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of acting at a distance. That force is now almost uni-



THE PSYCHICAL SCIENCES TO-DAY 27

versally admitted to explain the phenomena of trans-
mission of thought and telepathy.

Owing to a frequent confusion of terms, due to their
similarity, suggestion, which is no longer contested,
permits us to admit the phenomenon of transmission of
thought christened mental suggestion. And this latter
apparently does not differ essentially from the other,
in that it implies, above all, an influence exerted by one
brain upon another through a field imperceptible to our
senses. Strange to say, however, animal magnetism,
which seems to be the more general phenomenon — the
condition for mental suggestion — is denied its right
of existence, when mental suggestion is but one of its
particular consequences.

But sooner or later, no doubt, when logic recovers
its right, it will be recognized that animal magnetism
conceals in reality the key to psychical phenomena under
all their forms. This is one of the truths that we espe-
cially endeavored to establish in Our Hidden Forces;
and we hope that our example may encourage other
researchers to labor in this field, so that there may be
acquired to science one more definite result.

The recent scientific discovery of X-rays and of
emanations from radium has disposed savants to admit
more easily the existence in nature of a multitude of
radiations and influences too subtle to be observed or-
dinarily by our senses; and it is perhaps this which ex-
plains the reception — rather than the encouragement
— given by the scientific world to the recent experiments
of water-diviners.

There, too, a result seems to have been acquired.



28 THE PSYCHOLOGY OF THE FUTURE

However, it has not been definitely decided that the
movements of the divining-rod or of the pendulum are
caused, as Chevreul claimed, solely by the unconscious
thought of the operator, to the exclusion of all objective
influences. And one is not obliged to believe that such
thought is not under some secret influence of an un-
known though real force.

Hyloscopy now is merely at the threshold of science ;
but it will not be long before it will have crossed over.

The phenomenon of clairvoyance, whose mysterious
mechanism passes all human understanding, occupies,
as it were, the middle position between hyloscopy and
telepsychism, since it supposes an action exerted by
objects, in spite of sometimes enormous distances, upon
the sensibility of the subject; and in the same subject a
faculty of perception susceptible of being brought into
play by this remote and incomprehensible action.

Science is far from admitting the reality of this phe-
nomenon, but it is beginning to submit it to scientific
study; and such works as those of Edmond Duchatel
on Psychometry and Dr. Osty on Lucidity and Intuition
undoubtedly hasten the moment when the phenomenon,
being recognized as real, will enable us to discover
experimentally the laws that regulate it.

At the present time we may see in those who study the
phenomenon of clairvoyance a tendency to place it on
the same level as that of penetration of thought — that
is to say, to believe that the visions of clairvoyants
are not connected directly with the objects themselves
but with the human brains in which the objects are rep-
resented. In other words, clairvoyance might be
essentially not a rapport of brain with object, but a rap-




THE PENDULUM



Any one susceptible to magnetic influence will follow, involun-
tarily, the movements of the operator's hand, even when it is not
in contact with the shoulder.



THE PSYCHICAL SCIENCES TO-DAY 29

port of brain with brain. Thus would be effaced the
distinction which early magnetizers established between
real clairvoyance or lucidity and the transmission of
thought.

It is left to future researches to solve the question
definitely and finally.

There remains the science of the third class, which
has for its object the troublesome and baffling phe-
nomena of spiritism. The farther we advance in our
inquiries in this field, the more rare become the results
acquired. Let us not believe, however, with the or-
dinary public, that these phenomena have nothing of
truth in them. For it is certain, it has been proved be-
yond all doubt, that tables turn and rap, that they make,
by means of certain codes, intelligible answers to ques-
tions that are asked them. And it is incontestably
proved that certain individuals, called mediums, do
write, speak, and act, without being conscious of what
they are doing, exactly as if they were the instruments
of foreign personalities. All these facts are amply
established; it is only the ignorant who deny them.

Now, to what cause must they be attributed? Are
they, as their appearances suggest, as the mediums in-
sist, the effects and the proofs of the intervention of
spirits? Is it really the souls of the dead who come
from the other world to cause the tables to move and
who inhabit momentarily the bodies of the living?

In this there is a wholly different problem.

That which is acquired is the reality of the spiritoidal
phenomena, at least of a certain number of them; that
which is far from being acquired in the manner in which
they may be explained.



30 THE PSYCHOLOGY OF THE FUTURE

To admit these phenomena does not necessarily mean
admitting such or such explanation that may be pro-
posed. From the viewpoint of the scientist, the ex-
planation, whatever it may be, is of secondary import-
ance; the essential thing is the methodical study of the
facts, their establishment and their analysis. To prove
or to refute a certain philosophic or religious doctrine
is not sufficient; it is necessary to know whether certain
facts actually occur, and, if so, how they occur.

The most important results will be acquired in re-
searches of this order only when all those whose ex-
periments lie in this field are persuaded that it is with
that attitude of mind that they must labor. The ex-
perimental method only, loyally and patiently practised,
will enable the researcher to ascertain if certain phe-
nomena generally considered unbelievable — levitation,
apports, materialization — are actually real or if they
are but " tricks " and fraud. This method alone will
permit him to arrive at interpretations — tentative
without doubt and hypothetical, but useful nevertheless
to guide the experimenter through obscurities more im-
penetrable than those of the forest of Dante's Inferno.

IV

However imperfect may be the actual state of the
psychical sciences at the present time, this brief review
shows that they are sufficiently organized to live and to
be developed regularly; that experimenters may be
assured of the reality of their object, each being in
the firm possession of his method, a certain number of
essential results already having been acquired.

What is it that is necessary for the hastening of their



THE PSYCHICAL SCIENCES TO-DAY 31

evolution, that the number of results may be increased
steadily from day to day?

First of all, that public opinion, better informed, may
understand the interest and the utility of the researches
and may become accustomed to considering them as
real sciences, and not as playthings, oracles, or pastimes
for society. No less important is the necessity for
establishing " numerous centers of research through-
out the civilized world — institutes and laboratories
where researchers who are specially trained into scien-
tific and philosophical discipline, and accorded the
same respect by other scientists as is given to physicians,
chemists, and physiologists, could devote themselves ex-
clusively to the exploration of the psychical field in its
widest sense, and where they could check each other
constantly." 6

6 Our Hidden Forces.



CHAPTER II

THE RIGHT AND THE WRONG METHODS

The question of the method to be adopted in the
study of the psychical sciences is of great importance
when considering that at the present time these sciences
are still in the form of an enormous mass of infinitely
diverse, complex, mysterious, sometimes contradictory,
facts, regarding which there arise the most enigmatic
problems.

Is it possible to establish order in all this confusion?
If so, let us see how.

I

One fact imposes itself upon our attention. The
different phenomena comprised in the psychical sciences
are divided naturally into groups sufficiently distinct
that each of these groups can and should become a
special science in itself. Yet they have in common such
important characteristics, and they are connected by
relations so numerous and so closely woven, that it is
impossible to study them satisfactorily if we do not
take into account their deep affinities and their intimate
solidarity. It is because of having disregarded this
twofold circumstance that the greater part of the re-
searchers have hitherto erred an hasard or their
methods have remained unimproved.

In the prescientific epoch of their history, the psy-

32



RIGHT AND WRONG METHODS 33

chical sciences were found, pell-mell with astrology,
alchemy, and magic, in the obscure chaos of occultism;
and this state of confusion began to be cleared up only
toward the end of the eighteenth century, when Mes-
mer and his disciples aroused public curiosity about the
phenomena of animal magnetism which they produced.

It is then that analysis was introduced into the study
of psychical facts, and it resulted, at one and the same
time, in the necessary precisions and the inevitable con-
tradictions.

Braid recognized the reality of a certain state of the
nervous system provoked by physical actions — such
as the prolonged fixation of gaze upon a brilliant point
— and he fully described the principal effects. How-
ever, outside of hypnotism thus defined, he did not ad-
mit as real anything more from among all the strange
and wonderful facts reported by the early observers.
The School of the Salpetriere confined its doctrine
within these same limits. And so, also, similar to
Abbe Faria and General Noiset, the School of Nancy,
with Liebeault, Liegeois, and Bernheim, studied the
power of thought and idea, allied to belief and emotion,
upon the mind and the human organism, and proclaimed
that suggestion is in itself " the key to all the phe-
nomena of hypnosis." All so-called psychical facts,
when real, are caused by suggestion; all facts not so
caused are purely imaginary.

Thus, under the exclusive influence of analysis, each
searcher specializes in the study of a certain order of
phenomena, and systematically ignores or denies all
those that may exist outside of his own field of study
and experimentation. The same narrowness is shown



34 THE PSYCHOLOGY OF THE FUTURE

by the disciples of Mesmer, who, for the greater part,
refused to recognize hypnotism and suggestion as being
side by side with and quite distinct from animal mag-
netism.

With the study of spiritistic phenomena and those of
mental suggestion and telepathy, two new branches of
researches spring from the main trunk of psychism.
But here still we find the same tendency to believe that
each of these studies can suffice entirely in itself, and
constitute alone the totality of the psychical sciences.

The true method is to give to analysis and to syn-
thesis the part that legitimately belongs to each of them.

It is absolutely necessary that the multitude of
psychical phenomena be divided into a certain number
of groups, and that these groups be studied separately.
For the human mind, study is not possible, science is not
possible, without division, order, classification. An-
alysis is in itself the very condition of synthesis; every
synthesis that is not preceded by analysis is necessarily
confused. That is why, in Our Hidden Forces, we
were compelled to classify the different psychical
sciences according to three great divisions : hypnoidal,
magnetoidal, and spiritoidal. And under these heads
we arranged the different groups of phenomena cov-
ered by them, giving to each a special name — hypnol-
ogy, cryptopsychism, psychodynamy, telepsychism, hy-
loscopy, etc. — thus recognizing, as it were, their dis-
tinct individuality.

But any such classification, in drawing the many and
varied psychical sciences together into unity, compels
the mind to consider them as necessarily coordinated
among themselves. They are independent, though at



RIGHT AND WRONG METHODS 35

the same time solidary, parts of one and the same
whole.

Therefore, in the pursuit of any one of these partic-
ular sciences — for example, hypnotism or suggestion
— it may be well, in order to advance the analysis as
far as possible, to consider the psychical facts from a
certain angle only, disregarding all the facts and all
the elements of facts that are not visible from that
angle. It must not be forgotten, however, that this
is but an artifice of the method; that, if one's special
branch of pursuit succeeds in realizing, in its concep-
tions or in its experimentations, that isolation of one of
the essential elements of psychism, it does not follow
that in reality that element may not often be inseparably
united to other elements equally essential, objects of
some other branch of science.

Thus the point of view of the synthesis must always,
in psychical sciences, complete and correct the point of
view of the analysis.

II
However, it must be acknowledged that although the
different psychical sciences are connected with and de-
pendent upon one another, they are not all on the
same plane. There exists between them a certain
order, a certain hierarchy of connections and dependen-
cies. Thus the simplest, the most elementary phenom-
ena, the easiest to isolate and to reproduce experiment-
ally, come logically first, before those that are on a
higher plane, that are more complex, more difficultly
controlled by the experimenter, and consequently are
relatively more independent.



36 THE PSYCHOLOGY OF THE FUTURE

This is, we believe, a point of extreme importance,
one upon which it is necessary to insist.

It determines the general direction of the method in
psychical research, if it be true that the human brain
must, according to the precept of Descartes, " conduct
one's thoughts in order, by beginning with the simplest
and the most easily understood objects and climbing
little by little, by degrees as it were, to the knowledge
of the most complex. . . ."

Let us apply this particular rule to the study of the
psychical sciences. The result is that the science of
hypnoidal phenomena must be considered as the pre-
liminary condition of the study of magnetoidal phe-
nomena; and that these two must be advanced suffi-
ciently far before it will be possible to begin, with any
hope of success, the scientific exploration of spiritoidal
phenomena.

Up to the present time those savants who have ven-
tured into this field have attempted to study only the
most extraordinary phenomena, those that most excite
the curiosity and stir the imagination: in other words,
the spiritoidal phenomena which assume the strangest
forms, such as are reported by William Crookes, de
Rochas, Richet, etc. In a similar way, in studying the
phenomena of telepathy — of which the English and
American Societies for Psychical Research have col-
lected numerous examples — the savants have confined
themselves to those magnetoidal phenomena in which
the mechanism is the most obscure and the most com-
plex.

Is not such a method directly contrary to the principle
that we have laid down?



RIGHT AND WRONG METHODS 37

But that principle has already been contested. Dr.
Gustave Geley, in a remarkable study on " a special
experimental method in metapsychism," after having
remarked, with ourselves, that " all the metapsychic
phenomena, from the simplest and most elementary to
the highest and most complex, are absolutely con-
nected," affirms that " the scientific method, fully ade-
quate to the new science, resides entirely in this for-
mula : to consider as temporarily negligible all the
elementary phenomena and to attack immediately and
systematically the most complex phenomena that are
known to ns." He is fully aware that " such a
methodological principle is revolutionary." It con-
flicts, he says, with the teachings of the most eminent
psychists. " It breaks away from the standard, classi-
cal method, admitted by all the other sciences, in which
it is necessary always to proceed from the known to
the unknown and from the simple to the complex."

But this savant does not stop there; for, according to
him, " in metapsychism the simplest is found to be the
most difficult to recognize." Consequently, it is by
the study of physical phenomena, in preference to in-
tellectual, that we are asked to begin the systematic in-
vestigation of metapsychism. And from among the
physical phenomena, that of materialization should be
the first.

It is apparent that this author understands by " met-
apsychism " not the ensemble of the psychical phe-
nomena (or par apsy chic, to use our own term) — with
its three relatively distinct branches and the whole in-
separably connected and hierarchically superposed —
but exclusively a section of that ensemble, the third and



38 THE PSYCHOLOGY OF THE FUTURE

last, the spiritoidal phenomena, commonly called spir-
itism.

If the word psychical be kept to designate, as usage
has established it, all phenomena whatsover of the
unknown in psychology, it will enable us to distinguish,
on the one hand, the phenomena properly called para-
psychic, and, on the other hand, the metapsychic phe-
nomena, which it seems very difficult to strip of their
supernatural or extra-natural appearances.

It is not a question, therefore, with this author, of
the general method of parapsychism, including at the
same time parapsychism properly called and meta-
psychism, but uniquely, exclusively, of the special
method of metapsychism, which he seems to consider
as absolutely independent, separable by right and in
fact from the rest of parapsychism; susceptible conse-
quently to be approached de piano, without previous re-
course to the study of the antecedent disciplines.

We should not be willing, on our part, to admit any
such viewpoint.

As we shall show later in detail, when considered in
themselves, all hypotheses as to their origin being dis-
regarded, the metapsychic (or spiritoidal) phenomena
do not differ essentially from the others: there can
always be found in each of them a correspondent of
the same kind in the series of phenomena that are
really parapsychic (hypnoidal and magnetoidal).
Thus the state of trance of a medium is a fact wholly
analogous to the state of hypnosis of a subject placed
in catalepsy or somnambulism; the spiritistic messages
obtained by means of the table, automatic writing, etc.,
singularly resemble the facts of dissociation of the



RIGHT AND WRONG METHODS 39

personality experimentally provoked; the phenomena of
thought-reading or of clairvoyance, frequently men-
tioned in the reports of spiritistic seances, are analogous
to those of perceptive telepsychism or of psychometry,
observed outside of all spiritistic ambient, etc. 1

Spiritism thus appears, as we have said, a " spon-
taneous synthesis of all or nearly all the parapsychic
facts determined by a certain nervous and mental state "
— to which perhaps may be given, with Professor
Flournoy, the name spiritogene. This is why science,
faithful to the principle of economy, prefers, until
the contrary be proved, to consider spiritoidal (or
metapsychic) facts as reducible to facts of the preced-
ing orders, or at least attempts that reduction as far
as possible.

Even if admitting the hypothesis of spirits and their
effective participation in the production of spiritoidal
phenomena, it is necessary to note that " the whole
action of these spirits consists in arousing in certain
susceptible subjects (mediums) the greater part of the
hypnoidal and magnetoidal phenomena (hypnotism,
suggestion, dissociation of the personality, telepathy,
clairvoyance, etc.) constated in ordinary subjects, either
spontaneously or as the effect of the experimenter's
action. It can be said that spirits operate exactly as
do hypnotists and mesmerists."

Is it not right, then, to conclude that " from the point
of view of the method, the study of spiritoidal phe-

1 For this reason we cannot well agree with Dr. Geley that the
study of the " supernormal and subconscious faculties of vision at a
distance without the aid of the senses, of telepathy, of thought-reading,
of lucidity," appertains essentially to metapsychism. Its place seems
to us to be incontestably marked in parapsychism properly called.



4 o THE PSYCHOLOGY OF THE FUTURE

nomena must be strictly subordinated to that of phe-
nomena of the two preceding orders, and that it is
only when these have been advanced sufficiently far
that the experimenter can begin to see his way a little
more clearly in the study of the third order " — in
other words, that parapsychism is the necessary intro-
duction, the inevitable pathway to metapsychism?

Hence, to begin the study of the ensemble of para-
psychic phenomena, or metapsychic, by attacking first
and exclusively a phenomenon as complex and as diffi-
cult to manage as that of materialization, seems to
us to be comparable to physicists who would regret that
the study of electricity or of physics in general had not
begun with the study of globe lightning — a problem
certainly highly interesting, but the solution of which
will be found only in a more or less distant future, and
because of the increasing extent of our knowledge in
electricity and other branches of physics.



CHAPTER III

OBSERVATION, THE FIRST STEP

I

It is not enough to show the general direction of the
method in the psychical sciences; it is necessary also to
determine the nature and the rapports of the different
processes of which the method is composed.

Whatever may be the particular nature of the facts
under study, all sciences based upon facts are necessarily
and exclusively amenable to the experimental method.
Those — as certain theosophists or certain occultists —
who would pretend to build up the science of psychical
facts upon the foundation of authority or of reasoning
would succeed only in excluding psychical facts from
science.

The experimental method, as we have shown else-
where, 1 consists essentially of four processes, disposed
in the following order:

( i ) Observation

(2) Hypothesis

(3) Experimentation

(4) Induction

The order has in this case such great importance that
if, keeping the same elements, we dispose them in any

1 Our Hidden Forces.

41



42 THE PSYCHOLOGY OF THE FUTURE

other manner, the ensemble obtained is not the experi-
mental method, but a method wholly different.

Thus observation in the experimental method has
but one aim — to make possible the hypothesis; the
hypothesis has but one aim — to make possible the
experimentation; just as the experimentation has but
one aim — to make possible the induction. From ob-
servation to supposition; from supposition to experi-
mentation; from experimentation to induction — that
is the succession, the necessary subordination of the
proceedings in the experimental method.

Of these four operations, the first and the third —
observation and experimentation — are processes of
information, of constatation of the particular facts.
The second and the fourth — hypothesis and induc-
tion — are processes of interpretation, of reasoning re-
lating to general laws. The originality of the experi-
mental method consists in the fact that it counterchecks
the two kinds of operations in such a way that they
provoke and complete or control each other.

The entire method can be summarized in the fol-
lowing formula :

First period: Preparatory constatation (obser-
vation).
Second period: Temporary interpretation (hy-
pothesis).
Third period: Decisive constatation (experi-
mentation).
Fourth period: Definitive interpretation (induc-
tion).
It is by the persevering and scrupulous application of
the experimental method, as it is thus comprised, that



OBSERVATION, THE FIRST STEP 43

the study of psychical phenomena will be progressively
transformed into a real science.

But the processes of this method, owing to the pecu-
liar conditions in which psychical phenomena present
themselves, assume in their study particular character-
istics which it is important to note.


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Online LibraryEmile BoiracThe Psychology of the Future → online text (page 3 of 22)