Frederic William Henry Myers.

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external to the automatist's own, we ought at any rate to recognise that

words given in these strange ways may in themselves, be worth hearing,

that not the mechanism only but the content of automatic messages may
sometimes deserve our close and serious attention.

816. The cases of Socrates and of Joan of Arc, on which I have just
dwelt, might (as I have said) with almost equal fitness have been introduced
at certain other points of my discussion. At first sight, at any rate, they
appear rather like sensory than like motor automatisms, like hallucina-
tions of hearing rather than like the motor impulses which we are now
about to study. Each case, however, approaches motor automatism in a
special way.

In the case of Socrates the " sign " seems to have been not so much
a definite voice as a sense of inhibition. In the case of Joan of Arc the
voices were definite enough, but they were accompanied as such voices
sometimes are, but sometimes are not with an overmastering impulse to
act in obedience to them. These are, I may say, palmary cases of in-
hibition and of impulse : and inhibition and impulse are at the very root
of motor phenomena.

If to this quality we add their historical priority and their intrinsic
dignity, ennobling in advance the series of petty incidents of similar type
with which we must soon deal, I think that sufficient reason may have
been given for the position assigned to them. Furthermore, and partly
by reason of that very dignity, they show at once the furthest extent of
the claim that can be made for the agency of the subliminal self, apart
from any external influence, apart from telepathy from the living, or
possession by the departed.

Each of those other hypotheses will claim its own group of cases ; but
we must not invoke them until the resources of subliminal wisdom are
manifestly overtaxed.

817. These two famous cases, then, have launched us on our sub-
ject in the stress of a twofold difficulty in logical arrangement. We
cannot always answer these primary questions, Is the subliminal impulse
sensory or motor? is it originated in the automatist's own mind, or in
some mind external to him?

In the first place, we must reflect that, if the subliminal self really pos-
sesses that profound power over the organism with which I have credited
it, we may expect that its " messages " will sometimes express themselves
in the form of deep organic modifications of changes in the vaso-motor,
the circulatory, the respiratory systems. Such phenomena are likely to be
less noted or remembered as coincidental, from their very indefiniteness,
as compared, for instance, with a phantasmal appearance ; but we have


records of various telepathic cases of deep coenesthetic disturbance, of a
profound malaise which must, one would think, have involved some unusual
condition of the viscera. In Gurney's collection of " emotional and motor
effects " (Phantasms of the Living, vol. i. chap, vii.), we find such phrases
as "a cloud of calamity which was almost a physical feeling," "deep de-
pression," " a dreadful feeling of illness and faintness, and I felt that I was
dying," " dreadful trembling with prostration," " trembling, with no apparent
cause whatever," "conviction that I should die that night," and so forth.
And we have, moreover, the definite vaso-motor phenomenon of sudden
weeping, which in one case (op. cit., p. 275) is described as "hysterics "
by a lady who " never experienced a similar feeling." This attack cor-
responded exactly with the sudden death of a father at a distance. We
must hardly press her phrase as implying more than a sudden, uncon-
trollable unmotived fit of weeping, though it would, of course, be specially
interesting if we could find definite hysterical symptoms originated by a
telepathic shock. Another informant (p. 277) speaks of an "extraordi-
nary state of depression and restlessness ; . . . a violent fit of weeping, a
thing absolutely alien to my character," as coinciding with the sudden
illness and delirium of a distant husband.

In other cases, too, where the telepathic impression has ultimately
assumed a definite sensory form, as in the narratives included in Chapters
VI. and VII., some organic or emotional phenomena have been noted,
being perhaps the first effects of the telepathic impact, whether from the
living or from the dead. In the case of Dr. N., for instance, which I give
in 817 A, we have first an emotion, then a sense of locality, and lastly,
an identification with a particular person.

I follow this case with Appendices 817 B and C containing two cases
(Mrs. Hadselle's) where the motor effect produced was the important part
of the experience, but which show in intimate connection general malaise,
motor impulse, and auditory hallucination. And I add, in 817 D, an
experience of Lady de Vesci's, who described to me in conversation a
similar malaise, defining itself into the urgent need of definite action
namely, the despatch of a telegram to a friend who was in fact then dying
at the other side of the world. Such an impulse had one only parallel in
her experience, which also was telepathic in a similar way.

Similar sensory disturbances are sometimes reported in connection
with an important form of motor automatism, that of "dowsing" or
discovering water by means of the movement of a rod held in the hands
of the automatist, already treated of in vol. i., 541 A and B.

818. A small group of cases may naturally be mentioned here.
From two different points of view they stand for the most part at the
entrance of our subject. I speak of motor inhibitions, prompted at first
by subliminal memory, or by subliminal hyperaesthesia, but merging into
telaesthesia or telepathy. Inhibitions sudden arrests or incapacities of
action (more or less of the Socratic type) form a simple, almost rudi-


mentary, type of motor automatisms. And an inhibition a sudden
check on action of this kind will be a natural way in which a strong but
obscure impression will work itself out. Such an impression, for instance,
is that of alarm, suggested by some vague sound or odour which is only
subliminally perceived. And thus in this series of motor automatisms,
just as in our series of dreams, or in our series of sensory automatisms, we
shall find ourselves beginning with cases where the subliminal self merely
shows some slight extension of memory or of sensory perception, and
shall thence pass insensibly to cases where no " cryptomnesia " will explain
the facts known in the past, and no hyperaesthesia will explain the facts
discerned in the present.

I will begin with a form of inhibition parallel in its triviality to the pin-
finding or muscle-reading experiments already mentioned. We may most
of us have observed that if we perform any small action to which there are
objections, which we have once known but which have altogether passed
from our minds, we are apt to perform it in a hesitating, inefficient way.
The observer whose account I subjoin in 818 A a lady specially
susceptible to subliminal impressions, and specially prompt in self-
analysis (Mrs. Verrall) has observed that the existence of a forgotten
memory (so to term it) may actually neutralise purposive muscular

Parallel to this trivial case of inability to grasp an unneeded envelope
is a case of sudden check from throwing into the fire a bundle of bank-
notes mistaken for useless papers (818 B).

819. Trivial, again, yet so promptly observed that its very triviality
has significance, is the following experience of sudden inhibition mixed
with corresponding impulse the walk unconsciously arrested, the eyes
bent on the ground for a reason not at first comprehended by the supra-
liminal self. (From Proceedings S.P.R., vol. xi. p. 415.)

September i^iA, 1895.

Yesterday morning (September I3th, 1895), just after breakfast, I was
strolling alone along one of the garden paths of Leckhampton House, repeating
aloud to myself the verses of a poem. I became temporarily oblivious to my
garden surroundings, and regained my consciousness of them suddenly to find
myself brought to a stand, in a stooping position, gazing intently at a five-
leaved clover. On careful examination I found about a dozen specimens of
five-leaved clover as well as several specimens of four-leaved clover, all of
which probably came from the same root. Several years ago I was interested
in getting extra-leaved clovers, but I have not for years made any active search
for them, though occasionally my conscious attention, as I walked along, has
been given to appearances of four-leaved clover which proved on examination
to be deceptive. The peculiarity of yesterday's " find" was that I discovered
myself, with a sort of shock, standing still and stooping down, and afterwards
realised that a five-leaved clover was directly under my eyes. I plucked some
of the specimens, and showed them at once to Mr. and Mrs. Myers, and


explained how I had happened to find them. Clover plants were thickly
clustered in the neighbourhood, but I failed on looking to find any other speci-
mens, The incident naturally suggests the arresting of my subliminal attention.


Compare with this Dr. Guebhard's case (see 819 A) of sudden per-
ception of a bifid fern, where the careless sweep of the eye seems to have
been arrested by a similar subliminal call.

820. Similarly there are cases where some sudden muscular impulse
or inhibition has probably depended on a subliminal perception or inter-
pretation of a sound which had not reached the supraliminal attention. For
instance, two friends walking together along a street in a storm just evade
by sudden movements a falling mass of masonry. Each thinks that he
has received some monition of the fall ; each asserting that he heard no
noise whatever to warn him. Here is an instance where subliminal per-
ception may have been slightly quicker and more delicate than supra-
liminal ; and may have warned them just in time.

In the next case 1 (quoted from Proceedings S.P.R., vol. xi. p. 416)
there may have been some subliminal hyperaesthesia of hearing which dimly
warned Mr. Wyman of the approach of the extra train.

Mr. Wm. H. Wyman writes to the Editor of the Arena as follows :

DUNKIRK, N.Y., June 26ih, 1891.

Some years ago my brother was employed and had charge as conductor
and engineer of a working train on the Lake Shore and Michigan Southern
Railway, running between Buffalo and Erie, which passes through this city
(Dunkirk, N.Y.). I often went with him to the Grave Bank, where he had his
headquarters, and returned on his train with him. On one occasion I was with
him, and after the train of cars was loaded, we went together to the telegraph
office to see if there were any orders, and to find out if the trains were on time,
as he had to keep out of the way of all regular trains. After looking over the
train reports and finding them all on time, we started for Buffalo. As we
approached near Westfield Station, running about 12 miles per hour, and when
within about one mile of a long curve in the line, my brother all of a sudden
shut off the steam, and quickly stepping over to the fireman's side of the engine,
he looked out of the cab window, and then to the rear of his train to see if
there was anything the matter with either. Not discovering anything wrong,
he stopped and put on steam, but almost immediately again shut it off and gave
the signal for breaks and stopped. After inspecting the engine and train
and finding nothing wrong, he seemed very much excited, and for a short
time he acted as if he did not know where he was or what to do. I asked
what was the matter. He replied that he did not know, when, after looking at
his watch and orders, he said that he felt that there was some trouble on the
line of the road. I suggested that he had better run his train to the station
and find out. He then ordered his flagman with his flag to go ahead around
the curve, which was just ahead of us, and he would follow with the train. The

1 For a somewhat similar case, possibly due to hyperaesthesia of hearing., see
American Journal of Psychology, vol. iii. p. 435 (September 1890).


flagman started and had just time to flag an extra express train, with the
General Superintendent- and others on board, coming full forty miles per
hour. The Superintendent inquired what he was doing there, and if he did
not receive orders to keep out of the way of the extra. My brother told him
that he had not received orders and did not know of any extra train coming ;
that we had both examined the train reports before leaving the station. The
train then backed to the station, where it was found that no orders had been
given. The train despatcher was at once discharged from the road, and from
that time to this both my brother and myself are unable to account for his
stopping the train as he did. I consider it quite a mystery, and cannot give or
find any intelligent reason for it. Can you suggest any ?
The above is true and correct in every particular.

In subsequent letters to Dr. Hodgson Mr. Wyman writes :

My brother died some three years ago.

The incident occurred about the year 1873.

I was not connected with the road or train at the time ; I was employed on
the New York, Lake Erie, and Western R. R., at Dunkirk. The flagman is
now, or was a short time ago, living in Denver, Colorado ; his statement can
be obtained if desirable.

The Superintendent died in Germany about two years ago.

In a subsequent letter Mr. Wyman adds : " I traced Mr. James Con-
way [the flagman] to Colorado, and learned from his son that he died
March 16, 1888. [Letter sent herewith.]"

Mrs. Wyman, widow of the percipient, writes :

JERSEY CITY, September 16, 1893.

MR. HODGSON, SIR, I 'received your letter asking me for statements
in regard to Mr. Wyman's experience. I don't think I could tell any of the
circumstances. I only recollect hearing him say he was singularly and deeply
impressed that something was wrong, and he obeyed the impulse and stopped
the train just in season of time to prevent an accident, and it left a deep im-
pression on his mind ever after, as he often spoke of it and wondered why and
what it was. Yours respectfully, L. A. WYMAN.

821. Here, again, is an averted railway accident, where smell may
possibly have played some part.

(From Proceedings S.P.R., vol. xi. p. 419.) The following letter was
received by Dr. Hodgson in confirmation of an account in a newspaper,
concordant with Mr. Stewart's account given later.


August 14, 1893, GARRETT, IND.

Yours of August loth received. Must say, the story as printed in many
of the newspapers of our country, regarding the train being saved by a pre-
monition, or warning, given me, was true as printed. The fireman I then had,
since became an engineer, and was killed in an accident on a railroad in Iowa
two years since. The conductor who was with me at the time you refer to is
running passenger train on the Mackinaw road. I do not know his address,


but his father, a minister of the gospel, and his brother, Dr. Charles Stewart,
are residents of this city. A letter addressed to Mr. Joseph Stewart, care of
Dr. Charles Stewart, Garrett, Ind., would reach my conductor.

Yes, sir, I have had an experience of similar nature since the occurrence
you refer to. Had a warning from the same source, and by obeying it I saved
what otherwise, without obeying the warning, must have been a most dreadful
accident, and must have resulted in the entire destruction of my train, with the
lives of many, if not all the persons on board. I am not a Spiritualist, do not
believe in so-called Spiritualism, but do believe that the living are often visited,
often warned of danger, and often comforted in times of affliction, by the spirits
of departed loved ones. ... C. W. MOSES.

BATTLE CREEK, MICH., August 28, 1893.

RICHARD HODGSON, ESQ., DEAR SIR, Your request received, and will,
as far as memory serves, give a correct statement as to the incident referred to.

Train No. 2 of the B. and O. R. R., due in Chicago at 6.20 A.M., Sunday,
in the month of August 1883 (have forgotten exact date), was on time, running
at about thirty-five miles an hour. On approaching Salt Creek Trestle Work,
about forty miles east of Chicago, the engineer, Mr. C. W. Moses, felt that
something that he could not define compelled him to stop before attempting
to cross over. He applied the air and came to a full stop at the approach. I
occupied front seat in smoker, it being the second car from engine. The time
was about 4.30 A.M. I immediately went forward and joined the engineer
where we found thirty feet of the woodwork burned, the rails being held to
place by charred stringers. We went across, by climbing down and up the
bank on the other side, and woke up the watchman who was employed to
look after the bridge, who, on seeing us and the condition of things in general,
took to his heels and is running still, as far as I know. I would say that in
more than a score of years engaged in railroad work, that was the most
narrow escape I ever experienced ; for undoubtedly, with a fall of thirty feet
and the length of over a hundred, we would not only have been disabled, but

Now you especially ask as to what impelled Mr. Moses in his action.
He only stated to me at the time that something especially pressing on him
told him he should stop, and he acted on the impulse. There had been fires
all along the side of track at other points, but he paid no attention to

In conclusion, I see some newspaper man got hold of the incident as late
as last June, and attempted to make Mr. Moses say that the spirit of a sainted
mother took hold of him. Well, Mr. Moses is an upright and truthful, old,
reliable engineer, and owing to his great advance in years at this late date
may have intimated as much, but nothing was said about the old lady at the
time ; that I vouch for. . . .

I. J. STEWART, Conductor C. J. and M. R. R.
[Formerly of the B. and O. R. R.]

In another case again (given in 821 A) some subliminal sense of
smell may be conjectured.

822. In the next case (it comes from a good observer) some warning
may have been received from the closer smell of slimy water ; or perhaps


from a vague difference in the look of the darkness, or even in the resist-
ance of the air. (From Proceedings S.P.R., vol. xi. p. 422.)

October ytfh, 1892.

DR. HODGSON, DEAR SIR, I send you an account of an incident in
which, I think, my life was saved by my obedience to an impulse arising from
nothing within my conscious knowledge or perception.

Some years ago, I landed in Stillwater, Minn., from a steamboat on which
I had come down the St. Croix River. The boat was a small, local affair, and no
conveyances came to meet it. I was, I believe, the only passenger on board
when we reached Stillwater, and there I was left to make my way alone to the
hotel. We landed at about 9 P.M. of a starless night, and in the shadow of a
warehouse which cut off the lights of the town ; the hour, the clouded sky, and
the shadow of the warehouse, uniting to make the dock extremely dark.

I had been in Stillwater once before, and had a general idea of the topo-
graphy of the town, although some years had passed since my previous visit,
and I am quite certain that I had never passed over this particular locality.

As I left the boat I saw the lights of the bridge at some distance on my
left, and knowing the bridge to be at the foot of the principal street, on which
stood the hotel where I intended to put up, I naturally commenced to walk along
the dock in that direction. I had gone but a very short distance, when I sud-
denly felt so strong an impulse to turn and go the other way that I instantly
obeyed. I saw nothing, heard nothing; I did not even have an impression of
danger, though I did have a feeling that it must be in someway better to turn.

I distinctly remember that my reason protested, and berated me for a fool
in taking a roundabout way to my destination when the straight way lay before
me, with the added prospect of losing myself in the railway yards, with perhaps
a ten-feet fence to climb. I laughed aloud, and articulated, or at least, mentally
formed the words, " You fool ! What are you doing this for?" However, my
impulse proved stronger than my reason. I persisted in " going round Robin
Hood's barn," reached my hotel, and there the matter passed from my mind.

The next day I casually came to the same place, and discovered that I had
turned within a few feet of a spot where the dock was cut away into an incline
for hauling freight up into the warehouse. This incline was so steep that a per-
son could have kept his footing on it only by great care. If I had unexpectedly
stepped down on to it in the darkness, I should certainly have lost my footing,
and should have slipped into the river ; and as I am but a feeble swimmer under
the most favourable circumstances, and was encumbered with a fall overcoat
and a rather heavy satchel, I should just as certainly have been drowned.

The value of the incident lies in the fact, for which you must take my word,
that I am not an impulsive and changeable person, but rather logical and per-
sistent. My action was entirely contrary to my nature, and the unavailing pro-
test of my reason against what appeared to me an inconsequent and absurd
proceeding convinces me either that I was influenced by some intelligence
entirely without, or that my " Subliminal Self " perceived and acted upon what
my " Supraliminal Self" could not see.

I have never had any other supernormal experiences.



823. Tactile sensibility, again, must be carefully allowed for. The
sense of varying resistance in the air, to which I just now alluded, may
reach in some seeing persons, as well as in the blind, a high degree of
acuteness. It is perhaps possible that even the interposition of a chair in
a narrow passage might thus make itself felt. But Mr. W. (a good witness
and well known to Dr. Hodgson) has had (as we shall see later on in
873) other experiences where supernormal influences seemed plainly
indicated. (From Proceedings S.P.R., vol. xi. p. 4 2 3)

STATE OF NEW YORK, December 2&tti, 1893.

DR. HODGSON, DEAR SIR, In compliance with your request to write
out an account of my chair experience, which I described to you when here, I
submit the following :

My office consists of three rooms, and the library in the back one is
reached by passing through the full length of the other two. The middle room
is rather narrow, and well filled on both sides with furniture, leaving a rather
narrow passage through the room lengthwise, particularly at a point about the
middle of the room, where the passage is only three feet wide. This passage
was very naturally kept free from obstructions, but on the occasion of which I
am about to speak, some one, probably the janitor when he came in to see to
the fires soon after the office was closed for the day, had placed a chair in this
narrow passage, so that any one who should attempt to pass through the room
would be certain to fall over it, if dark. I think it was about the last days of
December 1892. I recollect the days were very short. I had left the office for
the day with the passage free. I visit the office occasionally evenings, but not
often. On this occasion during the evening, when it was very dark, I visited
the office alone. I unlocked the outside door, walked through the first room,
stopping at the door that leads to the second or middle room, to get a match
from the safe hanging on the door casing with which to light a lamp in the
library, where I wished to get something. I was in a very great hurry, and
walked very rapidly; after taking the match from the safe, I started at a very
rapid pace to go through this narrow passage and into the library. It was very
dark, none of the objects in the room were visible, but as I was very familiar
with the place, I did not hesitate. I had proceeded six or eight feet in this
rapid manner, when suddenly I saw a bright, yellow light lighting up very
plainly the back of the chair which was in the passage. The light was confined
to the chair, and at the same time I stopped short. The stopping was quite
involuntary on my part. The light lasted for but a second, but it had showed

Online LibraryFrederic William Henry MyersHuman personality : and its survival of bodily death (Volume 2) → online text (page 16 of 89)