Frederic William Henry Myers.

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me the chair distinctly, especially the carving on the back of the chair.

Immediately it occurred to me to discover the origin of the light, if
possible, so, before proceeding to get a light or to leave the room, I approached
the chair again in a similar manner, but no light appeared, and I experienced
no check. I also looked very carefully for the origin of the light, but could
discover 'none. There was no light anywhere near, and even had there been, I
am at a loss to see how it could have shone into the centre of this room, and
the difficulty is still further increased by the fact that it shone only in one place,
and even there the light was of a somewhat different colour and appearance
from ordinary artificial light.

After satisfying myself that there was no light anywhere that could have
produced it, I went into the library and got a lamp and made an examination.



824] MOTOR AUTOMATISM m

The chair was in the passage in the most dangerous part ; otherwise the room
was in its usual condition. I should also state that at one end of this room
there was a coal stove, with a fire in it of hard coal. It was burning very low,
and was ashed over. I examined it before I got a lamp, and I am confident
that no light of any kind proceeded from it.

As to my sudden stop. The stop and the light were simultaneous. I
hardly think the light unaided caused me to stop; it undoubtedly prevented
me from starting after I had stopped. I fully believe I should have sustained
a heavy fall, but for the light and the stop. W.

P.S. When I mention that the colour of the light appeared different, I
mean that it did not look as a light reflected from or shining from a distance
on to a spot would // was more like looking directly at a light.

See also a case given in Proceedings S.P.R., vol. viii. p. 345, where a
lady hurrying up to the door of a lift, is stopped by seeing the figure of a
man standing in front of it, and then finds that the door is open, leaving
the well exposed, so that she would probably have fallen down it, if she
had not been checked by the apparition.

824. And now I give a case of sudden motor inhibition where no
warning can well have been received from hyperaesthetic sensation. We
have come, it seems, to telaesthesia or to spirit guardianship.

(From Proceedings S.P.R., vol. xi. p. 459.)

Four years ago, I made arrangements with my nephew, John W. Parsons,
to go to my office after supper to investigate a case. We walked along to-
gether, both fully determined to go up into the office, but just as I stepped
upon the door sill of the drug store, in which my office was situated, some
invisible influence stopped me instantly. I was much surprised, felt like I was
almost dazed, the influence was so strong, almost like a blow, I felt like I could
not make another step. I said to my nephew, " John, I do not feel like going
into the office now ; you go and read Flint and Aitken on the subject." He
went, lighted the lamp, took off his hat, and just as he was reaching for a book
the report of a large pistol was heard. The ball entered the window near
where he was standing, passed near to and over his head, struck the wall and
fell to the floor. Had I been standing where he was, I would have been killed,
as I am much taller than he. The pistol was fired by a man who had an old
grudge against me, and had secreted himself in a vacant house near by to
assassinate me.

This impression was unlike any that I ever had before. All my former
impressions were slow in their development, grew stronger and stronger, until
the maximum was reached. I did not feel that I was in any danger, and could
not understand what the strong impression meant. The fellow was drunk, had
been drinking for two weeks. If my system had been in a different condition
I had just eaten supper I think I would have received along with the im-
pression some knowledge of the character of the danger, and would have pre-
vented my nephew from going into the office.

I am fully satisfied that the invisible and unknown intelligence did the
best that could have been done, under the circumstances, to save us from harm.

D. J. PARSONS, M.D., Sweet Springs, Mo.

(The above account was received in a letter from Dr. D. J. Parsons, dated
December \$th, 1891.")



U2 CHAPTER VIII [825

Statement of Dr. J. W. PARSONS.

About four years ago my uncle, Dr. D. J. Parsons, and I were going to
supper, when a man halted us and expressed a desire for medical advice. My
uncle requested him to call the next morning, and as we walked along he said
the case was a bad one and that we would come back after supper and go to
the office and examine the authorities on the subject. After supper we returned,
walked along together on our way to the office, but just as we reached the door
of the drug store he very unexpectedly, to me, stopped suddenly, which caused
me to stop too ; we stood there together a few seconds, and he remarked to me
that he did not feel like going into the office then, or words to that effect, and
told me to go and examine Flint and Aitken. I went, lit the lamp, and just as
I was getting a book, a pistol was fired into the office, the ball passing close to
my head, struck the east wall, then the north, and fell to the floor.

This 5th day of July, 1891.

JOHN W. PARSONS [Ladonia, Texas].

825. In the next group of cases which I shall cite, we reach a class
of massive motor impulses which are almost entirely free from any sensory
admixture.

In the first of these, Mr. Garrison left a religious meeting in the
evening, and walked eighteen miles under the strong impulse to see his
mother, and found her dead. The account is taken from the Journal
S.P.R., vol. viii. p. 125.

Mr. Garrison writes :

GARDNER & GARRISON, Dealers in Fancy and Family Groceries.

OZARK, MO.,//y 29//J, 1896.

MR. RICHARD HODGSON, DEAR SIR, Answering your letter of July
1 5th in regard to my experience connected with the death of my mother, I will
make the following statement. My mother, Nancy J. Garrison, died on Friday
night, October 4th, 1888, at her home three miles north-east of Ozark, Chris-
tian County, Missouri. She was fifty-eight years old. I was then living at
Fordland, in Webster County, Missouri, about eighteen miles north-east of my
mother's home. I had not seen my mother for two months at the time of her
death, but had heard from [her] by letter from week to week.

On the night of my mother's death there was a meeting in Fordland, and
myself and wife attended the preaching. We had then one child, a baby a
year old. The meetings had been going on a week or more. About ten
o'clock, just before the meeting closed, while the congregation was singing,
I felt the first desire to see my mother. The thought of my mother was
suggested by the sight of some of the penitents at the altar, who were very
warm and sweating. My mother was subject to smothering spells, and while
suffering from these attacks she would perspire freely and we had to fan her.
In the faces of the mourners I seemed to see my mother's suffering. And then
the impulse to go to her became so strong that I gave the baby to a neighbour-
woman and left the church without telling my wife. She was in another part
of the house.

The train going west which would have taken me [to] Rogersville, seven
miles of the distance to my mother's place, was due at 10.30 P.M., but before



825] MOTOR AUTOMATISM 113

I got home and changed my clothes and returned to the depot, the cars had
left the station. I still felt that I must see my mother, and started down the
railroad track alone, and walked to Rogersville. Here I left the railroad and
walked down the waggon way leading from Marshfield to Ozark, Mo. It was
about three o'clock A.M. when I reached my mother's house. I knocked at the
door two or three times and got no response. Then I kicked the door, but
still made no one hear me. At last I opened the door with my knife and
walked in and lighted a lamp. Then my sister, Mrs. Billie Gilley, the only
person who had been living with my mother, awoke, and I asked her where
mother was. She replied that she was in bed, and I said, " She is dead," for by
that time I felt that she could not be alive. She had never failed to wake before
when I had entered the room at night.

I went to my mother's bed and put my hand on her forehead. It was cold.
She had been dead about three hours, the neighbours thought, from the con-
dition of her body. She had gone to bed about ten o'clock at night, feeling better
than usual. She and my sister had talked awhile after going to bed. They
were aiming to come to Ozark the next morning, and intended to get up early.

The above facts cover my experience as fully as I can tell the story. I
have no explanation for the matter. It is as much a mystery to me now as
ever. I could not believe such a strange affair if told by any one else, and yet
I could swear to every fact stated. . . . THOMAS B. GARRISON.

OZARK, Mo., August ijtA, 1896.

MR. RICHARD HODGSON, DEAR SIR, I send you a statement made by
my wife about the death of my mother. . . .

I have not yet been able to get my sister's statement. She lives a few miles
out of town. I will get her to tell about the death of mother and my coming
home that night when I see her.

After finding that mother was dead I went to three neighbour families right
away and had the women come and stay with us till morning. Mrs. Green,
Mrs. Walker, and Mrs. Gardner were the women who first heard of mother's
death from me. They still live in that neighbourhood, and would confirm my
story so far as it relates to my coming to my mother's that night and finding
her dead.

Would you like a statement from these women ? I shall be glad to give you
all the facts connected with the strange occurrence, for it has been to me a
mystery of the greatest perplexity. ... T. B. GARRISON.

Corroborative statements are as follows :

OZARK, Mo., August i2tA, 1896.

RICHARD HODGSON, DEAR SIR, We received your letter asking for a
statement from me in regard to the death of my husband's mother.

I remember the occurrence just as my husband has written it. I was very
much surprised to find him gone from the church, and more so when I got
home to hear he had started seventeen miles after night without saying a word
to me, as he never left home even for a few hours without telling me where he
was going. My mother (Mrs. Butcher) was at the house. When he started he
left word with her telling me he had gone to see his mother, but I could hardly
believe it, it being such a strange time to start such a distance. He did not
say anything about going to any one except my mother. He has always said
he felt as if he must go. . . . MINNIE GARRISON.

VOL. II. H



ii 4 CHAPTER. VIII [825

OZARK, Mo., September \$th, 1896.

MR. R. HODGSON, Hearing that you were trying to find out the particulars
about the remarkable circumstance of Mr. Garrison's experience about the time
of his mother's death, I decided to write to you. I was living about 150 yards
from Mrs. Garrison at the time, and Mr. Garrison came to our house between
three and four that morning to tell us of his mother's death, and we learned the
matter then just as it was printed in the newspaper. . . .

MRS. C. C. GREEN.

OZARK, Mo., September idtk, 1896.

... I was living with my son-in-law, Thomas B. Garrison, at the time of
his mother's death on October 3rd, 1888.

Garrison and his wife went to church in Fordland, Mo., and I remained at
home. About ten o'clock that night T. B. Garrison returned home and said
" Ma, I have took a notion to go home, in Christian Co., and see mother." I
was surprised at his starting at that hour of the night. I asked him where
Minnie was. He said she was at church, and he told me to tell his wife where
he was gone when she returned. The above is true. . . .

ELVIRA BUTCHER.

In another case, that of Major Kobb6 (given in Phantasms of the
Living, vol. i. p. 288), the percipient was prompted to visit a distant
cemetery, without any conscious reason, and there found his father, who
had, in fact, for certain unexpected reasons, sent to his son, Major Kobbe",
a request (accidentally not received) to meet him at that place and hour.

In a third case, Mr. Skirving (see 825 A) was irresistibly compelled to
leave his work and go home why, he knew not at the moment when his
wife was in fact calling for him in the distress of a serious accident. See
also a case given in Phantasms of the Living, vol. ii. p. 377, where a brick-
layer has a sudden impulse to run home, and arrives just in time to save
the life of his little boy, who had set himself on fire.

This special sensibility to the motor element in an impulse recalls to us
the special susceptibilities to different forms of hallucination or suggestion
shown by different hypnotic subjects. Some can be made to see, some to
hear, some to act out the conception proposed to them. Dr. Brillon 1 has
even shown that certain subjects who seem at first quite refractory to
hypnotisation are nevertheless at once obedient, even in the waking state,
to a motor suggestion. This was the case both with a very strong man,
with weak men and women, and with at least one subject actually suffering
from locomotor ataxy. Thus the loss of supraliminal motor control over
certain muscular combinations may actually lead to- motor suggestibility
as regards those combinations ; just as the loss of supraliminal sensation
in some anaesthetic patch may lead to a special subliminal sensitiveness in
the very directions where the superficial sensibility has sunk away. On
the other hand, a specially well-developed motor control may predispose
in a similar way ; as for instance, the subject who can sing already is

1 Revue de FHypnotisme, March 1893, p. 268.



825] MOTOR AUTOMATISM 115

more easily made to sing by suggestion. We must, then, await further
observations before we can pretend to say beforehand with which auto-
mat ist the messages will take a sensory, and with which a motor form.

Still less can we explain the special predisposition of each experimenter
to one or more of the common kinds of motor automatism as automatic
speech, automatic writing, table movements, raps, and so forth. These
forms of messages may themselves be variously combined ; and the con-
tents of a message of any one of these kinds may be purely dream-like and
fantastic, or may be veridical in various ways.

Let us enumerate the modes of subliminal motor message as nearly as
we can in order of their increasing specialisation.

1. We may place first the massive motor impulses (like Mr. Garrison's)
which mark a kind of transition between ccenesthetic affections and
motor impulses proper. There was here no impulse to special movement
of any limb ; but an impulse to reach a certain place by ordinary methods.

2. Next, perhaps, in order of specialisation come the simple subliminal
muscular impulses which give rise to table-tilting and similar phenomena.

3. Musical execution, subliminally initiated, might theoretically be
placed next ; although definite evidence of this is hard to obtain, since
the threshold of consciousness with musical performers is notoriously apt
to be shifting and indefinite. (" When in doubt, play with your fingers,
and not with your head.")

4. Next we may place automatic drawing and painting. This curious
group of messages has but seldom a telepathic content, and, as was sug-
gested in Chapter III. (324), is more akin to genius and similar non-
telepathic forms of subliminal faculty. 1

5. Next comes automatic writing, on which much remains to be said
in this chapter.

6. Automatic speech, which would not seem to be per se a, more de-
veloped form of motor message than automatic script,' is often accom-
panied by profound changes of memory or of personality which raise the
question of "inspiration" or "possession " ; for the two words, however
different their theological import, mean much the same thing from the
standpoint of experimental psychology.

7. I must conclude my list with a class of motor phenomena which I
shall here merely record in passing, without attempting any explanation.
I allude to raps, and to those telekinetic movements of objects whose real
existence is still matter of controversy.

Comparing this list of motor automatisms with the sensory automatisms
enumerated in Chapter VI., we shall find a certain general tendency running

1 When the automatic drawings have any telepathic or other supernormal content,
they are usually associated with automatic writing. Compare the case of Mr. Cameron
Grant, 736 B, and two cases in the experience of Mr. Stainton Moses, that connected
with " Blanche Abercromby " (see 949), and the case of the man crushed by a steam-
roller (see 948 A).



Ii6 CHAPTER VIII [826

through each alike. The sensory automatisms began with vague un-
specialised sensations. They then passed through a phase of definition,
of specialisation on the lines of the known senses. And finally they
reached a stage beyond these habitual forms of specialisation: beyond
them, as of wider reach, and including in an apparently unanalysable act
of perception a completer truth than any of our specialised forms of per-
ception could by itself convey. With motor messages, too, we begin with
something of similar vagueness. They, too, develop from modifications of
the percipient's general organic condition, or ccenesthesia ; and the first
dim telepathic impulse apparently hesitates between several channels of
expression. They then pass through various definitely specialised forms ;
and finally, as we shall see when automatic script is considered, they, too,
merge into an unanalysable act of cognition in which the motor element of
the message has disappeared.

But these motor messages point also in two other even more perplex-
ing directions. They lead, as I have said above, towards the old idea of
possession ; using the word no longer in an unfavourable sense, but simply
as an expression for some form of temporary manifestation of some veritably
distinct and alien personality through the physical organism of some living
man or woman. And they appear to lead also to another class of
phenomena in which (just as in "possession") the influence at work,
instead of becoming more and more identified with the automatist's con-
scious thought, appears to become more and more markedly distinguished
from it. 1 allude to telekinesis, or hyperboulia, or whatever name we may
decide to give to effects apparently exercised in the automatist's presence,
but not through his normal agency, upon the physical world.

These two last-named topics, so-called "possession," and so-called
" telekinetic phenomena," although unavoidably mentioned here, must be
reserved for fuller description in my next chapter. It will be enough
for the present to consider motor messages as running parallel to sensory
messages ; as covering much the same ground, and presenting the old
problems as to their source and initiation in an instructively different light.

826. The subject of automatic writing, to which our argument next
leads us, is a creation of the last few decades, and is at present in so
rapidly developing a condition that it is not easy to know at what stage of
proof or explanation it is here best to begin. In calling the subject novel
I do not indeed mean to deny that this and similar practices are traceable
in many lands and in remote antiquity. But among civilised men, in
Europe and America, the phenomenon came first into notice as an
element in so-called "modern spiritualism," about the middle of the
nineteenth century. It then remained for another generation a kind of
plaything or drawing-room amusement ; planchette being called upon for
answers to such questions as "What young lady am I thinking of?"
"What horse is going to win the Derby?"

It was in the United States that these sporadic messages were first



826] MOTOR AUTOMATISM 117

developed and systematised. Through the unlettered mind of Andrew Jack-
son Davis a kind of system of philosophy was given. Through Judge
Edmonds many messages of serious import were given, although, as recorded,
they contain little evidence to the agency of an external intelligence.
The Healing of the Nations was another work of the same general type.
But the automatic writings of W. Stainton Moses about 1870-80 were
perhaps the first continuous series of messages given in England which
lifted the subject into a higher plane. 1

These writings marked a new departure of most serious moment. Mr.
Moses a man whose statements could not be lightly set aside claimed
for them that they were the direct utterances of departed persons, some
of them lately dead, some dead long ago. Such a claim seemed at first
too prodigious for belief; and as will be seen later it is in fact still
under discussion. But Mr. Moses' writings however to be explained
strongly impressed Edmund Gurney and myself, and added to our desire
to work at the subject in as many ways as we could.

It was plain that these writings which might be of almost immeasur-
able importance could not be judged aright without a wide analysis of
similar scripts, without an experimental inquiry into what the human mind,
in states of somnambulism or the like, could furnish of written messages,
apart from the main stream of consciousness. By his experiments, men-
tioned in a former chapter, on writing obtained in different stages of
hypnotic trance, Gurney acted as the pioneer of a long series of researches
which, independently set on foot by Professor Pierre Janet in France,
have become of high psychological, and even medical, importance. What
is here of prime interest is the indubitable fact that fresh personalities can
be artificially and temporarily created, which will write down matter quite
alien from the first personality's character, and even matter which the
first personality never knew. That matter may consist merely of reminis-
cences of previous periods when the second personality has been in
control. But, nevertheless, if these writings are shown to the primary
personality, he will absolutely repudiate their authorship alleging not
only that he has no recollection of writing them, but also that they
contain allusions to facts which he never knew. Some of these mes-
sages, indeed, although their source is so perfectly well defined although
we know the very moment when the secondary personality which wrote
them was called into existence do certainly look more alien from the
automatist in his normal state than many of the messages which claim
to come from spirits of lofty type. It is noticeable, moreover, that these
manufactured personalities sometimes cling obstinately to their fictitious
names, and refuse to admit that they are in reality only aspects or portions

1 The automatic messages collected by " Allan Kardec " in the Livre des Esprit*
and the Livre des Mediums, although in themselves interesting, were not evidential.
They seem to have been arbitrarily selected from writings which supplied no proof of
supernormal origin.



Ii8 CHAPTER VIII [827

of the automatist himself. This must be remembered when the persistent
claim to some spiritual identity say Napoleon is urged as an argument
for attributing a series of messages to that special source. There is much
else which may be learnt from these self-suggested automatisms ; and the
discussions in my earlier chapters refer to several points which should be
familiar to all who would seriously analyse the more advanced, more
difficult, motor phenomena.

827. And here it must be strongly asserted that, however important
it may be to work to the full that preliminary inquiry, it is still more im-
portant to collect the richest possible harvest of those more advanced
cases. To such collection Mr. Moses' writings acted as a powerful stimu-
lant ; and ever since my first sight of his MSS. I have made it a principal
object to get hold of automatic script from trustworthy sources.

During those twenty-seven years I have personally observed at least
fifty cases where there was every reason to suppose that the writing was
genuinely automatic ; albeit in most of the cases it was uninteresting and
non-evidential.

This number is, at any rate, sufficient to enable me to generalise as to
the effects of this practice on healthy persons rather less inadequately than
writers who generalise from mere hearsay, or from observation of hospital
patients.

In two cases I think that the habit of automatic writing (carried on in
spite of my warning, by persons over whom I had no influence), may have



Online LibraryFrederic William Henry MyersHuman personality : and its survival of bodily death (Volume 2) → online text (page 17 of 89)