Edward Carpenter.

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four notes — and Immediately he Improvises a
spirited piece of music; so is It with the hypno-
tized person or with the medium. One gives him
a suggestion and he Immediately creates the fig-
ures according. And so It is for us, to direct this
wonderful power, even In ourselves — not to call It
fraudulent, but to make use of it for splendid ends.
Doubtless It can be used for unworthy ends.
It Is easy to understand that the mediumistic per-
son, finding this wonderful dramatic and creative
faculty within himself or herself, Is sometimes
tempted to turn It to personal advantage; and
succumbs to the temptation. The dramatic habit
catches hold of the waking self, and renders the
person tricky and unreliable.^ But below It all Is
creation, and the Instinct of creation — the power
that gives to airy nothing a local habitation, the

^ This was no doubt, for instance, the case with Eusapia
Paladino — as admitted by her warmest supporters. But it
does not contravene the fact, proved by most abundant evi-
dence and experiment, of the astounding physical phenomena
which from her early childhood accompanied her, and in some
strange way exhaled from her.


genius of the dramatist, of the artist, of the in-
ventor, and the very source of the visible and
tangible world.

For from the Under-self — as exposed In the
state of trance, or in extreme languor and ex-
haustion of the body, or In the moment of death,
or in dreams, or even in profound reverie —
proceed (strange as it may seem) Voices and
Visions and Forms, things audible and visible
and tangible, things anyhow which are compe-
tent to impress the senses of spectators so vividly
as to be for the moment indistinguishable from
the phenomena, audible, visible and tangible, of
our actual world. Amazing as are the mate-
rializations connected with mediums — the figures
which appear, which speak, which touch and are
touched, the faces, the supernumerary feet and
hands, the sounds, the lights, the movements of
objects — all in some way connected with the
medium's presence — these phenomena are now
far too well established and confirmed by care-
ful and scientific observation to admit (In the
mass) of any reasonable doubt.^ And similarly
with the wraiths, or phantoms which are pro-

* It is impossible, for instance, to read slowly and in detail
such works as A. R. Wallace's Miracles and Modern Spirit-
ualism, William Crookes' Researches into Spiritualism, C.
Lombroso's Fenomeni ipnotici e spiritici, and to note the
care and exactness with which in each case experiments
were conducted, tests devised, and results recorded, without
being persuaded that in the mass the conclusions (confirmed in
the first two instances by the authors themselves after an
interval of twenty or thirty years) are correct. Already a
long list of scientific and responsible men, like Charles Richet


jected from dying or lately dead persons, the evi-
dence for them in general is much too abundant
and well attested to allow of disbelief.^ What
an extraordinary story, for instance, is that given
by Sir Oliver Lodge in his Survival of Man
(p. loi) — of a workman who having drunk
poison by mistake, appeared in the moment of
death, w^ith blue and blotched face to his em-
ployer, to Avhom he was greatly attached, and told
him not to be deceived by the rumor that he
(the workman) had committed suicide! Yet the
story is fully and authoritatively given in the
Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research,
vol. iii. p. 97, and cannot well be set aside. But
if such things happen in the hour of death,
so do they also happen in the dream-state.^
The dreamer has a vivid dream of visiting
a certain person, and is accordingly and at
that time, seen by that person. And in the
state of reverie the same. It is at times suf-

(professor of physiology at Paris), Camillc Flammarion (the
well-known astronomer), Professor Zollner of the Observatory
at Leipzig, C. F. Varley the electrician. Sir Oliver Lodge of
Birmingham, have made important contributions to the evi-
dence; while others, like Professor De Morgan the mathema-
tician. Professor Challis the astronomer, Sergeant Cox the
lawyer, and Professor William James the psj^chologist, have
signified their general adhesion.

^ For references see supra, ch. vi. p. 92, footnote.

^ See Phantasms of the Living, vol. ii. p. 289, also the ex-
perience of Mrs. A., given in Footfalls on the Boundary of
Another World, by R. Dale Owen, 1881, p. 256 et seq. This
latter book, which is a mine of well-authenticated informatioHj
has suffered somewhat from its rather sensational title. The
author, however, was an able, distinguished, and reliable man,
son of Robert Owen of Lanark, Member of Congress in the
United States, and U. S. Minister at Naples.


ficlent to think profoundly of any one, or to
let one's Inner self go out toward that person
in order to cause an image of oneself to be seen
by him.

It will of course be said, and often is said,
that those phenomena are only hallucinations,
and have no objective existence. But the suffi-
cient answer to that is that the things also of our
actual world are hallucinations in their degree,
and certainly have no full objective existence.
The daffodil In my garden is an hallucination in
that degree that with the smallest transposition
of my senses, its color, its scent, and even Its
form might be quite altered. What we call Its
objectivity rests on the permanence of its rela-
tions — on its continued appearance In one spot,
its visibility to different people at one time, or
to one person at different times, and so forth.
But If that is the definition of objectivity,
it is obvious that the forms which have been
seen over and over again, and under strict
test-conditions, in connection with certain
mediums, have had In their degree an objective

In America, in connection with Kate Fox (one
of the earliest and most spontaneous and natural
of modern mediums), a certain Mr. Livermore
— a thoroughly capable business man of
New York — came Into communication as it
seemed with his deceased wife. She appeared
to him — not In one house only, but In several
houses — over and over again; sometimes only


the head, sometimes the whole figure; her ap-
pearance was accompanied by inexpHcable sounds
and lights; she communicated sometimes by-
raps, sometimes by visibly writing on blank cards
brought for the purpose; and these phenomena
extended over a period of six years and 388
recorded sittings, and at many of the sit-
tings were corroborated by independent wit-
nesses.^ It is difficult to imagine hallucinations
or deceit maintained under such circum-

In England (in connection with the medium
Florence Cook) the figure "Katie King" ap-
peared to Sir William Crookes a great number of
times during three years (1881-84) and was
studied by him and Mr. C. F. Varley, F.R.S., with
the greatest scientific care. Her apparition often
spoke to those present, was touched by, and
touched them, wrote, or played with the children.
It often came outside the cabinet, and three times
was seen by those present simultaneously with,
and by the side of, the entranced medium. The
figure was taller than the medium and different in
feature; Crookes observed its pulse and found It
making 75 beats a minute to the medium's 90,
and so forth. ^

Professor Richet, the French scientist, exam-

*See R. Dale Owen, The Debatable Land (1871), pp. 385-

^ See Crookes' Researches in Spiritualism, pp. 104 et seq.
See also the book New Light on Immortality, by Fournier
d'All)e, pp. 218 et seq., where the evidence is given in great


ined with great care the phantasm "Beni Boa,'*
which appeared to him some twenty times in con-
nection with the Algerian medium Aisha; he ob-
tained several photographs of it, and observed its
pulse, its respiration, and so forth.^ Lombroso,
the author of many scientific works, and a man
who to begin with was a complete sceptic on these
matters, assures us that at the sittings of Eusapla
Paladino he saw his own mother (long dead)
a great number of times, and that she repeatedly
kissed him.^ In connection with Mme. D'Espe-
rance ^ the girlish figure of "Yolanda" appeared
and disappeared very frequently during a period
of ten years, and was well known to frequenters
of her circle; and in 1896 a committee formed
by some twenty-five high officials and well-known
persons in Norway publicly attested the repeated
appearance at her seances of a very beautiful
female figure who glided among the sitters,
grasped their hands, gave them messages, and
so forth, and disappeared before their eyes in
a misty cloud.* Such evidence of the objectivity
of seance figures could be rather Indefinitely
multiplied. But the same may be said, though
perhaps less conclusively, of various ghosts and
other manifestations, whose relations to certain
persons or places or houses seem quite definite

^ See Phenomenes de la Ville Carmen, avec documents
nouveaux; Paris, 1902.

^ C. Lombroso, Fenomeni ipnotici spiritici, p. 193.

^See Shadoio-land (1906).

*See pamphlet Materializations, by Mme. D'Espirance
(Light Publishing Co.).


and well established — and not unfrequently
steadily recurrent under the same conditions.

Without going Into the vexed question of
whether these and the like manifestations are
merely products or Inventions of the trance-mind
of the medium or other person concerned, or
whether some at least of them are the work or
evidence of separate 'spirits' — leaving that ques-
tion open for the present — we may still say that
all these things are actual creations — creations
of the hidden self of Man in some form or other;
not so assured, certainly, and not so permanent as
the well-known shapes of outer Nature; abortive
creations, if you like, which come a little way for-
ward into manifestation, and then retreat again;
but still creations In the same sense as those more
established ones; and wonderfully revealing to us
the secret of the generation and birth of all the
visible world.

That we should have, all of us, this magic
source somewhere burled within — this Aladdin's
lamp, this vase of the Djinns, this Pandora box
of evil as well as of good, is Indeed astounding;
and must cause us, when we have once fully
realized the fact, to envisage life quite differently
from what we have ever done before. It must

* See, for instance, the account of the haunted mill at Wil-
lington, given at some length bj Mr. W. T. Stead in the
Review of Reviews for Jan., 1892; also the Memoirs of the
Wesley Family, vol. i, pp. 253-60; and Whitehead's Lives of
the Wesley s, vol. ii, pp. 120-66; also Footfalls, by R. Dale
Owen, book iii, ch. ii.


cause us to feel that our very ordinary and daily
self — which we know so well (and which some-
times we even get a little tired of) is only a frac-
tion, only a flag and a signal, of that great Pres-
ence which we really are, that great Mass-man
who lies unexplored behind the very visible and
actual. Difl^cult or impossible as this being may
be to define, enormously complex as it probably
is, and far-reaching, and hard to gauge, yet we see
that it is there, undeniably there — a being that
apparently includes far extremes of faculty and
character, running parallel to the conscious self
from low to high levels,^ having in its range of
manifestation the most primitive desires and pas-
sions, and the highest feats of intellect and enthu-
siasm; and while at times capable of accepting
the most frivolous suggestions and of behaving
in a humorous or merely capricious and irre-
sponsible manner, at other times capable, as we
have seen, of taking most serious command and
control of the whole physical organism, and as
far as the spiritual organism is concerned, of
rising to the greatest heights of prophecy and
inspiration. 2

^ See Myers, o'p cit., p. 154. As many writers have remarked,
the term "superconscious" might often be more applicable
than "subconscious."

^ With regard to this question of hypnotism and crime,
T. J. Hudson says {Psychic Phenomena, p. 129) that it is al-
most impossible to persuade a hypnotic to do what he firmly
believes to be wrong. And Myers maintains that whatever the
subliminal being may be, it is never malignant. "In dealing
with automatic script, for instance, we shall have to wonder
whence come the occasional vulgar jokes or silly mystifications.


I say, then, that we must Include In this problem
of survival both the ordinary upper and conscious
self and the deep-lying subjective and subconscious
(or superconscious) being. Just as the organizing
power of the Body includes the Cerebro-spinal
system of nerves on the one hand, and the Great-
Sympathetic system on the other, so the organism
of the soul includes the supraliminal and sub-
liminal portions. The two must be taken to-
gether, and either alone could only represent a
fraction of the real person. The exact relation
of these two selves to each other is a matter
which can only become clear with long time and
study of this difficult subject. It may be that
the subliminal self Is destined to become conscious
In our ordinary sense of the word. It may be,
on the other hand, that the conscious self is
destined to rise into the much wider consciousness
of the subjective being. There is a great deal
to suggest that the supraliminal self Is only the
front as it were of the great wave of life; and
that the brain consciousness Is only a very special
instrument for dealing with the surroundings and
conditions of our terrestrial existence — an instru-
ment which will surrender much of Its value at

We shall discuss whether they are a kind of dream of the
automatist's own, or whether they indicate the existence of
unembodied intelligences on the level of the dog or the ape.
But, on the other hand, all that world-old conception of
Evil Spirits, of malevolent powers, which has been the basis
of so much of actual devil-worship and so much more of vague
supernatural fear — all this insensibly melts from the mind
as we study the evidence before us." {Op. cit., p. 252.)


death and on mergence with the larger and dif-
ferently constituted consciousness which under-
runs and sustains It. That the two selves are
In constant communication with each other, and
that they are both Intelligent In some sense, Is
obvious from the facts of suggestion, by which
often the lightest whisper so to speak from the
upper Is understood and attended to by the under
self; while, on the other hand, the under-self com-
municates with the upper, sometimes by Inner
Voices heard and Visions seen, sometimes by auto-
matic actions, as In dream- or trance-wrlting,
sometimes even by Sounds and Apparitions so
powerful as to appear at least external.

So we cannot but think that the question of sur-
vival may ultimately resolve Itself very much Into
the question of the more complete and effectual
understanding between these different portions of
the self. When they come Into clear relation with
each other, when the unit-man and the Mass-
man merge Into a perfect understanding and • ,
harmony, when they both become conscious of '
their affiliation to the great Self of the uni-
verse, then the problem will be solved — or we
may perhaps say, the problem will cease to



It may seem rash or unbalanced to dwell, In the
preceding chapters, on trance and mediumlstic phenomena
as much as I have done, considering that they are In
some sense abnormal — that is, they are unusual, and
comparatively few people have an opportunity of verify-
ing them; also they may (it Is said) be abnormal in
the sense of being the products of conditions so special
or even so morbid that conclusions drawn from them
can hav6 no general importance or value.

There Is a certain fashion In such matters, and with
large sections of the public and during a long period It
has no doubt been the habit simply to dismiss all con-
sideration of this subject, as for one reason or another
unadvisable. But now these phenomena In general (or
enough of them to constitute a solid body of observation)
are so thoroughly corroborated that It would be mere
affectation to pass them by; and the best science now-
adays refuses to ignore exceptional happenings on account
of their exceptionality — recognizing that these very hap-
penings often afford the key to the explanation of more
common events.

The phenomena connected with mediums and seances
have been so amazing and unexpected that they have
often produced a kind of fear and dismay. The religious
people have been terrified at the prospect of having to
acknowledge miracles not connected with the Church;
or of having to confess to the resurrection of John Smith
as well as of Jesus Christ. The scientific folk (in many
or most quarters) being always just on the point of
completing their pet scheme of the universe — whatever
It may happen to be at the time — have naturally been
in no mood to admit new facts which would totally


disarrange their systems; and have, therefore, with a
few brilliant exceptions, consistently closed their eyes
or looked another way. And the general public, not
without reason, has feared to embark on a subject which
might easily fioat it away from the dry land of practical
life, into one knows not what sea of doubt or even

But these difficulties attend at all times the introduc-
tion of a new subject — or at least of one which is new
to the generation concerned; and can of course not be
allowed to interfere with the candid and impartial ex-
amination of the subject, or with the assimilation, as
far as feasible, of its message. It should certainly, I
think, be admitted that there are dangers attending the
new science — or rather attending the hasty and careless
investigation of it — just as there are attending any other
science. There is no doubt that the phenomena con-
nected with it are so astounding that they in some
cases unhinge people's minds, or at least for the time
upset them; and what we have already said once or
twice of the frequent bodily exhaustion of the Medium,
not to mention the occasional exhaustion of the sitters,
must convince us that the greatest care should be exer-
cised in connection with trance-conditions, and that the
whole subject should be studied with a view to discover-
ing its proper and best handling. It is clear — whatever
view is taken of the process — that a certain disintegra-
tion of the organism, and even of the personality of the
medium, is liable to occur, one portion of the organism
acting in a manner and under influences foreign to an-
other portion, and that such disintegration oft repeated
or long continued may be liable to produce a permanent
degeneration of phj^sique or even possibly demoralization
of character. If there is a danger in this direction —
and the extent of the danger should certainly be gauged
— equally certainly it ought to be minimized or averted
by the proper conditions. On the other hand, while
noting this danger, we should not leave out of mind that


some evidence points in the other direction — namely, to
the favorable effects and influences of trince when
rightly conducted.^ We may also in this connection
allude to the changed attitude of the genera! mind to-day
toward Hypnotism — a subject allied to that which we
are considering. Fifty years ago the word had a sinister
sound, and hypnotism and mesmerism w^ere thought to
be inventions of the devil and agencies of all evil. To-
day they are recognized as a great power for good, and
in at least two hospitals (in France) as the main instru-
ment of healing. Naturally, when people are ignorant
of a subject, or only in the first stages of knowledge
with regard to it, they mishandle and misunderstand it.
It may well happen therefore that with better under-
standing of mediumship and trance-conditions, some of
their drawbacks or less favorable aspects may pass out
of sight.

Mediums and trance-phenomena — prophecy, second
sight, speaking in strange tongues, the appearance of
flames and lights, and of figures apparently from the dead
— are things that have been known all down history,
and recognized almost as a matter of course, both among
quite primitive peoples like the Kafl^rs, or the Aleuts or
the Mongolians, or among the more cultured like the
Greeks, the Romans, the Hindus, Chinese, and so forth.
The Bible teems with references to wizards and "necro-
mancers" (note the meaning of the word) ; and the story
of the Witch of Endor gives us a penetrating glimpse
into what was evidently a common practice of "consulta-
tion." These phenomena have never been so common as
to break up and disorganize the routine of ordinary life,
yet they have alwa^^s been there, and recognized, as on
the fringe or borderland — in some^vhat the same way
as the knowledge or recognition of Death does not inter-
fere with daily life or prevent us making engagements;

*See Mediumship, by James B. Tetlow (Keighley, 1910),
price 6d.


though we know it may do so at any time. And beyond
any direct uses that trance-communication and manifes-
tations may have now, or may have had in the past (a
matter on which no doubt there is a good deal of dif-
ference of opinion), we may fairly suppose that as ex-
amples of real things and of a real world lying just
outside the sphere of our ordinary and actual experience
they may be of immense value — both as delivering us
from a cramped and petty belief that we have already
fathomed the possibilities of the universe, and as giving
us just a hint and a glimpse of directions in v/hich we
may fairly look for the future. That we should for the
present be limited for the most part to a definite sphere
of activity, or to a definite region of creation, seems only
natural. ''One world, please, at a time!" said Thoreau
when on his deathbed he was plagued by some pious
person about the future life; and if we in our daily
life were entangled in. the manifestations of two very
different planes of existence it might be greatly baffling.
At the same time, the occasional hint or message from
another plane may be of the greatest help.

Condensations and mnnifestations (as of beings from
such other plane) may be abnormal at present. They
may be rare, they may occur under unexpected and even
unhealthy conditions, they may cause dislocations of
mind and of morals, they may be confused and confus-
ing. All these things w^e should indeed in some degree
expect; and yet it may not follow that these objections
will continue. It is quite possible that in the future they
will disappear. As I have had occasion to say many
times, every new movement or manifestation of human
activity, w^hen unfamiliar to people's minds, is sure to be
misrepresented and misunderstood. It appears in humble
guise, without backing or patronage, forcing its way to
light in the most unlikely places, "to the Jews a stum-
bling-block, to the Greeks foolishness," often distorted
and out of shape owing to its very birth-struggles, and
for the very same reason diffident at first and uncertain


of its own mission. Possibly a time is coming when
Mediumship, instead of being left over (as not un-
frequently now) to quite ignorant and uncultured speci-
mens of humanity, and being exercised in haphazard,
careless fashion, or for monetary gain, or personal van-
ity, will be looked upon as a sacred and responsible
office, worthy of and requiring considerable preparation
and instruction, demanding the respect of the public,
yet thoroughly criticized, both in method and result, by
intelligent examiination and logic. Possibly a time is
coming when messages and manifestations from another
plane than that of our daily life will come to us under
the most obviously healthy and sane conditions, and will
be fully recognized as having value and even, in their
way, authority.

For the present — allowing (as I do) the absolute
genuineness of a great body of "spiritualistic" phenom-
ena — there still is (owing to various causes already in-

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Online LibraryEdward CarpenterThe drama of love and death; a study of human evolution and transfiguration → online text (page 10 of 18)