiftest path to cure. Nor is there any reason to think that cures thus obtained are less complete or permanent than if they had been achieved by gradual moral effort. These facts should be borne in mind throughout the whole series of the higher hypnotic effects, and should serve to dispel any anxiety as to the possible loss of moral training when cure is thus magically swift. Each of these effects consists, as we must suppose, in the modification of some group of nervous centres; and, so far as we can tell, that is just the same result which moral effort made above the conscious threshold more slowly and painfully attains. This difference, in fact, is like the difference between results achieved by diligence and results achieved by genius. Something valuable in the way of training,—some exercise in patience and resolve,—no doubt may be missed by the man who is “suggested” into sobriety;—in the same way as it was missed by the schoolboy Gauss,—writing down the answers to problems as soon as set, instead of spending on them a diligent hour. But moral progress is in its essence as limitless as mathematical; and the man who is thus carried over rudimentary struggles may still find plenty of moral effort in life to train his character and tax his resolution.

528. Among these morbid tricks kleptomania has an interest of its own, on account of the frequent doubt whether it is not put forward as a mere excuse for pilfering. It may thus happen that the cure is the best proof of the existence of the disease; and certain cures (quoted in {i-176} 528 A and B) indicate that the impulse has veritably involved a morbid excitability of motor centres, acted on by special stimuli,—an idée fixe with an immediate outcome in act.

Many words and acts of violence fall under the same category, in cases where the impulse to swear or to strike has acquired the unreasoning automatic promptness of a tic, and yet may be at once inhibited by suggestion. Many undesirable impulses in the realm of sex are also capable of being thus corrected or removed.

529. The stimulants and narcotics, to which our review next leads us, forms a standing menace to human virtue. By some strange accident of our development, the impulse of our organisms towards certain drugs —alcohol, opium, and the like—is strong enough to overpower, in a large proportion of mankind, not only the late-acquired altruistic impulses, but even the primary impulses of self-regard and self-preservation. We are brought back, one may almost say, to the “chimiotaxy” of the lowest organisms, which arrange themselves inevitably in specific relation to oxygen, malic acid, or whatever the stimulus may be. We thus experience in ourselves a strange conflict between moral responsibility and molecular affinities;—the central will overborne by dumb unnumbered elements of our being. With this condition of things hypnotic suggestion deals often in a curious way. The suggestion is not generally felt as a strengthening of the central will. It resembles rather a molecular redisposition; it leaves the patient indifferent to the stimulus, or even disgusted with it. The man for whom alcohol has combined the extremes of delight and terror now lives as though in a world in which alcohol did not exist at all. (See 529 A and B; also a case of the cure of excessive smoking in 529 C.)

530. Even for the slave of morphia the same sudden freedom is sometimes achieved. It has been said of victims to morphia-injection that a cure means death;—so often has suicide followed on the distress caused by giving up the drug. But in certain cases cured by suggestion it seems that no craving whatsoever has persisted after the sudden disuse of the drug. There is something here which is in one sense profounder than moral reform. There is something which suggests a spirit within us less injured than we might have feared by the body's degradation. The morphinomaniac character—the lowest type of subjection to a ruling vice—disappears from the personality in proportion as the drug is eliminated from the system. The shrinking outcast turns at once into the respectable man. (See 530 A.)

531. The theme which comes next in order, while of first-rate importance, cannot be freely treated except in a purely medical work. I have spoken of the standing danger which the stimulus of alcohol constitutes to human health and happiness. There exists, I need not say, a stimulus still more powerful, and still more inextricably interwoven with the tissue of life itself. In my chapter on Genius I have endeavoured (as {i-177} the disciple of Plato) to show how that instinct for union with beauty which manifests itself most obviously in sexual passion may be exalted into a symbolical introduction into a sacred and spiritual world. In my discussion of hysteria I showed how suggestion may be used to relieve certain of the more delicate sorrows into which that passion may betray the yearning and unconscious heart. But there are baser yearnings, sorrows of fouler stain; there are madnesses and melancholies whose cause even the physician or the confessor must often guess rather than hear. It must be enough to say that in many such cases the hypnotising physician has proved the most helpful of confessors; that in this direction also impulses have been arrested, appetites transformed; that here, too, as with the victims of alcohol or morphia, the world holds many men and women sane and sound whom but for hypnotic suggestion we might now have sought in vain;—save in the prison, the madhouse, or the grave.11 See, for example, Von Schrenck-Notzing's work, Die Suggestions-Therapie bei krankhaften Erscheinungen des Geschlechts-Lebens.

532. Some of these profound and pervasive disorders of the sexual passion, if fully analysed, might supply us with types of almost every variety of perversity and folly. But even apart from these, and apart from troubles consequent on any intelligible instinct, any discoverable stimulus of pleasure, there are a multitude of impulses, fears, imaginations, one or more of which may take possession of persons not otherwise apparently unhealthy or hysterical, sometimes to an extent so distressing as to impel to suicide. I believe that these irrational fears or “phobies” are often due to heredity;—not always to a reversion to primitive terrors,—but (as in the case of horror at injury to finger-nails quoted from Mr. Francis Galton in 526 B) to an accidental and, so to say, traumatic inheritance of some prenatal suggestion. However originated, these morbid aversions (like other idées fixes which I reserve for later mention) may often lie very deep, and in their sudden removal by hypnotic suggestion they remind one of the deep-seated tumours which Esdaile used to astonish the Calcutta coolies by extirpating while they slept.

A frequent form of idée fixe consists of some restricting or disabling preoccupation or fear. Some of these “phobies” have been often described of late years,—as, for instance, agoraphobia, which makes a man dread to cross an open space; and its converse, claustrophobia, which makes him shrink from sitting in a room with closed doors; or the still more distressing mysophobia, which makes him constantly uneasy lest he should have become dirty or defiled (see Appendices to this section).

All these disorders involve a kind of displacement or cramp of the attention; and for all of them, one may broadly say, hypnotic suggestion is the best and often the only cure. Suggestion seems to stimulate antagonistic centres; to open clogged channels; to produce, in short, however we imagine the process, a rapid disappearance of the insistent notion.


I have spoken of this effect as though it were mainly to be valued intellectually, as a readjustment of the dislocated attention. But I must note also that the moral results may be as important here as in the cases of inhibition of dipsomania and the like, already mentioned. These morbid fears which suggestion relieves may be ruinously degrading to a man's character. The ingredients of antipathy, of jealousy, which they sometimes contain, may make him dangerous to his fellows as well as loathsome to himself. One or two cases of the cure of morbid jealousy are to my mind among the best records which hypnotism has to show (see 557 A).

533. The extirpation of tumours, however, is not the only purgative process which the bodily organism ever needs. And the psychical organism also—to continue our metaphor—is subject to many blockings and cloggings which it would be well to disperse if we could. The treasure of memory is mixed with rubbish; the caution which experience has taught has often been taught too well; philosophic calm has often frozen into apathy. Plato would have the old men in his republic plied well with wine on festal days, that their tongues might be unloosed to communicate their wisdom without reserve. “Accumulated experience,” it has been said with much truth in more modern language,11 Dr. Hill, British Medical Journal, July 4th, 1891. “hampers action, disturbs the logical reaction of the individual to his environment. The want of control which marks the decadence of mental power is [sometimes] itself undue control, a preponderance of the secondary over the primary influences.”

Now the removal of shyness, or mauvaise hontebashfulness, which hypnotic suggestion can effect, is in fact a purgation of memory,—inhibiting the recollection of previous failures, and setting free whatever group of aptitudes is for the moment required. Thus, for the boy called on to make an oration in a platform exhibition, hypnotisation sets free the primary instinct of garrulity without the restraining fear of ridicule. For the musical executant, on the other hand, a similar suggestion will set free the secondary instinct which the fingers have acquired, without the interference of the learner's puzzled, hesitating thoughts.

I may remark here (following Gurney and Bramwell) how misleading a term is mono-ideism for almost any hypnotic state. There is a selection of ideas to which the hypnotic subject will attend, and there is a concentration upon the idea thus selected; but those ideas themselves may be both complex and constantly shifting, and indeed this is just one of the ways in which the hypnotic trance differs from the somnambulic—in which it may happen that only a relatively small group of brain-centres are awake enough to act. The somnambulic servant-girl, for instance, may persist in laying the tea-table, whatever you say to her, and this may fairly be called mono-ideism; but the hypnotic subject (as Bramwell has justly {i-179} insisted, see 533 A) can be made to obey simultaneously a greater number of separate commands than he could possibly attend to in waking life.

534. From these inhibitions of memory,—of attention as directed to the experiences of the, past,—we pass on to attention as directed to the experiences of the present. And here we are reaching a central point; we are affecting the macula luteacentral portion of the retina, where vision is sharpest (as it has been well called) of the mental field. Many of the most important of hypnotic results will be best described as modifications of attention.

Any modification of attention is of course likely to be at once a check and a stimulus;—a check to certain thoughts and emotions, a stimulus to others. And in many cases it will be the dynamogenic aspect of the change—the new vigour supplied in needed directions—which will be for us of greatest interest. Yet from the inhibitive side also we have already had important achievements to record. All these arrests and destructions of idées fixes, of which so much has been said, were powerful modifications of attention, although the limited field which they covered made it simpler to introduce them under a separate heading.

And even now it may not be without surprise that the reader finds described under the heading of inhibition of attention a phenomenon so considerable and so apparently independent as hypnotic suppression of pain. This induced analgesia has from the first been one of the main triumphs of mesmerism or hypnotism. All have heard that mesmerism will stop headaches;—that you can have a tooth out “under mesmerism” without feeling it. The rivalry between mesmerism and ether, as anæsthetic agents in capital operations, was a conspicuous fact in the medical history of early Victorian times. But the ordinary talk, at any rate of that day, seemed to assume that if mesmerism produced an effect at all it was an effect resembling that produced by narcotics—a modification of the intimate structure of the nerve or of the brain which rendered them for the time incapable of transmitting or of feeling painful sensations. The state of a man's nervous system, in fact, when he is poisoned by chloroform, or stunned by a blow, or almost frozen to death, or nearly drowned, &c., is such that a great part of it is no longer fit for its usual work,—is no longer capable of those prolongations of neurons, or whatever they be, which constitute its specific nervous activity. We thus get rid of pain by getting rid for the time of a great deal of other nervous action as well; and we have to take care lest by pushing the experiment too far we get rid of life into the bargain. But on the other hand, a man's nervous system, when hypnotic suggestion has rendered him incapable of pain, is quite as active and vigorous as ever,—quite as capable of transmitting and feeling pain,—although capable also of inhibiting it altogether. In a word, the hypnotic subject is above pain instead of below it.

To understand this apparent paradox, we must reflect for a moment on the probable origin and meaning of pain. The human organism, as {i-180} the Darwinian analysis has shown us, may be roughly said to consist of a complex of ingenious but imperfect mechanisms designed to enable our race to overrun the earth. As competition has become more severe, fresh artifices have been developed to enable our ancestors to secure food and to avoid danger. Pain is a warning of danger, useless to the protozoon or to the stationary vegetable, but indispensable to active creatures with miscellaneous risks. Yet as intelligence advances and nerves at the same time grow more sensitive, pain becomes but a mixed advantage. It is well to be warned (say) not to touch the fire; but a neuralgia's constant signal of mal-nutrition tends simply to exhaust the sufferer and to hinder its own cure. What we want to do now is to choose our capacities of pain; to shut off pain when we know it will be useless; to rise as definitely above it as our earliest ancestors were below it, or as the drunken or narcotised man is below it now. Nay, if one counts weariness and wakefulness along with pain, one may say that the suppression of pain and the suppression of microbes have become the two main physical needs of the human race. With noxious microbes hypnotic suggestion can only indirectly deal; but with pain and weariness it can deal more directly and successfully than any other agency whatever. It attacks the real origo mali;the source of evil—not, indeed, the pressure on the tooth-nerve, which can only be removed by extraction, but the representative power of the central sensorium which converts that pressure for us into pain. It diverts attention from the pain, as the excitement of battle might do; but diverts it without any competing excitement whatever.

The battle-excitement (so to say) pours so much water out through pipe A that there is none left to flow through pipe B; the hypnotic suggestion simply shuts a cock on pipe B, and leaves pipe A to flow or not, as may be convenient. For some fortunately susceptible persons, such as I have seen, this power of suppressing pain and weariness simply abolishes the main troubles of life at a blow. The drawback is that for many persons the process is a tedious one, or cannot with our present knowledge be performed at all. Hypnotic suggestion is not yet a panacea; but it is much nearer to being a panacea than anything else has ever been; and it works on the only plan from which a panacea can possibly be developed.

To this topic of influence on attention we shall have to recur again and again. For the present it may suffice if I refer the reader to a few cases—chosen from among some thousands which have been printed, from the Zoist downwards, in more or less detail, where mesmeric and hypnotic practice has removed or obviated the distress or anguish till now unmistakably associated with various bodily incidents—from the extraction of a tooth to the great pain and peril of childbirth (see Appendices).

535. This suppression of pain has naturally been treated from the therapeutic point of view, as an end in itself; and neither physician nor patient has been inclined to inquire exactly what has occurred;—what physiological or psychological condition has underlain this great subjective {i-181} relief. Yet in the eye of experimental psychology the matter is far from a simple one. We are bound to ask what has been altered. Has there been a total ablation, or some mere translation of pain? What objective change on the bodily side has occurred in nerve or tissue? and, on the mental side, how far does the change in consciousness extend? How deep does it go? Does any subliminal knowledge of the pain persist?

The very imperfect answers which can at present be given to these questions may, at any rate, suggest directions for further inquiry.

(1) In the first place, it seems clear that when pain is inhibited in any but the most simple cases, a certain group of changes is produced whose nexusa bond or junction is psychological rather than physiological. That is to say, one suggestion seems to relieve at once all the symptoms which form one idea of pain or distress in the patient's mind; while another suggestion is often needed to remove some remaining symptom, which the patient regards as a different trouble altogether. The suggestion thus differs both from a specific remedy, which might relieve a specific symptom, and from a general narcotisation, which would relieve all symptoms equally. In making suggestions, moreover, the hypnotiser finds that he has to consider and meet the patient's own subjective feelings, describing the intended relief as the patient wishes it to be described, and not attempting technical language which the patient could not follow. In a word, it is plain that in this class, as in other classes of suggestion, we are addressing ourselves to a mind, an intelligence, which can of itself select and combine, and not merely to a tissue or a gland responsive in a merely automatic way.

(2) It will not then surprise us if,—pain being thus treated as a psychological entity,—there shall prove to be a certain psychological complexity in the response to analgesic suggestion. By this I mean that there are occasional indications that some memory of the pain, say, of an operation, has persisted in some stratum of the personality;—thus apparently indicating that there was somewhere an actual consciousness of the pain when the operation was performed. Thus in the Revue de l'Hypnotisme, August 1887, Dr. Mesnet records a case where after an accouchement, rendered apparently painless by hypnotic trance, the patient remembered in a subsequent hypnotic trance the latter part of the delivery; a period, that is to say, when the length of the trial had somewhat weakened the hypnotic control. With this we may compare certain accounts of the revival of pain in dreams after operations performed under chloroform (see 535 A).

(3) Such experiences, if more frequent, might tempt us to suppose that the pain is not wholly abrogated, but merely translated to some stratum of consciousness whose experiences do not enter into our habitual chain of memories. Yet we possess (strangely enough) what seems direct evidence that the profoundest organic substratum of our being is by suggestion {i-182} wholly freed from pain. It had long been observed that recoveries from operations performed in hypnotic trance were unusually benign;—there being less tendency to inflammation than when the patient had felt the knife. The same observation—perhaps in a less marked degree—has since been made as to operations under chemical anæsthesia. The shock to the system, and the irritation to the special parts affected, are greatly diminished by chloroform. And more recently Professor Delbœuf, by an experiment of great delicacy on two symmetrical wounds, of which one was rendered painless by suggestion, has distinctly demonstrated that pain tends to induce and keep up inflammation (see 534 A).

Thus it seems that pain is abrogated at once on the highest and on the lowest level of consciousness; yet possibly in some cases (though not usually, see 535 B) persists obscurely in some stratum of our personality into which we gain only occasional and indirect glimpses. And if indeed this be so, it need in no way surprise us. We need to remember at every point that we have no reason whatever to suppose that we are cognisant of all the trains of consciousness, or chains of memory, which are weaving themselves within us. I shall never attain on earth—perhaps I never shall in any world attain—to any complete conspectus of the variously interwoven streams of vitality which are, in fact, obscurely present in my conception of myself.

536. It is to hypnotism in the first place that we may look for an increased power of analysis of these intercurrent streams, these irregularly superposed strata of our psychical being. In the meantime, this power of inhibiting almost any fraction of our habitual consciousness at pleasure gives for the first time to the ordinary man—if only he be a suggestible subject—a power of concentration, of choice in the exercise of faculty, such as up till now only the most powerful spirits—a Newton or an Archimedes—have been able to exert.

The man who sits down in his study to write or read,—in perfect safety and intent on his work,—continues nevertheless to be involuntarily and inevitably armed with all that alertness to external sights and sounds, and all that sensibility to pain, which protected his lowly ancestors at different stages of even pre-human development. It is much as though he were forced to carry about with him all the external defences which his forefathers have invented for their defence;—to sit at his writing-table clad in chain-mail and a respirator, and grasping an umbrella and a boomerang. Let him learn, if he can, inwardly as well as outwardly, to get rid of all that, to keep at his command only the half of his faculties which for his purpose is worth more than the whole. Dissociation and choice;—dissociation between elements which have always hitherto seemed inextricably knit;—choice between faculties which till now we have had to use all together or not at all;—such is the promise, such is the incipient performance of hypnotic plasticity in its aspect of inhibitive suggestion.

537. I come now to the division of hypnotic achievement with which {i-183} I next proposed to deal, namely, the dynamogenic results of hypnotic suggestion. Intensified vitality, heightened faculty, concentrated attention, strengthened will; such are the fittest descriptive phrases which we can find for these phenomena—phrases which all of them imply some obscure operation in a realm beyond our view. Nay, more, the realisation of these phrases presently shows us that even the effects which we have for convenience' sake classed as inhibitive are in reality dynamogenic. Inhibition is not disability, and the active, purposive restraint which the word connotes implies first that effective command of attention—that sway over the hidden springs of thought and emotion—which we shall now be tracing on a larger scale, and with different purposes, in its dynamogenic


Yet the practical convenience of our arrangement is hereby only the more plainly seen. What has thus far been written is well fitted to clear the way for what is to follow. While we dealt with inhibitions our subject was clearly defined; we knew what phenomena of life we desired to check; we could measure the success attained in each several direction. But now that we launch out upon the dynamogenic power of hypnotic suggestion, in whatsoever direction it may lie, we are embarking on an inquiry to which no term can be foreseen. We know, of course, that the physical energy manifested in the organism can never overpass its physical sources of supply in warmth and nutriment. But this is a test so rough as to be practically useless here. Within these broad limits the metabolism in the organism—the kind of energy into which food and warmth are transformed—may vary indefinitely in character and in intensity. And as for a psychical energy informing each one of us,—if such exist apart from the physical,—we have no reason whatever for supposing that we are here moving in a closed circuit, or manipulating a constant sum.

In default of any more comprehensive purview of the phenomena before us, it will be convenient to return again to the mere practical or educational standpoint;—to consider what it is which we are wont subjectively to regard as a heightening or concentration of power. We can roughly define the directions in which, as we say, we strengthen the faculties of the young. Perception, imagination, attention, character,—these we endeavour to train. We try to teach our children (1) to get from their external sensory organs all the healthful pleasure and knowledge that they can; (2) and to develop their central sensory organs, or inner world of imagination, into sane and helpful fertility; (3) and to direct their intellectual energy whithersoever they may desire, keeping hold by memory on previous acts of attention; (4) and, finally, to convert knowledge and imagination into wisdom and virtue by the exercise of enlightened will. This road is long and hard; but we shall find that at every point there is already some beginning of aid from hypnotic suggestion; some hint of a short cut which may some day take us far on our way.


538. I will begin, then, with what seems the most external and measurable of these different influences—the influence, namely, of suggestion upon man's perceptive faculties;—its power to educate his external organs of sense.

This wide subject is almost untouched as yet; and there is no direction in which one could be more confident of interesting results from further experiment.

The exposition falls naturally into three parts, as suggestion effects one or other of the three following objects:—

  1. Restoration of ordinary senses from some deficient condition.
  2. Vivification of ordinary senses;—hyperæsthesiæ.
  3. Development of new senses;—heteræsthesiæ.

(1) The first of these three headings seems at first sight to belong to therapeutics rather than to psychology. It is, however, indispensable as a preliminary to the other two heads; since by learning how and to what extent suggestion can repair defective senses we have the best chance of guessing at its modus operandi when it seems to excite the healthy senses to a point beyond their normal powers. I give in Appendices several cases bearing on this subject.

Two points may be mentioned here. Improvement of vision seems sometimes to result from relaxation of an involuntary ciliary spasm, which habitually over-corrects some defect of the lens (see 538 B). This is interesting, from the analogy thus shown in quite healthy persons to the fixed ideas, the subliminal errors and fancies characteristic of hysteria. The stratum of self whose business it is to correct the mechanical defect of the eye has in these instances done so amiss, and cannot set itself right. The corrected form of vision is as defective as the form of vision which it replaced. But if the state of trance be induced, or if it occur spontaneously, it sometimes happens that the error is suddenly righted; the patient lays aside spectacles; and since we must assume that the original defect of mechanism remains, it seems that that defect is now perfectly instead of imperfectly met (see 416). This shows a subliminal adjusting power operating during trance more intelligently than the supraliminal intelligence had been able to operate during waking life.

Another point of interest lies in the effect of increased attention, as stimulated by suggestion, upon the power of hearing. The two cases of Loué and another, quoted in 538 A, are among the most significant that I know. If Loué's susceptibility to self-suggestion could be reached by patients generally, there might be, with no miracle at all, a removal of perhaps half the annoyance which deafness inflicts on mankind.

539. I pass on to cases of the production by suggestion or self-suggestion of hyperæsthesia,—of a degree of sensory delicacy which overpasses the ordinary level, and the previous level of the subject himself.

The rudimentary state of our study of hypnotism is somewhat strangely illustrated by the fact that most of the experiments which show hyperæsthesia {i-185} most delicately have been undertaken with a view of proving something else—namely, mesmeric rapport, or the mesmerisation of objects, or telepathy. In these cases the proof of rapport, telepathy, &c., generally just falls short,—because one cannot say that the action of the ordinary senses might not have reached the point necessary for the achievement, though there is often good reason to believe that the subject was supraliminally ignorant of the way in which he was, in fact, attaining the knowledge in question.

In these extreme cases, indeed, the explanation by hyperæsthesia is not always proved. There may have been telepathy, although one has not the right to assume telepathy, in view of certain slighter, but still remarkable, hyperæsthetic achievements, which are common subjects of demonstration. The ready recognition of points de repère, on the back of a card or the like, which are hardly perceptible to ordinary eyes, is one of the most usual of these performances.

In this connection the question arises as to the existence of physiological limits to the exercise of the ordinary senses. In the case of the eye a minimum visibilethe smallest visible thing is generally assumed; and there is special interest in a case of clairvoyance versus cornea-reading, where, if the words were read (as appears most probable) from their reflection upon the cornea of the hypnotiser, the common view as to the minimum visibile is greatly stretched (see 539 A).

540. With regard to the other senses, whose mechanism is less capable of minute dissection, one meets problems of a rather different kind. What are the definitions of smell and touch? Touch is already split up into various factors—tactile, algesic, thermal; and thermal touch is itself a duplicate sense, depending apparently on one set of nerve-terminations adapted to perceive heat, and another set adapted to perceive cold. Taste is similarly split up; and we do not call anything taste which is not definitely referred to the mouth and adjacent regions. Smell is vaguer; and there are cognate sensations (like that of the presence of a cat) which are not referred by their subject to the nose. The study of hyperæsthesia does in this sense prepare the way for what I have termed heteræsthesia, in that it leaves us more cautious in definition as to what the senses are; it accustoms us to the notion that people become aware of things in many ways which they cannot definitely realise.

Let us now consider the evidence for heteræsthesia;—for the existence, that is to say, under hypnotic suggestion, of any form of sensibility decidedly different from those with which we are familiar. It would sound more accurate if one could say “demanding some end-organ different from those which we know that we possess.” But we know too little of the range of perceptivity of

these end-organs in the skin which we are gradually learning to distinguish—of the heat-feeling spots, cold-feeling spots, and the like—to be able to say for what purposes a new organ would be needed. For certain heteræsthetic sensations, indeed, as the {i-186} perception of a magnetic field, one can hardly assume that any end-organ would be necessary. It is better, therefore, to speak only of modes of sensibility.

Now to any one who reflects on the evolutionary process by which, as is commonly assumed, man's organism has been developed from the simplest germ—a process which is undoubtedly still at work, and which must, so far as we can tell, continue at work for ages perhaps very far exceeding the ages already past—to any one, I say, who takes a broad view of human development, it must seem a very improbable thing that that development should at this particular moment have reached its final term; or rather, to put the question at issue in a narrower form, that this immensely complex nervous system, which has gradually become responsive in so many ways to external nature, should never again become responsive, or be recognised as responsive, in any fresh way. I can imagine no theory, except the theory that all species were created immutably as they stand today, which could even seem to justify the tacit assumption, still frequently met with, that new forms of human sensitivity are antecedently improbable. They may be, and they often have been, claimed on insufficient evidence; but that they must occur some time and somehow I, for one, can hardly doubt.

Let us consider a moment in what general fashion we can conceive the differentiation of senses to have taken place.

In some sense or other we must needs attribute what I have called panæsthesia to the primal germ. We must suppose that its potential sensations were such that all actual sensations of animals and men could be got out of them. The protoplasm may itself have been capable (and in low forms may still be capable) of vague sensations of many different kinds. Or it may have been capable only of some one vague sensation, though able also to develop new forms of protoplasm with varied sensitivities.11 Or, as suggested by Nagel (540 A), there may have been at a certain stage mixed sense-organs, by means of which two or three sensations were perceived simultaneously.

In either of these cases—let us take the former as somewhat the simpler to deal with—the question among sensations was one of the development of the fittest; that is to say, that, as the organism became more complex and needed sensations more definite than sufficed for the protozoon, certain sensibilities got themselves defined and stereotyped upon the organism by the evolution of end-organs. Others failed to get thus externalised; but may, for aught we know, persist nevertheless in the central organs;—say, for instance, in what for man are the optic or olfactory tracts of the brain. There will then be no apparent reason why these latent powers should not from time to time receive sufficient stimulus, either from within or from without, to make them perceptible to the waking intelligence, or perceptible at least in states (like trance) of narrow concentration.

The great variety of senses which we believe the lower animals to {i-187} possess may well suggest to us that we also might have been developed thus or thus;—that we need not be surprised if the human organism should some day show a trace of any form of sensibility which the ant or the bee may have inherited along with us from the ancestral germ, although only they and not we may have thus far needed to develop it.

541. As the result of these considerations, I approach alleged heteræsthesiæ of various kinds with no presumption whatever against their real occurrence. Yet on the other hand, my belief in the extent of possible hyperæsthesia continually suggests to me that the apparently new perceptions may only consist of a mixture of familiar forms of perception, pushed to a new extreme, and centrally interpreted with a new acumen.

The conditions of experiment are by no means easy. I set aside, in the first place, a large number of experiments where there has been reason to think that the subject has followed, either fraudulently, or merely as the result of suggestion, the preconceived ideas of the experimenters. But more than this; self-suggestion on the subject's own part may be quite enough to make him translate some perception really gained in an old way into terms of some imagined new sensibility. Without presuming to criticise past evidence wholesale, I yet hope that the experience now attained may lead to a much greater number of well-guarded experiments in the near future. In a series of Appendices I very briefly present the actual state of this inquiry. In default of any logical principle, I shall there divide these alleged forms of sensibility according as they are excited by inorganic objects on the one hand, or by organisms (dead or living) on the other.

542. In the meantime I pass on to that group of the dynamogenic effects of suggestion which takes the next place in my scheme above indicated. I proceed from changes affecting the external senses to changes affecting the more central vital operations—either the vaso-motor system, or the neuro-muscular system, or the central sensory tracts. The effects of suggestion on character—induced changes to which we can hardly guess the nervous concomitant—will remain to be dealt with in yet another section.

First, then, as to the effects of suggestion on the vaso-motor system. Simple effects of this type form the commonest of “platform experiments.” The mesmerist holds ammonia under his subject's nose, and tells him it is rose-water. The subject smells it eagerly, and his eyes do not water. The suggestion, that is to say, that the stinging vapour is inert has inhibited the vaso-motor reflexes which would ordinarily follow, and which no ordinary effort of will could restrain. Vice versâ, when the subject smells rose-water, described as ammonia, he sneezes and his eyes water. These results, which his own will could not produce, follow on the mesmerist's word. No one who sees these simple tests applied can doubt the genuineness of the influence at work. We find then, as might be expected, that action on glands and secretions constitutes a {i-188} large element in hypnotic therapeutics. The literature of suggestion is full of instances where a suppressed secretion has been restored at a previously arranged moment, almost with “astronomical punctuality.” And yet in what memory is that command retained? by what signal is it announced? or by what agency obeyed?

In spite of this underlying obscurity, common to every branch of suggestion, these vaso-motor phenomena are by this time so familiar that a few references in my Appendices will suffice for their illustration.

543. This delicate responsiveness of the vaso-motor system has given rise to some curious spontaneous phenomena, and has suggested some experiments, which are probably as yet in their infancy. The main point of interest is that at this point spontaneous self-suggestion, and subsequently suggestion from without, have made a kind of first attempt at the modification of the human organism in what may be called fancy directions,—at the production of a change which has no therapeutic aim, and so to say, no physiological unity; but which is guided by an intellectual caprice along lines with which the organism is not previously familiar. I speak of the phenomenon commonly known as “stigmatisation,” from the fact that its earliest spontaneous manifestations were suggested by imaginations brooding on the stigmata of Christ's passion;—the marks of wounds in hands and feet and side. This phenomenon, which was long treated both by savants and by devotees as though it must be either fraudulent or miraculous,—ou supercherie, ou miracle,—is now found (like a good many other phenomena previously deemed subject to that dilemma) to enter readily within the widening circuit of natural law. Stigmatisation is, in fact, a form of vesication; and suggested vesication—with the quasi-burns and real blisters which obediently appear in any place and pattern that is ordered—is a high development of that same vaso-motor plasticity of which the ammonia-rose-water experiment was an early example (see cases in Appendices).

Equally striking, in a somewhat different direction, was Professor Charcot's production by suggestion of “blue œdema” (see 543 F), an experiment which, in itself a mere curiosity, was typical of a wide range of analogous effects which might in various states of the system prove actively beneficial.

544. The group of suggestive effects which we reach next in order is a wide and important one. The education of the central sensory faculties,—of our power of inwardly representing to ourselves sights and sounds, &c.,—is not less important than the education of the external senses. The powers of construction and combination which our central organs possess differ more widely in degree in different healthy individuals than the degrees of external perception itself. And the stimulating influence of hypnotism on imagination is perhaps the most conspicuous phenomenon which the whole subject offers; yet it has been little dwelt upon, save from one quite superficial point of view.


Every one knows that a hypnotised subject is easily hallucinated;—that if he is told to see a non-existent dog, he sees a dog,—that if he is told not to see Mr. A., he sees everything in the room, Mr. A. excepted. Common and conspicuous, I say, as this experiment is, even the scientific observer has too often dealt with it with the shallowness of the platform lecturer. The lecturer represents this induced hallucinability simply as an odd illustration of his own power over the subject. “I tell him to forget his name, and he forgets his name; I tell him that he has a baby on his lap, and he sees and feels and dandles it” At the best, such a hallucination is quoted as an instance of “mono-ideism.” But surely to criticise thus is to judge something which is profound and complex from a merely external and accidental point of view. The hypnotiser's power over his patient is itself (telepathy apart) a mere result of suggestion. There may be a kind of delegation of that power by the subject to the hypnotiser, but all analogy shows us that it is really exercised by the subject over himself. A truly hallucinable person can suggest to himself his own hallucinations with no external aid (see a case recorded by Dr. Wingfield in 518 D). “Mono-ideism,” again, so far as it is ever a true description of the hypnotised subject's state, is a description only of its inhibitive and not of its dynamogenic aspect,—of what is not going on in his mind, rather than of what is going on. No mere inhibition will produce hallucinations. An ordinary person cannot feel a baby on his lap any the better for abstracting his attention from all objects of thought except babies. The real kernel of the phenomenon is not the inhibition but the dynamogeny;—not the abstraction of attention or imagination from other topics, but the increased power which imagination gains under suggestion;—the development of faculty, useless, if you will, in that special form of imagining the baby, but faculty mentally of a high order—faculty in one shape or another essential to the production of almost all the most admired forms of human achievement.

On this theme I shall have much to say; yet here again it will be convenient to defer fuller discussion until I review what I have termed “sensory automatism” in a more general way. We shall then see that this quickened imaginative faculty is not educed by hypnosis alone; that it is a part of the equipment of the subliminal self, and will be better treated at length in connection with other spontaneous manifestations. Enough here to have pointed out the main fact; for when pointed out it can hardly be disputed, although its significance for the true comprehension of hypnotic phenomena has been too often overlooked.

545. Yet here, and in direct connection with hypnotism, certain special features of hallucinations need to be insisted upon, both as partly explaining certain more advanced hypnotic phenomena, and also as suggesting lines of important experiment. The first point is this.

Post-hypnotic hallucinations can be postponed at will. The singular accuracy, indeed, with which they can sometimes be ordered for {i-190} any given minute in the remote future will demand our attention when we are considering the stimulating effects of hypnotism on memory and intelligence. For the moment it is enough to note that post-hypnotic hallucinations afford a striking corroboration of the view here insisted on—namely, that it is an abiding element in the personality,—the subliminal self, or some fragment of the subliminal self,—which manufactures these quasi-percepts. Experience shows that a constant watchfulness is exercised, so that if, for example, the hypnotiser tells the subject that he will (when awakened) poke the fire when the hypnotiser has coughed three times, the awakened subject, although knowing nothing of the order in his waking state, will be on the look-out for the coughs, amid all other disturbances, and will poke the fire at the fore-ordained signal (see 551 A). Moreover, when the post-hypnotic suggestion is executed there will often be a slight momentary relapse into the hypnotic state, and the subject will not afterwards be aware that he has (for instance) poked the fire at all. This means that the suggested act belongs properly to the hypnotic, not to the normal chain of memory; so that its performance involves a brief reappearance of the subliminal self which received the order.

546. Another characteristic of these suggested hallucinations tells in exactly the same direction. It is possible to suggest no mere isolated picture,—a black cat on the table, or the like,—but a whole complex series of responses to circumstances not at the time predictable. This point is well illustrated by what are called “negative hallucinations” or “systematised anæsthesiæ.” Suppose, for instance, that I tell a hypnotised subject that when he awakes there will be no one in the room with him but myself. He awakes and remembers nothing of this order, but sees me alone in the room. Other persons present endeavour to attract his attention in various ways. Sometimes he will be quite unconscious of their noises and movements; sometimes he will perceive them, but will explain them away, as due to other causes, in the same irrational manner as one might do in a dream. Or he may perceive them, be unable to explain them, and feel considerable terror until the “negative hallucination” is dissolved by a fresh word of command. It is plain, in fact, throughout, that some element in him is at work all the time in obedience to the suggestion given,—is keeping him by ever fresh modifications of his illusion from discovering its unreality (see e.g., in 546 A, Mrs. Sidgwick's experiments on the function of points de repère in negative hallucinations). Nothing could be more characteristic of what I have called a “middle-level centre” of the subliminal self,—of some element in his nature which is potent and persistent without being completely intelligent;—a kind of dream-producer, ready at any moment to vary and defend the dream.

547. Another indication of the subliminal power at work to produce these hallucinations is their remarkable range—a range as wide, perhaps, as that over which therapeutic effects are obtainable by suggestion. The {i-191} post-hypnotic hallucination may affect not sight and hearing alone (to which spontaneous hallucinations are in most cases confined), but all kinds of vaso-motor responses and organic sensations—cardiac, stomachic, and the like—which no artifice can affect in a waking person. The legendary flow of perspiration with which the flatterer sympathises with his patron's complaint of heat—si dixeris “Æstuo,” sudatif you say, “I am burning hot,” he sweats [Juvenal]—is no exaggeration if applied to the hypnotic subject, who will often sweat and shiver at your bidding as you transplant him from the Equator to frosty Caucasus.

548. Well, then, given this strength and vigour of hallucination, one sees a possible extension of knowledge in more than one direction. To begin with, by suggesting to the subject that he is feeling or doing something which is beyond his normal range of faculties, we may perhaps enable

him to perceive or to act as thus suggested.

Here, as elsewhere, it is desirable to push as far as possible our inquiry into phenomena which may still count as normal, so as to see if any bridge or passage between normal and supernormal be anywhere indicated; and here, as elsewhere, we have to regret the lamentable scarcity of purely psychological experiments over the whole hypnotic field. We are habitually forced to base our psychological inferences on therapeutic practice; and in directions where there has been no therapeutic effort there are gaps in our knowledge, which those hypnotists who have good subjects at their disposal should be invited to fill up as soon as may be.

What we need is to address to a sensitive subject a series of strong suggestions of the increase of his sensory range and power. We must needs begin by suggesting hallucinatory sensations:—the subject should be told that he perceives some stimulus which is, in fact, too feeble for ordinary perception. If you can make him think that he perceives it, he probably will after a time perceive it; the direction given to his attention heightening either peripheral or central sensory faculty. You may then be able to attack the question as to how far his specialised end-organs are really concerned in the perception;—and it may then be possible to deal in a more fruitful way with those alleged cases of transposition of senses which have so great a theoretical interest as being apparently intermediate between hyperæsthesia and telæsthesia or clairvoyance. If we once admit (as I, of course, admit) the reality of telæsthesia, it is just in some such way as this that we should expect to find it beginning.

549. I start from the thesis that the perceptive power within us precedes and is independent of the specialised sense-organs, which it has developed for earthly use.

νοῦς ὁρᾷ καὶ νοῦς ἀκούει · τἆλλα κωφὰ καὶ τυφλά.

The mind sees and the mind hears; other things are dull and blind. [Epicharmus]

I conceive further that under certain circumstances this primary telæsthetic faculty resumes direct operations, in spite of the fleshly barriers which are constructed so as to allow it to operate through certain channels alone. And I conceive that in thus resuming exercise of the wider faculty, {i-192} the incarnate spirit will be influenced or hampered by the habits or self-suggestions of the more specialised faculty; so that there may be apparent compromises of different kinds between telæsthetic and hyperæsthetic perception,—as the specialised senses endeavour, as it were, to retain credit for the perception which is in reality widening beyond their scope.

In this attitude of mind, then, I approach the recorded cases of transposition of special sense. I quote at some length in 549 B certain experiments which cannot lightly be set aside.

The case there cited, I say, is not easy to explain. Two main hypotheses have been put forward as a general explanation of such cases, neither of which seems to me quite satisfactory, (1) The common theory would be that these are merely cases of erroneous self-suggestion;—that the subject really sees with the eye, but thinks that he sees with the knee, or the stomach, or the finger-tips. This may probably have been so in many instances (see 549 A); but Dr. Fontan's case cannot, I think, be so explained without overriding his definite statements in an unjustifiable way. (2) Dr. Prosper Despine and others suppose that, while the accustomed cerebral centres are still concerned in the act of sight, the finger-end (for example) acts for the nonce as the end-organ required to carry the visual sensation to the brain. I cannot here get over the mechanical difficulty of the absence of a lens. However hyperæsthetic the finger-end might be (say) to light and darkness, I can hardly imagine its acting as an organ of definite sight.

My own suggestion (which, for aught I know, may have been made before) is that the finger-end is no more a true organ of sight than the arbitrary “hypnogenous zone” is a true organ for inducing trance. I think it possible that there may be actual telæsthesia,—not necessarily involving any perception by the bodily organism;—and that the spirit which thus perceives in wholly supernormal fashion may be under the impression that it is perceiving through some bizarre corporeal channel—as the knee or the stomach. I think, therefore, that the perception may not be optical sight at all, but rather some generalised telæsthetic perception represented as visual, but incoherently so represented; so that it may be referred to the knee instead of the retina. And here again, as at several previous points in my argument, I must refer the reader to what will be said in my chapter on Possession by external spirits (Chapter IX.) to illustrate the operation even of the subject's own spirit acting without external aid.

550. And now I come to the third main type of the dynamogenic efficacy of suggestion;—its influence, namely, on attention, on will, and on character;—character, indeed, being largely a resultant of the direction and persistence of voluntary attention.

It will be remembered that for convenience' sake I have discussed the dynamogenic effect of suggestion first upon the external senses, then upon the internal sensibility,—the mind's eye, the mind's ear, and the imagination {i-193} generally;—and now I am turning to similar effects exercised upon that central power which reasons upon the ideas and images which external and internal senses supply, which chooses between them, and which reacts according to its choice. These are the “highest-level centres,” which I began by saying that the hypnotist could rarely hope to reach;—since those spontaneous somnambulisms which the hypnotic trance imitates and develops do so seldom reach them. The phenomena which here follow, therefore, lie beyond our original ground of hope. They show that the hypnotic range is wider than the somnambulic;—how much wider, experience alone can show. The step which we are making here, though a considerable one, is not a sudden one. We have already found a good deal of intelligence of a certain kind in hypnotic phenomena; what we do here is to pass from one stage to another and higher stage of consciousness of intelligent action. To explain my point, I may roughly say that there are three habitual degrees of such consciousness, as follows:—(a) I do not at all know how I supply my arm with blood. That is an organic process wholly below my conscious level, (b) I know in a certain sense how I move my arm. That is an organic process associated with certain conscious sensations of choice and will, (c) Given this fact that I am moving my arm, I can understand, more fully than at those previous stages, how I am writing words on paper. In that action there is a larger element of acquired capacity and conscious choice. And I wish to explain that the forward step which we are making in this section is, in fact, a carrying on of the results of suggestion from stage (b) to stage (c)—from a point at which there is but a small element resembling conscious choice to a point where that element is important and complex.

To explain this statement, let us dwell for a moment upon the degree of intelligence which we have already seen displayed in those modifications of the organism which suggestion has effected. Take, for instance, the formation of a cruciform blister, as recorded by Dr. Biggs, of Lima (543 B). That performance needed an unusual combination of capacities;—the capacity of directing physiological changes in a new way, and also, and combined therewith, the capacity of recognising and imitating an abstract, arbitrary, non-physiological idea, such as that of cruciformity.

All this, in my view, is the expression of subliminal control over the organism—more potent and profound than supraliminal. Or here, perhaps, in order to give some concreteness to this abstract expression, I may describe this increased physiological modifiability as a recovery of primitive plasticity. Not that this really is a simple

idea; for we do not know how or why that early plasticity of the indefinite amœba, the claw-renewing crab, has been lost by higher animals. We have no notion what kind of change would be needed to enable a higher animal to take that plasticity on again.

The problem here presented on a larger scale has some resemblance to the individual problems involved in such histories of alternating personality as Louis Vivé's (233 A). That partially paralysed and otherwise {i-194} much damaged young man could be put back by certain artifices into his state of uninjured boyhood,—“before the viper bit him,” and his long series of troubles began. His paralysis disappeared in a moment, and there was thus a real recovery of plasticity,—of power of many kinds over his organism. If we ask how those powers came to have been so long obscured, the only answer is hysterical self-suggestion. Can it be some kind of self-suggestion which prevents the mammal from crediting himself with crustacean recuperativeness? Or, in more sober language, do not these experiments in suggestive blistering show that there does still persist in us a potential control over reparative secretions much greater than the common experience of life is apt to reveal to us?

This dormant plasticity, then, the hypnotic suggestions reawaken. But now consider with what degree of intelligence, of directive choice, they reawaken it. They reawaken it neither blindly nor wisely, but with intelligent caprice. The plasticity, I say first, is not blindly and vaguely restored; the vesication is localised on a prearranged plan, the rest of the body remaining unchanged. Nor, on the other hand, is the plasticity restored with perfect wisdom; in Ilma S.'s case, for instance (543 D) the vesication is annoying to the subject, who would have gladly avoided it. The order given for specifically shaped blisters is a capricious one; but in each case the capricious order is intelligently obeyed. Bizarre as this result may seem, it is very much what might have been expected on the theory suggested at the beginning of this chapter. It is a result of the action of middle-level centres putting into exercise subliminal powers.

I have chosen this point in my argument for a brief analysis of the intelligence involved in the vaso-motor effects of suggestion, just because we are now going on to suggestions more directly affecting central faculty, and in which, as I have said, highest-level centres begin to be involved. For I want to prepare the reader for an intermediate stage in which high faculties are used, in obedience to suggestion, for purely capricious ends.

551. I speak of calculations subliminally performed in the carrying out of Post-hypnotic suggestions.

These suggestions à échéancedelayed-action—commands, given in the trance, to do something under certain contingent circumstances, or after a certain time has elapsed—form a very convenient mode of testing the amount of mentation which can be started and carried out without the intervention of the supraliminal consciousness. Experiments have been made in this direction by three men especially who have in recent times done some of the best work on the psychological side of hypnotism, namely, Edmund Gurney, Delbœuf, and Milne Bramwell. A summary of their results is given in 551 A, B, and C.

Dr. Milne Bramwell's experiments (to mention these as a sample of the rest) were Post-hypnotic suggestions involving arithmetical calculations; the entranced subject, for instance, being told to make a cross when 20,180 minutes had elapsed from the moment of the order. Their primary importance {i-195} lay in showing that a subliminal or hypnotic memory persisted across the intervening gulf of time,—days and nights of ordinary life,—and prompted obedience to the order when at last it fell due. But incidentally, as I say, it became clear that the subject, whose arithmetical capacity in common life was small, worked out these sums subliminally a good deal better than she could work them out by her normal waking intelligence.

Of course, all that was needed for such simple calculations was close attention to easy rules; but this was just what the waking mind was unable to give, at least without the help of pencil and paper. If we lay this long and careful experiment, concerned though it was with very easy problems, side by side with the accounts already given of the solution of problems in somnambulic states, which states were forgotten on waking, it seems clear that there is yet much to be done in the education of subliminal memory and acumen as a help to supraliminal work.

552. Important in this connection is an account given by Dr. Dufay of help given by him to an actress in the representation of her rôles by hypnotisation (see 552 A). Every one knows how much more vividly the objectivation de typesa technical term of Richet's, referring to improvement in intelligence under hypnosis, as Professor Richet long ago called it, is effected in the hypnotic than in the normal state; and it seems obvious that stage-fright is just the kind of nervous annoyance from which hypnotisation should give relief. Somewhat similarly I believe that self-hypnotisation is employed by some professional “trance-speakers,” whose utterances (while by no means obliging us to refer them to “spirit-control”) are often remarkably ready and fluent. It is possible for some persons, that is to say, thus to secure a cheap substitute for genius on stage or platform; to evoke by suggestion or self-suggestion an uprush of subliminal thought and diction, or of dramatic gesture and intonation, which, even if it is of no very rare quality, at least carries the self-inspired artist over many ordinary stumbling-blocks.

Here, again, the hypnotisation is a kind of extension of “secondary automatism”;—of the familiar lapse from ordinary consciousness of movements (walking, pianoforte playing, &c.), which have been very frequently performed. The possibilities thus opened up are very great: no less than the combination by mankind of the stability of instinct with the plasticity of reason. The insect, as we know, performs with great ease and perfection certain difficult acts, by dint of an instinct which perhaps in many cases is “lapsed intelligence”;—an obscurely conscious effort gradually transformed through generations into an unintelligent but accurate automatism. Man benefits by a similar lapsed intelligence or secondary automatism, but to a very small degree in comparison with the amount of work which he has to perform by conscious effort. There seems no reason why his range of automatism should not thus be largely increased in two main ways. Many things (namely) which now are unpleasant to do might be done with indifference, and many things which now are difficult to do might be done with ease.


Other cases where memory has been greatly quickened by hypnotic suggestion are given in 552 B, and we have already found that the lapsed recollections of secondary states may be recovered by hypnotism in the primary state (see also 552 C).

553. Let us pass on from these specialised influences of suggestion on certain kinds of attention to its influence on attention generally, as needed, for instance, in education. This is eminently one of the directions where a wider knowledge of hypnotism is likely to stimulate experiment which may be of great practical value. Incapacity, indolence, and inattention divide between them the responsibility for most failures whether in work or in play. Inattention may no doubt be called a special form of indolence; but it is often so far “constitutional” that strenuous voluntary effort cannot cure it. If we can arrest this shifting of the mental focus to undesired ideational centres in at all the same way as we can arrest the choreic or fidgetty shiftings of motor impulse to undesired motor centres, we shall have done perhaps as much for the world's ordinary work as if we had raised the average man's actual intelligence a step higher in the

scale. We shall have checked waste, although we may not have improved quality. The well-known case of Dr. Forel's warders (553 A) who were enabled by hypnotic suggestion to sleep soundly by the side of the patients they had to watch, and wake only when the patients required to be restrained, shows us how by this means the attention may be concentrated on selected impressions and waste of energy be avoided in a way that could hardly be compassed by any ordinary exercise of the will.

How far, indeed, we can go in actually heightening intelligence by suggestion we have yet to learn. We must not expect to add a cubit to intellectual any more than to physical stature. Limitations at birth must prevent our developing the common man into a Newton; but there seems no reason why we should not bring up his practical achievements much nearer than at present to the maximum of his innate capacity. One illustrative instance and references to others are given in 553 B.

554. In passing on from the influence of suggestion on attention to its influence on will, I am not meaning to draw any but the most everyday distinction between these two forms of inward concentration. The point, in fact, which I wish now to notice is rather a matter of common observation than a provable and measurable phenomenon. I speak of the energy and resolution with which a hypnotic suggestion is carried out;—the ferocity, even, with which the entranced subject pushes aside the opposition of much more powerful men. I do not, indeed, assert that he would thus risk very serious injury; for I believe (with Bramwell and others) that there does exist somewhere within him a knowledge that the whole proceeding is a mere experiment. But, nevertheless, he actually risks something; he behaves, in short, as a confident, resolute man would behave, and this however timid and unaggressive his habitual character may be. I believe that much advantage may yet be drawn from this confident {i-197} temper. We can thus inhibit the acquired self-distrust and shyness of the supraliminal self, and get the subliminal self concentrated upon some task which may be as difficult as we please;—which may, if we can adjust it rightly, draw out to the uttermost the innate powers of man. We can command—sometimes with success—clairvoyant excursions; nay, we may order—not without some hope—even action upon matter at a distance. Among his experiments with the subject referred to in 573 C, Dr. Backman records a case in which, during one of her clairvoyant excursions, he had tried to make her seize and shake a bunch of keys which she had observed in the room she was clairvoyantly visiting. It was afterwards ascertained that there really was a bunch of keys in the place as described, though it did not appear that the desired movement had taken place.11 See Dr. Backman's paper in the Proceedings S.P.R., vol. vii. p. 207. Still, if “telekinesis” be (as I hold) a reality, such experiments as these seem, at any rate, a reasonable way of trying to achieve it.

One direction, at any rate, in which a beginning can be made is the attainment of control over muscles not habitually subject to will, whether from ancestral disuse, or as belonging to the unstriped or “involuntary” type. Various movements of this kind may be made as the result of suggestion; and I may add here that when a definite type of action is set before several hypnotised subjects a spirit of emulation will often carry them far. A singular illustration of this may be drawn from the very phenomena which Charcot used to cite in order to prove an almost opposite thesis;—the thesis, namely, that the subject was an obedient automaton, and that in order to prove hypnosis,—to demonstrate “le grand hypnotisme,” at any rate,—there must needs occur some muscular phenomena incapable of being simulated by the subject. And in effect, in his once famous “three stages,” there did sometimes occur certain neuro-muscular phenomena which no one in an ordinary waking condition could reproduce. Yet it by no means follows hence that these are phenomena inevitably accompanying the trance, or in themselves beyond the range of the subliminal will of the subject. On the contrary, I rather take these Salpêtrière phenomena as showing us how much the subliminal will of entranced subjects is capable of achieving. I believe that these women wished to be hypnotised, and wished to go through the “classical stages,” and wished in the course of these often-described stages to perform evolutions which should attract admiring attention. What one really saw exhibited was not the powerful will of the hypnotiser, but the still more powerful will of the hysteric.

555. It is not indeed in the Salpêtrière school alone that there has been much confusion of thought as regards the will-power and general independence of the hypnotised subject It has been supposed that the mere fact of being hypnotised tended to weaken the will; that the hypnotised person fell inevitably more and more under the control of the hypnotiser, and even that he could at last be induced to commit crimes {i-198} by suggestion(see 555 A). A few quotations from Dr. Milne Bramwell, given in 555 B, will show on how small a foundation of fact these fanciful theories have been erected. It may suffice to say here that nothing is easier, either for subject or for hypnotiser, than to avert undue influence. A trusted friend has only to suggest to the hypnotised subject that no one else will be able to affect him, and the thing is done. As to the crimes supposed to be committed by hypnotised persons under the influence of suggestion, the evidence for such crimes, in spite of great efforts made to collect it and set it forth, remains, I think, practically nil.

This fact, I must add, is quite in harmony with the views expressed in the present chapter. For it implies that the higher subliminal centres (so to term them) never really abdicate their rule; that they may indeed remain passive while the middle centres obey the experimenter's caprice, but are still ready to resume their control if such experiment should become really dangerous to the individual. And this runs parallel with common experience in the spontaneous somnambulisms. The sleeper may perform apparently rash exploits; but yet, unless he be suddenly awakened, serious accidents are very rare. Nevertheless, both in spontaneous and in induced somnambulism, accidents may occur; nor should any experiment be undertaken in a careless or jesting spirit.

But the rôle of the hypnotiser, as our command over hypnotic artifice increases, is likely to become continually smaller in proportion to the rôle played by the subject himself. Especially must this be so where the object is to strengthen the subject's own power of will. All that can be done from without in such a case is to imbue the man's spirit with the sense of its unexhausted prerogatives,—the strength which he may then employ, not only to avert pain or anxiety, but in any active direction which his original nature itself admits.

556. These last words may naturally lead us on to our next topic: the influence of suggestion on character,—on that function of combined attention and will, which is, of course, also ultimately a function of the possibilities latent in the individual germ.

And while character is thus a complex notion, the effect on character of suggestion and self-suggestion seems at first sight a notion at once too complex and too diffused for definite treatment. All men endeavour to influence character, not indeed hypnotically, but yet by such intense suggestion and self-suggestion as they can bring to bear. Many men, moreover, trust for the improvement of character to another influence, not easy of discussion here, namely, to prayer,—to the aid of saints or of a Divine Mediator, or to the direct Grace of God. And yet again, these religious or philosophic creeds, which might have been thought to lie outside my present topic, are brought within it by the confidence of many believers in the efficacy of their faith to relieve physical as well as moral ill. These creeds thus become schemes of self-suggestion,—of which it is not only legitimate but necessary for me to give some account.


In approaching this mingled matter it will be most convenient (recurring to the subjects already discussed from a somewhat different point of view in sections 527–531) to begin with those moral suggestions which are obviously hypnotic, and which develop themselves directly from some therapeutic purpose, as when the suggestion to avoid morphia leads to the moral reform of the morphinomaniac. From the morphinomaniac or the drunkard the transition is easy to the criminel-né,born criminal—the apparently hopeless case of congenital moral deficiency. And we may then inquire how far the crude moral stimuli which affect this extreme type of physical and moral disaster can be best elevated into a more intellectual air—can be best modified for the advantage of sufferers who can be reached by religious and philosophical thought,—by what I have called those “schemes of self-suggestion” which the great traditions and the great conceptions of our race can alone supply.

First of all, then, and going back to the evidence already given as to the cure of the victims of morphia (see 530), we may say with truth that there we have seen as tremendous a moral lift—as sudden an elevation from utter baseness to at least normal living—as can be anywhere presented to us. The morphia habit, as is well known, leaves absolutely no department of character unpoisoned. Cowardice, treachery, callous self-absorption,—such are the characteristics of the morphinomaniac, even though physical exhaustion may preclude the drunkard's more active sins of violence or lust. In this slimy dissolution of self-respect there seems to be nothing on which sage or evangelist can take hold. Yet we have seen hypnotic suggestion effect the magical change, and restore the degraded outcast to a safe and honourable position among his fellow-men.

Here, then, the question arises as to the possible range of such sudden reformations. Did we succeed with the morphinomaniac only because his was a functional, and not an organic, degradation? We know, indeed, that we can cure a morbid condition of tissue where we could not rectify a congenital distortion or defect. May not the morphinomaniac's state be a kind of chemical sinfulness?—a poisoning of cells which once functioned normally, and which are capable of functioning normally again, if only the poison be removed?

And may it not be a much harder task to create honesty, purity, unselfishness in a brain whose very conformation must keep the spirit that thinks through it nearly on the level of the brute? The question is of the highest psychological interest; the answer, though as yet rudimentary, is unexpectedly encouraging. The examples given in 556 A show that if the subject is hypnotisable, and if hypnotic suggestion be applied with sufficient persistency and skill, no depth of previous baseness and foulness need prevent the man or woman whom we charge with “moral insanity,” or stamp as a “criminal-born,” from rising into a state where he or she can work steadily, and render services useful to the community.

I purposely limit my assertion to these words. We must still work {i-200} within the bounds of natural capacity. Just as we cannot improvise a genius, we cannot improvise a saint. But what experience seems to show is that we can select from the lowest and poorest range of feelings and faculties enough of sound feeling, enough of helpful faculty, to keep the man in a position of moral stability, and capable of falling in with the common labours of his kind.

We can produce in time somewhat the same sort of effect which Rarey and others have produced (perhaps by somewhat similar means) upon horses rendered useless through those defects of stability which in a horse we call vice. Rarey effected a life-long inhibition of those equine impulses which were inconvenient to man. Enough of horse-power was left in the horse to render him a harmless and tractable, even if an insipid, companion and servant in stable or hunting-field. Looking to parallel effects produced in human beings, it will be seen that I was justified in saying that hypnotic suggestion had effected changes of character in cases which the ordinary educator, or the ordinary missionary, would have deemed most unfavourable, and in which the common opinion of science would have strongly endorsed their despairing prognosis. The advantage gained is great, and should not be forgotten by criminologists. But it is another question whether we shall be justified in concluding that because these apparently extreme cases have yielded to our treatment, therefore all cases of moral obliquity are likely so to yield.

557. Such an expectation is hardly legitimate without something of closer analysis. With no pretence at logic, but merely for the convenience of the present argument, we may divide known faults or sins into the four following classes:—

  1. Bodily sins depending on specific temptation, as drunkenness, &c. These, as we have seen, can generally be reached by suggestion
  2. Faults associated with gross congenital defects of organisms. These also can be reached in surprising degree.
  3. Faults depending on an idée fixe. Jealousy is the type of such a fault. All jealousy, we may say, is morbid; that I should hate B. simply because A. prefers B. to myself is the irrational result of an insistent association of ideas which appropriate suggestion has sometimes demolished at a stroke.
  4. Sins deliberately maintained for the supposed advantage of the sinner.

Now the first three of these are faults from which the afflicted person generally, although not always, earnestly desires to be free. The jealous person, like the drunkard, can often recognise that beneath the morbid insistence there is a stratum of cool self-reproval;—an ideal of life with the morbid craving removed. It is where that subjacent wish for improvement exists that suggestion can get an adequate hold (see 557 A).

558. This last observation affords a hint as to the kind of moral faults {i-201} which suggestion can be expected to cure. As a matter of experience thus far, we find that the sins which popular theology attributes to the flesh, rather than those which are credited to the world or to the devil, have been the readiest to disappear. If we expand our definition of the flesh to include not only faults of self-indulgence but also faults of sloth and cowardice on the one hand, and faults of hastiness and irascibility on the other,—such failings as obviously vary with the state of the bodily organism,—we shall include, I think, almost all attested moral cures.

There remains the fourth class of sins, namely, sins deliberately maintained for the supposed advantage of the sinner.

Are we to suppose that the effect of suggestion is necessarily limited to the three earlier categories? Must we despair of reaching our fourth class of faults,—the deep-seated sins such as hardness, selfishness, treachery, spiritual pride? There is no à priori reason for such a distinction. However remote from the so-called “flesh,” all moral faults alike may probably have some counterpart in the organism; and, if so, all should be modifiable by the same subliminal attack.

Nor have we any experimental proof that these “worldly and devilish” sins are not in fact capable of similar cure by suggestion. The absence of notable cures may be sufficiently explained by two facts, already hinted at, namely, that the sufferers from these defects are seldom anxious to have them removed; and that if they are thus anxious they are not likely to consult a physician, but rather to seek support of a directly moral or religious kind.

The mental attitude, say, of the fraudulent trustee is very different from that of the dipsomaniac. The dipsomaniac feels himself wholly unsuited to his environment; beneath all his morbid craving the instinct of self-preservation bids him to desist. The fraudulent man, on the other hand, has in one sense adapted himself with special skill to his temporary environment. I say his temporary environment;—reverting to the comparison of man on earth to the larva, of man after bodily death to the imago. Selfishness, hardness, treachery (as I have said) are like the clumps of stinging hairs with which the caterpillar is protected; and the selfish man is like a caterpillar which has so developed those protective larval characters that it has no energy left for transformation into the imago.

We cannot reckon on any instinct of self-preservation to make him wish for change of character; although we may hope that in every man some subliminal consciousness of his connection with another world persists.

559. And here we approach a point of much interest. Hypnotic suggestion or self-suggestion, although it is an agency in great part unexplained, is of course not an agency which stands wholly alone and separate from all other influences. It melts into the suasion of ordinary life;—into modes of influence which were practised before hypnotism was dreamt of. The physician (as we have seen) has extended his domain by becoming a confessor and a counsellor as well; he has utilised for moral ends the authority with which his scientific knowledge has invested him. {i-202} But there are already other persons wielding with authority this suasive power, and it is, as I have above implied, to ministers of religion rather than to physicians that a man turns who is conscious of sin rather than of disease.

There must of course be a connection between all these suasive processes. Can we find any intermediate instances;—cases where religious conviction seems to be communicated with the rapidity and decision of hypnotic suggestion?

I need not say that there are many such instances. From the rude animistic dances and ceremonies of the savage up to the “missions” and “revivals” in English and American churches and chapels, we find sudden and exciting impressions on mind and sense called into play for the purpose of producing religious and moral change; and sometimes actually producing not only—what from the analogy of hypnotic suggestion seems comparatively easy—a change of belief, but also—what is far harder—a change of habits. Among the lower races especially these exciting reunions often involve both hysterical and hypnotic phenomena. There are sometimes convulsive accesses; and there is sometimes the milder, and probably wholly healthy, phenomenon of a deep restorative sleep, out of which the anxious and repentant neophyte awakes with a sense of settled conviction and of peace. The influence which has been exerted upon him is thus intermediate between hypnotic artifice, dependent on trance-states for access to subliminal plasticity, and ordinary moral suasion, addressed primarily to ordinary waking reason.

This, of course, is what we must desire;—that the series of influences should thus be continuous; that hypnotism should be regarded as simply a systematisation of artifices by which a man's own self-suggestive power,—the will which he exerts over his own organism,—should become continually more potent for both his moral and his physical good.

560. Let us pause here to consider the point which we have already reached. We began by defining hypnotism as the empirical development of the sleeping phase of man's personality. In that sleeping phase the most conspicuous element,—the most obvious function of the subliminal self,—is the repair of wasted tissues, the physical, and therefore also largely the moral, refreshment and rejuvenation of the tired organism. We have now traced the manner in which that function has been performed in the hypnotic state, and by suggestion and self-suggestion. We have found that the promised development of sleep is a reality; that we have in hypnotism a veritable evolution of those recuperative energies which give its practical value to sleep. From this side,—and it is from this side only that the mass of men regard sleep,—the case for hypnotism is now fairly complete; and this long chapter might here draw to a close.

The reader, however, knows that my initial promise would not in reality be thus fulfilled. My own definition of sleep,—of the phase of personality which I undertook that hypnotism would be found to develop,—was of much wider scope. I believe that during sleep the subliminal {i-203} self has other functions beyond the recuperation of the organism. Those other functions are concerned in some unknown way with the spiritual world; and the indication of their exercise is given by the sporadic occurrence, in the sleeping phase, of supernormal phenomena. Such phenomena, as we shall presently see, occur also at various points in hypnotic practice. To them we must now turn, if our account of the phenomena of induced somnambulism is to be complete.

561. Yet here, in order to give completeness to our intended review, we shall need a certain apparent extension of the scope of this chapter. We shall need to consider a group of cases which might have been introduced at various points in our scheme, but which are perhaps richest in their illustrations of the supernormal phenomena of hypnotism.

Spontaneous somnambulisms,—those crude uprushes of incoherent subliminal faculty which sometimes break through the surface of sleep,—seem to occupy a kind of midway position among the various phenomena through which our inquiry has thus far carried us.

The somnambulism often starts as an exaggerated dream; it develops into a kind of secondary personality. The thoughts and impulses which the upheaval raises into manifestation,—the psychical output,—resemble sometimes the inspirations of genius, sometimes the follies of hysteria. And, finally, the spontaneous sleep-waking state itself is manifestly akin to hypnosis,—is sometimes actually interchangeable with the induced somnambulisms of the hypnotic trance. The chain of memory which repeated spontaneous somnambulisms gradually form,—while lying quite outside the primary or waking memory,—will often be found to form part of the hypnotic memory, which gradually accretes in similar fashion from repeated hypnosis.

It would be easy to go further, and to compare these sudden uprushes of the subliminal during sleep to those urgent uprushes in waking hours which we shall presently have to discuss as sensory and motor automatisms. But the reader will already have understood the true affinities of these singular intercalations in the uniformity of sleep;—will already have realised that such things needs must be;—that it would have been strange indeed if that phase of the personality in which subliminal operation is relatively the most dominant should have been without those insurgences or outbreaks of the subliminal which even the most strenuous waking vigilance cannot always avert or control.

562. Nor, again, will it surprise us to find these sleep-wakings fertile in supernormal operation, though it be supernormal operation scattered and diffused upon random and trivial ends. What is here thrown forth comes not from the mine, but from the volcano; we have not to deal with therapeutic results educed by careful suggestion, but with the miscellaneous ejects of some focus of submerged excitation. From what has been observed in spontaneous somnambulism (I have already said), we might have divined almost the full range of phenomena to which induced somnambulism {i-204} has now introduced us. Nay, even at the present day, the lessons of spontaneous somnambulism are not exhausted. They should teach us still to watch for further developments; they should forbid us to abandon, in the plain uniformity of hypnotic practice, our hope of some sudden felicitous inroad upon the more secret faculties of man.

563. For one form of sleep-waking capacity we are already prepared by what has been said in Chapter IV. of the solution of problems in sleep. This is one of the ways in which we can watch the gradual merging of a vivid dream into a definite somnambulic

act. The solution of a problem (as we have seen) may present itself merely as a sentence or a diagram, constructed in dream and remembered on waking. Or the sleeper (as in various cases familiar in text-books) may rise from bed and write out the chain of reasoning, or the sermon, or whatever it may be. Or again, in rarer cases (“Rachel Baker” is a curious example—see 563 A) the somnambulic output may take the form of oratory, and edifying discourses may be delivered by a preacher whom no amount of shaking or pinching will silence or, generally, even interrupt. This, so to speak, is genius with a vengeance; this is a too persistent uprush of subliminal zeal, co-operating even out of season with the hortatory instincts of the waking self.

564. The group of sleep-waking cases which we may next discuss illustrate a natural evolution of the faculty of the sleeping phase of personality. The subliminal self, exercising in sleep a profounder influence over the organism than the supraliminal can exert, may also be presumed to possess a profounder knowledge of the organism,—of its present, and therefore of its future,—than the supraliminal self enjoys.

I refer in 564 A to two cases in which the somnambulic personality is discerned throughout as a wiser self—advising a treatment, or at least foreseeing future developments of the disease with great particularity. Of course in such a case prediction is often simply a form of suggestion; the symptom occurs simply because it has been ordained beforehand. In the case of cures of long-standing disease the sagacity which foresees probably co-operates with the control which directs the changes in the organism.

565. The next stage is a very important one. We come to the manifestation in spontaneous sleep-waking states of manifestly supernormal powers,—sometimes of telepathy, but more commonly of clairvoyance or telæsthesia. Unfortunately these cases have been, as a rule, very insufficiently observed (see, e.g., the case of Mollie Fancher, in 236 A). Still, it appears that in spontaneous somnambulism there is frequently some indication of supernormal powers, though the observers—even if competent in other ways—have generally neglected to take account of the hyperæsthesia and heightening of memory and of general intelligence that often accompany the state. I quote, however, from Dr. Dufay (in 565 A) a case which does not seem open to these objections, and give some references to other cases.

566. Before leaving this subject of spontaneous sleep-waking states, {i-205} I ought briefly to mention a form of trance with which we shall have to deal more at length in a later chapter. I speak of trance ascribed to spirit-possession. As will be seen, I myself fully adopt this explanation in a small number of the cases where it is put forward. Yet I do not think that spirit-agency is necessarily present in all the trances even of a true subject of possession. With all the leading sensitives—with D. D. Home, with Stainton Moses, with Mrs. Piper and others—I think that the depth of the trance has varied greatly on different occasions, and that sometimes the subliminal self of the sensitive is vaguely simulating, probably in an unconscious dream-like way, an external intelligence. This hypothesis suggested itself to several observers in the case especially of D. D. Home, with whom the moments of strong characterisation of a departed personality, though far from rare, were yet scattered among tracts of dreamy improvisation which suggested only the utterance of Home's subliminal self (see Chapter IX.). However we choose to interpret these trances, they should be mentioned in comparison with all the other sleepwaking states. They probably form the best transition between those shallow somnambulisms, on the one hand, which are little more than a vivid dream, and those profound trances, on the other hand, in which the native spirit quits, as nearly as may be, the sensitive's organism, and is for the time replaced, as nearly as may be, by an invading spirit from that unseen world.

567. This brief review of non-hypnotic somnambulisms has not been without its lessons. It has shown us that the supernormal powers which we have traced in each of the preceding chapters in turn do also show themselves, in much the same fashion, in spontaneous sleep-waking states of various types. We must now inquire how far they occur in sleepwaking states experimentally induced.

And here the very fact of induction suggests to us a question specially applicable to the hypnotic state itself. Is hypnosis ever supernormally induced? Can any one, that is to say, be thrown into hypnotic trance by a telepathic impact? or, to phrase it more generally, by any influence, inexplicable by existing science, which may pass from man to man?

The question which I thus attack at a comparatively late point of my discussion has given rise to more of heated controversy than any other in the history of my subject. A battle which seemed internecine raged for years between the partisans of “mesmeric effluence,” on the one hand, and the partisans of a purely physiological or a purely “suggestive” causation of hypnosis on the other. The victory gradually fell to the latter of these groups, and when Edmund Gurney and I first wrote on hypnotism, some twenty years ago, hardly a single hypnotist supported us in our question as to the real discomfiture of the old, or “mesmeric,” hypothesis.

I do not say that even now much change has occurred in the then general opinion. Yet efflux of time, and certain considerations set forth in earlier sections of this chapter, may now enable us to a certain extent to see round the former controversy, to concede to each side the establishment {i-206} of certain definite theses, and to suggest limitations of the field still open to dispute.

In the first place one may say that of the anti-mesmeric schools of opinion, the “purely physiological” school has on the whole failed, the “purely suggestive” school has triumphantly succeeded. The school of Nancy, reinforced by hypnotists all over Europe, has abundantly proved that “pure suggestion” (whatever that be) is the determining cause of a very large proportion of hypnotic phenomena. That is beyond dispute; and the two other schools, the “pure physiologists” and the “mesmerists” alike, must now manage to prove as best they can that their favourite methods play any real part in the induction of any case of hypnosis. For to the pure suggestionist, monotonous stimulation and mesmeric passes are alike in themselves inert, are alike mere facilitations of suggestion, acting not directly on the patient's organism, but rather on his state of mental expectation.

I reply that there is absolutely no need to go as far as this. In admitting suggestion as a vera causatrue cause of hypnosis, we are recognising a cause which, if we really try to grasp it, resolves itself into subliminal operation, brought about we know not how. So far, therefore, from negativing and excluding any obscure and perhaps supernormal agency, the suggestion theory leaves the way for any such agency broadly open. Some unknown cause or other must determine whether each suggestion is to “take” or no; and that unknown cause must presumably act somehow upon the subliminal self. We should have something like a real explanation of suggestion, if we could show that a suggestion's success or failure was linked with some telepathic impact from the suggested mind, or with some mesmeric effluence from his person.

I know well that in many cases we can establish no link of this kind. In Bernheim's rapid hospital practice there seems no opportunity to bring the hypnotist's will, or the hypnotiser's organism, into any effective rapport with the subject. Rather, the subject seems to do all that is wanted for himself almost instantaneously. He often falls into the suggested slumber almost before the word Dormez!Sleep! has left the physician's mouth. But on the other hand, this is by no means the only type of hypnotic success. Just as in the mesmeric days, so also now there are continual instances where much more than the mere command

has been needed for effective hypnotisation. Persistence, proximity, passes—all these prove needful still in the practice even of physicians who place no faith at all in the old mesmeric theory.

568. The fact is, that since the days of those old controversies between mesmerists proper and hypnotists proper, the conditions of the controversy have greatly changed. The supposed mesmeric effluence was then treated as an entirely isolated, yet an entirely physiological phenomenon. There was supposed to be a kind of radiation or infection passing from one nervous system to another. It was of this that Cuvier (for instance) {i-207} was convinced; it was this theory which Elliotson defended in the Zoist with a wealth of illustration and argument to which little justice has even yet been done. Yet it was hard to prove effluence as opposed to suggestion, because where there was proximity enough for effluence to be effective there was also proximity enough for suggestion to be possible. Only in some few circumstances,—such as Esdaile's mesmerisation of a blind man over a wall,11 Natural and Mesmeric Clairvoyance, pp. 227–28; quoted in Phantasms of the Living, vol. i. p. 88.—was it possible to claim that the mesmeric trance had been induced without any suspicion whatever on the subject's part that the mesmerist was trying to entrance him.

Since those days, however, the evidence for telepathy—for psychical influence from a distance—has grown to goodly proportions. A new form of experiment has been found possible, from which the influence of suggestion can be entirely excluded. It has now, as I shall presently try to show, been actually proved that the hypnotic trance can be induced from a distance so great, and with precautions so complete, that telepathy or some similar supernormal influence is the only efficient cause which can be conceived.

I subjoin a series of experiments in this “telepathic hypnotism,” in one of the best of which (Dr. Gibert's, see 568 A) I had the good fortune to take a part. These experiments are not easy to manage, since it is essential at once to prevent the subject from suspecting that the experiment is being tried, and also to provide for his safety in the event of its success. In Dr. Gibert's experiment, for instance, it was a responsible matter to bring this elderly woman in her dream-like state through the streets of Havre. It was needful to provide her with an unnoticed escort; and, in fact, several persons had to devote themselves for some hours to a single experiment.

569. I have cited first this long series of experiments at a distance, without attempting to analyse the nature of the suggestion given or power employed by the hypnotist. Of course it is plain that if one can thus influence unexpectant persons from a distance, there must be sometimes some kind of power actually exercised by the hypnotiser;—something beyond the mere tact and impressiveness of address, which is all that Bernheim and his followers admit or claim. Evidence of this has been afforded by the occasional production of organic and other effects in hypnotised subjects by the unuttered will of the operator when near them. The ingenious experiments of Gurney (569 A) in the production of local rigidity and anæsthesia were undertaken to test whether the agency employed were more in the nature of an effort of will or,—as the early mesmerists claimed,—of an emission of actual “mesmeric fluid” or physical effluence of some sort. Gurney was inclined to think that his results could not be explained solely by mental suggestion or telepathy, because the physical proximity of the operator's hand seemed necessary to produce them, and he thought it probable that they were due to a direct nervous influence, exercised through the hand {i-208} of the operator, but not perceptible through the ordinary sensory channels. Mrs. Sidgwick's experiments of the same kind, however (569 B), in which success was obtained when the operator was standing with folded arms several feet away from the subject, removed Gurney's main objection to the telepathic explanation. The fact that a thick sheet of glass over the subject's hands did not interfere with the results also afforded some presumption against the hypothesis of a physical influence; and Mrs. Sidgwick pointed out that the delicate discrimination involved in the specific limitations of the effects is much more easily attributable to mental suggestion, through the action of the operator's mind on that of the subject, than to any direct physical influence on the latter's nerves. Following these accounts, I refer briefly (in 569 C) to experiments in the so-called “silent willing,” frequently practised by the early mesmerists. I may mention that Mr. H. S. Thompson, who figures largely in their records, was a gentleman of high character, active benevolence, and marked ability. I never saw him myself; but I have known various persons (some of these his own relations) in the Yorkshire county society of that date, and his powers were there universally recognised as genuine, although they were sometimes regarded with social disapproval, or even with superstitious horror.

Mr. H. S. Thompson's history is to my mind a real proof that some one individual man may be endowed for hypnotic efficacy in a quite exceptional way. His experience, indeed, goes far to prove the reality of “silent willing” and was thought by himself to prove also the direct local influence of passes,—the “mesmeric effluence” theory.

570. With all our later evidence in view, however,—with so much proof of a transmission from man to man of something which needs no action of the finger-tips,—it would be natural indeed to dismiss that notion altogether, as a first rude theory which wider knowledge had shown to be needless. Needless it is, in the sense that we could plausibly refer to mere suggestion all the sensations which subjects have alleged as accompanying the passes;—as following the track, so to say, of the mesmerising hand. If the effluence were something in itself monstrously improbable, we might think it needful to interpret the evidence in this way. But since, in my view, it is by no means improbable that effluences, as yet unknown to science, but perceptible by sensitive persons as the telepathic impulse is perceptible, should radiate from living human organisms, I see no reason to assume that the varied and concordant statements made by patients in the Zoist and early mesmeric works merely reflect subjective fancies. I have myself performed and witnessed experiments on intelligent persons expressly designed to test whether or no the sensation following the hand was a mere fancy. It seems to me hardly likely that persons who have never experienced other purely subjective sensations, and who are expressly alive to the question here at issue, should nevertheless again and again feel the classical tingling, &c., along the track of {i-209} the hypnotiser's passes without any real external cause. To assume that all which they feel is a mere result of suggestion may be a premature attempt at simplifying modes of supernormal communication which, in fact, are probably not simpler but more complex than any idea which we have as yet formed of them.

571. And here at last we arrive at what is in reality the most interesting group of inquiries connected with the hypnotic trance.

We have just seen that the subliminal state of the hypnotised subject may be approached by ways subtler than mere verbal suggestion—by telepathic impacts and perhaps by some effluence of kindred supernormal type. We have now to trace the supernormal elements in the hypnotic response. Whether those elements are most readily excited by a directly subliminal appeal, or whether they depend mainly on the special powers innate in the hypnotised person, we can as yet but imperfectly guess. We can be pretty sure, at any rate, that they are not often evoked in answer to any rapid and, so to say, perfunctory hypnotic suggestion; they do not spring up in miscellaneous hospital practice; they need an education and a development which is hardly bestowed on one hypnotised subject in a hundred. The first stage of this response lies in a subliminal relation established between the subject and his hypnotiser, and manifesting itself in what is called rapport, or in community of sensation. The earlier stages of rapport

—conditions when the subject apparently hears or feels the hypnotiser only, and so forth—arise probably from mere self-suggestion or from the suggestions of the operator (see 571 A) causing the conscious attention of the subject to be exclusively directed to him. Indications of the possible development of a real link between the two persons may rather be found in the cases where there is provable community of sensation,—the hypnotised subject tasting or feeling what the hypnotiser (unknown to the subject) does actually at that moment taste or feel. Of this there was much evidence in the palmy days of Esdaile and Elliotson, when psychological experiment was pursued regardless of time or trouble; there is some evidence of our own recent collecting (see 571 B); and there will be, I venture to say, far more evidence so soon as the study of hypnotism devolves upon the psychologist, without therefore being deserted by the physician. It must be observed, however, that in experiments of this kind with hypnotised persons, the hypnotist was generally—if not invariably—the only person who attempted to play the part of agent, so that the evidence of a special relation between him and his subject is inconclusive. And in the similar experiments with non-hypnotised persons, quoted in 571 C, several different agents were successful in transferring sensations to the same percipients.

572. We have thus brought the hypnotised subject up to the point of knowing supernormally, at any rate, the superficial sensations of his hypnotiser. From that starting-point,—or, at any rate, front some supernormal perception of narrow range,—his cognition widens and {i-210} deepens. He may seem to discern some picture of the past, and may retrace the history of some object which he holds in his hand, or he may seem to wander in spirit over the habitable globe, and to bring back knowledge of present facts discernible by no other means. Perhaps he seems to behold the future, predicting oftenest the organic history of some person near him; but sometimes discerning, as it were pictorially, scattered events to which we can guess at no attainable clue. For all this there is already more of positive evidence than is generally realised; nor (I must repeat) is there any negative evidence which might lead us to doubt that further care in developing hypnotic subjects may not at any moment be rewarded in the same way. We have here, in fact, a successful branch of investigation which has of late years been practically dropped from mere inattention to what has been done already,—mere diversion of effort to the easier and more practical triumphs of suggestive therapeutics.

I begin with two cases partly retrocognitive, in 572 A and B.

573. The next group of cases to which I pass relate chiefly to knowledge of present facts. I place first some experiments in thought-transference with hypnotised persons (573 A) analogous to the experiments with persons in a normal condition recorded in my next chapter. Here the subject seems simply to become aware telepathically of the thoughts of his hypnotiser, the hypnotic condition perhaps facilitating the transfer of the impression. Next come the cases of what used to be called “travelling clairvoyance” in the hypnotic state. These are more like the partially retrocognitive cases in that they cannot be traced with certainty to the contemporary thoughts of any particular person, though they very rarely relate to facts unknown to any one (as in Major Buckley's cases, 573 E). In travelling clairvoyance we seem to have a development of “invasive dreams,”—of those visions of the night in which the sleeper seems to visit distant scenes and to bring back intelligence otherwise unattainable. These distant hypnotic visions seem to develop out of thought-transference; thus the subject may discern an imaginary picture as it is conceived in the hypnotiser's mind (e.g. in 573 A). Thence he may pass on and discern a true contemporaneous scene (e.g. in 573 B, C, and D), unknown to any one present, and in some few cases there is an element of apparent prevision in the impression (573 F).

574. Our survey of that important, though inchoate, appeal to the subliminal self which passes under the name of hypnotism is now nearly as complete—in its brief sketchy form—as the present state of knowledge permits. I have traced the inception of the mesmeric or hypnotic processes; I have followed out in both directions the development of the sleeping phase of personality which hypnotism involves. In the first place, I have illustrated the hypnotic extension of that regenerative or vivifying power which the subliminal self habitually manifests in sleep. In the second place, I have indicated the still more important hypnotic development of that greater detachment, that supernormal faculty, which also the subliminal {i-211} self has been found in the visions of slumber not rarely to display.

Here, then, my review of hypnotism might not unfitly close; and I might venture to hope that I had welded many scattered and obscure phenomena into at least something more of apparent unity than previous writers have achieved.

And yet from my point of view—attaching to hypnotism the grave importance which has here been attached to it—one line of reflection seems still lacking before we can pass on with satisfaction to another topic.

I have attempted to trace the inevitable rise of hypnotism—its necessary development out of the spontaneous phenomena which preceded and which might so naturally have suggested it. I have shown, nevertheless, its almost accidental initiation, and then its rapid development in ways which no single experimenter has ever been able to correlate or to foresee. I am bound to say something further as to its prospect in the future. A systematic appeal to the deeper powers in man—conceived with the generality with which I have here conceived it—cannot remain a mere appanage of medical practice. It must be fitted on in some way to the whole serious life of man; it must present itself to him as a development of faiths and instincts which lie already deep in his heart. In other words there must needs be some scheme of self-suggestion,—some general theory which can give the individual a basis for his appeal, whether he regards that appeal as directed to an intelligence outside himself or to his own inherent faculties and informing soul. These helps to the power of generalisation—to the feeling of confidence—we must consider now.

575. The schemes of self-suggestion which have actually been found effective have covered, not unnaturally, a range as wide as all the superstition and all the religion of men. That is to say, that each form of supernatural belief in turn has been utilised as a means of securing that urgently-needed temporal blessing—relief from physical pain. We see the same tendency running through fetichistic, polytheistic, monotheistic forms of belief. Beginning with fetichistic peoples, we observe that charms of various kinds,—inert objects, arbitrary gestures, meaningless words,—have probably been actually the most general means which our race has employed for the cure of disease. We know how long some forms of primitive belief persisted in medicine,—as, for example, the doctrine of likenesses, or the cure of a disease by some object supposed to resemble its leading symptom. What is, however, even more remarkable is the efficacy which charms still continue in some cases to possess, even when they are worn merely as an experiment in self-suggestion by a person who is perfectly well aware of their intrinsic futility. The experiments on this subject, given in 575 A, seem to show that the mere continual contact of some small unfamiliar object will often act as a reminder to the subliminal self, and keep, at any rate, some nervous disturbances in check. Until one reads these modern examples, one can hardly realise how {i-212} veritably potent for good may have been the savage amulet, the savage incantation.

of ancient and venerable tradition,—in its appeal to hopes, not necessarily illegitimate, and ever recurrent in the heart of man. To the student of suggestion, indeed, to the psychologist, the story of Lourdes is a mine of attractive material. Yet from a point of view perhaps profounder still, I cannot but sympathise with those wiser Catholics who bitterly regret the whole series of incidents;—who stand aloof from that organised traffic in human ignorance;—from the vested interests sanctimoniously alert on every side;—from the money-changers in the temple;—nay, even from that cowardly craving for earth-life prolonged at any cost which drives the leprous and the cancerous to implore a deferment of their entry into the promised heaven. What a contrast between that crippled and abject multitude, supplicating for another year of useless pain, and Odin's worshippers of old, in a ruder but a braver faith!


“For on earth they thought of my threshold, and the gifts I have to give;

Nor prayed for a little longer, and a little longer to live.”

579. These words will sound, perhaps, needlessly severe. Corruptio optimi pessima.The corruption of the best is worst It is hard to keep the balance when one sees, as one surely does at Lourdes, forces—which, if rightly directed, may indefinitely bless and elevate mankind—distorted and abused in such fashion as must ultimately lead to some infidel reaction,—some crushing desertion and downfall of ancient faith. It is not true, a thousand times it is not true, that a bottle of water from a spring near which a girl saw a hallucinatory figure will by miraculous virtue heal a Turk in Constantinople; but it is true that on some influx from the unseen world,—an influence dimly adumbrated in that Virgin figure and that sanctified spring,—depends the life and energy of this world of every day.

To me, at least, it seems that no real explanation of hypnotic vitalisation can, in fact, be given except upon the general theory supported in this work—the theory that a world of spiritual life exists, an environment profounder than those environments of matter and ether which in a sense we know. Let us look at this hypothesis a little more closely. When we say that an organism exists in a certain environment, we mean that its energy, or some part thereof, forms an element in a certain system of cosmic forces, which represents some special modification of the ultimate energy. The life of the organism consists in its power of interchanging energy with its environment,—of appropriating by its own action some fragment of that preexistent and limitless Power. We human beings exist in the first place in a world of matter, whence we draw the obvious sustenance of our bodily functions.

We exist also in a world of ether;—that is to say, we are constructed to respond to a system of laws,—ultimately continuous, no doubt, with the laws of matter, but affording a new, a generalised, a profounder conception of the Cosmos. So widely different, indeed, is this new aspect of things from the old, that it is common to speak of the ether as a newly-known environment. On this environment our organic existence depends as absolutely as on the material environment, although less obviously. In ways which we cannot fathom, the ether is at the foundation of our physical being. Perceiving heat, light, electricity, we do but recognise in certain conspicuous ways,—as in perceiving the “X rays” we recognise in a way less conspicuous,—the pervading influence of etherial vibrations which in range and variety far transcend our capacity of response.

580. Within, beyond, the world of ether,—as a still profounder, still more generalised aspect of the Cosmos,—must lie, as I believe, the world of spiritual life. That the world of spiritual life does not depend upon the existence of the material world I hold as now proved by actual evidence. That it is in some way continuous with the world of ether I can well suppose. But for our minds there must needs be a “critical point” in any such imagined continuity; so that the world where life and {i-216} thought are carried on apart from matter, must certainly rank again as a new, a metetherial environment. In giving it this name I expressly imply only that from our human point of view it lies after or beyond the ether, as metaphysic lies after or beyond physics. I say only that what does not originate in matter or in ether originates there; but I well believe that beyond the ether there must be not one stage only, but countless stages in the infinity of things.

Having thus indicated this third great environment on whose preexistent energy I conceive that our organisms do actually draw, I return to show the manner in which this hypothesis may be used to explain the hypnotic results which I have in this chapter recorded. Those results must have brought before the reader with new vividness the ancient unsolved problem of the ultimate source of energy. For what we have in effect been doing with the aid of these hypnotic artifices is simply to energise Life. What Life does for the organism, in slow imperfect fashion, we here train it to do a little faster, a little more completely. Typical of Life is its self-adaptive power, its capacity of responding to new needs, of righting the organism when it has been in any way injured;—that vis medicatrix Naturæhealing power of Nature which is the inmost secret of the living organism. Hypnotism has shown us this vis medicatrix in an unprecedently definite and controllable form. It has shown us in this Natura —the subliminal self of the self-suggester—an intelligence no longer vague and impersonal, but bearing some analogy, some direct relation, to that which we recognise as our own.

We have here, in short, a striking picture not only of subliminal intelligence but of subliminal power. Of our submerged intelligence enough has already been said to make it conceivable that these complex therapeutical commands should be thus comprehended; but whence comes the energy needful for so effectual a response?

The word energy is, of course, open to immediate objection. It may be urged that there is here no true increase or illation of energy, but merely a translation into some fresh mode of action of energy already developed by ordinary material nutrition. Man's prayer, it is said, implies no more energy than his curse; the philosopher's theorem no more than the maniac's fancy. It is obvious, indeed, that the rapidity of organic metabolism does not vary in proportion to the value of the results obtained. In fact, the maniac's hurrying anarchic thought is probably more destructive of tissue than the steady thought of the philosopher. But plainly this mere chemical change by no means goes to the root of the matter. What I desire for my life is neither slow metabolism nor rapid metabolism as such, but metabolism guided by intelligent central force to useful ends. I desire integration of the personality,—intellectual, moral, spiritual concentration. This concentration is hard for me to maintain; I feel it to need, even in its lowest degrees, that special effort which we call attention; and I see reason to believe that there are far higher degrees {i-217} which no voluntary effort of mine can reach. Now no one can say under what cycle of forces the energy of this vital effort falls; and until it be resolved into better known forces, I cannot justly be condemned for a hypothesis which treats it as an energy sui generis,of its own type and seeks for traces of its realm of origin and hints as to its possible extent.

581. In my view, then, each man is essentially a spirit, controlling an organism which is itself a complex of lower and smaller lives. The spirit's control is not uniform throughout the organism, nor in all phases of organic life. In waking life it controls mainly the centres of supraliminal thought and feeling, exercising little control over deeper centres, which have been educated into a routine sufficient for common needs. But in subliminal states—trance and the like—the supraliminal processes are inhibited, and the lower organic centres are retained more directly under the spirit's control. As you get into the profounder part of man's being, you get nearer to the source of his human vitality. You get thus into a region of essentially greater responsiveness to spiritual appeal than is offered by the

superficial stratum which has been shaped and hardened by external needs into a definite adaptation to the earthly environment. Even thus the caterpillar's outside integument is fashioned stiffly to suit larval requirements; while, deeper in the animal, unseen processes of rapid change are going on, in obedience to an impulse not derived from larval life.

The ultimate lesson of hypnotic suggestion, especially in the somnambulic state, is, therefore, that we thus get, by empirical artifices, at these strata of greater plasticity—plasticity not to external but to internal forces—where the informing spirit controls the organism more immediately, and can act on it with greater freedom.

This conception seems to throw light on a fact repeatedly observed, but hitherto hard of explanation. The somnambulic state seems to be the introduction to two powers apparently quite disparate—the self-sanative and the telæsthetic. The highest development of sleep thus involves at once more penetrative bodily recuperation, and more independent spiritual activity. The spirit is more powerful either to draw metetherial energy into the organism, or to act in partial independence of the organism. The cases already cited of “travelling clairvoyance” have, in fact, generally occurred during sleep-waking states, originally induced for some healing purpose. I take this to mean that the spirit can in such states more easily either modify the body, or partially quit and return to the body. In other words, it can for the time either pay the body more attention, with benefit, or less attention, without injury. I use the word attention because, in the impossibility of conceiving how a spirit can affect or control an organism, the most fitting term seems to be that by which we designate our own attempts at concentrating the personality. I would say in crude terms that the soul keeps the body alive by attending to it, and (as explained in Chapter IV.) can attend to central operations more {i-218} directly than to superficial ones—to the activities of sleep more directly than to those of waking. Hence in deep states it can partially withdraw attention from the organism and bestow it elsewhere, while remaining capable of at once resuming its ordinary attitude towards that organism. Bodily death ensues when the soul's attention is wholly and irrevocably withdrawn from the organism, which has become from physical causes unfit to act as the exponent of an informing spirit. Life means the maintenance of this attention; achieved, in this view, by the soul's absorption of energy from the spiritual or metetherial environment. For if our individual spirits and organisms live by dint of this spiritual energy, underlying the chemical energy by which organic change is carried on, then we must presumably renew and replenish the spiritual energy as continuously as the chemical. To keep our chemical energy at work, we live in a warm environment, and from time to time take food. By analogy, in order to keep the spiritual energy at work, we should live in a spiritual environment, and possibly from time to time absorb some special influx of spiritual life.

582. If this be so, there may be a truth—deeper than we can at this moment stay to discuss—in many subjective experiences of poets, philosophers, mystics, saints. And if their sense of inflowing and indwelling life indeed be true;—if the subliminal uprushes which renew and illumine them are fed in reality from some metetherial environment;—then a similar influence may by analogy exist and be recognisable along the whole gamut of psychophysical phenomena;—not only in the realm of high spiritual emotions, but wheresoever there is a quickening and an elevation of even our lower organic life. The nascent life of each of us is perhaps a fresh draft,—the continued life is an ever-varying draft,—upon the cosmic energy. In that environing energy—call it by what name we will—we live and move and have our being; and it may well be that certain dispositions of mind, certain phases of personality, may draw in for the moment from that energy a fuller vitalising stream.

On this hypothesis there will be an essential concordance between all views—spiritual or materialistic—which ascribe to any direction of attention or will any practical effect upon the human organism. “The prayer of faith shall save the sick,” says St. James. “There is nothing in hypnotism but suggestion,” says Bernheim. In my clumsier language these two statements (setting aside a possible telepathic element in St. James' words) will be expressible in identical terms. “There will be effective therapeutical or ethical self-suggestion whenever by any artifice subliminal attention to a bodily function or to a moral purpose is carried to some unknown pitch of intensity which draws energy from the metetherial world.”

583. A great practical question remains, to which St. James' words supply a direct, though perhaps an inadequate answer, while Bernheim's words supply no answer at all.


What is this saving faith to be, and how is it to be attained? Can we find any sure way of touching the spring which moves us so potently, at once from without and from within? Can we propose any form of self-suggestion effective for all the human race? any controlling thought on which all alike can fix that long-sought mountain-moving faith?

Assuredly no man can extemporise such a faith as this. Whatever form it may ultimately take, it must begin as the purification, the intensification, of the purest, the intensest beliefs to which human minds have yet attained. It must invoke the whole strength of all philosophies, of all religions;—not indeed the special arguments or evidence adduced for each, which lie outside my present theme, but all the spiritual energy by which in truth they live. And so far as this purpose goes, of drawing strength from the unseen, if one faith is true, all faiths are true; in so far at least as human mind can grasp or human prayer appropriate the unknown metetherial energy, the inscrutable Grace of God.

The mystery of these extreme phenomena of suggestion is certainly not thus fully solved. No more than my predecessors have I been able to explain why it is that certain organisms at certain moments should become thus superior to themselves;—capable of a response so vigorous, submissive to a control so profound. But I have set forth a point of view which helps towards the subsumption of this minor mystery under a mystery of universal scope and world-old experience. I have placed “suggestion,” I think, in a truer relation to other forms of external suasion or internal will than the Nancy School have done. They have spoken as though suggestion were comparable with supraliminal suasion, supraliminal endeavour. I have tried to show that its real efficacy lies among subliminal processes;—as an empirical facilitation of our absorption of spiritual energy or acquisition of directive force from a metetherial environment. Large and assumptive as this definition may seem to be, it is not too wide for nascent phenomena which already include mind-cure and the miracles of Lourdes as well as ordinary hypnotic practice. And it suggests—what narrower definitions have not yet suggested—the possibility of a world-wide faith, or set of the human spirit, which may make for an ever more potent mastery over organic hindrance and physical ill. Let the great currents of belief run gradually into a deeper channel. Let men realise that their most comprehensive duty, in this or other worlds, is intensity of spiritual life; nay, that their own spirits are co-operative elements in the cosmic evolution, are part and parcel of the ultimate vitalising Power.




βλἑπομεν γὰρ ἅρτι δι’ ἐσόπτρου ἐν ἀινίγματι.

For now we see through a mirror, dimly. [I Cor. 13:12]

600. We have now reached a central node in our complex argument. Several lines of evidence, already pursued, converge here to form the starting-point for a new departure. Our view of the subliminal self must pass in this chapter through a

profound transition. The glimpses which we have till now obtained of it have shown it as something incidental, subordinate, fragmentary. But henceforth it will gradually assume the character of something persistent, principal, unitary; appearing at last as the deepest and most permanent representative of man's true being.

Let us consider what the successive stages of our realisation of this submerged consciousness have thus far taught us.

First of all, in Chapter II., we realised that secondary streams of consciousness and memory, separate from the ordinary supraliminal stream, are in certain cases developed, and may even become permanent, thus either alternating with the original stream of memory or supplanting it altogether. Yet in most cases the uprush of these subterranean streams, the upheaval of these submerged strata, seemed merely disintegrative phenomena; seemed rather to reveal the incoherent elements from which human personality has been thus far unified than to suggest hope of its still closer unity, its still further concentration,

In the next Chapter (III.) we approached the subject from a different side. Without entering on any cases obviously abnormal, we traced the uprushes of the subliminal faculty which occur, helpfully and sanely, in the course of ordinary thought and life. We saw that there lay hidden beneath the threshold a concentrative or imaginative power more vivid than that with which we habitually deal. The “inspirations of genius” which seem to spring full-armed into our ken from the depths of our being must count as a form of subliminal faculty, when that is otherwise established, although no theory of such faculty could be based solely upon mental products so closely interwoven with supraliminal or voluntary thinking.

In the next following Chapter (IV.) we traced the varieties of subliminal {i-221} action in that alternating phase of our personality which may be said to lie wholly beneath the threshold of waking consciousness.

We found that the state of sleep reproduced and varied the subliminal phenomena observed in waking hours. The pictures and utterances of some dreams, presenting themselves without our conscious elaboration, resemble confused fragments of the inspiration of genius. Pushed somewhat further, becoming more intense and more separate from waking life, dreams turn into somnambulisms (discussed in Chapter V.), and thus may develop into veritable fissions of personality.

For the most part, dream introduces us only to incoherent thought, somnambulism only to irrational action. Yet from time to time we have found in dreams indications of a memory which surpasses waking memory; nay, which even implies that something within us has exercised in waking hours a perception more minute and comprehensive than our supraliminal consciousness ever knew. During various forms of sleep itself, moreover, something of unusual faculty seems to be exercised; mathematical or philological ingenuity may surpass its waking level; the senses may show a delicacy of which we had not judged them capable. And in the background of all this we catch glimpses of still higher faculty; of those supernormal powers of telepathy and telæsthesia on whose existence our belief in a unitary Self must ultimately be so largely based.

Beneath the apparent blankness of sleep, many changes, both physical and psychical, may occur unnoted, for evil or for good. On the degenerative side sleep passes into coma, and somnambulisms merge into hysteria; and at many points our description of sleep indicates the nearness of those morbid dissociations already described. But sleep and sleep-waking states may be developed on the other, the evolutive side as well. The subliminal self appears to exercise in sleep an increased control, and to be able to carry thereby the physical organism into higher vitality, the mind into readier communication, by supernormal methods, with other minds, and into scenes beyond the range of sense. Incidentally we perceive a new development of multiplex personality; a new power of alternating or combining streams of memory, of changing for a time or permanently the character and the will.

Our last Chapter (V.) was devoted to this hypnotic concentration and expansion of human faculty. I briefly detailed the empirical artifices employed to give effect to self-suggestion, and reviewed the results, especially the intellectual and moral results, to which that self-suggestion ultimately leads. And here more than ever,—both in hypnotic phenomena and in the analogous cases of spontaneous somnambulism described in the same chapter,—we perceived elements of new supernormal faculty mingling with heightened faculty of familiar types.

Each, then, of these several lines of inquiry has led us, through widely varying phenomena, in substantially the same direction. From {i-222} every side we have indications of something complex and obscure in the structure of human personality; of something transcending sensory experience in the reserves of human faculty.

601. We have come to a point where we need some further colligating generalisation; some conception under which these scattered phenomena may be gathered and exhibited in their true kinship.

Some steps at least towards such a generalisation the evidence to be presented in these next chapters may allow us to take. Considering together, under the heading of sensory and motor automatism, the whole range of that subliminal action of which we have as yet discussed fragments only, we shall gradually come to see that its distinctive faculty of telepathy or telæsthesia is in fact an introduction into a realm where the limitations of organic life can no longer be assumed to persist Considering, again, the evidence which shows that that portion of the personality which exercises these powers during our earthly existence does actually continue to exercise them after our bodily decay, we shall recognise a relation—obscure but indisputable—between the subliminal and the surviving self.

I begin, then, with my definition of automatism, as the widest term under which to include the range of subliminal emergences into ordinary life. Different classes of those uprushes have already received special names. The turbulent uprush and downdraught of hysteria; the helpful uprushes of genius, co-operating with supraliminal thought; the profound and recuperative changes which follow on hypnotic suggestion; these have been described under their separate headings. But the main mass of subliminal manifestations remains undescribed. I have dealt little with veridical hallucinations, not at all with automatic writing, nor with the utterances of spontaneous trance. The products of inner vision or inner audition externalised into quasi-percepts,—these form what I term sensory automatisms. The messages conveyed by movement of limbs or hand or tongue, initiated by an inner motor impulse beyond the conscious will—these are what I term motor automatisms. And I claim that when all these are surveyed together their essential analogy will be recognised beneath much diversity of form. They will be seen to be messages from the subliminal to the supraliminal self; endeavours—conscious or unconscious—of submerged tracts of our personality to present to ordinary waking thought fragments of a knowledge which no ordinary waking thought could attain.

602. And since it is plain that the point of view here taken is one unfamiliar to psychologists—and indeed that the distinction here insisted on would have seemed till recently quite unmeaning—I must dwell a little longer on the relation which I conceive to exist between intellectual life above and below the conscious threshold. By ordinary psychology, supraliminal life is accepted as representing the normal or substantive personality, of which subliminal life is the semi-conscious substratum, or {i-223} half-illuminated fringe, or the morbid excrescence. I, on the other hand, regard supraliminal life merely as a privileged case of personality; a special phase of our personality, which is easiest for us to study, because it is simplified for us by our ready consciousness of what is going on in it; yet which is by no means necessarily either central or prepotent, could we see our whole being in comprehensive view.

Now if we thus regard the whole supraliminal personality as a special case of something much more extensive, it follows that we must similarly regard all

human faculty, and each sense severally, as mere special or privileged cases of some more general power.

All human terrene faculty will be in this view simply a selection from faculty existing in the metetherial world; such part of that antecedent, even if not individualised, faculty as may be expressible through each several human organism.

Each of our special senses, therefore, may be conceived as straining towards development of a wider kind than earthly experience has as yet allowed. And each special sense is both an internal and an external sense; involves a tract of the brain, of unknown capacity, as well as an end-organ, whose capacity is more nearly measurable. The relation of this internal, mental, mind's-eye vision to non-sensory psychological perception on the one hand, and to ocular vision on the other hand, is exactly one of the points on which some profounder observation will be seen to be necessary. One must at least speak of “mind's eye” perception in these sensory terms, if one is to discuss it at all.

But ordinary experience at any rate assumes that the end-organ alone can acquire fresh information, and that the central tract can but combine this new information with information already sent in to it. This must plainly be the case, for instance, with optical or acoustic knowledge;—with such knowledge as is borne on waves of ether or of air, and is caught by a terminal apparatus, evolved for the purpose. But observe that it is by no means necessary that all seeing and all hearing should be through eye or ear.

The vision of our dreams—to keep to vision alone for greater simplicity—is non-optical vision. It is usually generated in the central brain, not sent up thither from an excited retina. Optical laws can only by a stretch of terms be said to apply to it at all.

This fact is commonly held to be unimportant, because dream-vision itself is commonly held to be worthless; achieving nothing more than a mere rifacimentoreworking of the knowledge gained by day.

From our present point of view, however, we have no right to make any such assumption. We cannot possibly say à priori by what means, or from what quarters, knowledge may come to the subliminal self. That must be purely a matter for observation and experiment.

What we are bound to do is to generalise our conception of vision as far as possible,—no longer confining it to the definite phenomenon {i-224} of retinal or optical vision,—and thus to find out by actual inquiry, what sort of messages are brought to us by each form of vision which this enlarged conception contains.

There is a point, as all know, where vision differentiates itself from various indefinite forms of perception. There is a point, as I shall claim, where vision merges again into perception not less definite but more general than sight itself.

Between this inferior and this superior limit two main streams of vision may be discerned—the external and the internal, the optical and the mental, of which the one is almost wholly supraliminal, the other largely subliminal Let us attempt some rough conspectus, which may show something of the relation in which central and peripheral vision stand to each other.

603. We start from a region below the specialisation of visual faculty. The study of the successive dermal and nervous modifications which have led up to that faculty belongs to Biology, and all that our argument needs here is to point out that the very fact that this faculty has been developed in a germ, animated by metetherial life, indicates that some perceptivity from which sight could take its origin pre-existed in the originating, the unseen world. The germ was so constructed ab initiofrom the beginning that it could develop in this and in other ways: whether we assume that each specific modifiability existed (and might have been discerned in the germ by an all-wise spectator) from the first, or that only a ground-plan existed, to which, in successive generations, fresh elements of determination and precision were added from the world of Life. We know vaguely how vision differentiated itself peripherally, with the growing sensibility of the pigment-spot to light and shadow. But there must have been a cerebral differentiation also, and also a psychological differentiation, namely, a gradual shaping of a distinct feeling from obscure feelings, whose history we cannot recover.

Yet I believe that we have still persistent in our brain-structure some dim vestige of the transition from that early undifferentiated continuous sensitivity to our existing specialisation of sense. Probably in all of us, though in some men much more distinctly than in others, there exist certain synæsthesiæ or concomitances of sense-impression, which are at any rate not dependent on any recognisable link of association. A second sense sometimes reacts automatically to a stimulus which seems fitted to excite a single sense alone. I do not merely mean that the dog's bark calls up the look of the dog, while his look suggests his bark; that is an association formed by the mere experience of life. But for a true synæsthetic or “sound-seer,”—to take the commonest form of these central repercussions of sensory shock,—there is a connection between sight and sound which is instinctive, complex, and yet for our intelligence altogether arbitrary. In some cases, indeed, these chromatisms can be watched in development, if not in origination, and may be referred to some odd {i-225} chance of fanciful association. But this first group of cases of sound-seeing melts into a second, where the chromatisms seem to be determined before birth, and to have preceded conscious mentation, in all their meaningless precision of correspondence, between, say, a particular note played on the piano and a particular tint of apple-green. The specimens given in 603 A and B will show something of this irrational complexity. My present point is that these synæsthesiæ stand on the dividing line between percepts externally and internally originated. These irradiations of sensitivity, sometimes, as I have said, apparently congenital, cannot, on the one hand, be called a purely mental phenomenon. Nor again can they be definitely classed under external vision; since they do sometimes follow upon a mental process of association. It seems safer to term them entencephalic, on the analogy of entoptic, since they seem to be due to something in brain-structure, much as entoptic percepts are due to something in the structure of the eye.

604. I will, then, start with the synæsthesiæ as the most generalised form of inward perception, and will pass on to other classes which approach more nearly to ordinary external vision.

From these entencephalic photisms we seem to proceed by an easy transition to the most inward form of unmistakable entoptic vision—which is therefore the most inward form of all external vision—the flash of light consequent on electrisation of the optic nerve. Next on our outward road we may place the phosphenes caused by pressure on the optic nerve or irritation of the retina. Next Purkinje's figures, or shadows cast by the blood-vessels of the middle layer upon the bacillary layer of the retina. Then muscæ volitantes, or shadows cast by motes in the vitreous humour upon the fibrous layer of the retina.

605. Midway, again, between entoptic and ordinary external vision we may place after-images; which, although themselves perceptible with shut eyes, presuppose a previous retinal stimulation from without;—forming, in fact, the entoptic sequelæ of ordinary external vision.

606. Next comes our ordinary vision of the external world—and this, again, is pushed to its highest degree of externality by the employment of artificial aids to sight. He who gazes through a telescope at the stars. has mechanically improved his end-organs to the furthest point now possible to man.

id="p20005ff8892i-225005" style="text-indent:18pt;" >607. And now, standing once more upon our watershed of entencephalic vision, let us trace the advancing capacities of internal vision. The forms of vision now to be considered are virtually independent of the eye; they can persist, that is to say, after the destruction of the eye, if only the eye has worked for a few years, so as to give visual education to the brain. We do not, in fact, fully know the limits of this independence, which can only be learnt by a fuller examination of intelligent blind persons than has yet been made. Nor can we say with certainty how far in a seeing person the eye is in its turn influenced by the brain. I shall avoid postulating {i-226} any “retropulsive current” from brain to retina, just as I have avoided any expression more specific than “the brain” to indicate the primary seat of sight. The arrangement here presented, as already explained, is a psychological one, and can be set forth without trespassing on controverted physiological ground.

We may take memory-images as the simplest type of internal vision. These images, as commonly understood, introduce us to no fresh knowledge; they preserve the knowledge gained by conscious gaze upon the outer world. In their simplest spontaneous form they are the cerebral sequelæ of external vision, just as after-images are its entoptic sequelæ. And we find that in some cases these two classes of vision are confounded (see 607 A). But we see that into the cerebral storage of impressions one element habitually enters which is totally absent from the mere retinal storage, namely, a psychical element—a rearrangement or generalisation of the impressions retinally received.

608. Next we come to a common class of memory-images, in which the subliminal rearrangement is particularly marked. I speak of dreams—which lead us on in two directions from memory-images;—in the direction of imagination-images, and in the direction of hallucinations. Certain individual dreams, indeed, of rare types point also in other directions which later on we shall have to follow. But dreams as a class consist of confused memory-images, reaching a kind of low hallucinatory intensity, a glow, so to say, sufficient to be perceptible in darkness.

609. I will give the name of imagination-images to those conscious recombinations of our store of visual imagery which we compose either for our mere enjoyment, as “waking dreams,” or as artifices to help us to the better understanding of facts of nature confusedly discerned. Such, for instance, are imagined geometrical diagrams; and Watt, lying in bed in a dark room and conceiving the steam-engine, illustrates the utmost limit to which voluntary internal visualisation can go.

610. Here at any rate the commonly admitted category of stages of inward vision will close. Thus far and no farther the brain's capacity for presenting visual images can be pushed on under the guidance of the conscious will of man. It is now my business to show, on the contrary, that we have here reached a mere intermediate point in the development of internal vision. These imagination-images, valuable as they are, are merely attempts to control supraliminally a form of vision which—as spontaneous memory-images have already shown us—is predominantly subliminal The memory-images welled up from a just-submerged stratum; we must now consider what other images also well upward from the same hidden source.

To begin with, it is by no means certain that some of Watt's images of steam-engines did not well up from that source,—did not emerge ready-made into the supraliminal mind while it rested in that merely expectant state which forms generally a great part of invention. We have seen in {i-227} Chapter III. that there is reason to believe in such a conveyance in the much inferior mental processes of calculating boys, &c., and also in the mental processes of the painter. In short, without pretending to judge of the proportion of voluntary to involuntary imagery in each several creative mind, we must undoubtedly rank the spontaneously emergent visual images of genius as a further stage of internal vision.

And now we have reached, by a triple road, the verge of a most important development of inward vision—namely, that vast range of phenomena which we call hallucination. Each of our last three classes had led up to hallucination in a different way. Dreams actually are hallucinations; but they are usually hallucinations of low intensity; and are only rarely capable of maintaining themselves for a few seconds (as hypnopompic illusions) when the dreamer wakes to the stimuli of the material world. Imagination-images may be carried to a hallucinatory pitch by good visualisers (see 610 A). And the inspirations of genius—Raphael's San Sisto is the classical instance—may present themselves in hallucinatory vividness to the astonished artist.

611. A hallucination, one may say boldly, is in fact a hyperæsthesia; and generally a central hyperæsthesia. That is to say, the hallucination is in some cases due indirectly to peripheral stimulation; but often also it is the result of a stimulus to “mind's-eye vision,” which sweeps the idea onwards into visual form, regardless of ordinary checks. It is a familiar remark, indeed, that each idea, according as its motor or its sensory elements predominate, is either a nascent movement or a nascent hallucination. We cannot possibly tell beforehand what kind of stimulus,—healthful or harmful, reinforcement of energy or mere breakdown of inhibition,—will carry on this nascency into actual birth. “Mind's-eye vision,” like retinal vision, has a habitual limit, in each case presumably determined by natural selection or otherwise as the limit most convenient for the race, considering the resources of the organism. In some individuals, however, these average limits are greatly overpassed, with or without resultant advantage. Exceptional keenness of ocular vision, useless to most men, may help the astronomer; exceptional power of inward visualisation, to most men a mere curiosity, may singularly help (as in an instance to which I have often alluded) the pourtrayers from memory of flying birds.

Here, then, is a comprehensive and reasonable way of regarding these multifarious hallucinations or sensory automatisms. They are phenomena of central or cerebral hyperæsthesia—phenomena which must neither be feared nor ignored, but rather controlled and interpreted. Nor will that interpretation be an easy matter. The interpretation of the symbols by which the retina represents the external world has been, whether for the race or for the individual, no short or simple process. Yet ocular vision is in my view a simple, easy, privileged case of vision generally; and the symbols which represent our internal percepts of an immaterial world are {i-228} likely to be far more complex than any impressions from the material world on the retina.

All inward visions are like symbols abridged from a picture-alphabet. In order to understand any one class of hallucinations, we ought to have all classes before us. At the lower limit of the series, indeed, the analysis of the physician should precede that of the psychologist. We already know to some extent, and may hope soon to know more accurately, what sensory disturbance corresponds to what nervous lesion. Yet these violent disturbances of inward perception—the snakes of the drunkard, the scarlet fire of the epileptic, the jeering voices of the paranoiac—these are perhaps of too gross a kind to afford more than a kind of neurological introduction to the subtler points which arise when hallucination is unaccompanied by any observable defect or malady.