Frederic William Henry Myers.

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throughout to describe what they regarded as the end, and what merely
as the means to that end. Their constantly avowed object was the
promulgation through Mr. Moses of certain religious and philosophical
views; and the physical manifestations are throughout described as
designed merely as a proof of power, and a basis for the authority claimed
for the serious teachings. 1

That they were not produced fraudulently by Dr. Speer or other
sitters I regard as proved both by moral considerations and by the fact
that they are constantly reported as occurring when Mr. Moses was
alone. That Mr. Moses should have himself fraudulently produced them
I regard as both morally and physically incredible. That he should have
prepared and produced them in a state of trance I regard both as physi-
cally incredible and also as entirely inconsistent with the tenor both of his
own reports and of those of his friends. I therefore regard the reported
phenomena as having actually occurred in a genuinely supernormal manner.

1 Spirit Teachings, which includes many of these communications, has been re-
published with a Life by Mr. Charlton Speer, and most of the remaining communica-
tions have been published in Light by Mrs. Speer since Mr. Moses' death.

228 CHAPTER IX [946

946. I now pass on to consider briefly the nature of the evidence that
the alleged spirits were what they purported to be, as described, in the first
place, in Mr. Moses' books of automatic writing. The contents of these
books consist partly of messages tending to prove the identity of com-
municating spirits ; partly of discussions or explanations of the physical
phenomena ; and partly of religious and moral disquisitions.

These automatic messages were almost wholly written by Mr. Moses'
own hand, while he was in a normal waking state. The exceptions are of
two kinds, (i) There is one long passage, alleged by Mr. Moses to have
been written by himself while in a state of trance. (2) There are, here
and there, a few words alleged to be in " direct writing " ; written, that
is to say, by invisible hands, but in Mr. Moses' presence ; as several times
described in the notes of seances where other persons were present.

Putting these exceptional instances aside, we find that the writings
generally take the form of a dialogue, Mr. Moses proposing a question in
his ordinary thick, black handwriting. An answer is then generally,
though not always, given ; written also by Mr. Moses, and with the same
pen, but in some one of various scripts which differ more or less widely
from his own. Mr. Moses' own description of the process, as given in the
preface to Spirit Teachings, may be studied with advantage. I quote
this in 946 A.

A prolonged study of the MS. books has revealed nothing inconsistent
with this description. I have myself, of course, searched them carefully
for any sign of confusion or alteration, but without finding any ; and I
have shown parts of them to various friends, who have seen no points
of suspicion. It seems plain, moreover, that the various entries
were made at or about the dates to which they are ascribed. They
contain constant references to the stances which went on concurrently,
and whose dates are independently known; and in the later books,
records of some of these seances are interspersed in their due places
amongst other matter. The MSS. contain also a number of allusions
to other contemporaneous facts, many of which are independently known .
to myself.

I think, moreover, that no one who had studied these entries through-
out would doubt the originally private and intimate character of many of
them. The tone of the spirits towards Mr. Moses himself is habitually
courteous and respectful. But occasionally they have some criticism
which pierces to the quick, and which goes far to explain to me Mr.
Moses' unwillingness to have the books fully inspected during his lifetime.
He did, no doubt, contemplate their being at least read by friends after
his death ; and there are indications that there may have been a still more
private book, now doubtless destroyed, to which messages of an intimate
character were sometimes consigned.

947. The questions at issue, in short, as to these messages, refer not
so much to their genuineness as to their authenticity, in the proper sense of


those words. That they were written down in good faith by Mr. Moses
as proceeding from the personages whose names are signed to them, there
can be little doubt. But as to whether they did really proceed from those
personages or no there may in many cases be very great doubt ; a doubt
which I, at least, shall be quite unable to remove. By the very condi-
tions of the communication they cannot show commanding intellect, or
teach entirely new truths, since their manifestations are ex hypothesi
limited by the capacity not by the previous knowledge, but by the pre-
vious capacity of the medium. And if they give facts not consciously
known to the medium facts however elaborate it may, of course, be sug-
gested that these facts have been subliminally acquired by the medium
through some unconscious passage of the eye over a printed page, or
else that they are clairvoyantly learnt, without the agency of any but the
medium's own mind, though acting in a supernormal fashion.

This is no merely fanciful hypothesis ; nor is it a hypothesis derogatory
to Mr. Moses' own probity. On the contrary, as will be presently seen,
he himself prominently puts forth the circumstance (Rector's copying
from a closed book, an account of which I give in 947 A), which tells
most strongly for the view that the alleged remote identities may not
really be concerned at all. Nay, the guides themselves expressly state
a propos of some brief accounts of musicians said to be interested in Mr.
Charlton Speer that spirits can refer to books, e. g. their own biographies,
and refresh their memory thereby. This admission of course leaves us
with nothing more than the word of Imperator to prove that, say, Robert
of Gloucester, or Geoffrey of Monmouth (who merely give facts about
their own writings), were in reality present. Such guarantee sometimes
only indirectly implied was enough for Mr. Moses at the time ; especially
since these remoter spirits came in intermixture with nearer spirits, whose
identity he believed could be better proved. But in a serious talk with
me on the matter in 1886 he withdrew much of this certainty; saying
that in the case of some of the musical spirits especially he had had no
inward sensation of a spirit's presence, such as he had in some other
cases of " nearer " spirits. He repudiated, however, the idea of sub-
conscious memory on his part of words actually seen by himself; feeling
sure that some of the facts automatically written had never been beneath
his eyes. This may very well be the case ; as he had not, I think, more
than a mere schoolmaster's acquaintance with English literature and
history ; not, indeed, so much as would nowadays be expected from an
English master in a school as good as that where he held a post. I judge
this largely from the " Notes by the Way," which he contributed to Light
for many years, and in which he was certainly not minimising his actual
store of knowledge. But be this as it may, I cannot find in these historical
communications any provable fact which might not have been drawn from
some fairly accessible printed source. There were certain stanzas from
Lydgate, written by the alleged Zachary Gray [or Grey], which Mr.

230 CHAPTER IX [948

Percival verified in the British Museum. But these are to be found in
Warton's English Poetry ; from which they reproduce (as Professor Skeat
has kindly pointed out to me) a philological error of Warton's own. The
power of reading closed books was expressly attributed to Zachary Grey ;
and if he really possessed it he probably exercised it here ; giving thereby,
of course, no particular proof that he was Zachary Grey rather than any
other spirit.

948. The evidence for identity obtained by Mr. Moses in the case
of spirits recently departed seems at first sight more satisfactory. Some
cases of this class are given in 948 A, and many others are to be
found in the records of his experiences. In these cases, however, as in
the historical ones, it is often difficult to make sure that the facts stated
were not within the subliminal knowledge of the automatist. Sometimes
it seems that they may have been gathered from obituary notices, casually
observed in glancing over newspapers without the cognisance of the supra-
liminal consciousness (e.g. in the cases of Emily C. and Rosamira Lancas-
ter) ; or similarly from tomb-stones (e.g. in the cases of Emily C. and
Cecilia Fielden) ; or names and facts relating to persons known to the
sitters, but not to Mr. Moses (e.g. A. P. Kirkland, Dr. Speer's sister,
Cecilia Fielden and Marian Timmins) , may perhaps have been mentioned
in his hearing and subliminally remembered. " Fanny Westoby," again,
reminded him of forgotten facts that had occurred during his own child-
hood. Numerous details relating to Thomas Wilson, Bishop of Sodor and
Man at the beginning of the eighteenth century, were given (see Proceed-
ings S.P.R., vol. xi., pp. 74-5 and 88), but are to be found in his
published " Life," which Mr. Moses may possibly have met with during
his curacy in the Isle of Man. 1 The case of Helehe Smith (834-842)
has shown us how far-reaching may be the faculties of hypersesthesia
and hypermnesia in the subliminal self ; but in view of the then general
ignorance of the scientific world on this subject, it is not surprising that
both Mr. Moses and his friends absolutely rejected this explanation of his
phenomena, and that the evidence appeared to them more conclusive than
it possibly can to us. Whether or not the alleged spirits were concerned,
as may sometimes, of course, have been the case, we can hardly avoid
thinking that the subliminal self of the medium played at least a consider-
able part in the communications.

949. In two cases the announcement of a death was made to Mr.
Moses, when the news was apparently not known to him by any normal
means. One of these (the case of President Garfield) is given in
948 B. The other, which I now proceed to recount (from my article
in Proceedings S.P.R., vol. xi. pp. 96 et seq^) is in some ways the most
remarkable of all, from the series of chances which have been needful in
order to establish its veracity. The spirit in question is that of a lady

1 The evidential weaknesses of these cases have been analysed by Mr. Podmore, in
his Studies in Psychical Research, pp. 125-133.


known to me, whom Mr. Moses had met, I believe, once only, and whom
I shall call Blanche Abercromby. The publication of the true name was
forbidden by the spirit herself, for a reason which was at once obvious to
me when I read the case, but which was not, so far as I can tell, fully
known to Mr. Moses. The lady's son, whom I have since consulted,
supports the prohibition; and I have consequently changed the name
and omitted the dates.

This lady died on a Sunday afternoon, about twenty-five years ago, at
a country house about 200 miles from London. Her death, which was
regarded as an event of public interest, was at once telegraphed to London,
and appeared in Monday's Times ; but, of course, on Sunday evening no
one in London, save the Press and perhaps the immediate family, was
cognisant of the fact. It will be seen that on that evening, near midnight,
a communication, purporting to come from her, was made to Mr. Moses
at his secluded lodgings in the north of London. The identity was some
days later corroborated by a few lines purporting to come directly from
her, and to be in her handwriting. There is no reason to suppose that
Mr. Moses had ever seen this handwriting. His one known meeting with
this lady and her husband had been at a seance not, of course, of his
own where he had been offended by the strongly expressed disbelief of
the husband in the possibility of any such phenomena.

On receiving these messages Mr. Moses seems to have mentioned
them to no one, and simply gummed down the pages in his MS. book,
marking the book outside " Private Matter." The book when placed in
my hands was still thus gummed down, although Mrs. Speer was cognisant
of the communication. I opened the pages (as instructed by the executors),
and was surprised to find a brief letter which, though containing no definite
facts, was entirely characteristic of the Blanche Abercromby whom I had
known. But although I had received letters from her in life, I had no
recollection of her handwriting. I happened to know a son of hers
sufficiently well to be able to ask his aid, aid which, I may add, he would
have been most unlikely to afford to a stranger. He lent me a letter for
comparison. The strong resemblance was at once obvious, but the A. of
the surname was made in the letter in a way quite different from that
adopted in the automatic script. The son then allowed me to study a
long series of letters, reaching down till almost the date of her death.
From these it appeared that during the last year of her life she had taken
to writing the A (as her husband had always done) in the way in which it
was written in the automatic script.

The resemblance of handwriting appeared both to the son and to
myself to be incontestable ; but as we desired an experienced opinion he
allowed me to submit the note-book and two letters to Dr. Hodgson.
Readers of the Proceedings S.P.R. (vol. iii. pp. 201-401), may remember
that Dr. Hodgson succeeded in tracing the authorship of the " Koot
Hoomi " letters to Madame Blavatsky and to Damodar, by evidence

232 CHAPTER IX [949

based on a minute analysis of handwriting. As regards the present matter,
Dr. Hodgson reported as follows :

5 BOYLSTON PLACE, BOSTON, September i ith, 1893.

I have compared the writing numbered 123 in the note-book of Mr. Stainton
Moses, with epistles of January 4th, 18 , and September igth, 18 , written
by B. A. The note-book writing bears many minor resemblances to that of the
epistles, and there are also several minor differences in the formations of some
of the letters, judging at least from the two epistles submitted to me ; but the
resemblances are more characteristic than the differences. In addition, there
are several striking peculiarities common to the epistles and the note-book
writing, which appear to be especially emphasised in the latter. The note-book
writing suggests that its author was attempting to reproduce the B. A. writing
by recalling to memory its chief peculiarities, and not by copying from specimens
of the B. A. writing. The signature especially in the note-book writing is
characteristically like an imitation from memory of B. A.'s signature. I have
no doubt whatever that the person who wrote the note-book writing intended
to reproduce the writing of B. A. RICHARD HODGSON.

The chances necessary to secure a verification of this case were more
complex than can here be fully explained. This lady, who was quite alien to
these researches, had been dead about twenty years when her posthumous
letter was discovered in Mr. Moses' private note-book by one of the very
few surviving persons who had both known her well enough to recognise
the characteristic quality of the message, and were also sufficiently inter-
ested in spirit identity to get the handwritings compared and the case

The entries in the MS. books will now be quoted. The communica-
tions began with some obscure drawings, apparently representing the
flight of a bird.

A. " It is spirit who has but just quitted the body. Blanche Abercromby
in the flesh. I have brought her. No more. M."

Q. Do you mean ?

No reply. Sunday night about midnight. The information is unknown
to me.

Monday morning.

Q. I wish for information about last night. Is that true? Was it
Mentor ?

A. " Yes, good friend, it was Mentor, who took pity on a spirit that was
desirous to reverse former errors. She desires us to say so. She was ever
an enquiring spirit, and was called suddenly from your earth. She will rest
anon. One more proof has been now given of continuity of existence. Be
thankful and meditate with prayer. Seek not more now, but cease. We do
not wish you to ask any questions now."

"t I : S : D. x Rector."
[A week later.]

Q. Can you write for me now ?

A. " Yes, the chief is here."


Q. How was it that spirit [Blanche Abercromby's] came to me ?

A. " The mind was directed to the subject, and being active, it projected
itself to you. Moreover, we were glad to be able to afford you another proof
of our desire to do what is in our power to bring home to you evidence of the
truth of what we say."

Q. Is it correct to say that the direction of thought causes the spirit to be
present ?

A. " In some cases it is so. Great activity of spirit, coupled with anxiety
to discover truth and to seek into the hidden causes of things, continue to
make it possible for a spirit to manifest. Moreover, direction of thought
gives what you would call direction or locality to the thought. By that we
mean that the instinctive tendency of the desire or thought causes a
possibility of objective manifestation. Then by the help of those who, like
ourselves, are skilled in managing the elements, manifestation becomes
possible. This would not have been possible in this case, only that we took
advantage of what would have passed unnoticed in order to work out another
proof of the reality of our mission. It is necessary that there should be a com-
bination of circumstances before such a manifestation can be possible. And
that combination is rare. Hence the infrequency of such events, and the diffi-
culty we have in arranging them : especially when anxiety enters into the
matter, as in the case of a friend whose presence is earnestly desired. It
might well be that so ready a proof as this might not occur again."

Q. Then a combination of favourable circumstances aided you. Will the
spirit rest, or does it not require it ?

A. " We do not know the destiny of that spirit. It will pass out of our
control. Circumstances enabled us to use its presence : but that presence
will not be maintained."

Q. If direction of thought causes motion, I should have thought it
would be so with our friends and that they would therefore be more likely to

A. " It is not that alone. Nor is it so with all. All cannot come to earth.
And not in all cases does volition or thought cause union of souls. Many
other adjuncts are necessary before such can be. Material obstacles may
prevent, and the guardians may oppose. We are not able to pursue the
subject now, seeing that we write with difficulty. At another time we may
resume. Cease for the present and do not seek further."

f" I : S : D. Rector."

A few days later, Mr. Moses says :

Q. The spirit B. A. began by drawing. Was it herself ?

A. " With assistance. She could not write. One day if she is able to
return again, she will be more able to express her thoughts."

Q. I remember that poor man who was killed by the steam-roller drew. 1

A. " Do not dwell on him lest you be vexed. He was not able to express
himself. And even as the undeveloped human mind betakes itself to symbols
to supplement defect of language : so do spirits seek to illustrate that which
they cannot utter. So the Holy Maid [of Kent] drew when she appeared.
She has now progressed, and is progressing, having cast aside the weight that
hindered her."

i See 948 A.

234 CHAPTER IX [950

Q. I am glad. Will she come back ?
A. "It may be, but not now."

[ A few days later.]

A. " A spirit who has before communicated will write for you herself. She
will then leave you, having given the evidence that is required."

" I should much like to speak more with you, but it is not permitted. You
have sacred truth. I know but little yet. I have much, much to learn.


" It is like my writing as evidence to you."

950. The leading personage in the third and most remote group of
spirits is the one known as " Imperator."

This spirit claims responsibility for the whole series of manifestations,
and should therefore be mentioned here, although there is no proof of
his identity with the historical personage whom he asserts himself to
be. His character, however, claimed and obtained Mr. Moses' entire
confidence. He answers for the identity and veracity of spirits intro-
duced ; he explains the phenomena, so far as they are explained ; and he
throughout impresses on Mr. Moses his own teaching.

If such high and sweeping claims were made by any ordinary writer,
we should expect to find much in the course of his writings which would
prove their extravagance. If we ask ourselves how to disprove Imperator's
claims we shall find no very definite answer. In the teachings themselves,
however, it is over and over again emphasised that there must be distor-
tion of the messages owing to their passage through the mediumistic
channel, and if, as is possible, there may have been thus an increase of
accuracy in some cases where Mr. Moses had some definite subliminal
knowledge, there may also have been many causes of error due to his
theological and other dogmatic preconceptions. With regard to the
other remote communicators, these, according to the explanations given
by Imperator, are high spirits, aiming at the advance of knowledge, and
especially of religion, who have been able to discern Mr. Moses' gifts, and
have to some extent themselves trained him for the purpose required.
They have modified his early life : for instance, by prompting him to his
period of retirement on Mount Athos, and by keeping him from wishing to
marry. Some of these spirits, however, stand in very distant relation to
Mr. Moses, and their indications of presence or collaboration are of a
purely arbitrary kind.

There are a group of spirits, it is said, belonging to various ages and
countries, who are united by their desire to inform mankind of their
destiny and duties. Each member of this group desires to show approval
when an attempt is made at such communication. They cannot all take
an active share, but, while some work actively, others express sympathy
by choosing either a signature, or some special physical manifestation, to
be associated with their names, even if not actually produced by them-


selves. This form of communication is of course not meant to be in
itself evidential; it depends on the confidence reposed in the " control " in
charge of the manifestations; much as when letters of encouragement
are read at a public meeting, their genuineness is taken on trust from the
chairman. Even when the handwriting produced (either automatically
through the medium, or directly, without the intervention of human
hands) , resembles that of the deceased person, this, as elsewhere explained,
does [not in itself prove identity. Well-known signatures especially may
be copied by other spirits.

As soon, however, as it is understood that such messages are not
intended to be evidential, it seems not unnatural that they should be
given thus. It needs no derogation from the dignity of even the highest
spirit to express his sanction of any scheme designed to convey to " men
of goodwill," in fashion however humble and unassuming, some message
of their eternal fate.

But where identity is absolutely unprovable, as in the case of this
group of " men of old time," it would be futile to discuss the probabilities
on either side. I cannot blame Mr. Moses for his injunction to leave
these spirits eminent but not Divine under the mask of the symbolic
titles which they chose to assume. His reverence for Imperator was
of a filial type which led him to desire 'that although there must be
discussion about the doctrines, there should be none about the actual
personality of the teacher to whom he felt that he owed all that was best
in his own inner life.

951. We must now briefly go through the points which make such
messages as were received by Mr. Moses prima facie evidential, which in-
dicate, that is to say, that they actually do come in some way from their
alleged source. A brief recapitulation of the main stages of evidential
quality in messages given by automatic writing or by trance-utterances
is all that will be needed here.

(1) Evidentially lowest comes the class of messages which is by far
the most common ; messages, namely, in which, although some special

Online LibraryFrederic William Henry MyersHuman personality : and its survival of bodily death (Volume 2) → online text (page 32 of 89)