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identity may be claimed, all the facts given have been consciously known
to the automatist. Here we may well suppose that his own personality
alone is concerned, and that the messages have a subliminal, but not an
external source.

(2) Next above these come messages containing facts likely to be
known to the alleged spirit, and not consciously known to the automatist ;
but which facts may nevertheless have some time been noted by the
automatist, even unwittingly, and may have thus obtained lodgment in
his subliminal memory.

(3) Next come facts which can be proved, with such varying degrees
of certainty as such negative proof allows, never to have been in any way
known to the automatist ; but which nevertheless are easily to be found
in books ; so that they may have been learnt clairvoyantly by the automa-



236 CHAPTER IX [952

tist himself, or learnt and communicated to him by some mind other than
that of the alleged spirit.

(4) Next come facts which can be proved, with similar varying degrees
of certainty according to the circumstances, never to have been known
to the automatist, or recorded in print; but which were known to the
alleged spirit and can be verified by the memories of living persons.

(5) Above this again would come that class of experimental messages,
or posthumous letters, of which we have as yet very few good examples
(see 876) ; where the departed person has before death arranged some
special test some fact or sentence known only to himself, which he is to
transmit after death, if possible, as a token of his return.

952. (6) Thus much for the various kinds of verbal messages, which
can be kept and analysed at leisure. We must now turn to evidence of
a different and not precisely comparable kind. In point of fact it is not
these inferences from written matter which have commonly been most
efficacious in compelling the survivor's belief in the reality of the friend's
return. Whether logically or no, it is not so much the written message
that he trusts, but some phantom of face and voice that he knew so well.
It is this familiar convincing presence, liVro Se foWtAov avrw, on which
the percipient has always insisted, since Achilles strove in vain to embrace
Patroclus" shade.

How far such a phantasm is in fact a proof of any real action on the
part of the spirit thus recognised is a problem which has been dealt with
already in Chapter VII. The upshot of our evidence to my mind is that
although the apparition of a departed person cannot per se rank as
evidence of his presence, yet this is not a shape which purely hal-
lucinatory phantasms seem often to assume ; and if there be any corro-
borative evidence, as, for instance, writing which claims to come from
the same person, the chance that he is really operative is considerable.
In Mr. Moses' case almost all the figures which he saw brought with
them some corroboration by writing, trance-utterance, gesture-messages
(as where a figure makes signs of assent or dissent), or raps.

(7) And this brings us to a class of cases largely represented in Mr.
Moses' series, where writings professing to come from a certain spirit are
supported by physical phenomena of which that spirit claims also to be
the author. Whether such a line of proof can ever be made logically
complete or no, one can imagine many cases where it would be practically
convincing to almost all minds. Materialisations of hands, or direct
writing in the script of the departed, have much of actual cogency ;
and these methods, with others like them, are employed by Mr. Moses'
" controls " in their efforts to establish their own identities. Physical
phenomena in themselves, however, carry no proof of an intelligence
outside that of the sensitive himself, and, as I have said, may in many
cases be a mere extension of his own ordinary muscular powers, and not
due to any external agency at all.



954] TRANCE, POSSESSION, ECSTASY 237

953. If we confine ourselves to the verbal messages, we find that
the cases most fully represented in the records of Mr. Moses are limited
to the first three classes mentioned above, and those which come under
the fourth class verifiable facts of which there is no printed record and

which it is practically certain that the medium could never have known

are comparatively few. This may partly be accounted for by the small
number of sitters with Mr. Moses and the fact that they were his personal
friends. The records of Mrs. Piper, on the other hand, to which we now
turn, are especially rich in incidents that fall under the fourth heading,
and the evidential value of the verbal messages in this case is, therefore,
much greater than in the case of Mr. Moses. Whereas for Mr. Moses
the identity of many of his communicators rested largely upon their being
guaranteed by Imperator and his group of helpers, in the case of Mrs.
Piper the spirits of some recently-departed friends who have given much
evidence of their identity appear to maintain the independent reality and
guiding control over Mrs. Piper of these same intelligences Imperator,
Rector, Doctor, and others that Mr. Moses claimed as ruling in his own
experience. We shall then in the case of Mrs. Piper again return to the
question of the supervision of such alleged spirits.

954. The case of Mrs. Piper differs in two important respects
from that of W. Stainton Moses or D. D. Home. In the first place
no telekinetic phenomena have occurred in connection with her trance-
manifestations ; and in the second place her supraliminal self shows no
traces of any supernormal faculty whatsoever. She presents an instance
of automatism of the extreme type where the " possession " is not merely
local or partial, but affects, so to say, the whole psychical area, where
the supraliminal self is for a time completely displaced, and the whole
personality appears to suffer intermittent change. In other words, she
passes into a trance, during which her organs of speech or writing are
" controlled " by other personalities than the normal waking one. Oc-
casionally either just before or just after the trance, the subliminal self
appears to take some control of the organism for a brief interval ; but
with this exception the personalities that speak or write during her trance
claim to be discarnate spirits.

Mrs. Piper's trances may be divided into three stages : (i) Where the
dominant controlling personality was known as " Dr. Phinuit " and used
the vocal organs almost exclusively, communicating by trance-utterance,
1884-91.

(2) Where the communications were made chiefly by automatic writing
in the trance under the supervision more particularly of the control known
as " George Pelham," or " G. P.," although "Dr. Phinuit" usually com-
municated also by speech during this period, 1892-96.

(3) Where supervision is alleged to be exercised by Imperator, Doctor,
Rector, and others already mentioned in connection with the experiences of
Mr. Moses, and where the communications have been mainly by writing,



238 CHAPTER IX [955

but occasionally also by speech. This last stage, which began early in
1897, still continues, and the final outcome remains to be seen.

955. I proceed now to indicate in further detail the nature of the
evidence and the character of the manifestations themselves, and begin by
quoting from Dr. Hodgson (Proceedings S.P.R., vol. xiii. pp. 367-68) a
brief statement of some of the historical facts of the case.

Mrs. Piper has been giving sittings for a period extending over thirteen
[now, 1901, seventeen] years. Very early in her trance history she came under
the attention of Professor James, who sent many persons to her as strangers,
in most cases making the appointments himself, and in no case giving their
names. She came to some extent under my own supervision in 1887, and I
also sent many persons to her, in many cases accompanying them and recording
the statements made at their sittings, and taking all the care that I could to
prevent Mrs. Piper's obtaining any knowledge beforehand of who the sitters
were to be. In 1889-90 Mrs. Piper gave a series of sittings in England under
the supervision of Dr. Walter Leaf and Mr. Myers and Professor Lodge, where
also the most careful precautions possible were taken to ensure that the sitters
went as strangers to Mrs. Piper. Further sittings were supervised by myself
in 1890-91 after Mrs. Piper's return to America. Many persons who had sittings
in the course of these earlier investigations were convinced that they were
actually receiving communications from their " deceased " friends through
Mrs. Piper's trance, but although the special investigators were satisfied, from
their study of the trance-phenomena themselves and a careful analysis of the
detailed records of the sittings, that some supernormal power was involved,
there was no definite agreement as to their precise significance. And to myself
it seemed that any hypothesis that was offered presented formidable difficulties
in the way of its acceptance. In the course of these earlier investigations the
communications were given almost entirely through the speech-utterance of the
trance-personality known as Phinuit, and even the best of them were apt to
include much matter that was irrelevant and unlike the alleged communicators,
while there were many indications that Phinuit himself was far from being the
kind of person in whom we should be disposed to place implicit credence.

During the years 1892-96 inclusive, I exercised a yet closer supervision of
Mrs. Piper's trances than I had done in previous years, continuing to take
all the precautions that I could as regards the introduction of persons as
strangers. This period was marked by a notable evolution in the quality of the
trance results, beginning early in 1892. The character of the manifestations
changed with the development of automatic writing in the trance, and with
what was alleged to be the continual rendering of active assistance by the
communicator whom I have called G. P. [George Pelham]. As a result of this
it appeared that communicators were able to express their thoughts directly
through the writing by Mrs. Piper's hand, instead of conveying them more
dimly and partially through Phinuit as intermediary; and the advice and
guidance which they, apparently , received from G. P. enabled them to avoid
much of the confusion and irrelevancy so characteristic of the earlier mani-
festations.

956. I do not propose here to discuss the hypothesis of fraud in
this case, since it has been fully discussed in the articles referred to in



957] TRANCE, POSSESSION, ECSTASY 239

my Appendices and elsewhere, e.g. by Dr. Hodgson, Professor William
James, Professor Newbold of Pennsylvania University, Dr. Walter Leaf,
and Sir Oliver Lodge. I merely quote, as a summary of the argument,
a few words of Professor James, from The Psychological Review, July,
1898, pp. 421-22 :

Dr. Hodgson considers that the hypothesis of fraud cannot be seriously
maintained. I agree with him absolutely. The medium has been under
observation, much of the time under close observation, as to most of the
conditions of her life, by a large number of persons, eager, many of them, to
pounce upon any suspicious circumstance for [nearly] fifteen years. During
that time, not only has there not been one single suspicious circumstance
remarked, but not one suggestion has ever been made from any quarter which
might tend positively to explain how the medium, living the apparent life she
leads, could possibly collect information about so many sitters by natural
means. The scientist who is confident of " fraud " here, must remember that
in science as much as in common life a hypothesis must receive some positive
specification and determination before it can be profitably discussed, and a
fraud which is no assigned kind of fraud, but simply "fraud" at large, fraud
in abstracto^ can hardly be regarded as a specially scientific explanation of
concrete facts.

I give some further statements and references on this point in 956 A
andB.

957. Nor shall I discuss at any length the character of the Phinuit
personality. An excellent analysis of this, which I quote in 957 A,
was given by Sir Oliver Lodge. According to my own experience,
during Mrs. Piper's visit to England in 1889-90, different trances, and
different parts of the same ,trance, varied greatly in quality. There were
some interviews throughout which Phinuit hardly asked any question, and
hardly stated anything which was not true. There were others throughout
which his utterances showed not one glimmer of real knowledge, but con-
sisted wholly of fishing questions and random assertions. The trances
could not always be induced at pleasure. A state of quiet expectancy
would usually bring one on ; but sometimes the attempt altogether failed.
The trance when induced usually lasted about an hour, and there was
often a marked difference between the first few minutes of a trance and
the remaining time. On such occasions almost all that was of value
would be told in the first few minutes ; and the remaining talk would
consist of vague generalities or mere repetitions of what had already been
given. Phinuit always professed himself to be a spirit communicating
with spirits ; and he used to say that he remembered their messages for a
few minutes after " entering into the medium," and then became confused.
He was not, however, apparently able to depart when his budget of facts
was empty. There seemed to be some irresponsible letting-off of energy
which must continue until the original impulse was lost in incoherence.
My own general conclusion at that time was that Phinuit's utterances



240 CHAPTER IX [958

must be judged as but one item in the long roll of automatic messages of
many kinds which were only then beginning to be collected and analysed.
I regarded it as proved that these phenomena afforded evidence of large
extensions telepathic or clairvoyant of the normal powers of the
human spirit, and thought it possible that Phiuuit's knowledge was thus
derived from a telepathic or clairvoyant faculty, latent in Mrs. Piper, and
manifesting itself in ways with which previous experiment had not made
us familiar. On the other hand, the automatic messages which we
had already studied included phenomena of very various types, some
of which certainly pointed primd facie to the intervention perhaps the
very indirect intervention of the surviving personalities of the dead, and
I held that if such instances of communication from extra-terrene minds
should ultimately find acceptance with science, then Phinuit's messages,
with all their drawbacks and all their inconsistency, would have fair claim
to be added to the number.

I need hardly say that it is this last hypothesis which I have since
adopted, and although it is obvious that the difficulties concerning Phinuit's
identity have not been solved, it seems possible to regard him as an
intelligence extraneous to Mrs. Piper, as, in fact, a discarnate spirit. It
must not be forgotten, however, that he entirely failed in his professed
attempts to establish his personal identity, and could not succeed even in
substantiating his claim to be a French doctor. Unfortunately we have
no contemporary records of what occurred during Mrs. Piper's earliest
trances ; nor practically any information as to the first manifestations of
the Phinuit personality. It seems clear at least that the name Phinuit
was the result of suggestion at these earliest trances (see Proceedings
S.P.R., vol. viii. pp. 46-58), and many may think it most probable that
the Phinuit " control " was nothing more than a secondary personality of
Mrs. Piper. But, according to the statements (of which there is of course
no evidence) made by " Imperator," Phinuit was an " earth-bound " or
inferior spirit, who had become confused and bewildered in his first
attempts at communication, and had, as we say, " lost his consciousness
of personal identity." That such an occurrence is not uncommon in this
life is plain from the cases to which I have drawn attention in Chapter II.
of this book, and we cannot prove it to be impossible that profound
memory disturbances should be produced in an inexperienced discarnate
spirit when first attempting to communicate with us through a material
organism. Be that as it may, the Phinuit personality has not manifested
either directly or indirectly since January 1897, when "Imperator"
claimed the supervision of Mrs. Piper's trances.

958. There were various cases of alleged direct " control " by spirits
other than Phinuit during the first stage of Mrs. Piper's trance history.
Two of these, the " E." control and the aunt of Professor James, are
referred to in the report by Professor James which I have quoted in 956 A.
These and several others are also mentioned by Dr. Hodgson in Proceed-



959] TRANCE, POSSESSION, ECSTASY 241

ings S.P.R., vol. viii. pp. 28-40; but even in the most remarkable of
these earlier cases of apparent " possession " of Mrs. Piper's organism by
other spirits, the evidence available for publication was scanty, and in one
or two cases there was scarcely anything to indicate that the supposed
communicating personalities were not impersonations by Phinuit.

The most notable case was that of a lady, Miss W., who had forty-five
sittings, at forty- one of which the control was taken for at least part of the
time by a personal friend, who presented marked characteristics of the
friend it purported to be ; showed specific knowledge of private matters
known only to that friend and the sitter ; showed a knowledge of facts
of which he was reminded by the sitter, and in turn reminded the sitter
of facts temporarily forgotten by her ; made some mistakes in matters
once known to the friend, and remembered well by the sitter, and told
the sitter of facts not known to her and afterwards verified (loc. cit. 43).

Usually, as we have seen, Phinuit acted as intermediary, reproducing
the communications made by the " deceased " relatives or friends of the
sitters, and in a favourable series of sittings the impression made was
generally as described in the following case by Sir Oliver Lodge. (From
Proceedings S.P.R., vol. vi. p. 455.)

One of the best sitters was my next-door neighbour, Isaac C. Thompson,
F.L.S., to whose name indeed, before he had been in any way introduced,
Phinuit sent a message purporting to come from his father. Three generations
of his and of his wife's family living and dead (small and compact Quaker
families) were, in the course of two or three sittings, conspicuously mentioned,
with identifying detail ; the main informant representing himself as his
deceased brother, a young Edinburgh doctor, whose loss had been mourned
some twenty years ago. The familiarity and touchingness of the messages
communicated in this particular instance were very remarkable, and can by no
means be reproduced in any printed report of the sitting. Their case is one in
which very few mistakes were made, the details standing out vividly correct, so
that in fact they found it impossible not to believe that their relatives were
actually speaking to them.

Such cases were not usual, and on the whole, although there seemed
to be in this first stage of Mrs. Piper's trance history, in 1884-91, abun-
dant proof of some supernormal faculty which demanded at least the
hypothesis of thought-transference from living persons both near and
distant, and suggested occasionally some power of telaesthesia or perhaps
even of premonition, yet the main question with which we are now
concerned, whether Mrs. Piper's organism was controlled, directly or
indirectly, by discarnate spirits who could give satisfactory evidence of
their identity, remained undecided.

959. More important, as regards this question of personal identity, is

the series of sittings which formed the second stage of Mrs. Piper's

trance history, in the years 1892-96, of which a detailed account is given

in Proceedings S.P.R., vol. xiii. pp. 284-582 and vol. xiv. pp. 6-49, where

VOL. n. Q



242 CHAPTER IX [959

the chief communicator or intermediary was G. P. This G. P., whose
name (although, of course, well known to many persons) has been altered
for publication into " George Pelham," was a young man of great ability,
mainly occupied in literary pursuits. Although born an American citizen,
he was a member of a noble English family. I never met him, but
I have the good fortune to include a number of his friends among my
own, and with several of these I have been privileged to hold intimate
conversation on the nature of the communications which they received. I
have thus heard of many significant utterances of G. P.'s, which are held
too private for print ; and I have myself been present at sittings where
G. P. manifested. For the full discussion of the evidence tending to
prove the identity of G. P., I refer my readers to the original report in the
Proceedings S.P.R. I give in 959 A and B a detailed account of the
circumstances of the first communications of G. P., and quote here
a general summary, given by Dr. Hodgson several years later, of the
whole series of his manifestations. (From Proceedings S.P.R., vol. xiii.
PP- 328-330.)

On the first appearance of the communicating G. P. to Mr. Hart in March
1892, he gave not only his own name and that of the sitter, but also the names
of several of their most intimate common friends, and referred specifically to
the most important private matters connected with them. At the same sitting
reference was made to other incidents unknown to the sitters, such as the
account of Mrs. Pelham's taking the studs from the body of G. P. and giving
them to Mr. Pelham to be sent to Mr. Hart, and the reproduction of a notable
remembrance of a conversation which G. P. living had with Katharine, the
daughter of his most intimate friends, the Howards. These were primary ex-
amples of two kinds of knowledge concerning matters unknown to the sitters,
of which various other instances were afterwards given ; knowledge of events
connected with G. P. which had occurred since his death, and knowledge of
special memories pertaining to the G. P. personality before death. A week
later, at the sitting of Mr. Vance, he made an appropriate inquiry after the
sitter's son, and in reply to inquiries rightly specified that the sitter's son had
been at college with him, and further correctly gave a correct description of the
sitter's summer home as the place of a special visit. This, again, was paralleled
by many later instances where appropriate inquiries were made and remem-
brances recalled concerning other personal friends of G. P. Nearly two weeks
later came his most intimate friends, the Howards, and to these, using the voice
directly, he showed such a fulness of private remembrance and specific know-
ledge and characteristic intellectual and emotional quality pertaining to G. P.
that, though they had previously taken no interest in any branch of psychical
research, they were unable to resist the conviction that they were actually con-
versing with their old friend G. P. And this conviction was strengthened by
their later experiences. Not least important, at that time, was his anxiety
about the disposal of a certain book and about certain specified letters which
concern matters too private for publication. He was particularly desirous
of convincing his father, who lived in Washington, that it was indeed G. P. who
was communicating, and he soon afterwards stated that his father had taken
his photograph to be copied, as was the case, though Mr. Pelham had not



959] TRANCE, POSSESSION, ECSTASY 243

informed even his wife of this fact. Later on he reproduced a series of
incidents, unknown to the sitters, in which Mrs. Howard had been engaged in
her own home. Later still, at a sitting with his father and mother in New
York, a further intimate knowledge was shown of private family circumstances,
and at the following sitting, at which his father and mother were not present,
he gave the details of certain private actions which they had done in the
interim. At their sitting, and at various sittings of the Howards, appropriate
comments were made concerning different articles presented which had
belonged to G. P. living, or had been familiar to him ; he inquired after
other personal articles which were not presented at the sittings, and showed
intimate and detailed recollections of incidents in connection with them. In
points connected with the recognition of articles with their related associations
of a personal sort, the G. P. communicating, so far as I know, has never



Online LibraryFrederic William Henry MyersHuman personality : and its survival of bodily death (Volume 2) → online text (page 33 of 89)