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to form, the other can compose a fresh secretion, with a definite aim.

A definite aim, I say, speaking at present of the odoriferous and
recognisable character alone. But it is not impossible that the secre-
tion may have had a therapeutic value as well. It may conceivably have
carried off waste products more effectively than the ordinary perspiration
of which it seems to have been a modified form.

However this may be, the above brief discussion may have suggested
to us that it is by the comparative method here adopted that we have the
best chance of bringing these grotesque marvels into some true analogy
with experiments already known to science.


(a) Mechanical Efficiency Increased and Fulcrum Displaced. Having
thus dealt briefly with spirit-influence as exercised upon the processes of
nutrition, let us go on to consider in what way this influence seems to
affect the output of energy, streaming from the organism into the
molecular or the etherial world. And, first, let us consider mechanical
work done in simple, molar form the movements of heavy untouched
objects which recur so habitually in records such as these. When we
hear of such a movement we ask ourselves whether it can be shown to be
consistent with the ordinary mechanical law of action and reaction, and
with the wider generalisation of the conservation of energy. Where is the
fulcrum? How great, and whence derived, is the energy employed?
The question of the fulcrum might conceivably be settled by actual
experiment. In its present condition it forms part of the more general
problem of so-called " ectoplasy," or extrusion from the organism of vital
energy, which will be considered under a later heading. As to the source
of the energy, we must needs suppose that to be in the organism of the
medium, unless it should be shown to exceed any amount of which we
can suppose his organism capable. At first sight it has sometimes seemed
(as with D. D. Home) to exceed this amount. But in our estimation we
must bear in mind that (as was said above) an increase of at least
momentary muscular power may come from one of two causes may be
either the result of integration or the concomitant of disintegration. As
the concomitant of disintegration, in hysteria or mania, the symptom is
a familiar one, and indicates the unequal conservation of efferent and
inhibitory stimuli. A reckless order as for a Balaclava charge is given to
the muscles, and there is no wise superior officer to countermand or restrain.
VOL. n. 2 L


But, on the other hand, the weakness of the general, while it permits
of rashness in the army which has got out of hand, may also fail to utilise
the healthy ardour of an obedient host. The strong-willed, educated
savant can sometimes compress the dynamometer more forcibly than the
robust ploughman ; not because his hands are stronger, but because he
can at a given moment throw a greater proportion of his total energy into
them. How far such increase of power might go we know not. The
limit of the force which human muscles could theoretically exert is far
from being reached in common life.

If, then, it is asked whether these phenomena appear to transgress the
law of Conservation of Energy, we can affirm that they do not, in the
sense that the work done, so far as measurable in foot-pounds, does not
manifestly exceed the work which the sensitive's organism, could we
suppose it handled as a familiar instrument by a mind completely under-
standing it, could probably accomplish without permanent injury. And
we may add that, according to statements made by the controls in Mr.
Moses' and other cases, some of the force thus used is taken from other
persons present ; in which case there would probably be an ample surplus,
after all the recorded feats had been performed.

But the possible satisfaction in some obscure manner of the law of
Conservation of Energy brings us but little nearer to a justification of the
alleged phenomena. We do not know, in fact, how much energy such
phenomena would need, for no amount of energy, applied in any way
known to ourselves, could possibly produce them.

(b) Control over Individual Material Molecules ; Resulting in Abroga-
tion of Ordinary Thermal Laws, and in Aggregation and Disaggregation
of Matter. These novel dealings with matter, while very various in char-
acter, are all of them such as to suggest that here also the agent (though
perhaps not consciously) is acting upon molecules and not upon masses ;
here, also, in the inanimate and inorganic world, just as it seemed to me
might be the case in spirit-action upon a living brain.

Let us consider for a moment the advance in power over nature which
such a mode of action would imply.

Habitually we deal with matter in a molar manner ; taking little or no
account of the molecular changes involved in the execution of our molar
designs. Since the rise of the kinetic theory of gases say for this last
half-century we have also been able to deal with matter molecularly, but
merely (as Maxwell expresses it) in statistical fashion ; dealing with
molecules in immense numbers, and achieving results which, though far
more delicate and penetrating than any molar results could be, must
nevertheless seem rude and wholesale to any intelligence which can
actually discern the molecules which we merely infer. " Our actual
knowledge of concrete things," says Maxwell, 1 "is of an essentially
statistical nature, because no one has yet discovered any practical

1 Theory of Heat, chap. xxii.


method of tracing the path of a molecule, or of identifying it at different

The mathematical physicist and the chemist, in fact, have somewhat
the same sort of knowledge of their molecules that the Registrar-General
has of the population. So much hydrogen combining with so much
oxygen will make water ; explode them together and you get your drop ;
but who can say which hydrogen-atom will combine with a given atom of
oxygen? "There will be about so many marriages next year," says the
Registrar-General ; but he perforce leaves the individual brides and bride-
grooms to sort themselves. To foresee or to guide the affinities of each
several molecule would be for the physicist as great a step in advance as
it would be for the Registrar-General could he foresee or guide every
impulse to wedlock in the United Kingdom.

Assume, then, for the sake of argument, a power like this. Assume
that we can distinctly see and easily deal with each of the countless
millions of molecules contained in a single room. We see them dis-
tinguished one from another by speed, by direction of movement, by size,
by complexity, by intrinsic vibration ; this last difference corresponding
to what we deem difference of elemental constitution. We can therefore
direct or combine all these as we will. We can, for instance, to take one
of the phenomena here recorded, disequalise the temperature of two parts
of a closed chamber by directing the swiftly- moving molecules to one side
of an imaginary partition, the more slowly-moving to the other, and thus
making the belts of cooler and warmer air of which Mr. Moses tells us.
But here I pause ; for the argument has reached a point where it is liable
to attack on two opposite sides. On the one side it will be regarded as
intolerably novel and extravagant ; while on the other side it will be set
down as the mere plagiarism of a familiar physical speculation. It was,
in fact, at about this point of an argument which, as the reader has seen,
had led me by a vital or psychological rather than by a physical road to
this conception of selective molecular action, that it became plain to me
that Professor Clerk Maxwell's Sorting Demons had been already trained
if I may so say to the very performances which I was now ascribing to
spirit-power. The reader has probably already recollected these imaginary
creatures ; invented by the great physicist to illustrate a process by which
it would be theoretically possible to arrest the dissipation of energy and
to disequalise anew the temperature of the Universe. I turned to Lord
Kelvin's Popular Lectures and Addresses, vol. i. p. 144, for the fullest
description of the natural history of this minutest species of Chimaera,
bombitans in vacua to some purpose now ! I found what virtually amounts
to an explanation, on this hypothesis, of most of the phenomena of Mr.
Moses' stances, so far as concerned with inanimate matter.

He is a being (says Lord Kelvin, of Maxwell's Demon) with no preter-
natural qualities, and differs from real living animals only in extreme smallness
and agility. He can at pleasure stop, or strike, or push, or pull any single


atom of matter, and so moderate its natural course of motion. Endowed
ideally with arms and hands and fingers two hands and ten fingers
suffice he can do as much for atoms as a pianoforte player can do for
the keys of the piano just a little more, he can push and pull each atom in
any direction.

He cannot create or annul energy ; but just as a living animal does, he can
store up limited quantities of energy, and reproduce them at will. By operating
selectively on individual atoms he can reverse the natural dissipation of energy,
can cause one half of a closed jar of air, or of a bar of iron, to become glowing
hot, and the other ice-cold ; can direct the energy of the moving molecules of
a basin of water to throw the water up to a height, and leave it there pro-
portionately cooled (i deg. Fahrenheit for 772 ft. of ascent); can "sort" the
molecules in a solution of salt or in a mixture of two gases, so as to reverse the
natural process of diffusion, and produce concentration of the solution in one
portion of the water, leaving pure water in the remainder of the space occupied ;
or in the other case separate the gases into different parts of the containing
vessel. The classification, according to which the ideal demon is to sort them,
may be according to the essential character of the atom ; for instance, all
atoms of hydrogen to be let go to the left, or stopped from crossing to the right,
across an ideal boundary ; or it may be according to the velocity each atom
chances to have when it approaches the boundary if greater than a certain
stated amount it is to go to the right ; if less, to the left. This latter rule of
assortment, carried into execution by the demon, disequalises temperature and
undoes the natural diffusion of heat the former undoes the natural diffusion
of matter. By a combination of the two processes the demon can decompose
water or carbonic acid, first raising a portion of the compound to dissociational
temperature (that is, temperature so high that the collisions shatter the com-
pound molecules to atoms), and then sending the oxygen atoms this way, and
the hydrogen or carbon that way; or he may affect decomposition against
chemical affinity otherwise thus : Let him take in a small store of energy by
resisting the mutual approach of two compound molecules, letting them press
as it were on his two hands, and store up energy as in a bent spring ; then let
him apply the two hands between the oxygen and the double hydrogen
constituents of a compound molecule of vapour of water, and tear them
asunder. He may repeat this process until a considerable proportion of the
whole number of compound molecules in a given quantity of vapour of water,
given in a fixed closed vessel, are separated into oxygen and hydrogen at the
expense of energy taken from translational motions. 1

Let us then consider with what degree of success a well-trained demon

1 Having appealed to Lord Kelvin's authority in the above discussion, I feel bound
at once to add that no one would probably be less willing than the illustrious author
himself to sanction the use which I proceed to make of his brilliant conceptions. In a
lecture, delivered 1883, and republished 1891, in the second edition of Popular Lectures
and Addresses (Nature Series), vol. i. p. 265, Lord Kelvin gives his view on our whole
range of subjects with perfect clearness.

" Now I have hinted at a possible seventh sense a magnetic sense and though
out of the line I propose to follow, and although time is precious, and does not permit
much of digression, I wish just to remove the idea that I am in any way suggesting any-
thing towards that wretched superstition of animal magnetism, and table-turning, and
spiritualism, and mesmerism, and clairvoyance, and spirit-rapping, of which we have


from Lord Kelvin's laboratory could have acquitted himself at a stance
of Mr. Moses' or of D. D. Home's.

He can cause one half of a closed jar of air or of a bar of iron to
become glowing hot, and the other ice-cold.

Here at once he scores a success which will make him an almost
unique " mediumistic " reputation. Among modern civilised mediums at
any rate whatever may be the case in savage countries Home is the
only one who has obtained the fire-test under good observation. When
he put his own head in the glowing fire, or handed blazing coals to the
company in a lady's pocket handkerchief, as described by Sir William
Crookes, Lord Crawford, and others, all he needed was the familiar
demon who took care that between the glow and the handkerchief there
should always be a layer of slowly-moving, cool, fresh, carbon -molecules,
while the frenzied spinning carbon-molecules at a red heat were kept
easily and completely within their imaginary wall. Having accomplished
this, it would be mere child's play for our demon to disequalise the
temperature of Dr. Speer's study, and to produce the alternate belts of
cold and warm air of which Mr. Moses has told us above. The recorded
fall of six degrees in the minimum thermometer, and the cold winds over
heads and hands, would be trifling examples of the same power.

He can direct the energy of the moving molecules of a basin of water to
throw the water up to a height and leave it there proportionately cooled.

Grant him liquid scent, then, of which more presently, and he can
make it fall in cool dew from the ceiling as easily as not. Or he may
have been at work when the following incident, testified to by Lord
Dunraven, occurred with Home. {Experiences in Spiritualism, p. 77.)
" He then again raised the glass [of brandy] over his head, and the liquid
was withdrawn. He then told me to come and hold my hand above the
glass ; I did so, and the liquid fell over and through my fingers into the
glass, dropping from the air above me."

He can sort the molecules in a solution of salt, so as to reverse the natural
process of diffusion, and produce concentration of the solution in one portion
of the water, leaving pure water in the remainder of the space occupied.

He could, then, have continued the little experiment described above.

heard so much. There is no seventh sense of the mystic kind. Clairvoyance, and the
like, are the result of bad observation chiefly, somewhat mixed up, however, with the
effects of wilful imposture, acting on an innocent, trusting mind."

If, as to my innocent, trusting mind seems not impossible, the time should some day
come when critics shall say of these Proceedings that they have merely brought out as
novelties things which every one already knew, it may be of interest to refer to this
utterance of the President of the Royal Society, and foremost savant of Great Britain.
And if, as I also conjecture, Lord Kelvin's own speculations on matter and energy
should find both confirmation and development in a better understanding of these
telekinetic phenomena we shall have a palmary example of the historic truth that a
leader of thought in one age often prepares, while he protests against, the thought of the
next ; may be at once its most contemptuous opponent and its most illuminating


" [Home] then said, ' I am going to take the strength from the brandy,'
and he began making passes over the glass and flipping his fingers, send-
ing a strong smell of spirit through the room. In about five minutes he
had made the brandy as weak as very weak brandy and water ; it scarcely
tasted at all of spirit. Both Lindsay [now Lord Crawford] and I tasted
it at the moment, and also some after the stance was over."

A little practice would have enabled our demon to carry this trick a
step further, as follows :

" Home then made some very curious experiments with flowers ; he
separated the scent into two portions, one odour smelling exactly like
earth, the other being very sweet." And so a fresh lemon with its acid
removed, "the flavour being a sort of mawkish alkali; some describing
it as like magnesia, others as like washing soda."

Visiting, we will suppose, Mr. Moses' stances after these exploits, our
demon would very easily have drawn the scent from the flowers, as de-
scribed below.

The classification according to which the ideal demon is to sort them \_the
atoms\ may be according to the essential character of the atom ; for instance,
all atoms of hydrogen to be let go to the left, &c.

This looks promising for that manufacture of liquid scents, pearls, and
imitation gems which went on briskly at Dr. Speer's. Only our demon
may be puzzled to get at his hydrogen, for instance, which he may not find
lying about loose in a gentleman's study. Water and coal gas, however,
he will probably find there ; will these do ?

The demon can decompose water or carbonic acid, first raising a portion
of the compound to dissociational temperature, and then sending the oxygen
atoms this way and the hydrogen or carbon that way.

He has really now, I think, gone through all that is necessary, and we
need hardly trouble him to keep his little hands uncomfortably strained,
in order to store up energy ; unless, indeed, this be needed for a feat which
he cannot well have practised in outlying space ; namely, that triumph over
the force of cohesion which is necessary to get a handbell through a party
wall, or an orange through the keyhole.

In some such half-ironical fashion, as it seems to me, can we best deal
at present with these mysteries of the constitution of matter, which are in
reality as yet almost equally beyond the grasp of sage or of simpleton. I
have shown that the things which Mr. Moses' guides are said to do are
things of which great minds have loved to fancy the doing. I have shown
that since in their view there was not a spirit to do them, they have found
it necessary to invent one. " Whom therefore they ignorantly worship "
the being whom they conceive as moving at ease and naturally in a
clearly seen molecular world him do these records declare to them as
the operative agency amid marvels which once again " contempt prior to
examination " has led most of our best minds to neglect and ignore.

I shall not venture further in proprid persona upon this dangerous


ground. But I will quote here one of the answers of Mr. Moses' guides
when appealed to on these points, that the reader may, at any rate, judge
how far what they say is in accordance with speculations of which it is
not likely that either they or their medium had ever heard. In fairness
to them and to him I quote first (from Mr. Moses' note-books, see
943 A), one of their emphatic declarations that in his case all physical
phenomena were absolutely subsidiary to the spiritual development which
was their central aim :

April \6th, 1876. No good end was to be got by lingering on the plane
where everything is more or less vague and shifting ; and where whatever truth
may be gained is only an elementary enlightenment of material ignorance. It
is not for you to deal with the plane of Physics ; come upward to the realm
of Spirit. For others it may be well to investigate the lines of contact between
Matter and Spirit. It is not your work. Leave it. For others it may be well
to develop the tentative attempts of spirit to project itself on the plane of matter.
Leave it. It is not your work. Your organism is unfitted for it, and you could
not attempt it without risk.

I will now quote a few words on the removal of scent from a flower :

I want to ask how my flower came to be so dead ?

" The odour was all drawn from it. Hence the perfumes that you had
during the stance. The vital principle of the flower was gone. Hence it was
dead ; and the decay was owing to that fact. The principle was abstracted,
even as the vital force is drawn from you."

Then was the strain on it mere decay ?

" Yes, it withered and died because its spirit was gone ; even as your earth
body will wither and die when the spirit leaves it. You saw much of this before,
when Odorifer scented flowers for you, and drew the perfume from them. It
is not new. + RECTOR."

We have now considered both some apparently molar displacements
of matter, and some that must needs have involved molecular rearrange-
ment. And it will probably be admitted that even the coarser phenomena
movements of tables and the like must have involved some molecular
process to get the requisite .power from the medium's organism to operate
at the new fulcrum. We have, therefore, a mixture of processes resem-
bling the way in which we ourselves work with processes quite strange to
us. It seems as though these might often be interchanged at pleasure ;
and there are passages which describe two cameos one of them as having
been actually cut and chipped in the stance-room by invisible hands, and
the other as having been shaped directly by " will-power," with no carving
process. A third way of effecting the same end is also mentioned ; that
of suggesting the work to a mortal artist.

One of the most interesting of all modifications of matter presumably
contained in the room consists in " direct writing," the disposition of
coloured matter in a form simulating the handwriting of some identified


spirit. This phenomenon occurred at an early date in the experiences
of Mr. Moses.

In such cases the content as well as the method of the writing is
naturally important, in so far as it may throw light upon the identities
concerned. There are here two separate questions. Firstly : Are the
spirits who thus write directly the same as those who write through the
medium's hand ? Secondly : Are they the spirits who they profess to
be ? The first of these questions must, I think, be answered in the affir-
mative. The direct signatures closely resemble the automatic signatures,
and the two forms of writing are intimately intermixed. Sometimes, for
instance, letters were formed under the shadow of Mr. Moses' hand, while
he himself wrote as usual ; or the letters were even formed under his gaze
(when he was alone) in the light. The authors of the automatic script
always claimed authorship of the direct script also.

But on the other hand, I do not see that the direct writing adds to
the evidence for identity supplied by the automatic writing, except in so
far as it shows that the claim to identity pervades every manifestation.
Beings who can make pearls and carve cameos can presumably deposit
chalk and arrange patterns thereof just as they choose, imitating any
signature known to them with none of that special difficulty in the imi-
tation of characteristics of handwriting which is felt on earth. Direct
writing, in short, seems to be conditioned in much the same way as other
phenomena by the mind of the medium.

The colouring matter used might either be apparently derived from
some chalk pencil already in the room, or might have no obvious source.

And it may here be observed that, just as in the phenomena which
looked the most crude and massive we seemed to discern on closer
scrutiny an element of molecular guidance, so also even in phenomena
on a physically small scale, like these directly-written signatures, we have
constantly to face the question Has matter been rearranged in the room
itself? e.g. disaggregated and reaggregated into what seems like green
chalk when there was no green chalk in the room before ? Or has it, on
the other hand, been brought from outside the room by "passage of
matter through matter," as the phrase goes? , In reality I think that we
have not knowledge enough to make a broad distinction between seem-
ingly different operations of this transcendental kind. D. D. Home's
guides denied the possibility of the passage of matter through matter ;
but Sir William Crookes has narrated how in Home's presence a thick
stalk passed uninjured through a chink in the table, through which

Online LibraryFrederic William Henry MyersHuman personality : and its survival of bodily death (Volume 2) → online text (page 71 of 89)