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began to present. On August i;th, 1891, the patient felt for the first time a
unique sensation, accompanied by formication and sense of weight in the lower
limbs, especially in the feet. This sensation gradually spread over the rest of
the body, and when it reached the arms, the hands and forearms began to
rotate. These phenomena recurred after dinner every evening, as soon as the
patient was quiet in her arm-chair. At this point the X. family went into the

country to R , and at that place the manifestations took place twice daily

for some 15 or 20 minutes. Usually the patient placed her two hands on a
table. The feeling of "magnetisation " then began in the feet, which began to
rotate, and the upper parts of the body gradually shared in the same move-
ment. At a certain point, the hands automatically detached themselves from
the table by small, gradual shocks, and at the same time the arms assumed
a tetanic rigidity somewhat resembling catalepsy. On one occasion when these
sensations had been strongly marked, and the patient had felt the whole of the
upper part of her body stiffened, she went to bed and saw in the dark an intense
light which lasted for several minutes and then gradually disappeared.

Three weeks after the family's return to M the phenomena changed

in character, and gained in interest. The patient had begun to be able to walk
without much difficulty ; but all forced and voluntary movement of the foot
was still painful, although when the movement was initiated by the occult
agency no pain whatever was felt. One evening, after the usual stance, the
patient felt her head move against her will. An intelligent intercourse was
thus set up between the patient and the unseen agent or agents. The head
nodded once for " Yes," twice for " No," three times for a strong affirmation.
These movements were sometimes sudden and violent enough to cause some-
thing like pain. Words and phrases could, of course, be spelt out in this way.
This form of correspondence has never wholly ceased ; although the intensity
of the phenomenon has now much diminished. The occult agent now im-
presses one or other of Mme. X.'s hands with movements which trace in the
air the form of letters of the alphabet ; a plan which works well and quickly.

Mme. X. is also a writing medium; and this power first showed itself in a
strange way during the stay in the country of which I have already spoken.
She was writing a letter one day, with no thought of these unseen agencies,
when suddenly she felt her hand checked. Warned by a special sensation, she
still held the pen. Her hand placed itself on a sheet of paper and began
rapidly to write alarming predictions. The writings retained this tone only for
a few hours; and soon the communications became trivial in character, and,
save in some exceptional instances, have since remained so.

Another phenomenon followed shortly afterwards. One day Mme. X. felt
herself lifted with force from her arm-chair and compelled to stand upright.
Her feet and her whole body then executed a systematic calisthenic exercise, in
which all the movements were regulated and made rhythmic with finished art.
This was renewed on following days, and towards the end of each performance
sometimes of an hour's or two hours' duration the movements acquired ex-
treme energy. Mine. X. has never had the smallest notion of chamber-gym-
nastics, Swedish or otherwise, and these movements would have been very
painful and fatiguing had she attempted them of her own will. Yet at the end



833] MOTOR AUTOMATISM 127

of each performance she was neither fatigued nor out of breath. All was going
well, and Dr. Z. had announced that henceforth his attentions would not be
needed, when next day a singular accident threw everything back. Mme. X.
had mounted with great precaution upon a low chair with four legs and a large
base of support to take an object from a wardrobe. Just as she was about to
descend, the chair was violently snatched from under her feet and pushed to a
distance. Mme. X. fell on the diseased foot, and the cure had to begin again.
[In a subsequent letter Dr. X. explains that by Mme. X.'s account this move-
ment was distinctly due to an invisible force ; no natural slipping of the chair.]

Mme. X. was accustomed to bandage her own foot every morning. One
day she was astonished to feel her hands seized and guided by an occult force.
From that day onwards the bandaging was done according to all the rules of
the art, and with a perfection which would have done credit to the most skilful
surgeon of either hemisphere. Although very adroit with her hands, Mme. X.
had never had occasion to practise nursing or to study minor surgery, yet the
bandages thus automatically applied were irreproachable, and were admired by
every one. When Mme. X. wished to renew the bandages, she placed the
strips all rolled up upon a table within reach of her hand, and her hand then
automatically took the bandage which best suited the occult operation.

Mme. X. is accustomed to arrange her own hair. One morning she said
laughingly, " I wish that a Court hairdresser would do my hair for me ; my
arms are tired." At once she felt her hands acting automatically, and with no
fatigue for her arms, which seemed to be held up ; and the result was a compli-
cated coiffure, which in no way resembled her usual simple mode of arrangement.

The oddest of all these automatic phenomena consisted in extremely grace-
ful gestures which Mme. X. was caused to execute with her arms gestures as
though of evocation or adoration of some imaginary divinity, or gestures of
benediction. When the occult agent placed her before the portrait of her son
whom she lost five years ago the scene became really affecting, and moved
Mme. X. herself to tears. The few persons who witnessed this spectacle are
agreed that it was worthy of the powers of the greatest actress. Of such a gift
Mme. X. has nothing ; her nature is simple and frank, but cold rather than
demonstrative.

At the Paris Exhibition of 1889 Mme. X. once saw the " Javanese dance,"
consisting of rhythmic motions of the body with contortions of the arms. The
occult agents caused her to repeat this dance several times with perfect exe-
cution.

[Disliking these phenomena,] Mme. X. has tried very hard to free herself
from this control, and has to a great extent succeeded, by the use of cold water,
by strongly resisting all communications, and by " passes of disengagement "
executed by a hypnotiser. [This has reduced the phenomena almost entirely to
automatic writing, which, though vague or fantastic when dealing with ordinary
topics, is precise and intelligent on medical questions.]

Thus far the phenomena recorded have been purely subjective ; in those
which follow there is something objective also. When one has the honour to
be treated by a physician of Dr. Z.'s celebrity (!) ordinary kindness bids one
sometimes think of benefiting one's neighbour. One of the officials of my de-
partment had suffered for many years from pleurodynia, which occasionally laid
him up altogether, and also from frequent attacks of sick headache. Dr. Z. was
consulted and prescribed an internal treatment which, to my great surprise, con-
sisted mainly of "dosimetric granules" ; [which this great official surgeon had



128 CHAPTER VIII [833

not in his lifetime employed]. He also caused Mme. X. to perform " passes of
disengagement " for ten or fifteen minutes at a time. It was noticeable that
while these passes were made with extreme violence, Mme. X.'s hands were
arrested at the distance of a millimetre at most from the patient's face, without
ever touching him in the least Mme. X. could never of herself have given to
her movements such a degree of precision. For two years now the patient has
felt no more of his pleurodynia, and his migraine is, if not altogether cured, at
least greatly reduced.

One day I suppose by way of a joke Dr. Z. , after one of these stances,
pursued the patient with his influence as he walked home, and made him exe-
cute with his hands various gestures and contortions which drew the attention
of passers-by.

Another time our servant A., whose husband was ill in hospital, came cry-
ing to Mme. X. and told her that she had lost all hope of ever seeing him cured,
&c. Mme. X. asked Dr. Z. to take him in hand. He promised to do so, and
said that he would make him feel his presence. Next morning A. went to the
hospital and found her husband in despair. " Look here," he said, " besides what
I had already, I am falling into a nervous malady. I have been shaken about
all night my arms and legs have executed movements which I could not con-
trol." A. began to laugh, and told her husband that Dr. Z. had taken him in
hand, and that he would soon get well. The patient is going about as usual
to-day, and is as well as an incurable pulmonary affection allows him to be.

Under other circumstances I have myself consulted Dr. Z. as to patients
under my professional care. On each occasion he has given a precise diagnosis
and has indicated a treatment, consisting mainly of dosimetric granules, some-
times associated with other treatment. These facts have been repeated many
times, and I owe great gratitude to Dr. Z. for the advice which he has given me.
His prescriptions were always rational ; and when I showed fears as to certain
doses which appeared to me too large, he took pains to reassure me, but stuck
to his prescriptions. I have never had to repent having followed the advice of
my eminent colleague in the other world ; and I am bound to state distinctly
that every time that a medical question has been submitted to him the replies
and advice of Dr. Z. have been of an astonishing clearness and precision. I
cannot say the same of communications obtained on other subjects, in which
he seemed to take a malicious pleasure in leading us wrong. He or some
one else has often announced to us, with minute and intimate detail, the
deaths of persons known to us ; who were found on inquiry to be alive and
well. Lastly, I give a detail which tends to prove the reality of this occult
magnetisation. Mme. X. has often seen two luminous rays projected upon
her feet during the stances of which I have spoken above. The rays were
invisible in full light, and in complete darkness, but were seen in partial
obscurity, and resembled rays of the sun passing through small openings into
a dark room. If this was a hallucination, it was shared on two occasions by
the hypnotiser of whom I have already spoken. I myself never saw the rays,
which may be compared with those said to have been seen by somnambulists
and other sensitives as emanating under certain circumstances from the human
frame.

In reply to inquiries Dr. X..adds the following remarks :

It is not impossible that Mme. X. should have at some time heard myself
or others pronounce the names of the medicaments prescribed. But when she



833] MOTOR AUTOMATISM 129

gave me an exact diagnosis, and formulated in detail a rational treatment, I am
sure that this did not come from her own mind. She has never studied any
branch of medicine neither the therapeutic art itself, nor the minor art of com-
posing formulae. Nor could I have been acting suggestively, since my own
ideas were often quite different from those which the occult agent dictated ;
unless, indeed, my unconscious self acted upon Mme. X.'s consciousness, which
seems to me a somewhat too elaborate view.

The dosimetric granules are a convenient mode of administering alkaloids,
glycosides, and other toxic principles, and I have often been alarmed at the
doses which Dr. Z. prescribed. I confess that I was astonished to find that
an occult agent who thus claimed to be a bygone Professor should have
selected a form of medication on which the Faculty look with no approv-
ing eye.

As to Mme. X.'s foot, I have ^firm conviction that it was healed by the
rhythmical movements imposed, and by the "magnetisation" of the occult
agent.

You ask me whether I consider these agents as belonging to the human
type. Provisionally, Yes ; unless we admit that there exists, superposed
upon our world, another world of beings distinct from humanity, but knowing
it and studying it as we study the other regions of nature, and assuming for
the sake of amusement or for some other motive the rdle of our departed
friends.

Dr. X. concludes with warnings against the dangers of such influence
or possession ; dangers which he thinks that Mme. X. avoided by her
calmness of temperament and resolute maintenance of self-control.

The savant already mentioned as introducing us to this case sends us
(May, 1893) the following corroborative statement. He is, it may be
observed, himself a physician.

I have frequently seen Mme. X. For the last year or two she has had no
more phenomena ; but about two years ago she presented some curious
symptoms. In the first place, when she conversed with the late Dr. Z., her
so-called magnetiser, his replies were made by movements of her head. She
would seat herself in an arm-chair, and according as Dr. Z. wished to say yes
or no, there were either two or three backward movements of her head. Her
head threw itself backwards with force, and gave a vigorous blow to the chair-
back. This movement was sometimes so violent that the shock was painful,
so that Mme. X. cried out at the sharpness of the blows. Long sentences could
thus be given, for when the alphabet was spelt out there were movements and
blows given with the head, just as in ordinary Spiritistic conversations there
are tilts of the table. Often, also, while one was talking with Mme. X., there
were movements of her head, indicating that the so-called Dr. Z. was taking
part in the discussion, and approving or disapproving such and such a phrase.
More rarely, Mme. X. would unconsciously articulate a few words with her lips,
and these words were professedly dictated by Dr. Z. As to the other pheno-
mena, I have twice been present at the ample, semi-ecstatic movements of
salutation and prayer which Mme. X. made against her will. It was a curious
scene ; for Mme. X. preserved her consciousness all the time and continued to
talk to us while executing this strange and complicated mimicry. It is to be
observed that Mme. X. is a person of calm nature, and rather apathetic than

VOL. II. I



I 3 o CHAPTER VIII [834

nervous. She has strong common-sense, is healthy, and reasonable in char-
acter. It seems that she never had any previous hallucination. She is an
excellent mother of a family, and deservedly enjoys general confidence and
esteem.

Dr. X. sent us two of the prescriptions written by Mme. X.'s hand.
We compared them with British Pharmacopoeal prescriptions, by the
aid of Burggraeve's Guide de Medecine Dosimetrique (Paris, 1872). Both
prescriptions are in fair accord with English practice ; the doses of arsenic
in the one case, of strychnia in the other, being rather stronger than
usually given. Each prescription contains several ingredients, in what
seems reasonable proportion.

Finally, we learn that Dr. Z. in life was gay and fond of practical jokes.

834. These last cases have become increasingly complex. One
wonders to what extent this strange manufacture of inward romances can be
carried. There is, I may say, a great deal more of it in the world than is
commonly suspected. I have myself received so many cases of these
dramatised utterances as though a number of different spirits were
writing in turn through some automatist's hand that I have come to
recognise the operation of some law of dreams, so to call it, as yet but
obscurely understood. The alleged personalities are for the most part
not only unidentified, but purposely unidentifiable ; they give themselves
romantic or ludicrous names, and they are produced and disappear as
lightly as puppets on a mimic stage. The main curiosity of such cases
lies in their very persistence and complexity ; it would be a waste of space
to quote any of the longer ones in such a way as to do them justice.
And, fortunately, there is no need for me to give any of my own cases ;
since a specially good case has been specially well observed and reported
in a book with which many of my readers are probably already acquainted,
Professor Flournoy's Des Indes a la planete Mars : Etude sur un cas
de Somnambulisme avec Glossolalie (Paris and Geneva, 1900). I shall
here make some comments on that striking record, which all students
of these subjects ought to study in detail.

835. It happens, no doubt, to any group which pursues for many
years a somewhat unfamiliar line of inquiry that those of their points
which are first assailed get gradually admitted, so that as they become
interested in new points they may scarcely observe what change has taken
place in the reception of the old. The reader of early volumes of the
Proceedings S.P.R. will often observe this kind of progress of opinion.
And now Professor Flournoy's book indicates in a remarkable way how
things have moved in the psychology of the last twenty years. The book
a model of fairness throughout is indeed, for the most part, critically
destructive in its treatment of the quasi-supernormal phenomena with
which it deals. But what a mass of conceptions a competent psychologist
now takes for granted in this realm, which the official science of twenty
years ago would scarcely stomach our hinting at !



835] MOTOR AUTOMATISM 131

One important point may be noticed at once as decisively corroborating
a contention of my own made long ago, and at a time when it probably
seemed fantastic to many readers. Arguing for the potential continuity of
subliminal mentation (as against those who urged that there were only
occasional flashes of submerged thought, like scattered dreams), I said
that it would soon be found needful to press this notion of a continuous
subliminal self to the utmost, if we were not prepared to admit a con-
tinuous spiritual guidance or possession. Now, in fact, with Professor
Flournoy's subject the whole discussion turns on this very point. There
is unquestionably a continuous and complex series of thoughts and feelings
going on beneath the threshold of consciousness of M Ue " Hdlene Smith."
Is this submerged mentation due in any degree or in any manner to the
operation of spirits other than M Ue Smith's own? That is the broad
question ; but it is complicated here by a subsidiary question : whether,
namely, any previous incarnations of M Ue Smith's other phases of her
own spiritual history, now involving complex relationship with the past
have any part in the crowd of personalities which seem struggling to
express themselves through her quite healthy organism.

M Ue Smith, I should at once say, is not, 1 and never has been, a paid
medium. At the date of M. Flournoy's book, she occupied a leading post
on the staff of a large maison de commerce at Geneva, and gave stances
to her friends simply because she enjoyed the exefcise of her mediumistic
faculties, and was herself interested in their explanation.

Her organism, I repeat, is regarded, both by herself and by others, as
a quite healthy one. M 1Ie Smith, says Professor Flournoy, declares dis-
tinctly that she is perfectly sound in body and mind, in no way lacking in
equilibrium, and indignantly repudiates the idea that there is any hurtful
anomaly or the slightest danger in mediumship as she practises it.

" I am so far from being abnormal," she writes, " that I have never
been so clear-sighted, so lucid, so capable of judging rapidly on all points,
as since I have been developed as a medium." No one appears to dispute
this estimate, which the facts of M Ile Smith's progress in her line of business
distinctly confirm.

" It is in fact incontestable " (continues Professor Flournoy, p. 41), " that
H61ene has a head extremely well organised; and that from a business
point of view she manages admirably the very important and complicated
department of which she is at the head in this large shop where she is
employed ; so that to accuse her of being morbid simply because she is a
medium is to say the least an inadmissible petitio principii so long as the
very nature of mediumship remains a thing so obscure and open to discus-
sion as is still the case. . . .

" It is clear that there exist amid the ranks of the learned faculty
certain spirits narrow and limited, strong in their own specialities, but

1 For M lle Smith's later history, see Professor Flournoy's Nouvelles Observations sur
un cas de Somitambulisme, Geneva, 1902. EDITORS.



132 CHAPTER VIII [835

ready to cast their anathemas at whatever does not fit in with their
preconceived ideas, and to treat as morbid, pathological, insane, every-
thing which differs from the normal type of human nature, such as they
have conceived it on the model of their own small personalities. . . .

" But in the first place the essential criterion in judging of a human
being's value is not the question whether he is in good or bad health, like
or unlike other people, but whether he fulfils adequately his special task
how he acquits himself of the functions incumbent on him, and what may
be expected or hoped from him. I am not aware that Miss Smith's
psychical faculties have ever interfered with her accomplishment of any of
her duties ; rather they have helped her therein ; for her normal and con-
scious activity has often found an unexpected assistance which non-
mediums lack ! in her subliminal inspirations and her automatisms, which
effect a useful end.

" In the second place, it is far from being demonstrated that medium-
ship is a pathological phenomenon. It is abnormal, no doubt, in the sense
of being rare, exceptional ; but rarity is not morbidity. The few years
during which these phenomena have been seriously and scientifically
studied have not been enough to allow us to pronounce on their true
nature. It is interesting to note that in the countries where these studies
have been pushed the furthest, in England and America, the dominant
view among the savants 'who have gone deepest into the matter is not at
all unfavourable to mediumship ; and that, far from regarding it as a
special case of hysteria, they see in it a faculty superior, advantageous,
healthy, of which hysteria is a form of degenerescence, a pathological
parody, a morbid caricature."

The phenomena which this sensitive presents (Helene Smith is Pro-
fessor Flouraoy's pseudonym for her) cover a range which looks at
first very wide, although a clearer analysis shows that these varieties are
more apparent than real, and that self-suggestion will perhaps account for
all of them.

There is, to begin with, every kind of automatic irruption of subliminal
into supraliminal life. As Professor Flournoysays (p. 45) : "Phenomena
of hypermnesia, divinations, mysterious findings of lost objects, happy
inspirations, exact presentiments, just intuitions, teleological (purposive or
helpful) automatisms, in short, of every kind; she possesses in a high
degree this small change of genius which constitutes a more than suffi-
cient compensation for the inconvenience resulting from those distractions
and moments of absence of mind which accompany her visions; and
which, moreover, generally pass unobserved."

At seances where the deeper change has no inconveniences
Helene undergoes a sort of self-hypnotisation which produces various
lethargic and somnambulistic states. And when she is alone and safe
from interruption she has spontaneous visions, during which there may
be some approach to ecstasy. At the seances she experiences positive



835] MOTOR AUTOMATISM 133

hallucinations, and also negative hallucinations, or systematised anaes-
thesiae, so that, for instance, she will cease to see some person present,
especially one who is to be the recipient of messages in the course of the
stance. " It seems as though a dream-like incoherence presided over
this preliminary work of disaggregation, in which the normal perceptions
are arbitrarily split up or absorbed by the subconscious personality
eager for materials with which to compose the hallucinations which it is
preparing." Then, when the stance begins, the main actor is Helene's
guide Leopold (a pseudonym for Cagliostro) who speaks and writes through
her, and is, in- fact, either her leading spirit-control or (much more pro-
bably) her most developed form of secondary personality.

Helene, indeed, has sometimes the impression of becoming Leopold
for a moment (p. 117). Professor Flournoy compares this sensation with
the experience of Mr. Hill Tout {Proceedings S.P.R., vol. xi. p. 309), who



Online LibraryFrederic William Henry MyersHuman personality : and its survival of bodily death (Volume 2) → online text (page 19 of 89)