Frederic William Henry Myers.

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permanent he sees the spirits that are lodged therein ; arresting each some
transitory group out of the hurricane of molecules by a cogency that is all
its own. The organism for him is the mere cloud of matter through which
the spirit works ; its apparent periphery is no real boundary-wall. He
sees one incarnate spirit telergically affecting another incarnate spirit's
brain ; and to him that extra-peripheral, ultra-organic influence is the
natural, the inevitable mode of communion.

He finds himself able to influence some of these organisms ; to rule
them as their own indwelling spirit rules them, only with more knowledge
of the possibilities of such control. He knows, let us say, the very way
in which unbegotten life descended into generation ; he can see beyond
the narrow portal of the omne vivum ex ovo ; behind the first quiver of the
first slime-speck the princeps limus which entangled in carbon-com-
pounds the Promethean fire. And thus he can push the vital force
through and past the illusory integument ; he can act with more or less
of apparent likeness to fleshly, to organic action upon external matter
which the medium's ignorantly-guided body could not, without such
training, have contrived to reach.

This is the phenomenon which (using a term adapted for the purpose
by Professor Ochorowicz) I shall here call ectoplasy the power of forming,
outside some special organism, a collection or reservoir of vital force or of
vitalised matter, which may or may not be visible, may or may not be
tangible, but which operates in like fashion as the visible and tangible
body from whence it is drawn.

Nay, more. To the disembodied spirit the organisms which he sees
accreted about his incarnate fellows are no isolated, encapsuled things.
The identity, the unbridgeable separation is for him if it is anywhere in
the spirit-world. These protoplasmic clouds can mix, in his view, as
easily as the tails of comets; or say as though from the tidal afflux
of half-colliding vaporous suns some glowing prominence shot forth, to
fall back presently, again divided, and a part attracted into each parent
mass. Only by some such metaphor, perhaps, can we picture the spirit's
next achievement, and the fusion of portions of the vital force of several
persons into an agency which he wields in independence of them all;
" drawing power," as the phrase goes, from the circle as well as from the
medium, and accomplishing mechanical work by the aid of their bodies,
but at a distance from each.

All the energy that he exerts, then, is vital energy ; it is drawn from the
organisms of the persons present, even when the effect achieved (as the
production of a cold wind) is unlike the effects to which living organisms
commonly give rise. But, for the most part, the effects which he pro-
duces do resemble the organism's natural action ; and hence, indeed, the

VOL. II. 2 M


objections of triviality and uselessness largely arise. The "telekinetic
movements " (to use Mr. AksakofT s term) which it is easiest to produce
seem to differ from movements which the medium himself could have made
only by starting from a point in space at some little distance outside his
apparent periphery. The movements are interesting, not as spectacles in
themselves, but as indications that life can act at some distance from a
living organism ; just as the movement of a half-drowned man's finger is
interesting to the friend who knows not whether there still be life in that
organism at all.

The condition of the medium from whom this vital force is being drawn
seems to vary from complete tranquillity to extreme agitation, according to
the ease or difficulty of the process. With Mr. Moses there were some-
times agitated movements during some difficult manifestation (as the giving
of minute direct writing) ; but generally he was tranquilly entranced, with
his arms resting on the table in front of him.

Let us now survey the various grades of these ectoplastic phenomena.

We will begin with the phenomena which keep closest to the medium's
person, and in that sense prepare the way for the production of visible
hands, &c., acting at a distance of some feet.

(a) And first I may mention a mode of dealing with the medium's body
which involves no actual extradition of any part of its substance, but which,
nevertheless, seems to imply a molecular manipulation (so to say) of its
soft tissues. I refer to the elongations noticed with Mr. D. D. Home.
In these cases if, provisionally, they can be contemplated as actual ob-
jective occurrences the intercostal regions seemed to be the especial seat
of the extension, which is described as rapid and painless, although some-
times followed by vomiting.

(/J) Another and apparently more developed form of prolongation has
been observed with Mr. Moses. These are phantom arms and hands, re-
producing the arms of the medium, coat-sleeves, shirt-cuffs, and all ; and
extended generally from the shoulder, straight out, and above the true
arms. These supplemetnary or " counterpartal " arms (suspicious objects
enough, until observed under good conditions) seem never to have been
actually touched, but are swiftly retracted into the medium, or simply
vanish, if an attempt is made to grasp them. Nevertheless, the hands in
which they terminate do appear to move objects.

Odd and unexpected as these phantasmal arms are, they are instructive
in more than one respect. In the first place they supply in a certain way
a missing link between mere phantasms and ectoplastic phenomena. We
know that as a rule phantasmal appearances exert no objective effect upon
the material world ; and we know also that to this rule there seem to be
some few exceptions. It is through these shadowy, yet materially active,
prolongations, collective hallucinations which yet can affect the solid
world, that the line of continuity, if such there be, between purely sub-


jective phantasm and firmly materialised hand or body may have to be

In the second place, these reproduced coat-sleeves stand apparently
midway between two phenomena not obviously allied ; viz., the appear-
ance of dying persons as though draped in their habitual clothing, and
the greater facility (attested by Mr. Moses' guides) of manufacturing a
duplicate of some object already existing on earth, rather than a new and
original object of their own devising.

Perhaps we may link the two by saying that everything which is not
a purely earthy phenomenon must be for us mortals to some extent
symbolical; and that the simplest form of symbolism depends on mere
reminiscence; that thus the line of least resistance for the psychic force
or telergic impulse leads to the upbuilding of the ectoplastic fabric upon
the basis of thoughts and images which are already fashioned and stored
in the human spirit.

(y) In the classes of ectoplasms already enumerated, there has been at
least an apparent continuous connection with the body of the sensitive ;
although, in the last-mentioned case especially, that connection is of a very
shadowy kind.

We now come to ectoplasms without apparent connection with the
organism from which we still must suppose them to be in some way
derived. Two incomplete forms of such isolated ectoplasm first present
themselves ; the one manifesting, so to say, definition without visibility ;
the other, visibility without definition.

As examples of a certain amount of definition without visibility, I take
touches and imprints. Slight but unmistakable touches are often observed
even when the ectoplastic process never gets any further, nor is identified
with any one spirit. Imprints are more rarely recorded.

(8) A commoner way in which the detached ectoplasm begins its
development is with an appearance of cloud, or light, or luminous mist,
surrounding some object which is presently moved, the stem of a flower
broken, or a bell carried about the room. Such appearances, already
mentioned under the heading of vital photogeny, are frequently recorded
both with D. D. Home and with Mr. Moses. Their connection with
ectoplasms is shown by the fact that sometimes some of those present
have perceived a hand, while others have seen only a cloud or a light ;
and sometimes all present have seen the cloud or light change into a hand.
The hand seems to oscillate about the limits of definite visibility, like
vapour which in a changing temperature condenses and re-expands.

Two short passages (quoted from Mr. Moses' note-books) will illus-
trate this semi-materialisation.

Q. The beads that came in the light seemed to be projected from behind
me ; in the dark they seemed to fall.

A. "It is necessary to use the force or power emanating from your body
more carefully in light. It is far more difficult to regulate it. The objects


were thrown near you gently. At other times they were allowed to fall as
might chance."

Q. One seemed to come out of the letter I was handing to Mrs. G.

A. " No, but the movement of your hand threw off force, as in darkness you
may see luminous vapour proceeding from the fingers. The force is given off
at the fingers and head most, hence objects are brought or moved more readily
near your head or hands. Hence the movement of objects over your head and
the production of the scent. Hence, too, rubbing the hands is useful, and
placing the fingers on the table charges the wood. So when you moved your
hand it gave the opportunity which was used."

Q. That scent from my head is very curious. Is it put on, or drawn out ?

A. " Drawn out, but I cannot tell you of that."

Monday, March zyd, 1874.

Q. Can I have any information about that extraordinary writing?

(We held a stance last night at which some very minute direct writing was
given by Doctor and Prudens.)

A. " It was done with great pains and care as an experiment. We can do
more than that."

Q. It is the most curious piece I ever saw. Who wrote it ?

A. " The spirits who signed, aided by many others. We were assisted last
night by a powerful band who were able to overcome unfavourable conditions.
We have said before that no such manifestation is ever done by us alone, but
by many assistants."

Q. The writing is so minute and clear.

A. " We could do more minute writing and will endeavour so to do. Much
power was used in endeavouring to complete the manifestation with care. To
that reason is due the physical contortion which attends the manifestation. It
is more difficult to write with minute care. We will show you what we can do
one day."

Q. Doctor and Prudens were the actual amanuenses ?

A. " Yes, they actually wrote, as you would see from the character of the
writing. It is always so."

Q. I thought Prudens' writing was not his, but an imitation.

A. " That would not be allowed."

Q. Was the pencil actually used ?

A. "Oh, yes."

Q. Was a hand materialised ?

A. " Not as you understand it, but sufficiently so to use the instrument. It
would not have been visible to the natural eye."

Q. The pencil would have seemed to move alone.

A. " Yes, to the natural eye."

(e) In describing these imperfectly aggregated ectoplasms we have
already touched on the next class, that of quasi-organic detached ecto-
plasms. These are especially hands, sometimes with wrists or arms
attached, but now with no mere shadowy or duplicated drapery, but a
drapery which is their own, and for the time being is as tangible as them-
selves. Such hands are reported in the cases of D. D. Home and Mr.

These ectoplasms, moreover, when developed, may be recognisable


they may serve as indications of identity. With D. D. Home this seems
frequently to have been the case ; and the special shape and character of
hands seen formed one of the most generally impressive points in his
phenomena. In Mr. Moses' case the hands (except once in a photo-
graph) were not claimed as belonging to personal friends; but the lean
brown hand and wrist which usually appeared (Mr. Moses' own hand
being thick, plump, and white) seemed appropriate to the Arabian
philosopher to whom it was asserted to belong.

Amongst these detached ectoplasms must be reckoned the pheno-
menon of " the direct voice." Utterance may be referable to an ectoplastic
throat as distinctly as grip to ectoplastic fingers ; and may form of course
an even higher manifestation, capable of manifesting more intelligence
and of giving more convincing indications of identity. But this pheno-
menon (which I believe myself to have observed elsewhere) has been
only imperfectly shown in the cases on which this present survey is based.

() Nor is it desirable here to dwell at length upon the most advanced
type of ectoplasy ; when an apparently complete form seems to live for
the time an independent life. This never occurred through Mr. Moses.
Something like it occurred through D. D. Home several times ; though
the solidity of the form was not tested. No more, therefore, need here be
said than that this completer development of the isolated or independent
ectoplasm differs in no fundamental way from the types which we have
already discussed. On the frequent fraudulent simulations of this
phenomenon, there is no need here to dwell. But for those who admit
that a hand can be temporarily thrown off in this strange kind of asexual
gemmation, it would be illogical to deny the possibility of a whole apparent
human form thus originated, and thus re-absorbed or disappearing.

At whatever point, indeed, among the phenomena of ectoplasy we may
draw our evidential line, it seems to me probable that we have here got at
the root of most of the physical phenomena assignable to external control.
It is this power of using the vital force of men which brings unembodied
beings into relation with the material world. It is this power, too, which
links the physical with the mental phenomena of spirit-control ; enabling
the unseen guide to use the machinery of thought as well as of motion, in
ways which the unaided organism could never have devised. To some of
these intellectual phenomena we must now turn.


(<z) Ordinary Sensory Perception Spiritually Controlled. The next
heading in our previous series was sensory receptivity. In the scheme
of supraliminal faculty this included the ordinary action of the sense-
organs, whose limits so largely determine our intellectual life. In the
subliminal scheme, we found that the action of these senses was some-
times heightened in hyperaesthesia, and sometimes deadened in anaesthesia


more or less complete. We found also, and this was the most significant
extension of faculty, that under certain circumstances the sensation of
pain could be voluntarily inhibited, and the organism thus devoted with-
out interruption to those higher purposes, with which pain, an ancient
form of warning, now often worse than useless, too frequently interferes.
Passing on to the effects on sensory receptivity produced by spiritual
control, we find, as under previous headings, that the effects which self-
suggestion can produce on the organism are produced also, and with
apparently greater facility, by spirit power; and moreover that a new
delicacy of directive or selective action is observable under the more
skilful manipulations (so to say) of disembodied intelligence. Such at
least is the claim advanced ; although naturally it is often only by the
analogy of other phenomena occurring in connection that one can be
guided in attributing these intellectual results to an external rather than a
merely subliminal influence. The hyperaesthesia, anaesthesia, or analgesia of
trance, for example, does not in itself indicate whether a spirit external to
the subject has been at the work or no. If however during a trance
D. D. Home places his head without pain or injury amid glowing coals,
and if we there admit a spirit's action (although perhaps on the environ-
ment rather than on the organism), we may consequently attribute to
similarly external influence other forms of insensibility shown during the
same or similar trances. And in connection with trance, when we reach
that topic, there will be further instances of the abeyance in which ordinary
sensation can be held by spirit-control.

(6) Memory Controlled; Retrocognition Spiritually Given. And some-
what similarly, just as the subliminal control over memory is greater than
the supraliminal, so it is claimed by spirits also that they can influence
the sensitive's memory; can make him recall things forgotten or never
noticed, and on the other hand, can obliterate from his recollection things
previously known. This claim thoroughly concordant with our scheme
is hardly capable of objective proof.

(c) Sensory Automatism Spiritually Controlled; Phantasms of the
Dead, 6-v. This parallelism of action continues under our next heading
of " sensory automatism." Even as the subliminal self can present visual
or auditory phantasms for supraliminal observation ; even as the human
agent, acting telepathically, can present still through subliminal agency
his own phantasmal appearance for the percipient to recognise, so can the
spirit. The "ghost " of common parlance the "phantasm of the dead"
may often seem but a dreamy and purposeless reflection of some
portion only of the departed spirit's being; but, nevertheless, it comes
from that spirit, I believe, as truly as the still living agent's phantasm
comes from him, in his dying or his critical hour. The spirit here is
acting concurrently with the supraliminal intelligence, just as the sub-
liminal intelligence has already done.


(d) Telasthesia Developed into Perception of Spiritual Environment;
Precognition. But this series of spiritual modifications of sensory recep-
tivity which has thus far seemed merely to run parallel with the similar
modifications introduced by subliminal control, takes here a great, a
significant extension. We have come to the heading of telasthesia to
the point where the man's unaided spirit has seemed already, though still
acting in the physical, the planetary, environment to transcend the
bounds of space. Whether and how far at the same time it has learnt
to transcend the bounds of time in retrocognition or precognition is a
point which we have not here felt it needful to discuss at length. But
now, when we consider the scope of clairvoyance under spiritual guidance,
\ve find that the word must assume a strange and novel meaning. There
are, indeed, some instances of spiritually-guided clairvoyance of the
terrestrial type. It was clairvoyance of that kind, one may say, when,
under spiritual control, Mr. Moses felt himself present though rather as
by translation than by clairvoyant vision at the distant funeral of his

But the form of clairvoyance characteristic of spirit-guidance is that
which enables the sensitive to perceive the spiritual environment inter-
penetrating the environment which we know.

To perceive it how ? with what senses ? with what standard of inter-
pretation or faculty of control? We cannot say. We know that even
our perception of this common world is in a sense symbolical ; that the
whirling molecules are translated for us by our narrow senses into patterns
which our minds can comprehend. Still more strangely symbolical must
be man's perception of those things which come to him through channels
which he knows not, and on a tide of life which he can neither sound nor
stem. When hues beyond his spectrum are revealed to him, with what
words shall he describe the broadening ray? We have seen the single
phantasm presented as by a special subliminal effort to the still dominant
supraliminal view ; we have seen the ghost stand in detachment and
incommensurable amid a scene of common day. But at the farther stage
at which we have now arrived there is for the percipient a fusion of
subliminal and supraliminal outlook ; he sees the terrene perspective still,
but the cloud qua nunc obducta tuenti Mottalis hebetat visas has been
caught away, and he sees moving through the familiar outlook the
visitants of an interwoven world.

Such a condition varying in degree and duration has been described
in various places as coming upon Mr. Moses during or after a stance.
The habit of double perception grew on him as time went on, and is
described in the latter paragraph of a letter which I print as given in
Light, January 2Oth, 1894.*

1 The letter is quoted by Light from Col. Olcott, to whom it was written September
4th, 1876. I have not seen the original MS., but the internal evidence of genuineness
is convincing.


I have followed out the train of thought myself of late. Myself, what is it ?
I do things one day, and especially say things, of which I have no remem-
brance. I find myself absorbed in thought in the evening, and go to bed with
no lecture for the morrow prepared. In the morning I get up, go about my
work as usual, lecture a little more fluently than usual, do all my business,
converse with my friends, and yet know absolutely nothing of what I have
done. One person alone, who knows me very intimately, can tell by a far-off
look in the eyes that I am in an abnormal state. The notes of my lectures so
delivered as I read them in the books of those who attend my lectures read
to me precise, accurate, clear, and fit into their place exactly. My friends find
me absent, short in manner, brusque and rude of speech. Else there is no
difference. When I " come to myself " I know nothing of what has taken
place, but sometimes memory recurs to me, and I gradually recollect. This is
becoming a very much more frequent thing with me, so that I hardly know
when I am (what I call) my proper self, and when I am the vehicle of another
intelligence. My spirit friends give hints, but do not say much. I am begin-
ning, however, to realise far more than I once could, how completely a man
may be a "gas-pipe " a mere vehicle for another spirit. Is it possible a man
may lead the life I do, and have no Individuality at all? I lead three distinct
lives, and I often think that each is separate. Is it possible for a man, to
ordinary eyes a common human being, to be a vehicle for Intelligences from
above, and to have no separate personality ? Can it be that my spirit may be
away, learning perhaps, leading a separate spiritual life, whilst my body is
going about and is animated by other Intelligences ? Can it be that instruction
is so administered to my soul, and that growth in knowledge becomes manifest
to me as now and again I return from my spirit life and occupy my body
again? And is it possible that I may one day become conscious of these
wanderings, and lead a conscious spiritual existence alongside of my corporeal
existence ?

Once or twice once very lately in the Isle of Wight my interior dormant
faculties awoke, and I lost the external altogether. For a day and a night I
lived in another world, while dimly conscious of material surroundings. I saw
my friends, the house, the room, the landscape, but dimly. I talked, and
walked, and went about as usual, but through all, and far more clearly, I saw
my spiritual surroundings, the friends I know so well, and many I had never
seen before. The scene was clearer than the material landscape, yet blended
with it in a certain way. I did not wish to talk. I was content to look and
live among such surroundings. It was as I have heard Swedenborg's visions


(a) Ideation Inspired by Spirits. We enter in this section 6 upon a
group of phenomena of great interest and importance, but not of a type
on which objective evidence can easily be forthcoming.

The belief that unseen powers inspire men not merely by prompting
their hands to automatic writing, but by " putting thoughts into their
hearts " is one of the most deeply-rooted, the most widespread, and the
most encouraging to which the higher races of man have clung. It is
strongly insisted upon by Mr. Moses' guides ; and will be found repeated


in various forms in his book, " Spirit Teachings." What are held as
inspirations of this type, however, deal mainly with religious and moral
conceptions, or if unknown and verifiable earthly facts are included, they
are usually such as might with equal plausibility be deemed to arise from
the thinker's subliminal self. The strong assertions made by spirits
who show themselves able to operate powerfully in other ways may fairly,
I think, be taken as carrying weight. They represent the fusion of the

Online LibraryFrederic William Henry MyersHuman personality : and its survival of bodily death (Volume 2) → online text (page 73 of 89)