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propositions, is in substantial accord with what has been given through
the most trustworthy sensitives since Swedenborg's time. It is indeed
usual to suppose that they have all been influenced by Swedenborg;
and although I feel sure that this was not so in any direct manner in
the case of the sensitives best known to myself, it is probable that
Swedenborg's alleged experiences have affected modern thought more
deeply than most modern thinkers know.

On the other hand, the second or purely dogmatic class of Swedenborg's
writings, the records of instruction alleged to have been given to him
by spirits on the inner meaning of the Scriptures, &c., these have more
and more appeared to be mere arbitrary fancies ; mere projections and
repercussions of his own preconceived ideas.

On the whole, then, with some stretching, yet no contravention, of
conclusions independently reached, I may say that Swedenborg's story,
one of the strangest lives yet lived by mortal men, is corroborative
rather than destructive of the slowly rising fabric of knowledge of which
he was the uniquely gifted, but uniquely dangerous, precursor.

220 CHAPTER IX [937

It seemed desirable here to refer thus briefly to the doctrinal teachings
of Swedenborg, but I shall deal later with the general question how
much or how little of the statements of " sensitives " about the spiritual
world whether based on their own visions or on the allegations of their
" controlling spirits " are worthy of credence. In the case of Sweden-
borg there was at least some evidence, of the kind to which we can here
appeal, of his actual communication with discarnate spirits (see 936 A) ;
but in most other cases of alleged ecstacy there is little or nothing to
show that the supposed revelations are not purely subjective. (See, e.g.,
the revelations of Alphonse Cahagnet's sensitives, described in his Arcanes
de la vie future devoilees and those of the " Seeress of Prevorst," mentioned
in 936 B.) At most, these visions must be regarded as a kind of
symbolical representation of the unseen world. (See, e.g., 936 C.)

937. Among Cahagnet's subjects, however, there was one young
woman, Adele Maginot, who not only saw heavenly visions of the usual
post-Swedenborgian kind, but also obtained evidential communications
not unlike those of Mrs. Piper purporting to come from discarnate
spirits. Fortunately these were recorded with unusual care and thorough-
ness by Cahagnet, and the case thus becomes one of considerable
importance for our inquiries. A general account of Cahagnet's work
has recently been given in the Proceedings S.P.R. by Mr. Podmore (see
937 A) who, though finding it " almost impossible to doubt that Adele's
success was due to some kind of supernormal faculty," thinks it
might be accounted for by telepathy from living persons. It appears
that in all her trances Adele like Mr. Sanders was controlled by her
own subliminal self that is to say, her supraliminal self became dormant,
under "magnetism" by Cahagnet, while her subliminal self in trance-
utterance manifested a knowledge which was, as I incline to think from
its analogies with more developed cases, obtained from the spiritual
world. That this knowledge should be mixed with much that was
erroneous or unverifiable is not surprising.

It is also interesting to note the occurrence in this case of circum-
stances which in their general character have become so habitual in trances
of " mediumistic " type that they are not only found in genuine subjects,
but are continually being simulated by the fraudulent. I refer to the so-
called " taking on of the death conditions " of a communicating spirit,
who, as Adele stated, died of suffocation. " Adele chokes as this man
choked, and coughed as he did. ... I was obliged to release her
by passes; she suffered terribly."

I need scarcely say that this suggests incipient possession. There
were occasional analogous instances in the early trances of Mrs. Piper,
when Phinuit was the controlling influence (see Proceedings S.P.R.,
vol. viii. p. 98, Professor Barrett Wendell's account ; and vol. xiii. p. 384).
Other points of similarity between the accounts of the entranced Adele
and the utterances of Phinuit will be apparent to the student of the records.


938. The next case to be considered, and so far one of the most
important, is that of D. D. Home. It may seem a strange descent from
the celestial visions of Swedenborg to the table-tiltings and fragmentary
trance-utterances of modern mediums, but for our present purpose of
finding an empirical basis upon which to establish the existence of a
spiritual world, these later humble manifestations are more potent than
all the pages of the Arcana Coelestia.

But, although I attribute much value to what evidence exists in the
case of Home, it cannot but be deplored that the inestimable chance
for experiment and record which this case afforded was almost entirely
thrown away by the scientific world. Unfortunately the record is
especially inadequate in reference to Home's trances and the evidence for
the personal identity of the communicating spirits. His name is known
to the world chiefly in connection with the telekinetic phenomena which
are said to have occurred in his presence, and the best accounts of
which we owe to Sir William Crookes. It is not my intention, as I
have already explained, to deal with these, but it must be understood
that they form an integral part of the manifestations in this case, as in
the case of Stainton Moses. For detailed accounts of them the reader
should consult the history of Home's life and experiences, as given in
the works enumerated in 938 A.

In Home's case it is especially important to consider the question
of fraud, since various charges of fraud have been brought against him
some, however, without any evidence at all, and others on second-
hand statements only, while the most serious one that connected with
the famous Lyon case related rather to his character than to the real
nature of his powers. A detailed discussion, by Professor Barrett and
myself, of the question of fraud, was printed in the Journal S.P.R.
This article also includes references to the telekinetic phenomena, and
a brief summary (with, in some cases, additional evidence) of the most
important cases suggesting personal communications from deceased
friends of the sitters with Home, and I give an abridgment of it in
938 B. Such cases as received even the share of scattered and scanty
record which Madame Home's books indicate, are probably but a small
portion of the evidential communications actually given through Home.

939. As to the nature of Home's trances, there is not a little obscurity.
Many of the phenomena described as occurring in his presence took place
when he was not in trance at all. Sometimes his body was apparently
possessed by deceased friends of the sitters or other discarnate spirits,
and at other times it was apparently controlled by his own spirit or sub-
liminal self. According to the account of Viscount Adare, now Lord
Dunraven (see Experiences in Spiritualism with Mr. D. D. Home. By
Viscount Adare), it was unusual for extraneous physical phenomena, such
as raps and movements and levitation of objects, to occur while Home was

222 CHAPTER IX [940

On the other hand, Sir William Crookes states {Journal S.P.R., vol.
vi. p. 341) : "Certainly the two most striking things I ever saw with
him, the fire test and visible forms, were to be observed while he was
entranced, but it was not always easy to tell when he was in that state,
for he spoke and moved about almost as if he were in his normal
condition; the chief differences being that his actions were more
deliberate, and his manner and expressions more solemn, and he
always spoke of himself in the third person, as ' Dan.' " (Compare
934 A, the case of "X + Y = Z," who always spoke of his supraliminal
self as " my casket.")

The late Lord Dunraven says, in his introduction (p. ix.) to the book
by Viscount Adare, that the communications at the stances described
in the book came " through the alphabet " (that is, through raps or other
telekinetic signals such as touches), or through "the medium in a
trance," and he remarks : " When Mr. Home speaks in a trance there is
no certainty whether his utterances are those of a spirit alone, or how far
they may be mixed up with his own ideas or principles. Sometimes the
communications are striking, at other times vague, sometimes trivial.
Messages through the alphabet, on the other hand, carry at least a strong
probability that they convey the thoughts of a spirit ; although even they
too in some cases exhibit indications of being affected by the medium,
and are therefore not quite reliable."

The impression produced seems to have been very different from this in
some cases, especially when Home was as we may suppose directly
possessed by a discarnate spirit. See, for example, the case of the
control by Adah Menken (loc. cit., pp. 35-37), where Viscount Adare
says : " I was, to all intents and purposes, actually conversing with the
dead ; listening, talking, answering, and receiving answers from Menken.
Home's individuality was quite gone ; he spoke as Menken, and we
both spoke of him as a third person at a distance from us."

940. In brief, the study of such records as are available of Home's
psychical phenomena leaves me with the conviction that, apart altogether
from the telekinetic phenomena with which they were associated, his
trance-utterances belong to the same natural order as those, for instance,
of Mr. Moses and Mrs. Piper. There are, however, important differences
between these cases, differences which should be of special instruction
to us in endeavouring to comprehend the possession that completely ex-
cludes the subliminal self, and to appreciate the difficulty of obtaining
this complete possession.

Thus in Home's case the subliminal self seems, throughout the longest
series of stances of which we have a record, to have been the spirit
chiefly controlling him during the trance and acting as intermediary
for other spirits, who occasionally, however, took complete possession.

In Mrs. Piper's case, as we shall see, the subliminal self is very little in
direct evidence ; its manifestations form a fleeting interlude between her


waking state and her possession by a discarnate spirit. In Mr. Moses'
case, the subliminal self was rarely in direct evidence at all when he
was entranced ; but we infer from these other cases that it was
probably dominant at some stage of his trance, even if at other times
it was excluded or became completely dormant.

And if, in Home's case, as there seems reason to suppose, the sub-
liminal self may have participated with discarnate spirits in the production
of telekinetic phenomena, as well as in the communication of tests of
personal identity, it is not improbable that the subliminal self of Mr.
Moses may also have been actively concerned in both these classes of

941. To the history of William Stainton Moses I now turn. In
his case, as in that of Home, the telekinetic phenomena formed an
integral part of the general manifestations, being so interwoven with
them as to necessitate in my view acceptance or rejection of the whole ;
but the evidence for the telekinetic phenomena in the case of Mr.
Moses is comparatively slight, since they occurred almost exclusively
in the presence of a small group of intimate personal friends, and
were never scrutinised and examined by outside witnesses as were
Home's manifestations. On the other hand, we have detailed records
of Mr. Moses' whole series of experiences, while in the case of Home,
as I have said, the record is very imperfect. As to the telekinetic
phenomena, Mr. Moses himself regarded them as a mere means to an
end, in accordance with the view urged on him by his "controls," that
they were intended as proofs of the power and authority of these latter,
while the real message lay in the religious teaching imparted to him.

942. It was on May 9th, 1874, that Edmund Gurney and I met
Stainton Moses for the first time, through the kindness of Mrs.
Cowper- Temple (afterwards Lady Mount-Temple), who knew that we
had become interested in " psychical " problems, and wished to intro-
duce us to a man of honour who had recently experienced phenomena,
due wholly to some gift of his own, which had profoundly changed his
conception of life.

That evening was epoch-making in Gurney's life and mine. Standing
as we were in the attitude natural at the commencement of such inquiries,
under such conditions as were then attainable, an attitude of curiosity
tempered by a vivid perception of difficulty and drawback, we now met a
man of University education, of manifest sanity and probity, who vouched
to us for a series of phenomena, occurring to himself, and with no
doubtful or venal aid, which seemed at least to prove, in confusedly
intermingled form, three main theses unknown to Science. These were
(i) the existence in the human spirit of hidden powers of insight and
of communication: (2) the personal survival and near presence of the
departed; and (3) interference, due to unknown agencies, with the
ponderable world. He spoke frankly and fully; he showed his note-

224 CHAPTER IX [943

books ; he referred us to his friends ; he inspired a belief which was at
once sufficient, and which is still sufficient, to prompt to action.

The experiences which Stainton Moses had undergone had changed
his views, but not his character. He was already set in the mould of the
hard-working, conscientious, dogmatic clergyman, with a strong desire to
do good, and a strong belief in preaching as the best way to do it. For
himself the essential part of what I have called his " message " lay in the
actual words automatically uttered or written, not in the accompanying
phenomena which really gave their uniqueness and importance to the
automatic processes. In a book called Spirit Teachings he collected
what he regarded as the real fruits of those years of mysterious listening
in the vestibule of a world unknown.

And much as we may regret this too exclusive ethical preoccupation
in a region where the establishment of actual fact is still the one thing
needful, it must be admitted that at that time the scientific importance of
these phenomena had hardly dawned on any mind. Among all the
witnesses of Home's marvels Sir William Crookes was almost the only
man who made any attempt to treat them as reasonable men treat all the
facts of nature. Most of the witnesses, though fully believing in the
genuineness of the wonders, appear to have regarded them as a kind of
uncanny diversion. The more serious sought for assurance that their
beloved dead were still near them, and straitly charged Home to tell no
man of the proofs which they said had brought to themselves unspeak-
able joy. An attempt made, in 1875, by Serjeant Cox and a few others
(among whom were Stainton Moses and myself) to get these phenomena
more seriously discussed in a " Psychological Society," languished for
want of suitable coadjutors, and on the death of Serjeant Cox (in 1879)
the Society was dissolved. During these important years, therefore, while
his experiences were fresh in Stainton Moses* mind, and while they were
to some extent still recurring, he had little encouragement to deal with
them from a scientific point of view.

943. When, however, in 1882, Professor Barrett consulted him as to
the possibility of founding a new society, under better auspices, he warmly
welcomed the plan. Edmund Gurney and I were asked to join, but made
it a condition that the consent of Professor Sidgwick (with whom we had
already been working) to act as our President should first be obtained.
Under his guidance the Society for Psychical Research assumed a more
cautious and critical attitude than was congenial to Stainton Moses' warm
heart, strong convictions, and impulsive temper, and in 1886 he left the
Society, in consequence of the publication in the Proceedings of certain
comments on phenomena occurring through. the agency of the so-called
" medium " Eglinton.

From this time he frankly confessed himself disgusted with our
attempts at scientific method, and as main contributor to Light, and
afterwards editor until his death, he practically reverted to " Spiritualism


as a religion," as opposed to psychical research as a scientific duty. And
assuredly the religious implications of all these phenomena are worthy of
any man's most serious thought. But those who most feel the importance
of the ethical superstructure are at the same time most plainly bound to
treat the establishment of the facts at the foundation as no mere personal
search for a faith, to be dropped when private conviction has been
attained, but as a serious, a continuous, a public duty. And the more
convinced they are that their faith is sound, the more ready should
they be to face distrust and aversion, to lay their account for a long
struggle with the vis inertia of the human spirit.

Stainton Moses was ill-fitted for this patient, uphill toil. In the first
place he lacked, and he readily and repeatedly admitted to me that he
lacked, all vestige of scientific, or even of legal instinct. The very words
" first-hand evidence," " contemporary record," " corroborative testimony,"
were to him as a weariness to the flesh. His attitude was that of the
preacher who is already so thoroughly persuaded in his own mind that he
treats any alleged fact which falls in with his views as the uncriticised text
for fresh exhortation. And in the second place, though this was a minor
matter, his natural sensitiveness was sometimes exaggerated by gout and
other wearing ailments into an irritability which he scarcely felt compelled
to conceal in a journal circulating mainly among attached disciples.

The reason for noticing these defects is that they constitute the only
ground on which Stainton Moses' trustworthiness as a witness to his own
phenomena could possibly be impugned. I mention them in order that I
may say that, having read, I think, all that he has printed, and having
watched his conduct at critical moments, I see much ground for impugning
his judgment, but no ground whatever for doubting that he has narrated
with absolute good faith the story of his own experience. He allowed me,
before he left the Society, to examine almost the whole series of his
automatic writings, those especially which contain the evidence on which
Spirit Identity is based ; and in no instance did I find that the printed
statement of any case went beyond the warrant of the manuscript.

My original impressions were strengthened by the opportunity which
I had of examining the unpublished MSS. of Mr. Moses after his
death on September 5th, 1892. These consist of thirty-one note- books
twenty-four of automatic script, four of records of physical pheno-
mena, and three of retrospect and summary. In addition to these, the
material available for a knowledge of Mr. Moses' experiences consists
of his own printed works, and the written and printed statements of wit-
nesses to his phenomena.

Of this available material a more detailed account will be found in
943 A, together with a brief record of Mr. Moses* life.

944. With the even tenor of this straightforward and reputable life
was inwoven a chain of mysteries which, as I think, in what way soever
they be explained, make that life one of the most extraordinary which
VOL. n. *

226 CHAPTER IX [945

our century has seen. For its true history lies in that series of physical
manifestations which began in 1872 and lasted for some eight years, and
that series of automatic writings and trance-utterances which began in
1873, received a record for some ten years, and did not, as is believed,
cease altogether until the earthly end was near.

These two series were intimately connected ; the physical phenomena
being avowedly designed to give authority to the speeches and writings
which professed to emanate from the same source. There is no ground
for separating the two groups, except the obvious one that the automatic
phenomena are less difficult of credence than the physical; but, for
reasons already stated, it has seemed to me desirable to exclude the latter
from detailed treatment in this work. References to accounts of them
will, however, be found in 943 A. They included the apparent produc-
tion of such phenomena as intelligent raps, movements of objects un-
touched, levitation, disappearance and reappearance of objects, passage
of matter through matter, direct writing, sounds supernormally made
on instruments, direct sounds, scents, lights, objects materialised, hands
materialised (touched or seen). Mr. Moses was sometimes, but not
always, entranced while these physical phenomena were occurring. Some-
times he was entranced and the trance-utterance purported to be that
of a discarnate spirit. At other times, especially when alone, he wrote
automatically, retaining his own ordinary consciousness meanwhile, and
carrying on lengthy discussions with the " spirit influence " controlling
his hand and answering his questions, &c. As a general rule the same
alleged spirits both manifested themselves by raps, &c., at Mr. Moses'
sittings with his friends, and also wrote through his hand when he was
alone. In this, as in other respects, Mr. Moses' two series of writings
when alone and in company were concordant, and, so to say, comple-
mentary ; explanations being given by the writing of what had happened
at the stances. When "direct writing" was given at the stances the
handwriting of each alleged spirit was the same as that which the same
spirit was in the habit of employing in the automatic script. The claim
to individuality was thus in all cases decisively made.

945. Now the personages thus claiming to appear may be divided
roughly into three classes :

A First and most important are a group of persons recently deceased,
and sometimes, as will be seen, manifesting themselves at the stances
before their decease was known through any ordinary channel to any of
the persons present. These spirits in many instances give tests of identity,
mentioning facts connected with their earth-lives which are afterwards
found to be correct.

B. Next comes a group of personages belonging to generations more
remote, and generally of some distinction in their day. Grocyn, the friend
of Erasmus, may be taken as a type of these. Many of these also con-
tribute facts as a proof of identity, which facts are sometimes more correct


than the conscious or admitted knowledge of any of the sitters could
supply. In such cases, however, the difficulty of proving identity is in-
creased by the fact that most of the correct statements are readily accessible
in print, and may conceivably have either been read and forgotten by Mr.
Moses, or have become known to him by some kind of clairvoyance.

C. A third group consists of spirits who give such names as Rector,
Doctor, Theophilus, and, above all, Imperator. These from time to time
reveal the names which they assert to have been theirs in earth-life.
These concealed names are for the most part both more illustrious, and
more remote, than the names in Class B, and were withheld by Mr.
Moses himself, who justly felt that the assumption of great names is
likely to diminish rather than to increase the weight of the communication.
He felt this in his own person ; and for a long while one of his main
stumbling-blocks lay in these lofty and unprovable claims. Ultimately
he came to believe even in these identities, on the general ground that
teachers who had given him so many proofs both of their power and of
their serious interest in his welfare were not likely to have deceived him
on such a point. But he did not count upon a similar belief in others,
and he expressly wished to avoid seeming to claim special authority for
the teachings on the ground of their alleged authorship. It must be
added also that some of these teachings themselves asserted that when
the name of some spirit long removed from earth was given, the recipient
must sometimes take this to imply a stream of influence emanating from
that spirit, rather than his own presence in person.

As to the relation of the spirits to the telekinetic phenomena, it must
be remembered that these phenomena, strange and grotesque as they often
seem, cannot be called meaningless. The alleged operators are at pains

Online LibraryFrederic William Henry MyersHuman personality : and its survival of bodily death (Volume 2) → online text (page 31 of 89)