Frederic William Henry Myers.

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ment to come. We shall not only see the spectrum of supraliminal
consciousness largely extended in both directions, but shall also realise
that this extension implies a new environment an environment whose
laws we have yet to learn, and whose denizens to encounter.

Let us discuss, then, the subliminally guided faculties in the same
order in which we have just discussed the faculties of common life.


(a) Suggestion, Self-suggestion, Psycho-therapeutics. And first as to the
influence of subliminal control on bodily nutrition. We have here, as it
happens, the most conspicuous and popular group in our whole range of
unfamiliar phenomena. The experimental study of the subliminal self
was virtually originated by the empirical discovery that " mesmeric passes,"
and afterwards that hypnotic suggestion in general, had power to alter the
condition of the nervous system ; to induce sleep, to relieve pain, to re-
establish arrested secretion, and to restore morbid secretion to healthy
normality. I have already discussed (in Sections 568-570) the part which
an actual effluence, or a telepathic impact, may play in such operations
as these, and will take here the only remaining logical view, which assumes
that suggestion from a hypnotiser is virtually self-suggestion ; the hypno-
tiser's order having merely the power of reaching in some unexplained
way the subject's subliminal self, and setting in action that hyperboulia,
so to term it, that extension of will-power over parts of the organism
unreachable by supraliminal will, which enables the hidden self to
achieve the marvellous restorations of " psycho- therapeutics." For this
submerged and intimate will can wield, as it were, the very vis medicatrix
natura, and chase back the runaway molecules into a road made familiar
to them by long memories of healthy action.

(0) Stigmatisation. Yet this, though the easiest, is not the only road
down which the dominated molecules can be driven. The various pheno-

1 The reader must observe that the standpoint adopted for the purpose of this special
argument differs from that of the hookas a whole, in which the onus probandi is laid on
the spiritistic theory. EDITORS.

VOL. II. 2 K

5 i4 APPENDICES [926 A

mena of modified secretion to which the conventional name of stigmatisa-
tion has been given consist in a selective direction of cells or of even
minuter bodily elements away from their settled customary performance,
through changes which the predecessors of these cells have indeed
traversed before, but never without specific objective cause never on
so impalpable an invitation. The serum which rises in the " suggested "
blisters is in itself no novel product ; but its evocation without mechanical
irritation shows (as I have urged elsewhere, see 543) a quite novel power
to play upon the organism as with purposive manipulation from within.


(a) Mechanical Work Modified by Psychical Integration or Disin-
tegration ; Hysteria. And next as to the effect of subliminal control upon
the organism's expenditure ; in the first place upon its expenditure in
muscular energy. The amount of muscular energy which the supra-
liminal self can control may at first sight be regarded as a compromise,
achieved in the struggle for existence, between present and future con-
venience. It can put forth, that is to say, just so much energy as
is generally compatible with avoiding any serious risk of injury to the
organism. But this explanation will not take into account all the elements
of the problem. The human organism is an imperfectly unified colony
of cells ; and there is nothing to show us that the precise degree of
integration to which we attain in ordinary life is such as to enable our
organism to exert its maximum of energy without risk of injury.

We find, in fact, that a capacity of greater effort may be the result or
the concomitant either of disintegration or of further integration. The
great increase of muscular power which sometimes accompanies mania
is an instance of the first, and the manner in which the increased energy
in such cases becomes apparent throws some light on subliminal operation
generally. This subject has been fully discussed in Chapters II. and III.
I have shown that the same increase of energy may follow on increased
integration, of which I regard Genius as the palmary instance. In short,
and as might have been expected, the katabolic as well as the anabolic
forces, the output as well as the intake of the bodily frame, are amenable,
in more ways than we can suppose ourselves to have yet discovered, to
subliminal control.

() Production of Heat, and other Specific Effects upon Matter, Sub-
liminally Modified. Turning now to effects other than mechanical
produced upon the material world, we find rather suggestions for experi-
mentation than records of experiment adequately performed. The
subjective sensation of heat can, of course, readily be produced by
hypnotic suggestion, and in a sensitive subject perspiration may follow,
si dixeris, Aestuo, sudat : but I know of no experiment which has com-
pared the total heat emitted by the organism in a normal state and under


suggestion. Suggestions involving bodily odour and chemical conditions
have thus far been confined to psycho-therapeutics, although here also
there might well be experiments with a purely scientific aim. But the
most important effect of a supernormal kind alleged to have been pro-
duced upon matter in the course of experiment on subliminal faculty is
the old-fashioned mesmeric effluence, which, in the opinion of Elliotson,
Esdaile, &c., was proved to affect not only the human organism, but
water and other inanimate matter (see 541 and K). This view is
entirely out of fashion now, and we ourselves have wholly failed to con-
firm it by experiment; but the history of hypnotism has consisted so
largely in the confident disavowal, followed by the gradual re-discovery,
though often with a new interpretation, of phenomena alleged by the
earlier mesmerists, that it would, I think, hardly be safe to set aside this
" mesmerisation of objects " as due merely to suggestion, until it shall
have been tested by many more experiments, performed with modern
exactitude and care.

(c) Emission of Light, and Generation of Electrical Energy Modified.
A like need for experiment exists with regard to phenomena of luminosity,
alleged from time to time to accompany abnormal conditions of the
human frame. " Some startling but apparently well-authenticated cases,"
says the writer of the article on " Phosphorescence " in the Encyclopedia
Britannica, " are on record of human beings having been luminous owing
to certain states of disease." Of such cases I shall have more to say
presently. This phenomenon has been frequently noted both in and by
persons in a trance condition ; but usually under circumstances where one
cannot be sure that the effect was not a merely subjective one. With Mr.
Moses, however, it was repeatedly observed during stances, being generally
visible to Mrs. Speer, and sometimes to all the sitters. Mrs. Speer writes :
" I have often seen Mr. Moses enveloped in a luminous cloud or white
mist, and when he rubbed his hands phosphorescent light seemed to be
emitted from his fingers. This light enabled him to see his own hands in
the dark." I find an entry in Mr. Moses' notebooks to the effect that on
one occasion at least he saw his hands luminous when he had returned to
his own rooms after a stance. I shall return to this subject hereafter
when dealing with " Spirit- Lights " ; but this phosphorescence of the
sensitive himself seems to belong rather to the category of subliminal
control. It seems not improbable that such manifestations may be made
more intelligible by further discoveries on the lines of those recently made
by physicists as to the luminescent effects produced by obscure radia-
tions whose existence was previously unsuspected.


(a) Prenatal Suggestion through Intermediate Organism of Parent.
We come next to the problem of the influence of subliminal control on
the realm of life, on the manner in which the sum of life on earth is


supplied by fresh incarnations from the unknown environing energy.
The first question will be as to the power of suggestion, by influencing the
mother, to influence the unborn child. And so large a collection has
now been made of cases where an impression, produced (more often, of
course, by accident than by design) upon the mother has been reflected
by the offspring (see 526) that I feel entitled to assume such influence as
highly probable, if not established. 1 This fact, if fact it be, is of an im-
portance greater than has yet been realised. We cannot fix a terminus a
quo before which such influence is impossible; and the much-needed
science of "eugenics" seems likely to depend largely upon a psychical


(a) Hyperasthesia ; Anesthesia ; Analgesia. We have now dealt with
the influence of the subliminal self in upbuilding the organism, and in
modifying the organism's effect upon its environment. With the dis-
cussion of its effect upon the world of life we have reached as it were the
watershed of physical and psychical determination ; and we proceed now
to the region of intellectual effects ; of influence subliminally exercised,
first upon sensory receptivity, and then upon motor response.

Subliminal modifications of sensory receptivity, important as they are.
have been already so fully discussed in Chapter V. that we need here do
no more than recapitulate them, thus preparing the reader for the still
more potent sway which we shall find ascribed to spirits over the per-
ception of men. Briefly, then, the senses can be either stimulated or
suspended to an extent hardly yet fathomed. Cases of hyper&sthesia are
recorded which seem scarcely compatible with that we know of the
structure of the sensory end-organs themselves.

So profound an ahasthesia, on the other hand, may be produced that
prolonged and painful operations can be undergone without evoking a
murmur. Nay, what is even more remarkable, the sense of pain may be
abrogated while other sensations remain intact, and an analgesia produced
which is no result of disease or disintegration, but apparently the highest
the most serviceable condition to which the organism has yet been

() Hypermnesia, Manifested in Dreams or Automatisms. The sub-
liminal control of memory of the stored-up knowledge derived from past
sensation shows a similar advance upon the supraliminal. To retain in
supraliminal memory or sufficiently near the threshold to be summoned
at will even facts or scenes upon which we have deliberately fixed atten-

1 The best list of references is to be found in a book otherwise of little value,
" ^Edoeology," by S. B. Elliott, M.D., Boston, U.S.A., 1893. See also Professor
Macalister on Stigmatisation (ad Jin.) in Encyclopedia Britannica. The list of cases
has been much extended since Professor Macalister wrote.


tion is a task which often exceeds our powers. But some reason has been
shown for believing that in the subliminal memory we possess at least a
much fuller, if not a complete, record of all that has passed, even, as we
say, " unnoticed," across our visual or auditory field ; and in hypermnesic
dreams and crystal vision we seem to peep for the moment into a treasure-
house whose existence was not suspected till now.

There seem, moreover, to be various influences, as yet hardly realised
or defined, which should rather rank as sensory than under any other
heading, namely, the heterxsthesice discussed in 541.

(c ) Telepathy ; Veridical Hallucinations ; Sensory Automatism. And
here we reach a critical point in our series ; the introduction, namely,
among phenomena which may be regarded as merely extending powers
already known, of those newly recognised and manifestly supernormal
faculties of telepathy and telaesthesia (or clairvoyance) with which so much
of our work in psychical research has been concerned. Can we still
regard ourselves as passing only from one to another degree of faculty
exercised in the already known environment? or are we beginning to
observe human faculty operating in an environment new to science ? At
first sight, the least inconceivable explanation of telepathy might seem to
lie in assuming a fresh form of ether- waves which should carry the vibra-
tions of one brain and imprint them on another.

I have already shown (632-634) the inadequacy of this theory to ex-
plain even many simple experimental cases still more cases of collective
percipience, of telepathy from the dead, and of the faculties analogous to
telepathy to be discussed immediately, telaesthesia and clairvoyance, pre-
cognition and retrocognition. We may still, however, find some points of
transition between at least the supraliminal manifestations of telepathy and
phenomena already known. And telepathy is thus linked with the sense-
perception and the memory which we have just been discussing ; even as
we shall presently find it linked with emotion and will. In the first place,
the hyperasthesia which I have claimed for the subliminal self seems some-
times to pass gradually beyond the point which any sensory influence can
be stretched to cover. We must then assume at least a mingling of
some form of supernormal acquisition of knowledge ; telepathy if we
have an agent's mind already possessed of that knowledge, telaesthesia
if no such agent can be suggested.

The hypermnesia, again, of which we were but now speaking seems often
to act as a kind of nidus for germs of knowledge borne home from some
other quarter. In itself this extension of subliminal memory is most
significant of hidden faculty. For the extended memory itself implies
intellectual operation ; it is not a mere indiscriminating photograph, but
an impressionist or sometimes even a symbolical picture, where facts sub-
jectively important are brought into intentional prominence. And that
picture let us take for example an actual picture seen in a crystal is
selected from amongst a presumable multitude of its congeners, and pre-


sented to supraliminal view at the useful moment. And often, as I have
said, among the contents of this subliminal memory unexpected items
float up into cognisance ; crystal-vision or hallucination turns out to be
veridical to tell truly of a fact which no actual observation, however
acute, can ever have stored up in the subliminal memory. We find, in
short, that the subliminal consciousness does not only acquire and retain
a fuller picture of its material surroundings than the every day waking man
can boast, but also acquires knowledge by means of its own, and especially
by telepathic impression from other minds.

(</) Telcesthesia or Clairvoyance ; Perception of Distant Scenes ; Retro-
cognition, Precognition. The knowledge which is received by telepathy
is knowledge which has been already worked up, so to say, into manage-
able form in another mind. Is it possible that this power of spiritual
perception can be still further extended? that the human spirit can
absorb knowledge without the aid either of its own bodily senses or of
other minds?

I believe that our answer must be affirmative, and indeed that this
power of tekesthesia is a faculty perhaps of wider range than telepathy
itself. Naturally, we cannot always distinguish such a phenomenon from
telepathy ; and in many cases of " telepathic clairvoyance " both powers
seem to have been at work ; the agent's crisis summoning the percipient's
subliminal attention, and the percipient then discerning details of which
the agent was not himself directly conscious. Such scenes seem to come
midway between telepathy proper and the telaesthetic perception of quite
indifferent scenes, presented to the percipient in waking vision or crystal-
picture or dream, as it were at random ; as though the casual slipping
of a shutter in some vast camera obscura had thrown upon the mind's
receptive surface a remote and irrelevant segment of the reflected totality
of things.

Nor is this all. For it is, perhaps, under this wide heading of
telaesthesia that mention should be made of a still more surprising ex-
tension of view, from things distant in space to things distant in time also.
I need not here repeat the arguments which indicate that these percep-
tions, although partly due to spiritual communications, seem also partly
due to faculties of the subliminal self.


(a) Subliminal Ideation ; the Inspirations of Genius. From this brief
review of the influence of the subliminal self on mental nutrition, let us
turn to consider its influence on mental expenditure. There is, of course,
no hard and fast line between the two, 'E<r/*v evepyeta, and all our con-
sciousness is Will in the making. All cerebration, in other words, is
probably at once sensory and motor; and at any rate when we are
dealing with " subliminal messages " it must seem a matter almost of


chance whether the message shall take the sensory form of hallucination,
visual or auditory, or the motor form of an impulse to write or speak.
But first we have to deal, under this heading, with something which is not
for us in common parlance either sensory or motor ; namely, ideation ;
or such intra-cerebral readjustments as involve only images which fall
short of hallucination and impulses which have not yet set the muscles in

I have urged elsewhere (in Chapter III.) that even our habitual
current of thought bears abundant testimony to cerebration beneath
the ordinary threshold of consciousness. 1 With all of us there are
subliminal uprushes incursions of ideas and images ready-made and
vivid into the superficial stratum of more continuous, but less ardent, less
flashing thought. Such uprushes, although alike in mechanism, leave
products of very different worth. For most men nothing better than dust
and scoriae is flung up from the subterranean chambers ; for few only do
the rock-fragments bear in their cavities the precious crystals which have
gathered in hidden laboratories into the emerald's or the ruby's glow.

(b) Motor Automatism ; Concurrent Consciousness ; Hyperboulia. So
long as we confine ourselves to these intra-cerebral responses to external
stimuli, we have no obvious line to draw between the ideas which we
manufacture piecemeal above the threshold and those which come to us
ready-made from below. Even here, no doubt, there are physiological
effects already indicating an extension of mental influence over the bodily
frame. When, in the poet's words, " a great thought strikes along the
brain, and flushes all the cheek," the sudden uprush of ideation has affected
the vaso- motor system in a way which we cannot deliberately rival. But
yet this glowing thought has come mixed with cooler thoughts ; it runs,
so to say, into the amalgam of common life. We have now to note that
a point may be reached, in some men if not in all, where the two streams
of faculty are not conjoint but concurrent ; the subliminal faculty using the
organism in a separate and definite manner, in writing, namely, or speech,
which in reference to the man's habitual processes seems automatic or
even quasi-external, and which suggests to him that some intelligence
other than his own must be moving his hand or speaking through his
mouth. Sometimes, as I believe, such an external intelligence is indeed
at work ; oftener the man's own deeper self is thus acting on his empirical
self, and writing its own messages with the hand to which it has, after all,
an equal claim.

1 It may be worth while to remind the reader that the first important statement in
English of the Leibnitzian view of " latent modifications " of minds occurs in Sir W.
Hamilton's "Lectures on Metaphysics" (Lect. XVIII.). Dr. Carpenter, to whom the
theory is sometimes popularly ascribed, added little except the term "unconscious
cerebration." But in reality Leibnitz, with his " insensible perceptions," was nearer the
truth (as I conceive it) than either Hamilton or Carpenter; for he did not explicitly
deny accompanying consciousness ; and that there is a subliminal consciousness I regard
(as my readers know) as certain.


From many points of view these automatic motor messages form for
us a central and instructive phenomenon. In the first place it is obvious
that they are closely allied with sometimes interchangeable with sensory
hallucinations. They thus materially support the view that these phantoms
also are in the same sense automatic ; that is, that they are for the most
part at least shaped by the percipient's own subliminal self, and presented
to his supraliminal perception as a method of informing or influencing
him from the depths of his own being. In the second place, they enable
us to set out a continuous series from the transitory phenomena of hyp-
notic suggestion at the one end to changes of personality and " spirit-pos-
session" at the other end. We start, say, from Edmund Gurney's post-
hypnotic experiment, where you tell a man a fact in the trance which on
waking he forgets, but which he can nevertheless write out automatically
with no recognition of its source. Here we know perfectly whence the
fact originally came ; we can feel sure that no telepathic, no disembodied
influence has been brought to bear. Then come the ordinary mass of
spontaneous automatic messages, presumably self-originated, since they
contain no fact which the automatist may not have learnt by ordinary
sensory means. And from this point the automatisms may diverge in
several directions. They may, as I have already said, begin to show
knowledge which, cannot have been acquired by normal means ; which
seems as if it must have come telepathically from living men ; or even
knowledge which, alike in its substance and in its lacunae, seems coin-
cident with the presumable knowledge and ignorance of some departed

This is of course the most interesting form of development. But the
automatisms may also become markedly impressive in a different way.
While still showing no actual knowledge beyond the automatist's normal
reach, they may nevertheless assume a character so distinct, a mode of
self-expression so deeply involving the entire organism, that they come
to rank as new phases of personality, representing fresh positions of rela-
tive stability into which the man's psychical being may be thrown.

And here again, while thus led forward to our impending notice of
Modifications of Personality, we are also led backward to our previous
account of psycho-therapeutics and self-suggestion, of the modification of
physical nutrition by subliminal control. What we there described, so to
say, from the outside, we are now regarding from the inward or subjective
point of view. For these motor automatisms pass insensibly into hyper-
boulia; that is to say, the same subliminal motor response to stimuli
which guides the automatist's hand in this strange fashion is not limited
in power to mere writing or vocal utterance ; it can work upon stomach or
liver as well as upon hand or tongue. It has overpassed the traditional
bounds in one direction; it shows next that it can overpass them in
another ; it leaves us asking what bounds it may not overpass. Much
in the same way did Frenchmen once speculate as to what causes in a


paper constitution the First Consul was likely to respect. The nerve-
system is a kind of traditional Constitution ; the Will is a force whose
strength, whose very nature, is all unknown. The Will, we say, acts
directly on striped muscle and not on unstriped. What is this but a
convention which wills obey because they have always obeyed it? What
boundary line can the physiologist draw through the phenomena of
man's bodily life, assuring us that here the purposive must necessarily end,
and the unpurposed, the inevitable begin ? If Will does anything, why
should it not do all?

(<:) Extradition of Witt-power beyond the Organism ; Telergy ; Self-
prqection. And if the despot chooses to ignore his own country's Con-
stitution, what guarantee have we that he will respect treaty-obligations

Online LibraryFrederic William Henry MyersHuman personality : and its survival of bodily death (Volume 2) → online text (page 69 of 89)