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Monday, March 22, 2010

Sir William Barrett -Apparitions

-Sir  William Barrett -
"Dare I say
No spirit ever brake the band
That stays him from the native land,
Where first he walk'd when claspt in clay?

In Memoriam xciii
          WE MUST now pass on from the bizarre and perplexing phenomena we have so far discussed to the more important question of the evidence spiritualism affords of the continuance of human life after it has, to all appearance, ceased in the material body. Before entering upon the experimental part of this enquiry it is desirable to consider the evidence on behalf of survival derived from apparitions of the dying and the dead. This aspect of our subject meets with wider acceptance, and less objection from religious minds, than the evidence derived from sittings with some medium, which many regard as illegitimate.
One of the most cautious and philosophical among our distinguished men of science of the last generation, the late Dr. R. Angus Smith, F.R.S., wrote to me, forty years ago, that he was not aware of any law of nature, except the most obvious, that was sustained by so much and such respectable evidence as the fact of apparitions about the time of death.(1) In a subsequent interview I learnt from him that this opinion was arrived at only after long and careful investigation of the evidence attainable at that time. Since then the Society for Psychical Research has obtained a mass of additional and confirmatory evidence, which is incorporated in the two bulky volumes on "Phantasms of the Living" published by the Society.
(1) As the whole letter may be of future interest, I give it here in full:
"October 18th 1876.
MY DEAR PROFESSOR BARRETT, - I see you are deep in that fascinating study, the action of mind freed from the organism. It surprises me much that any man is found to think it of little importance, and that any man is found who thinks his own opinion so important that he cares for no evidence. I have not been able to find a book which contains all the laws of nature needed to sustain the world, but some men are easily satisfied.
"It is difficult to obtain such proofs as men demand for free mind. Visions are innumerable, and under circumstances that seem to render the sight of the absent, especially about the time of death, a reality. I am not aware of any law of nature (except the most obvious, such as are seen by common observers) which is sustained by so many assertions so well attested, as far as respectability of evidence goes. The indications we have point out to some mighty truth more decidedly than even the aberrations of Uranus to the newest of the great planets. If we could prove the action of mind at a distance by constant experiment it would be a discovery that would make all other discoveries seem trifles.
Yours sincerely
Statistical Enquiry
In that monumental work, chiefly due to the labour and learning of Mr. Edmund Gurney, the interval between death and the apparition of the dying or deceased person was limited to 12 hours. First-hand records were however received where this interval was greatly exceeded, whilst the fact of death was still unknown to the percipient at the time of his experience. After rigorous scrutiny 134 first-hand narratives are given where the coincidence between death and the recognised "appearance "' (whether by a visual or auditory experience) of the deceased to a distant person, who was not aware of the death, is exact, or within an hour; in 39 cases the apparition was seen more than an hour, but within 12 hours of death, and in 38 cases the apparition was seen shortly before death, or when death did not follow, though the person was seriously ill.(1) In 104 cases it was not known whether the percipients' experience shortly preceded or followed the death; owing to this uncertainty these cases were not taken into account.
(1) Proceedings S. P. R.," Vol. V., P. 408.
Mr. Gurney and Mr. Myers contributed a valuable paper to Vol. V. of the "Proceedings of the S. P. R.," where additional first-hand evidence was given of "apparitions occurring soon after death." This was supplemented by a paper Mr. Myers contributed to Vol. VI. on 99 apparitions occurring more than a year after death," where 14 veridical and recognised apparitions are recorded on first-hand evidence.
The result of a critical examination of the evidence left no doubt in the mind of any student that these apparitions were veridical or truth telling, and that their occurrence was not due to any illusion of the percipient or chance coincidence. As regards this latter in order to arrive at a statistical proof Mr. Gurney obtained a numerical comparison of the veridical apparitions with those which were purely accidental, i.e. did not coincide with death. For this purpose he obtained nearly 6,000 replies to the question he addressed to adults, whether they had had any such apparition or hallucination during the preceding ten years. This was followed by a still more elaborate census of a similar kind, taken by Professor Henry and Mrs. Sidgwick, wherein 17,000 replies were received. When the relative frequency of veridical to accidental hallucinations was critically examined the possibility of chance coincidence as an explanation could be proved or disproved. The result showed, in the Sidgwick census alone, that the proportion of veridical and recognized apparitions (i.e. coincidental cases) to the meaningless (i.e. non-coincidental cases) was 440 times greater than pure chance would give. The elaborate examination of this census by experts fills Vol. X. of the Proceedings of the S.P.R., and the definite but cautiously expressed conclusion is reached that:
"Between deaths and apparitions of the dying person a connection exists which is not due to chance alone. This we hold to be a proved fact. The discussion of its full implications cannot be attempted in this paper, nor, perhaps, exhausted in this age."
Such a result refutes the common idea that it was a mere chance the apparition happened to coincide with the death of that particular person, and that the hits are remembered and the misses forgotten.
It was found in the course of these lengthy enquiries that the number of recognised apparitions decreases rapidly in the few days after death, then more slowly, and after a year or more they become far less frequent and more sporadic. This indeed might have been expected; for on any theory as to the nature of these apparitions it is likely that the power of communication between the dead and those living on earth would lessen as the time of transition from this life becomes more and more remote. We need not conclude from this that the soul of the departed is gradually extinguished, for we cannot track the course of the soul nor know its affinities in the larger life beyond. There are, moreover, cases, to which we will refer in a later chapter where evidence of survival has been given more than a generation after the communicator has passed from earth-life.
Those who have witnessed the apparition of a distant deceased friend, of whose death they were wholly unaware, or have heard the statement at first hand, are far more impressed by this single occurrence than by any amount of evidence derived from reading reports of apparitions. This was the case with myself when a young friend of mine narrated to me the following account of the apparition she experienced; nor did the searching cross-examination to which she was submitted at the meeting of the Psychical Research Society where I read the account, shake her testimony in the least. The full report will be found in the "Journal of the S. P. R." for May, 1908. An important feature of this incident is that the percipient was at the time at school in a convent in Belgium, where she had absolutely no access to newspapers, or any other sources of information which might have suggested the apparition. Briefly the case is as follows:
A gentleman, of some note, shot himself in London in the spring of 1907. There can be little doubt that his mind was unhinged at the time by the receipt that morning of a letter from a lady that blighted all his hope; before taking his life he scribbled a memorandum leaving an annuity to my young friend, who was his god-child and to whom he was greatly attached. Three days afterwards (on the day of his funeral) he appeared to this godchild, who, as stated, was being educated in a convent school on the Continent, informing her of the fact of his sudden death, of its manner, and of the cause which had led him to take his life, and asking her to pray for him.
The mother, anxious to conceal from her daughter the distressing circumstances of her godfather's death, waited to write until a few days after the funeral, and then only stated that her uncle (as he was called) had died suddenly. Subsequently, upon meeting her daughter on her return from the Continent, the mother was amazed to hear not only of the apparition, but that it had communicated to her daughter all the circumstances which she had never intended her daughter to know. Careful inquiry shows that it was impossible for the information to have reached her daughter through normal means.
A member of the S.P.R., Miss Charlton, who kindly went to the convent to make enquiries into this case, states that the girls in the convent never see any newspapers, all letters are supervised, and no one in the convent seems to have known of the deceased gentleman; hence "that any knowledge of her godfather's suicide, or of the reason for it, could have reached the percipient by ordinary channels, cannot be entertained for a moment."
The mother of the percipient, who is a personal friend of mine, assured me that neither she nor any of her relatives (had they known of the suicide, which they did not) wrote to the convent on the matter, except as narrated above.
Sometimes, as in the foregoing case, the phantasm is not only seen but also apparently heard to speak; sometimes it may announce its presence by audible signals. We may regard such cases as auditory as well as visual hallucinations. Rapping was heard as well as the apparition seen, in the following case, which was investigated by Professor Sidgwick in 1892, and the house also visited by Mrs. Sidgwick. The percipient was the Rev. Matthew Frost of Bowers Gifford, Essex, who made the following statement:
"The first Thursday in April 1881, while sitting at tea with my back to the window and talking with my wife in the usual way, I plainly heard a rap at the window, and looking round at the window I said to my wife, 'Why, there's my grandmother,' and went to the door, but could not see anyone; still feeling sure it was my grandmother, and knowing, though she was eighty-three years of age, that she was very active and fond of a joke. I went round the house, but could not see any one. My wife did not hear it. On the following Saturday, I had news my grandmother died in Yorkshire about half-an-hour before the time I heard the rapping. The last time I saw her alive I promised, if well, I would attend her funeral; that was some two years before. I was in good health and had no trouble, age twenty-six years. I did not know that my grandmother was ill."
Mrs. Frost writes:
"I beg to certify that I perfectly remember all the circumstances my husband has named, but I heard and saw nothing myself."
Professor Sidgwick learned from Mr. Frost that the last occasion on which he had seen his grandmother, three years before the apparition, she promised if possible to appear to him at her death. He had no cause for anxiety on her account; news of the death came to him by letter, and both Mr. and Mrs. Frost were then struck by the coincidence. It was full daylight when Mr. Frost saw the figure and thought that his grandmother had unexpectedly arrived in the flesh and meant to surprise him. Had there been a real person Mrs. Frost would both have seen and heard; nor could a living person have got away in the time, as Mrs. Sidgwick found the house stood in a garden a good way back from the road, and Mr. Frost immediately went out to see if his grandmother was really there.
The following case was carefully investigated, and corroborative evidence obtained, by Mr. Ed. Gurney, soon after the experience occurred to the narrator, Mr. Husbands(1):
(1) "Proceedings S. P R.," Vol. V., 1889.
"September 15th, 1886.
The facts are simply these. I was sleeping in a hotel in Madeira early in 1885. It was a bright moonlight night. The windows were open and the blinds up. I felt someone was in my room. On opening my eyes, I saw a young fellow about twenty-five, dressed in flannels, standing at the side of my bed and pointing with the first finger of his right hand to the place I was lying in. I lay for some seconds to convince myself of someone being really there. I then sat up and looked at him. I saw his features so plainly that I recognised them in a photograph which was shown me some days after. I asked him what he wanted; he did not speak, but his eyes and hand seemed to tell me I was in his place. As he did not answer, I struck out at him with my fist as I sat up, but did not reach him, and as I was going to spring out of bed he slowly vanished through the door, which was shut, keeping his eyes upon me all the time.

"Upon inquiry I found that the young fellow who appeared to me died in the room I was occupying.
The following letter is from Miss Falkner, of Church Terrace, Wisbech, who was resident at the hotel when the above incident happened:
"October 8th 1886.
"The figure that Mr. Husbands saw while in Madeira was that of a young fellow who died unexpectedly some months previously, in the room which Mr. Husbands was occupying. Curiously enough, Mr. H. had never heard of him or his death. He told me the story the morning after he had seen the figure, and I recognised the young fellow from the description. It impressed me very much, but I did not mention it to him or any one. I loitered about until I heard Mr. Husbands tell the same tale to my brother; we left Mr. H. and said simultaneously, 'He has seen Mr. D.'
"No more was said on the subject for days; then I abruptly showed the photograph. Mr. Husbands said at once, 'This is the young fellow who appeared to me the other night, but he was dressed differently' - describing a dress he often wore - 'cricket suit (or tennis) fastened at the neck with a sailor knot.' I must say that Mr. Husbands is a most practical man, and the very last one would expect a 'spirit' to visit.
On further enquiry it was found that the young man who appeared to Mr. Husbands had died just a year previously, that the room in which he died had subsequently been occupied by other visitors, who apparently had not seen any apparition, and that it must have been February 2nd or 3rd that Mr. Husbands took the room and saw the figure. Miss Falkner's sister-in-law, who was also at the hotel at the time, corroborates the above facts, and remembers Mr. Husbands telling her the incident; she also gave Miss Falkner the photograph of the deceased which Mr. Husbands recognized.
Even if Mr. Husbands had heard of the death of Mr. D. and forgotten the circumstance, this would not enable him to recognize the likeness when he was shown the photograph. Mr. Gurney, as I have said, carefully investigated this case, and saw both Mr. Husbands and Miss Falkner, receiving full viva voce accounts from each Mr. Gurney remarks:
"They are both thoroughly practical and as far removed as possible from a superstitious love of marvels; nor had they any previous interest in this or any other class of super-normal experiences. So far as I could judge Mr. Husbands' view of himself is entirely correct - that he is the last person to give a spurious importance to anything that might befall him, or to allow facts to be distorted by imagination. As will be seen, his account of his vision preceded any knowledge on his part of the death which had occurred in the room."
It would extend this book unduly were I to give any further selections from the numerous, remarkable and well authenticated cases of apparitions which are recorded in the "Proceedings of the S.P.R."(1) They are in fact so common and so generally accepted that the chief scepticism regarding them has been as to "the ghosts of the clothes" they wore, as in the last case. This would be puzzling if they were regarded as objective realities, external to the percipient. But if we regard apparitions of the dying and dead as phantasms projected from the mind of the percipient, the difficulties of clothes, and the ghosts of animal pets which sometimes are seen, disappear.
(1) A few other striking cases; are given in Chapter X of my book on Psychical Research in the Home University Library.
Experimental Phantasms
There is nothing improbable in this subjective theory of apparitions, for all the things we see are phantasms projected from our mind into the external world. It is true that a minute and real inverted picture of the objects around us is thrown on the retina by the optical arrangements in the eye, but we do not look at that picture as the photographer does in his camera; it creates an impression on certain brain cells, and then we mentally project outside ourselves a large erect phantasm of the retinal image. It is true this phantasm has its origin in the real image on the retina, but it is no more a real thing than is the virtual image of ourselves we see in a looking glass. If now, instead of the, impression being made on certain cells in the brain through the fibres of the optic nerve, an impression be made directly on those same brain cells by some telepathic impact, it may reasonably be supposed that a visual reaction follows, and a corresponding image would be projected by our mind into external space.
Nor is this pure hypothesis. Actual experiments in telepathy have been repeatedly made where the percipient has seen an apparition of the distant person who mentally desired his presence to be known. The first successful attempt at this, under conditions that admit of no dispute, was made in 1881 by a personal friend, Mr. S. H. Beard, one of the earliest members of the Society for Psychical Research. On several occasions Mr. Beard, by an effort of his will, was able to cause a phantom of himself to appear, three miles away, to certain acquaintances who were not aware of his intention to make the experiment. The phantom appeared so real and solid that the percipient thought Mr. Beard himself had suddenly come into the room; and on one occasion the figure was seen by two persons simultaneously. Similar results have been obtained by at least nine other persons, independently of each other, living, in fact, in different parts of the world, more than one carefully conducted and successful experiment being made in each case.(1)
(1) Full details of these cases will be found in Mr. Myers' Human Personality, Vol. 1, pp. 292 et seq and pp. 688 et seq.
Doubtless these apparitions, though appearing so life-like and substantial, were hallucinations, but by what process is thought able to reproduce itself in a distant mind, and thus cause these phantoms to be projected from it? Either, thought in A. by some unknown means, affects the brain matter in B., and so excites the impression, or thought exists independently of matter. Whichever alternative we take, as Mr. F. W. H. Myers says:
"It is the very secret of life that confronts us here; the fundamental antinomy between Mind and Matter. But such confrontations with metaphysical problems reduced to concrete form are a speciality of our research; and since this problem does already exist since the brain cells are, in fact, altered either by the thought or along with it - we have no right to take for granted that the problem, when more closely approached, will keep within its ancient limits, or that Mind, whose far-darting energy we are now realising, must needs be always powerless upon aught but the grey matter of the brain." ("Proceedings" S.P.R., Vol. X., P. 421).
Certainly amongst mankind a conscious thought always strives and tends to externalise itself, to pass from a conception to an expression. Creation is the externalised thought of God, and this God-like attribute we, as part of the Universal Mind, share in a partial, limited degree. Our words and actions are a constant, though partial, embodiment of our thoughts, effected through the machinery of our nervous and muscular systems. But without this machinery thought can sometimes, as we have shown, transcend its ordinary channels of expression, and act, not mediately, but directly, upon another mind, producing not only visual and auditory impressions but also physiological changes.
The Stigmata
In fact carefully conducted experiments, some of which I have myself witnessed, have shown that startling physiological changes can be produced in a hypnotised subject merely by conscious or subconscious mental suggestion. Thus a red scar or a painful burn can be caused to appear on the body of the subject solely through suggesting the idea. By some local disturbance of the blood vessels in the skin, the unconscious self has done what it would be impossible for the conscious self to perform. And so in the well attested cases of stigmata, where a close resemblance to the wounds on the body of the crucified Saviour appear on the body of the ecstatic. This is a case of unconscious self-suggestion, arising from the intent and adoring gaze of the ecstatic upon the bleeding figure on the crucifix. With the abeyance of the conscious self the hidden powers emerge, whilst the trance and mimicry of the wounds are strictly parallel to the experimental cases previously referred to.
May not the effects of pre-natal impressions on the offspring (if such cases are proved) also have a similar origin? And if I may make the suggestion, may not the well-known cases of mimicry in animal life originate, like the stigmata, in a reflex action, - as physiologists would say, - below the level of consciousness, created to some extent by a predominant impression? I venture to think that ere long biologists will recognise the importance of the psychical factor in evolution.
Adaptation to environment is usually a slow process spread over countless generations, but here also the same causes, inter alia, may be at work. Moreover, even rapid changes sometimes occur. Thus the beautiful experiments of Professor Poulton, F.R.S., have shown that certain caterpillars can more than once in their lifetime change their colour to suit their surroundings. I have seen a brilliant green caterpillar acquire a black skin when taken from its green environment and placed among black twigs. It is no explanation to say that the nervous stimulus which produced these pigmentary deposits is excited by a particular light acting on the surface of the skin.
Through what wonder-working power is this marvellous change accomplished? Not, of course, through any conscious action of the caterpillar, for even the pupae of these caterpillars undergo a like change, a light-coloured chrysalis becoming perfectly black when placed on black paper; even patches of metallic lustre, exactly like gold, appear on its integument, as I can testify, when the chrysalis is placed on gilt paper! Does it not seem as if animal life shared with us, in some degree, certain super-normal powers, and that these colour changes might be due to the influence of causes somewhat analogous to those producing the stigmata, i.e., suggestion, unconsciously derived from the environment? If so, we have here something like the externalising of unconscious thought in ourselves.
Are Apparitions Objective?
To return from this digression. Whether all apparitions are insubstantial and subjective, due to a telepathic impact from the living or the dead, I am not prepared to say. There are cases which this hypothesis covers only with difficulty where several people have witnessed the apparition and where it has seemed to have a definite objective existence in successive positions. In any case we need to be on our guard against pressing the telepathic theory to absurd extremes, as some psychical researchers seem disposed to do.
We are in fact, only on the threshold of our knowledge of this obscure and difficult region of enquiry, and humility of mind no less than confidence of hope should be our habit of thought. As Sir Oliver Lodge has remarked, "Knowledge can never grow until it is realised that the question 'Do you believe in these things?' is puerile unless it has been preceded by the enquiry, 'What do you know about them?'" It is invariably those who know nothing of the subject who scornfully say "surely you don't believe in these things!"
Visions of the Dying
There are some remarkable instances where the dying person, before the moment of transition from earth, appears to see and recognize some of his deceased relatives or friends. One cannot always attach much weight to this evidence, as hallucinations of the dying are not infrequent. Here however is a case, one of many recorded in that useful journal Light, which much impressed the physician who narrates it.
Dr. Wilson of New York, who was present at the last moments of Mr. James Moore, a well-known tenor in the United States, gives the following narrative:
"It was about 4 a.m., and the dawn for which he had been watching was creeping in through the shutters, when, as I leant over the bed, I noticed that his face was quite calm and his eyes clear. The poor fellow looked me in the face, and, taking my hand in both of his, he said: 'You've been a good friend to me, doctor.' Then something which I shall never forget to my dying day happened, - something which is utterly indescribable. While he appeared perfectly rational and as sane as any man I have ever seen, the only way that I can express it is that he was transported into another world, and although I cannot satisfactorily explain the matter to myself, I am fully convinced that he had entered the golden city - for he said in a stronger voice than he had used since I had attended him: 'There is mother! Why, mother, have you come here to see me? No, no, I am coming to see you, just wait, mother, I am almost over. Wait, mother, wait, mother!'
"On his face there was a look of inexpressible happiness, and the way in which he said the words impressed me as I have never been before, and I am as firmly convinced that he saw and talked with his mother as I am that I am sitting here.
"In order to preserve what I believed to be his conversation with his mother, and also to have a record of the strangest happening of my life, I immediately wrote down every word he said. It was one of the most beautiful deaths I have ever seen."
Miss Cobbe in her Peak in Darien gives another instance of this kind, but the following narrative is even more striking. It is vouched for by my friend the late Mr. Hensleigh Wedgwood, who contributed it to the Spectator. Mr. Wedgwood writes:
"Between forty and fifty years ago, a young girl, a near connection of mine, was dying of consumption. She had lain for some days in a prostrate condition, taking no notice of anything, when she opened her eyes, and, looking upwards, said slowly, 'Susan - and Jane - and Ellen!' as if recognising the presence of her three sisters, who had previously died of the same disease. Then, after a short pause, 'And Edward, too!' she continued, - naming a brother then supposed to be alive and well in India, - as if surprised at seeing him in the company. She said no more, and sank shortly afterwards. In course of the post, letters came from India announcing the death of Edward from an accident a week or two previous to the death of his sister. This was told to me by an elder sister who nursed the dying girl, and was present at the bedside at the time of the apparent vision."
This last instance is difficult to explain away, if correctly narrated. I am also personally acquainted with one or two similar cases, which my informants consider too sacred to be made public. Several remarkable cases of visions of the dying are given in the "Proceedings and journal of the S.P.R.," which I regret are too long to be quoted here; the reader is specially referred to the following "Proc.," Vol. III., p. 93; V., P. 459, 460 VI., P. 294. The evidence seems indisputable that, in some rare cases, just before death the veil is partly drawn aside and a glimpse of the loved ones who have passed over is given to the dying person.
The article above was taken from Barrett's "On the Threshold of the Unseen." Published by Kegan Paul in 1918.

Sir William Barrett -Further Evidence of Survival After Death

 -Sir  William Barrett -
Further Evidence of Survival After Death

"The souls of the righteous are in the hands of God. In the sight of the unwise they seem to die and their departure is taken for misery and their going away from earth to be utter destruction-but they are in peace." 
From the Wisdom of Solomon, iii. 1-3
          THE SUPERNORMAL character of many of the communications that reach us through the medium or automatist having been established, let us now turn to further evidence of survival and of the identity of the discarnate intelligences, together with occasional glimpses of their condition after death.
Some years ago I was staying at a friend's house in the country, which I will call Hawthorn Manor, and found that my hostess, Mrs. E. - the wife of a lawyer holding a responsible official position, and herself a matronly lady of great acumen and commonsense, the centre of a circle of religious and charitable activity - had accidentally discovered that her hand was occasionally impressed by some power she could not control. Long messages, the purport of which were at the time unknown to her, were thus written.
The curious feature of this automatic writing was that it came on her suddenly; when writing up some household accounts she fell into a dreamy or semi-trance-like state, and then felt the fingers of another hand - belonging apparently to an invisible person seated opposite to her - laid on her right hand, and a sudden vigorous scribbling ensued. But the writing was all upside down, each line beginning at her right hand side of the page, and could only be read by turning the page round. Mrs. E. assured me, and I have no reason to doubt her word, that it was quite impossible for her to write a single word correctly in this way in her normal state. Anyone who will make the attempt will find how difficult such a mode of writing is to execute, especially in the clear and characteristic calligraphy, which here occurred.
Mrs. E. was not a spiritualist and had no knowledge of the subject, in fact rather an aversion to it. Hence no serious attention was given to this abnormal writing until a message came containing certain specific statements, wholly outside the knowledge of herself or husband, which they subsequently discovered to be perfectly true incidents in the life of a deceased relative, who asserted he was present and guiding the lady's hand. Other communications followed, which also were verified. Then on another evening came, the instance to which I have referred as affording proof of identity.
In this case the communicating intelligence was unknown to Mrs. E. The circumstances, written down at the time, were as follows: A cousin of my hostess, an officer in the Engineers, named B., was paying a visit to Hawthorn Manor. I was not present, but the facts were sent to me; some, indeed, came under my own knowledge. B. had a friend, a brother officer, Major C., who died after B. left Chatham, and to whose rooms in the barracks he frequently went to play on C.'s piano, both being musical: of this Mrs. E. assured me she knew absolutely nothing. At the sitting in question, much to R's amazement, for he was quite ignorant of spiritualism, the Christian name and surname of Major C, were unexpectedly given, followed by the question, addressed to B., "Have you kept up your music?" Then came some private matter of a striking character, when suddenly the unseen visitant interjected the question, "What was done with the books?" "What books?" was asked. "Lent to me," was C.'s reply. "Who lent you the books?" The reply came at once, "A   ," giving the name of another brother officer, of whose existence Mrs. E. was also wholly unaware. "Shall I write to ask A    if he has them?" B. asked. "Yes," was the reply. All present assert on their word of honour they knew of no such loan, nor was the officer named in any of their thoughts, nor had Mrs. E. ever heard A   's name mentioned before.
A    was written to, and the question about the books incidentally asked, but in a reply that came some time after no notice was taken of the question. Two months later, however, B. accidentally met his friend A   , when, in the course of conversation on other matters, A    suddenly exclaimed: "That was a rum thing you asked me about in your letter; I mean about Major C. and the books. I did lend him some books, but I don't know what became of them after his death."
An objector might urge that it is conceivable B. might once have seen some books belonging to A in Major C.'s room, and afterwards forgotten the fact, and that this latent memory had telepathically (and unconsciously to all concerned) impressed Mrs. E., but obviously this explanation will not cover other cases, some of which I will cite. For these some more elaborate hypothesis must be invented, and our ingenuity becomes severely taxed when we remember that these are only stray illustrations of a growing mass of sifted evidence pointing in the direction of survival after death. Much of this evidence has been published, but other cases are privately known to me, and each case requires new and often absurd assumptions if we attempt to explain it away.
Survival After Death
I will now cite some further illustrations of the automatic script that came through my friend Mrs. E.'s hand, and in the earlier stages came in the wonderful manner already mentioned; the remarkable point being that Mrs. E. did not know what her hand had written until the paper was turned completely round and the message read. I know of no other case where messages were written in this inverted script, though there may be such. "Mirror writing" is not uncommon, that is messages written (as postcards are sometimes written) in a script which can only be read when viewed in a mirror; this art is not so difficult to acquire as inverted writing.
The following communications are also unlike the usual type, inasmuch as they give us a glimpse,- if they are really veridical of the state of the soul immediately after death. Mrs. E. assured me that these messages were quite foreign to her thoughts, and entirely beyond her ability to compose. She had lost during the preceding winter a dearly loved brother, who was studying at an Engineering College near London. A friend of his, who had been a sufferer, had pre-deceased him, but no thought of this friend was in Mrs. E.'s mind when one evening her hand wrote:
"I want you to believe your friends live still and can think of you.... On opening the eyes of my spiritual body I found myself unaltered, no terror, only a strange feeling at first, then peace, a comforted heart, love, companionship, teaching. I am     [giving here his full name], and have written this, but your brother     [giving the name] is here and wants to speak to you."
After an interval Mrs. E. felt her hand again impelled to write, and the following message came:
"I am here [giving he, brother's name] and want to tell you about my awakening into spirit life. I was at first dimly conscious of figures moving in the room and round the bed. Then the door was closed and all was still. I then first perceived that I was not lying on the bed, but seemed to be floating in the air a little above it. I saw in the dim light the body stretched out straight and with the face covered. My first idea was that I might re-enter it, but all desire to do this soon left me the tie was broken. I stood upon the floor, and looked round the room where I had been so ill and been so helpless, and where I could now once more move without restraint. The room was not empty. Close to me was my father's father [giving the name correctly]. He had been with me all through. There were others whom I love now, even if I did not know much of them then. I passed out of the room, through the next, where my mother and     were [relatives still in this life], I tried to speak to them. My voice was plain to myself, and even loud, yet they took no notice of all I could say. I walked through the college rooms; much blackness but some light. Then I went out under the free heavens. I will write more another sitting - power too weak now. Goodnight." [His signature follows].
At another sitting, a night or two later, the same name was written, and the thread of the preceding narrative was abruptly taken without any preface:
"I saw the earth lying dark and cold under the stars in the first beginning of the wintry sunrise. It was the landscape I knew so well, and had looked at so often. Suddenly sight was born to me; my eyes became open. I saw the spiritual world dawn upon the actual, like the blossoming of a flower. For this I have no words. Nothing I could say would make any of you comprehend the wonder of that revelation, but it will be yours in time. I was drawn as if by affinity to the world which is now mine. But I am not fettered there. I am much drawn to earth, but by no unhappy chain. I am drawn to those I love to the places much endeared."
These messages are deeply interesting: some of them were written in my presence and, as I have stated, Mrs. E. in her normal waking consciousness was convinced she could not have composed them. But the subliminal self, the uprush of which Mr. Myers has suggested lies at the root of genius, has gifts far beyond the power of the normal self and it is possible, though not in my opinion probable, that these communications are only the dramatised products of Mrs. E.'s own hidden and unsuspected powers. This explanation however fails to account for the veridical messages that came through Mrs. E., giving information beyond the knowledge of any persons present; nor can it explain many of the communications that have come through other automatists, such as the other cases already cited and those which follow.
But why should we think it so extravagant to entertain the simplest explanation - that occasionally a channel opens from the unseen world to ours, and that some who have entered that world are able to make their continued existence known to us? Why some, we cannot tell. And why so paltry a manifestation? But is anything paltry that manifests life?
In the dumb agony which seizes the soul when some loved one is taken from us, in the awful sense of separation which paralyses us as we gaze upon the lifeless form, there comes the unutterable yearning for some voice, some sign from beyond; and if, in answer to our imploring cry for an assurance that our faith is not in vain, that our dear one is living still, a smile were to overspread the features of the dead, or its lips to move, or even its finger to be lifted, should we deem any action a paltry thing that assures us death has not yet ended life, and still more that death will not end all?
Though it be "Only a signal shown and a voice from out of the darkness," it is not paltry! Only the dead in spirit care not for the faintest, the rudest sign that assures us, who are "slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken," that the soul lives freed from the flesh, that the individual mind and memory remain, though the clothing of the body and brain be gone.
And it is just this natural human longing that renders a dispassionate consideration of the facts, a calm and critical weighing of the evidence, so difficult and yet so imperative. This is now being done, as the following case illustrates, with a care that grows by experience, and with an honesty that none can dispute.
Some of the most remarkable automatic scripts, - which have been discussed with critical acumen by the Research Officer of the S.P.R., - came to a lady of education and social position resident in India. This lady was not a spiritualist, and at the time had no acquaintance with the members of the Society for Psychical Research. As her family disliked the whole subject she prefers to be known under the pseudonym of "Mrs. Holland." Subsequently, on her return to England, she became personally known to and esteemed by many of the leaders and officials of the S.P.R. Her attention having been once casually drawn to the subject of automatic writing she tried the experiment and to her surprise found her hand, wrote both verse and prose without any volition on her part; the first messages were headed by the impromptu lines:
Believe in what thou canst not see,
Until the vision come to thee.
Mrs. Holland says she remains fully conscious during the writing, "but my hand moves so rapidly that I seldom know what I am writing." Her interest in the subject increased and she obtained and read Mr. Myers' monumental work Human Personality, which was published after Mr. Myers' death. Though she did not know the author, it was natural that much of her automatic script purported to be inspired by him. A careful study of the messages so inspired has compelled the belief that the spirit of Mr. Myers really did control some of these messages. Here for instance is a very characteristic communication purporting to come from Mr. Myers:
"To believe that the mere act of death enables a spirit to understand the whole mystery of death is as absurd as to imagine that the act of birth enables an infant to understand the whole mystery of life. I am still groping-surmising-conjecturing The experience is different for each one of us. . . One was here lately who could not believe he was dead; he accepted the new conditions as a certain stage in the treatment of his illness."
Then follows, not quite verbally correct, the first two lines of Mr. Myers' poem St. Paul - a poem which Mrs. Holland declares she had never read and of which she knew nothing whatever. Of course it is possible that she had somewhere seen these lines quoted, though she has no recollection of this. The automatic script is as follows:
"Yea, I am Christ's - and let the name suffice ye - E'en as for me He greatly bath sufficed.(1) If it were possible for the soul to die back into earth life again I should die from sheer yearning to reach you - to tell you all that we imagined is not half wonderful enough for the truth - that immortality, instead of being a beautiful dream, is the one, the only reality, the strong golden thread on which all the illusions of all the lives are strung. If I could only reach you - if I could only tell you - I long for power, and all that comes to me is an infinite yearning - an infinite pain. Does any of this reach you, reach anyone, or am I only wailing as the wind wails - wordless and unheeded?" - Proceedings S.P.R., Vol. XXI, P. 233.
(1) The actual lines in Mr. Myers' St. Paul are: Christ! I am Christ's! and let the name, suffice you, Ay, for me too He greatly hath sufficed."
On another occasion the Myers control wrote:
"It may be that those who die suddenly suffer no prolonged obscuration of consciousness, but for my own experience the unconsciousness was exceedingly prolonged."
And again,
"The reality is infinitely more wonderful than our most daring conjectures. Indeed, no conjecture is sufficiently daring."
The hypothesis that these messages are due to dramatic creations of Mrs. Holland's subliminal self becomes increasingly difficult to believe when we find other wholly different types of messages purporting to come from Mr. Ed. Gurney and the Hon. Roden Noel, who were also entirely unknown to Mrs. Holland. When they were on earth I knew these distinguished men personally, and was in frequent correspondence with each of them; hence from my own knowledge I can affirm that these communications are singularly characteristic of the respective and diverse temperaments of each.
But there was more than this, for not only was some very striking blank verse written, by the Roden Noel control, but mention is made of places and persons associated with Mr. Roden Noel that were unknown to Mrs. Holland. In fact the automatist did not know who was controlling her hand when it wrote:
"I was always a seeker, - until it seemed at times as if the quest was more to me than the prize, - only the attainments of my search were generally like rainbow gold, alway beyond and afar. . . I am not oppressed with the desire that animates some of us to share our knowledge or optimisms with you all before the time. The solution of the great Problem I could not give you - I am still very far away from it; the abiding knowledge of the inherent truth and beauty into which all the inevitable ugliness of existence finally resolve themselves will be yours in time."
Preceding this had come the following:
"This is for A.W., ask him what the date, May 26th, 1894, meant to him - to me - and to F.W.H. I do not think they will find it hard to recall, but, if so, let them ask Nora."
Here it is to be noted Mrs. Holland, who was in India, knew nothing of Dr. A. W. Verrall, whose name is suggested by the initials A.W., nor that Mrs. Sidgwick was called Nora (her Christian name being Eleanor) but the whole context eventually suggested to Miss Johnson (the Research Officer of the S.P.R.), to whom the script was sent, a message from Roden Noel, who was known both to Dr. Verrall, Mr. F. W. H. Myers, and Mrs. Sidgwick. Miss Johnson adds: "It was appropriate we should be told to ask Nora (Mrs. Sidgwick) if we could not find out for ourselves, since he (Roden Noel) was an intimate friend of Dr. Sidgwick." Now the date given was precisely that of the death of Roden Noel. Though Mrs. Holland thought she may have once seen some poems of Mr. Noel's, she knew nothing of him personally nor of the date of his death.
The fetish of subliminal or telepathic knowledge is here hard to invoke and becomes absurd when we find one of the earliest of Mrs. Holland's scripts, written in India and purporting to come from Mr. Myers, gives a minute and lengthy description of an elderly gentleman, which ends up as follows:
"It is like entrusting a message on which infinite importance depends to a sleeping person. Get a proof, - try for a proof if you feel this is a waste of time without. Send this to Mrs. Verrall, 5, Selwyn Gardens, Cambridge."
When this script was received by Miss Johnson she at once recognized the description as resembling Dr. Verrall, and Mrs. Verrall's address given was perfectly correct. Further, when the script was shown to Mrs. Verrall she said the whole description was remarkably good and characteristic of her husband, who was then living. Mrs. Verrall, who now alas! has also passed into the unseen, states that no portrait or description of her husband had ever been published, nor was her address given in "Human Personality," which, as stated, Mrs. Holland had read. On being questioned Mrs. Holland declared she had never seen, and had no conception of Mrs. Verrall's address. Of the good faith of Mrs. Holland there is no doubt whatever, and she herself was most anxious to find out whether any of her automatic writing came from her sub-conscious memory.
Other very remarkable cases of supernormal knowledge in Mrs. Holland's script are described in Miss Johnson's long memoir in the Proceedings of the S.P.R., one in particular is worth noting. Mrs. Holland's hand wrote, on January 17th, 1904, - purporting to be under the control of Mr. Myers:
"The sealed envelope is not to be opened yet. I am unable to make your hand form Greek characters and so I cannot give the text as I wish - only the reference - i Cor. xvi., 13 ['Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong'], Oh I am feeble with eagerness. How can I best be identified! It means so much apart from the mere personal love and longing. Edmund's [Mr. Ed. Gurney] help is not here with me just now. I am trying alone amid unspeakable difficulties."
Now Mrs. Sidgwick had asked Mrs. Verrall, who was also a remarkable automatist, as a test to give a favourite text of her husband's and a fairly satisfactory answer was obtained; of this Mrs. Holland knew absolutely nothing, but on the very same day, Jan. 17th, 1904, that Mrs. Verrall's script in Cambridge made references to a sealed letter and to a text, Mrs. Holland's hand in India automatically wrote the message just quoted. The text i Cor. A, 13, was not the one asked for by Mrs. Sidgwick, but it is the one inscribed in Greek over the gateway of Selwyn College, Cambridge, which Mr. Myers constantly passed, and on which, owing to a slight verbal error in the Greek inscription, Mr. Myers had more than once remarked to Mrs. Verrall. Mrs. Holland had never been in Cambridge, had no connection with the University, and knew absolutely nothing of the Greek inscription on the gateway of Selwyn College.
The text incident may be an example of what has been already referred to as "cross-correspondence," that is two widely separated automatists, giving somewhat similar replies, or giving a sentence the meaning of which is unintelligible until it is supplemented by a further communication through another automist, who has no knowledge of the other fragmentary message. All this looks as if a single unseen personality controlled the two automatists, in order to avoid any explanation by telepathy or the subliminal self. The interesting point being, as I have pointed out already, that only since the death of Mr. Myers and Dr. Hodgson, - who were familiar with this favourite method of explaining away the significance of these messages, - have numerous cases of cross-correspondence arisen among independent and widely separated automatists.
The article above was taken from Barrett's "On the Threshold of the Unseen." Published by Kegan Paul in 1918.

Sir William Barrett-Human Personality: The Subliminal Self

- Sir William Barrett FRS -
Human Personality: The Subliminal Self

"What a piece of work is a man! how noble in reason! how infinite in faculty . . . in apprehension how like a god!" Hamlet II., 2.
          OUR CONSCIOUSNESS is the fundamental fact, the most real thing, of which we are aware, and although it consists of a succession of states of mind, no two of which are exactly alike, it is nevertheless combined into a continuous personal identity which we call "ourself." Even when there are interruptions of our self-consciousness, as in sleep, we recognise the self that wakes up in the morning as the same self that went to sleep overnight. So also throughout our life we are conscious of the same identity, the same self, albeit the whole material of body, brain and sensory organs has been repeatedly swept away and renewed.
Hence our personality is not a mere bundle of loose sensations: no succession of states of mind, no series of thoughts or feelings can fuse themselves into a single resultant consciousness, with a knowledge and memory of all the other states.
Everyone is now familiar with the rapid succession of instantaneous photographs seen in the cinematograph, where, for example, a series of pictures of a man running swiftly gives us the appearance of a single moving figure. But the photographs remain distinct; the combination is effected by something external to the pictures, our own perception. And so there must be something lying in the background of our consciousness which combines the series of impressions made upon us, or the states of feeling within us; this unifying power we may call our Ego or soul.
Even if the stream of consciousness be, as some believe, an epi-phenomenon, a series of shadows cast by the motion of brain processes, or if consciousness be an attribute of the molecules of organic matter, matter preceding mind, there must be some transcendental and permanent nexus, a soul, which unites successive sensations and perceptions into a coherent self-conscious personality; something which gives a meaning to and holds together the stream of manifold ideas.
It is a remarkable fact that a multitude of impressions are constantly being made upon us, to which this Ego appears to pay no heed. Either because they are not strong enough to pierce our consciousness - for a certain intensity must be reached before an impression can stir our Ego, - a relatively feeble stimulus, such as the light of the stars in daytime, cannot cross the threshold of our consciousness and gain an entrance to our mind - or because among the crowd of strong impressions which do enter, the Ego exercises a selective power. We direct our attention upon a few, chiefly because they interest us; these we are conscious of and can afterwards recall by an effort of memory. The will, moved in the first instance by desire - that is, by what interests us, our ruling love - determines the attention we give to particular impressions; thus we become conscious of, or alive to, thoughts or sensations excited by certain impressions, and let the rest go by unheeded. Our choice thus determines our experience, what we include in our material and mental possessions, our conscious "me"; the "me" being theknown, the "I" the knowing self: all else we regard as the "not me."
Furthermore, this process of selection, if we do it regularly, soon becomes habitual or automatic; the effort of attention is no longer required, and the will is set free for some other purpose; for instance, we walk, or we combine the letters in reading instinctively without being conscious of the steps in the process.(1) And so with the world within ourselves, we do not perceive the regular and continuous beating of the heart, hence the processes of respiration, circulation, and nutrition go on unconsciously in a healthy body. And to some extent this is also true of the nutrition of the mind, for the character is built up, in part, by the stream of unconscious impressions made upon us.
(1) Education is, in great part, the training to do automatically and unconsciously what would otherwise have to be done with conscious effort. Genius is a still more striking example of the power of unconscious acts. And what is done by the unconscious self is more easily and better done than by the conscious self; hence it would seem as if the summit of attainment would lead to the absence of any conscious effort at all. This, indeed, is the logical outcome of all Naturalistic hypotheses of human life. In a striking passage in the second chapter of "Foundations of Belief," the Right Hon. A. J. Balfour has dealt with this very question.
Again, consciousness is not aroused by a continuous succession of uniform impressions. We should be utterly unconscious of warmth, however hot things might be, if everything were at one uniform temperature, and we should be equally unconscious of light if the universe and all material objects were illuminated with a continuous and uniform brightness. It is differences of state that we perceive, or the ratio of the strength of one sensation to another. The actual span of our consciousness is, therefore, very narrow. As the late Professor W. James, of Harvard, remarks in his valuable text-book on Psychology:
"One of the most extraordinary facts of our life is that, although we are besieged at every moment by impressions from our whole sensory surface, we notice so very small a part of them. The sum total of our impressions never enters into our experience, consciously so called, which runs through this sum total like a tiny rill through a broad flowery mead. Yet the physical impressions which do not count are there as much as those which do. Why they fail to pierce the mind is a mystery, and not explained when we invokedie Enge des Bewusstseins, "the narrowness of consciousness," as its ground."
All these impressions, whether we are conscious of them or not, leave some mark behind; they weave a visible or invisible thread into the fabric of our life; like every trivial act we perform, they make a perceptible or an imperceptible indent on our personality. We know that this is the case, that impressions not perceived when they were made have, nevertheless, effected a lodgment within us, for, although we cannot recall them at pleasure, they often emerge from their latent state in a fragmentary and disconnected manner. This is the case when the attention is withdrawn from things around us in reverie or "crystal gazing," or often in illness or dream, and still more in somnambulism or in hypnotic trance, and in many cases of automatic writing, or other so-called Spiritualistic phenomena.
Our Ego or soul is therefore not merely co-extensive with those things of which we are or have been conscious: the range of our personality must be extended to include something more than our normal self-consciousness. Not only are there, as it were, horizontal strata in our personality, from the material or lowest "me" up to the spiritual or highest "me," but there is also a vertical division which runs through all. On one side of this vertical plane of cleavage lie all those impressions which have penetrated our consciousness, all those states of thought and feeling which in our waking life memory can restore; on the other side lie the vastly greater number of impressions made upon us of which we were unconscious at the time, or, being conscious, have completely forgotten. One part of our Ego is, therefore, illuminated by consciousness, and another part lies in the dark shadow of unconsciousness.
Thus the outer or conscious self, as said, is not our entire self, any more than the visible or earth-turned face of the moon is the whole moon. Mr. Frederic Myers has well compared our normal self-consciousness to the visible spectrum of sunlight; beyond it on either side is a wide tract, imperceptible to the eye, yet crowded with radiation. Each pencil of sunlight embraces these invisible, as well as the visible, rays, and so each human personality embraces the unconscious as well as the conscious self. And just as experimental physics has within the present century revealed the existence of ultra-violet and infra-red portions of the spectrum, and shown us how we may, in art, render these obscure rays visible, so with the growth of experimental psychology we are beginning to discover the complex nature of our personality, and how that part of our Ego which is below the threshold of consciousness may be led to emerge from its obscurity. As the bright light of day quenches the feebler light of the stars, so the vivid stream of consciousness in our waking life must usually be withdrawn or enfeebled before the dim record of unheeded past impressions, or the telepathic impact of an extraneous mind, becomes apparent.
Hence, as we have already pointed out, a state of passivity is favourable to the emergence of the subliminal consciousness, and this is one of the characteristics of mediumship. It is true that in many cases of automatic writing by planchette or otherwise, long coherent messages are given whilst the thoughts of the medium are engaged on other matters, but the effort of attention is relaxed, and if it be directed to the writing, or any conscious effort made to assist it, the spell is broken, and the inner self sinks again into obscurity.(1) Furthermore, and singularly enough, this secondary or subliminal self never identifies itself with the ordinary waking self. Another person seems to have taken control of the hand or voice of the medium, a distinct intelligence that has its own past history, but with little, if any, knowledge of the past of the other self. The foreign nature of the "control" naturally suggests the agency of an external intelligence, a spirit or demon, "possessing" the medium, or of another personality that alternates with the normal soul.
(1) A similar sensitiveness to conscious attention is seen in experiments in thought-transference, and even in the pseudo thought reading of the "willing game"; and ignorance of this fact is what usually leads to failure. The intrusion of the will, of conscious effort, is therefore prejudicial in all such experiments. The well meaning endeavours of those who tell the percipient "to try earnestly" to guess the thing thought of, defeat the object in view. If the percipient does try, his will comes in and prevents the emergence of the hidden and responsive part of his personality. In fact, "psychical research" in general deals with the varied manifestations and operations of the unconscious part of our personality.
The well-known facts of "double consciousness" illustrate the latter;(1) a remarkable case of this kind I was personally acquainted with and investigated some years ago. The subject, since dead, was the son of a London clergyman, and the duration of the abnormal state became so extended that it was difficult to call it by that name, but however many days had elapsed since the transition from one state to the other, - a brief period of insensibility separating the two, - on the return to the previous state, the old conversation was resumed precisely at the point where it was interrupted; in the abnormal state considerable musical knowledge was possessed, of which the subject appeared to be quite ignorant in the other, state; the life, the interests, the conversation were quite distinct; even the parentage and family were regarded as different in the two states.(2) These cases of alternating personality resemble, some of the delusions of the insane, and from time immemorial have led to the belief that the rightful owner of the body has been temporarily or permanently displaced, and another soul has taken "possession," like a cuckoo, of a nest that is not its own.
(1) A possible, though only partial, explanation of dual consciousness is the separate action of the two lobes of the brain caused by an alternating inhibition of the functions of each lobe.
(2) This case is given in full in "Proceedings S. P. R.," Vol. IV, pp. 230-232.
The whole subject of the dissociation of personality has in recent years received careful study by eminent psychologists, and the reader will find an admirable discussion of this question in Chapter 2 of Mr. F. W. H. Myers' great work "Human Personality."
Multiple, as well as secondary, personalities, sometimes are exhibited by the same subject. Such, for example, are the well known cases of Leonie, investigated by Professor P. Janet; Louis Vive; Sally Beauchamp, investigated by Dr. Morton Prince, of Boston, U.S.A. and other instances known to psychologists.
More recently a remarkable case of multiple personality in an American girl named Doris Fischer has received minute and continuous study by Dr. Walter Prince. His report fills two bulky volumes of the Proceedings of the American S.P.R., to which Dr. Hyslop has contributed a lengthy and valuable addition.
The classical case of Miss Beauchamp, fully described in Dr. Morton Prince's work "The Dissociation of a Personality"(1) is briefly as follows:
(1) Also in "Proceedings S P R" Vol. XV, and "Human Personality," Vol. I., P. 360 et seq.. Mr. Norman Pearson in his recent able and suggestive work, "The Soul and its Story," (to which I am glad to draw attention), also gives an abstract of this case. But the most important discussion of the whole subject is by Dr. W. McDougall, F.R.S., in "Proceedings S.P.R.," Vol. XIX.
A mental shock which Miss Beauchamp received at College in 1893 produced the first disintegration of consciousness, she became modified into what Dr. Prince terms BI. This personality alternated with another B2, at first induced by hypnotic treatment. In course of time a new and wholly different personality appeared B3, which called itself "Sally."
Whilst BI was cultivated, quiet and deeply religious, B3 was the reverse and full of mischief. Later on another personality appeared B4, proud, selfish and dignified. BI and B4 knew nothing of the others, B2 knew only BI, but B3 (Sally) knew all the others, was always awake and alert to annoy Miss Beauchamp, BI.
Dr. Morton Prince calls BI the Saint, B4 the Woman, and B3 the Devil. For Sally made BI tell lies, sent her things she detested, and constantly mortified and distressed the truthful and good BI. No wonder Miss Beauchamp wrote, "Oh, Dr. Prince save me from myself, from whatever it is that is absolutely merciless; I can bear anything but not this mocking devil."
Eventually by hypnotic suggestion, and with the help of Sally, all except B3, became merged into what was the original Miss Beauchamp. Sally, B3, now tended to sink out of sight, going back, as she said, "to where I came from." Where was that? According to Dr. Prince it was the subliminal self of Miss Beauchamp for a time developed into an independent personality, her other personalities being cleavages from the primary conscious self.
But I agree with Dr. McDougall that Dr. Prince's explanation of Sally is unsatisfactory. It is using an hypothesis, the subliminal self, not even accepted by all psychologists, as a mere cloak for our ignorance. Dr. McDougall inclines to the view that Sally was a distinct psychic being controlling the body of Miss Beauchamp. The case of Doris Fischer, which in many respects resembles the foregoing, lends support to this view, that occasionally a human body may be the seat of a real invasion from the spirit world, a case of obsession. If we admit the spirit hypothesis there is nothing improbable in this view. In Doris, the invading spirit, if such it were, assisted, like Sally, in the cure and ultimate restoration of the subject to a normal condition, after many years of suffering and periodical alternations of personality. One of the most extraordinary cases of changed personality is the following.
Lurancy Vennum was an American girl who, at the age of 14, became controlled apparently by the spirit of Mary Roff, a neighbour's daughter, who had died at the age of 19, when Lurancy was only 15 months old. The two families lived far apart, except for a short time, and had only the slightest acquaintance with each other. Nevertheless Lurancy, in her new personality, called the Roffs' her parents, knew intimate details of their family life, recognised and called by name the relatives and friends of the Roffs, knew trivial incidents in the life of Mary Roff, and for four months really seemed to be a reincarnation of Mary Roff.
This brief summary gives an inadequate idea of the whole story,(1) which rests upon excellent testimony. Dr. Hodgson, who personally investigated this case, was of opinion that Lurancy was really controlled by the spirit of the deceased Mary Roff.
(1) Given in Dr. Stevens' brochure "The Watseka Wonder," published at Rochester, U.S.A., and also in "Human Personality," Vol. I., P. 360 et seq.
Probably few psychologists today would accept this conclusion, but the vital importance of an unbiased discussion of cases of multiple personality, such as Sally Beauchamp, has been pointed out by Dr. W. McDougall, F.R.S. We cannot of course lightly set aside the weight of evidence which shows the apparent dependence of memory and therefore of personality, on the persistence of the brain and the physical changes produced in it by our experience. Nevertheless, as Dr. W. McDougall remarks:
"If we accept Dr. Prince's description of Sally Beauchamp we can only account for her by adopting the view that the normal personality consists of body and soul in interaction, the soul being not dependant upon the brain, or other physical basis, for its memory, but having the faculty of retaining and remembering among its other faculties. . . . This conclusion would give very strong support to the spiritistic explanation of such cases as Mrs. Piper, and would go far to justify the belief in the survival of human personality after the death of the body."(1)
(1) "Proc. S. P. R.," Vol. xix, P. 430.