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time he gave up that endeavour, as the Agnostic his endeavour after
proof of a spiritual world, with a sigh or a sneer. Then silently the
transparent screen was removed ; but now the pike was so convinced that
his prey was unreachable, that, like the Agnostic in presence of our new
evidence, he continued simply to let the perch alone.

For those other men I will resort to a bold metonymy, and will speak
of that great incurrent truth to which each man severally holds under the
figure of the great stone at Ephesus which fell down from Jupiter. The
faithful who proclaimed that wondrous fall were essentially in the right,
were far more in the right than the freethinkers who derided it. But
whence and why that stone had truly fallen, how vast the significance of
that cosmic trajectory and rushing flame, this could be known only when
humble labourers had catalogued many a lesser congener of the mighty
mass ; and had gathered the meteoric dust from the ocean's floor ; and
had learnt that no field of heaven had been found so desolate as not to
carry still the impress of ultimate energy and universal law.

APPENDIX B
THE DECLINE OF DOGMATISM

For many minds this last century of triumphant Science, of warring
Theology, has acted as a kind of proof and purgation of the human spirit.
It is strange to look back and to observe with how much of dogmatic
rubbish even the strongest minds of earlier centuries were cumbered both
in their belief and in their negation. For it was not only the so-called
orthodox who suffered ; but those also who, revolting against arbitrary
doctrine, were yet unable to dissociate such doctrine from any conception
which they could form of a spiritual world. Such men would still speak
as though the spiritual world, if it existed, must needs be a world ruled by
caprice, and overshadowed by fear.



308 CHAPTER X [App. B

But now in the virtual abeyance of formal creeds the reactions of
monks and schoolmen have had time to dissolve and disappear. Vestigial
beliefs which still encumbered the spirit have had time to atrophy.

The prospect on which Science gazed has been by comparison a
narrow one ; but Science at least has " seen it steadily and seen it
whole." The material world has taught us lessons of which our con-
ception of the spiritual world stood in no less urgent need. The study
of visible Nature has taught us Uniformity, Conservation, Evolution ; and
these transform themselves in their spiritual aspect into an absolute
Catholicity, an inescapable Justice, an ever-ascending Ideal. These
great conceptions, I say, were achieved by Science, with her outlook
temporarily narrowed to planetary life. And now that Science herself
begins to teach us to expand once more the planetary into the cosmic
view, we find that principles built up by minute and persistent observation
of material law will expand and exalt themselves also to spiritual operation,
and will give to the soul's future the stability of their own infinitude, the
buoyancy of their own limitless march and assumption into realms higher
and hopes unknown.

On one great matter the departed spirits utter, not indeed a halting or
a dubious, but yet a somewhat indefinite reply. One and all, so far as I
know them, they affirm that the Universe is good : that there is a supreme
Power to whom all spirits bow, and who orders all things well. But
beyond that they can give no fresh sanction to the tenets of any earthly
creed. Rather they seem for a time perhaps to express their new
convictions in their accustomed formulae, but soon to lose all thought
of creed or formulae in the deep assurance of endless and ever-growing
Love. This avowed limitation of their knowledge has caused some dis-
appointment, and they have sometimes been fruitlessly pressed to declare
themselves in clearer support of some earthly Church.

Yet must not any elevation of our being imply for us less of claim to
formal knowledge, more of participation in an immanent Spirit?

The idea of Divinity among the human race has risen and widened
from the Fetish of a family to the Champion of a tribe, and from the
Champion of a tribe to the Father of a planet. Must even that be the
fixed and final conception of the Infinite God ? Nay, surely that con-
ception should expand so as not to lose but to transcend Person-
ality ; retaining for us the Love and Mercy which bring the Divine into
fellowship with man, but outgrowing all limiting analogies, all pretence at
human comprehension of the Inconceivable Cause of All.

It is noticeable how with each onward step in our theoretical know-
ledge some false and outworn conception of practical duty tends to melt
away. We now know (to Swedenborg belongs the credit of the first em-
phatic announcement) that this life and the next are morally con-
tinuous, with no mere general dependence of the future life upon the
present, but continuous as though our earthly age melted into the hues



App. C] APPENDIX C 309

of a happier youth. It follows that the earthly life must ethically de-
velop all its faculties in preparation for the heavenly. There must be
no arbitrary narrowing of earth's experience under the guise of sanctity ;
no pretence that something is gained in the next world by refusal of any
of the normal duties of this.

There is no place for monasticism in such a scheme as this. There
is no place for the puritanical, the ascetic spirit ; for any belief in merit
attaching to suffering or privation as such. The aim of all will be spiritual,
moral, intellectual efficiency ; self-preparation for those higher duties
which shall follow on the accomplishment of lower duties as the just and
inseparable reward. ,

How far there shall still be place for the priest, for the minister of
religion, it were premature to discuss. Sacerdotalism must disappear;
no body of men will any longer persuade mankind of their exclusive right
to promulgate or to interpret that catholic truth which is bestowed im-
partially upon all.

And note that if such a claim were afterwards to be put forth, not by
priests but by sensitives, by intermediaries of the new revelation who
might claim to be its guardians also, that claim would promptly carry
with it its own refutation. We should not long believe in the authority
of communicating spirits who might base their appeal to us on authority,
instead of on evidence and on reason. Communicators and intermediaries
alike are subject to an ordering wiser than our own. By their fruits we
shall know them.

APPENDIX C
PRAYER AND SUPPLICATION

The question now arises : What ought to be our own attitude towards
the spirits with whom we enter into communication?

To begin with, it goes without saying that our attitude should be
at once responsive and serious ; that there should be no frivolity, no
credulity, and, on the other hand, no perverse or stubborn refusal to
recognise the proofs which they offer.

But here a larger question opens out. What ought we to ask from
them? In what way should we ask it? What does experience thus far
show us that we may expect to receive? It is plain that such inquiries
bring us to the threshold of the wider and deeper problem of Prayer and
Supplication generally ; of our whole appeal to the Unseen.

Approaching Prayer in this generalised manner, we feel the need of a
definition which shall be in some sense spiritual without being definitely
theological. Or let us leave to the solemn word Prayer its highest mean-
ings ; let us confine it to our attempts at communion uttered or un-
expressed with the Supreme Spirit. Let us next try to define the word



3 io CHAPTER X [App. C

Supplication in such a way as to distinguish it from a request made to a
living friend.

For our present purposes, at any rate, it seems best to define supplica-
tion as " an attempt to obtain benefits from unseen beings by an inward
disposition of our own minds." This excludes such attempts as rest on
charms or on sorcery ; and at the same time begs no question as to the
nature of the beings to whom we appeal. They are, at any rate, habitually
unseen ; it remains for us to argue from the nature of the supplication, or
of the answer, who or what the beings who may have sent that answer are
likely to be.

For the sake of clearness, I may observe that in excluding charms, &c.,
from the category of true supplication, I mean to exclude any process
which is supposed to gain the desired benefit by its own virtue without
the operation of our own minds. Charms and incantations may have, as
we shall presently see, another kind of efficiency, as mere self-suggestions.
And experience seems to show (what might antecedently have seemed
improbable) that if we wish to learn something from spirits speaking
through mortal organisms, there may be some gain in our definite
statement, in speech or writing, of the nature of the information
desired.

This, however, is a detail, and I go on to the more important question
of the benefits for which our supplications may rightly be offered up.
What, broadly speaking, are the benefits which we do actually receive
from other souls? either from the World-Soul, or from human souls still
in the flesh ? We receive Life and Knowledge, which it is our business to
develop into Love and Wisdom and Joy. Our own capacity of such
development may still be classed as Life, as spiritual Life, of which our
physical life is but the temporary vehicle. Our spiritual life is fed by the
love which we receive, our physical life by food and material aids of every
kind. Knowledge, of course, is one of the main ways of feeding our
spiritual life, and I have placed it apart here merely because its trace-
ability through particular memories makes it the most convenient subject-
matter for psychical analysis.

A definite fact, an isolable piece of knowledge, will often fulfil a
requirement which we long for in vain in physical experimentation. We
should greatly like to be able to follow some individual scrap or parcel of
energy through its successive mutations, to track exactly the given unit of
heat which is converted into a given unit of motion. Now with definite
facts we really can do something of this kind. Each piece of knowledge
is more or less distinctly ear-marked, as belonging to one or more assign-
able human memories, each of which memories contains a selection of
facts different from the selection contained in any other memory. Omni-
science of course contains all the facts, but omniscience is not likely to
show in each case the specific limitations.

The upshot of this is that there is a certain class of requests made to



App.CJ APPENDIX C 311

unseen agencies, the answers to which carry with them a strong presump-
tive proof of the identity of the minds which send them.

Such, for example, are the ordinary requests made to our discarnate
friends for information on matters connected with their lives on earth, as
illustrated by many cases through Mrs. Piper's trance. In these cases we
have virtually supplicated these persons for certain definite knowledge, and
they, and so far as I can see, no vaster intelligence than theirs, have
directly answered our supplications. Such cases belong to the long series
of requests made to the Unseen for knowledge, for truth, for light. Here
is at last a definite avenue for successful supplication, here are distinct
requests granted by intelligences identifiable, although unseen.

Leaving the question of supplication for knowledge for the present, let
us consider the results which have been found to attend supplications for
mere physical life.

Readers of this work know what a large proportion of psychological
experiment now actually going on falls under the category of supplication
or prayer for life. The pilgrims of Lourdes implore the Virgin for life
and health as the most urgent form of their devotions. Faith-healers
pray to the Divinity for life and health, Christian Scientists meditate on
the goodness of the Universe and on the love of Christ with the same
practical object. And all of these groups, as abundant testimony shows
us, are often successful in their prayers and meditations. They attain
such results that (for instance) Charcot, himself no Catholic, used often
to send his patients to Lourdes. Yet, as this juxtaposition of Charcot
with Lourdes suggests, although we note the favourable results, we have
no clear indication as to the source from whence those results come.

For we find that results equally surprising follow upon the suggestions
of hypnotisers ; and even upon mere self-suggestion. Self-suggestion is
(as I have often insisted) at the core of almost all these healing and
vivifying processes ; and what is self-suggestion but an at present indefin-
able contention or disposition of the mind?

In ancient and modern times, in East and West, among Pagans,
Buddhists, Brahmins, Mahomedans, Christians, Infidels, everywhere it has
seemed possible for men and women, by a certain stress of soul, to become
in great measure superior to pain, and often to renew vitality with a success
for which medical science cannot account. The true meaning of this far-
reaching and multiplex power of self-suggestion is one of the standing
puzzles one of the growing puzzles alike of biology and of psychology.
Without pretending to solve it, I have nevertheless in an earlier chapter
stated and defined it in a manner which may now serve to bring it into
relation with an even wider range of phenomena. For I have spoken of it
as a fluctuation in the intensity of the draft which each man's life makes
upon the Unseen. I have urged that while our life is maintained by
continual inflow from the World-soul, that inflow may vary in abundance
or energy in correspondence with variations in the attitude of our own



312 CHAPTER X [App. C

minds. So soon as this definition is made, we see that every form of
self-suggestion falls within the limits which we have assigned to supplica-
tion. The supplication of the Lourdes pilgrims, the adoring contemplation
of the Christian Scientists, the inward concentration of the self-suggesters,
the trustful anticipation of the hypnotised subject, all these are mere
shades of the same mood of mind, of the mountain- moving faith which
can in actual fact draw fresh life from the Infinite. Nor is the life thus
indrawn a physical life alone. Even from the physician's post-hypnotic
suggestion, which seems the furthest removed of all these channels from
a true spiritual inflow, both moral and intellectual revivification will
often follow.

But this reflection suggests afresh the question, already discussed in
Chapter V., whether in some such cases of hypnotic suggestion the
resultant inflow of life may not in some mediate fashion at least depend
on and emanate from the physician himself. He, no doubt, must ulti-
mately draw his own life from the Unseen ; but may there not be some
virtue passing from him which vivifies his patient of its own force ? I
have already expressed my belief that in some cases there is such virtue,
which would show from our present point of view that it is in some cases
useful to supplicate finite embodied spirits for increase of life.

May it then be desirable to supplicate finite disembodied spirits not
only for knowledge, but for life? Can they also transmit to us, more
directly, perhaps, than the embodied hypnotist, some special stream of
the informing energy of the universe ?

I believe that there is evidence that they can sometimes produce this
vivifying effect in various ways. Sometimes they seem able to transport
the sensitive's spirit into their own realm, and to infuse at once a spiritual
and a physical renovation. Sometimes they produce the impression of
material touches or passes, like those employed by the earthly hypnotist.
In that case the removal of pain, or the soothing effect, may seem to follow
directly on some unseen manifestation. ;

And this brings us to one remaining service which we may sometimes,
it seems, successfully ask disembodied spirits to perform. They will
occasionally move objects for us ; thus repeating yet further the services
rendered by embodied friends. Not, of course, that we shall think of
asking them for movements practically useful to us, like those ascribed to
the "lubber-friends" of ancient fable. It will be enough if by any dis-
placement of matter, however trivial in itself, they can manifest their
persistent power.

On the whole, then, we see that supplication obtains for us from the
Unseen a certain limited extension of the benefits which we know by
everyday experience that we can obtain from the Universe on the one
hand and from individual spirits on the other.

As regards the human spirits, in the first place, we find that our
successful supplications to them are such as they might be likely to grant,



App. C] APPENDIX C 313

assuming that they still exist, and that they have certain continuing powers
of acting upon embodied minds and upon matter in much the old way.
While they were embodied they gave us knowledge, they gave us material
help by moving objects and the like ; they renewed our strength, it may
be by touches or passes which were for us channels of the inflowing
cosmic life. Disembodied now, they operate in the same way. In some
respects the loss of the body is a drawback. They can but slightly and
rarely move ponderable matter. They can but seldom heal or vitalise
with their spirit-touch. They can communicate their knowledge only
through an organism which they invade for the purpose. But on the
other hand their knowledge, when they (fo communicate it, is of absolutely
priceless worth. Fragmentary and trivial though it may seem, it con-
stitutes the one great assurance of a providential Universe and an eternal
life.

Supplication to these spirits near ourselves has, then, assuredly not
been in vain, nay, is likely to become more and more fruitful as the con-
ditions are better understood.

At the other end of the scale, again, the prayers addressed to the
Universe, to God, or say, rather, to the Supreme which is above person-
ality, are now seen to be the normal development and intensification of
that mysterious power of self-suggestion which we witness every day. In
so saying I am far from meaning that we affect our own spirits only by
our fervent prayer. On the contrary, I have insisted that even the self-
suggestion which refuses to appeal to any higher power, which believes
that it is only calling up its own private resources into play, must derive
its ultimate efficacy from the increased inflow from the Infinite life which
the spirit's powerful effort of attention the faith of the suppliant does
in some manner induce. And the more penetrating this faith, the more
striking the results are likely to be. Beyond this point we have no
evidential warrant for going. We cannot specify from any real com-
parative experience what particular shade or colour of this saving faith is
most effectual in evoking an answer. The great intermediate names
between the spirits of our own friends and the Source of All have not
given recognisable evidence, specific proof, of their recipience and reply.
Such proof might be given, for example, if the cures at Lourdes were
really " miraculous" in the sense that they were cures of maladies never
cured elsewhere ; or even if patients at Lourdes were cured in markedly
larger proportion than, say, the patients in a hypnotic clinique. But I
have elsewhere (see 578 and 579) shown strong reasons for believing that
this is not so ; nay, that the general evidence offered for the Lourdes
cures needs a strict sifting before the residuum of fact can be separated
from the exaggerations due to strong moral prepossession, from which
the great pecuniary interests which have grown up around that place of
pilgrimage can hardly be altogether excluded. I will not say more, for
my object here is not to disparage any special type of prayer or supplica-



314 CHAPTER X [App. C

tion, but rather to insist on their importance and efficacy in general. I
wish to show that so far from our needing to suppose that an answer to
prayer is an interruption of the natural order of things, many answers to
prayer are, on the contrary, manifest extensions, natural developments,
of perfectly familiar phenomena. We already have life, and by dis-
posing our spirits rightly, we can get more life ; we already have friends
who help us on earth ; those friends survive bodily death, and are to
some extent able to help us still. It is for us to throw ourselves into the
needed mental state ; to make the heartfelt and trustful appeal. To the
benefit which we may thus derive no theoretical limit can be assigned.
It must needs grow with man's evolution; for the central fact of that
condition is the ever- increasing closeness of the soul's communion with
other souls.



713 A]



APPENDICES

TO

CHAPTER VII

713 A. It is possible that we might learn much were we to question
dying persons, on their awakening from some comatose condition, as to
their memory of any dream or vision during that state. If there has in
fact been any such experience it should be at once recorded, as it will pro-
bably fade rapidly from the patient's supraliminal memory, even if he does
not die directly afterwards. A curious case was published in Phantasms
of the Living (vol. ii. p. 305), where a dying man returns, as it were, from
the gates of death expressly to announce that he has had a vision, or " paid
a visit," of this kind which " visit," however, it was not possible to verify.

A somewhat similar instance, but with ultimate recovery of the patient,
Dr. Wiltse, was printed in the St. Louis Medical and Surgical Journal,
November, 1889, and in the Mid- Continental Review, February, 1890.
Dr. Wiltse has since obtained for us the sworn depositions of the witnesses
of importance. The experience is long, and for the most part of a
thoroughly dreamlike type ; but in any view it is extremely unusual, nor
can it be fairly understood from extracts alone. I quote, therefore, the
essential part of the case in full (from Proceedings S.P.R., vol. viii. p. 180).

[After describing his gradual sinking in the summer of 1889 under an un-
usual disease typhoid fever with subnormal temperature and pulse Dr. Wiltse
(of Skiddy, Kansas) continues as follows:] I asked if I was perfectly in posses-
sion of my mind, so that what I might say should be worthy of being relied
upon. Being answered in the decided affirmative, I bade adieu to family and
friends, giving such advice-and consolation to each and all as I deemed best,
conversed upon the proofs pro and con of immortality, and called upon each
and all to take testimony for themselves by watching the action of my mind, in
the bodily state in which they saw me, and finally, as my pupils fell open, and
vision began to fail, and my voice to weaken, feeling a sense of drowsiness
come over me, with a strong effort, I straightened my stiffened legs, got my
arms over the breast, and clasped the fast stiffening fingers, and soon sank into
utter unconsciousness.

I passed about four hours in all without pulse or perceptible heart-beat, as
I am informed by Dr. S. H. Raynes, who was the only physician present.
During a portion of this time several of the bystanders thought I was dead,
and such a report being carried outside, the village church bell was tolled.

315



316 APPENDICES [713 A

Dr. Raynes informs me, however, that by bringing his eyes close to my face,
he could perceive an occasional short gasp, so very light as to be barely per-
ceptible, and that he was upon the point, several times, of saying, " He is dead,"
when a gasp would occur in time to check him.

He thrust a needle deep into the flesh at different points from the feet to
the hips, but got no response. Although I was pulseless about four hours, this
state of apparent death lasted only about half-an-hour.

I lost, I believe, all power of thought or knowledge of existence in absolute
unconsciousness. Of course, I need not guess at the time so lost, as in such a
state a minute or a thousand years would appear the same. I came again into
a state of conscious existence and discovered that I was still in the body, but
the body and I had no longer any interests in common. I looked in astonish-
ment and joy for the first time upon myself the me, the real Ego, while the
not me closed it upon all sides like a sepulchre of clay.

With all the interest of a physician, I beheld the wonders of my bodily
anatomy, intimately interwoven with which, even tissue for tissue, was I, the
living soul of that dead body. I learned that the epidermis was the outside



Online LibraryFrederic William Henry MyersHuman personality : and its survival of bodily death (Volume 2) → online text (page 42 of 89)