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no human power could thus have pushed it. Again, when, as quoted
a few pages above, Home's guides withdrew the brandy from the brandy-
and-water, was not that a passage of the material alcohol through the
material water? To suppose that the special form of cohesion which
we call solidity is alone insuperable by such powers as these does not
seem to me a specially plausible view. Even in our own world we could


hardly have guessed, a priori, that a bullet would sink, or a floating cork
rise through apparently solid cold pitch by the slow force of gravity forcing
asunder the tenacious mass, or that a copper wire could be passed in-
sensibly through a block of ice by melting and regelation. Or let me,
on the other hand, suppose a man who had never seen anything but
explosions of dynamite. To him it would seem easy to shatter rocks
with gases, but almost impossible to lift or pierce the vast superincumbent
weight of air. We should have to explain to him that it was really easier
to shoot through air than through rock, if you only propelled your rifle
bullet slowly enough to allow the air to get out of the way. Or to get
matter through matter may be like the puzzles which consist in getting
linked rings through linked rings; there is plenty of space if you can
only circumvent the attachments. I do not think then that we need
either postulate a fourth dimension to explain Mr. Moses' apports, or
even adopt the more anthropomorphic conception that they were taken
up one chimney and down another. At the same time, there are few of
the incidents recorded which this last supposition might not be pressed
to cover.

(*) Control over Etherial Manifestations : with Possible Effects in the
Domains of Light, Electricity, Gravitation, and Cohesion. Our next topic,
could we deal with it with fuller knowledge, must needs be one of
far-reaching significance. The influence of spiritual control upon etherial
phenomena, if once understood, might bring us nearer than any other
line of inquiry to a comprehension of the mode of interpenetration of
the metetherial world with our own. Unfortunately, while our observed
facts are rare and difficult, the explanations professing to come from the
other side are far from clear. It is sometimes said, for example, that raps
the percussive sounds which occur so frequently in all series of these
psycho-physical phenomena are of electrical origin. But no attempt
is made to work this out, and in themselves the raps suggest rather a
suspension and re-establishment of the force of cohesion than any form
of electric discharge. Again, the alteration of the weights of objects,
frequently recorded both with D. D. Home and with Mr. Moses, may
conceivably be the manifestation of some control over grairitation,
otherwise than by the opposition of another force, such as living men
can apply; but no information, so far as I know, has been offered on
this point.

The only etherial phenomenon of which, as spiritually controlled,
we have clear and frequent instances is light. And this indeed is offered
to us in many forms, and needs our careful study. We must needs begin
by an enumeration of the known sources of terrestrial light, to some
of the less familiar, among which we shall, if I mistake not, trace a certain
affinity in some of the luminous phenomena recorded.

Light, as we know, is a term somewhat vaguely given to two pheno-


mena habitually concurrent, but essentially distinct ; namely, to a certain
type of etherial undulation, and to a certain sensation experienced by
such animated beings as possess visual organs, and evoked as a rule by
the aforesaid type of undulation.

Let us take first objective light, as it is called, or the light-waves
themselves, and consider the various sources from which they are derived.
They may be generated by special forms of etherial disturbance, or they
may be originated by molecular or by vital activity. Without aiming
at a precision of phraseology not here essential, let us take light in
relation to the worlds of matter, ether, and life, in the order in which we
have touched upon those worlds in previous discussions.


(a.) Incandescence. When matter is raised to a certain temperature,
as by arrest of motion, chemical action, combustion following minute sub-
division, &c., light-waves are generated, among waves of many other

(.) Phosphorescence. Phosphorus and some of its compounds
during the process of slow oxidation emit light-waves either solely, or at
least in far greater proportion to heat-waves than is the case in ordinary
oxidation, which is generally non-luminous until it gives rise to incan-
descence. To this head belongs the phosphorescence of decaying matter,
when not due to luminous microbes.

(y.) Luminescence and Fluorescence. Many bodies after insolation,
or after exposure to dim light, or sometimes even to ultra-violet rays,
(perhaps all bodies if their temperature is sufficiently reduced), have the
power of re-radiating a part of the incident energy in the form of light.
Some so-called phosphorescences due to heat (short of incandescence), to
cleavage, to crystallisation, &c., probably fall under this category, for
which one may propose the name of luminescence, since there is a practical
inconvenience in extending the term phosphorescence to phenomena in
which phosphorus is not concerned.


I introduce this heading rather for the sake of completeness, than as
venturing to affirm that light could accompany electric or magnetic
oscillations in a hypothetical absence of matter. If a magnetic field has
really been seen as luminous, it is perhaps here that such a phenomenon
should be placed.


(a.) Vital Secretory Phosphorescence. Under secretory phosphores-
cence I include all cases where animal luminosity appears due to the



secretion by the animal of a substance capable of emitting light, pre-
sumably (though not certainly) due to slow oxidation. The glow-worm
(Lampyris noctiluca) and the firefly (Elater noctilucus) are the stock
examples of this. It is an interesting but uncertain question how far the
light of these and other luminous animals is under their own control.
Professor Herdman, F.R.S., kindly writing to me on the subject of
animal luminosity, says : " In many cases there is probably a connection
with the nervous system (e.g., Nyctiphanes and other Schizopoda), and
the luminosity is the result of a reflex, if not of a voluntary action ; and
so possibly might be regarded as a direct transmutation of nerve energy
into an ethereal disturbance visible as light."

In many species, however, the luminous substance retains luminosity
after the death of the animal.

(/3.) Excretory Phosphorescence. Under this term I include the
various forms of elimination of phosphorescent matter, as a waste product
from the system. This last phenomenon, as will be seen, is of much
importance for our present purpose. It is at present the only unquestioned
form of emission of light from the human subject. It is well known that
in phthisis, cancer, and other diseases where much phosphorus has been
administered by the mouth, the breath, the perspiration, and other ex-
cretions and secretions, are frequently observed to be slightly luminous.
The perspiration in subjects of miliaria is also said to be sometimes
luminous, although the phosphorus thus excreted must come from the
ordinary stock contained in the body. 1

(y.) Vital Luminescence. Some experiments cited by Dr. T. L.
Phipson, whose little work on Phosphorescence (1870) is still the best
collection known to me of the rarer phenomena, suggest to him that the
light emitted by a mushroom {Agaricus olearius), and perhaps that emitted
by a centipede (Scolopendra Electrica), and a firefly {Lampyris italica),
may be a luminescent phenomenon, and depend at least partially on
previous absorption of light. There seems no a priori reason against
this view, which, if proved true for these organisms, would probably apply
to others as well.

(8.) Vital Fulguration. Certain phanerogamous plants have occa-
sionally been seen to emit positive flashes of light. The daughter of
Linnaeus had the good fortune to make the first and classical observation
on the garden nasturtium in 1762, and the phenomenon has since been
witnessed in sunflowers, marigolds, and orange lilies by other observers.
This light appears to be truly electric, and not to be merely the result of
a current passing through the organism (as when a man lights the gas with
his fingers) , but to imply a generation of electricity within the organism itself.

The diffused electric luminosity, which has sometimes been seen (as
by Dr. Kane, the explorer, cited by Phipson, p. 161) to illuminate the
human skin, may be in some sense a vital phenomenon, or may be due
1 See (for instance) Diseases of the Skin, by Dr. H. Radcliffe Crocker (1888), p. i6o,&c.


to friction ; but in any case belongs rather to the surface of the skin itself
than to the vital processes going on underneath.

(e.) Vital Photogeny. By this name I designate the direct production
of light by living organisms, as a result or bye-product of their own meta-
bolism. Such, I cannot but think, is the explanation of the widespread
luminosity of low marine forms, especially when transparent : a source of
light, in comparison with which the greasy organs of glow-worm and firefly
sink into insignificance. Noctiluca miliaris, to take one species alone,
" offers," in the lofty language of Humboldt, " the magnificent spectacle
of a starry firmament reflected in the sea." On these primitive forms
Professor Herdman writes : " It is in these cases of simple, undifferentiated
protoplasm that I fancy the luminosity might be an exaggeration of some
necessary accompaniment of metabolism, or practically of life, i.e. of the
functions of the living protoplasm. It would then be a katabolic action
or molecular disturbance which might be supposed to affect the sur-
rounding ether so as to produce light. We might imagine that this kata-
bolic action goes on always in living protoplasm, but so slightly as not to
produce visible light, while in some cases (cells, tissues, or organisms) it
has become emphasised, and then ' seized upon ' by natural selection as
serving some useful purpose (which may be a very different purpose in
different cases), and so perfected." " This," adds Professor Herdman, " is
speculation," and it is only as such that I venture to print it here. As
will be presently seen, it is precisely the conclusion to which observations
of a very different kind had already pointed me.

A few words only need be added here as to subjective or phantasmal
luminosity. The immediate link between objective and subjective light
may be said to be the intra-cerebral flash, seen when the optic nerve is
pressed or cut, or the brain concussed.

Then come the whole series of illuminated phantasms ; either simply
phantasmal lights, diffused or definite, or figures seen in darkness, or
otherwise more highly illuminated than the objects around them. All
these sensations of light, like other phantasms, are prima facie subjective ;
but as with other phantasms, we have the difficulty of collective halluci-
nations, and the gradual merging of these phantasms into the physical
phenomena with which I am here dealing.

Turning back to the luminous phenomena recorded in Mr. Moses'
seances, have we now any clue as to the mechanism of their production,
or as to the headings in our scheme of luminosities under which they most
fitly fall ? I will at once say, that at least two of the less familiar of these
headings do appear to me to be applicable to lights produced under spirit
control. I mean Excretory Phosphorescence and Vital Photogeny.

Excretory Phosphorescence under Spirit Control. I have already noted,
under subliminal phenomena (II. 3. <:.), the luminous appearance of
Mr. Moses' hands, which he records as persisting after a stance. We


have also seen reason to suppose that the emanation of scent from Mr.
Moses' head was a form of hyperidrosis purposely modified by spirit
control. May not the appearance of his hands also have been due to the
phosphorescent perspiration of which we have just heard as a symptom
after much phosphorus has been taken into the system? The "guides"
themselves alleged that many of the lights depended upon phosphorus
extracted from the medium's organism. May not the glow on the hands
represent an after-effect of this extraction ? The sweat glands are, as we
know, readily responsive in common life to psychical stimuli, and Dr.
Milne Bramwell has found that hyperidroses which have obstinately
resisted medication will sometimes yield at once to hypnotic suggestion.
We have often observed that supernormal agencies are wont to follow as
closely as possible processes familiar to the organisation, whether in health
or in disease.

Nor was this glow confined to the hands alone. A kind of luminous
cloud, which might be due either to breath or to some subtle cutaneous
transpiration, was often observed round Mr. Moses' head and shoulders at
seances. And on one marked occasion the phosphoric smoke was dense
enough seriously to alarm Mr. Moses himself and Dr. Speer.

The luminosities which we have thus far been discussing have been of
the apparent nature of cloudy emanations from the medium or similar
collections of cloudy light in his near vicinity. Or if they have shown a
tendency to concentration, it has been in the form of " spirit-lights," or
apparently solid receptacles of quasi-phosphoric brightness brightness,
however, so steady and permanent as, by Sir William Crookes' own ac-
count, to have baffled his skill in imitation. 1 Their general appearance
has been not inconsistent with the proffered explanation that they are
made from phosphorus extracted from the medium, and perhaps from other
members of the circle, and mingled or prepared in some manner beyond
our earthly skill.

Vital Photogeny under Spiritual Control. But we have next to deal
with a class of lights whose nature and behaviour seem markedly different.
These are lights which are not widely diffused but small and more or less
definite, and which concentrate not into solid inert masses, but into hands.
Of this ectoplastic formation of hands we must speak in the next section.
For the moment I will only point out that these lights seem to be a directly
vital phenomenon.

It is, perhaps, " this muddy vesture of decay " which hides from us in
common life the glow which is an inseparable attribute of that life itself;
and the radiance which at the outset of evolution the ocean-organisms
attain in their primitive simplicity is achieved once more when intermediate
stages have been passed through, and life and matter are manipulated with
the freedom and mastery of the spirit-world.

I trust that as our knowledge increases there may prove to be some
1 Crookes' Researches in Spiritualism, p. 91.


usefulness, some reality, in the analogies between normal and supernormal
modes of light-production on which I have here dwelt but I am far
from supposing that these analogies cover the whole ground. On the
contrary, we see throughout these luminous phenomena a constant ten-
dency towards a transition from objective to subjective light from the
luminosity of excreted phosphorus, or of vital metabolism, to light
"which never was on sea or land," and whose discernment seems no
longer to depend on earthly vision, nor its source to be akin to any
earthly glow. We are introduced, as discussion under a future heading
will show, to a metetherial, which is also a luminous state of being to
spirits who are independent of our earthly sources of brightness, solemque
suum, sua sidera norunt. If we endeavour to class their fulgent aspect
among the headings which our scheme has offered, we should have to
speak, I suppose, of metetherial luminescence, and to assume that they re-
radiate the incident energy of some supernal world.

Here it is plain that all attempt at terrestrial analogy must cease ; and
in passing from the discussion of spirit-control over matter and ether to
spirit-control over life itself, it seems fitting to remind the reader in clearest
terms that no analogies can here be more than suggestive ; that no exal-
tation or sublimation of forces already familiar will really explain the
modus operandi of these intimate dealings with seen and unseen things.
Even though known laws be at work they must be working in subjection
to laws unknown. For the very assumption of a metetherial world, as
natural and as uniform as our own, implies that our widest material gene-
ralisations can be no more than formulae for special cases deducible from
laws still more fundamental, which must hold good whether matter and
ether exist or no. Our world of matter is but a flocculence held in critical
suspension, which a touch may dissolve or a touch precipitate. We can-
not distinguish among metetherial energies ; we can but say that " psychic
force," if that be the least question-begging title that we can find for those
energies as they affect mankind, can form no true part of any mechanical
synthesis of the universe which our science knows, and thus if we are
asked if psychic force implies any disturbance of our law of the conserva-
tion of energy, we must reply that we have no reason to suppose that it
does so ; but that even this question can scarcely be so expressed as to be
capable of definite answer. If life be regarded, as for example, by Prof.
Lodge 1 as merely a " directive and guiding force exercised upon matter,"
and " not affecting the amount of energy in the slightest degree " ; then a
like predication may be made as to the manifestations of psychic force,
all of them ultimately vital in character, which we here encounter. But
at the same time it is conceivable that energy might be so defined as to
show that the production of these phenomena requires the expenditure, in
a metetherial world, of some form of energy akin to the so-called " will-
power " which we at least appear to ourselves to exercise here on earth,

1 Nature, vol. xliv. p. 292.



although its true nature, or even its actual existence, is matter of con-

It is to " will-power " that the communicating spirits themselves ascribe
their achievements ; to some mode of operation quite unexplained, but
even more direct, more fundamental than those imagined molecular powers
which I cited to show how men who believed that no " demon " existed
found it necessary to invent one.


(a) Pre-eoneeptual Suggestion or Self-Suggestion. And if this has been
already perceived in tracing spirit-influence on the material and etherial
worlds, much more will it be manifest when we come to our next heading,
the influence, namely, of spirits upon the incarnation of life; upon its
derivation from its unknown reservoir and its distribution into organic
matter upon this planet. What have we noted thus far as to human influ-
ence on the incarnation of life, either under supraliminal or subliminal
guidance ?

Under supraliminal control we find life incarnated for the most part
with no conscious forethought, and when incarnated following certain laws
of heredity apparently determined by terrene conditions in the remote
past. And when we do set ourselves to influence the processes of incar-
nation our results appear slight and external. We can perpetuate some
spontaneous variation ; we can select parents ; we can surround with
helpful conditions the new-born offspring. But in our attempts at
" eugenics " in the higher races in the human race, we tinker from
without, we cannot mould from within.

And yet, if we stoop low enough, we can mould life more profoundly
than we have yet realised. Let us go down to the very dust or spray of
animated being, to that myriad life which even on this planet is in a true
sense interpenetrant with our own, and we find the multitude of species as
flexible beneath our rapid hands as our own ancestors have been beneath
the slow choice of Nature and from the dawn of planetary time. Let
us get beneath the line of definite birth, among the protean forms of
" protoplasmic rejuvenescence," and we can alter almost every apparent
character of the micro-organism, inward to the very mode of reproduction
itself. The smaller the parcels in which life descends into generation, the
more modifiable is it in the terrene laboratory ; the cell is waiting for
its cue, and a day of our treatment is for it as a thousand years.

Under subliminal control, on the other hand, it is with the highest
creature that we must begin. If we wish not to manipulate from without,
but to suggest from within, we must approach the strongly centralised
organism through " the ruling part " ro rjy f f jl - ovt * v * ts l e &iti mate an( ^
subliminal king.

And in which direction then do we find that the disembodied spirit
claims to extend his control over incarnate being? He sometimes claims


in the first place, and it is a claim which we can neither confirm nor
refute, that he can push back pre-natal into pre-conceptual suggestion, and
can so influence men and women already on earth, that they will give
opportunity for the incarnation of some waiting spirit, who through such
special access only can enter on the material world. And he claims too,
with Plato, interpreter to men of the spiritual world, that, as by a pre-
conceptual self-suggestion, the descending spirit may choose and determine
its earthly lot, somewhat as in the hypnotic trance a man may choose and
suggest to himself the sensations and actions of subsequent waking hours.
This may not mean more than that, in some few rare cases, a pre-existing
spirit may have left the spiritual world to become a " missionary " to our

(b) Ectoplasy or Materialisation; Temporary Extradition or Con-
centration of Vital Energy. But, leaving such speculations to derive else-
where from cases of precognition what support they may, we must pass
on to a spiritual influence on incarnation to which some records have
actually testified, an influence which in a sense combines the supraliminal
and subliminal types. For it implies a command of the central authority
so complete as to admit with safety of extreme, though transitory, de-
centralisations ; of a manipulation of component parts of complex or-
ganisms freer than any with which we ourselves have influenced the
attractions, the division, the rejuvenescence, of a simple and indepen-
dent cell.

But first let us consider the different ways in which the material
organisms of our planet may be regarded according as they are seen from
a material or from a metetherial standpoint.

To our ordinary view each of the higher organisms appears a definitely
coherent mass of matter, from which no important part can be separated
or withdrawn without injury. There is nothing to prove to us that the
life which animates each organism can exist separately from the organism.
One organism can communicate with another only through certain definite
channels ; and each organism must run its separate course from birth to

When, however, some glimpse of the subliminal working of these
organisms has been attained, our relative conception of organism and
informing spirit rapidly changes. We have now to recognise an informing
life which, even if not yet proved capable of permanent existence apart
from the body, does nevertheless act within the body as though with a
separate initiative, controlling and modifying the organism in other than
purely physiological ways. We find, moreover, that each individual
organism is not so completely a closed system as at first appeared. Tele-
pathic influences pass from one to another; and sometimes the spirit
seems in some sense to leave the body, on some clairvoyant excursion,
or when death is imminent, and to return to it again as though to a
tabernacle from which it is itself detachable and distinct.



And now imagine the disembodied spirit as he regards this solid planet
and the organisms which inhabit it. To him the metetherial world is clear
and real ; the material world is unstable, shadowy, chaotic. Definite and

Online LibraryFrederic William Henry MyersHuman personality : and its survival of bodily death (Volume 2) → online text (page 72 of 89)