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seems to form a link in the series which ends in possession.

904. Genius suggests a possession of the brain-centres by the subliminal

905. In sleep it appears that the spirit may sometimes travel away from
the body and perceive distant scenes clairvoyantly.

906. In the hypnotic trance or in spontaneous somnambulism, we often find
a quasi-personality occupying the organism, while the sensitive's own spirit
often claims to have been absent elsewhere, and sometimes exhibits real clair-
voyant power. Telepathic intercourse, if carried far enough, corresponds to
possession or to ecstasy.

907. In telepathy we encounter an influence which suggests an intelligent
and responsive external presence, and telepathy between the living leads on to
telepathy from the dead ; which implies that the communication does not
depend on vibrations from a material brain.

908. When motor automatism develops into possession, there is apparently
no communication between the discarnate mind and the mind of the auto-
matist, but rather with the latter's brain.

909. Even in ordinary cases of telepathy, the percipient's brain may some-
times be influenced by his own mind, and sometimes directly by the agent's ;
in the latter case, the influence may be termed telergic. Veridical apparitions
also show traces of the spiritual and the physical elements mingling in various
degrees as we pass from clairvoyant visions to collective apparitions.

910. The same stages are to be seen in the case of apparitions of the
dead leading up to complete possession of the automatist's brain by an
extraneous spirit.

911. Possession by spirits is difficult to distinguish from cases of secondary
personality, where the organism is controlled by another synthesis of its own
spirit. We must not ascribe to spirit-control cases where no new knowledge is
shown in the trance state.

912. In reputed savage cases of possession, the hostility of the control to
the automatist is no proof of its being other than a secondary personality.
912 A. Dr. Nevius on demon possession in China.

913. It is sometimes claimed that these controls show supernormal know-
ledge, but the cases recorded may generally be explained by heightened
memory, with possible traces of telepathy. In cases where there is good
evidence of supernormal knowledge, the controls have always been both human
and friendly.

914. We should expect spirit-control to be subject to the same limits that
we find in controls by secondary personalities ; e.g. the external spirit is not
likely to be able to produce utterance in a language unknown to the

915. In both cases, and also in dreams, memory seems to fail and change
in a capricious way.

916. Again, it is hard to get into continuous colloquy with a somnambulist,


who generally follows his own train of ideas, and similar difficulties seem to
occur in conversing with spirit-controls.

917. Our expectations will thus be very different from the commonplace or
even the poetic notion of what communication with the dead is likely to be.

918. The actual phenomena fail to comply either with the orthodox or
traditional line of expectation, or with romantic anticipations, or with the
notion that they should subserve some practical purpose.

919. The problems of possession, on the other hand, form the natural
sequence of our earlier problems ; the actions of the possessed organism
show the furthest stage of motor automatism; the incursion of the possessing
spirit is the completest form of telepathic invasion.

920. We must now briefly consider the relation of spiritual influences to
the world of matter. In some telergic cases, it appears that the agent's spirit
acts directly on the percipient's brain.

921. In cases of possession, it is possible that the controlling spirit may
impel the organism to more forcible movements than its usual ones.

922. It may also be able to use the organism more skilfully and emit
from it an energy which can move objects not in contact with it ; this pheno-
menon is termed by Aksakoff telekinesis.

923. The interest excited in the ordinary public by the " physical pheno-
mena of spiritualism," or telekinesis, has, as is well known, fostered much fraud,
to expose and guard against which has been one of the main tasks of the
S.P.R. 923 A. References to exposures of Madame Blavatsky. 923 B.
References to exposures of other spiritualistic frauds.

924. In this work, telekinesis is only dealt with where it appears as an
element in spirit-possession, especially in the cases of D. D. Home and Stainton

925. Telekinesis may begin as a form of automatism, initiated by the sub-
liminal self, and there may occasionally, though not provably, be an element of
it in table-tilting or automatic writing. This may develop into raps or into
movements of distant objects. 925 A. Case of Mr. Vaughan.

926. The right comprehension of telekinetic phenomena must depend on
a knowledge greater than we at present possess of the relations between
matter and ether. A tentative sketch of what may be done by future inquiries
is given in a " Scheme of Vital Faculty " (926 A). 926 B. References to
accounts of telekinetic cases.

927. Sporadic cases of ecstacy or possession seem not infrequent in some
private circles. 927 A. Mr. O.'s case. Cases of: 927 B. Miss White;
927 C. Miss Lottie Fowler.

928. All such cases are difficult to classify precisely, but the more de-
veloped forms of possession throw light on the more rudimentary ones.

929. The most rudimentary form seems to be a momentary possession by
the subliminal self : e.g. case of Mrs. Luther.

930. Or there may be a brief psychical excursion in which some know-
ledge is gained and uttered automatically by the subliminal self : e.g. case of
Professor Thoulet.

931. The next case that of Mr. Goodall suggests a kind of telepathic
conversation between the subliminal self, controlling the utterance of the
sleeper, and some perhaps discarnate spirit.

932. The next Mr. Wilkie's is a miniature case of possession.


933. These cases illustrate the development of the incipient stages of
trance into ecstacy or possession, the control in different cases being by the
incarnate or by the discarnate spirit, or by a combination of the two.

934. In one form of trance the automatist is completely controlled by his
own subliminal self or incarnate spirit ; e.g. 934 A. case of Mr. Sanders.

935. In the famous case of Swedenborg, on the other hand, direct inter-
course during ecstasy with discarnate spirits was claimed.

936. Swedenborg's personal experiences are in accord with those described
apparently independently by other sensitives since his time ; on the other
hand, his dogmatic writings have been discredited by later knowledge.
936 A. Kant on Swedenborg. 936 B. The Seeress of Prevorst. 936 C. Case
of Mr. Skilton.

937. Cahagnet's subject, Adele Maginot, was also apparently, when in
trance, controlled by her own subliminal self. 937 A. Mr. Podmore's account
of this case.

938. In the case of D. D. Home telekinetic phenomena are alleged, as
well as trance manifestations. 938 A. References to information about Home.
938 B. Review of Mme. Home's Life of Home.

939. Home's trances varied a good deal on different occasions.

940. Comparison of the trance-manifestations of Home with those of
Moses and of Mrs. Piper.

941. In the case of Moses, as in that of Home, the telekinetic phenomena
formed an integral part of the general manifestations, but were regarded by
him as merely subsidiary to the religious teachings of his " controls."

942. This ethical preoccupation was natural to his character and time.

943. His relation to the S.P.R. 943 A. References to printed records
of his phenomena, and biography.

944. The two series of phenomena physical and trance were intimately
connected in his case, and purported to be produced by the same alleged
discarnate spirits.

945. These belonged to three classes : (a) persons recently dead ; (^)
distinguished persons of past generations ; (^) more distinguished and more
remote persons, who called themselves by pseudonyms, e.g. " Imperator."

946. General account of Moses' automatic writings. 946 A. His descrip-
tion of the process of writing.

947. The evidence for the identity of the remote spirits is very dubious.
947 A. Case of Rector's copying from a closed book.

948. Possible explanation of some of the cases by subliminal observation
and memory. 948 A. Cases from " Spirit Identity." 948 B. Other cases of
veridical communications.

949. Case of " Blanche Abercromby," in which a recent death unknown
normally to Moses was announced by his automatic writing, some of which
was alleged to have a close resemblance to hers.

950. Discussion of the possible or alleged functions of the remote controls.

951. Classification of messages according to their evidential quality.

952. In some of Moses' cases, the messages were accompanied by appari-
tions or by telekinetic phenomena.

953. In the case of Mrs. Piper, the verbal messages from persons recently
dead are of much greater evidential value ; she is also alleged to be controlled
by the " Imperator " group.

VOL. n. b


954. Her case differs from those of Home and Moses in presenting no
telekinetic phenomena, and in the fact that she shows no supernormal powers
except when in trance.

955. Brief history of the case.

956. The hypothesis of fraud. 956 A. Report by Professor James.
956 B. Report by the present writer.

957. Discussion of the personality of " Phinuit." 957 A. Description by
Professor Lodge.

958. During the dominance of the " Phinuit " control, the evidence for the
personal identity of the alleged communicators was generally slight.

959. In the next stage that of the " G. P." control the evidence greatly
improved. 959 A. Mr. Hart's sitting. 959 B. Mr. and Mrs. Howard's
sitting. 959 C. Communications from Mr. Hart.

960. Instance of correct information, unknown to the sitter, being given-
960 A. Communications from Elisa Manners.

961. Case of attempt to write Hawaiian : Mr. Briggs' sitting.

962. Communications from young children : Mrs. Button's sitting. 962 A.
Dr. and Mrs. Thaw's sittings.

963. The discarnate spirits seem occasionally to manifest powers of retro-
cognitive telaesthesia and of precognition. 963 A. Predictions given through
Mrs. Piper.

964. In the last stages of Mrs. Piper's trance manifestations, the chief
controls purport to be those of Mr. Moses the Imperator group but there is
no proof so far of their identity.

965. Trance communications from discarnate spirits must be influenced
both by the subliminal self and by the organism of the medium, and perhaps
may be impaired by limitations in the powers of the spirits.

966. Possession appears to have no injurious effect on the medium, but
rather the reverse.

967. Coming to the part played by the spirit, it seems as far removed from
modern philosophical as from ancient savage conceptions.

968. The personal identity of a spirit must connote memory and character.

969. The communications indicate some cognisance of space and time,
and some knowledge both of the thoughts and emotions of survivors and of
material facts.

970. Consideration of the possible difficulties of communicating on the
part of the communicators.

971. They are such as might be inferred from the analogies between
possession and alternating personalities, dreams, and somnambulism.

972. The relations between mind and brain may be elucidated by the
difficulties shown by the spirit in using the medium's brain.

973. The spirits sometimes appear more eager to communicate than the
sitters are to receive communications.

974. Conclusions which may be drawn from the phenomena recorded.

975. One obstacle to our inquiry has been the apparent want of dignity
in this mode of acquiring knowledge ; but the apparently trivial experiments
and observations have led to generalisations of immense importance.

976. Further discussion of ecstasy.

977. It is a phenomenon common to all religions, and hence of special
importance from a psychological point of view.

978. We must now deal briefly with the subject of retrocognition and


precognition ; these suggest powers even more remote than telepathy or
telaesthesia from ordinary methods of acquiring knowledge.

979. Retrocognition begins with hypermnesia, leading on to cases where
the knowledge seems to come from the memories of other minds, embodied or
disembodied, or from a direct perception of the cosmic record.

980. Precognition, starting from promnesia, leads on through self-sugges-
tion and organic prevision, gradually involving more and more of the
percipient's environment, as well as of his own history; but may even then
be regarded as the result of the wider outlook of the subliminal self. 980 A.
Case of Signorina Manzini.

981. Some precognitions, however, may be due to the reasoned foresight of
disembodied spirits; and some may possibly be derived from spirits higher
than human, or from a sphere where our conception of time no longer holds.

982. Discussion of the evolution of retrocognition from memory.

983. The various stages of precognition : hyperaesthesia, peripheral or

984. The wider knowledge of the subliminal self; sometimes transmitted
telepathically to others, or itself derived from disembodied spirits.

985. Direct foreknowledge of the future; the relation of this possibility
to the problem of Free Will.

986. The conception of Time, as has often been suggested, may be purely

987. Our evidence seems to indicate that the spiritual world is now just
beginning to act systematically upon the material world.

988. The faintness and incoherence of the messages seem an evidence
of effort on the part of the communicators ; but to solve the mystery fully will
require the labours of many generations.



1000. Some attempt to place these new discoveries in clearer relation to
existing schemes of civilised thought and belief is needful for the practical
purpose of enlisting help in our inquiry, which has hitherto suffered from
indifference rather than from opposition.

1001. The influence of the evidence set forth in this book should prompt
towards the ultimate achievement of scientific dominance in every department
of human study, including as never before the realm of "divine things."

1002. The present age is marked by a deep and widespread dissatisfaction,
by a decline of any real belief in the worth of life. A similar crisis which
passed over Europe once before was dissipated by the rise of Christianity.

1003. In our age the scientific instinct must be satisfied equally with the
religious ; any scheme of knowledge to commend itself to our descendants
must be one which, while it transcends our present knowledge, steadily continues
it. It is only now that this principle is beginning to be applied to the
spiritual world.

1004. The conception of Telepathy is seen gradually to enlarge and deepen,
proving to us at last that the kinship between souls is more fundamental than
their separation.


1005. Let us suppose that whilst incarnate men have risen from savagery
into intelligence, discarnate men have become more eager and more able to
communicate with earth. Sporadic instances of such communication have
always occurred ; but the newer scientific temper demanding not miracles,
but a higher law is not perhaps confined to this earth alone.

1006. Actual increase of our knowledge of the spiritual world, both by
discovery and by revelation, is rendering possible a religious synthesis less
incomplete than any which has been attained until now.

1007. By a religious synthesis I mean a co-ordination and development
of all such response of the human spirit to Cosmic Law as has risen above
mere egoism or revolt into co-operation and worship.

1008. I hold that this enthusiasm of response is morally incumbent on us ;
since, even though the Cosmos appears imperfect, it may be destined to attain
perfection partly through our own work and faith.

1009. The response actually made in the past by human spirits of high type
has been, on the whole, concordant in recognising that a spiritual world under-
lies the material. The two leading World-Religions have developed different
sides of this obscure philosophic consensus. Eastern contemplation has dwelt
on the vastness of the spirit's ascent up infinite degrees of Being, to be merged
at last in an impersonal All. Western worship has based on Jesus Christ's
Resurrection the belief that the soul survives bodily death, and on His Revela-
tion the belief that the world is spiritual and is ruled by Love.

1010. This dim and imperfect agreement is now supplemented by nascent
discovery and revelation. From the discovery of telepathy we learn that a
direct communication passes between incarnate spirits, and from discarnate
spirits to incarnate. From the revelation contained in these messages from
discarnate spirits, we learn in direct fashion what philosophy had suspected,
the existence and influence of a spiritual world.

1011. Our new knowledge, confirming ancient streams of thought, corrobo-
rates analogically for Christianity the record of Christ's appearances after
death, and hints at the possibility of the beneficent incarnation of souls
previously on a level higher than man's.

1012. Passing on to the further future, it confirms for Buddhism the con-
ception of an endless spiritual evolution, which the whole Cosmos subserves.

1013. And meantime, by its actual and ever-growing reality, the nascent
communion with enfranchised spirits offers both immediate sustenance and
endless development.

1014. That development must be an increase in holiness ; an intensified
interpenetration both of worlds and of souls ; an evolution of Energy into
Life, and of Life into the threefold conception of Wisdom, Love, and Joy.

1015. This process, effected for each several soul in different fashion, is
in itself continuous and cosmic : all Life is developing itself from the primal
Energy, and divinising itself into the ultimate Joy.

Appendix A. The Function of a Society for Psychical Research.
Appendix B. The Decline of Dogmatism.
Appendix C. Prayer and Supplication.



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700. The course of our argument has gradually conducted us to
a point of capital importance. A profound and central question,
approached in irregular fashion from time to time in previous chapters,
must now be directly faced. From the actions and perceptions of
spirits still in the flesh, and concerned with one another, we must pass
on to inquire into the actions of spirits no longer in the flesh, and
into the forms of perception with which men still in the flesh respond
to that unfamiliar and mysterious agency.

There need, I hope, be no real break here in my previous line of
argument. The subliminal self, which we have already traced through
various phases of growing sensitivity, growing independence of organic
bonds, will now be studied as sensitive to yet remoter influences; as
maintaining an independent existence even when the organism is de-
stroyed. Our subject will divide itself conveniently under three main heads.
First, it will be well to discuss briefly the nature of the evidence to man's
survival of death which may theoretically be obtainable, and its possible
connections with evidence set forth in previous chapters. Secondly, and
this must form the bulk of the present chapter, we need a classified
exposition of the main evidence to survival thus far obtained ; so far,
that is to say, as sensory automatism audition or apparition is con-
cerned ; for motor automatism automatic writing and trance-utterance
must be left for later discussion. Thirdly, there will be need of some
consideration of the meaning of this evidence as a whole, and of its
implications alike for the scientific and for the ethical future of mankind.
Much more, indeed, of discussion (as well as of evidence) than I can
furnish will be needed before this great conception can be realised or
argued from with the scientific thoroughness due to its position among
fundamental cosmical laws. Considering how familiar the notion the
vague shadowy notion of " immortality " has always been, it is strange
VOL. n. A


indeed that so little should have been done in these modern days to
grasp or to criticise it ; so little, one might almost say, since the Phaedo
of Plato.

701. Beginning, then, with the inquiry as to what kind of evidence
ought to be demanded for human survival, we are met first by the bluff
statement which is still often uttered even by intelligent men, that no
evidence would convince them of such a fact ; " neither would they be
persuaded though one rose from the dead."

Extravagant as such a profession sounds, it has a meaning which
we shall do well to note. These resolute antagonists mean that no new
evidence can carry conviction to them unless it be continuous with old
evidence ; and that they cannot conceive that evidence to a world of
spirit can possibly be continuous with evidence based upon our experi-
ence of a world of matter. I agree with this demand for continuity;
and I agree also that the claims usually advanced for a spiritual world
have not only made no attempt at continuity with known fact, but have
even ostentatiously thrown such continuity to the winds. The popular
mind has expressly desired something startling, something outside Law
and above Nature. It has loved, if not a Credo quia absurdum, at least
a Credo quia non probatum. But the inevitable retribution is a deep
insecurity in the conviction thus attained. Unsupported by the general
fabric of knowledge, the act of faith seems to shrink into the background
as that great fabric stands and grows.

I can hardly too often repeat that my object in these pages is of a
quite opposite character. Believing that all cognisable Mind is as con-
tinuous as all cognisable Matter, my ideal would be to attempt for the
realm of mind what the spectroscope and the law of gravitation have
effected for the realm of matter, and to carry that known cosmic uni-
formity of substance and interaction upwards among the essences and
operations of an unknown spiritual world. And in order to explore
these unreachable altitudes I would not ask to stand with the theologian
on the summit of a " cloud-capt tower," but rather on plain earth at the
measured base of a trigonometrical survey.

702. If we would measure such a base, the jungle must be cleared
to begin with. Let us move for a while among first definitions ; trying
to make clear to ourselves what kind of thing it is that we are endeavour-
ing to trace or discover. In popular parlance, we are looking out for
ghosts. What connotation, then, are we to give to the word " ghost " a
word which has embodied so many unfounded theories and causeless
fears? It would be more satisfactory, in the present state of our know-
ledge, simply to collect facts without offering speculative comment. But
it seems safer to begin by briefly pointing out the manifest errors of the
traditional view; since that tradition, if left unnoticed, would remain
lodged in the background even of many minds which have never really
accepted it.


Briefly, then, the popular view regards a " ghost " as a deceased
person permitted by Providence to hold communication -with survivors.
And this short definition contains, I think, at least three unwarrantable

In the first place, such words as permission and Providence are simply
neither more nor less applicable to this phenomenon than to any other.
We conceive that all phenomena alike take place in accordance with the
laws of the universe, and consequently by permission of the Supreme
Power in the universe. Undoubtedly the phenomena with which we are
dealing are in this sense permitted to occur. But there is no a priori
reason whatever for assuming that they are permitted in any especial sense
of their own, or that they form exceptions to law, instead of being ex-
emplifications of law. Nor is there any a posteriori reason for supposing
any such inference to be deducible from a study of the phenomena
themselves. If we attempt to find in these phenomena any poetical
justice or manifest adaptation to human cravings, we shall be just as
much disappointed as if we endeavoured to find a similar satisfaction in

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