C. J. Ducasse -
A Critical Examination of the Belief in a Life After Death
Survival and Paranormal Occurrences
IN CHAPTER II, we examined the chief of the arguments alleged to prove the reality of a life after death, and we found that, because of one or another defect, each failed to prove it or even to establish that it is probably a fact. On the other hand, we surveyed in Chapter Ill both the current empirical and the theoretical arguments that purport to show that survival of consciousness after death is impossible; and, after clarifying in Part II the key concepts employed in those arguments, we found in Part III that the arguments quite fail to prove the alleged impossibility. The positive upshot, then of Parts I, II, and III is that persistence of consciousness in some form after death is both theoretically and empirically possible: theoretically possible since analysis of the supposition of such persistence finds no contradiction implicit in it; and empirically possible since that supposition is not inconsistent with any definitely known empirical facts.
The task before us is now to inquire whether there are any empirical facts at all that would establish the reality of survival or, failing this, would show it to be more probable than not.
1. Where empirical evidence of survival might be found
Obviously, neither any commonly known facts nor any of the recondite facts of the natural sciences provide evidence of survival; for otherwise survival would hardly be in doubt. Hence, if any empirical evidence at all is to be found that consciousness continues after death, that evidence must be sought among paradoxical occurrences of the kinds termed "supernatural" by naive persons, but to-day designated simply as "paranormal" by persons too critical to assume tacitly as do the former that Nature can comprise only what is known and understood as of now.
The term "paranormal" has - in addition to its freedom from the religious or superstitious connotations of "supernatural" - the virtue of being free also from the special assumptions that are packed into such terms as "parapsychological," "paraphysical," or "parabiological." For "paranormal" means only that the kinds of occurrences so labelled are contrary to what is "normal," i.e., contrary to what "the common sense of the epoch" regards as possible. As Dr. W. F. G. Swarm has pointed out, each theory - whether of the nature of the world or of man - that meets with enough success in accounting for the facts it concerns to gain wide acceptance, "grows around itself an aura of common sense, the common sense of its epoch." But knowledge and understanding increase as a result of man's taking novel or neglected facts into account, and in time new or improved theories supersede the old. "And so the center of gravity of common sense changes with the epoch, and the nonsense of the past becomes the common sense of the future."(1)
(1) Nature and the Mind of Man, Lecture, delivered at the Stated Meeting of the Franklin Institute, Wednesday February 15, 1956. Pub. in Jl. of the Franklin Institute, Vol. 261 No. 6. June, 1956. The passages quoted above are from p. 593.
Since occurrences ostensibly paranormal thus necessarily constitute the sort of evidence we shall have to examine in our presentation of the case for the reality of survival, we need first to sharpen our concept of paranormality by considering in more detail the nature of the criterion we tacitly employ when we class a given occurrence as paranormal. The most painstaking attempts to formulate it the present writer knows are those of Prof. J. B. Rhine and of Prof. C. D. Broad. Let us examine each in turn.
2. Critique of Rhine's account of what marks an event as paranormal
Paranormal occurrences have also been designated "metapsychical," "parapsychological," or simply "psi" phenomena. Prof. Rhine ordinarily employs one or the other of the last two of these terms. According to him, what marks certain phenomena as parapsychological is their non-physical character: they "defy physical explanation and require a psychological one. They always happen to people (or animals) or involve some associated or at least suspected personal agency or experience; ... they definitely appear to challenge explanation by physical principles."(2)
(2) New World of the Mind. Wm. Sloane Associates, N. Y. 1953, p. 150.
The required psychological explanation, however, is not supplied by Rhine, who does not even formally supply criteria of what he means by "physical" or by "psychological." Moreover, the character of being incapable of explanation in physical terms, or more exactly, in terms of the "the physics of today(3) is not peculiar to parapsychological phenomena for, as made clear in our chapter VIII, this same inexplicability in purely physical terms attaches also to normal states of consciousness, i.e., to the contents of introspection: however dependent on physical processes in the brain these may be, they are not identically those physical processes themselves. Indeed, even the purposiveness which seems to characterize all life processes down to those of unicellular organisms is still to be accounted for adequately in terms purely of physics, notwithstanding the attempts to do so made by Schroedinger and others .4 And of course, that there is in the personality of man "a world of distinctively mental reality"(5) is no new discovery made for us by parapsychology. For, as C. W. K. Mundle pointedly noted in his review of New World of the Mind, "surely one's best evidence for [the existence of a "world of the mind"] is still the introspective awareness one has of what goes on in one's own mind."(6)
That telepathy and clairvoyance are non-physical phenomena is shown, Rhine contends, by the fact that "they defy any application of the inverse square law of decline of effect with distance."
(3) Parapsychology, Frontier Science of the Mind, pub. Charles C Thomas, Springfield, Ill. 1957, p. 7.
(4) E. Schroedinger: What is Life? 1946. Concerning the purposive character of biological processes, see for instance E. W. Sinnott: Cell and Psyche, the Biology of Purpose, 1950; H. S. Jennings: Some Implications of Emergent Evolution, in Science Jan. 14,1927; E. Rignano: The Concept of Purpose in Biology. Mind, Vol. XL, no. 159 July 1931; and The Nature of Life, 1930.
(5) Rhine, New World of the Mind, p. IX.
(6) Jl. of the Am. Soc. for Psychical Research, Vol. XLVIII:165, No. 4. October, 1954.
The trouble with this contention, however, is that telepathy and clairvoyance have not been shown to be independent of distance. What has been shown is only that distances of a few hundred or even a few thousand miles do not affect the excess of correct guesses over chance expectation, which has characterized the results of telepathy and clairvoyance experiments. For these experiments are not quantitative in the sense this term ordinarily has in science, namely, that the cause and the effect are each measured, and that a certain magnitude of the effect regularly corresponds to a certain magnitude of the cause. The magnitude of the "sender's" telepathic action is not measured, nor is the magnitude of the "receiver's" impression. But it is the magnitude of his impression - not the degree of correctness of the information received - which, if the energy involved is physical, would be expected to decrease according to the inverse square law when the distance increases. That is, the receiver's impression would be of a telepathic "shout" when the distance is short, and of a telepathic "whisper" when the distance is long. And the question whether this is or is not actually the case is not decided at all by the fact that the degree of correctness of the telepathic information was the same at great as at small distances: this fact is irrelevant because the information conveyed in a whisper can be exactly the same information as that conveyed in a shout.
Nor, again, have the "sending" and the "receiving" been timed with the extreme precision which would be necessary to vindicate the supposition that no more time is taken by telepathy over relatively long distances than over short; for the speed of telepathy might happen to be of the same order of magnitude as the speed of light - which is a purely physical phenomenon - and, in order to prove that the speed of light is finite, timings vastly more precise than any ever made of telepathy were necessary.
What the "quantitative" experiments with telepathy and clairvoyance have quantified is merely the probability that there is a causal connection between the fact to be guessed and the guess made of it. To have shown that the magnitude of this probability was significantly higher than chance is, of course, an epoch-making achievement; but it does not constitute quantification of the cause or the effect, and hence does not show that telepathy and clairvoyance are independent of distance even over the few thousand miles available on the surface of the earth for experimentation.
The criticisms made in what precedes of Rhine's attempt to state what marks an event as parapsychological do not, of course, in any way reflect on the value or the originality of his experimental work. The importance of that work and of the similar work it has inspired others to do is outstanding, for it has definitely shown, by methods similar to those used in certain of the other fields of scientific research, that telepathy, clairvoyance, and precognition really occur and do not depend on the use of the known sense organs.
Nor, on the other hand, were those criticisms intended as an argument that the processes at work in paranormal phenomena are somehow ultimately physical; for what is important in those phenomena is that their occurrence points to the existence of forces and of facts which, whether or not themselves somehow physical, are anyway novel to contemporary science and therefore compel it to revise its conception of the limits of the really possible.
Those criticisms were intended only to make evident on the one hand that Rhine has not proved that the phenomena in view are non-physical; and on the other that some positive criterion of non-physicality would be required if the "parapsychological" character of an occurrence were to be applicably defined as consisting in the "non-physicality" of the occurrence. For it is one thing to say of certain occurrences that we do not know them to be physical; and it is quite another thing to say that they are non-physical. The burden of proof squarely rests on the person who, as Rhine does, asserts the latter. He does not, however, supply the proof, but leaves us with only the fact that the phenomena in view are ones for which we have at present neither a physical nor a psychological explanation. As we pointed out, however, this is true also of some occurrences not termed paranormal, and therefore does not mark off the former from the latter.
The importance Rhine attaches to the "non-physicality" he claims for paranormal phenomena appears to derive from the philosophical implications as regards freedom of the will, moral responsibility, and the validity of human values, which he believes such non-physicality would have - but which in fact it would not have at all.(7)
(7) See on this point, in Jl. of Philosophy Vol. LI, No. 25, December 9, 1954, an article by Rhine on The Science of Nonphysical Nature, especially p. 809; and the present writer's comments upon it entitled The Philosophical Importance of 'Psychic Phenomena', especially pp. 816-17. Rhine's conception of "non-physicality" is devastatingly criticized by the physicist, R. A. McConnell, in his review of Rhine and Pratt's recent book, Parapsychology, Frontier Science of the Mind, in Jl. of the Amer. Soc. for Psychical Research, Vol. LII:117-20, July, 1958, No. 3.
3. Broad's analytical account of the marks of paranormality
The clearest, most adequate and most useful analysis of the notion of paranormality to be found in the literature of the subject is probably that formulated by C. D. Broad in an essay entitled "The relevance of psychical research to philosophy."(8) He writes that "there are certain limiting principles which we unhesitatingly take for granted as the framework within which all our practical activities and our scientific theories are confined. Some of these seem to be self evident. Others are so overwhelmingly supported by all the empirical facts which fall within the range of ordinary experience and the scientific elaborations of it ... that it hardly enters our heads to question them. Let us call these Basic Limiting Principles."(9)
(8) It originally appeared in the journal, Philosophy, and is reprinted in Prof. Broad's book, Religion, Philosophy and Psychical Research, Harcourt, Brace and Co., New York 1953, pp. 7-26.
(9) Op. cit. p. 7.
A "paranormal" event would then be one whose occurrence violates one or more of those principles and therefore proves that, although they have very wide validity, nevertheless it is not as commonly assumed strictly unlimited.
Broad formulates nine of those principles but makes no claim that the list is exhaustive. They fall into four groups. Those of the first group relate to Causation in general; those of the second, to the action of mind on matter; those of the third to the dependence of mind on brain; and those of the fourth to the ways of acquiring knowledge. The following sketchy account of them will be adequate for our present purpose of making clear the distinction between normality, which they define, and paranormality, which consists of exceptions to one or another of them.
(I) An event cannot have effects before it has itself occurred. (Hence "precognition," which would be causation, by an as yet future event, of a present perception of it, would contravene this principle and would therefore be paranormal.)
Then come two other principles regarding causation, which in substance are that causation at a distance in space or in time is impossible without some intermediary chain of causes and effects.
(II) Next is the principle that it is impossible for an event in a person's mind to cause directly any material event other than one in his own brain. (This would preclude psychokinesis or telekinesis, e.g., the influencing of the fall of dice by mere volition; and occurrence of it would therefore be paranormal.)
(III) Then comes the principle that some event in a person's living brain is a necessary condition of any event in his mind. (Continuation of consciousness after the body's death, which this principle would preclude, would therefore be paranormal.)
(IV) Lastly, four principles concerning the acquisition of knowledge: (a) that physical events or things can be perceived only by means of sensations caused by them in a percipient's mind. (Clairvoyance, i.e., extrasensory perception of physical events or things, would be ruled out by this principle; and occurrence of it would therefore be paranormal.)
(b) That it is impossible for a person A to know what experiences another person B is having or has had, except by perceiving and interpreting sensory signs of them made by B then or earlier. (Telepathy, which would be extrasensory cognition of another person's experiences, would conflict with this principle, and would therefore be paranormal.)
(c) That it is impossible for a person to know the future, except by inference from data and rules of inference relevant to them, known to him personally or through testimony; or by non-inferential expectations resulting from associations formed in the past and presently stimulated. (Precognition, which would violate this principle, would then be paranormal.)
(d) That a person can know the past only from memory, or from testimony as to memories, or from records of perceptions or of memories, or by inference from present data and relevant rules of sequence. (A violation of this principle would constitute "retrocognition," which would therefore be paranormal.)
4. The chief kinds of ostensibly paranormal occurrences
Some kinds of paranormal occurrences have no obvious bearing on the question of survival after death; yet almost any of them can have, indirectly if not directly. Hence brief description of the chief kinds of which cases have at times been reported is appropriate at this point.
In many of them some person, referred to variously as a "psychic", "sensitive," "automatist," or "medium," apparently plays some role. The term "medium" was originally used to mean that the person so described functioned as an intermediary through whom communication takes place between the deceased and the living. The term, however, and those other terms too, will here be employed in the broader sense usual to-day, of a person in whose presence paranormal phenomena occur at times, and on whose presence their occurrence is somehow dependent.
Paranormal occurrences are commonly divided into two classes - the physical and the mental; and within each, two subclasses may be distinguished. As will appear, however, the four resulting sub-classes are not as sharply separate as could be wished, and the placing of a given paranormal occurrence in one rather than in another of them is sometimes rather arbitrary. Also, some phenomena have both physical and mental features. Nevertheless, the following classification is convenient.
(1) The first of its four classes is that of occurrences that are physical and in addition extrasomatic; that is, external to the bodies of all the persons present. Examples would be paranormal raps on tables, walls, or other objects; motions of objects without their being touched, or moved by any other normal cause; paranormal sharp decreases of temperature in some part of a room; materialization apparently out of nothing, or dematerialization, of flowers, of hands or other parts of human bodies, or of other objects. Apparitions of the dead or the living would come under this heading if perception of them is due to a somehow physical stimulus. Usually, however, they are more plausibly classed as hallucinations and therefore as mental.
(2) The second category is that of physical phenomena that are somatic in the sense of taking place in or occurring to the body of the medium or of some other person present. Examples would be the levitation of the body - that is, the rising of it in the air and floating or moving there unsupported; or again, temporary paranormal immunity of parts of the body to fire; or paranormally sudden healing of wounds or diseases; or extrusion from the body of the entranced medium of a mysterious substance which has been termed ectoplasm, which varies in consistency, and which is capable of taking on various shapes and of exerting or conveying force.
Paranormal occurrences classed as mental, on the other hand, consist in a person's acquisition of information somehow otherwise than, as normally, through the employment of his sense organs. Here again, we may distinguish two sub-classes.
(3) One comprises paranormal mental experiences of the kinds termed extrasensory perceptions, whether occurring spontaneously or under laboratory conditions. Examples would be Precognition, that is, not discursive inference but detailed and correct virtual perception, perhaps in a dream or in a waking hallucination, of events that have not yet occurred; or the guessing, correctly to an extent significantly above chance in a large number of trials, of the order the cards will have in a pack after it will have been shuffled. Also, Retrocognition, which is quasi perception similarly detailed and correct of past events one has never perceived or perhaps even known anything of. Again Telepathy, that is, communication between minds independently of the channels of sense and notwithstanding distance and intervening material obstacles; Clairvoyance, that is, virtual perception of objective events or things that are not at the time accessible to the organs of sense. A special case of this would be Object-reading (sometimes inappropriately called Psychometry) namely, correct virtual perception of facts and events in the life of a person with whom a given object has been closely associated, but who, or whose identity, is unknown to the percipient.
Again, hallucinations, whether waking or oneiric, that are veridical in the sense that their content includes, or their occurrence correctly signifies, particular facts not otherwise known to the percipient. Apparitions of the dead or of the living would often be instances of this; also what are termed heautoscopic hallucinations (or "out-of-the-body," or "projection," experiences,) namely, experiences in which a person observes his own body and its surroundings from a point in space external to it, as we all do the bodies of other persons.
(4) Lastly, there are the communications that come through the automatic speech or writing of a medium; or according to some agreed code, through paranormal raps or paranormal motions of an object in the presence of a medium; and that convey information that turns out to be veridical but was not obtained by the medium in any of the normal ways. The communications, usually but not always, purport to emanate from the surviving spirits of persons who have died, who claim to be temporarily occupying or indirectly using the body of the medium, or to be causing the raps or motions of objects that answer questions and spell sentences according to a code.
Another classification of ostensibly paranormal occurrences - which cuts across that just presented - divides them into the spontaneous, the experimental, and the mediumistic ones. Evidently, the class of mediumistic occurrences may overlap to some extent the other two of these.
The existing evidence that phenomena occur that are paranormal in the sense defined is much stronger for some of the kinds mentioned than for some of the others. It is strongest and practically conclusive in the case of extrasensory perception - especially of precognition, clairvoyance, and telepathy since, for the testing of these, certain experimental methods, and statistical procedures for the treatment of the results obtained by those methods, have been devised and employed; and in this way demonstration of the reality of these paranormal perceptions has to some extent been made repeatable.
5. Questions relevant to reports of paranormal occurrences
If one's interest in reports of ostensibly paranormal occurrences or in observations of them one may personally have made is, as in these pages, the scientific and philosophical rather than the religious or sentimental, then certain questions present themselves which it is important to distinguish and to keep in mind.
They fall into four groups according as they concern (a) the genuineness or spuriousness of a given ostensibly paranormal occurrence; or (b) the testimony available for the occurrence of a putative instance of a paranormal kind of phenomenon; or (c) the observation made by the witness of the particular occurrence concerned; or (d) what the occurrence, if genuinely paranormal and if correctly observed and reported, signifies.
Let us examine each of these more particularly.
(a) That a given apparently paranormal occurrence is genuinely so means that the manner of its production really constitutes an exception to some one of the "basic limiting principles" stated by Broad. On the other hand, that it is spurious means that the manner of its production is really normal, or perhaps merely abnormal in the sense of unusual; but is not paranormal, i.e., does not, but only seems to, violate one of those limiting principles.
If it is spurious, it may be so because of deliberate fraud on the part of the purported medium or of some other person; or because of unconscious fraud by a medium or by someone else present. Unconscious fraud in the case of a physical phenomenon could mean for example, that the medium, in a trance state akin to somnambulism, is using his hands or some other normal means of moving objects without realizing that, for the purposes of the occasion, this is illegitimate though it is quite natural from the standpoint of the dreamed situation that constitutes the content of his consciousness at the moment.
Deliberate fraud in the matter of communications allegedly from spirits would mean that, in so far as the content of the communication corresponds to true facts relating to the deceased and peculiar enough to identify him, those facts had previously been ascertained in some normal manner by the supposed medium.
(b) Concerning now the reports that are made of particular supposedly paranormal occurrences, the questions to be answered are those relevant to the validity and the value of testimony in general. They are (1) whether the witness is truthful, i.e., not deliberately mendacious; (2) whether he is objective, i.e., impartial not biased by wishful belief in the occurrence or non-occurrence of phenomena of the kind he testifies he perceived or failed to perceive; (3) whether the report is precise, detailed, and full, rather than vague, superficial, or inclusive only of the more striking features of what occurred or of the conditions under which it was observed; and (4) whether the report is, or is based on, a record made at the time the occurrence was being witnessed; or if not, made then how soon after; or on no record but only on what is remembered at the time the report is written.
(c) As regards the observer as such, rather than as reporter, the main question would be whether he has, and used, the possibly special critical powers necessary for competence to perceive correctly what occurred, under the conditions that existed at the time. Such critical powers would include familiarity with the psychology of hypnosis and of hallucinations; also, familiarity with the devices or accessories employed in conjuring tricks; and, more generally, with the psychology of illusions of perception. The latter has to do with the practical difficulty under some circumstances of distinguishing, in what one believes oneself to be perceiving, between what is strictly being observed and what is automatically and unconsciously being added to it - i.e., supplied by one's past experience of what did occur in various past cases to which the present one is similar in obvious but perhaps unessential respects. The performances of illusionists make one perceive things that are really not occurring; and thus bring acutely home the extent of what, in perception, is supplied by interpretation based on habit and on the expectations it generates, as distinguished from what is strictly and literally observed. This additive activity, however, occurs not only when one witnesses conjuring tricks, but constantly. But, in most though not in all ordinary instances of it, what it supplies is correct instead erroneous.
It should be mentioned in this general connection that experimenting parapsychologists, and the research officers or research committees of the societies for psychical research, are in general familiar with and fairly expert at guarding against the various sources of possible error that were considered in what precedes. The purported paranormal phenomena brought to their attention are investigated usually with care and competence. Hence although the accounts of them published in the proceedings and journals of those societies are not necessarily beyond question; nevertheless they cannot as a rule be just shrugged off as probably naive. To do so is what would be naive.
(d) Finally comes the question as to what a given occurrence, if genuinely paranormal and correctly observed and reported, signifies; i.e., what the true explanation of it is. For example, in the case of precognition, what does it signify as to the relation between causality and time. Or, in that of "out-of-the-body" experiences, do they signify that man's mind is detachable from and capable of existing and of functioning independently of his body. Again, in the case of telekinesis, of levitation, or of so-called "poltergeist" phenomena, is the occurrence due to paranormal psychokinetic action by excarnate "spirits" whether human or other; or to such action by some dissociated part of the medium's personality. Or, in the case of communications purportedly from spirits of the dead, is what they really signify only that the medium has paranormal capacities of telepathy, clairvoyance, or retrocognition which - rather than communication from the deceased - supply him with the recondite correct information the communications contain. Or, on the other hand, do these really emanate from some part of the personality of the deceased that has survived the death of his body; and if so what specific part, and in just what sense can it be said to be still "living."
Paranormal Occurrences, Science and Scientists
IN THE next two chapters, some well-attested concrete examples of the kinds of paranormal occurrences that appear to constitute empirical evidence of survival will be cited and discussed. But the occurrences the reports describe are so shocking to the scientific commonsense of the present epoch that some re marks are called for at this point concerning the relation of paranormal occurrences to science, and concerning the attitude prevalent among scientists towards reports of them.
1. Reports of paranormal occurrences commonly dismissed offhand by scientists
During the last seventy-five years, many facts which there is strong reason to regard as paranormal have been recorded as a result of painstaking investigations made by some highly capable individuals, by the societies for psychical research, and more recently by the parapsychology laboratories. The majority of scientists, however, still do not bother to acquaint themselves with those facts, or at most only superficially; and yet are in general ready to dismiss on a priori grounds any reports of them, much as Faraday did reports of levitation when he wrote: "Before we proceed to consider any question involving physical principles, we should set out with clear ideas of the naturally possible and impossible." Premising then that creation or destruction of force is impossible, Faraday went on to declare that since levitation of an object "without effort" would constitute creation of force, it therefore "cannot be."(1) As the late Professor James H. Hyslop, founder of the American Society for Psychical Research, wrote some forty years ago, "Science, content, without thorough inquiry, to confine its investigations to the physical world in which it has achieved so much, will not open its eyes to anomalies in the realm of mind and nature and so degenerates into a dogmatism exactly like that of theology."(2)
(1) Experimental Researches in Chemistry and Physics, London 1859, pp. 478-9.
(2) Contact with the other world. The Century Co. New York, 1919, p. 425.
The following recent statement by an eminent biologist may be cited as a quaint example of such ingenuous dogmatism: -Bordering all branches of science there is of course a 'lunatic fringe' of wishful thinkers to be found defending some bogus cancer cure, mysterious radiation effect, or species of dualism. Among the latter should be classed postulates of cellular intelligence or memory, vital force, perfecting principle, cosmic purpose, extrasensory perception ("ESP") telepathy, telekinesis, clairvoyance..."(3)
(3) Science Fiction as an Escape, an article by Hermann J. Mullet, Nobel prize in biology, President of the American Humanist Association; in The Humanist, Vol. XVII:338, No. 6, Nov.-Dec. 1957.
These words, of course, automatically relegate offhand to the "lunatic fringe" of science such naturalists and biologists as Alfred Russel Wallace, Charles Richet, Hans Driesch, H. S. Jennings; such physicists as Sir William Crookes, Lord Rayleigh, Sir Oliver Lodge; the astronomer Camille Flammarion; and philosophers like Henry Sidgwick, William James, and Henri Bergson - to mention only a few of the eminent men who have thought that some of the things listed by Prof. Muller deserve serious consideration. If because of this these men belong to the lunatic fringe of science, then many of us would be proud to find ourselves included in it on the same grounds(4).
(4) The remarks in the remainder of this chapter were originally presented by the writer as one of the addresses at the Fiftieth Anniversary Celebration of the American Society for Psychical Research, held on March 2, 1956. The addresses were published in the Journal of the Society, Vol. L, No. 4. October, 1956.
2. What accounts for the dogmatism of scientists on the subject of paranormal events
Statements by scientists, such as that of Prof. Muller quoted above, compel us to ask what accounts for the dogmatism they exemplify; for the truly scientific attitude is not dogmatic but open-minded. It is free alike from adverse and from favorable prejudice. It welcomes facts as such, no matter whether they confirm or invalidate the assumptions or theories on which they have bearing. Its first commandment is to investigate and observe. In short, disinterested curiosity - the passion to know the truth - is the one scientific passion. It is a stem censor, which rules out of scientific judgments factors such as arrogance, dogmatism, hopes or fears, and wishful belief or disbelief - factors which so often vitiate the judgments of ordinary men. Such is the scientific attitude. It is altogether admirable, and the command over the forces of nature, which adherence to it and to the methods it dictates has put into the hands of man, testifies to the fruitfulness of that attitude.
But the fact that, in so far as it has actually been the attitude of scientists, they have accomplished wonders; and that these wonders have given magical prestige to the very words, Science, and Scientist - this fact does not at all guarantee that when a man who is by profession a scientist speaks, what he says always represents one of the fruits of scientific investigation. For scientists are men and usually have their share of the typical human frailties. They do park some of these outside the doors of their laboratories, for inside, of course, they either live up to the demands of the scientific attitude as characterized above, or they achieve little. But outside they are as prone as other men to pride of profession and of position; and the prestige with which the name, Scientist, has come to endow them in the public eye easily provides for many of them an irresistible temptation to pontificate concerning various questions which fall outside their professional competence, but about which naive outsiders nevertheless respectfully ask them to speak because they are known as Scientists, and Scientists, by definition, are persons who know! The oracular role which this flattering deference invites them to play leads them almost fatally to assume on such occasions that their utterances have authority; for the idea a person harbors of himself is largely determined by the picture of him which others hold out to him.
Now, that pleasing though mainly subconscious picture of himself as an oracle is what is affronted when outsiders venture to call to the attention of a scientist certain facts, such as those psychical research investigates, which seem to clash with certain assumptions of the science of his time. It is on such occasions that the admirable scientific attitude described above easily deserts him and that, as the late Dr. W. F. Prince charged, proved, and illustrated by quoting the words of some twenty scientists from Faraday, Tyndall and Huxley to less eminent ones - it is on such occasions that the outraged scientist is prone to become unscientifically emotional, obscurantistic, inaccurate, illogical, evasive, dogmatic, and even personally abusive(5).
(5) The Enchanted Boundary, Boston Soc. for Psychic Research, 1930; see especially pp. 19-133.
3. Why the paranormal phenomena are regarded as impossible
The remarks made up to this point about scientists have concerned only the psychological or more specifically the emotional factors that account for the abandonment of the scientific attitude by so many scientists when their attention is invited to the existing evidence, experimental and other, that paranormal phenomena of various kinds really occur. But something must now be said also as to the source of the quite dispassionate firm conviction of many of them that, in the light of modern scientific knowledge, those phenomena cannot possibly be real and can only be semblances, delusions, or frauds.
Let us note first that, when a scientist declares that something, which belongs to the field of his scientific competence, is possible, there is no mystery as to the basis of his assertion. It rests either on the fact that he or some other scientist has actually done or observed the thing concerned; or else that it is anyway not incompatible with anything which science has so far established.
Again, when a scientist declares something to be impossible by certain means under certain conditions, then the basis of his assertion is likewise not mysterious. It is that he or some other scientist has actually tried to cause that thing in that manner under those conditions, but that it did not in fact then occur.
On the other hand, when a scientist declares something to be impossible, period; that is, impossible without qualification, then it is a mystery indeed how he could possibly know this. In such cases, the ground of his assertion is only that occurrence of the thing concerned would clash with some principle which the science of his time has somehow come to accept and which is thus part of "the scientific commonsense of the epoch", but which has not in fact been established by science. Such a "principle" however plausible and however wide its utility as a working assumption - becomes a sheer dogma if the scientist's faith in it is so boundless that it causes him to deny a priori or to ignore facts actually observed, that constitute exceptions to it. Assertion that they are impossible because they would clash with it then is pure dogmatism, even if unawares.
The clash of the facts observed may be either with the overall metaphysical creed of the science of the time or, more narrowly, with one or another of the specific articles of it. These are certain of the "basic limiting principles" of the then current scientific thought, to which reference was made in Sec. 3 of Chapt. XIV, and which the scientist uncritically assumes to have unlimited validity, whereas what scientific experience would really warrant him in concluding would be only that it has very wide validity.
4. Clash of a reported occurrence with the metaphysical creed of the natural sciences
The reference made above to "the over-all metaphysical creed of the science of the time" calls for some words of explanation; for a scientist is likely to deny emphatically that science has any truck with that vain and vaporous thing called Metaphysics, which he is more than glad to leave to philosophers or other unscientific thinkers.
As Prof. Ch. Perelman has pointedly remarked somewhere, however, a person's repudiation and scorn of metaphysics is no guarantee that he does not himself harbor unawares some metaphysical creed-in which case he is the more helplessly captive in that mental prison because he does not suspect its existence or perceive its walls.
How this is possible becomes evident as soon as one realizes what constitutes a metaphysical creed. It is something which, if put into words, takes the form: "To be real is to have characteristic W' The word "real," as occurring in it, is essentially a value term, which specifically means "supremely or alone existent, important or significant." Hence, to have a metaphysical creed is to proceed in all one's activities and judgments, and whether consciously or unawares, under the assumption that only what has characteristic C exists, or at least is worth taking into consideration. This is what "to be real" means in, for example, the metaphysical creed that to be real is to be some material event, process, or thing, (whether at the macroscopic, directly perceivable level, or at the atomic or sub-atomic levels explored by theoretical physics.)(6) And just this materialistic metaphysical creed is, in fact, that of most of the practitioners of the natural sciences - physics, chemistry, astronomy, biology, physiological and behavioristic psychology, and the rest.
(6) For more detailed discussion of what "real" means as employed in the formulation of a metaphysical creed, see the writer's Nature, Mind, and Death, chapt. 6, and in particular Sec. 8 thereof.
It is harbored by them, however, without recognition of the fact that it simply consists of their personal inclination and commitment to dedicate their efforts to the investigation of only the material part of the world, and hence to ignore or deny mental events as such, or at least deny them any efficacy.
The material world, of course, is highly important to us, and study of it by scientific methods has yielded a vast amount of valuable knowledge. The scientists who have elected the material world as their field of exploration can justly be proud of what they have achieved; and one can readily understand that their prolonged attention to it should have brought them to the point of being psychologically unable to notice or even conceive of any facts, events, or processes other than material ones; and hence should have made them unable to suppose that any material event should have a cause or an effect other than one itself material.
This psychological incapacity, however, is only an occupational disease, which does not at all guarantee that there are not "really" such things as thoughts, feelings, mental images, volitions, and other psychological states. It only compels the scientists who are captives within the invisible walls of the materialistic metaphysical creed to assign at any cost a purely material meaning to the words which denote those psychological states. For if one proceeds from the start and all along on the arbitrary metaphysical assumption that nothing is real unless it is some process or part of the material world, i.e., of the perceptually public world, then necessarily thoughts, feelings, and the other states accessible only to introspection are conceived either as unreal, i.e., as inefficacious mere appearances; or else as themselves somehow material events.
It is, of course, perfectly legitimate and proper to push as far as it is successful the attempt to account in purely material terms for all material events, including all the activities of human bodies. But at the many points in, for example, human willed acts, where no material event can be observed that would account for those acts, there is no rational justification for insisting wilfully that their causes must, somehow, anyhow, be material events; so that when, for example, I wrote the present words, my thoughts and my desire to formulate them in writing cannot possibly have been what caused the writing of these words. What accounts for but does not justify that insistence is only the quite arbitrary metaphysical creed, harbored and uncritically cherished by most natural scientists, that only what is material is real and can have efficacy; and therefore that not only the vast majority of material events, but all - absolutely all without exception - must have purely material causes.
Nothing but Prof. Muller's pious adhesion to that particular metaphysical creed dictated his naive relegation of dualism, of extrasensory perception, and of any but material explanations, to the "lunatic fringe" of science. For of course to ascribe some material event to a mental cause is cheating at the game in which he like other natural scientists are engaged, to wit, that of seeking material explanations for all material events; just as, while playing chess, moving the king two steps at a time would be cheating. Yet the fact that it would be cheating at chess is not evidence at all that the king is inherently incapable of being moved more than one step at a time! Similarly, that to ascribe to a mental cause a material event not in fact otherwise explained is cheating at the material-science game, is no evidence at all that causation of that material event by a mental event is inherently impossible.
The substance of the following remarks may be put both summarily and picturesquely in the apt words used by Professor C. D. Broad in the preface to his Tamer Lectures at Cambridge University in 1923. What he said there was that the scientists who regard the phenomena investigated by psychical researchers as impossible seem to him to confuse the Author of Nature with the Editor of the scientific periodical, Nature; or at any rate seem to suppose that there can be no productions of the former that would not be accepted for publication by the latter!
Instances of Occurrences Prima Facie Indicative of Survival
1. Apparitions and hauntings
APPARITIONS, some precognitions or retrocognitions, and also the so-called "projections" or "out-of-the-body" experiences, all putatively come under the technical psychological category of hallucinations, that is, of "abnormal misinterpretations of ideational experiences as perceptions ... in hallucination the error of perception goes so far as to suppose facts present to a sense which is actually receiving no relevant stimulation."(1)
(1) H. C. Warren: Dictionary of Psychology. Houghton Mifflin Co. Boston, 1934.
More explicitly, a hallucination is essentially a mental image - visual, auditory, tactual, or/and other - that has the vividness of a sensation and that, as usual in the case of sensations, is automatically taken to be perception of a physical object or event, although none such as perceived is actually stimulating the relevant sense organ(s). Ordinary dreams are the most common hallucinations: in them, physical objects seem to be perceived and, until one awakens, are not realized to have been physically non-existent. Hallucinations thus are not inherently pathological but only sometimes so (as, for example, in delirium tremens.)
To say that an experience is, or is only, a hallucination is, of course, not at all to account for its content or for its occurrence, but is merely to say, as made clear above, that the experience is not due to stimulation of the relevant sense organ(s) at the time by a physical object of the kind seemingly perceived. Nor does an experience's being a hallucination in the least dispose of the question whether the experience is veridical in the sense of being a true sign of some fact it appears to signify, e.g., of some crisis being faced by the person whose apparition is perceived; or of some future or past occurrence, as in precognition or retrocognition; or, as in "out-of-the-body" experiences, of actual observation of one's own body and of other things - extrasensorily but accurately - from a point distant in space from the body.
This is important to remember when a particular hallucination is more specifically characterized, perhaps, as oneiric, or as hypnagogic, or hypnopompic; or (as in the case of "out-of-the-body" experiences) as heautoscopic, etc.; for these adjectives are names only of sub-classes of hallucinations, not at all of causes or of processes that would account for the particular content of the hallucination, or dispose of the possibility of its being veridical in the sense stated above.
With these words of caution in mind we may now consider first some concrete instances of the putatively hallucinatory experiences commonly termed apparitions of the dead. I say "putatively" because the possibility must not be ruled out a priori that apparitions are material even if only tenuously so as compared with the "materializations" we shall consider later.
In Chapter II we had occasion to cite an exceptionally well attested case of the kind of paranormal occurrence generally regarded by those who witness it as most evidential of survival of the human personality, namely, "ghosts," or "apparitions of the dead."
The case was that of the numerous apparitions at the beginning of the 19th century of the form of the deceased Mrs. Butler in a Maine village, to which the Rev. Abraham Cummings (A. M. Brown University 1776) had proceeded in order to expose what he had assumed must be a hoax. He, however, was then himself met in a field by what he terms "the Spectre." His statement of this meeting reads: "Sometime in July 1806, in the evening I was informed by two persons that they had just seen the Spectre in the field. About ten minutes after, I went out, not to see a miracle, for I believed that they had been mistaken. Looking toward an eminence, twelve rods distance from the house, I saw there, as I supposed, one of the white rocks. This confirmed my opinion of their spectre, and I paid no more attention to it. Three minutes after, I accidentally looked in the same direction, and the white rock was in the air; its form a complete Globe, white with a tincture of red, like the damask rose, and its diameter about two feet. Fully satisfied that this was nothing ordinary, I went toward it for more accurate examination. While my eye was constantly upon it, I went on four or five steps, when it came to me from the distance of eleven rods, as quick as lightning, and instantly assumed a personal form with a female dress, but did not appear taller than a girl seven years old. While I looked upon her, I said in my mind, 'you are not tall enough for the woman who has so frequently appeared among us!' Immediately she grew up as large and as tall as I considered that woman to be. Now she appeared glorious. On her head was the representation of the sun diffusing the luminous, rectilinear rays every way to the ground. Through the rays I saw the personal form and the woman's dress."(2)
(2) Pp. 35-6 of the pamphlet, Immortality proved by the Testimony of Sense, Bath, Me. 1826.
In the pamphlet the Rev. Mr. Cummings reproduces some thirty affidavits which he had obtained at the time from persons who had seen or/and heard the Spectre; for the apparition spoke, and delivered discourses sometimes over an hour long. Some of the witnesses believed the apparition was from Satan, others from God. It presented itself sometimes "to one alone .... sometimes she appeared to two or three; then to five or six; then to ten or twelve; again to twenty; and once to more than forty witnesses. She appeared in several apartments of Mr. Blaisdel's house, and several times in the open field ... There, white as the light, she moved like a cloud above the ground in personal form and magnitude, and in the presence of more than forty people. She tarried with them till after daylight, and vanished" (p. 29). On one occasion, one of the men present, Capt. Butler, "put his hand upon it and it passed down through the apparition as through a body of light, in the view of six or seven witnesses" (p. 30). Several of the witnesses report, as does the Rev. Mr. Cummings, that the apparition begins as a formless small luminous cloud, which then grows and in a moment takes the form of the deceased Mrs. Butler. (This incidentally, was what occurred when; over fifty years ago in New York, the present writer witnessed in red light but not under test conditions a purported gradual materialization of a man's body.)
The prima facie evidence of survival provided by an apparition is greatest when it supplies information that was unknown to the percipent. Among a number of well attested reports of just this, two, which are so clear-cut that they have become classics in this field, may be cited briefly.
One is of the case of a travelling salesman, whose sister had died in 1867, and who in 1876 was in his hotel room at noon in St. Joseph, Mo. smoking a cigar and writing up the orders he had obtained: "I suddenly became conscious that some one was sitting on my left, with one arm resting on the table. Quick as a flash I turned and distinctly saw the form of my dead sister, and for a brief second or so looked her squarely in the face; and so sure was I that it was she, that I sprang forward in delight calling her by name, and, as I did so, the apparition instantly vanished ... I was near enough to touch her ... and noted her features, expression, and details of dress, etc. She appeared as alive."
He was so moved by the experience that he cut his trip short and returned to his home in St. Louis, where he related the occurrence to his parents, mentioning among other details of the apparition that on the right side of the girl's nose he had noticed a bright red scratch about three fourths of an inch long. "When I mentioned this," he states, "my mother rose trembling to her feet and nearly fainted away, and .... with tears streaming down her face, she exclaimed that I had indeed seen my sister, as no living mortal but herself was aware of that scratch, which she had accidentally made while doing some little act of kindness after my sister's death. She said she well remembered how pained she was to think she should have, unintentionally, marred the features of her dead daughter, and that unknown to all, she had carefully obliterated all traces of the slight scratch with the aid of powder, etc., and that she had never mentioned it to a human being from that day to this."(3)
(3) A full account of the case appears in Vol. VI: 17-20, S.P.R. Proceedings, 1889-90. It is reproduced in F. W. H. Myers Human Personality and its Survival of Bodily Death, Vol. 11:27-30.
The other famous case - the Chaffin will case - concerns not a similarly waking vision, but one occurring as either a vivid dream, or in a state between waking and dreaming. The essential facts are as follows. On November 16, 1905, James L. Chaffin, a North Carolina farmer, made a will attested by two witnesses, in which he left his farm to his son Marshall, the third of his four sons; and nothing to the other three or to his wife. On January 16, 1919, however, he made a new will, not witnessed but legally valid because wholly in his own handwriting. In it, he stated first that it was being made after his reading of the 27th chapter of Genesis; and then that he wanted his property divided equally between his four children, and that they must take care of their mother. He then placed this holograph will at the 27th chapter of Genesis in a Bible that had belonged to his father, folding over the pages to enclose the will.
He died on September 7, 1921, without, so far as ascertainable, ever having mentioned to anybody the existence of the second will. The first will was not contested and was probated on the 24th of the same month by its beneficiary, Marshall Chaffin.
Some four years later, in June, 1925, the second son, James Pinkney Chaffin began to have very vivid dreams that his father appeared to him at his bedside, without speaking. Later that month, however, the father again appeared at the bedside, wearing a familiar black overcoat, and then spoke, saying "you will find my will in my overcoat pocket." In the morning, James looked for the overcoat, but was told by his mother that it had been given to his brother John, who lived twenty miles away. Some days later, James went to his brother's house, found the coat, and examined it. The inside lining of the inside pocket had been stitched together. On cutting the stitches, he found a little roll of paper on which, in his father's handwriting, were written only the words: "Read the 27th chapter of Genesis in my Daddie's old Bible." He then returned to his mother's house, accompanied by his daughter, by a neighbor, and by the neighbor's daughter. They had some trouble finding the old Bible, but when they finally did, and the neighbor opened it at the 27th chapter of Genesis, they found the second will. The testator's wife and James P. Chaffin's wife were also present at the time. The second will was admitted to probate in December of the same year.(4)
(4) Proc. of S.P.R., Vol. 36:517-24, 1927.
Hauntings are apparitions that recur and that seem to be connected with a place rather than intended for a particular witness. A famous, well-attested case is that of the Morton ghost. It is described by Miss R. C. Morton (pseudonym) in Vol. VIII, 1892, of the S.P.R. Proceedings, pp. 311/332, who at that time was a medical student and apparently viewed the occurrences without fear or nervousness but only with scientific curiosity. The case dates back to 1882.
Miss Morton states that, having one evening gone up to her room, she heard someone at the door, opened it, and saw in the passage the figure of a tall lady, dressed in black, whose face was hidden by a handkerchief held in her right hand. She descended the stairs and Miss Morton followed; but the small piece of candle she carried went out, and she returned to her room. The figure was seen again half a dozen times during the next two years by Miss Morton, once by her sister Mrs. K, once by the housemaid, and once by Miss Morton's brother and by a boy. After the first apparition, Miss Morton made it a practice to follow the figure downstairs into the drawing room. She spoke to the apparition but never got any reply; she cornered it several times in order to touch it, but it then simply disappeared. Its footsteps were audible and characteristic, and were heard by Miss Morton's three sisters and by the cook. Miss Morton stretched some threads across the stairs, but the figure passed right through them without detaching them. The figure was seen in the orchard by a neighbor as well as in the house by Miss Morton's sisters E. and M., by the cook, by the charwoman, and by a parlormaid, and by the gardener. But Miss Morton's father could not see it even when he was shown where it stood. The apparition was seen during the day as well as at night. In all about twenty people saw it, some of them many times; and some of them not having previously heard of the apparition or of the sounds. The figure was described in the same way by all. The apparitions continued to occur until 1889. The figure wore widow's cuffs, and corresponded to the description of a former tenant of the house, Mrs. S., whose life there had been unhappy.
The weight of apparitions as evidence of survival is decreased by the fact that there are numerous cases on record of apparitions of the living. Many of them are cited in Gurney, Myers, and Podmore's Phantasms of the Living(5). Like apparitions in general, they are most impressive when more than one of the percipient's senses is affected-for instance, touch and hearing, or touch and sight. Several such cases are described on pp. 446 ff. of the book just cited. One is that of a girl, reading at night in her room, who suddenly "felt" (heard?) some one come into the room but, looking, could see no one. Then, she writes, "I felt a kiss on my forehead - a lingering, loving pressure. I looked up without the least sensation of fear, and saw my lover standing behind my chair, stooping as if to kiss me again. His face was very white and inexpressibly sad. As I rose from my chair in great surprise, before I could speak, he had gone, how I do not know; I only know that, one moment I saw him, saw distinctly every feature of his face, saw the tall figure and broad shoulders as clearly as I ever saw them in my life, and the next moment there was no sign of him" (p. 447). A few days later, she heard that her lover had at the time been riding a vicious horse which, in order to unseat him, reared perfectly straight and pressed its back against a wall, with him between, making him lose consciousness - his last thought having been that he was dying and that he wanted to see his fiancée again before he died. It turned out, however, that only his hand had been severely injured, so that, for some days, he could not write to tell her what had occurred.
(5) In two vols. 1886. Abridged edition prepared by Mrs. Henry Sidgwick. One vol. 1918, Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner and Co. London: E. P. Dutton and Co., New York.
Such cases of apparitions of the living, veridical in the sense stated earlier, are most plausibly accounted for as telepathically caused hallucinations since they cannot really be apparitions of the dead. If, however, they are considered together with the cases of "out-of-the-body" experience - so-called "projection of the double" - of which instances are cited in Sec. 2 of the present chapter, then what suggests itself is that what is seen in cases of apparitions - whether of the living or of the dead - is the "projected," i.e., externalized, "double" assumed to be possessed by man but to be normally collocated with the body. It is conjectured that at death the dislocation of it from the body is complete and permanent, whereas in apparitions of the living, the dislocation is temporary and incomplete in that a connection - the reported "silver thread" - remains between the externalized "double" and the body. If this should actually be the state of affairs, then apparitions would not really be visual hallucinations, but rather sights, fleeting but genuine, of something very tenuous though objectively present at the place where it is perceived.
In the way of this supposition, however, stands a fact to which we shall have occasion to return; namely that, since apparitions are seldom if ever naked, then their clothes too would have to be supposed to have an externalizable "double."
But even when telepathy is admitted to be a fact and is invoked, apparitions veridical in the sense stated remain very difficult to explain plausibly. How difficult will be appreciated by readers who may be interested to look up the seemingly farfetched explanations to which able thinkers have found themselves forced to have recourse when they have insisted on taking scrupulously into consideration all the facts on record.(6)
(6) Apparitions, by G. N. M. Tyrrell, with a preface by H. H. Price; Gerald Duckworth and Co. Ltd., revised edition, 1953; A Theory of apparitions, by W. F. Barrett, E. Gurney, and F. Podmore, Proc. S.P.R. Vol. 11:109-36; 1884. Six theories about appartions, by Homell Hart, Proc. S.P.R., 1955-56 pp. 153-239. For additional references on the subject of apparitions, see G. Zorab's Bibliography of Parapsychology, Parapsychology Found'n. Inc. New York 1957, pp. 27-8. Concerning Haunting, see H. H. Price's presidential address to the S.P.R.; Proc. S.P.R. Vol. XLV:307-343, 1938-39.
2. "Out-of-the-body" experiences
Let us turn next to the "out-of-the-body," experiences alluded to in the latter part of the preceding section, of which many cases have been reported. Those who have undergone the experience generally consider it impressive evidence that the human consciousness is separable in space from the human body and, it would therefore seem, can exist independently of the latter. That experience has variously been termed projection of "the double," "ESP projection," projection of the "astral body," "out-of-the-body" experience, and "bilocation." In the most striking form of it, the person concerned, having gone to sleep or being under anaesthesia, wakens to see his body inert on the bed and is able to observe it from the same variety of angles as he could the body of another. He is also able to observe the various objects in the room, and in some cases he perceives and is later able to describe persons who came into the room and went out before his body awoke. The thus temporarily excarnate observer may or may not find himself able to travel away from the vicinity of his sleeping body. In some of the cases when he does so and visits a distant place, he is reported to have been seen at that place at the time. These are the cases of "bilocation." A famous one is that of Alfonso de Liguori who in 1774 was at Arezzo, in prison, fasting. On awakening one morning, he stated that he had been at the bedside of the then dying Pope, Clement XIV; where, it turned out, he had been seen by those present.
For the sake of concreteness, a few of the many reports of out-of-the-body experience will now be cited.
Dr. E. Osty, in the May-June issue of the Revue Metapsychique for 1930, quotes a letter addressed by a gentleman named L. L. Hymans to Charles Richet, dated June 7, 1928, in which the former relates two such experiences: "The first time it was while in a dentist's chair. Under anaesthesia, I had the sensation of awaking and of finding myself floating in the upper part of the room, from where, with great astonishment, I watched the dentist working on my body, and the anaesthetist at his side. I saw my inanimate body as distinctly as any other object in the room ... The second time I was in a hotel in London. I awoke in the morning feeling unwell (I have a weak heart) and shortly thereafter I fainted. Greatly to my astonishment, I found myself in the upper part of the room, from where, with fear, I beheld my body inanimate in the bed with its eyes closed. I tried without success to reenter my body and concluded that I had died ... Certainly I had not lost either memory or self-consciousness. I could see my inanimate body like a separate object: I was able to look at my face. I was, however, unable to leave the room: I felt myself as it were chained, immobilized in the corner where I was. After an hour or two I heard a knock on the locked door several times, without being able to answer. Soon after, the hotel porter appeared on the fire escape. I saw him get into the room, look anxiously at my face, and open the door. The hotel manager and others then entered. A physician came in. I saw him shake his head after listening to my heart, and then insert a spoon between my lips. I then lost consciousness and awoke in the bed." In the same article, Dr. Osty cites the similar experiences of two other persons.
Dr. Ernesto Bozzano cites the case of a friend of his, the engineer Giuseppe Costa who, while asleep, so disturbed the kerosene lamp on his bedside table that it filled the room with dense, choking smoke. Signor Costa writes: "I had the clear and precise sensation of finding myself with only my thinking personality, in the middle of the room, completely separated from my body, which continued to lie on the bed ... I was seized with an inexpressible anguish from which I felt intuitively that I could only free myself by freeing my material body from that oppressive situation. I wanted therefore to pick up the lamp and open the window, but it was a material act that I could not accomplish ... Then I thought of my mother, who was sleeping in the next room ... It seemed to me that no effort of any kind was needed to cause her to approach my body. I saw her get hurriedly out of bed, run to her window and open it ... then leave her room, walk along the corridor, enter my room and approach my body gropingly and with staring eyes." He then awoke. He writes further: "My mother, questioned by me soon after the event, confirmed the fact that she had first opened her window as if she felt herself suffocating, before coming to my aid. Now the fact of my having seen this act of hers through the wall, while lying inanimate on the bed, entirely excludes the hypothesis of hallucination and nightmare ... I thus had the most evident proof that my soul had detached itself from my body during its material existence. I had, in fact, received proof of the existence of the soul and also of its immortality, since it was true that it had freed itself ... from the material envelope of the body, acting and thinking outside it."(7) In order to explain this case, however, telepathy plus clairvoyance would be enough.
(7) Quoted in Bozzano's Discarnate Influence in Human Life, pp. 112-15, from Giuseppe Costa's Di la della Vita, p. 18.
In some persons, out-of-the-body experience becomes voluntary. The best known account of the process involved is that of the late Sylvan Muldoon(8), whose description of his own experiences brought him numerous communications from strangers who had themselves had out-of-the-body experiences. Many of these are quoted by him in a later book,(9) including one which, some years before that book appeared, was related to the present writer by the person concerned, Miss Mary Ellen Frallic. Her "projection" experience occurred not during sleep or under anaesthesia, but while walking on the street. She gradually became conscious of rising higher and higher, up to the height of the second floor of the surrounding buildings, and then felt an urge to look back; whereupon she saw her body walking about one block behind. That body was apparently able to see "her" for she noticed the look of bewilderment on its face. Her consciousness of location then shifted a few times from that of the "double" to that of the body, and back, each being able to perceive the other. She then felt afraid, and immediately reentered her body.(10)
(8) The Projection of the Astral Body, David McKay Co. Philadelphia, 1929.
(9) The Phenomena of Astral Projection, by Sylvan Muldoon and Hereward Carrington, Rider and Co., London, 1951.
(10) Cf. op. cit. pp. 189-90.
Besides Muldoon's account of voluntary "projections," one of the most interesting is by a Frenchman who, under the pseudonym, Yram, wrote in 1926 a book entitled "The Physician of the Soul," which has since been translated under the title Practical Astral Projection. In it he describes twelve years of his own experimentation in conscious out-of-the-body experience. Another writer, Oliver Fox, in a book entitled Astral Projection, related his own experiences.(11)
(11) Rider and Co. London (no date) A number of interesting cases are quoted in some detail on pp. 220-29 of Dr. Raynor C. Johnson's The Imprisoned Splendour, Harper and Bros. New York, 1953. A bibliography of the subject is furnished on pp. 221-22 of Muldoon and Carrington's The Phenomena of Astral Projection.
In a number of cases, the projected "double" is reported to remain connected with the sleeping body by a "silver cord" which is extensible in various degrees. Persons who have had the out-of-the-body experience have usually assumed, as did the engineer Giuseppe Costa quoted above, that the spatial separation in it of the observing and thinking consciousness from the body on the bed means that the former is capable of existing and of functioning independently of the latter not only thus temporarily during "projection," but enduringly at death, which is then simply permanent, definitive projection when the "silver cord" snaps.
This conclusion, however, does not necessarily follow, for it tacitly assumes that the conscious "double" is what animates the body-normally in being collocated with it, but also, when dislocated from it, through connection with it by the "silver cord!' The fact, however, could equally be that the animation is in the converse direction, i.e., that death of the body entails death of the conscious "double" whether the latter be at the time dislocated from or collocated with the former.
Hence. out-of-the-body experience, however impressive to those who have it, and however it may tempt them to conclude that they then know that consciousness is not dependent on the living material body, does not really warrant this conclusion; but only the more modest one, which, of course, is arresting enough, that correct visual perception of physical events and objects, including perception of one's own body from a point distant in space from it, can occur, exceptionally, at times when the eyes are shut and the body asleep - this fact, of course, not being at all explained by labelling the occurrences of it "heautoscopic hallucinations" since, as pointed out earlier, what is paranormal, instead of merely abnormal, in certain hallucinations is that they are veridical in the same sense in which perceptions are so, even if not through the same mechanism.
3. Materializations and other paranormal physical phenomena
Among paranormal phenomena, certain physical ones -especially materializations and the so-called "direct voice" - are easily accepted by persons who witness them as evidence of survival. There are numerous reports, some of them circumstantial and made by careful and experienced observers, of the materialization of portions of human bodies - of hands, for example, which move and grasp and carry things; or of faces or even of entire bodies which act, speak, and breathe like ordinary living human bodies; and after a while dematerialize, suddenly or slowly.
Sir William Crookes, for instance, in an article he published in the Quarterly journal of Science(12) writes: "A beautifully formed small hand rose up from an opening in a dining table and gave me a flower; it appeared and then disappeared three times at intervals, affording me ample opportunity of satisfying myself that it was as real in appearance as my own. This occurred in the light in my own room, whilst I was holding the medium's hands and feet. On another occasion a small hand and arm, like a baby's, appeared playing about a lady who was sitting next to me. It then passed to me and patted my arm and pulled my coat several times. At another time a finger and thumb were seen to pick the petals from a flower in Mr. Home's button-hole and lay them in front of several persons who were sitting near him ... I have more than once seen, first an object move, then a luminous cloud appear to form about it, and lastly, the cloud condense into shape and become a perfectly-formed hand ... At the wrist, or arm, it becomes hazy, and fades off into a luminous cloud. To the touch the hand sometimes appears icy cold and dead, at other times warm and life-like, grasping my own with the firm pressure of an old friend. I have retained one of these hands in my own, firmly resolved not to let it escape. There was no struggle or effort made to get loose, but it gradually seemed to resolve itself into vapour and faded in that manner from my grasp."
(12) Notes of an Enquiry into the Phenomena called Spiritual during the years 1870-73. Reprinted with other articles by Crookes under the title Researches in the Phenomena of Spiritualism, Two Worlds Pub'g. Co. 1926. The quotation is from pp. 102-3.
Among the materializations of entire bodies that have been reported, those of "Katie King," repeatedly observed by Sir William Crookes under his own conditions as well as by others, and measured, auscultated, tested and photographed by him Florence Cook being the medium-are probably the most famous and most carefully described.(13)
(13) Loc. cit. pp. 115-28.
The apparent materialization, in whole or in part, of human bodies and of their clothing and accoutrements, is supposed to depend on and to consist at least in part of a mysterious substance that emanates from the medium's body, and to which the name of "ectoplasm" has therefore been given. It seems able to exert or to conduct force. It is said to have various consistencies -sometimes vaporous, sometimes filmy like a veil, sometimes gelatinous, sometimes pasty like thick dough.
The latter was its consistency on the one occasion when in the house of a friend of mine I personally had an opportunity to see in good red light, to touch, and take ten flash light photographs of a substance emanating from the mouth of an entranced non-professional medium; which substance, whether or not it was "ectoplasm," did not behave, feel, or look as any other substance known to me could, I think, have done under the conditions that existed. It was coldish, about like steel. This made it seem moist, but it was dry and slightly rough like dough the surface of which had dried. Its consistency and weight were also dough-like. It was a string, of about pencil thickness, varying in length from some six to twelve feet. On other photographs, not taken by me, of the same medium, it has veil-like and rope-like forms.
Professor Charles Richet, who had many occasions to observe what appeared to be materializations, discusses at one point in his Thirty Years of Psychical Research(14) the possibilities of fraud in purported materializations and the precautions necessary to preclude it; and he concludes that, in the case of the best of the available reports of the phenomenon - a number of which he mentions - neither fraud nor illusion is a possible explanation: "When I recall the precautions that all of us have taken, not once, but twenty, a hundred, or even a thousand times, it is inconceivable that we should have been deceived on all these occasions."
(14) Collins and Sons, London, 1923, p. 460. English translation by Stanley De Brath, p. 467.
Concerning occurrences he personally observed under especially favorable conditions, he writes: "Sometimes these ectoplasms can be seen in process of organization; I have seen an almost rectilinear prolongation emerge from Eusapia's body, its termination acting like a living hand ... I have ... been able to see the first lineaments of materializations as they were formed. A kind of liquid or pasty jelly emerges from the mouth or the breast of Marthe which organizes itself by degrees, acquiring the shape of a face or a limb. Under very good conditions of visibility, I have seen this paste spread on my knee, and slowly take form so as to show the rudiment of the radius, the cubitus, or metacarpal bone whose increasing pressure I could feel on my knee."(15)
(15) Thirty Years of Psychical Research, Collins and Sons, London, 1923, p. 469.
The prima facie most impressive evidence there could be of the survival of a deceased friend or relative would be to see and touch his materialized, recognizable bodily form, which then speaks in his or her characteristic manner. This is what appeared to occur in my presence on an occasion three or four years ago when, during some two hours and in very good red light throughout, some eighteen fully material forms - some male, some female, some tall and some short, and sometimes two together - came out of and returned to the curtained cabinet I had inspected beforehand, in which a medium sat, and to which I had found no avenue of surreptitious access.
These material forms were apparently recognized as those of a deceased father, mother, or other relative by one or another of the fourteen or fifteen persons present; and some touching scenes occurred, in which the form of the deceased spoke with and caressed the living.
One of those forms called my name and, when I went up to her and asked who she was, she answered "Mother." She did not, however, speak, act, or in the least resemble my mother. This was no disappointment to me since I had gone there for purposes not of consolation but of observation. I would have felt fully rewarded if the conditions of observation had been such that I could have been quite sure that the material form I saw, that spoke to me and patted me on the head, was genuinely a materialization, no matter of whom or of what. Indeed, materialization of half a human body would, for my purpose, have been even more significant than materialization of an entire one.
I should add, however, that the friend who had taken me to that circle, who is a careful and critical observer, and who had been there a number of times before, told me that on the occasions when a material form that purported to be a materialization of his mother had come out of the cabinet and spoken to him, the form was sometimes recognizably like her, and sometimes not.
Apparitions and genuine materializations (if any) are alike in being visible, and usually in reproducing the appearance of a human body or of parts of one; and, in cases where at least the face is reproduced, sometimes in being recognizably like that of one particular person known to someone present. On the other hand. materializations are tangible whereas apparitions are not so.
The question then arises whether apparitions are incomplete materializations (a mist or haze is visible but not tangible, and yet is material,) or whether materializations are "complete" hallucinations, i.e., hallucinations not only of sight and of sound of voice or of footsteps, but also of the sense of touch and the others. As regards the second alternative, I can say only that if the form I saw which said it was my mother and which patted me on the head, was a hallucination - a hallucination "complete" in the sense just stated - then no difference remains between a complete hallucination on the one hand and, on the other, ordinary veridical perception of a physical object; for every further test of the physicality of the form seen and touched could then be alleged to be itself hallucinatory and the allegation of complete hallucination then automatically becomes completely vacuous.
On the other hand, cases are on record of apparitions of the living but, so far as I know, no good cases have been reported of materializations of the living in the sense that a living person was not merely seen and perhaps heard, but also tangibly present at a place distant from that of his body. In such cases of "bilocation" as that of Alphonse of Liguori, who, while in prison at Arezzo, was seen among the persons in attendance at the bedside of the then dying Pope Clement XIV in Rome, the testimony does not, I believe, include any statement that he was touched, while there, as well as seen.
But no matter whether we say that apparitions are incomplete materializations, or that materializations are complete hallucinations, a fact remains concerning both, that has bearing on the question whether they constitute evidence of survival after death. It is that both apparitions and materializations wear clothing of some sort; so that, as someone has put the point, "if ghosts have clothes, then clothes have ghosts." That is, if one says that the apparition or materialization is the deceased's surviving "spirit," temporarily become perceptible, then does not consistency require one to say that the familiar dress or coat or other accoutrement it wears had a spirit too, that has also survived? On the other hand, if one assumes that the clothing the apparition or materialization wears is materialization only of a memory image of the deceased's clothing, then would not consistency dictate the conclusion that the now temporarily perceptible parts of the deceased's body are materializations likewise only of a memory image of his appearance and behavior?
If one is fortunate enough to witness an apparition, or even better, a materialization where the materialized form duplicates the appearance of a deceased friend or relative, speaks and behaves as the latter did, and mentions facts of an intimate nature which few if any but the deceased and oneself knew, then the temptation may well be psychologically irresistible to believe that the deceased himself is with us again in temporarily materialized form, and therefore that he does indeed survive the death of the body that was his. The remarks made above, however, show that this interpretation of the experience, no matter how hard psychologically it then is to resist, is not the only one of which the experience admits, and is not necessarily the one most probably true.
On this point, some words of Richet - who as we have seen became certain that materializations do really occur - are worth quoting. Comparing the evidence for survival from mediumistic communications with that which materializations are thought to furnish, he writes: "The case of George Pelham [one of Mrs. Piper's best communicators], though there was no materialization, is vastly more evidential for survival than all the materializations yet known ... materializations, however perfect, cannot prove survival; the evidence that they sometimes seem to give is much less striking than that given by subjective metapsychics," i.e., chiefly, by mediumistic communications (p. 490). It is worth bearing in mind in this connection that in the star case of "Katie King," who claimed to have in life been Annie Owen Morgan, daughter of the buccaneer Sir Henry Owen Morgan, no evidence exists that such a woman did actually live. But unless she actually did, and died, the question whether "her" spirit survived death, and materialized as Katie King, becomes vacuous.
As regards the evidence for survival supposedly constituted by physical paranormal phenomena such as "poltergeist" occurrences, telekinesis, raps, levitation, "direct" voice' etc., H. F. Saltmarsh writes that "in order that events of this kind should have any value as evidence of survival they must possess some characteristic which will connect them with some deceased person. The bare fact that a material object is moved in a way we cannot account for by normal means does not afford any clue to the identity of the agent. All we could say in the most favourable circumstances would be that some unknown agency is involved and that that agency exhibits intelligence; we could not argue that it was, or even had been, human, still less that it was connected with some one particular person. Thus when any special characteristics which might connect them with a deceased person are absent, we can rule out physical phenomena as completely unevidential of survival. Where, however, the phenomena show some special characteristics which connect with some definite deceased person, any evidential value for survival rests entirely on those characteristics."(16)
(16) "Is Proof of Survival Possible?" Proc. S.P.R. Vol. XL: 106-7, Jan. 1932.
Another sort of paranormal occurrence, some cases of which invite interpretation as evidence of survival, is that popularly known as "possession," i.e., prima facie possession of a person's body by a personality - whether devilish, divine, or merely human - radically different from his or her own. The most probably correct interpretation of the great majority of such cases is that the "possessing" personality is only a dissociated, normally repressed portion or aspect of the total personality of the individual concerned.
The case of the Rev. Ansel. Bourne, of Greene, R.I.,(17) the still more famous cases of the alternating personalities of Miss Beauchamp, reported by Dr. Morton Prince, and the Doris Fischer case described by Dr. Walter F. Prince,(18) would be examples of such temporary "possession." The survival interpretation has little or no plausibility as regards most such cases, but is less easy to dismiss in a few others, different from these in that the intruding personality gives more or less clear and abundant evidence of being that of one particular individual who had died some time before.
(17) Proc., Soc. for Psychical Research, Vol. VII, 1891-2: A Case of Double Consciousness, by Richard Hodgson, M. D. Pp. 221-57. It is commented upon by William James in Ch. X of his Principles of Psychology, 1905, pp. 390-3, who also cites a number of others.
(18) Morton Prince: The Dissociation of a Personality, London, Longmans Green, 1906; W. F. Prince: The Doris Case of Multiple Personality, Proc. A.S.P.R. Vols. IX and X, 1915, 1916; and in Vol. Xl, discussed by J. H. Hyslop.
About as impressive a case of this as any on record is that of the so-called Watseka Wonder. An account of it was first published in 1879 in the Religio-Philosophical Journal, and, in 1887, republished as a pamphlet, The Watseka Wonder, by the Religio-Philosophical Publishing House, Chicago. The sub-title is "A narrative of startling phenomena occurring in the case of Mary Lurancy Vennum." The author of the narrative was a medical man, Dr. E. Winchester Stevens (1822-1885), who had been consulted at the time in the case.
Two girls were concerned. One, Mary Roff, had died on July 5, 1865 at the age of 18. From an early age, she had had frequent "fits" becoming more violent with the years; she had complained of a "lump of pain in the head" (p. 10), to relieve which she had repeatedly bled herself; and she is stated to have been able, while "heavily blindfolded by critical intelligent, investigating gentlemen" to read readily books even when closed and letters even in envelopes, and to do other tasks normally requiring the use of the eyes (p. 11).
The other girl, Lurancy Vennum, was born on April 16, 1864 and was therefore a little over one year old at the time Mary Roff died. At the age of 13 in July 1877, Lurancy, who until then "had never been sick, save a light run of measles" (p. 3), complained of feeling queer, went into a fit including a cataleptic state lasting five hours. On subsequent similar occasions, while in trance, she conversed and described "angels" or "spirits" of persons who had died. She was believed insane and was examined by two local physicians. On January 31, 1878, Mr. Roff, who had heard of Lurancy's case and become interested in it, was allowed by her father to bring Dr. E. W. Stevens to observe her. On that occasion, she became apparently "possessed" by two alien personalities in turn-one a sullen, crabbed old hag, and the second a young man who said he had run away from home, got into trouble, and lost his life (pp. 5,6). Dr. Stevens then "magnetized" her and "was soon in full and free communication with the sane and happy mind of Lurancy Vennum herself" (p. 7). She described the "angels" about her and said that one of them wanted to come to her instead of the evil spirits mentioned above." On being asked if she knew who it was, she said: "Her name is Mary Roff" (p. 7). The next day, "Mr. Vennum called at the office of Mr. Roff and informed him that the girl claimed to be Mary Roff and wanted to go home ... 'She seems like a child real homesick, wanting to see her pa and ma and her brothers'" (p. 9).
Some days later, she was allowed to go and live with the Roffs. There, she "seemed perfectly happy and content, knowing every person and everything that Mary knew in her original body, twelve to twenty-five years ago, recognizing and calling by name those who were friends and neighbors of the family from 1852 to 1865, [i.e., during the 12 years preceding Lurancy's birth,] calling attention to scores, yes, hundreds of incidents that transpired during [Mary's] natural life" (p. 14). She recognized a head dress Mary used to wear; pointed to a collar, saying she had tatted it; remembered details of the journey of the family to Texas in 1857 [i.e., 7 years before Lurancy's birth]. On the other hand, she did not recognize any of the Vennum family nor their friends and neighbors, nor knew anything that had until then been known by Lurancy.
Lurancy's new life as Mary Roff lasted 3 months and 10 days. Then Lurancy's own personality returned to her body, and she went back to the Vennums, who reported her well in mind and body from then on. She eventually married and had children. Occasionally then, when Lurancy was visiting the Roffs, the Mary personality would come back for some little time.
What distinguishes this case from the more common ones of alternating personalities is, of course, that the personality that displaced Lurancy's was, by every test that could be applied, not a dissociated part of her own, but the personality and all the memories that had belonged to a particular 18 year old girl who had died at a time when Lurancy was but 14 months old; and that no way, consistent with Dr. Stevens' record of the facts, has been suggested in which Lurancy, during the 13 years of her life before her sojourn with the Roffs, could have obtained the extensive and detailed knowledge Mary had possessed, which Lurancy manifested during the sojourn. For the Vennums were away from Wateska for the first 7 years of Lurancy's life; and when they returned to Watseka, their acquaintance with the Roffs consisted only of one brief call of a few minutes by Mrs. Roff on Mrs. Vennum, and of a formal speaking acquaintance between the two men, until the time when Mr. Roff brought Dr. Stevens to the Vennums on account of Lurancy's insane behavior.
In commenting on various cases of seeming "possession" of a person's organism by a personality altogether different, William James notes that "many persons have found evidence conclusive to their minds that in some cases the control is really the departed spirit whom it pretends to be," but that "the phenomena shade off so gradually into cases where this is obviously absurd, that the presumption (quite apart from a priori 'scientific' prejudice) is great against its being true."(19) He then turns to the Watseka case just described, introducing it by the statement that it is "perhaps as extreme a case of 'possession' of the modem sort as one can find," but he makes no attempt to explain it.
(19) Principles of Psychology, New York. Henry Holt and Co., 1905. p. 396.
The only way that suggests itself, to avoid the conclusion that the Mary Roff personality which for fourteen weeks "possessed" Lurancy's organism was "really the departed spirit whom it pretended to be," is to have recourse to the method of orthodoxy, whose maxim is: "When you cannot explain all the facts according to accepted principles, then explain those you can and ignore the rest; or else deny them, distort them, or invent some that would help."
This procrustean method, of course, has a measure of validity, since errors of observation or of reporting do occur. Yet some facts turn out to be too stubborn to be disposed of plausibly by that method; and the present one would appear to be one of them, especially if the conclusion reached in Part Ill is accepted, that no impossibility either theoretical or empirical attaches to the supposition of survival of a human personality after death.
5. Memories, seemingly of earlier lives
Brief mention may be made at this point of another kind of occurrence, of which only a few cases at all impressive have been reported, but which, like those of the other kinds considered in the preceding sections, constitute prima facie evidence of survival. I refer to the cases where a person has definite apparent memories relating to a life he lived on earth before his present one, and where the facts and events he believes he remembers turn out to be capable of verification. If these should indeed be memories in the same literal sense as that in which each of us has memories of places he visited years before, of persons he met there, of incidents of his school days, and so on, then this would constitute proof not strictly that he will survive the death of his body but that he has survived that of the different body he remembers having had in an earlier life.
In Part V, we shall consider in some detail the particular form of possible life after death consisting of rebirth of the individual on earth. A number of the most circumstantial accounts of putative memories of an earlier life will be cited and the alternative interpretations to which they appear open will be examined.
Additional Occurrences Relevant to the Question of Survival
EXCEPT, PERHAPS, for a very few cases of "possession" that may be as clear-cut as appeared to be that of the "Watseka Wonder" described in the preceding chapter, the most impressive sort of empirical evidence of survival is that provided by certain of the communications which are received through mediums or automatists, and which purport to emanate from particular deceased persons. Such communications, and the alternative interpretation or interpretations to which they may be open, are what we shall consider in the present chapter.
1. Communications, purportedly from the deceased, through automatists
The externally observable facts in the case of communications, purportedly from the surviving spirits of the deceased, are that a person, either in a state of trance or in the waking state, gives out various statements automatically, that is, not consciously and intentionally as in ordinary expression. Such persons are therefore perhaps best referred to as automatists, but actually more often as mediums.
The statements may be spelled out letter by letter - a pointer, on which the hand of the automatist rests, moving to the appropriate letters printed on a board (the "ouija" board) without conscious guidance by the automatist, who may the while be looking elsewhere and carrying on a conversation with the persons present. Or the letters may be indicated in some other way, as by paranormal raps or by movements of a table on which the hands rest, when the alphabet is recited and the proper letter reached. Or again, the communications may be written automatically by the hand of the automatist while his or her attention is otherwise engaged; or the statements may be spoken either by the vocal organs of the entranced medium, or at times, in some mysterious way by a voice that seems not to employ the medium's vocal organs and is then termed the "independent voice". But whichever one of these various means is used, the appearances are that the automatist's own intelligence and will do not participate in the framing of the statements made, and that a quite different personality originates them. The handwriting or the voice, and the locutions, the tricks of speech, and the stock of information manifested, are notably different in the best cases from those of the automatist in her normal state. Indeed, they are often typical of, and usually purport to emanate from, some particular deceased friend or relative of the "sitter," i.e., of the person who is sitting with the medium at the time.
The process of communication sometimes appears to be direct, and sometimes indirect. In the latter case, the intelligence directly in command of the automatist's organs of expression purports to be that of some discarnate person more expert than others at the difficult task of using them. This intelligence, which generally remains the same at many sittings, is known as the medium's "control." Sometimes it utters through the medium's organs statements which it purportedly hears being made by the sitter's deceased friend. On the other hand, when the latter appears to be directly in command of the medium's organs, the "control" appears to function as a helper and supervisor of the communicator's attempt to express himself through those organs; for example, by preventing other discarnate spirits that also desire to use the medium from interfering with the communication going on.
That it is sometimes by no means easy to account for the content, the language, and the mannerisms of the communications otherwise than by the supposition that they really emanate from the surviving spirits of the deceased will now be made evident by citation, even if only in summary form, of communications received by the late Professor J. H. Hyslop, purportedly from his deceased father, through the famous Boston medium, Mrs. Leonore Piper, who was studied by men of science probably for more years, and more systematically and minutely, than any other mental medium.
The first of them to study her was Professor William James. He published a first report about her in 1886. In 1887, Dr. Richard Hodgson, who was secretary of the American Society for Psychical Research and was an experienced and highly critical investigator, undertook and carried on for eighteen years an intensive study of her mediumship. In the course of time, Mrs. Piper made three trips to England, where she was studied by Sir Oliver Lodge, F. W. H. Myers, Henry Sidgwick, and other distinguished investigators.
Professor Hyslop was one of the many persons who had sittings with Mrs. Piper during the years in which Dr. Hodgson was supervising the exercise of her mediumship. In 1901, Hyslop published a long and lucid, circumspect, and detailed report of his sittings with her(1). For lack of space here, reference will be made only to the communications he received that purported to establish the identity and survival of his father, who, it should be mentioned, had been in no way a public character but had lived a very ordinary and retired life on his farm.
(1) Proc. S. P. R, Vol. XVI:1-649,1901.
A word must be said first as to the physical manner in which the communications were being delivered by Mrs. Piper at that period of her mediumship. She sat in a chair before a table on which were two pillows. After a few minutes, she would go into a trance and lean forward. Her left hand, palm upward, was then placed on the pillow, her right cheek resting on the palm, so that she was facing left. Her right arm was then placed on another table to the right, on which there was a writing pad. A pencil was then put in her hand, which then began to write.
The communications so received purported to come from several of Professor Hyslop's dead relatives, and in particular from his father. Their content included a statement of Professor Hyslop's name, James; of his father's name, and of the names of three others of his father's children. Also, references to a number of particular conversations the father had had with Professor Hyslop, to many special incidents and facts, and to family matters. Examples would be that the father had trouble with his left eye, that he had a mark near his left ear, that he used to wear a thin coat or dressing gown mornings and that at one time he wore a black skull cap at night; that he used to have one round and one square bottle on his desk and carried a brown-handled penknife with which he used to pare his nails; that he had a horse called Tom; that he used to write with quill pens which he trimmed himself; and so on. A number of these facts were unknown to Professor Hyslop, but were found to be true after inquiry. The communications also contained favorite pieces of advice, which the father had been in the habit of uttering, and these worded in ways characteristic of his modes of speech.
The communications that purported to come from other dead relatives, and indeed those given by Mrs. Piper to scores and scores of other sitters over the years, were similarly of facts or incidents too trivial to have become matters of public knowledge, or indeed to have been ascertainable by a stranger without elaborate inquiries, if at all. Facts of this kind are therefore all the more significant as prima facie evidences of identity. It is interesting to note in this connection that if one had a brother in another city, with whom one was able to communicate only through a third party - and this a person in a rather dopy state and if the brother doubted the identity of the sender of the messages, then trivial and intimate facts such as those cited - some of them preferably known only to one's brother and oneself would be the very kind one would naturally mention to establish one's identity.
The question now arises, however, whether the imparting of such facts by a medium is explicable on some other hypothesis than that of communication with the deceased. Two other explanations - one normal and the other paranormal - suggest themselves. The first is, of course, that the medium obtained antecedently in some perfectly normal manner the information communicated. One of the reasons why I chose Mrs. Piper's mediumship as example is that in her case this explanation is completely ruled out by the rigorous and elaborate precautions which were taken to exclude that possibility. For one thing, Dr. Hodgson had both Mrs. Piper and her husband watched for weeks by detectives, to find out whether they went about making inquiries concerning the relatives and family history of persons they might have expected to come for sittings. Nothing in the slightest degree suspicious was ever found. Moreover, sitters were always introduced by Dr. Hodgson under assumed names. Sometimes, they did not come into the room until after Mrs. Piper was in trance, and then remained behind her where she could not have seen them even if her eyes had been open. On her trips to England, Mrs. Piper stayed in Myer's house or in that of Sir Oliver Lodge, and the few letters she received were examined and most of them read, with her permission, by Myers, Lodge, or Sidgwick. Many of the facts she gave out could not have been learned even by a skilled detective; and to learn such others as could have been so learned would have required a vast expenditure of time and money, which Mrs. Piper did not have. William James summed up the case against the fraud explanation in the statement that "not only has there not been one single suspicious circumstance remarked" during the many years in which she and her mode of life were under close observation, "but not one suggestion has ever been made from any quarter which might tend to explain how the medium, living the apparent life she leads could possibly collect information about so many sitters by natural means(2). Thus, because we do not merely believe but positively know that the information she gave was not obtained by her in any of the normal manners, there is in her case no escape from the fact that it had some paranormal source.
(2) Cf. the conclusions of Frank Podmore to the same effect on pp. 71-78 of his "Discussion of the Trance-phenomena of Mrs. Piper," Proc. Soc. for Psychical Research, Vol. XIV:50-78, 1898-9, in which he contrasts the rigor of the precautions against possibility of fraud taken in Mrs. Piper's case with the possibilities of it that existed in certain famous cases of purported clairvoyance.
The paranormal explanation alternative to the hypothesis is that, in the trance condition, Mrs. Piper, or her dissociated, secondary personalities, possess telepathic powers so extensive as to enable her to obtain the information she gives out from the minds of living persons who happen to have it; and this even if at the time it is buried in their subconsciousness, and no matter whether such persons be at the time with Mrs. Piper or anywhere else on earth. Or else that, in trance, Mrs. Piper has powers of retrocognitive clairvoyance so extensive as to enable her to observe the past life on earth of a deceased person.
But even this supposition is not enough, for besides the recondite true items with which the communications abound, there remains to be explained the dramatic form - the spontaneous give-and-take - of the communications. For this, it is necessary to ascribe to Mrs. Piper's trance personality the extraordinary histrionic ability which would be needed to translate instantly the suitable items of telepathically or clairvoyantly acquired information into the form which expression of a memory, or of an association of ideas, or of response to an allusion, etc., would take in animated conversation between two persons who had shared various experiences - many of them trivial in themselves, but because of this all the more evidential of identity. How staggering a task this would be can be appreciated only in extensive perusal of the verbatim records of the conversations between sitter and communicator, and often between two communicators.
Professor Hyslop takes cognizance of the capacity which a hypnotized subject does have for dramatic imitation of a person he is made to imagine himself to be and about whom he knows something; and Hyslop stresses the great difference, evident in the concrete, between this and the dramatic interplay between different personalities, of which numerous instances occur in the Piper sittings. And he points out also that nothing really parallel to the latter is to be found in the relations to one another of the several dissociated personalities in cases such as that of Morton Prince's Miss Beauchamp(3). Hyslop had stressed earlier (p. 90) that if normal explanations fail to account for the phenomena he has recorded, then the only alternative to the supposition that he has actually been communicating with the independent intelligence of his father is "that we have a most extraordinary impersonation of him, involving a combination of telepathic powers and secondary personality with its dramatic play that should as much try our scepticism as the belief in spirits."
(3) Proc. S.P.R, Vol. XVI:269 ff. 1901.
He concludes: "When I look over the whole field of the phenomena and consider the suppositions that must be made to escape spiritism, which not only one aspect of the case but every incidental feature of it strengthens, such as the dramatic interplay of different personalities, the personal traits of the communicator, the emotional tone that was natural to the same, the proper appreciation of a situation or a question, and the unity of consciousness displayed throughout, I see no reason except the suspicions of my neighbours for withholding assent" (p. 293).
Another of Mrs. Piper's communicators, who during a period of her mediumship was also her chief "control," was "George Pelham." Early in 1892, a young lawyer, George Pelham, [pseudonym for Pellew] died in New York as a result of an accident. He was an associate of the American Society for Psychical Research and a friend of Dr. Hodgson's, to whom he had said that, if he died first "and found himself 'still existing,' he would 'make things lively' in the effort to reveal the fact of his continued existence."(4)
(4) Proc. S. P. R. Vol. XIII:295, 1897-8.
Some four or five weeks after his death, a communicator purporting to be George Pelham manifested himself at a sitting Mrs. Piper was giving to an old friend of his, John Hart. In the subsequent sittings in which G. P. figured, he was specially requested to identify such friends of his as might be among the sitters; and, out of at least one hundred and fifty persons who then had sittings with Mrs. Piper, G. P. truly recognized thirty former friends; there was no case of false recognition; and he failed in only one case to recognize a person he had known. (This was a young woman whom he had known only when she was a child eight or nine years before.) In each case, "the recognition was clear and full, and accompanied by an appreciation of the relations which subsisted between G. P. living and the sitters." Dr. Hodgson adds: "The continual manifestation of this personality, - so different from Phinuit or other communicators, - with its own reservoir of memories, with its swift appreciation of any reference to friends of G. P., with its 'give-and-take' in little incidental conversations with myself, has helped largely in producing a conviction of the actual presence of the G. P. personality which it would be quite impossible to impart by any mere enumeration of verifiable statements."(5)
(5) Op. cit. p. 328.
In bringing to a close Section 6 of his report, Hodgson states that, although further experiment may lead him to change his view, yet "at the present time I cannot profess to have any doubt but that the chief 'communicators,' to whom I have referred in the foregoing pages, are veritably the personalities that they claim to be, that they have survived the change we call death, and that they have directly communicated with us whom we call living, through Mrs. Piper's entranced organism."(6)
(6) Op. cit. p. 406.
The dramatic spontaneity of some of the communications, and their impressive faithfulness to the manner, thought, and character of the deceased persons from whom they purport to emanate, is testified to similarly in the comments of the Rev. M. A. Bayfield on a communication which purported to come from Dr. A. W. Verrall after his death in 1912. Referring to Verrall's intellectual impatience, Mr. Bayfield writes: "The thing I mean does not readily lend itself to definition, but it was eminently characteristic;" and, after quoting certain passages typical of it in the scripts, he goes on.. "All this is Verrall's manner to the life in animated conversation... When I first read the words quoted above I received a series of little shocks, for the turns of speech are Verrall's, the high-pitched emphasis is his, and I could hear the very tones in which he would have spoken each sentence." In commenting on the question whether "these life-like touches of character" are inserted perhaps "by an ingenious forger (the unprincipled subliminal of some living person) with a purpose, in order to lend convincing vraisemblance to a fictitious impersonation," Mr. Bayfield writes that "nowhere is there any slip which would justify the suspicion that in reality we have to do with a cunningly masquerading 'sub.' Neither the impatience, nor the emphatic utterance, nor the playfulness has anywhere the appearance of being 'put on,' - of being separable from the matter of the scripts ... to me at least it is incredible that even the cleverest could achieve such an unexampled triumph in deceptive impersonation as this would be if the actor is not Verrall himself."(7)
(7) Proc. S.P.R. Vol. XXVII:246-49,1914-15.
2. Communications through automatists from fictitious and from still living persons
Whatever may be the correct explanation of such correct and dramatically verisimilar mediumistic communications as those we have just described, the explanation must in one way or another leave room for the fact that in some instances "communications" have been received from characters out of fiction, such as Adam Bede; that, on one occasion, Prof. G. Stanley Hall had, through Mrs. Piper, communications from a girl, Bessie Beals, who was a purely fictitious niece of his invented by him for the purpose of the experiment; that, in 1853, Victor Hugo in exile in jersey received "communications" from "The Lion of Androcles" and "The Ass of Balaam;" that Dr. S. G. Soal received, through Mrs. Blanche Cooper, communications from, on the one hand, a John Ferguson, who turned out to be a wholly fictitious person, and on the other from a Gordon Davis, whom he had known slightly when both were boys at the same school. Soal had since then talked with him only once, for about half an hour about service matters when both were cadets in the army and met by chance on a railroad platform. Soal later believed him to have been killed in the war; but he was in fact living at the time communications of a number of facts about his life history, past and future, were received by Soal through Mrs. Cooper. "Some of these facts," Soal writes, "were given in the form of verbal statements describing incidents which had happened or which were to happen; other facts such as his vocal characteristics were expressed in a purely physical way," for in this case the personality of the (still living) Gordon Davis appeared to "control" or "possess" the medium; was dramatized and spoke in the first person with the fastidious accent and clear articulation peculiar to Gordon Davis; and apparently believed itself to be a deceased person.(8)
(8) Proc. S.P.R. Vol. XXXV:471-594, 1926. A Report of Some Communications Received through Mrs. Blanche Cooper.
Some five earlier cases of communications purporting to emanate from persons who asserted they had died or who were believed to have died, but who were actually living, are cited by Prof. Th. Flournoy in the third chapter of his Spiritism and Psychology(9). The words 'Deceiving Spirits,' which, in quotation marks, he uses as title of that chapter, refer to the fact that Spiritualists are wont to ascribe such spurious communications to mischievous, deceitful spirits. But obviously this explanation would be legitimate only if it had first been independently established that any discarnate spirits at all exist.
(9) Transl. by H. Carrington, pub. Harper & Bros. New York, 1911, pp. 72-90.
3. Mrs. Sidgwick's interpretation of the Piper communications
In an article entitled "Discussion of the Trance Phenomena of Mrs. Piper,"(10) Mrs. Sidgwick, who was one of the keenest minded women of her time in England, takes into consideration what is known both of the pathological dissociations of personality, and of the capacity of subjects in deep hypnotic trance to impersonate anyone whom they have been induced to believe themselves to be. In the light of all this she argues, not specifically against the contention that Mrs. Piper's communications provide some evidence of survival after death, but against the "possession" interpretation of her trance communications; that is, against the supposition that on those occasions the discarnate spirits of George Pelham, of Prof. Hyslop's father, etc., "turn out Mrs. Piper's spirit and themselves take its place in her organism," (p. 35) i.e., possess it for the time being and employ her organs of expression in the same direct manner as that in which each of us normally employs his own vocal organs in oral expression or his own hand in writing.
(10) Proc. Soc. for Psych. Res'ch. Vol. XV:16-38,1900-01.
Mrs. Sidgwick contends that the interpretation most plausible in the light of all the peculiarities of the communications is that the communicating mind is in all cases Mrs. Piper's own (entranced) mind; that in the trance condition, her mind has ,can unusually developed telepathic faculty" (p. 34); that the recondite information her trance mind gives out is obtained by it telepathically from the minds of living persons having it, or possibly from the dead; and that the dramatic form which the presentation of it takes in conversations with the sitter is accounted for most economically, but adequately, if one supposes that the entranced, dreaming Mrs. Piper believes herself at the time to be the deceased person whose memories and personality traits then occupy her mind.
As tending to support this hypothesis against that of direct possession of Mrs. Piper's organism by the discarnate spirit of G. P. or of some other deceased person, Mrs. Sidgwick points out that some sitters are uniformly more successful than others in getting communications whose content is attributable only to some paranormal source - whether this be telepathy from the sitter, or from other living persons, or from the deceased.
This, Mrs. Sidgwick argues, would indicate that the sitter's state of mind, or his particular type of mind, is somehow a factor in the "communication" process; for if the process depended only on the medium and on temporary possession of her entranced organism by a discarnate spirit, there would be no reason why the communications from a given spirit - say, G. P.'s - should, as in fact is the case, be steadily less evidential of some paranormal origin when made to one particular sitter than when made to a particular other.
This conclusion, however, hardly seems to follow; for the supposition that the sitter contributes something - congeniality, readiness to believe, interest in paranormal phenomena, perhaps; or the opposites - is quite compatible with the communicator's being really who he claims to be. It is a matter of common experience that different persons with whom one converses affect one differently and bring out of him different things-one, trivialities; another, exercise perhaps of such unusual powers, or manifestation of such special interests, as he may have.
Anyway, the question we are at present centrally concerned with is whether proof of survival, or at least evidence definitely establishing it as probable, is provided by the paranormal occurrences cited, and more particularly at this point by mediumistic communications, such as Mrs. Piper's, that contain remote details of some particular person's past life and reproduce with high verisimilitude his tone, mannerisms, and distinctive associations of ideas. Hence, if these do prove or establish a positive probability of survival, then the question whether a surviving deceased person communicates with us directly, by taking possession of the entranced Mrs. Piper's organism, or only indirectly by telepathy in the manner suggested by Mrs. Sidgwick, is of but secondary interest, as having to do merely with the technique of the process of communication.
But the facts cited in Section 2 would by themselves be enough to show that the content and form of mediumistic communications, even when as impressive as some of those of Mrs. Piper or of Mrs. Blanche Cooper, do not necessarily proceed from discarnate spirits. The question thus forces itself upon us whether some other explanation is available, that would account at once for the communications from fictitious persons; for the correct and dramatically verisimilar communications purportedly from deceased persons who, however, are in fact still living; and also for the similarly impressive communications that likewise purport to emanate from deceased persons, but where those persons had in fact died.
About the only hypothesis in sight that might do all this and that would be other than that of communications from excarnate spirits deceitful or truthful, is the hypothesis of telepathy from the subconscious minds of living persons who have or have had the information manifested in the communications; or/and the hypothesis of clairvoyance by the medium, giving her access to existing facts or records containing the information. For of course the correctness, or not, of the information communicated can be testified to, if at all, only by some still living person's memory or by some still existing facts or documents.
Before inquiring into the adequacy of this hypothesis, however, we shall have to consider the cases of so-called "Cross-correspondences;" for they are the ones most difficult to account for in terms of only that hypothesis. At the same time, they are the ones that provide the strongest evidence of "true" survival.
It is unfortunately not possible to give an intelligible concrete presentation of any of the cases of cross-correspondence in the space available here, nor without presupposing special knowledge of Greek and Latin classics by the reader; for the scripts of the automatists involved in the cross-correspondences, and the analyses of them, run to hundreds of pages; their significance turns on references or allusions to recondite points in those classics; and their evidential force can be fully appreciated only after long and careful study of the scripts and of the circumstances under which each individually was produced.
The best that can be done here is therefore only to state in general terms what is meant by the term "cross-correspondences," how the experiment they constitute originated, and who were respectively the automatists, the investigators, and the purported communicators concerned in it.
Cross-correspondences are correspondences between the scripts of different automatists isolated from one another at least to the extent of being kept in ignorance of the contents of one another's scripts. Sometimes, one of the automatists is ignorant of the other's existence. For example, Mrs. Verrall, on Oct. 25, 1901, was asked by Mr. Piddington to try to obtain in her scripts a word to be reproduced in the script of another automatist, Mrs. Archdale, of whom Mrs. Verrall had never heard before. She was told that the supposed "control" of Mrs. Archdale was the latter's deceased son, Stewart. Then Mrs. Verrall remembered that, in a script of hers of Sept. 18, 1901, i.e., over a month before she had come to know of Mrs. Archdale's existence, the name Stewart, had occurred together with two other names. These turned out to be ones closely connected with the deceased boy. Similarly definite correspondences were found between some of Mrs. Verrall's scripts in England in the summer of 1905 and those of another automatist, at the time in India, Mrs. Holland, of whose name Mrs. Verrall was then ignorant, and whose acquaintance she did not make until November 1905(11). Other automatists besides Mrs. Verrall (lecturer in Classics at Newnham College and wife of Dr. A. W. Verall, Cambridge University classicist) and Mrs. Holland (pseudonym of a sister of Rudyard Kipling,) were Miss Helen Verrall, Mrs. Thompson, Mrs. Forbes (pseudonym), Mrs. Willett (pseudonym), and Mrs. Piper.
(11) Proc. S.P.R. Vol. XX:205-6,1906.
The investigators in the series of cross-correspondences were Mr. J. G. Piddington, the Hon. Gerald Wm. Balfour (who later became Lord Balfour), Sir Oliver Lodge, Mr. Frank Podmore, Mrs. Sidgwick, and Miss Alice Johnson, Secretary of the Society for Psychical Research. Dr. Richard Hodgson, in charge of Mrs. Piper's sittings in Boston up to the time of his death in 1905, also participated. And, to some extent, Mrs. Verrall functioned not only as automatist but also as investigator.
The deceased persons from whom purported to come the communications characterized by cross-correspondences were chiefly F. W. H. Myers, author of the classic Human Personality and Its Survival of Bodily Death, who had died in 1901; Edmund Gurney (d. 1888), author, with Myers and Podmore's collaboration, of Phantasms of the Living; Henry Sidgwick (d. 1900), the distinguished Cambridge philosopher and first president of the S.P.R.; and Dr. Richard Hodgson (d. 1905), Secretary of the A. S. P. R. After Dr. Verrall's death in 1912, communications typical of him and of Prof. Butcher were also received.
The correspondences between the scripts had to do in most cases with rather recondite details of the Greek and Latin classics. To identify them or to understand the allusions to them made in the scripts therefore required considerable knowledge of the classics by the investigators. One of these, Mr. J. G. Piddington, who had the requisite scholarly equipment and ingenuity, and who was much interested in the scripts, found that certain of them, besides having a topic in common, complemented one another in a manner analogous to that in which the individually insignificant pieces of a jigsaw puzzle - or to use his own comparison, the cubes of a mosaic - make a meaningful whole when correctly combined. This complementariness is the distinctive feature of the most evidential of the cross-correspondences.
An additional point of the greatest interest is that the scripts contain numerous statements more or less explicitly to the effect that the discarnate Myers, Gurney, and Sidgwick were the devisers of the scheme of giving out, through automatists isolated from one another, communications that would be separately unintelligible but that made sense when put together or, in some of the cases, when a clue to the sense was supplied in the script of yet another automatist. In this way, the possibility of explaining simply as due to telepathy or clairvoyance the similarities of topic between the scripts of two automatists would be ruled out or greatly strained; and in addition proof would automatically be supplied that the communicators, in their discarnate state, were not mere automata and sets of memories, but retained intellectual initiative and ingenuity; that is, that they were still fully living.
An excellent summary of some of the most evidential cases of cross-correspondence, with some extracts from the scripts, is presented in a fair and discerning manner by H. F. Saltmarsh in his little book, Evidence of Personal Survival from Cross Correspondences(12). Briefer accounts of the subject-though more ample than the present one-may be found in G. N. M. Tyrrell's The Personality of Man, chs. 17 and 18, and in his Science and Psychical Phenomena, ch. XVII.(13) It is worth mentioning that Lord Balfour, in his fine "Study of the Psychological Aspects of Mrs. Willett's Mediumship and of the Statements of the Communicators Concerning Process"(14) states that "the bulk of Mrs. Willett's automatic output is too private for publication;" hence that, in his paper, "there must still remain withheld from publicity a good many passages which [he] would willingly have quoted by way of illustration;" and that 'It would be impossible to do justice to the argument in favour of spirit communication on the basis of the Willett phenomena without violating confidences which [he is] bound to respect" (pp. 43, 45).
(12) G. Bell & Sons, London 1938, pp. viii and 159. At the end is a full list of the discussions of the scripts in the Proceedings of the S. P. R.
(13) Respectively, Penguin Books, New York, 1946, No. A165; and Harper & Bros., New York and London, 1938.
(14) Proc. S.P.R. Vol. XLIII:41-318, 1935.
In 1932, Mrs. Sidgwick wrote an account of the history and work of the Society for Psychical Research during its first fifty years of existence. She being at the time President of Honor of the Society, her paper was presented by her brother, Lord Balfour at the jubilee meeting of the Society, July 1, 1932. After he had done so, he added that some of the persons present "may have felt that the note of caution and reserve has possibly been over-emphasized in Mrs. Sidgwick's paper!' Then he went on: "Conclusive proof of survival is notoriously difficult to obtain. But the evidence may be such as to produce belief, even though it fall short of conclusive proof." Lord Balfour then concluded with the words: "I have Mrs. Sidgwick's assurance - an assurance which I am permitted to convey to the meeting - that, upon the evidence before her, she herself is a firm believer both in survival and in the reality of communication between the living and the dead."(16) This belief, he had himself come to share.
(16) Proc. S.P.R. Vol. XLI:16,1932-3.
Certainly, few persons have been both as thoroughly acquainted with the evidence from cross-correspondences for survival and for communication with the deceased, and at the same time as objective and keenly critical, as were Mrs. Sidgwick and Lord Balfour.