Paul Joire.

Psychical and supernormal phenomena : their observation and experimentation online

. (page 1 of 50)
Online LibraryPaul JoirePsychical and supernormal phenomena : their observation and experimentation → online text (page 1 of 50)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


Charles Jossel^/n





Psychical PUenomena in Gencral-ExternaUsation of Sensi-
bUtty ^spontaneous Phenomena -Multiple Personality and
Abnormal Consciousness-Abnormal Faculties in Hypnotic
SuS- Abnormal Dreams -Phenomena observed among
fh?^rienta1s- Phenomena of Lucidity. Motricity and Pro-
cation of the Double observed in Fakirs or Oriental Sorcer-
er -P.Stergelst Phenomena- Haunted Houses- Telepathy -
crystal Gazing - Mental Audition Typtology - Automatic
Wrmng Md Lucidity -Lucidity in Somnambulism -Photo-
TaS of the invisible or of Thought-Reports of the London
£d Milan Committees on Psychical Phe".ome"a-P^nomena
of Motricity- Movement of Objects without Contact-Phe-
nom"na7Levitation-Materialisations-Study of the M«
sambor- Professor C. Richefs Observations at the ViUa
C^men - Expertments made with Eusapia Paladlno -
A General Consideration of Psychical Phenomena.








Professor at the Psycho- Physiological Institute of France
President of the Societe Universelle d' Etudes Psychiques








The thorough study of Hypnotism has drawn attention to
phenomena which seem, on the one hand, only to be the
continuation of hypnotic phenomena, and, on the other, to
be connected with faculties of the human mind hitherto

These phenomena are, first of all, those of mental sug-
gestion and thought-transmission, which we have studied
in our Traite de VHypnotisme.

In other cases, we have witnessed phenomena of lucidity
in certain subjects placed in a condition of deep somnam-
bulism. In studying lucidity more closely we noticed
that certain special circumstances, and in particular a
methodical training, develop this faculty in a singular
manner in those endowed with it.

^~The investigator is thus led to inquire whether this
faculty of lucidity does not sometimes appear spon-
taneously, in the same way as we witness spontaneous
somnambulism in connection with induced somnambulism.
He then finds a certain number of cases of telepathy
which seem to be closely connected Avith the instances of

After embarking upon the study of telepathy it is not
long before we become convinced that the phenomena of
this category are very complex.

In fact, while certain instances of telepathy are only
the mental perception of a fact that has occurred at a
distance, there are others in which this perception is
accompanied by an hallucination, and sometimes this^'
hallucination is collective.

At other times, hallucination is no longer a sufficient
explanation, because the phenomenon has left permanent




traces — the displacement of objects, impressions, objective
and. undeniable traces that a force accompanied the
telepathic vision.

If we wish to transfer these phenomena we have
observed to the domain of experiment, we find, among
some subjects, in certain of the hypnotic conditions we
have described, phenomena of externalisation — externali-
sation of sensibility and of force.

We have thus brought under our observation the chain
which seems to connect hypnotic and psychical phenomena.

On the other hand, in entering upon the study of the
whole of psychical phenomena, we easily witness a natural
progression from the most simple phenomena up to the
most complex.

All these phenomena are connected one with another,
in a continuous manner, in such a way that we are con-
vinced that the phenomena are undoubtedly of the same
order, in spite of their apparent diversity and complexity
in manifestation.

We may take abnormal dreams for our starting-point,
dreams with manifestation of lucidity, and premonitory
dreams, which lead us to telepathic dreams. We then
come to telepathic phenomena with apparitions, telepathic
phenomena in a waking state, and to collective telepathic

Without going beyond telepathy, we find some instances
where telepathic visions have left objective traces of their
existence. We are thus forced to ask ourselves if thought
is quite as abstract a phenomenon as we have hitherto
believed it to be, and if, in certain instances, it is not
capable of creating a durable entity possessing indepen-
dent force.

We are thus led to examine the experiments made
in the photography of thought.

Beginning with phenomena of the same character,
brought into the domain of experiment, we find facts
similar to those of telepathy in crystal-gazing, and amongst
those of crystal-gazing we find some which present the
characteristics of lucidit3^


Lucidity appears to be a special faculty in certain
subjects, and we sec that Ave may search for and experi-
ment with it in the somnambulistic condition.

Lucidity is also shown in other circumstances, and
that, Avithout soumambulism having been induced in the
subject, but spontaneously exhibited. These facts are
connected, by their spontaneity, with the phenomena of
lucidity observed by means of crystal-gazing.

We noAV come to the phenomena of externalisation,
which in hypnology we connect with the mediumistic
states. The first of these phenomena is that of exter-
nalisation of sensibility.

We pass from this to more advanced phenomena — we
observe the externaHsation of force, movement of objects
Avithout contact, raps and various noises ; finally, the
creation of a form having its OAvn objectivity and capable
of developing a special force, although ahvays in relation
Avith that of the medium. Hence the most complex
phenomenon of all, viz. Materialisation.

" I confess that I do not see why the very existence
of an invisible world may not in part depend on the
personal response which any of us may make to the
religious appeal. God Himself, in short, may draw
vital strength and increase of very being from our
fidelity. For my own part I do not know what the
sweat and blood and tragedy of this life mean, if they
mean anything short of this. If this life be not a real
fight, in which something is eternally gained for the
universe by success, it is no better than a game of pri-
vate theatricals from which one may withdraw at will.
But it feels like a real fight — as if there were some-
thing really wild in the universe which we, with all
our idealities and faithlessness, are needed to redeem ;
and first of all to redeem our own hearts from
atheisms and fears. ..."

William James.




3AP. 1

I. Psychical Phenomena in General . . a
II. Externalisation op Sensibility ... 14
III. Spontaneous Phenomena— Multiple Person-
ality AND Abnormal Consciousness— Ab-
normal Faculties in Hypnotic Subjects

IV, Abnormal Dreams

V. Phenomena observed among the Orientals
VI. Phenomena of Lucidity, Motricity, and
Projection of the Double observed in
Fakirs or Oriental Sorcerers
VII. Poltergeist Phenomena
VIII. Haunted Houses .
IX. Telepathy .
X. Telepathy {continued) .
XI. Crystal-Gazing .
XII. Crystal-Gazing {continued)

XIII. Mental Audition

XIV. Crystal Visions combined with Lucidity . 181

XV. Typtology

XVI. Typtology {continued) . • • • • ^^
XVII. Automatic Writing and Lucidity . . 215
XVIII. Typtology and Lucidity ... 221

XIX. Typtology and Lucidity {continued)
XX. Typtology ••.•••






XXI. Lucidity 281

XXII. Lucidity in Spontaneous Somnambulism . 293

XXIII. Lucidity in a State of Light Somnam-

bulism Artificially Induced . . . 298

XXIV. Lucidity in Deep Somnambulism . . 309
XXV. Lucidity in the Future . . . .341

XXVI. Photography of the Invisible or of Thought 360

XXVII. Reports of the London and Milan Com-
mittees ON Psychical Phenomena . . 382

XXVIII. Phenomena of Motricity .... 414

XXIX. Movement of Objects without Contact . 426

XXX. Phenomena of Lbvitation .... 435

XXXI. Levitation Phenomena observed with the

Medium D. D. Home .... 444

XXXII. Levitation Phenomena with Eusapia Pala-

dino 451

XXXIII. Materialisations or Phantoms . . . 460

XXXIV. Materialisations 472

XXXV. Study of the Medium Sambor . . .478

XXXVI. Professor C. Richet's Observations at the

Villa Carmen 500

XXXVII. Experiments made with Eusapia Paladino

AT Genoa by Professor Morselli . . 526

XXXVIII. Method of Experimentation in Psychical

Phenomena ...... 548

XXXIX. Method of Experimentation — Induced Phe-
nomena ....... 577

XL. Method of Experimenting . . . .610
XLI. A General Consideration of Psychical

Phenomena 627




Certain strange phenomena, which occur from time to
time, have, by reason of their mysterious appearance
the power of forcibly impressing the imagination of the

The sphere in which they are produced, and the
manner in which they are presented, have the effect of
adding, often largely, to their importance, and of causing
them to undergo singular transformations. The news-
papers seize upon these sensational facts with great
avidity, and relate them with a profusion of details, more
or less correct, but always skilfully arranged, so as to add
further to the effect already produced.

Among the people who have come into closer contact
with these facts, or have been more or less actively con-
cerned with them, there are always to be found a certain
number who purposely add to the scenic effect, whether it
be to serve well-defined interests, or whether they are led
on in spite of themselves to supplement the truth by
mirages produced by their own imagination.

The facts in themselves are sometimes very simple
whether they come within the category of those which we
observe spontaneously in unhealthy persons, or whether
they are of the class of induced hypnotic phenomena.
These are, for example, the phenomena of lethargy and
catalepsy and hallucinations, which may become more
complicated through collective or repeated hallucinations.



But such facts only now astonish a small number of
persons, who are entirely ignorant of modern scientific
discoveries : it is not of them we desire to speak.

There are sometimes even stranger phenomena, more
difficult to explain and to verify, and in which, con-
sequently, exaggeration and fraud have free play ; these
may be visual phenomena which do not come within the
class of hallucinations of which mention has already been
made ; or they may be phenomena of a purely psychical
character, such as the knowledge of an event happening
far away, or even one which has not yet taken place;
seeing and describing objects at a distance, or reading the
thoughts of another person.

It is not difficult to understand the suspicion with
which serious-minded persons receive these strange stories,
and the unpleasant impression naturally made upon
them when they see these facts distorted and turned to
profitable account by certain persons with more or less
questionable motives.

It must also be added that when a man of intelligence
and good faith wishes to get to the bottom of matters
and devotes himself to serious inquiry, conducted without
prejudice, he very often simj)ly ends by discovering fraud ;
all the marvels disappear, and all that remains is very
easily explained. It even happens sometimes that, when
seeking for authentic proofs of an alleged fact, he finds it
reduced to nothing, or that it never existed except in the
imagination of some practical joker or of a reporter who
was short of news.

The result of all this is that these facts lose their
interest for all except the simple-minded who love
marvels and believe that these things are marvellous, and
the small number who turn them to profitable account.
Scientists and serious-minded persons grow tired of finding
at every step facts badly observed and of very doubtful
authority, so that they thrust them aside with disdain and
refuse even to discuss them.

Others, after having heard the accounts, entirely deny
all the facts, saying that there is no truth in them,


because they cannot be explained according to the theories
of official science, and no demonstration, according to the
usual methods of the known sciences, can be obtained
that is even moderately satisfactory.

This prejudiced rejection is in no way scientific. There
are well-attested facts, absolutely authentic, but which we
cannot comprehend and which we do not know how to
explain in the present state of our knowledge. Is that a
reason for denying them ? Experience has shown us that
we may be able to explain to-morrow that which to-day
is still a mystery. Twenty-five years ago science knew
nothing of hypnotism, and obstinately refused to study
it. Many denied in toto all these phenomena, of which
the public spoke in a whisper, and when sometimes a -'"
fact became surrounded with undeniable evidence, they
rejected it on the ground of trickery.

We ought only to regard as scientifically impossible
that which is absurd, that is to say, contrary to mathe-
matical or geometrical truths, the only ones which are
immutable.. Even opposition to a physical law should not
suffice to make us deny a fact. Physical laws may be
momentarily suspended or have their effect destroyed by
other laws ; whether we know those other laws or whether
we do not. ' In the first case, we are able, up to a certain
point, to explain the fact, that is to say, to connect it
with a law and anticipate the circumstances under which
it will be produced. In the second case we observe the
phenomenon and its varying conditions, sometimes with-
out being able to appreciate its importance, and, in any
case, without being able to explain it.

Be that as it may, the phenomena which present an
apparent opposition to a physical law do not thereby
destroy the law in itself. We only need to recognise that
the fact in question does not come under the operation
of this law, but that it is ruled by another law of superior
power, both laws remaining true on the whole and under
the normal conditions of their application.

Let us take an example: the law of gravitation, by
virtue of which all bodies, when left to themselves, fall


or travel towards the centre of the earth, is indisputable.
And yet, we may see any day a balloon, left to itself, rise
in the air, away from the centre of the earth. Is not
this an apparent contradiction ? The balloon is subject to
a double law : first, to the law of gravitation, which tends
to make it fall to the ground ; but, secondly, to the law
of Archimedes, which, by causing it to lose an amount of
its weight equal to that of the volume of air which it
displaces, impels it to the higher regions of the atmos-
phere. Two forces are thus in opposition, the greater of
which preponderates over the less.

The same law of gravitation would cause a piece of
steel to fall to the ground : if, however, it is suitably
placed beneath a magnet, it can be made to remain sus-
pended in the air. Has the law of gravitation been
destroyed thereby, or are we warranted in denying the
reality of the phenomenon ? Obviously, no.

What is here said of physical laws is equally true of
physiological laAvs : we must therefore deny only what is

This is not a reason for accepting too readily, as real,
phenomena which depart from known laws ; on the con-
trary, we must proceed with great circumspection and re-
quire indisputable proofs as to their authenticity. When
the facts are fully verified, they must be classed by ana-
logy and grouped together in as large numbers as possible ;
then examined to see if they can be compared with other
similar analogous facts which are better understood.

The study of psychical phenomena seems to us to
present all the greater interest, because, up to the present,
with the exception of a very small number, they have
not been subjected to sufficiently serious observation and
truly scientific analysis.

Serious-minded persons, and, particularly, men of
science, have taken far too little interest, up to now, in
these phenomena. The scientific attitude, in regard to
facts of this character, can only be cither to study them
conscientiously or to preserve an open mind in regard to


If a man should say : " I only occupy myself with
astronomy or botany, I have not the time to study
psychical phenomena, I do not know anything about
them and cannot adjudicate upon them " ; there is
nothing to be said against this : such an attitude is
serious and correct — it does not depart from the scientific

But it must be recognised that the language of the
majority of men, and even of scientists, is quite different
from this. They despise psychical phenomena, not
because they cannot study them, but because they do
not believe in their existence, and declare them impos-
sible, without having studied or even seriously examined

Now this negation, a priori, is altogether contrary to
the scientific spirit. It is just as unreasonable as would
be the complete acceptance, without verification or
examination, of facts which had not been proved.

The methodical study of these phenomena is, on the
contrary, forced upon scientists, because it is impossible for
them to ignore them, and, to be in a position to judge
them, they must submit them to a rigorous investigation
and analyse them with scientific method.

The verification of psychical phenomena is extremely
difficult, but it is not impossible. A number of serious
spiritists, and even men of science of the first rank, are
already engaged in collecting and studying them.

It was in England, first of all, that the study of these
phenomena, known by the name of psychical, commenced.
In 1867, the Dialectical Society of London formed a com-
mittee of thirty-three members to study and experi-
ment on them. Later, from 1871 to 1874, Sir William
Crookes made a number of laboratory experiments, which
he subjected to a rigorous scientific control by means of
registering apparatus.

Later still, there was founded in London the Society
for Psychical Research, among whose members are a
number of very distinguished persons.

Finally, in France, Dr. Dariex founded the Annales


des Sciences Psychiques, intended to record observations
and experiments which offered serious and scientific
guarantees of authenticity.

Shortly afterwards La SocUte Universelle d'^^tudes
Psychiques was founded in France, which, under the
patronage and with the collaboration of savants of the
highest repute and world-wide standing, established a
union between all the scientific groups which devoted
themselves to observation and experiment as to these
phenomena, in order to centralise the results of all their
labours, and thus to be able to compare and class them

Professor Charles Richet, member of the Academy of
Medicine and Honorary President of the Soci4U Uni-
verselle d'Mudes Psychiques, has exactly expressed what
ought to be thought of these studies by every man of
science, in the following lines, Avhich are taken from an
important article published in The Annals of Psychical
Science : —

" Undoubtedly the experimental sciences of physics,
chemistry, and physiology, are quite as positive as mathe-
matics; but there is this difference between them, that
they do not involve a negation. They furnish us with
facts; but they can never prove that another fact non-
contradictory is impossible.

" For instance, oxygen combines with hydrogen to form
water. This is a fact which no other fact can upset ; but it
is quite admissible that oxygen, which seems at present to
be a simple body, may some day be resolved into other
simple bodies. It is very possible, it is even probable,
that our theories concerning the exact nature of the
chemical phenomenon of combination will be completely
overthrown. But that will not matter at all. It will not
be less absolutely true that, under present conditions, the
gas which we call oxygen when combined with a different
gas, the gas we call hydrogen, produces a liquid body,
which is water.

" But in the proposition I have just put forth there
is a phrase which is fundamental. Under present con-


ditions oxygen combines with hydrogen ; but conditions
might exist in which the combination would be no longer

" For instance, let us suppose that there is an ex-
trem-ely feeble pressure, other gases massed together, a
very low temperature — it is quite conceivable in these
circumstances that a combination between oxygen and
hydrogen would become impossible. So that it would
be inexcusable for a chemist to refuse to examine experi-
ments in which it might be alleged that, in certain
conditions, it would be impossible for oxygen to combine
with hydrogen.

" Hence when we say that oxygen combines with
hydrogen, we are not proving the negative side of the
question, for under changed conditions it might happen
that the combination could not be effected. The important
point would be to discover these new conditions, which
differ from the conditions already known, already described
and determined. An unknown force may always modify
a phenomenon, so that the negation of an experimental
possibility would lead to the following absurd conse-
quence : No force, known or unknown, can suspend or
accelerate the combination of oxygen with hydrogen.

"Let us take another example. It has been pro-
fessed, and is still professed, that bodies which are not the
seat of any chemical change do not produce heat. This
appears to be a universally classical, absolute, and positive
law, one of the immovable bases of general physics. Now,
the discovery of radium has destroyed the absolute
generality of the fact, since radium, without any appre-
ciable chemical change, emits perpetually considerable
quantities of heat.

" This phenomenon does not contradict antecedent
experiments. It is a new phenomenon, that is all. And
the scientist who refuses to examine facts because they
are new, because they present an appearance of contra-
diction to classical facts, would be rather a poor specimen
of a man.

" Nevertheless, when, a priori, Spiritism is attacked.


it is, in reality, for no other reason than that of its new-
ness. yThere is nothing to be found in the facts of Spiritism
which formally contradicts data established by science.}

" Let us select for consideration the most extraordinary
among the innumerable facts alleged by spiritists ; for
example, an apparition, the materialisation of a being. A
classical illustration of this is that of Katie King, observed
by Sir William Crookes.

" Certainly, this is a strange phenomenon, extraordi-
nary and improbable. It is difficult to find language
which adequately expresses the astounding character of
this phenomenon : the apparition of a phantom, a being
who has weight, circulation, intelligence and will; the
lYiediiiin being present at the same time as this new
being; — the medunn preserving her weight, circulation,
intelligence and will. But, unheard of as may be the
existence of this phantom, it is not absurd ; it does not
contradict established science. Can any one adduce an
experiment which proves that a human form cannot
appear ?

" It is the same with ra^ys or intelligible knockings on
inert objects; with thought-transference or lucidity; and
with movements of objects at a distance. The negation
of these facts has not been made by science, and, indeed,
it cannot be made.

" I absolutely refuse to admit the validity of that
I simplifying argument : ' It is impossible, because common-
' sense tells us it is impossible.' Why impossible ? Who
has fixed the limit of what is possible and what is not
p possible ? Let this consideration be carefully weighed ;
" all the conquests of science and of industry were formerly
looked upon as impossibilities.

" We live indeed under the illusion of time : those
idola temporis against which Bacon protested. We are so
made that the future seems to us as thouyh it ougfht
to resemble the present ; and this is a psychological law
governing our mentality. The navigator who is under
shelter in some little haven protected against the waves


Online LibraryPaul JoirePsychical and supernormal phenomena : their observation and experimentation → online text (page 1 of 50)