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far as it depends upon our will; but can it, also, be the
object of a sort of immediate vision? Can the future
become the present in the mind of the medium?

That is a formidable question, from the philosophi-
cal and moral viewpoints; for the question of our free


will and our moral responsibility are themselves in-

One may find many examples of prevision and pre-
monition, which are inexplicable by the normal faculties
of induction and are verified by later events. It will
be sufficient to cite two cases :

One is that of Dr. Geley, of Annecy, who in 1894
was a medical student at Lyon. On the 27th of June,
at nine o'clock in the morning, while working in his
room with a comrade, he was suddenly distracted from
his work by this obsessing thought: " M. Casimir-
Perier is elected President of the Republic by 451
votes." (The electoral Congress assembled at mid-
day, and the news was not known in Lyon until that

The other case is that which Dr. Osty reports thus
in his book, Lucidity and Intuition, as related by the
seer herself:

A year ago I made this prediction to a man who came to
consult me for the first time: " I see you upon the point of
departing for a voyage across the seas ... to America, prob-
ably. I see you in the steamer, sad and alone; but you will
not leave until later, after many boats have left for the same
destination the port where you will embark."

The gentleman answered me as follows : " I actually am on
the point of leaving France for America; so I admire your
clairvoyant powers. But you have told me two things that are
altogether improbable. One is that I do not take the first
steamer. I have my ticket in my pocket, and everything is
arranged that I leave the day after to-morrow. The second is
that you see me sad and alone. I shall have my wife with me ;
and if anything should possibly occur to keep her in France, my
trip would be canceled."


Yesterday this gentleman returned to me. " Your prophecy
was only too well fulfilled," he said. " The day after I came
here to consult you, my wife was taken ill with pneumonia, and
died a few days later. Then, left alone, I quitted France ; and
I was, as you said, a passenger on the steamer, sad and alone."


Let us review the principal circumstances or condi-
tions in which clairvoyance, or metagnomy, is mani-
fested under one or the other of its different forms.

Even though it appears sometimes, abruptly and
spontaneously, in the waking state, without the ordinary
equilibrium of the mental and physiological faculties
appearing in the least changed (especially in the case
of telepathy) , it seems to have some special liaison with
particular states of the nervous system more or less
analogous to sleep, hypnosis, ecstasy, trance, etc., or
even with ordinary sleep.

Popular belief attributes a prophetic significance to
certain dreams. In Cicero, for instance, there is the
dream of that Arcadian who saw his friend first men-
aced with death, then assassinated, and reached the
gates of the town in time to stop the cart in which the
murderers carried the body hidden under a heap of

But it is especially in the somnambulistic state, nat-
ural or provoked, that metagnomic manifestations
occur most often. Very often clairvoyance is revealed
during an access of natural somnambulism; and the in-
dividual in whom this faculty appears spontaneously
is then brought to develop it by means of artificial som-
nambulistic processes.


This, we believe, was the case of the famous som-
nambulist Alexis, who was worth being studied with the
greatest care, without the unfortunate prejudiced atti-
tude which scientists manifest in considering all phe-
nomena of this kind as being unworthy of their atten-

A more recent case was that observed by Dr. Ter-
rien and presented by him in a communication made to
the Society of Medicine, of Nantes, during 19 14. A
young girl, fourteen years old, while doing some sew-
ing for him, went to sleep spontaneously and began
to recount all the doctor's actions at that moment. He
had left with the intention of visiting one patient only,
and had been delayed by three other, wholly unex-
pected, visits. " She gave," said a witness, " the rea-
sons for the departure from his original intention, the
supplementary visits, the names of the patients, etc.,
without omitting the detail that a cultivator obstructed
the doctor's way, and he had to stop on the road, thus
delaying his return."

Often, also, it is the mesmerist or hypnotist who in
some way evokes the metagnomic faculty, in giving to
the sleeping subject the imperative suggestion to see a
certain person or a certain object. But in order to
have the idea of making a suggestion of this kind, it is
evidently necessary to know, or at least to believe, that
metagnomy is possible. It is for want of this knowl-
edge or this belief that experimenters imbued with the
doctrines of official science pass right by the side of this
phenomenon without seeing it. Very often it exists in
their subjects, in a state of latent possibility, waiting
only to be called upon. Although exclusive partizans


of suggestion, they ignore one of its most remarkable
powers — the genesial power of metagnomy; or else
they deny it, as being inexplicable by science, forget-
ting that science is no more in a position to explain
the curative power of suggestion, which none of them
doubts for a minute.

Let us remark, moreover, that suggestive action
nearly always has to be completed by that of certain
objects, which can even sometimes replace it. In order
to direct his clairvoyant powers upon a given person,
the subject must be en rapport with this person by
direct contact with him or with an object which has
belonged to him and is, so to speak, impregnated with
his personality — a piece of his hair, or of his clothing,
a letter written by him, etc.

Also, the subject can, without the aid of any outside
suggestion, place himself in a state of clairvoyance,
either by gazing fixedly into a crystal globe (known as
crystal gazing) ; or into a simple decanter of water —
which, it is claimed, Cagliostro used; or into a " magic
mirror "; or by any other process that may be desired.
Is it not natural to suppose that the divining-rod and
the pendulum play almost the same role in the develop-
ment of the special metagnomy of water-diviners?
And, if the lines of the hand, the cards, coffee-grounds,
etc., have really any virtue, does it not consist in the
property which these objects have to provoke in the
medium the apparition of her natural second sight?

In a word, the apparition of clairvoyance would ap-
pear to be linked, in a way that is still mysterious to
us, to certain ensembles of beliefs and practises which
undoubtedly determine in their adepts a particular

Globe and Stand lent b\ Dee & Fukushima, Inc., N. V.


The subject, placing herself in a state of clairvoyance by gazing
fixedly into the crystal globe, brings into play remarkable powers of
second sight, prophecy, etc., which normally are latent.


mental and nervous state, provocative of the metagno-
mic faculties.

The history of religions offers us numerous examples
of clairvoyance, under all its forms — penetration of
thought, second sight, telepathy, prophecy, etc.

Similarly, metagnomy is produced very frequently
in the course of spiritistic seances. Facts unknown to
the medium, occasionally also to the assistants, and
relative sometimes to objects and events of the present,
sometimes of the past, and sometimes even of the fu-
ture, are revealed, by the intermediary of the table or
the planchette, by means of automatic writing, or by
the word of the medium in a trance. And these reve-
lations appear to proceed from a personality distinct
from all those of the participants of the seance, from
a spirit capable of perceiving, in conditions absolutely
different from those of this life, the material organiza-
tion of their senses and their brain, consequently as
manifesting what might be called " transcendental me-


In the presence of a mass of facts so extraordinary
as these, the first inclination of our intelligence is to
deny or to doubt; and when it seems forced upon us
to recognize the reality, at least of some among them,
we immediately demand the explanation.

How are such phenomena possible?

That is the question that our intelligence asks insist-
ently; and we are surprised, impatient, not to receive an
answer; at least we are not satisfied to accept precipi-
tately the first apparent solution that is offered to us.


But the true scientific spirit consists in being disinter-
ested, at least temporarily, in the need for an explana-
tion, and in being reduced voluntarily to a sole research
— slow, persevering, obstinate — of the determinism
of the phenomena.

In the eyes of the scientist, the most ingenious, the
most intrinsically coherent, theory is, by itself, without
value and without interest; it constitutes even an
obstacle and a danger to science, if it merely aids the
mind to represent to itself facts already known, in a
way that pleases it and so, satisfying its curiosity, dis-
penses with all further investigation. The sole reason
for existence, we do not say of theories but of hypothe-
ses, in all experimental study, is to make possible the dis-
covery of facts still unknown, in permitting us to insti-
tute a series of new experiments; and these hypotheses
must always conserve the character, not of explana-
tions, in the real sense of the word, but of simple
interpretations, always subject to revision and to con-

In general, the explanations or interpretations which
are given of the metagnomic phenomena consist in
linking all the forms of clairvoyance to one among them
(that which the author of the explanation or interpre-
tation has more particularly, if not exclusively, stud-
ied), and in considering this, sometimes as a primary
fact, as an incontestable law established by experimen-
tation; sometimes as an extremely probable induction,
which imposes itself by its analogy with other laws
already acquired to science; and sometimes as a neces-
sary deduction of a theory dogmatically affirmed.


This last case is that of a certain number of spiritists
who, admitting the existence of spirits and their inter-
vention in things of this world as a certain truth, attrib-
ute to spirits not only the facts of " transcendental or
spiritoidal metagnomy," but all the facts of supernor-
mal knowledge, under whatever forms and in whatever
circumstances they may be produced. The clairvoyance
of the subjects and mediums would come to them always
from an exterior and super-terrestrial source; it would
be always a revelation emanating from the Beyond.

More in favor with the majority of contemporary
psychists is the explanation which links all the forms
of metagnomy with the fact of thought-penetration or
mental suggestion. This fact would appear henceforth
sufficiently proved by observation and experimentation,
and it is believed that it may be established as a law,
capable of explaining completely the diversity of the
particular cases.

It would be sufficient, therefore, to admit that there
exists a possibility of intercommunication of minds,
which would itself undoubtedly have as a necessary con-
dition an intercommunication of brains. And thus not
only psychometry would be explained, but also telepathy
and vision at a distance.

Expressed in terms of a physical order, the hypothe-
sis may be said to admit that each human brain emits
special radiations, correlative to its thoughts, conscious
or unconscious, of rays susceptible of being arrested in
transition by another brain, and of reproducing the
thoughts of the first brain. The rays are capable also,


perhaps, of making impressions of material objects and
of storing them, as sound vibrations are stored in the
discs of a gramophone. But there is not in this hypoth-
esis direct metagnomic vision of material objects.

" Lucidity," said Dr. Osty, " is not a monopsychic
phenomenon. Its production necessitates the har-
monious working of two brains : the one furnishing the
psychic force, the other its exceptional sensibility, react-
ing to the excitation received and reconstituting it into
its original form of thought."

The early mesmerists admitted, on the contrary, two
distinct forms of metagnomy: one subjective, the pene-
tration of thought; the other objective, vision at a dis-

It is not only human brains which emit metagnomic
radiations; all the objects of nature do so. To the
" C-rays " which link brain to brain it is necessary to
add the " O-rays " which link object to brain, these
two being twin forms of the same energy, whose na-
ture is still unknown to us, and which Reichenbach
named o d or odyle.

Thus each human brain would act as a center to
which all the rays from other brains and from all points
of the universe would arrive, when it would have the
possibility, thanks to this universal intercommunica-
tion, of perceiving what happens in every mind and in
every place. For want of the necessary conditions,
this possibility remains latent. But let these conditions
be realized, and metagnomy becomes apparent.

This natural mechanism is no less marvelous than
that which makes possible wireless telegraphy and


What good, however, does it do for us to linger upon
these views?

For all those who desire to hasten the accession of
psychical studies in the domain of science, there is a
more urgent task: that of collecting such a mass of
authentic and concordant facts that the most opinion-
ated skepticism cannot fail to give way before the evi-
dence; and that of deducing the elements, from which
our posterity may find perhaps, some day, the definite



Are there actually real facts, capable of being con-
trolled and scientifically studied, which come under the
heading of spiritism?

This question is answered in the negative only by
those who are wholly ignorant of the matter.

The researches of such observers as Professor
Thury of Geneva, the Count de Gasparin, the members
of the Dialectic Society of London — among whom
must be mentioned the mathematician De Morgan and
the naturalist Wallace — the researches of the great
physician and chemist, William Crookes, of Professor
Charles Richet and Professor Flournoy, and of still
many others, have definitely placed beyond all possible
contestation the reality of spiritistic phenomena.

Inasmuch as the word spiritism, although generally
employed, is nevertheless equivocal, we have proposed
for this order of phenomena the name spiritoidal, for
this has the advantage of eliminating any prejudging
of the intimate nature or the causes of the phenomena.

Contrary to the prejudices which still exist, we con-
sider that not only respect but encouragement should
be given to those scientists who devote their energy to
bringing a little light into this still dark and mysterious



corner of nature. Instead of deriding their enterprise,
it would be better to recognize their courage and disin-
terestedness, for they conduct these difficult studies in
the hope of making new discoveries of great importance
to the widening of science and the progress of the hu-
man mind.

The scientific study of spiritism, or spiritoidal phe-
nomena, should be conducted (1) by observing the
greatest number of spiritistic facts, while taking all
possible precautions to guarantee their authenticity;
(2) by classifying them in series, in order to bring out
the relations which may exist between them; (3) by
deducing, from these relations, the formulas to express

In a word, we must apply to spiritistic facts that
scientific method, with the necessary modifications of
detail, to which the natural and physical sciences have
owed their success. The real scientific spirit, we can-
not too often repeat, consists in the elimination of the
need for an explanation, and in limiting one's efforts to
determining the phenomena. The object of the sci-
entist is not to learn why certain phenomena exist, and
why they are thus and not otherwise ; it is to learn how
it is possible for him to influence them, to provoke them,
to prevent or modify them, as well as to foresee them,
and ultimately to utilize them in possible applications
to the needs of human activities.

This does not mean that the scientist should not try
to understand the facts that he witnesses. On the con-
trary, if he would discover their determinism, if,
through appropriate experimentation, he would inter-
rogate Nature and compel her to answer, it is indis-


pensable that he use reasoning and imagination.
Hence the inevitable intervention of directing ideas in
experimental research; hence the constant use of the
hypothesis, not to explain but to interpret the phenom-
ena as the knowledge acquired upon certain of their
rapports may enable us, as it were, to anticipate future
knowledge of certain others.

In the field of spiritoidal facts the seeker finds him-
self brought, more or less rapidly, before two possible
interpretations, both suggested by the facts themselves.
These are the spiritistic interpretations and the crypto-
psychic interpretation.


The principal characteristic of spiritoidal facts is
that they seem to imply the intervention, in things of
this world, of intelligent, invisible beings who are not
normally part of our world.

Because of this appearance, it could be said that the
first interpretation suggested is the spiritistic. This is
the interpretation that was adopted by the first observ-
ers; and it is also that given by casual observers who
have no scientific training, and by those who, consciously
or unconsciously, consider these facts as having no pos-
sible relation to science.

The cryptopsychic interpretation, on the contrary,
supposes doubt of the reality of the appearance pre-
sented by spiritoidal facts. It is an idea of the second
period, a reflection provoked by the comparison of
this order of facts to all the rest of our experience.
The facts which we have known hitherto — astronomy,
physics, chemistry, physiology — are the result of nat-


ural causes, forming, together, a closed and coherent
system, belonging to a same world. And those which
imply intelligences, consciousnesses, are linked, in a
constant order, to that system of matter and motion
wherein all reality appears to be enclosed.

It is, therefore, more in keeping with the tendencies
and the general method of science to suppose, until
proof to the contrary, that these special, spiritoidal
facts, in appearance the outcome of intelligent causes,
unknown and outside of nature, are in reality pro-
duced by known and intelligent causes belonging to na-
ture, although acting in a hidden manner, as if screened
from direct observation.

This is but an application of the great principle
which, since Descartes, has dominated and directed all
modern science: i. e., the supposition that the unknown
can always be made known; that in the realm of things
certain, already demonstrated and verified, the reason
of things still uncertain can be sought and found.

Yet intelligent causes, absolutely natural and visible,
certainly intervene in spiritoidal facts. They are the
human beings in whose presence these facts are mani-
fested. Hence, instead of attributing to spiritoidal
facts the intervention of hypothetical beings — spirits
of the dead, elementals, angels, demons, etc., the reality
of whom we have no proof — science, if she would be
faithful to her principles, must first of all connect them
with the forces and faculties of the human beings —
the sitters, and the mediums in particular. It is true
that mediums are thoroughly unconscious of interven-
ing actively in the production of these phenomena ; for
they believe that spiritistic phenomena are produced in


or through them, unknown to themselves and without
their participation, through forces foreign to their con-
sciousness, and often contrary to their own will. But is
this an illusion with them?

The study of hypnoidal facts, similar to the spirit-
oidal although not presenting their characteristic ap-
pearance, proves that, in certain circumstances human
beings may think and act and manifest aptitudes hith-
erto unsuspected, unknown to themselves, and without
the possibility of their attributing the facts to them-

It is, therefore, quite natural that those who study
spiritism, or spiritoidal phenomena, in a scientific way
should first of all apply the cryptopsychic interpreta-
tion, and should reject it only when its application has
been proved incontestably false. It must also be ad-
mitted, however, that in the majority of cases this in-
terpretation agrees perfectly with all the particu-
larities of the phenomenon to which it is applied.

The following, quoted from Esprits et mediums, by
Professor Flournoy, is a typical example:

Madame Dupond, a well-bred and cultured lady from Ge-
neva, of literary taste and philosophical and religious leanings,
took up the study of spiritism at the age of forty-five. She
tried automatic writing, and, at the end of eight days, was
able to get the names of dead relatives and friends, who gave
her messages of a philosophico-religious nature. About three
days later, after having received various communications, her
pencil wrote suddenly, and quite unexpectedly, the name of a
young Frenchman she knew — Rodolphe X., who had recently
entered a religious order in Italy. As she did not know that
he was dead, she was surprised and shocked; but her hand


continued to write, confirming the sad news in the following
circumstantial details:

" I am Rodolphe. I died last night at eleven o'clock, the
23rd. I had been ill for several days, and I was not able to
write. I had an inflammation of the lungs, caused by a sudden
change in the weather. I died without pain, and I have been
thinking of you. ... I am in space. ... I see your parents,
and I like them also. Good-by. ... I am going to pray for
you. ... I am no longer a Catholic, I am a Christian."

After her first astonishment, Madame Dupont believed more
and more in the authenticity of this message, because for almost
a week she continued to receive communications from Rodolphe,
making numerous allusions to their past relations. She had
met Rodolphe, who was then a priest, during a stay in the
South the preceding spring. He had returned from Italy, where
he had spent the winter on account of his poor health, and had
stopped a few days at the same hotel. Between this Genevese,
a confirmed Protestant and republican, and this man from the
north of France, an ardent legitimist and Catholic, in spite of
the difference in their ages (he was scarcely twenty), a real
moral and intellectual intimacy was formed, as a natural con-
sequence of the analogy of their temperaments and the unity of
their idealistic aspirations. Each of them had tried, without
success, to convert the other to his own ideas; and when they
were separated, they had continued this discourse by corre-
spondence, even after Rodolphe had entered the religious order,
pouring out their souls to each other in full confidence. At
the moment of Madame Dupond's automatic writing, it was
Rodolphe who owed a letter to his friend.

Do we not see there an excellent case of the apparent
intervention of a " discarnated spirit " — to use the
expression familiar to the partizans of the spiritistic
doctrine — in the affairs of this world? Unfortu-


nately, six days after the first communication from the
supposed dead man:

. . . there reached her by post a letter from Rodolphe, who,
far from being dead, was in perfect health. It shook Madame
Dupond's recent spiritistic convictions so thoroughly that she
was discouraged from pursuing further such disconcerting ex-

It is necessary to read in Professor Flournoy's book
the detailed and penetrating analysis to which he has

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Online LibraryEmile BoiracThe Psychology of the Future → online text (page 18 of 22)