Hereward Carrington.

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A Record of Experiences in Psy-
chical Research

UALISM. By }I.rt'\v'ard Curriugtoi . IIlus-

rr-. t.. ; V'r, 'Ti London: T. WV"'-'

MK. L'AlllUXGTON'S new JO'.'ic |,
goes far toward fixing tl j au-
thor's status as a sincere in-
vestigator of abnormal piiencmeiia
whether interpreted as such <•.- as
trickery or as manifestations o; the
supernatural. He frankly states that
he believes 08 per cent, of the me(Uunta
to be false, but deems the remaining 2

per cent, worthy of further invi itiga-
+ ''^n, if not of belief. His attitude to-

id this 2 per cent, is that of t le ex-
I'Kjrer toward an undiscovered river
source, of the chemist toward ya un-
Icnown element— the fact of their power
is believed in but their existence is still
a mystery.
Another interesting feature Cl tl»e

' is that it draws a clear line of
cation between scienUfi.* an*[ ^'hil-
u.-,xjph al research. Many writers on
P3>-chic phenomena employ both meth-
ods, so that one really finds them spec-
ulating upon the attributes of the un-
kr.own before they have established the

>ence of tiie unknown as a fact.
Atr. Carrington's contribution to this
ptiase of the subject is chiefly that of
editor. "Death: Its Causes and Phe-
nonaena," (Funk & Wagnall's Company.)
which he compiled in conjunction with
John R. Meader, is a 5oO-page volume
ainung to set forth all that science has
learned in regard to death, together
with what philosophy has contributed
to show that it is not the end, physical,
mental, or spiritual. This bool- is a
storehouse of unusual information— from
the latest clinical demonstration to the
latest theological belief, from the earliest
manifestations of immortality gathered

Biblical writer^ to the more recent

*-»^alizatlons iii the medium's cab-

both dealing with phenomena comraonlj^
called spiritualistic. In both the writer's
zeal for truth is manifested. He brings
to his experiments a long experience as
prestidigitator and as a detector of trick-
ery. He reveals the truth about u?tny
interesting mysteries which for mouth-s.
and sometime-; years, baffled the most
.searching investigation. " Slate writ-
ing." •■ spirit pictures," &C., are "x
plained; the fraud In tb^ "PMtuigt^jst.-
T.ily Dale, and *' The Great Amhcrs*;
-li sierj- " i.r laia trarr. i ;iu^ .".i; rirst
part of tlie book is an exposure of the
98 per cent., and the results, althong^h,
quite absorbing and oiten drnwnat^TeaHy^^
set forth, are all negative.

The second part of the book ce^nsists
almost entirely of phenomena produced
by the Eusapia Palladino, accounts of
which ha\'e not hitherto been published,
or, if published, have becA set forth
with imperfect accuracy. For example,
it is shown that Prof. Munsterberg'.s
account of one stance published in a
magazine is not in accord with what ac-
tually happened. The author in this
instance lays bare the whole history o.f
the case by the stenographic report
taken at the time. The results of the
second part of the book are positive.

These positive results taken in con-
nection with what Sir Oliver Lodge and
other scientific invcsigators, who are
also philosophers, have expounded or
cA.rfi.iwCv:, cauced the ■■■\^.i>'r>v to
express the need of a psychical labora-
tory to take up the subject where the
psychological laboratory of Prof. Mfins-
terberg leaves it.

When the first psychological labora-
tory was established at Harvard In
1890 its raison d'etre was quite as doubt-
ful as that of a psj^chical laboratory
would be to-day. Yet it has been of in-
calculable value in the field of criminol-
ogy alone. The work for a psychical
laboratory would be no less promising.
To be sure, it might very early in its
existence reduce Mr. Carringcon's 2 per
cent, to a nought, but even so, we should
th^n know exactly how t ''' ' W
all mediums in the future,
that the persistent 2 per c
terly annihilated there
as the author points
for scientific investiga ' ■

,5Ixperiments in tJ,

Charles Josselyn
















** It is apparent that a study of the circumstances of natural
death . . . may give rise to facts of the highest interest to
science and to humanity.'''' — Metchnikoff.



The subject which we have discussed at length in this
volume — Death — is generally looked upon as some-
thing to be " tabooed " by polite society ; something
unpleasant, which may some day come upon us, but
which we desire to think about as little as possible in
the interval. There is no logical ground for this
position, however, and, scientifically speaking, death
may be made as fascinating a study as any other.
Divested of the superstition and glamour which usually
surround it, death assumes the appearance of a most
interesting scientific problem, both from its physiolo-
gical and from its psychological side.

But there is another side to this question which
must by no means be overlooked. We refer to the
possibility of postponing death, on the one hand, and
of rendering it more painless, on the other. Both of
these results can only be effected by a thorough
understanding of the process involved : and this, in
turn, can only be obtained by a close, scientific
study of the problem — one that includes all its
aspects, and treats of them impartially. In summing
up this evidence, in condensing what has been said —



the speculations that have been offered during the
past two hundred years (sec Bibliography) — we are
satisfied that we have collated a quantity of interesting
material; while the particular theories as to the
nature of death which we have advanced, will not,
we hope, be without interest, and perhaps utility.
As we differ considerably from one another in our
theories as to the causation of old age and natural
death, we have thought it best to devote separate
chapters to these topics — each advancing his own
views. Later, we have tried to reconcile our opposing
theories. Finally, in collecting and presenting the
views of a number of scientific men on what con-
stitutes natural death, we have sounded opinion upon
a hitherto all but neglected subject, and we wish to
thank our contributors in this place for what they
have done for science, no less than for us.

The final question to which we have addressed our-
selves is, perhaps, the most vital and interesting of
all. The question of what becomes of the mental life
at death : whether consciousness persists, or is extin-
guished — like the flame of the candle — is of interest
alike to science and to philosophy ; and we have
presented a considerable quantity of material bearing
upon this question, tending to show that consciousness
does persist, and that personal identity is assured to
us. In arriving at this conclusion, we feel that an
important forward step has been taken in the correct






Death is universally recognised as the inevitable fate of
every living thing — the goal towards which animate life
is constantly tending — and yet, strange as it may appear,
human ingenuity has not yet succeeded in formulating a
definition that will adequately cover this last experience
of man. We know that all things that live must grow
old and die, but our theories concerning the causes that
produce this phenomenon are still almost entirely of a
speculative character. To say that death " is a cessation
of life " is to avoid the question. Even Spencer's defini-
tion, in which he pronounced life to be " the continual
adjustment of internal to external relations," and death,
a want of correspondence between those relations, leaves
much to be desired. It presents the fads of life and
death as we behold them, but it fails absolutely to trace
these apparent effects to the causes, of which they are the
natural manifestation.^

As far as positive science is concerned, the only im-
mortality that can be demonstrated is that of race. The
individual dies, from natural causes or by accident, as the
case may be, but, as each living thing is the direct result
of reproduction from another form, the death of the in-
dividual has practically no effect upon the continuance of

^ " Is it not obvious that this definition merely gives or states the effects
of life — its phenomena — and does nothing to state what its real essence is
at all ? . . . Life is that which adjusts, not the adjustments themselves.'' —
y^itality, Fcntinrj and Nutrition, pp. 33-4-5. (See also Appendix C. )


existence of the race. With this so-called potential im-
mortality, therefore, science is satisfied. Beyond this it
finds no room for speculation — no opportunity for its

To make this position clear to the mind of those Avho
have not been accustomed to the materialistic view of
the phenomena of life and death, it may be necessary to
explain that science recognises no new organism in the
product of reproduction any more than it distinguishes a
new creation in the changes that are so constantly occur-
ring in the form of living matter. Even a slight
acquaintance with the first principles of science is
sufficient to explain what this means, for we know
that the atoms that constitute the human body are
so lacking in stability that they are ever being dis-
carded and replaced by other substances derived
through the process of assimilation. In other words,
the one property that best distinguishes living matter
from dead matter is what might be termed the faculty
of self-creation, or the ability to transform the dead
substances assimilated into the same live substance of
which this matter is composed. Thus, as long as life
continues, this process goes on with unceasing regu-
larity. /TDead matter is cast aside, just as one would
discard a worn-out garment, and new matter is created
to take its place. When this faculty ceases to perform
its functions, death follows speedily.',

Both Huxley and Cuvier have used the river whirlpool
as an exact illustration of the nature of this phenomenon
of life, and most physiologists agree that this whirl of
water, as seen, for example, at Niagara, is an extremely
close reproduction of the natural process of assimilation
and disintegration — the alternating attraction and repul-
sion of the ever-changing particles representing the actual
conditions of physical life. That a material substratum


is left unchanged, there can be no doubt ; but even this
theory does not modify the conchisions that science has
drawn from this reproduction of the whirl of life. Though
it may be true that the animal body contains permanent
elements of definite composition, they alone are insufficient
to assure the continuance of physical existence.

It seems to be the popular impression that this
physical body begins its work of development at birth ;
that it continues to progress until the individual has
attained that rather indefinite period generally termed
'* maturity," and that, when this point has been reached,
definite deterioration commences. From all that science
has been able to determine, however, this idea is quite
contrary to fact, for all the practical experiments in
biology indicate that the body begins to lose its re-
creative powers, or the capacity to change dead matter
into living matter, very shortly after the period of birth,
and that, from this time, the decrease in force continues
steadily. As one writer has said : —

"In want of a more exact knowledge of the structure of the
living molecule and the changes in structure that come on in old
age, the physiologist expresses his idea of the general nature of
these changes by similes and metaphors more or less apt. We may
compare living matter to a clock, the mainsjjring of which is so
constructed that, in consequence of slowly developing molecular
changes, it suffers a gradual loss of elasticity. In such a mechanism
there will come a time when ' winding the clock ' will no longer
make it run, since energy can no longer be stored in the spring.
We may imagine this loss of elasticity to develop gradually, giving
stages that may be roughly compared to the periods of life. To
carry out the simile, it is the food we eat and the oxygen we
breathe that take the place of the winding force. In consequence
of a slowly developing molecular change in the organism, this
energy is less efficiently utilised as the individual grows older.
The clock runs more feebly and needs relatively more frequent


winding, until at last tlie elasticity is gone, the power of assimila-
tion is insufficient, and we have what we call natural death." ^

Brown, in his article on " Old Age," ^ has expressed
this truth more briefly. " The causes of death," he said,
" are not to be found in the summation of many external
mjuries, but are already established wdthin the organism
itself, and death is simply the natural end of develop-
ment." If this theory be true, it is very contradictory
to the definition formulated by Spencer in his Frinciples
of Biology. The latter would logically lead the student to
conclude that " external relations " play the most impor-
tant part in determining the length of life, and that, if
perfect correspondence between the internal and external
relations could be secured, existence would continue
interminably. As has been shown, however, this idea is
entirely contrary to the behefs of modern physiologists.
In their opinion, man would still die, even though there
were no injurious changes of environment, as the natural
weakening of the assimilative powers would alone be
sufhcient to make death inevitable.

Of course the simile of the clock is too simple an illus-
tration to be applied comprehensively to so complex an
organism as the human body. In this combination of
living matter there is no single mainspring to wear out —
no one cause of death against which man may protect
himself — and it is due to these conditions that death
does not come to every portion of the body at precisely
the same moment. While it is necessarily true that
death is actually the cessation of the normal functions
upon which life depends, the causes Avhich result in the
suspension of the bodily mechanism may arise in any one
of the several important or vital centres. According to
the arrangement devised by Bichat, death may be divided

^ W. H. Howell in Reference Handbook of Medical Sciences.
^ British Medical Journal, Oct. 3, 1891.



into three classes : — (1) that which begins at the heart ;
(2) that which begins at the lungs; and (3) that which
begins at the head. But the collapse of the vital force
in a single one of these centres is sujfificient to bring
death with more or less rapidity to every other portion
of the organism.

But, while most physiologists hold that it is the
ultimate fate of all living things to die, it must not
be imagined that this is the only theory to which
scientists subscribe, for there are some biologists who
are inclined to accept Weismann's speculative con-
clusions, as presented in the Essays upon Heredity.

In these papers, this eminent biologist expresses the
opinion that all living matter once possessed potential
immortality, and that death is a condition that came
into the world because the continued existence of the
individual had assumed the proportions of a serious
danger to the general well-being of the species. In other
words, death is a condition that did not necessarily exist
in the beginning of things, but was eventually adopted
for the reason that just such a safety-valve was necessary
to permit of the perpetuation of the race.

As an illustration in proof of this theory, Weismann
draws our attention to the amoeba, one of the unicellular
organisms or protozoa, which biologists recognise as the
lowest forms of animal life. While a complete cell in
itself, performing all the functions of assimilation and
reproduction, it knows no process of dissolution that can
be compared to the phenomenon that we designate as
death. On the contrary, its very act of reproducing its
species is, in itself, a striking example of the possibility
of " physical immortality," for it is the fate of this
creature to continue to increase in size until, finally, the
limit of growth is reached. At this point the original
cell divides into two parts, and, where one organism


existed, there are now two individuals, both of which
are capable of performing the functions of life, and of
dividing in turn into two cells — a process of repro-
duction that, so far as science has been able to ascertain,
goes on indefinitely.

Of course, the objection may be raised — as it has
been — that the original individual cell dies in the act
of reproducing its offspring, and that the two cells that
result from this physical separation of the larger body
are actually different individualities. To this Weismann
replied that there is no death in this change " because
there is no corpse." In this fission we have the illus-
tration of the continuance of life, not its dissolution.

It is upon this hypothesis that Weismann bases his
theory that living matter originally possessed the ele-
ments of potential immortality, and he explains the
appearance of death among the metazoa by reference to
the law of natural selection.

If this theory be correct, the possibility of never-
ending existence possessed by the unicellular creature
was undoubtedly passed on to the more complex
organism which, in the process of evolution, was eventu-
ally produced from this lowlier manifestation of animate
life. In the course of time, however, certain new but
important conditions arose. In the first place, death
became a necessity to the perpetuation of the species ;
and, in the second place, the division of functions
among the many cells of the metazoa made the immor-
tality of each particular cell unnecessary for reproductive

The very name that has been applied to this law of
evolution, " natural selection," gives an indication of the
pitiless qualities that mark its operations. As its name
implies, its tendency is always towards the promotion of
the good of the race, without regard to the particular


interests of the individual. Thus, when it became
apparent that natural death was needed to remove
those individuals who were not only no longer necessary
to the welfare of the species, but were actually an
adverse element or obstacle in the path of natural
progress, the presence of those cells that were no longer
required in the process of fecundity gave nature the
opportunity to effect this adjustment in the laws govern-
ing the struggle for existence.

As students of biology are well aware, bodily structures
that are of no further use to nature soon retrograde, or
disappear almost completely. As an example, we have
the cave-dwelling animals and fishes, which, despite the
fact that they show every indication of having once had
eyes, are now sightless. That is to say, when the time
came that they had no further use for eyes, nature
permitted the sense of sight to degenerate, and at last,
even the physical organs themselves deteriorated, until
only a rudimentary record was left of the member that
had once actually existed.

In this illustration, Weismann finds an explanation
of the process by which the element of immortality was
lost by the many-celled organisms. Being not only of
no further utility, but of positive danger to the species,
its perpetuation would have retarded the realisation of
the purpose of evolution. Through the operation of
the law of natural selection, therefore, death came as
a beneficent solution to this great problem of the
moment, the limitation of the population to those indi-
viduals who would be of service in helping to carry out
the scheme of the perpetuation of the species.

It must be stated in this connection, however, that
Weismann's theory is seriously questioned at the present
day, if not altogether discredited. Thus Haeckel, in his
Wonders of Life, pp. 90-101, points out that: —


" The immortality of the iinicellulars, on which Weismaun has
laid so much stress, can only be sustained for a small part of the
protists even in his own sense — namely, for those which simply
propagate by cleavage, the chromacea and bacteria among the
monera, the diatomes and paulotomes amona: the protophyta, and
a part of the infusoria and rhizopods among the protozoa. Strictly
speaking, the individual life is destroyed when a cell splits into
daughter cells. One might reply with Weismann, that in this
case the dividing unicellular organism lives on as a whole in its
offspring, and that we have no corpse, no dead remains of the
living matter left behind. But that is not true of the majority
of the protozoa. In the highly-developed ciliata the chief nucleus
is lost, and there must be from time to time a conjunction of two
cells and a mutual fertilisation of their secondary nuclei before
there can be any further multiplication by simple cleavage. How-
ever, in most of the sporozoa and rhizopoda, which generally
propagate by spore formation, only one portion of the unicellular
organism is used for this ; the other portion dies, and forms a
' corpse.' ..."

The fact is that each inetazoon consists of many
successive generations of cells — it really is a cell cycle
— and can only be homologised with a cycle of pro-
tozoan generations, not with any single protozoan, which
is but a single cell. Hence it follows that the death
of an individual protozoan is not homologous with the
death of an individual multicellular organism. Weis-
mann committed the fundamental error of assuming the
complete homology of the two forms of death, and thus
reached the false conclusion that protozoa are all
certainly potentially immortal.

E. Maupas contended that there is a distinct loss of
vitality in protozoa in the course of successive genera-
tions, and that conjugation must occur at some stage to
effect rejuvenescence. G. N. Calkins {Studies in the Life-
History of Protozoa) takes the same view — that the
development of the protozoa is cyclical ; and this is


further supported in a recent paper by M. Hartmann,
who also contends that natural death does occur among
the protozoa.

It would seem, therefore, that the general trend ot
science is in the direction of disproving this funda-
mental conception of Weismann ; and we shall have to
reconstruct our universe accordingly, and recast any
system of philosophy that may have been founded on
his theory of the natural immortality of protozoa.

When we come to speak of death, moreover, we must
be very sure that we understand our terms accurately,
as much confusion has always arisen because of in-
accurate definition in all the sciences no less than in
philosophy and metaphysics. We must be very sure as
to just what we mean by " death " before we can under-
take to argue about it ; and there are some very loose
conceptions afloat which it would be well to check at the
outset of the investigation. Let us see what these are.

When we cut off a chicken's head, we say that the
chicken is " dead " ; its conscious life is extinguished,
and if it continues to move, or even to run about the yard,
as it does sometimes, we do not assume for that reason
that any " life " still remains in the chicken, but rather
that " reflex action " causes these phenomena. On the
other hand, if we pluck a rose it keeps its freshness for
several days, and, until that rose has withered and lost
its freshness and beauty entirely, we do not say that
the rose is " dead." In the one case, w^e assume that
death has taken place instantaneously ; in the other,
that death d-bes not take place for several days.

Online LibraryHereward CarringtonDeath: its causes and phenomena. With special reference to immortality → online text (page 1 of 44)