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Sunday, May 27, 2012

IAN STEVENSON - The Similarity of Features of Reincarnation Type Cases over Many Years: A Third Study

Journal of Scientic Exploration, Vol. 17, No. 2, pp. 283–289, 2003
The principal features of two series of cases suggestive of reincarnation in Lebanon were compared. The series were investigated about a generation apart by two different investigators. In three important features, the two series were closely similar; in other features they were not similar, probably because of differences in the thoroughness of investigation in the two series. Keywords: reincarnation cases—stability of features

Children who claim to remember a previous life (PL) occur in many different countries and cultures. Investigators can find them most readily in South Asia and western Asia, but they occur also in Europe and North America (Stevenson, l987/2001). In many cases, inquiries have shown that the child’s statements correspond to facts and events in the life of a particular deceased person. In many of these verified or ‘‘solved’’ cases, investigators have found no normal means whereby information about the concerned deceased person could have reached the subject of the case. In other cases, however, careful inquiries have failed to verify the child’s statements; such cases remain ‘‘unsolved’’ (Cook et al, l983). In addition to the child’s statements, many cases include behavior by the child that is unusual in the child’s family but that corresponds to the child’s statements or to the life and death of the deceased person. For example, among 47 cases in which the child described a previous life that ended in death by drowning, 30 (64%) subjects had a phobia of being immersed in water (Stevenson, 1990). In many other cases the subject has birthmarks or birth defects that correspond closely in location and shape to wounds or other marks on the concerned deceased person (Stevenson, 1997). 
Despite the evidence supporting a paranormal interpretation of some of these cases, some critics have attributed them to a combination of normal (but unnoticed) communications, fantasies (deriving in large part from the belief in reincarnation in the cultures where most of the cases are found), and coincidence. A condensed name for this interpretation is the ‘‘socio-psychological hypothesis’’ (Brody, 1979; Littlewood, 2001; Schouten & Stevenson, 1998). We believe that the stability of some features of cases of the reincarnation type weighs against the view that they derive from fantasies; we remain fully aware, however, that the cases minimally require evidence of a paranormal process before we can invoke reincarnation as their best interpretation. 
Two previous examinations of the stability of features of these cases over time, in India (Pasricha & Stevenson, l987) and in Turkey (Keil & Stevenson, 1999), have shown such stability. In India, the stability occurred in cases two generations apart; in Turkey, the compared series of cases were one generation apart. This article reports a third study of the stability of features of cases of the reincarnation type, this one concerning cases among the Druses of Lebanon. The Druses (sometimes spelled Druzes) form a fairly compact and substantial religious group in Lebanon and neighboring countries. Although their religion originally derived from Islam, the Druses now regard it as separate from Islam. Reincarnation is a central tenet of their beliefs. They have numerous cases of children who claim to remember previous lives (Stevenson, 1966/l974, 1980). One of us (I.S.) investigated Druse cases of the reincarnation type between l964 and l981. The civil wars in Lebanon then interrupted investigations there. E.H. resumed the investigations in 1998–2001. The median year of investigation for the I.S. cases was l972 and that for the E.H. cases was l999. The two series, therefore, occurred about a generation apart. 

Methods of Investigation 
Interviews with firsthand witnesses of the child’s statements and of any unusual behavior on the part of the child formed the principal method of investigation. In solved cases, qualified informants for the life of the identified deceased person, such as a widow or widower, were interviewed. When feasible, we checked dates provided by informants’ memories against Identity Cards or other records. (Identity Cards, however, were often unreliable in Lebanon in the l970s and l980s.) Relevant medical records were also sought and copied. 
We made notes as the informants talked. Skilled interpreters assisted us in most cases. We recorded demographic data on a Registration Form. A checklist (on the Form) of salient features permitted us to conduct somewhat systematic interviews, so that, in general, we elicited similar information about the different cases. Nevertheless, the emphases of our investigations differed to some extent. In his investigations, I.S. concentrated on examining the evidence for or against paranormal interpretations of the case. In contrast, E.H. concentrated on psychological characteristics of the subjects. He satisfied himself concerning the authenticity of the cases he wished to include in a program of psychological testing, which would be similar to one he had conducted for cases in Sri Lanka (Haraldsson, 1995, l997; Haraldsson, Fowler, & Periyannanpillai, 2000; Haraldsson & Abu-Izzeddin, 2002). Therefore, with a few exceptions, he did not investigate the cases of his series in as much detail as I.S. had for his series. Coders, examining the array of details in the case notes, judged the ‘‘thoroughness’’ of each investigation. They judged 29 (more than half) of the I.S.’s cases to have been ‘‘thoroughly’’ or ‘‘fairly thoroughly’’ investigated, whereas only 4 (13%) of E.H.’s cases were so judged. Nevertheless, E.H. obtained sufficient data about the cases he studied for the purposes of the present comparisons. For some other comparisons the data from the E.H. series were insufficient. 
The data from the Registration Forms, field notes, and any printed records were entered in a codebook and then into SPSS Ver. 10.1 so that we could make the comparisons we wished. 

The I.S. series had 55 cases; 39 (71%) of the subjects were male and 16 (29%) female. The E.H. series had 30 cases; 19 (63%) of the subjects were male and 11 (37%) female. (Other series of cases have usually shown a preponderance of male subjects the reasons for which need not detain us here [Stevenson, 1987/ 2001].) In every case, the past lives to which the subjects referred were those of Druse persons. 
The birth years of the I.S. cases ranged between 1907 and 1974 with a mean of 1952. The birth years of the E.H. cases ranged between 1984 and l993 with a mean of 1989. The means of the subjects’ ages when their cases were first investigated were 20 years for the I.S. series and 10.5 years for the E.H. series. As mentioned, E.H. was primarily interested in finding young subjects who could be given psychological tests. His assistant, who was ascertaining cases for him, directed him only toward cases of which the subjects were still children. The oldest subject in his series was 13 years old, whereas 30 (more than half) of the subjects in the IS series were more than 13 years old when their cases were first investigated.

Features of Cases on Side of the Subject 

Subject’s Age When First Speaking about Previous Life. In the I.S. series, the mean age of first instance of speaking about the previous life was 31 months (range: 12–66). In the E.H. series, the mean age of first instance of speaking about the previous life was 32 months (range: 18–48). 
Subject’s Age When Stopped Speaking about Previous Life. In the I.S. series the mean age when the subject stopped speaking spontaneously about the previous life was 161 months (13 years) (range: 102–336 months). For the E.H. series, the mean age for no longer speaking spontaneously about the previous life was 67 months (5.6 years) (range: 60–74 months). 
Number and Kind of Statements Subjects Made about Previous Life. In the I.S. series, the mean number of statements about the previous life the subjects made was 23 (range: 3–74). For the E.H. series the mean number of statements about the previous life was 10.3 (range: 3–23). In the I.S. series, the subject mentioned the mode of death in 42 (82%) cases. In the E.H. series, 25 subjects (83%) mentioned the mode of death. In the I.S. series, 43 (88%) subjects mentioned the previous personality’s name. In the E.H. series, 19 (63%) of the subjects mentioned the previous personality’s name. In the I.S. series, 31 (56%) of the subjects mentioned or otherwise indicated the previous personality’s place of residence. In the E.H. series, 16 (53%) of the subjects did this. 
Unusual Behavior on the Part of the Subject. Phobias related to the previous life (usually to the mode of death) occurred frequently in both series. Phobias occurred in 77% of the I.S. cases and in 42% of the E.H. cases. These incidences of phobias exceed those found in the cases of other cultures. Among 179 solved cases of five other cultures (Burma [now Myanmar], India, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and the United States [nontribal cases]), phobias occurred in 60 (33%) cases. 
Many children who say they remember a previous life behave as if they were still adults. For example, they may assume a parental role toward the previous personality’s children; they may address adults familiarly instead of deferentially as most children would; and they may be capable of assuming greater responsibilities than the usual child of the same age. We classify such behavior as ‘‘adult attitude.’’ We observed some examples of ‘‘adult attitude’’ among the Druse cases. Suleyman Andary, for example, showed it to such an extent that he was nicknamed ‘‘mukhtar’’ (Arabic for headman) (Stevenson, l980). Nevertheless, we also found the trait difficult to appraise because of the tendency of the subjects’ parents in Lebanon (and elsewhere) to think of the subjects as superior persons with consequential effects on the children’s behavior. Accordingly, we do not include here any figure for the incidence of ‘‘adult attitude.’’ 

Identification and Features of Previous Personality 

For convenience only and without commitment to any interpretation of the cases, we refer to the concerned deceased person in a case as the ‘‘previous personality.’’ The term is useful whether or not the families concerned or the investigators have identified a deceased person correctly corresponding to the subject’s statements. Cases with and without the identification of such a person are regarded respectively as ‘‘solved’’ and ‘‘unsolved.’’ For the reasons stated, I.S. and E.H. dealt with the verification of the subjects’ statements differently. By conducting independent verifications, I.S. classified 41 (74%) of his cases as solved. E.H., however, investigated only four of his cases thoroughly. He did not consider the other cases in his series necessarily solved, although 93% of the subjects’ families in his series believed that they were solved. 
Mode of Death. In both series, a high incidence of violent mode of death occurred. In the I.S. series, the previous personality died violently in 36 (73%) of cases. In the E.H. series, violent death occurred in 24 (80%) of cases. 
Previous Personality’s Age at Death. In keeping with the high incidence of violent death, both series showed a young age of the previous personality at the time of death. In the I.S. series, the mean age at death of the previous personalities was 34 years; in the E.H. series, it was 38 years. 
Interval between Previous Personality’s Death and Subject’s Birth. The mean interval between the previous personality’s death and the subject’s birth was 23 months in the I.S. series and 46 months in the E.H. series. Tables 1 and 2 summarize the results of the principal comparisons between the series. They provide for each variable the number of cases from which the data derived.


Before discussing the similarities and differences between the two series of cases, we will mention that some demographic features of the cases in both series are not representative of the general population in Lebanon. Unfortunately, we have few data to support this statement. We have not learned of any accurate vital statistics about the population of Lebanon for the years of the I.S. series. The collection of such statistics was at first inhibited for political reasons and then made impossible during the civil wars of the 1970s and l980s. For 1999, the life expectancy in Lebanon was 68 years for men and 72 years for women (United Nations, 2001). The mean age at death of the previous personalities was 34 in the I.S. series and 38 in the E.H. series. We have not obtained any figures for the incidence of violent death in the general population of Lebanon. Nevertheless, we believe the incidence of violent death in both series far exceeds that in the general population. 
We should mention that the cases among the Druses differ from those of many other cultures (but not all) in the absence of claims to remember the life of a person of the opposite sex. Also, birthmarks and birth defects rarely occur in cases among the Druses. 
The features of the two series were similar in some important respects, but differed in others. They were similar in such salient features as the age of first speaking of the previous life, mention of the mode of death by the subject, and the high incidence of a violent mode of death. 
A noteworthy difference between the two series occurred in the age when the subjects stopped speaking about the previous life. We may explain this difference by the different ages of the subjects at the time the cases of the two series were investigated. As mentioned, E.H. sought to study subjects who were children, and the oldest subject in his series was only 13 years old. I.S. included many subjects who were older children or even already adults. Only four of the children in E.H.’s series had stopped speaking spontaneously about the previous life at the time of his investigations. 
I.S. required verification from the previous personality’s family members before he considered a case solved. E.H. could not state how many of the cases in his series were solved. He only recorded that 93% of the subjects’ families believed the case with which they were concerned had been solved. The difference in verification may explain the lower incidence of cases considered solved in the I.S. series. 
Some other differences between the two series, such as the number of statements the subjects made and the incidence of phobias, may derive from the greater attention I.S. gave, both to the recording and independent verification of the subject’s statements and to evaluating the appropriateness of any unusual behavior on the part of the subject to the life or behavior of the previous personality. Different informants often remember different statements they heard the subject make. Cases judged to have been investigated ‘‘thoroughly’’ or ‘‘fairly thoroughly’’ have more informants. For the four cases that E.H. investigated thoroughly, the mean number of statements was 18, which was almost twice as many as the mean for the 30 E.H. cases considered as a whole. 
The similarities between the two series—the age of first speaking of the previous life, the mention of the mode of death by the subject, and the high incidence of a violent mode of death—show that the cases of children who claim to remember a previous life are a recurrent phenomenon. Although the stability of some features of the cases over many years seems important to us as weighing against their interpretation as fantasies, a judgment about reincarnation as a better interpretation depends on evidence of paranormal processes in individual cases.

The research of the Division of Personality Studies is supported by the Lifebridge Foundation, the Azuma Nagamasa Memorial Fund, the Bernstein Brothers Foundation, Richard Adams, and several anonymous donors. The Bial Foundation supported E.H.’s investigations in Lebanon of cases of the reincarnation type among the Druses. We thank Dawn E. Hunt and Martha Mercier for careful checking of the data in the paper. Dr. Emily Kelly improved it with numerous critical comments. We benefited from a careful reading of the paper by Dr. Jim Tucker. Dr. Alan Gauld and Dr. Jürgen Keil both provided cautionary advice about the interpretation of our results. 

Brody, E. B. (1979). Review of Cases of the Reincarnation Type. Vol. II. Ten Cases in Sri Lanka by Ian Stevenson. Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 167, 769–774. Cook, E.W., Pasricha, S., Samararatne, G., Win Maung, & Stevenson, I. (1983). A review and analysis of ‘‘unsolved’’ cases of the reincarnation type. Part II: Comparison of features of solved and unsolved cases. Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, 77, 115–135. Haraldsson, E. (1995). Personality and abilities of children claiming previous life memories. Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 183, 445–451. Haraldsson, E. (1997). A psychological comparison between ordinary children and those who claim previous-life memories. Journal of Scienti c Exploration, 11, 323–335. Haraldsson, E., Fowler, P., & Perriyannanpillai, V. (2000). Psychological characteristics of children who speak of a previous life. A further eld study in Sri Lanka. Transcultural Psychiatry, 37, 525– 544. Haraldsson, E., & Abu-Izzeddin, M. (2002). Development of certainty about the correct deceased person in a case of the reincarnation type: The case of Nazih Al-Danaf. Journal of Scienti c Exploration, 16, 363–380. Keil, J., & Stevenson, I. (1999). Do cases of the reincarnation type show similar features over many years? A study of Turkish cases a generation apart. Journal of Scienti c Exploration, 13, 189–198. Littlewood, R. (2001). Social institutions and psychological explanations: Druze reincarnation as a therapeutic resource. British Journal of Medical Psychology, 74, 213–222. Pasricha, S., & Stevenson, I. (1987). Indian cases of the reincarnation type two generations apart. Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, 54, 239–246. Schouten, S., & Stevenson, I. (1998). Does the socio-psychological hypothesis explain cases of the reincarnation type? Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 186, 504–506. Stevenson, I. (1966/1974). Twenty Cases Suggestive of Reincarnation. 2nd ed. rev. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia. (First published in l966.) Stevenson, I. (1980). Cases of the Reincarnation Type. Vol. III. Twelve Cases in Lebanon and Turkey. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia. Stevenson, I. (1990). Phobias in children who claim to remember previous lives. Journal of Scienti c Exploration, 4, 243–254. Stevenson, I. (1997). Reincarnation and Biology: A Contribution to the Etiology of Birthmarks and Birth Defects. Westport, CT: Praeger. Stevenson, I. (1987/2001). Children Who Remember Previous Lives: A question of Reincarnation. Rev. ed. Jefferson, NC: McFarland and Company. (First published in l987; Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia.) United Nations. (2001). Demographic Yearbook 1999. New York: United Nations.

Lord Arthur Balfour - M. Bergson

M. Bergson
 - Lord Arthur Balfour -
           WITH THE arguments of Foundations of Belief I do not propose to trouble the reader. But it may make clearer what I have to say about L'Evolution creatrice if I mention that (among other conclusions) I arrive at the conviction that in accepting science, as we all do, we are moved by 'values' not by logic. That if we examine fearlessly the grounds on which judgments about the material world are founded, we shall find that they rest on postulates about which it is equally impossible to say that we can theoretically regard them as self-evident, or practically treat them as doubtful. We can neither prove them nor give them up. 'Concede' (I argued) the same philosophic weight to values in departments of speculation which look beyond the material world, and naturalism will have to be abandoned. But the philosophy of science would not lose thereby. On the contrary, an extension of view beyond phenomena diminishes rather than increases the theoretical difficulties with which bare naturalism is beset. It is not by a mere reduction in the area of our beliefs that, in the present state of our knowledge, certainty and consistency are to be reached. Such a reduction could not be justified by philosophy. But, justifiable or not, it would be quite impracticable. 'Values' refuse to be ignored.

A scheme of thought so obviously provisional has no claim to be a system, and the question therefore arises - at least, it arises for me - whether the fruitful philosophic labours of the last twenty years have found answers to the problem which I find most perplexing? I cannot pretend to have followed as closely as I should have desired the recent developments of speculation in Britain and America - still less in Germany, France, or Italy. Even were it otherwise, I could not profitably discuss them within the compass of an article. But the invitation to consider from this point of view a work so important as L'Evolution creatrice, by an author so distinguished as M. Bergson, I have found irresistible.

There cannot be a topic which provides a more fitting text for what I have to say in this connection than Freedom. To the idealist, Absolute spirit is free; though when we come to the individual soul I am not sure that its share of freedom amounts (in most systems) to very much. To the naturalistic thinker there is, of course, no Absolute, and no soul. Psychic phenomena are a function of the nervous system. The nervous system is material, and obeys the laws of matter. Its behaviour is as rigidly determined as the planetary orbits, and might be accurately deduced by a being sufficiently endowed with powers of calculation, from the distribution of matter, motion, and force, when the solar system was still nebular. To me, who am neither idealist nor naturalist, freedom is a reality; partly because, on ethical grounds, I am not prepared to give it up; partly because any theory which, like 'naturalism,' requires reason to be mechanically determined, is (I believe) essentially incoherent; and if we abandon mechanical determinism in the case of reason, it seems absurd to retain it in the case of will; partly because it seems impossible to find room for the self and its psychic states in the interstices of a rigid sequence of material causes and effects. Yet the material sequence is there; the self and its states are there; and I do not pretend to have arrived at a satisfactory view of their reciprocal relations. I keep them both, conscious of their incompatibilities.

A bolder line is taken by M. Bergson, and his point of view, be it right or wrong, is certainly far more interesting. He is not content with refusing to allow mechanical or any other form of determinism to dominate life. He makes freedom the very corner-stone of his system - freedom in its most aggressive shape. Life is free, life is spontaneous, life is incalculable. It is not indeed out of relation to matter, for matter clogs and hampers it. But not by matter is its direction wholly determined, not from matter is its forward impulse derived.

As we know it upon this earth, organic life resembles some great river system, pouring in many channels across the plain. One stream dies away sluggishly in the sand, another loses itself in some inland lake, while a third, more powerful or more fortunate, drives its tortuous and arbitrary windings further and yet further from the snows that gave it birth.

M. Bergson objects to teleology only less than to mechanical determinism. And, if I understand him aright, the vital impulse has no goal more definite than that of acquiring an ever fuller volume of free creative activity.

But what in M. Bergson's theory corresponds to the sources of these multitudinous streams of life? Whence come they? The life we see - the life of plants, of animals, of men - have their origin in the single life which he calls super-consciousness, above matter and beyond it; which divides, like the snow-fields of our simile, into various lines of flow, corresponding to the lines of organic development, described by evolutionary biology. But as the original source of organic life is free, indeterminate, and incalculable, so this quality never utterly disappears from its derivative streams, entangled and thwarted though they be by matter. Life, even the humblest life, does not wholly lose its original birthright, nor does it succumb completely to its mechanical environment.

Now it is evident that if the ultimate reality is this free creative activity, time must occupy a position in M. Bergson's philosophy quite other than that which it holds in any of the great metaphysical systems. For in these, time and temporal relation are but elements within an Absolute, itself conceived as timeless; whereas M. Bergson's Absolute almost resolves itself into time-evolving, as it were by a free effort, new forms at each instant of a continuous flow. A true account of the Absolute would therefore take the form of history. It would tell us of the Absolute that has been and is, the Absolute 'up to date'. Of the Absolute that is to be, no account can be given; its essential contingency puts its future beyond the reach of any Powers of calculation, even were those powers infinite in their grasp.

Now this view of reality, expounded by its author with a wealth of scientific as well as of philosophical knowledge which must make his writings fascinating and instructive to those who least agree with them, suggests far more questions than it would be possible merely to catalogue, much less to discuss, within the limits of this paper. But there is one aspect of the theory from my point of view of fundamental interest, on which something must be said - I mean the relation of M. Bergson's free creative consciousness to organised life and to unorganised matter - to that physical Universe with which biology, chemistry, and physics are concerned.

M. Bergson, while denying that life-will-consciousness, as we know them on this earth of ours, are mere functions of the material organism, does not, as we have seen, deny that they, in a sense, depend on it. They depend on it as a workman depends on a tool. It limits him, though he uses it.

Now the way in which life uses the organism in which it is embodied is by releasing at will the energy which the organism has obtained directly or indirectly from the sun-directly in the cage of plants, indirectly in the case of animals. The plants hoard much but use little. The animals appropriate their savings.

To M. Bergson, therefore, organised life essentially shows itself in the sudden and quasi-explosive release of these accumulations. Indeed he carries this idea so far as to suggest that any material system which should store energy by arresting its degradation to some lower level(1),and should produce effects by its sudden liberation, would exhibit something in the nature of life. But this is surely going too far. There are plenty of machines used for manufacturing or domestic purposes which do just this; while in the realm of nature there seems no essential physical distinction between (on the one hand) the storing up of solar radiation by plants and its discharge in muscular action, and (on the other) the slow production of aqueous vapour, and its discharge during a thunderstorm in torrential rain. Yet all would admit that the first is life, while the second is but mechanism.

(1) This refers to the second law of thermo-dynamics. It is interesting to observe that M. Bergson regards this as philosophically more important than the first law.

It is rash to suggest that a thinker like M. Bergson has wrongly emphasised his own doctrines. Yet I venture, with great diffidence, to suggest that the really important point in this part of his theory, the point where his philosophy breaks finally with 'mechanism,' the point where freedom and indeterminism are really introduced into the world of space and matter, is only indirectly connected with the bare fact that in organic life accumulated energy is released. What is really essential is the manner of its release. If the release be effected by pure mechanism, fate still reigns supreme. If, on the other hand, there be anything in the mode of release, however trifling, which could not be exhaustively accounted for by the laws of matter and motion, then freedom gains a foothold in the very citadel of necessity. Make the hair trigger which is to cause the discharge as delicate as you please, yet if it be pulled by forces dependent wholly upon the configuration and energy of the material universe at the moment, you are nothing advanced. Determinism still holds you firmly in its grip. But if there be introduced into the system a new force - in other words, a new creation - though it be far too minute for any instrument to register, then if it either pull the trigger or direct the explosion, the reality of contingency is established, and our whole conception of the physical world is radically transformed.

This, I conceive, must be M. Bergson's view. But his theory of the relation between life-freedom-will, on the one side, and matter on the other, goes much further than the mere assertion that there is in fact an element of contingency in the movements of living organisms. For he regards this both as a consequence and as a sign of an effort made by creative will to bring mechanism more and more under the control of freedom. Such efforts have, as biology tells us, often proved abortive. Some successes that have been won have had again to be surrendered. Advance, as in the case of many parasites, has been followed by retrogression. By comparing the molluscs, whose torpid lives have been repeating themselves without sensible variation through all our geological records, with man, in whom is embodied the best we know of consciousness and will, we may measure the success which has so far attended the efforts of super-consciousness in this portion of the Universe.

I say, in this portion of the Universe, because M. Bergson thinks it not only possible but probable that elsewhere in space the struggle between freedom and necessity, between life and matter, may be carried on through the sudden liberation of other forms of energy than those which plants accumulate by forcibly divorcing the oxygen and the carbon atoms combined in our atmosphere. The speculation is interesting, though, from the point of view of science, somewhat hazardous. From the point of view of M. Bergson's metaphysic, however, it is almost a necessity. For his metaphysic, like every metaphysic, aims at embracing all reality; and as the relation between life and matter is an essential part of it, the matter with which he deals cannot be restricted to that which constitutes our negligible fraction of the physical world.

But what, according to his metaphysic, is the relation of life, consciousness, in general, to matter in general? His theory of organic life cannot stand alone. For it does not get us beyond individual living things, struggling freely, but separately, with their own organisms, with each other, and with the inert mass of the physical world which lies around them. But what the history of all this may be, whence comes individual life, and whence comes matter, and what may be the fundamental relation between the two, this has still to be explained.

And, frankly, the task of explanation for any one less gifted than M. Bergson himself is not an easy one. The first stage, indeed, whether easy or not, is at least familiar. M. Bergson thinks, with other great masters of speculation, that consciousness, life, spirit is the prius of all that is, be it physical or mental. But let me repeat that the prius is, in his view, no all-inclusive absolute, of which our world, the world evolving in time, is but an aspect or phase. His theory, whatever its subsequent difficulties may be, is less remote from common-sense. For duration with him is, as we have seen, something pre-eminently real. It is not to be separated from the creative consciousness. It is no abstract emptiness, filled up by successive happenings, placed (as it were) end to end. It must rather be regarded as an agent in that continuous process of free creation which is life itself,

Since, then, consciousness and matter are not to be regarded as entities of independent origin, ranged against one another from eternity, like the good and evil principles of Zoroaster, what is the relation between them? If I understand M. Bergson aright, matter must be regarded as a by-product of the evolutionary process. The primordial consciousness falls, as it were, asunder. On the one side it rises to an ever fuller measure of creative freedom; on the other, it lapses into matter, determinism, mechanical adjustment, space. Space with him, therefore, is not, as with most other philosophers, a correlative of Time. It has not the same rank (whatever that may be) in the hierarchy of being. For, while Time is of the essential of primordial activity, Space is but the limiting term of those material elements which are no more than its backwash.

I do not, of course, for a moment delude myself into the belief that I have made these high speculations clear and easy. The reader, justly incensed by my rendering of M. Bergson's doctrine, must find his remedy in M. Bergson's own admirable exposition. I may, however, have done enough to enable me to make intelligible certain difficulties which press upon me, and may, perhaps, press also upon others.

M. Bergson holds that events which, because they are contingent, even infinite powers of calculation could not foresee, may yet be accounted for, even by our very modest powers of thought, after they have occurred. I own this somewhat surprises me. And my difficulty is increased by the reflection that free consciousness pursues no final end, it follows no predetermined design. It struggles, it expends itself in effort, it stretches ever towards completer freedom, but it has no plans.

Of primordial consciousness, however, we know neither the objects nor the opportunities. It follows no designs, it obeys no laws. The sort of explanation, therefore, which satisfies us when we are dealing with one of its organic embodiments, seems hard of attainment in the case of primordial consciousness itself. I cannot, at least, persuade myself that M. Bergson has attained it. Why should free consciousness first produce, and then, as it were, shed, mechanically determined matter? Why, having done so, should it set to work to permeate this same matter with contingency? Why should it allow itself to be split up by matter into separate individualities? Why, in short, should it ever have engaged in that long and doubtful battle between freedom and necessity which we call organic evolution?

Yet fully granting that, in the present state of our knowledge, every metaphysic must be defective, we cannot accept any particular metaphysic without some grounds of belief, be they speculative, empirical, or practical; and the question therefore arises - On what grounds are we asked to accept the metaphysic of M. Bergson?

This brings us to what is perhaps the most suggestive, and is certainly the most difficult, portion of his whole doctrine - I mean his theory of knowledge. The magnitude of that difficulty will be at once realised when I say that in M. Bergson's view not reason, but instinct, brings us into the closest touch, the directest relation, with what is most real in the Universe. For reason is at home, not with life and freedom, but with matter, mechanism, and space - the waste products of the creative impulse. We need not wonder, then, that reason should feel at home in the realm of matter; that it should successfully cut up the undivided flow of material change into particular sequences which are repeated, or are capable of repetition, and which exemplify 'natural laws'; that it should manipulate long trains of abstract mathematical inference, and find that their remotest conclusion fits closely to observed fact. For matter and reason own, according to M. Bergson, a common origin; and the second was evolved in order that we might cope successfully with the first.

Instinct, which finds its greatest development among bees and ants, though incomparably inferior to reason in its range, is yet in touch with a higher order of truth, for it is in touch with life itself. In the perennial struggle between freedom and necessity which began when life first sought to introduce contingency into matter, everything, it seems, could not be carried along the same line of advance. Super-consciousness was like an army suddenly involved in a new and difficult country. If the infantry took one route, the artillery must travel by another. The powers of creation would have been overtasked had it been attempted to develop the instinct of the bee along the same evolutionary track as the reason of the man. But man is not, therefore, wholly without instinct, nor does he completely lack the powers of directly apprehending life. In rare moments of tension, when his whole being is wound up for action, when memory seems fused with will and desire into a single impulse to do, - then he knows freedom, then he touches reality, then he consciously sweeps along with the advancing wave of Time, which, as it moves, creates.

However obscure to reflective thought such mystic utterances may seem, many will read them with a secret sympathy. But, from the point of view occupied by M. Bergson's own philosophy, do they not suggest questions of difficulty? How comes it that if instinct be the appropriate organ for apprehending free reality, bees and ants, whose range of freedom is so small, should have so much of it? How comes it that man, the freest animal of them all, should specially delight himself in the exercise of reason, the faculty brought into existence to deal with matter and necessity? M. Bergson is quite aware of the paradox, but does he anywhere fully explain it?

This is, however, comparatively speaking, a small matter. The difficulties which many will find in the system, as I have just described it, lie deeper. Their first inclination will be to regard it as a fantastic construction, in many parts difficult of comprehension, in no part capable of proof. They will attach no evidential value to the unverified visions attributed to the Hymenoptera, and little to the flashes of illumination enjoyed by man. The whole scheme will seem to them arbitrary and unreal, owing more to poetical imagination than to scientific knowledge or philosophic insight.

Such a judgment would certainly be wrong; and if made at all, will, I fear, be due in no small measure to my imperfect summary. The difficulties of such a summary are indeed very great, not through the defects but the merits of the author summarised. The original picture is so rich in suggestive detail that adequate reproduction on a smaller scale is barely possible. Moreover, M. Bergson's Evolution Creatrice is not merely a philosophic treatise, it has all the charms and all the audacities of a work of Art, and as such defies adequate reproduction. Yet let no man regard it as an unsubstantial vision. One of its peculiarities is the intimate, and, at first sight, the singular, mingling of minute scientific statement with the boldest metaphysical speculation. This is not accidental; it is of the essence of M. Bergson's method. For his metaphysic may, in a sense, be called empirical. It is no a priori construction, any more than it is a branch of physics or biology. It is a philosophy, but a philosophy which never wearies in its appeals to concrete science.

Even the most abstruse and subtle parts of his system make appeal to natural science. Consider, for example, the sharp distinction which he draws between the operations of mechanism and reason on the one side, creation and instinct on the other. Reason, analysing some very complex organ like the eye and its complementary nervous structure, perceives that it is compounded of innumerable minute elements, each of which requires the nicest adjustment if it is to serve its purpose, and all of which are mutually interdependent. It tries to imagine external and mechanical methods by which this intricate puzzle could have been put together - e.g. selection out of chance variations. In M. Bergson's opinion, all such theories - true, no doubt, as far as they go - are inadequate. He supplements or replaces them by quite a different view. From the external and mechanical standpoint necessarily adopted by reason, the complexity seems infinite, the task of co-ordination impossible. But looked at from the inside, from the position which creation occupies and instinct comprehends, there is no such complexity and no such difficulty. Observe how certain kinds of wasp, when paralysing their victim, show a knowledge of anatomy which no morphologist could surpass, and a skill which few surgeons could equal. Are we to suppose these dexterities to be the result of innumerable experiments somehow bred into the race? Or are we to suppose it the result, e.g., of natural selection working upon minute variation? Or are we to suppose it due to some important mutation? No, says M. Bergson; none of these explanations, nor any like them, are admissible. If the problem was one of mechanism, if it were as complicated as reason, contemplating it from without, necessarily supposes, then it would be insoluble. But to the wasp it is not insoluble; for the wasp looks at it from within, and is in touch, through instinct, with life itself.

This enumeration is far from exhausting the biological arguments which M. Bergson draws from his ample stores in favour of his views on the beginnings of organic life. Yet I cannot feel that even he succeeds in quarrying out of natural science foundations strong enough to support the full weight of his metaphysic. Even if it be granted (and by naturalistic thinkers it will not be granted) that life always carries with it a trace of freedom or contingency, and that this grows greater as organisms develop, why should we therefore suppose that life existed before its first humble beginnings on this earth, why should we call in super-consciousness? M. Bergson regards matter as the dam which keeps back the rush of life. Organise it a little (as in the Protozoa) - i.e. slightly raise the sluice - and a little life will squeeze through. Organise it elaborately (as in man) - i.e. raise the sluice a good deal - and much life will squeeze through. Now this maybe a very plausible opinion if the flood of life be really there, beating against matter till it forces an entry through the narrow slit of undifferentiated protoplasm. But is it there? Science, modestly professing ignorance, can stumble along without it; and I question whether philosophy, with only scientific data to work upon, can establish its reality.

In truth, when we consider the manner in which M. Bergson uses his science to support his metaphysic, we are reminded of the familiar theistic argument from design, save that most of the design is left out.

What has happened before may happen again. The apparently inexplicable may find an explanation within the narrowest limits of natural science. Mechanism may be equal to playing the part which a spiritual philosophy had assigned to consciousness. When, therefore, M. Bergson tells us that the appearance of an organ so peculiar as the eye in lines of evolution so widely separated as the molluscs and the vertebrates implies not only a common ancestral origin, but a common pre-ancestral origin; or when he points out how hard it is to account for certain most complicated cases of adaptation by any known theory of heredity, we may admit the difficulty, yet hesitate to accept the solution. We feel the peril of basing our beliefs upon a kind of ignorance which may at any moment be diminished or removed.

Now, I do not suggest that M. Bergson's system, looked at as a whole, suffers from this kind of weakness. On the contrary, I think that if the implications of his system be carefully studied, it will be seen that he draws support from sources of a very different kind, and in particular from two which must be drawn upon (as I think) if the inadequacy of naturalism is to be fully revealed.

The first is the theory of knowledge. If naturalism be accepted, then our whole apparatus for arriving at truth, all the beliefs in which that truth is embodied, reason, instinct, and their legitimate results, are the product of irrational forces. If they are the product of irrational forces, whence comes their authority? If to this it be replied that the principles of evolution, which naturalism accepts from science, would tend to produce faculties adapted to the discovery of truth, I reply, in the first place, that this is no solution of the difficulty, and wholly fails to extricate us from the logical circle. I reply, in the second place, that the only faculties which evolution, acting through natural selection, would tend to produce, are those which enable individuals, or herds, or, societies to survive. Speculative capacity - the capacity, for example, to frame a naturalistic theory of the Universe - if we have it at all, must be a by-product. What nature is really, concerned with is that we should eat, breed, and bring up our young. The rest is accident.

Now M. Bergson does not directly interest himself in this negative argument, on which I have dwelt elsewhere. But I think his whole constructive theory of reason and instinct is really based on the impossibility of accepting blind mechanism as the source the efficient cause - of all our knowledge of reality. His theory is difficult. I am not sure that I am competent either to explain or to criticise it. But it seems to me clear that, great as is the width of scientific detail with which it is illustrated and enforced, its foundations lie far deeper than the natural sciences can dig.

But it is not only in his theory of knowledge that he shows himself to be moved by considerations with which science has nothing to do. Though the point is not explicitly pressed, it is plain that he takes account of 'values,' and is content with no philosophy which wholly ignores them. Were it otherwise, could he speak as he does of 'freedom,' of 'creative will,' of the 'joy' (as distinguished from the pleasure) which fittingly accompanies it? Could he represent the Universe as the battle-ground between the opposing forces of freedom and necessity? Could he look on matter as 'the enemy'? Could he regard mechanism, determinateness, all that matter stands for as not merely in process of subjugation but as things that ought to be subdued by the penetrating energies of free consciousness?

This quasi-ethical ideal is infinitely removed from pure naturalism. It is almost as far removed from any ideal which could be manufactured out of empirical science alone, even granting what naturalism refuses to grant, that organised life exhibits traces of contingency. M. Bergson, if I correctly read his mind, refuses - I think, rightly refuses - to tolerate conceptions so ruinous to 'values' as these must inevitably prove. But can his own conception of the universe stand where he has placed it? By introducing creative will behind development, he has no doubt profoundly modified the whole evolutionary drama. Matter and mechanism have lost their pride of place. Consciousness has replaced them. The change seems great; nay, it is great. But if things remain exactly where M. Bergson leaves them, is the substantial difference so important as we might at first suppose? What is it that consciousness strives for? What does it accomplish? It strives to penetrate matter with contingency. Why, I do not know. But concede the worth of the enterprise. What measure of success can it possibly attain? A certain number of organic molecules develop into more or less plastic instruments of consciousness and will; consciousness and will, thus armed, inflict a few trifling scratches on the outer crust of our world, and perhaps of worlds elsewhere, but the huge mass of matter remains and must remain what it has always been - the undisputed realm of lifeless determinism. Freedom, when all has happened that can happen, creeps humbly on its fringe.

I suggest, with great respect, that in so far as M. Bergson has devised his imposing scheme of metaphysic in order to avoid the impotent conclusions of Naturalism, he has done well. As the reader knows, I most earnestly insist that no philosophy can at present be other than provisional; and that, in framing a provisional philosophy, 'values' may be, and must be, taken into account. My complaint, if I have one, is not that M. Bergson goes too far in this direction, but that he does not go far enough. He somewhat mars his scheme by what is, from this point of view, too hesitating and uncertain a treatment.

It is true that he has left naturalism far behind. His theory of a primordial super-consciousness, not less than his theory of freedom, separates him from this school of thought as decisively as his theory of duration, with its corollary of an ever-growing and developing reality, divides him from the great idealists. It is true also that, according to my view, his metaphysic is religious: since I deem the important philosophic distinction between religious and non-religious metaphysic to be that God, or whatever in the system corresponds to God, does in the former take sides in a moving drama, while, with more consistency, but far less truth, he is, in the non-religious system, represented as indifferently related to all the multiplicity of which he constitutes the unity.

Now, M. Bergson's super-consciousness does certainly take sides, and, as we have seen, his system suffers to the full from the familiar difficulty to which, in one shape or another, all religious systems (as defined) are liable, namely, that the evils or the defects against which the Creator is waging war are evils and defects in a world of His own creating. But as M. Bergson has gone thus far in opposition both to naturalistic and to metaphysical orthodoxies, would not his scheme gain if he went yet further? Are there no other values' which he would do well to consider? His superconsciousness has already some quasi-aesthetic and quasi-moral qualities. We must attribute to it joy in full creative effort, and a corresponding alienation from those branches of the evolutionary stem which, preferring case to risk and effort, have remained stationary, or even descended in the organic scale. It may be that other values are difficult to include in his scheme, especially if he too rigorously banishes teleology. But why should he banish teleology? In his philosophy super-consciousness is so indeterminate that it is not permitted to hamper itself with any purpose more definite than that of self-augmentation. It is ignorant not only of its course, but of its goal; and for the sufficient reason that in M. Bergson's view, these things are not only unknown, but unknowable. But is there not a certain incongruity between the substance of such a philosophy and the sentiments associated with it by its author? Creation, freedom, will - these doubtless are great things; but we cannot lastingly admire them unless we know their drift. We cannot, I submit, rest satisfied with what differs so little from the haphazard; joy is no fitting consequent of efforts which are so nearly aimless. If values are to be taken into account, it is surely better to invoke God with a purpose, than supra-consciousness with none.

Yet these deficiencies, if deficiencies they be, do little to diminish the debt of gratitude we owe to M. Bergson. Apart altogether from his admirable criticisms, his psychological insight, his charms of style, there is permanent value in his theories. And those who, like myself, find little satisfaction in the all-inclusive unification of the idealist systems; who cannot, either on rational or any other grounds, accept naturalism as a creed, will always turn with interest and admiration to this brilliant experiment in philosophic construction, so far removed from both.
The article above was taken from "Arthur James Balfour As Philosopher and Thinker: A Collection of the More Important and Interesting Passages in his Non-Political Writings, Speeches, and Addresses, 1897-1912" (Longmans, Green and Co., 1912) by Wilfred M. Short.

Sir William Barrett - Eusapia Palladino

Eusapia Palladino
 -Sir William Barrett -
          AFTER THE favourable reports by Professor Charles Richet and Sir Oliver Lodge upon their experiments with Eusapia, referred to on page 65, as there stated further seances were held with her at Cambridge in 1895.(1) I was not present, and, indeed, have never had the opportunity nor the desire to experiment with Eusapia, but those present at Cambridge came to the conclusion, on what appeared to them to be an adequate trial, that there was clear evidence of trickery on the part of Eusapia,(2) although Sir Oliver Lodge adhered to his opinion that the phenomena he witnessed in the Ile Roubaud were genuine.(3)
This opinion was corroborated by that of the eminent physiologist, Professor Charles Richet. After the seances at Cambridge he for a time suspended his judgement, but subsequently, both in conversation with myself and on other occasions, has stated that he was absolutely convinced of the supernormal character of some of the manifestations which occur with Eusapia. This also was the opinion of the well-known astronomical writer Camille Flammarion, who in his work, "Ies Porces Naturelles Inconnues"," deals at length with the phenomena occurring with Eusapia, and is convinced of their supernormal character.
(1). See "Journal of the. S.P.R.," Vol. V1, P. 306
(2). ibid., Vol. V11, p. 148.
(3). ibid., p. 135.
But the most remarkable testimony in favour of Eusapia came from some of the leading scientific men of Italy, men specially trained in the investigation of psychological and physiological phenomena. Perhaps the most notable witness was the late Professor Lombroso, who conducted the investigation of Eusapia's powers in his laboratory in the University of Turin, every precaution being taken against fraud. The result was that Lombroso publicly bore witness to the genuineness of these extraordinary physical manifestations. The opinion of so experienced and able a criminologist as Lombroso - whose high scientific status is recognised throughout Europe - necessarily carried great weight. In an article published in 1908 in the "Annals of Psychical Science," Lombroso refers to various phases of these phenomena, including phantasms and apparitions of deceased persons. He points out that sometimes several phenomena occurred simultaneously, and hence were beyond the power of one person to perform, and also that there is evidence of the intrusion of another will, which could not be attributed to the medium or to any person present, but which was in opposition to 'all, and even to the control, "John." He lays stress upon the importance of these facts in relation to the hypothesis that the occurrences are explicable by the "psychic forces" of the medium and circle alone: an hypothesis which at an earlier stage of the inquiry he himself adopted, but which he now regards as inadequate.
Independent testimony came from Dr. Enrico Morselli, Professor of Neurology and Psychiatry (mental therapeutics), in the University of Genoa, who presided over a set of séances with Eusapia in that city.(1)
The control of the medium was very strict. Her hands and feet were held by Dr. Morselli and Sig. Barzini, editor of the "Corriere della Sera," who states that he was present "with the object of unmasking fraud and trickery," but was in the end convinced of the reality of some of the phenomena. The person of the medium was thoroughly searched before the seance, and the room was also searched; the light was never entirely extinguished.
Under these conditions Dr. Morselli testifies to the occurrence of the following phenomena: movements of the table; raps on the table and sounds on musical instruments without contact; complete levitations of the table; movements of objects at a distance from the medium seen in the light, and, also, the operation of self-registering instruments by the unseen agency; "apports", i.e., objects brought into the room from outside; the sound of human voices not proceeding from any visible person; impressions on plastic substances of hands, feet and faces; the appearance of dark prolongations of the medium's body; of well delineated forms of: faces, heads and busts. Although entirely sceptical at the outset of his experiments he declares himself convinced that most of the phenomena alleged to occur with Eusapia are "real, authentic, and genuine."
(1) A very full report of these is given in the Annals of Psychical Science for February, March, May, and June, 1907.
Dr. Morseilli was disposed to interpret these phenomena by what he terms the hypothesis of special psychic or biodynamic forces; that is to say, he attributes them to some peculiar power emanating from the person of the medium. This is practically the psychic force theory of many earlier English investigators.
Shortly after the séances held under the direction of Dr. Morselli in the University of Genoa, another series of experiments, in Turin, was conducted by Doctors Herlitzka, C. Foa, and Aggazzotti;(1) Dr. Pio Foa, Professor of Pathological Anatomy, being present at the most remarkable of this set of experiments. These séances yielded similar positive results to those held by Professors Lombroso and Morselli.
Another competent witness is Dr. Giuseppe Venzano, stated by Dr. Morselli to be an "excellent observer." He contributed an important article to the " Annals of Psychical Science " (August and September, 1907), containing a detailed record and critical analysis of his experiences with Eusapia, under conditions of strict control, and sometimes in the full light given by an electric lamp of sixteen-candle power. Dr. Venzano, in the course of his experiments with Eusapia, the light in the room being sufficient to enable both the medium and his fellow-sitters to be clearly seen, perceived a woman's form beside him, felt her touch and heard her speak: the form spoke with fullness of detail of certain family affairs not known to anyone present except himself. The whole incident is a most amazing one, and Dr. Venzano states that, in his opinion, any explanation of this experience based on the possibility of fraud or of hallucination is impossible.
(1) Assistants of Professor Mosso, an eminent physiologist.
Professor Philippe Bottazzi, Director of the Physiological Institute at the University of Naples, having read the report of Dr. Morselli's experiments at Genoa, made an attempt to verify the phenomena by means of an elaborate and carefully, arranged set of self-registering instruments, in the hope of obtaining an automatic graphic record of the psychic force exercised by the medium. Such a record would negative the hypotheses of hallucination or mis-description on the part of the observer. These important experiments, carried with the collaboration of several able professors of the same University, were remarkably successful, and Professor Bottazzi's article concludes by stating these experiments have "eliminated the slightest trace of suspicion or uncertainty relative to the genuineness of the phenomena. We obtained the same kind of assurance as that which we have concerning physical, chemical or physiological phenomena. From henceforth sceptics can only deny the facts by accusing us of fraud and charlatanism."(1)
(1). See "Annals of Psychical Science", September, 1907 P. 149
In 1909 three members of the S.P.R., the Hon Everard Feilding, Mr. W. W. Baggally and Mr. Hereward Carrington were commissioned by the Society to carry out another serious investigation with this medium. The selection was specially made with a view to the qualifications of the investigators. Mr. Carrington was a clever amateur conjuror, and for ten years had carried on investigations on these physical phenomena in the United States. His book on this subject shows his familiarity with the methods adopted by fraudulent mediums and his cautious attitude towards all such experiences. Mr. Baggally was also an amateur conjuror with much experience, and had come to negative conclusion as to the possibility of any genuine physical phenomena. Mr. Feilding's attitude was the same, and, moreover, he had had extensive experience in investigating physical phenomena.
October, 1907, p. 260; December, 1907, P. 377; where a full account of these experiments will be found, with illustrations showing the tracings made by the self-registering instruments.
The result of this investigation was that all three of these well-qualified men were convinced of the absolute genuineness of the remarkable supernormal phenomena they witnessed at their hotel in Naples. Since then they have had another series of séances which yielded quite different results and in which they obtained nothing convincingly supernormal and much that was obviously normal and probably spurious. The same thing was also found in sittings with Eusapia in America.
How can we reconcile these conflicting results? I am not concerned to defend Eusapia, on the contrary I am more, disposed to loathe her, but we must be fair, and give even the devil his due. Like other psychics, especially those who exhibit similar amazing supernormal phenomena, she is most sensitive to "suggestion," even when unexpressed; and, in the trance, when her consciousness and self-control are largely inhibited, she is the easy prey of external influences. In the absence of the steadying, though subconscious, influence of a high moral nature, she unblushingly cheats whenever the conditions are unfavourable for the production of supernormal phenomena. We have no right to assume that she is wholly conscious of so doing, for Professor Hyslop has shown that mediumship is often, accompanied with abnormal bodily as well as mental conditions. We know little or nothing of, what constitutes the peculiar faculty or environment for the necessary production of these physical phenomena.
If they are due, as some have thought, to an externalization of the nerve force of the psychic, it is not improbable that the degree of this externalization will vary with the favourable or unfavourable mental state of those present. We may even conceive that when this psychic force is restricted or not externalised, it may create movements of the limbs of the psychic which will cause her to perform by normal actions (in perhaps a semi-conscious state) what under good psychical conditions would be done supernormally. This would produce the impression of intentional fraud. Every one who had much experience in these perplexing investigations knows that what seems purposeless and stupid fraud often intrudes itself, after the most conclusive evidence of genuine phenomena has been obtained. It is this which renders the whole enquiry wholly unfitted for the hasty and unskilled investigator.