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other automatic impulses, this impulse to decorative or symbolical drawing is sometimes



812] MOTOR AUTOMATISM 95

with what the view which I am explaining would lead us to expect. For
they exhibit a fusion of arabesque with ideography; that is to say, they
partly resemble the forms of ornamentation into which the artistic hand
strays when, as it were, dreaming on the paper without definite plan ; and
partly they afford a parallel to the early attempts at symbolic self-expres-
sion of savages who have not yet learnt an alphabet. Like savage writing,
they pass by insensible transitions from direct pictorial symbolism to ah
abbreviated ideography, mingled in its turn with writing of a fantastic or
of an ordinary kind.

812. And here, before we enter on the study of automatic writing,
I shall somewhat break the thread of discussion in order to refer at length
to two great historic cases of automatism, which may, perhaps, be most
fitly introduced here as a kind of prologue to what is to follow. One case,
that of Socrates, is a case of monitory inhibition ; the other, that of Jeanne
d'Arc, of monitory impulse. Each case, moreover, is instructive as regards
the substance of the messages, and also as regards the character and capac-
ity of the percipient. I begin with that great historical instance, an
instance well observed and well attested, although remote in date, which
will at once have occurred to every reader.

The Founder of Science himself, the permanent type of sanity,
shrewdness, physical robustness, and moral balance, was guided in all
the affairs of life by a monitory Voice, by " the Daemon of Socrates."
This is a case which can never lose its interest, a case which has been
vouched for by the most practical, and discussed by the loftiest intellect of
Greece, both of them intimate friends of the illustrious subject ; a case,
therefore, which one who endeavours to throw new light on hallucination
and automatism is bound, even at this distance of time, to endeavour to
explain. And this is the more needful, since a treatise was actually
written, a generation ago, as "a specimen of the application of the
science of psychology to the science of history," arguing from the records
of the BaifjLovtov in Xenophon and Plato that Socrates was in fact
insane. 1

I believe that it is now possible to give a truer explanation ; to place
these old records in juxtaposition with more instructive parallels; and
to show that the messages which Socrates received were only advanced
examples of a process which, if supernormal, is not abnormal, and which
characterises that form of intelligence which we describe as genius. For
genius (as we have seen), is best defined not as "an unlimited capacity

seen at its maximum in insane patients. Some drawings of an insane patient, repro-
duced in the American Journal of Psychology, June 1888, show a noticeable analogy (in
my view a predictable analogy) with some of the " spirit-drawings " above discussed. See
also the Martian landscapes of Helene Smith, in Professor Flournoy's Des Indes ft la
flan fie Mars, referred to below, sections 834 et seq.

1 Du Demon de Socrate, &c., by L. F. Lelut, Membre de 1'Institut. Nouvelle
Edition, 1856.



96 CHAPTER VIII [813

of taking pains" but rather as a mental constitution which allows a
man to draw readily into supraliminal life the products of subliminal
thought.

813. I have already urged that beneath the superficially conscious
stratum of our being there is not only a stratum of dream and confusion,
but a still subjacent stratum of coherent mentation as well. This thesis, I
think, is strongly supported by the records which have come down to us
as to the Daemon of Socrates. We shall see that the monitions which
Socrates thus received were for the most part such as his own wiser self
might well have given, and that where the limits of knowledge attainable
by his own inmost reflection may possibly have been transcended, they
seem to have been transcended in such direction as a clairvoyant develop-
ment of his own faculties might allow, rather than in such a way as to
suggest the intervention of any external power. Let us try to analyse the
nature of the " divine interventions " actually recorded by Socrates' con-
temporaries. The voice, it should be remarked, was always a voice of
restraint ; its silence implied approval. In the first place Xenophon's
testimony completely establishes the fact. He desires, in defending his
friend and master from the charge of impiety, to make as little as
may be of the matter ; but what he says is quite enough to prove if such
proof were needed that the Sat/xovtov (monitory voice) is no metaphor,
but is to be taken literally as a notorious and repeated incident in Soc-
rates' life.

" First then," he says, 1 " as to his not worshipping the gods whom the
city worships, what evidence was there of this ? He sacrificed constantly,
and obviously used the art of divination; for it was matter of .notoriety
that Socrates said that TO Sai/Kmov the divine Providence gave him
indications ; and this indeed was the principal reason for accusing him
of introducing new gods."

The instances where such indication was given may be divided into
three heads.

First come the cases where the warning voice or its equally significant
absence gives proof of a sagacity at least equal to that of the waking
Socrates, and decides him to action, or to abstention from action, which
he professes always to have recognised as right and wise.

Next come the cases where the monition implies some sort of knowl-
edge not dependent on any external source, yet not attainable by ordinary
means ; as a knowledge of potential rapport (to use the term of the elder
mesmerists), or special relation between two organisms.

And, lastly, come one or two doubtful cases where, if they be correctly
reported, there was something like clairvoyance, or extension of the
ordinary purview of sense.

The first of these classes contains the great majority of the recorded
cases, whether small or great matters are concerned. And it is noticeable
1 Xen. Memorabilia, i. i.



813] MOTOR AUTOMATISM 97

that the monition frequently occurred in reference to mere trifles, and had
been a habitual phenomenon for Socrates from childhood upwards, both
of which points are eminently in analogy with what we know of other
automatisms. Let us take first some trivial cases.

1. In the Euthydemus of Plato, Socrates is about to quit the palaestra ;
the sign detains him; young men enter, and profitable conversation
ensues.

2. In the Phadrus, Socrates, when leaving his resting-place, is detained
by the sign, which thus leads him to a discourse which he had not intended
to utter 'Ei/xi &) /xavris /xev " I am, it seems, a prophet," he then remarks,
" but only just enough for my private use and benefit."

3. In the First Alcibiades the sign restrains him from speaking to
Alcibiades until the latter is old enough to understand him aright.

There are also various cases where Socrates dissuades his friends from
expeditions which ultimately turn to their harm. None of these are in
our sense evidential ; and in some of them (as in the case of the Athenian
expedition against Syracuse) ordinary sagacity might have given the same
warning. The case of Timarchus (Plato, Theagei) is the most dramatic of
these warnings.

Timarchus was sitting at supper with Socrates, and rose to go out
to a plot of assassination, to which plot only one other man was privy.
" ' What say you, Socrates ? ' said Timarchus, ' do you continue drinking ?
I must go out somewhither ; but will return in a little, if so I may.' And
the voice came to me ; and I said to him, ' By no means rise from table ;
for the accustomed divine sign has come to me.' And he stayed. And
after a time again he got up to go, and said, ' I must be gone, Socrates.'
And the sign came to me again ; and again I made him stay. And the
third time, determining that I should not see, he rose and said naught to
me, when my mind was turned elsewhere ; and thus he went forth, and
was gone, and did that which was to be his doom."

We cannot now tell what the evidential value of this case may have
been. There may have been that in the countenance of one of them
who sat at meat, which may have shown to Socrates that the hand of an
assassin was with him on the table.

But, among these monitions of Socrates, a certain silence of the warning
voice on one last occasion was held by Socrates himself, and has since
been reputed, as the most noteworthy of all. This was when Socrates,
accused on a capital charge of impiety, from which he might have freed
himself by far less of retractation than has been consented to by many a
martyr, refused altogether to retract, to excuse himself, to explain away ;
claiming rather, in one of the first and noblest of all assertions of the law
of conscience as supreme, that he deserved to be supported at the public
cost in the Prytaneum, as a man devoted to the mission of a moral teacher
of men. The divine sign, as has been said, came only to warn or to re-
strain ; when it was absent, all was well. And throughout the whole series

VOL. II. <X



98 CHAPTER VIII [814

of events which led to Socrates' death, the voice intervened once only,
to check him from preparing any speech in his own defence. Thereafter,
by an emphatic silence, it approved the various steps by which the philo-
sopher brought on his own head that extreme penalty which, save for
his own inflexible utterances, the Dikastery would not have ventured to
inflict.

" There has happened to me, O my judges," he said in his last speech
after sentence passed, " a wonderful thing. For that accustomed divine
intimation in time past came to me very many times, and met me on slight
occasion, if I were about to act in some way not aright ; but now this fate
which ye behold has come upon me, this which a man might deem, and
which is considered, the very worst of ills. Yet neither when I left my
home this morning was I checked by that accustomed sign ; nor when I
came up hither to the judgment-hall, nor at any point in my speech as I
spoke. And yet in other speeches of mine the sign has often stopped me
in the midst. But now it has not hindered me in any deed or word of
mine connected with this present business. What then do I suppose to
be the reason thereof ? I will tell you. I think it is that what has hap-
pened to me has been a good thing ; and we must have been mistaken
when we supposed that death was an evil. Herein is a strong proof to me
of this ; for that accustomed sign would assuredly have checked me, had
I been about to do aught that was evil."

I dwell upon this incident ; for in the history of inward messages no
such scene is likely to recur. We shall never again see such a man at such
a moment drawing strength from the silence of the monitory utterance
which came to him as from without himself, though it were from the depths
of his own soul.

814. The next class of the Socratic monitions can only be briefly
dealt with here. They touch on that singular phenomenon of so-called
rapport which is to us at present and has long been in the eyes of Science
an unexplained and a very disputable thing ; but on which recent hypnotic
experiments are slowly bringing us to look as in some sense a reality. In
modern terms we should say that the disciples of Socrates were influenced
not so much by his instruction as by his suggestion ; and that some inward
and perhaps telepathic instinct expressed by the monitory voice whose
utterances we are analysing informed him without conscious considera-
tion whether his intending disciples were receptive to his suggestion or no.
It is in the Platonic dialogue Theages that this aspect of the divine moni-
tion is most insisted on.

" I never learnt from you," says a certain Aristeides to Socrates, " any-
thing at all. You yourself well know this. But I always made progress
whenever I was along with you, even if I were in the same house but not
in the same room ; yet most when I was in the same room ; and even in
the same room I got on better if I looked at you when you were speaking
than if I looked anywhere else. But I got on far the best of all when I



814] MOTOR AUTOMATISM 99

was sitting near you and holding or touching you. But now, said he, all
my then character has dribbled out of me." Nw &, ^ 8"os, Trao-a



I would not insist too strongly on an interpretation which may seem
merely fanciful. But nevertheless we should be puzzled to find Greek
words more expressive of the gradual dissipation and disappearance of a
post-hypnotic suggestion, the melting away of some imparted energy in
well-doing as the subject is removed from the operator's influence. And
that the possibility of some rapport of this kind should be indicated, not
by conscious thought but by a message emanating from some sub-conscious
phase of a man's being ; this, too, is a phenomenon to which modern ex-
perience furnishes not unfrequent analogies.

The third class of Socratic monitions which I have mentioned rests on
very slender evidence. We cannot be sure that the monitory sign ever
warned him of anything which no possible sagacity of the ordinary kind
could have led him to discover. As is natural in the beginning of such
inquiries, the cases cited to illustrate this supposed supernormal knowledge
are mainly interesting and important incidents ; and it is precisely in rela-
tion to such incidents that some unconscious guess is likely to have been
made. What we should like would be just what Plato had omitted ;
specimens, namely, of the trivial cases where the divine warning saved the
philosopher from some momentary mishap. Of this sort I can find one
only ; and that is merely a tradition, given in Plutarch's essay De Genio
Socratis. Socrates, according to this story (which Plutarch puts into the
mouth of a supposed eye-witness), is walking and talking with Euthyphron,
but stops suddenly, and calls his friends to turn back by another street.
Most of them follow him, but others keep on their way, and presently meet
a great herd of swine who knock down some of them and befoul the rest.
'Charillus" (who had thus braved Socrates' warning) "returned home
with legs and clothes all full of mire, so that we all remembered Socrates'
familiar spirit, with roars of laughter, marvelling how the Divinity had care
of him continually."

One more remark. Among the most singular incidents in Socrates' life
were those pauses of immobility, frequently lasting for hours, and once, as
reported, for a consecutive day and night, when he was inaccessible to any
outward stimulus, and remained fixed as in a deep contemplation. Medical
readers have seen that there must have been more than mere contempla-
tion here ; and L^lut has treated these accesses as a kind of stupor attoni-
tus of bewildered paralysis of all intellectual operation, such as is seen in
minds overbalanced by some terrible shock. I cannot accept the parallel,
nor believe that symptoms so grave can supervene in robust health and
disappear without leaving a trace behind. Nor, again, is there anything
wnich suggests epilepsy. I believe the accesses to have been accesses of
ecstasy, reached, as in some rare cases, without any previous hysterical dis-
turbance ; and indicating (as I hold) a subliminal self, so powerful and



ioo CHAPTER VIII [815

so near the surface that some slight accident sufficed to determine its tem-
porary predominance over the whole man.

But I must now leave the story of Socrates, rich in unworked psycho-
logical suggestion, but cited here only as an example of wise automatism ;
of the possibility that the messages which are conveyed to the supra-
liminal mind from subliminal strata of the personality, whether as
sounds, as sights, or as movements, may sometimes come from far
beneath the realm of dream and confusion, from some self whose moni-
tions convey to us a wisdom profounder than we know.

815. The case, assuredly, is a marked one ; but it may be thought
to be too exceptional for the purpose of my argument. Socrates, it may
be said, was too strangely above ordinary men to allow us to draw wider
inferences from this unique example. It might be well if we could add a
case not complicated by such towering genius ; a case where some one
with no previously manifested gifts of nature, with no incomprehensible
workings of the soul, had, nevertheless, by monitory voices been taught
wisdom and raised to honour, and who, if so it might be, had testified
to the reality of the inward message by some witness which the world
could not gainsay. And such a case there is ; there is a figure in history
unique and marvellous, but marvellous in this point alone. One there
has been who was born with no opportunities of education, and in no
high or powerful place, but to whom voices came from childhood onwards,
and brought at length a strange command ; one who by mere obedience
to that monitory call rose to be the saviour of a great nation ; one to
whose lot it fell to push that obedience to its limit, and to pledge life for
truth ; to perish at the stake rather than disown those voices or disobey
that inward law.

I speak, of course, of Joan of Arc, the Maid of Orleans, the national
heroine of France ; whose name crowns the poet's list of those famous
women of old time who have vanished like " the snows of yester-year."

" La royne blanche comme ung lys
Qui chantoit a voix de sereine,
Berthe au grant pied, Bietris, Allys,
Haremboures qui tint le Mayne,
Et Jehanne la bonne Lorraine
Qu' Anglois bruslerent a Rouen,
Oil sont-ilz, Vierge souveraine ?
Mais oil sont les neiges d'antan ? "

I must be excused for dwelling on this signal example ; for I believe
that only now, with the comprehension which we are gradually gaining
of the possibility of an impulse from the mind's deeper strata which is
so far from madness that it is wiser than our sanity itself, only now, I
repeat, can we understand aright that familiar story. I shall not repeat
its incidents in detail ; but shall draw my citations from the most trust-
worthy source, namely, Joan's evidence, given in 1431, before Cauchon,



815] MOTOR AUTOMATISM 101

Bishop of Beauvais, and the other ecclesiastics who ultimately condemned
her to be burnt alive. 1 The condemnation was based on her own admis-
sions ; and the Latin proces-verbal still exists, and was published from the
MS. by M. Quicherat, 1841-9, for the French Historical Society. Joan,
like Socrates, was condemned mainly on the ground, or at least on the
pretext, of her monitory voices : and her Apology remarkably resembles
his, in its resolute insistence on the truth of the very phenomena which
were being used to destroy her. Her answers are clear and self-consistent,
and seem to have been little, if at all, distorted by the recorder. Few
pieces of history so remote as this can be so accurately known.

On the other hand, the Proces tie Rehabilitation, held some twenty
years after Joan's death, when memories had weakened and legend had
begun to grow, is of little value as evidence. Joan's credit must rest
entirely on that testimony on the strength of which she was condemned to
death.

Fortunately for our purpose, her inquisitors asked her many questions
as to her voices and visions ; and her answers enable us to give a pretty
full analysis of the phenomena which concern us.

I. The voices do not begin with the summons to fight for France.
Joan heard them first at thirteen years of age, as with Socrates also the
voice began in childhood. The first command consisted of nothing more
surprising than that "she was to be a good girl, and go often to church."
After this the voice as in the case of Socrates intervened frequently,
and on trivial occasions.

II. The voice was accompanied at first by a light, and sometimes
afterwards by figures of saints, who appeared to speak, and whom Joan
appears to have both seen and felt as clearly as though they had been
living persons. But here there is some obscurity ; and Michelet thinks
that on one occasion the Maid was tricked by the courtiers for political
ends. For she asserted (apparently without contradiction) that several
persons, including the Archbishop of Rheims, as well as herself, had seen
an angel bringing to the King a material crown. 8

III. The voices came mainly when she was awake, but also some-
times roused her from sleep ; a phenomenon often observed in our cases
of " veridical hallucination." " Ipsa dormiebat, et vox excitabat earn."
(Quicherat, i., p. 62.)

IV. The voice was not always fully intelligible (especially if she was
half awake) ; in this respect again resembling some of our recorded cases,
both visual and auditory, where, on the view taken in Phantasms of the
Living, the externalisation has been incomplete. " Vox dixit aliqua, sed
non omnia intellexit." (Quicherat, i., p. 62.)

V. The predictions of the voice, so far as stated, were mainly fulfilled ;

1 For other authorities see Mr. Andrew Lang's paper in Proceedings S.P.R., vol.
xi. pp. 198-212, from which I quote in 815 A.

2 On this point, see Mr. Lang in 815 A.



I0 2 CHAPTER VIII [815

viz., that the siege of Orleans would be raised ; that Charles VII. would
be crowned at Rheims ; that she herself would be wounded ; but the pre-
diction that there would be a great victory over the English within seven
years was not fulfilled in any exact way, although the English continued to
lose ground. In short, about so much was fulfilled as an ardent self-
devoted mind might have anticipated; much indeed that might have
seemed irrational to ordinary observers, but nothing which actually needed
a definite prophetic power. Here, again, we are reminded of the general
character of the monitions of Socrates. And yet in Joan's case, more
probably than in the case of Socrates, there may have been one singular
exception to this general rule. She knew by monition that there was a
sword "retro altare " somewhere behind the altar in the Church of
St. Catherine of Fierbois. " Scivit ipsum ibi esse per voces " : she sent
for it, nothing doubting, and it was found and given to her. This was
an unique incident in her career. Her judges asked whether she had not
once found a cup, and a missing priest, by help of similar monitions, but
this she denied ; and it is remarkable that no serious attempt was made
either to show that she had claimed this clairvoyant power habitually, or,
on the other hand, to invalidate the one instance of it which she did in
effect claim. It would be absurd to cite the alleged discovery of the
sword as in itself affording a proof of clairvoyance, any more than Socrates'
alleged intimation of the approaching herd of swine. But when we are con-
sidering monitions given in more recent times it will be well to remember
that it is in this direction that some supernormal extension of knowledge
seems possibly traceable.

And, lastly, it must be observed that among all the messages thus
given to Joan of Arc, there does not seem to have been one which fell
short of the purest heroism. They were such commands as were best
suited to draw forth from her who heard them the extreme of force, intel-
ligence, virtue, of which she had the potency at her birth. What better
can we desire as the guide of life ?

We need not assume that the voices which she heard were the offspring
of any mind but her own, any more than we need assume that the figures
in which her brave and pious impulses sometimes took external form were
veritable saints, the crowned St. Margaret and the crowned St. Catherine
and Michael in the armoury of Heaven.

Yet, on the other hand, we have no right to class Joan's monitions,
any more than those of Socrates, as an incipient madness. To be sane,
after all, is to be adjusted to our environment, to be capable of coping
with the facts around us. Tried by this test, it is Socrates and Joan who
should be our types of sanity ; their difference from ourselves lying rather
in the fact that they were better able to employ their own whole being,
and received a clearer inspiration from the monitory soul within.

I have dwelt at some length on these two cases, far more remote in
date than those to which it is our custom to appeal. But this has been



817] MOTOR AUTOMATISM



103



because I held it essential to make my reader understand that the grotesque
and trivial messages or monitions, with which in this inquiry we habitually
deal, are not to be taken as covering the whole field of automatic action.
Before we proceed to consider the question as to the action of minds



Online LibraryFrederic William Henry MyersHuman personality : and its survival of bodily death (Volume 2) → online text (page 15 of 89)