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some telepathy (see p. 363, &c.), and of telepathy Professor Flournoy
speaks as follows :

" One may almost say that, if telepathy did not exist, it would be
necessary to invent it. I mean by this that a direct action between living
beings, independently of the organs of sense, is a thing so in accord with
all that we know of nature that it would be difficult not to assume its
existence a priori, even were no sign of it perceptible. How could one
believe, indeed, that centres of chemical phenomena so complex as the
nervous centres could find themselves in activity without transmitting
various undulations X, Y, or Z rays passing through the skull as the
sun passes through glass, and going on to act, at any distance, on their
homologues in other skulls ? It is a mere question of intensity. . . .

" If telepathy is considered strange, mystic, occult, supernormal, &c.,
it is because this character has been gratuitously conferred on it by making
of this imponderable link between organisms a purely spiritual communica-
tion of soul to soul, independent of matter and of space. That such a
metaphysical union does exist I am ready to believe, but it is to introduce
a gratuitous confusion if one substitutes this problem of high speculation
which abandons the strictly scientific ground and sets aside the principle
of psycho-physical parallelism for the empirical problem of telepathy,
which is perfectly concordant with that parallelism and in no way contra-
dicts established science."

Now, of course, it has been obvious from the outset of our researches
that it would be very desirable if we could trace some relation between
telepathy and ether vibrations. There are doubtless endless vibrations
waiting to be intelligibly appropriated ; and telepathy is a phenomenon
greatly in need of an explanation. The more complex any object is,
moreover, the more strangely it will vibrate ; and the more sensitive any
object is, the more strangely will it receive and respond to vibrations.

Nevertheless, when we have said this as Sir W. Crookes has said it
with great impressiveness {Proceedings S.P.R., vol. xii. pp. 348-352)
we have said nearly all that can be said for the vibration-theory of
telepathy. In Chapter VI. (pp. 245-246), I have attempted to show the
inadequacy of this theory to cover the facts, and have suggested that
telepathic observations may in time teach us something of the relation of
life to the organism.


842. Most instructive of all will it be if we can obtain telepathy from
discarnate spirits, and especially if we can get any glimpse of a rela-
tion between their mode of being and the cosmic ether. On this point
Professor Flournoy writes as follows (p. 394) :

" It is obvious that the hypothesis of spirits involves no a priori im-
possibility or absurdity. It does not even contradict, as is sometimes
supposed, that fundamental law of physiological psychology the psycho-
physical parallelism which insists that every mental phenomenon must
have a physical correlative. For in spite of our habit of considering the
molecular or atomic phenomena of the brain, the catabolism of the
neurones, as the true concomitant of the conscious processes, it is quite
possible it is even probable enough that these molecular movements do
not constitute the ultimate physical term immediately adjoining the mental
world {cdtoyant le monde mental}, but that the true physical or spatial corre-
latives of psychological or non-spatial phenomena ought to be sought in
the vibrations of that imponderable matter, the ether, in which ponderable
atoms and molecules are plunged somewhat after the fashion of grains of
dust in the atmosphere."

I quote these words because, obvious though their contention must
seem to all thinking persons, it is common enough to see phrases used
as though our notions were still bounded by the molecular ; as though we
did not know, as certainly as we know anything, that the great mystery of
existence is only just beginning, in that inconceivable world of ether, pre-
cisely where our utmost analysis fails us, and our mathematics are reduced
to a jungle of infinities and of contradictions.

And now as to the question of possible telepathy from the dead in
Helene's case. The instance with most in its favour is described by
Professor Flournoy as follows (p. 406) :

In a sitting at my house (February I2th, 1899) M Ue Smith has a vision of
a village on a height covered with vines; she sees a small old man coming
down thence by a stony road. He looks like a " demi-monsieur " ; buckled
shoes, large soft hat, shirt-collar unstarched, with points rising to his cheeks,
&c. A peasant in a blouse whom he meets bows to him as to a personage of
importance; they talk a patois which Helene cannot follow. She has an
impression that she knows the village ; but she cannot identify it. Soon the
landscape disappears, and the old man, now clothed in white and seen in a
luminous space [implying that he is in the next world] seems to come nearer.
At this moment, as she sits with her right arm resting on the table, Leopold
dictates with the forefinger, Lower her arm. I obey ; Helene's arm at first
resists strongly ; then yields at once. She seizes a pencil, and during the
usual struggle as to the way to hold it [*>., whether in her own habitual
fashion between forefinger and middle finger or in the ordinary way],
" You are squeezing my hand too hard ! " she cries to the imagined little old
man who, according to Leopold, wishes to write through her ; " You hurt me ;
don't press so hard; what can it matter to you whether it is a pencil or a
pen?" Then she drops the pencil and takes a pen, and holding it between


thumb and forefinger writes slowly in an unknown handwriting, Chaumontet
syndic. Then returns the vision of the village ; we wish to know its name ;
and she ends by perceiving a guide-post on which she spells out Chessenaz
a name unknown to us. Finally having, at my desire, asked the old man
the date when he was syndic, she hears him answer, 1839. Nothing more
can be learnt ; the vision disappears and gives place to a possession by
Leopold, who in his big Italian voice talks at length about various matters. I
question him on the incident of the unknown village and syndic ; his answers,
interrupted by long digressions, are to this effect : " I am looking I turn
my thoughts along that great mountain with a tunnel in it whose name I do
not know [Leopold the soi-disant Cagliostro who returns from the eighteenth
century, is naturally not well up in modern geographical names; but this
is the hill of Fort de 1'Ecluse] ; I see the name of Chessenaz a village on a
height a road leading up to it. Look in that village ; you will find the
name [Chaumontet] : try to verify the signature ; you will get a proof that
the signature is really that of this man."

I ask him whether he sees all this in Helene's memories "No"; or
whether she has ever been at Chessenaz : " Ask her ; she will know ; I have
not followed her in all her excursions."

He'lene, when awake, could give no information. But next day I found
on the map a little village of Chessenaz in the department of Haute-Savoie,
at twenty-six kilometres from Geneva. . . .

[A fortnight later Helen sees the vision of the other day reappear the
village, the little old man ; but accompanied by a cure, who seems intimate
with him, and whom he calls " my dear friend Bournier." Leopold promises
that this curd will write his name for Helen.]

At the next sitting in my house, March iQth, I remind Leopold of this
promise. . . . The curt at last takes her hand as the syndic had done
and writes very slowly the words Burnier salut. . . .

I wrote to the Maine at Chessenaz, and the Mayor, M. Saunier, was good
enough to answer me at once. " During the years 1838 and 1839," he said, " the
syndic of Chessenaz was Jean Chaumontet, whose signature I find in various
documents of that date. We had also for curt M. Andrd Burnier, from
November 1824 to February 1841, during which period all the actes des
naissances, &c., bear his signature. But I have found in our archives a
document with both signatures, which I send you."

[Reproductions are given (p. 409) of the actual signatures, and of the signa-
tures given by M lle Smith. The handwritings were markedly similar.]

Professor Flournoy's first idea naturally was that M 1Ie Smith had seen
at some time or other some acts or documents signed by the syndic or the
cure of Chessenaz, and that these visual impressions had reappeared in her
somnambulic state, and had served as internal models for the signatures
which she traced in trance. She informed him, in fact, that she had
relations in the neighbourhood, with whom she had stayed some dozen
years earlier, but she had no recollection of having ever seen or heard of
Chessenaz, or of the two names given in her trance. Both names are,
however, not uncommon in that region, and it seems possible that during
her visit her friends may have shown her some family document bearing


the signatures, which we must assume (for her probity is beyond
question) had faded from her supraliminal memory. 1

843. This case of Professor Flournoy's, then this classical case, as
it may already be fairly termed may serve here as our culminant example
of the free scope and dominant activity of the unassisted subliminal self.
The telepathic element in this case, if it exists, is relatively small ; what we
are watching in M lle Hlene Smith resembles, as I have said, a kind of
exaggeration of the submerged constructive faculty, a hypertrophy of
genius without the innate originality of mind which made even the
dreams of R. L. Stevenson a source of pleasure to thousands of readers.

In reference to the main purpose of this work, such cases as these,
however curious, can be only introductory to automatisms of deeper
moment. In our attempt to trace an evolutive series of phenomena
indicating ever higher human faculty, the smallest telepathic incident,
the most trivial proof, if proof it be, of communication received without
sensory intermediation from either an incarnate or a discarnate mind,
outweighs in importance the most complex ramifications and burgeonings
of the automatist's own submerged intelligence.

I pass on, then, to evidence which points, through motor automatisms,
to supernormal faculty ; and I shall begin by citing in 843 A and B certain
experiments (due to Professor Richet and to Mr. G. M. Smith) in the
simplest of all forms of motor automatism, viz., table-tilting, with results
which only telepathy can explain. It will be seen that these experiments
are closely parallel to our simplest sensory experiments in telepathy, as
recorded in Chapter VI. And it may be remembered that the trans-
ferences of diagrams there described sometimes contained a motor as
well as a visual element ; the percipient not only discerning a " mind's
eye " picture of the diagram, but also feeling an impulse to draw it.

Experiments like these should be repeated as often as possible.
Trivial though they seem, they may with a little care be made absolutely
conclusive. Had Professor Richet's friends, for example, been willing to
prolong this series, we might have had a standing demonstration of tele-
pathy, reproducible at will.

844. I pass on to some experiments with Planchette, in which an
element of telepathy was shown. The account came from Mrs. Alfred
Moberly, Tynwald, Hythe, Kent, and was corroborated, with some addi-
tional examples, by two other ladies present at the time.

(From Proceedings S.P.R., vol. ii. p. 235.)

May gfA, 1884.

The operators were placed out of sight of the rest of the company, who
selected in silence a photograph, one of an albumful, and fixed their
attention on it. We the operators were requested to keep our minds a
blank as far as possible and follow the first involuntary motion of the

1 Further considerations supporting this view are given in Nouvelles Observations,
pp. 232-237. EDITORS.


Planch ette. In three out of five cases it wrote the name or initial or some
word descriptive of the selected portrait. We also obtained the signatures
to letters selected in the same manner. We both knew perfectly well that
tt>e were writing not the spirits, as the rest of the company persist to this
day in believing but had only the slightest idea what the words might
prove to be.

We have tried it since, and generally with some curious result. A
crucial test was offered by two gentlemen in the form of a question to
which we couldn't possibly guess the answer. " Where's Toosey ? " The
answer came, " In Vauxhall Road." " Toosey," they explained, was a pet
terrier who had disappeared; suspicion attaching to a plumber living in the
road mentioned, who had been working at the house and whose departure
coincided with Toosey's.

Of course, in the case of the inquiry after the lost dog, we may sup-
pose that the answer given came from the questioner's own mind. Mrs.
Moberly and her friends seem to have been quite aware of this ; and
were little likely to fall into the not uncommon error of asking Planchette,
for instance, what horse will win the Derby, and staking, perhaps, some
pecuniary consideration on the extremely illusory reply.

845. In the next case there is an apparent element of prophecy ; and
I quote it in order to show how fallacious this appearance is, and how easily
an ordinary mental anticipation of the future, if it in any way becomes
externalised, may look like a revelation. Miss Summerbell is well known
to me as a careful observer.

(From Proceedings S.P.R., vol. iii. p. 2.)

I have used Planchette a great deal, but the result has generally been
nonsense ; but I remembered two occasions when it correctly interpreted the
thought of some one in the room, whose hands were not upon it. About a year
ago, we were amusing ourselves by asking it what Christmas presents we should
have. My hands were upon Planchette, and I believe Miss Lay's, but in any
case it is quite certain that neither of the persons who were touching it could
possibly know the answer to the question I asked. I said, " What will Miss T.
have at Christmas ? " Miss T. was in the room, but not near the table. Plan-
chette immediately wrote down a rather large sum of money. I asked, " Who
is to give it? " It wrote "B. and one other." Some weeks afterwards I met
Miss T., who asked me if I remembered what Planchette had written. I re-
membered it perfectly. She said, " I have received more than that sum, but I
knew about it at the time, though not the exact sum, and I believe that must
have been thought-reading, for I am certain that nobody in the room knew of
it but myself." The money was given by a relative whose surname begins with
B., and another person.

On another occasion, we asked a friend to dictate a question, the answer
to which we did not know. She said, "Who is coming to breakfast to-
morrow ? " Miss Lay and I placed our hands upon Planchette and asked the
question. It wrote " Lucas." Our friend said that was the name of the gentle-
man who was coming to breakfast. Neither Miss Lay nor I had ever heard
of him before. Our friend said, " Ask his Christian name." We asked ; it
wrote "William." "Is that right?" we asked our friend. "I don't know,"



she answered; "I never heard his Christian name." Then somebody else,
who was not touching Planchette, remembered that there was a song by him
somewhere among the music. We looked, and at length found the song by
" William Lucas " of whom we had never heard before, nor have we heard of
him since. L. D. SUMMERBELL.

I can thoroughly endorse these statements, and could multiply instances
equally curious. J. M. LAY.

The prophecy of the Christmas gift was doubtless a mere reflection of
Miss T.'s anticipation transferred telepathically to the writer's subliminal
self, and as regards the Christian name " William," we may assume that
(as in the case of the word Wem in a previous narrative) the name printed
on the song, although no one consciously remembered it, had been vaguely
noticed by Mr. Lucas' friend at some previous time, and now reappeared
from the stores of unconscious memory.

846. In another case, Mr. Allbright, of Mariemont, Birmingham,
a chemical manufacturer (whose letter to me I abbreviate here), asked
a young lady, of whose complete ignorance of the facts of his business
he felt quite sure, for the name of a waste product occurring on a large
scale in his manufactory. He meant the answer to be " gypsum," but
" chloride of calcium " was written, and this was also true ; although,
had he thought of this substance, he would have thought of it by its trade
name of " muriate of lime." Again, he asked what was his firm's port of
importation. He meant the answer to be " Gloucester," but " Wales "
was written; and this again was true at the time, as he was just then
importing through Cardiff. These answers startled him so disagreeably
that he refused to make further experiments. But I cite the case here for
the express purpose of pointing out that no insuperable difficulty is pre-
sented by the fact that the answers, while substantially known to the
inquirer, were not those on which his supraliminal mind was fixed.

847. In my next case an answer is given which is in fact true,
although the questioner believed it at the time to be false. The account,
which I quote from Proceedings S.P.R., vol. iii. p. 5, came from Mr. W.
Riddell of Dunster, Somerset.

July 1884.

The way I became acquainted with " Planchette " was as follows : A
friend of my wife's is staying with us, and one day she was talking about
" Planchette," and saying that she had one at her home, in London, and had
seen some remarkable answers given by it when a certain young lady had
her hands on it. Both my wife and I laughed at the idea, saying nothing
would make us believe in it. Miss B. (my wife's friend), to prove herself
right, sent for her " Planchette." In the course of a day or two it arrived, and
having put it together Miss B. and I tried it, but without any result beyond
a few lines up and down the paper. Then my wife put her hands on it with
Miss B., and in a very short time it began to move, and on being asked
answered questions very freely, some rightly and some quite wrongly.
Amongst those answered rightly were the following. (I may here observe that


not only did my wife and myself not believe in it, but we were antagonistic to
it in feeling.) Our first question was asked by myself, my wife and Miss B.
having their hands on it. I said, " How many shillings has Miss B. in her
purse?" Ans. "Four"; right. I then asked how many coins I had in
mine. Ans. " Five " ; right. I thought I had many more. I then took
a playing card from a pack in a box, looked at it, put it face down on a
table, and asked for its colour. Ans. " Red " ; right. Number " Seven " ;
right. Name " Hearts " ; right. This, I must confess, seemed to me very
wonderful, as neither my wife nor Miss B. could possibly have known any-
thing about the card. I then took a visiting card from the bottom of the
basket, and having looked at it, placed it face downwards on the table, and
asked " Planchette " for the name on it. This it seemed quite unable to give,
but after a long time it wrote " clergyman," which was a wonderful answer, as

the card was that of a Rev. who was here two winters ago, helping our

rector. After this we did not get anything more satisfactory.

Now, here, as no complete list of the answers has been preserved, we
cannot feel sure that the answer " five," as to the number of coins in,
Mr. Riddell's pocket, may not have been right by mere accident. But my
point is that, even excluding the idea of mere chance coincidence, there
is still nothing in the answer which obliges us to go beyond Mr. Riddell's
own mind. His subliminal self may well have been aware of the number
of coins in his pocket, although his supraliminal self was not.

848. These few cases may suffice to lead us up to the palmary case
of the late Rev. P. H. Newnham, Vicar of Maker, Devonport, who was
personally known to Edmund Gurney and myself, and was a man in all
ways worthy of high respect. The long series of communications between
Mr. Newnham and his wife, which date back to 1871, and whose con-
temporaneous written record is preserved in the archives of the S.P.R.,
must, I think, always retain their primacy as early and trustworthy
examples of a telepathic transference where the percipient's automatic
script answers questions penned by the agent in such a position that the
percipient could not in any normal manner discern what those questions
were. No part of our evidence seems to me more worthy of study
than this. Mr. Newnham had for many years paid careful attention to
psychical phenomena, and especially had been conscious of a frequent
involuntary transmission of thought from himself to Mrs. Newnham. An
instance of "psychical-invasion" in sleep when Mrs. Newnham discerned
his presence is quoted in C. This occurred before their marriage.

849. Subsequently, Mr. Newnham made many attempts to transmit
thought voluntarily to his wife, but succeeded only in the year 1871,
during a period of about eight months.

During that period he made notes from day to day in a private diary,
which diary he was good enough to place in my hands in 1884. There
are 40 pages of MS. notes, containing 385 automatically-written replies to
questions. Mr. Newnham made the experiments purely for his own
satisfaction, and without any idea of submitting them to public inspection,


and consequently the questions include many references to his domestic
affairs at the time, to family jokes, and to other matters which, while illus-
trating the intimate and spontaneous character of the diary, are not suited
for publication. Mr. Newnham, however, kindly made long extracts for
me, some of which I print in 849 A. I carefully compared the extracts
with the original diary, and consider that they give a quite fair impression
of it. Mrs. Newnham independently corroborated her husband's account, 1
and I also talked the matter over with both of them.

It must be distinctly understood that Mrs. Newnham did not see or
hear the questions which Mr. Newnham wrote down. The fact, therefore,
that her answers bore any relation to the questions shows that the sense of
the questions was telepathically conveyed to her. This is the leading and
important fact. The substance of the replies written is also interesting,
and Mr. Newnham has some good comments thereon. But even had the
replies contained no facts which Mrs. Newnham could not have known,
this would not detract from the main value of the evidence, which consists
in the fact that Mrs. Newnham' 's hand wrote replies clearly and repeatedly
answering questions which she neither heard nor saw.

850. I give in 850 A a series of experiments on a smaller scale,
but analogous to those of Mr. and Mrs. Newnham.

851. In the Newnham case we have the advantage of seeing before
us the entire series of questions and answers, and thus of satisfying our-
selves that the misses (which in that case are very few) are marked as well
as the hits, and consequently that the coincidences between question and
answer are at any rate not the result of chance. In several other cases
which I have known, where the good faith of the informants has been
equally above question, the possibility of an explanation by chance alone
has been a more important element in the problem. All our evidence

1 Mr. Newnham procured for me two autograph letters from eye-witnesses of
some of the experiments, who do not, however, wish their names to be published, on
account of prejudices still existing in certain quarters against the experiments as involv-
ing questionable agency. One writer says : " You wrote the question on a slip of
paper and put it under one of the ornaments of the chimney-piece no one seeing what
you had written. Mrs. Newnham sat apart at a small table. I recollect you kept a
book of the questions asked and answers given, as you thought some new power might
be discovered, and you read me from it some of the results. I remember particularly
questions and answers relating to the selection of a curate for B. My wife and her sister
saw experiments conducted in this manner. Mrs. Newnham and you were sitting at

different tables." Another eye-witness writes : " I and my sister were staying at ,

Online LibraryFrederic William Henry MyersHuman personality : and its survival of bodily death (Volume 2) → online text (page 21 of 89)