Frederic William Henry Myers.

Human personality : and its survival of bodily death (Volume 2) online

. (page 34 of 89)
Online LibraryFrederic William Henry MyersHuman personality : and its survival of bodily death (Volume 2) → online text (page 34 of 89)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

failed. Nor has he failed in the recognition of personal friends. I may say
generally that out of a large number of sitters who went as strangers to Mrs.
Piper, the communicating G. P. has picked out the friends of G. P. living, pre-
cisely as the G. P. living might have been expected to do [thirty cases of
recognition out of at least one hundred and fifty persons who have had sittings
with Mrs. Piper since the first appearance of G. P., and no case of false
recognition], and has exhibited memories in connection with these and other
friends which are such as would naturally be associated as part of the G. P.
personality, which certainly do not suggest in themselves that they originate
otherwise, and which are accompanied by the emotional relations which
were connected with such friends in the mind of G. P. living. At one of
his early communications G. P. expressly undertook the task of rendering
all the assistance in his power towards establishing the continued existence
of himself and other communicators, in pursuance of a promise of which
he himself reminded me, made some two years or more before his death,
that if he died before me and found himself "still existing," he would
devote himself to prove the fact ; and in the persistence of his endeavour
to overcome the difficulties in communicating as far as possible, in his con-
stant readiness to act as amanuensis at the sittings, in the effect which he
has produced by his counsels, to myself as investigator, and to numerous
other sitters and communicators, he has, in so far as I can form a judg-
ment in a problem so complex and still presenting so much obscurity,
displayed all the keenness and pertinacity which were eminently character-
istic of G. P. living.

Finally, the manifestations of this G. P. communicating have not been of a
fitful and spasmodic nature, they have exhibited the marks of a continuous
living and persistent personality, manifesting itself through a course of years,
and showing the same characteristics of an independent intelligence whether
friends of G. P. were present at the sittings or not. I learned of various cases
where in my absence active assistance was rendered by G. P. to sitters who
had never previously heard of him, and from time to time he would make brief
pertinent reference to matters with which G. P. living was acquainted, though
I was not, and sometimes in ways which indicated that he could to some extent
see what was happening in our world to persons in whose welfare G. P. living
would have been specially interested.

The sitter called Mr. Hart, to whom G. P. first manifested, died at
Naples three years afterwards, and communicated, with the help of G. P.,

244 CHAPTER IX [960

on the second day after his death. I give an account of his com-
munications in 959 C.

960. There are numerous instances in the reports in the Proceedings,
(see vol. vi. pp. 647-50; vol. viii. pp. 15-26; vol. xiii., passim ; and
vol. xvi. pp. 1313), of the giving of information unknown to the sitters
and afterwards verified. A striking illustration of this occurred in the
case of the lady called " Elisa Mannors," whose near relatives and friends
concerned in the communications were known to myself. I give a brief
account of her first communications in 960 A. On the morning after the
death of her uncle, called F. in the report, she described an incident
in connection with the appearance of herself to her uncle on his death-
bed. I quote Dr. Hodgson's account of this (Proceedings S.P.R., vol.
xiii. p. 378. Foot-note).

The notice of his [F.'s] death was in a Boston morning paper, and I
happened to see it on my way to the sitting. The first writing of the sitting
came from Madame Elisa, without my expecting it. She wrote clearly and
strongly, explaining that F. was there with her, but unable to speak directly,
that she wished to give me an account of how she had helped F. to reach her.
She said that she had been present at his death-bed, and had spoken to him,
and she repeated what she had said, an unusual form of expression, and in-
dicated that he had heard and recognised her. This was confirmed in detail
in the only way possible at that time, by a very intimate friend of Madame
Elisa and myself, and also of the nearest surviving relative of F. I showed my
friend the account of the sitting, and to this friend, a day or two later, the
relative, who was present at the death-bed, stated spontaneously that F. when
dying said that he saw Madame Elisa who was speaking to him, and he re-
peated what she was saying. The expression so repeated, which the relative
quoted to my friend, was that which I had received from Madame Elisa
through Mrs. Piper's trance, when the death-bed incident was of course entirely
unknown to me.

Rare are the " Peak in Darien " cases (see section 718), but cases like
this are rarer still.

961. As will be seen from the account of Elisa Mannors in 960 A,
some attempt was made in her case to speak and write Italian. In the
case which follows there was an attempt to write Hawaiian. (From Pro-
ceedings S.P.R., vol. xiii. p. 337.)

This was at a sitting arranged for by Mrs. Howard in October 1893. Mrs.
Howard made some notes at the time from which the report was prepared, and
I obtained some additional information later from the sitter, Mr. L. Vernon
Briggs. The original writing was apparently lost, and Mr. Briggs never had
the opportunity of studying it after the sitting. The communication purported
to come from a Honolulu boy named Kalua, who became much attached to
Mr. Briggs during a six months' stay of Mr. Briggs in Honolulu in 1881, and
who followed Mr. Briggs to Boston under somewhat romantic circumstances
in 1883. He was soon sent back to his native island, but again returned to
Boston, where he was shot in 1886, in a sailor's Bethel, whether inten-


tionally or not was unknown. There was some suspicion against a
Swede, who was imprisoned, but there was no evidence against him, and
he was finally discharged. The Swede said that Kalua had accidentally
shot himself with a revolver, and eventually confessed that after the ac-
cident he had himself hidden the revolver behind a flue, where, after taking
part of the chimney down, it was found. Mr. Briggs had taken a handker-
chief belonging to Kalua to the sitting. Kalua had been shot through
the heart, and there was some confusion apparently about the locality
of the suffering, "stomach" and "side" being mentioned, under what ap-
peared to be the direct control of the voice by " Kalua," and Mr. Briggs
asked if it was Kalua. Phinuit then spoke for " Kalua," who said that he
did not kill himself, that he had been gambling with the other man who
disputed with him and shot him, but did not mean to, and who threw the
revolver " into the hot box where the pepples are " (meaning " the furnace "
and the " coals "), and hid his purse under the steps where he was killed.
" Kalua " also said there was shrubbery near it. The cellar of the house was
examined, but no purse was found, and there was no shrubbery in the cellar.
" Kalua " tried to write Hawaiian, but the only " ordinary " words deciphered
were "lei " (meaning wreaths, which he made daily for Mr. Briggs) which was
written clearly and frequently, and an attempt at "aloha " greeting. Phinuit
tried to get the answer to the question where Kalua's father was, but could only
succeed in getting "Hiram." But the writing gave the answer "Hawaiin
Islands." In reply to the question which one, the answer in writing was
Kaivai, but Phinuit said Tawai. The word is spelt Kawai, but is pronounced
Tawai by the natives of the island itself and in the island where Kalua was
born The natives of the other islands call it Kawai.

962. Not least important as regards the question of identity are some
of the communications purporting to come from young children. I give in
962 A a synopsis of the chief points in connection with the twin children,
Margaret and Ruthie, of Dr. A. B. Thaw, and quote here an account of
communications coming from the child of Mrs. Katherine Paine Button.
(From Proceedings S.P.R., vol. xiii. pp. 386-9.)

In the two sittings which Mrs. Sutton had in December 1893 (p. 484),*
she had articles which had been used by her recently deceased little girl
Katherine. One incident that was characteristic in the case of Ruthie, the
patting of her father's face, was repeated in the case of Katherine when it had
no special significance. There were only three points that might be described
as in part common to the two children, Ruthie and Katherine. Katherine
had "lovely curls," mentioned by Phinuit, and also called for the "tick-tick,"
but Phinuit added correctly that she called it " the clock," and the word babee
was given correctly, as Ruthie also used to pronounce it. Apparently the
only incorrect statement purporting to come from the child was that she called
a lady (Mrs. C, a friend of Mrs. Sutton, who purported to be present in "spirit,"
bringing the child, and whose Christian name and surname were given correctly
by Phinuit) Auntie. The lady was not her aunt. The statements made came
through Phinuit Concerning a silver medal it was said that she wanted to bite
it, and concerning a string of buttons that she wanted to put them in her
mouth, both correct. Phinuit said that she had no sore throat any more, and
1 The references in this passage are to the pages of Dr. Hodgson's Report.

246 CHAPTER IX [962

that she kept showing him her tongue. Katherine living had sore throat and
her tongue was paralysed. She gave correctly the name by which she called
herself, Kakie, the name Dodo by which she called her brother George, the
name Bagie by which she called a living sister, Margaret, and the name
Eleanor, of another living sister for whom she called much in her last illness.
She also asked for Dinah, this being the name of an old rag-doll. She said
truly that Dodo used to march with her, " He put me way up." She wanted
to go to "wide horsey" as the living Katherine had pleaded all through
her illness, and to be taken " to see the mooley-cow," the name by which the
living Katherine called the cow, which she was taken almost daily to see.
She said she had "the pretty white flowers you put on me," and Phinuit
described lilies of the valley, which were the flowers that had been placed
in the casket (see p. 303). She said she was happy with grandma Mrs.
Sutton's mother had been dead many years and later on wanted to send
her love to her grandma and also apparently to her great grandma who was
referred to as Marmie. She had a grandmother and also a great-grandmother
then living, and Marmie was the name by which Mr. and Mrs. Sutton spoke
of the great-grandmother, but Katherine always called her Grammie. She
also referred to two songs she used to sing : " Bye-bye, O baby bye," and
" Row Row, my song." This " Row Row " song was sung frequently by
Katherine during her illness, and was the last sung by her when living, and
she asked Mr. and Mrs. Sutton to sing it at the sitting. They sang the first
four lines, and the voice presumably still " controlled " by Phinuit in imitation
of Katherine sang with them. Phinuit then hushed the sitters, and the voice
sang the remaining four lines [alone]. It is, of course, a familiar child's song
(p. 486). At the second sitting a fortnight later, the voice sang all eight lines
alone, then asked Mrs. Sutton to sing it with her, as she did, and then at
Mrs. Sutton's request also sang with her the other song " Bye-bye," precisely,
according to Mrs. Sutton, as the living Katherine sang it. Mr. Sutton, who
was present at the first sitting, did not attend the second sitting, and he was
asked for immediately after this singing, which came at the beginning of the
sitting. " Kakie wants papa." This was a very characteristic expression.
There were indications suggesting a knowledge of what was going on in
Mrs. Sutton's family. At the first sitting Katherine said she went "to see
horsey " every day. The sitters had been staying in the country with Mr.
Sutton's parents and had been driving frequently. Margaret, a living sister,
was still there, and driving daily. Mrs. Sutton, who has had many psychical
experiences herself in seeing the " apparitions " of " deceased " persons (see p.
484) had "seen Kakie" during that visit to Mr. Sutton's parents. At the
second sitting Katherine said that she saw Bagie with grandma, and that
she played with Eleanor every day and liked the little bed. A lady had
recently lent Eleanor a doll's bed, but Mrs. Sutton had not associated this
with Kakie. There were incidents at both sittings which showed associations
that seemed to be in the mind of the child, which did not awaken the
corresponding associations in the minds of the sitters even when the con-
temporary notes to the sittings were made. Thus in the first sitting she
asked for " horsey." Mrs. Sutton gave a little toy horse with which the child
had played during her illness. But the child said " big horsey, not this little
one," and Mrs. Sutton surmised that she referred to another toy cart-horse that
she used to like. At the second sitting came " Kakie wants the horse," and
the little horse was again given.


" No, that is not the one. The big horse so big. [Phinuit shows how
large.] Eleanor's horse. Eleanor used to put it in Kakie's lap. She loved
that horsey."

These additional particulars, which were true, then reminded Mrs. Sutton
of the horse referred to, which was packed away in another city, and which had
not occurred to the mind of Mrs. Sutton in connection with Kakie. Similarly
at the first sitting she asked two or three times for " the little book." The sitter
noted that she liked a linen picture-book. But the remarks made at her second
sitting suggest that the little book in the child's mind was not this one. " Kakie
wants the little bit of a book mamma read by her bedside, with the pretty
bright things hanging from it mamma put it in her hands the last thing she
remembers." Mrs. Sutton states that this was a little prayer-book with a cross
and other symbols in silver attached to ribbons for marking the places, and
that it was sent to her by a friend after Kakie had ceased to know any one
except perhaps for a passing moment. Mrs. Sutton read it when Kakie seemed
unconscious, and after Kakie's death l placed it in her hands to prevent the
blood settling in the nails. She adds later that Mrs. Piper's hands, when the
book was asked for at the sitting, were put into the same position as Kakie's.

Another book was mentioned at the second sitting which apparently was
the one Mrs. Sutton thought of at the first sitting. " Kakie wants the book
with red letters and pictures of animals." Correct description.

At this second sitting also Katherine again apparently referred to Mrs. C,
who was not a relative, as Auntie, and to her great-grandmother as Marmie.
At this sitting Mrs. Sutton twice saw the " apparition " of Kakie (and she also
saw the figure of Dr. Clarke, another communicator, just as Phinuit said : " Here
is an old gentleman who wants to speak to you, Dr. Clarke." See p. 484).
On one of these occasions Mrs. Sutton " saw her for a moment standing at the
table trying to reach a spool " of silk, and at the same moment Phinuit reached
for it, saying : " She wants that, she and Eleanor used to play with. She calls
it Eleanor's." This was all true, but the sitter "had not connected it with
Eleanor in her thoughts." Another incident I quote here just as it is given in
the detailed report of the sitting.

[Kakie asks for her ball. I gave it to Phinuit, who tries to find what she
wants to do with it]

" Bite it ? Toss it ? Roll it ? Throw it ? "

[No, she wants a string. Mrs. H. gave him a string. He tries to tie it
around the ball.] [A little red wooden ball with a hole through it. The ball
had a string through it when she used to play with it.]

" No, that is not right through it."

" There, there, be a good little girl. Don't cry. Don't be impatient. You
want your mamma to see how you do it, so she will know it is you, don't you,
dear ? Old man will do it for her."

[He put the string through, held it up, and hit it with the finger, making it
swing. ]

" That is it, is it not, darling? Nice little girl as ever was."

[While she was sick it was her great delight to have me hold the string and
let her hit the little red ball with her finger or spoon. She made the motions
as if doing it, after she became unconscious.]

1 If the human personality survives death, it may be a difficult question to decide in
individual cases precisely when the consciousness is finally withdrawn from the body.

248 CHAPTER IX [963

963. There are numerous incidents in connection with Mrs. Piper's
trances, which indicate not only that articles which have been worn by
deceased persons may facilitate communications from such persons, but
that articles which have been worn by persons still living may afford clues
to long past events ; but how these objects afford aid in the acquisition
of knowledge of the past events is still entirely obscure. (See, e.g.,
Proceedings S.P.R., vol. vi. p. 460; vol. viii. pp. 15-27.) This faculty of
what I have called retrocognitive telaesthesia, is, as we have seen, some-
times manifested in cases where there is no reason to ascribe it to any
extraneous spirit. (See 572, 572 A, 572 B.)

The alleged controlling spirits sometimes seem to possess a super-
normal knowledge of the present bodily state of living persons, with
the occasional power of foretelling organic changes, including death, or
of foreseeing the future surroundings of a living person. Here, again,
we have had instances of similar supernormal knowledge on the part of
the subliminal self (see 565 A, 573 F). Some of the most specific
instances of predictions of deaths given through Mrs. Piper are quoted
in 963 A. In one of these cases a death was predicted to occur " soon,"
and it occurred a little more than a year later. But in several other cases
where deaths were predicted to occur " soon " or " before very long,"
or where similar expressions were used, the time elapsing before the
death has extended from about two to not less than six years. There
is little evidence of any true prevision of other events than death through
Mrs. Piper's trance. In some cases, events seem to have been partially
foreseen, but the predictions made were not completely fulfilled. (See
Proceedings S.P.R., vol. viii. p. 124, and compare 425 C.)

Setting aside the instances explicable by some telepathic or telaes-
thetic inference, the discarnate spirits claim occasionally to see specific
future scenes in connection with particular persons of the origin of
which scenes they seem unable to offer any explanation. They do not
profess usually to be aware beforehand of the precise time of death of a
dying person, except perhaps in cases where the death is very near,
when it is claimed that the approaching death becomes known to the
incarnate spirit (not necessarily to the supraliminal self) as well as to the
discarnate spirit of some near relative, but the real source of the know-
ledge remains, of course, obscure. 1

1 On this point see 425 A, 425 B, 425 E, 717, 717 B, 852 A, 865 A (name of
distant dying person written), 874 A and 927 B. Compare the case of " Elisa Manners n
in section 960, the cases of Mrs. Alger and Mrs. O'Gorman in Proceedings S.P.R.,
vol. v. pp. 293-95, and the case from Mrs. Meredith in Journal S.P.R., vol. x.
p. 136. In the cases of Mrs. Alger and Mrs. O'Gorman the prediction of death seems
to have emanated from the incarnate spirit of the person who died, and the precise date
of the death was given, in the first case four days beforehand though the evidence
on this point is somewhat doubtful and in the second case a week beforehand. In the
case quoted in 874 A, the precise date of death was announced forty days beforehand
by the tilts of a table, the communication purporting to come from a discarnate spirit.


964. With regard to the last of the three periods of Mrs. Piper's
trance- history to which I referred in section 954, the only detailed pub-
lished accounts are contained in Professor Hyslop's report of his sittings in
Proceedings S.P.R., vol. xvi. But neither his records nor the manuscript
records which I have seen contain any proof of the personal identity of
the alleged spirits called " Imperator," "Doctor," "Rector," &c., or any
proof of the identity of these intelligences with those claimed by Mr.
Moses. (See 945, 950, and Proceedings S.P.R., vol. xiii. pp. 408-9.)
Whether any such proof will be forthcoming in the future remains to
be seen, or indeed, whether proof or disproof for us at present is
even possible.

965. The accounts here quoted are perhaps sufficient to illustrate that
theory of possession which seems especially to apply to the case of Mrs.
Piper, according to which her bodily organism is controlled by dis-
carnate spirits who attempt to prove their identity by reproducing
recollections of their earthly lives. 1

In the case of Mr. Moses the control of the mind or body by dis-
carnate spirits seemed to vary in degree at different times, and the
medium's own preconceptions seemed to form an important factor in the
communications he received, and it is obvious that in Mrs. Piper's case
also the control must be limited by the idiosyncrasies of the medium.
But we must continually bear in mind the impossibility of distinguishing
the different elements that may enter into so complex a phenomenon.
I have spoken of parallel series of manifestations indicating on the one
hand the powers of the subliminal self, which culminate in ecstasy, and
on the other the agency of discarnate spirits, leading on to possession.
But the phenomena are not, in fact, so simply arranged. It seems pro-
bable that when a spirit can control a sensitive's organism, the sensitive's
own subliminal self may be able to do the same. The transparency
which renders the one possession possible facilitates also the other. This
may be one reason for the admixture seen in most trance utterances, of
elements which come from the sensitive's own mind with elements inspired
from without. To this source of confusion must be added the influence
of the sensitive's supraliminal self also, whose habits of thought and turns
of speech must needs appear whenever use is made of the brain-centres
which that supraliminal self habitually controls. Further, we cannot draw
a clear line between the influence of the organism itself, as already
moulded by its own indwelling spirit, and the continuing influence of
that spirit, not altogether separated from the organism. That is to say,
the sensitive's own previous ideas may go on developing themselves during

1 Some ingenious experiments designed to test how living persons can be identified
on somewhat similar evidence were carried out by Professor Hyslop, as described in
his report, Proceedings S.P.R., vol. xvi. pp. 537-623. In these experiments, series
of telegraphic messages were sent from one person to another, one person knowing who
the other was, but not -vice vend.

250 CHAPTER IX [966

the trance, which may thus be incomplete. The result may be a kind of
mixed telepathy between the sitter, the sensitive's spirit, and the extraneous
spirit. I believe that sometimes during one and the same access of trance
all these elements are in turn apparent ; and a long familiarity with the
sensitive will be needed if we would disentangle the intermingled threads.
In the case of Mrs. Piper it may be supposed that in the earliest stages
of her trance-history she was not completely controlled by discarnate
spirits, but that her subliminal self was used as an intermediary, as a
hypnotised subject, so to say, following the suggestions of discarnate
spirits ; that in the next stage the control by discarnate spirits was of the
more direct and complete kind which I have specially called possession ;
and that in her last period she has reverted once more to the earlier stage
where her subliminal self, or its influence, is not completely excluded.

Whether this be so or not, the apparent distinction between the
control by her own subliminal self and that by the alleged spirits is still
not less marked than in the early stages. Generally it is even more
noticeable, owing to the usual brief intervals of ecstasy (after the control
by the discarnate spirit has ceased), when her own spirit or subliminal self
resumes control, and appears to see and occasionally to describe scenes in

Online LibraryFrederic William Henry MyersHuman personality : and its survival of bodily death (Volume 2) → online text (page 34 of 89)