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feels himself becoming his own father, who is manifesting through him.
It should be added that, although somewhat pompous, Leopold always
appears both sensible and dignified. " Leopold," says Professor Flournoy
(p. 134) "certainly manifests a very honourable and amiable side of M Ue
Smith's character, and in taking him as her 'guide' she has followed
inspirations which are doubtless among the highest in her nature."

The high moral quality of these automatic communications, on which
Professor Flournoy thus insists, is a phenomenon worth consideration. I
do not mean that it is specially strange in the case of M"* Smith. She
appears to be (if the phrase is thought permissible in describing a medium)
a person of remarkably well-regulated mind. One is not surprised that
her subliminal self should be as blameless c. c her supraliminal. But in
reality the remark here made by Professor Flournoy has a much wider
application. The almost universally high moral tone of genuinely auto-
matic utterances whether claimed as spirit communications or pro-
ceeding obviously from the automatist himself has not, I think, been
sufficiently noticed, or adequately explained. I will mention two points
which have struck me as specially noticeable. In the first place I have
read many pulpit and other attacks on " spiritualism," under which name
all automatic utterance is commonly included, and I cannot remember
any instance in which such an attack has been made effective by the
quotation of passages of immoral tendency base, cruel, or impure. The
attack, so far as I know, has always been of a kind which, in the eye
of the philosopher, is rather complimentary to the writings attacked. For
it seems (and this is the second point to which I wished to call attention
here) that no one of the various conflicting Churches has been able to
claim the general drift of automatic messages as making for its special
tenets. The various controversialists, where they have been candid, have
admitted moral elevation, but, from their various opposing points of
view, have agreed in deploring theological laxity.

I must indeed confess myself unable to explain why it is that beneath


the frequent incoherence, frequent commonplaceness, frequent pomposity
of these messages there should almost always be a substratum of better
sense, of truer catholicity, than is usually to be heard except from the
leading minds of the generation. It is possible that in some hidden way
the Zeit-Geist affects the subliminal strata even of persons superficially
narrow and bigoted by an influence urging them all in somewhat the same
direction ; so that the best available thought of the age is inspiring the
age more profoundly than we know. And it is possible also that these
utterances may bear in reality some obscure relation to truths profounder
than we have as yet normally acquired. What is omitted, indeed, from
current beliefs is as significant as what is added thereto, and the general
product looks more like a very poor account of something which in itself
is great and new, but dimly apprehended, than like a compromise between
conflicting dogmas, or a selection from familiar hortatory themes.

836. Thus much I think it was fair to say ; or I may speak more
strongly and maintain that thus much it was a positive duty to insist upon.
It is only right that this mass of communications, taken as a whole,
should be defended from the random accusations of journalist or

But, in view of what is to follow, I may here define the limited extent
to which my support of the content of automatic messages goes.

I think, then, that in evidential messages where there is real reason
to believe that an identified spirit is communicating there is a marked
and independent consensus on such matters as these spirits profess them-
selves able to discuss. And, again, in non- evidential messages in com-
munications which probably proceed from the automatist's subliminal
self I hold that there is a remarkable and undesigned concordance in
high moral tone, and also in avoidance of certain prevalent tenets, which
many of the automatists do supraliminally hold as true. But I also
insist that these subliminal messages, even when not incoherent, are
generally dream-like, and often involve tenets which (though never in my
experience base or immoral) are unsupported by evidence, and are probably
to be referred to mere self-suggestion.

Prominent among such tenets is one which forms a large part of M" e
Smith's communications ; namely, the doctrine of reincarnation, or of
successive lives spent by each soul upon this planet.

The simple fact that such was probably the opinion both of Plato and
of Virgil shows that there is nothing here which is alien to the best reason
or to the highest instincts of men. Nor, indeed, is it easy to realise any
theory of the direct creation of spirits at such different stages of advance-
ment as those which enter upon the earth in the guise of mortal man.
There must, one feels, be some kind of continuity some form of spiritual
Past. Yet for reincarnation there is at present no valid evidence ; and
it must be my duty to show how its assertion in any given instance
M lle Smith's included constitutes in itself a strong argument in favour


of self-suggestion rather than extraneous inspiration as the source of the
messages in which it appears.

Whenever civilised men have received what they have regarded as a
revelation (which has generally been somewhat fragmentary in its first
delivery) they have naturally endeavoured to complete and systematise
it as well as they could. In so doing they have mostly aimed at three
objects : (i) to understand as much as possible of the secrets of the uni-
verse ; (2) to justify as far as possible Heaven's dealings with men; and
(3) to appropriate as far as possible the favour or benefit which the revela-
tion may show as possibly accruing to believers. For all these purposes
the doctrine of reincarnation has proved useful in many countries and
times. But in no case could it seem more appropriate than in this last
revelation (so to term it) through automatic messages and the like. And
as a matter of history, a certain vigorous preacher of the new faith, known
under the name of Allan Kardec, took up reincarnationist tenets, enforced
them (as there is reason to believe) by strong suggestion upon the minds
of various automatic writers, and set them forth in dogmatic works which
have had much influence, especially among Latin nations, from their clarity,
symmetry, and intrinsic reasonableness. Yet the data thus collected were
absolutely insufficient, and the Livre des Esprits must simply rank as the
premature formulation of a new religion the premature systematisation
of a nascent science.

I follow Professor Flournoy in believing that the teaching of that work
must have directly or indirectly influenced the mind of M lle Smith, and
is therefore responsible for her claim to these incarnations previous to that
which she now undergoes or enjoys.

On the general scheme here followed, each incarnation, if the last has
been used aright, ought to represent some advance in the scale of being.
If one earth-life has been misused, the next earth-life ought to afford
opportunity for expiation or for further practice in the special virtue
which has been imperfectly acquired. Thus M" e Smith's present life in a
humble position may be thought to atone for her overmuch pride in her
last incarnation as Marie Antoinette.

But the mention of Marie Antoinette suggests the risk which this
theory fosters of assuming that one is the issue of a distinguished line
of spiritual progenitors ; insomuch that, with whatever temporary sets-
back, one is sure in the end to find oneself in a leading position.

Pythagoras, indeed, was content with the secondary hero Euphorbus
as his bygone self. But in our days Dr. Anna Kingsford and Mr. Edward
Maitland must needs have been the Virgin Mary and St. John the Divine.
And Victor Hugo, who was naturally well to the front in these self-multi-
plications, took possession of most of the leading personages of antiquity
whom he could manage to string together in chronological sequence.
It is obvious that any number of re-born souls can play at this game ; but
where no one adduces any evidence it seems hardly worth while to go on.

i 3 6 CHAPTER VIII [837

Even Pythagoras does not appear to have adduced any evidence beyond
his ipse dixit for his assertion that the alleged shield of Euphorbus had in
reality been borne by that mythical hero. Meantime the question as to
reincarnation has actually been put to a very few spirits who have given
some real evidence of their identity. So far as I know, no one of these
has claimed to know anything personally of such an incident ; although
all have united in saying that their knowledge was too limited to allow them
to generalise on the matter.

He"lene's controls and previous incarnations to return to our subject
do perhaps suffer from the general fault of aiming too high. She has
to her credit a control from the planet Mars ; one pre-incarnation as an
Indian Princess ; and a second (as I have said) as Marie Antoinette.

837. In each case there are certain impressive features in the im-
personation ; but in each case also careful analysis negatives the idea that
we can be dealing with a personality really revived from a former epoch,
or from a distant planet ; and leaves us inclined to explain everything by
" cryptomnesia " (as Professor Flournoy calls submerged memory), and
that subliminal inventiveness of which we already know so much.

The Martian control was naturally the most striking at first
sight. Its reality was supported by a Martian language, written in a
Martian alphabet, spoken with fluency, and sufficiently interpreted into
French to show that such part of it, at any rate, as could be committed to
writing was actually a grammatical and coherent form of speech.

And here I reach an appropriate point at which to remark that this
book of Professor Flournoy's is not the first account which has been
published of M Ue He"lene. Professor Lemaitre, of Geneva, printed two
papers about her in the Annales des Sciences Psychiques: first, a long
article in the number for March-April, 1897 then a reply to M. Lefe"bure
in Jhe number for May-June, 1897. I* 1 these papers he distinctly claims
supernormal powers for M Ue He"lene, implying a belief in her genuine
possession by spirits, and even in her previous incarnations, and in
the extra-terrene or ostensibly Martian language. I read these papers
at the time, but put them aside as inconclusive, mainly because that
very language, on which M. Lemaitre seemed most to rely, appeared to
me so obviously factitious as to throw doubt on all the evidence pre-
sented by an observer who could believe -that denizens of another planet
talked to each other in a language corresponding in every particular with
simple French idioms, and including such words as quisa for quel, quise for
quelle, veteche for voir, veche for vu ; the fantastic locutions of the nursery.
M. Lemaitre remarks, as a proof of the consistency and reality of the
extra-terrene tongue, " L'un des premiers mots que nous ayons eus,
metiche, signifiant monsieur, se retrouve plus tard avec le sens de homme."
That is to say, having transmogrified monsieur into metiche, Helene further
transmutes les messieurs into cee metiche , in naive imitation of ordinary
French usage. And this tongue is supposed to have sprung up indepen-


dently of all the influences which have shaped terrene grammar in general
or the French idiom in particular ! And even after Professor Flournoy's
analysis of this absurdity I see newspapers speaking of this Martian
language as an impressive phenomenon ! They seem willing to believe
that the evolution of another planet, if it has culminated in conscious life
at all, can have culminated in a conscious life into which we could all of
us enter affably, with a suitable Ollendorff 's phrase-book under our arms ;
" eni cee m'etiche one qude," " ici les hommes (messieurs) sont bons,"
" here the men are good ; " and the rest of it.

To the student of automatisms, of course, all this irresistibly suggests
the automatist's own subliminal handiwork. It is a case of " glossolaly,"
or " speaking with tongues" ; and we have no modern case no case later
than the half-mythical Miracles of the Cevennes where such utterance
has proved to be other than gibberish. I have had various automatic
hieroglyphics shown to me, with the suggestion that they may be cursive
Japanese, or perhaps an old dialect of Northern China ; but I confess
that I have grown tired of showing these fragments to the irresponsive
expert, who suggests that they may also be vague reminiscences of the
scrolls in an Oriental tea-tray.

It seems indeed to be a most difficult thing to get telepathically into
any brain even fragments of a language which it has not learnt. A few
simple Italian, and even Hawaiian, words occur in Mrs. Piper's utterances,
coming apparently from departed spirits, (see 960 A and 961), but these,
with some Kaffir and Chinese words given through Miss Browne (871 A),
form, I think, almost the only instances which I know. And, speaking
generally, whatever is elaborate, finished, pretentious, is likely to be of
subliminal facture ; while only things scrappy, perplexed, and tentative
have floated to us veritably from afar.

Analysis of the so-called Martian language proves it to be no exception
to this rule. It is, in fact, a childish, though elaborate, imitation of
French ; whose true parallel lies in those languages of the nursery which
little brothers and sisters sometimes invent as a tongue not understanded
of their elders. The outbursts of this Martian speech are noticeable as a
parallel to the " deific verbiage," which used to throng through the lips of
Mr. le Baron {Proceedings S.P.R., vol. xii. p. 277), and for a long time
impressed itself upon him as having some reality in it somewhere.

The most interesting peculiarity, indeed, in the Martian tongue is its
exclusively French formation ; which would seem to argue its elaboration
in a mind familiar with French alone. Now M" e Smith who, by the
way, is no linguist * had some German lessons in her girlhood, and one
is thus led to the curious supposition that the Martian tongue was
invented by some element in her personality which preceded the German

1 Her father, however, was acquainted with some half-dozen European languages
and had besides some knowledge of Latin and Greek. (SeeZto Indes, p. 15.)


I may perhaps recall here, a trivial experience of my own illustrative of
this ingenious hypothesis of Professor Flournoy's. I once dreamt that
I saw an epitaph in Greek hexameters inscribed on a wall, of which on
waking I remembered only one line

Avrap 6 /xev Kara -fyv Oa\fpov Kv<re SaxvofAcvov Trvp.

I could not construe this line, which is, in fact, nonsense ; till I
remembered in a sudden flash a certain sense of shame felt by me as a
small boy at having thought that Kara meant under as though Kara -fyv
were yfp; Kara).

The line, then, had a meaning : " But he, indeed, beneath the earth,
embraced the strong consuming flame ; " not a well-chosen sentiment for
an epitaph, perhaps, but yet up to the ordinary level of one's dreaming
self. There must, then, have been some fragment of me yet surviving
from innocent boyhood, and blundering subliminally in the same old style.

838. "This fact of the primitive nature of M lle Smith's various
hypnoidal elucubrations, and the different ages of her life to which they
belong, seems to me (says Professor Flournoy, p. 415) to constitute
one of the most interesting psychological points in her mediumship. It
tends to show that her secondary personalities are probably in their origin,
as has sometimes been suggested, phenomena partly of reversion to the
ordinary personality survivals or momentary returns of inferior phases,
overpassed for a longer or shorter time, and which should normally have
been absorbed in the development of the individual instead of appearing
externally in strange proliferations. Just as teratology illustrates embry-
ology, which in return explains teratology, and as both of these unite in
throwing light on anatomy, similarly one may hope that the study of the
facts of mediumship may some day help to furnish us with some just and
fruitful view of normal psychogenesis, which in return will enable us
better to comprehend the appearance of these singular phenomena;
so that psychology in general may thence acquire a better and exacter
conception of human personality."

The faculty here touched upon the strong reviviscence of long-past
emotional states seems to me eminently characteristic, at any rate, of
artistic and poetical genius.

The artist must needs desire to have his whole life to draw upon. He
must often wish to live in the past more vividly than in the present, and
to feel again what he has felt, even more than to see again what he has
seen. Visual and auditory memories, pushed to absolute vividness, become
hallucinations of vision or audition ; and this point of absolute hallucina-
tion few artists are able or even desire to reach. But emotional or affective
memory may for some gifted natures be pushed on into all its old actual
vividness with pure gain to art ; nay, if the man himself has grown more
capable of feeling, then the revived emotion (like certain optical memory-
images) may even go beyond the original.


Thus Sully Prudhomme says, in speaking of a hidden insurgent
memory of this type : " C'est meme cette reViviscence qui seule me per-
mettrait de retoucher les vers que cette petite aventure, si ancienne, m'a
fait commettre, et de faire b^ne'ficier de Pexprience que j'ai acquise dans
mon art 1'expression de mes sentiments d'autrefois." And he asks whether
every memory of feeling does not assume a certain character of hallucina-
tion. Wordsworth (as Aubrey de Vere has told us, and as the sonnet
"surprised by joy," shows) had very much the same experience. And
Littre {Revue Positive, 1877, p. 660) describes what he calls the "affective
automnesia " or spontaneously arising flow of emotion with which quite
suddenly, and late in life, he remembered losing a young sister when he
was ten years old : " Ce meme eVenement s'est reproduit avec une peine
non moindre, certes, que celle que j'e"prouvais au moment meme, et qui
alia jusqu'a mouiller mes yeux de larmes." *

This train of reflections, I think, well illustrates that kinship between
the working of what is admitted as genius and the dreamlike subliminal
mentation with which we are here dealing, of which I have often spoken,
and to which I must again presently recur.

Turning now to the Hindoo pre-incarnation, we observe that it offers a
linguistic problem of a rather different kind. Certain Sanscrit letters
are written, and certain Sanscrit words are uttered mixed, it is true,
with much quasi-Sanscrit gibberish, and not exceeding what a quick eye
and memory might pick up in a few hours from a Sanscrit grammar.
Hlene, however whose complete good faith is vouched for on all sides
and who herself undoubtedly believes with her whole heart in the spirit-
hypothesis denies that she ever consulted or even to her knowledge saw,
a Sanscrit grammar. Again, M. Flournoy's careful researches have shown
that incidents of the Indian history, or pseudo-history, on which the narra-
tive of this incarnation turns, are undoubtedly derived from a particular
passage in a rare and antiquated history of India by de Maries which
M" e Smith asserts that she never saw, and which it seems very improbable
that she should have seen. 2 This knowledge is worked up in a way indicat-
ing considerable familiarity with the East, and quasi-Indian tunes and
gestures are employed with great verisimilitude.

I need not here go into the details of the more modern and accessible
characterisation of Marie Antoinette.

839. In the facts which I have already given, we have got this

1 See Ribot, Psychologie des Sentiments, p. 152.

2 See, however, Nouvelles Observations (pp. 212-213), from which it appears that a
gentleman in whose house M Ue Smith used to give seances possessed a Sanscrit grammar,
and kept it in the room where the seances were held. In the same book (pp. 206-216),
Professor Flournoy points out several other sources besides Maries' history (itself to be
found in the two principal libraries of Geneva) from which her knowledge of India
might have been derived ; and he shows (pp. 203-206) that the Hindoo romance pre-
sented internal contradictions which made it inconsistent with any hypothesis of re-
incarnation. EDITORS.

i 4 o CHAPTER VIII [840

problem reduced to its narrowest form ; and I shall set forth, as barely
possible, a theory which Professor Flournoy has not invoked. I agree
with him that the notion of the truth of the Indian romance must be quite
dismissed. But I do not therefore think it certain that M Ue Smith must
have unconsciously seen de Maries' history and a Sanscrit grammar, since
it seems to me just possible that the knowledge of de Maries and of
Sanscrit may have been clairvoyantly acquired by her subliminal self.

Further, it has sometimes been alleged that discarnate spirits may
be concerned in the composition of such romances, on the hypothesis
that if they do act upon human minds, they probably so act sometimes to
amuse themselves, as well as to please or inform us. I know of no evidence,
indeed, of their having any power to injure us, but it is thought by some
that there is a good deal of evidence of tricky, playful interference, and
that a kind of literary impulse to write or act out romances, through the
intermediacy of some human being, may be one form of this mystifying
intervention. There is, however, no need to postulate the existence of
tricky spirits when the phenomena can be adequately accounted for by the
known tendencies of the subliminal self, as exemplified in such cases as
the "Clelia" and Newnham writings (830 A and 849 A), and Sally
Beauchamp (234 A).

840. I pass on from these reincarnational romances to certain
minor, but interesting phenomena, which Professor Flournoy calls teleolo-
gieal automatisms. These are small acts of helpfulness beneficent synergies,
as we might term them, in contrast with the injurious synergies, or com-
bined groups of hurtful actions, with which hysteria has made us familiar.
We have already printed several incidents of this type in our Proceedings
and Journal. (See, for instance, the trivial but instructive case of Mrs.
Verrall and the envelopes, given in 818 A.)

"One day," says Professor Flournoy (p. 55), "Miss Smith, when
desiring to lift down a large and heavy object which lay on a high shelf,
was prevented from doing so because her raised arm remained for some
seconds as though petrified in the air and incapable of movement. She
took this as a warning, and gave up the attempt. At a subsequent stance
Leopold stated that it was he who had thus fixed He"lene's arm to prevent
her from grasping this object, which was much too heavy for her, and
would have caused her some accident.

" Another time, a shopman, who had been looking in vain for a certain
pattern, asked He"lene if by chance she knew what had become of it.
He'lene answered mechanically and without reflection ' Yes, it has been
sent to Mr. J.' (a client of the house). At the same time she saw before
her the number 18 in large black figures a few feet from the ground, and
added instinctively, ' It was sent eighteen days ago.' [This was in the
highest degree improbable, but was found to be absolutely correct.] Leo-
pold had no recollection of this, and does not seem to have been the
author of this cryptomnesic automatism."


A similar phenomenon has also been noted (p. 87) when warning is
conveyed by an actual phantasmal figure.

M Ue Smith has seen an apparition of Leopold, barring a particular
road, under circumstances which make it probable that M lle Smith would
on that day have had cause to regret taking that route. (Compare the
case of an apparition seen by a lady near an open lift, referred to at the
end of 823 ; and the warning to Socrates to change his route, see 814.)

841. The next question is as to whether supernormal faculty of any
kind is manifested in He'lene's phenomena. There does appear to be

Online LibraryFrederic William Henry MyersHuman personality : and its survival of bodily death (Volume 2) → online text (page 20 of 89)