Sir Oliver Lodge

Sir Oliver Lodge

President of the Radio Society, Physical Society, British Society, Society for Psychical Research and Rontgen Society. Professor of Physics in the University of Liverpool, Principal of the University of Birmingham. Knighted. Sent a radio message one year before Marconi.

An Introduction to the Study of Cross-Correspondences

 - Oliver Lodge -

          THE SUBJECT of cross-correspondence is so large and complicated that any one who wishes to form an opinion oil it is bound to study the detailed publications by Mr. Piddington, Mrs. Verrall, Miss Johnson, and others, in recent volumes of the Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research. It would be impossible otherwise to give the critical and substantial study which the elaborate literary references demand. Whatever else they are, they are eminently communications from men of letters, to be interpreted by scholars, and they are full of obscure classical allusions. And parenthetically I may here state, as a noteworthy fact, that nowadays even through Mrs. Piper such scholarly allusions are obtained, - not obvious and elementary ones, but such as exhibit a range of reading far beyond that of ordinary people-beyond my own for instance and beyond that of anyone present at the time.

Returning to the general subject of cross-correspondence, - the main feature of this kind of communication is that we are required to study, not the phenomena exhibited by a single medium actuated by a number of ostensible controls, as heretofore, but conversely the utterance of one ostensible control effected through the contributory agency of several different mediums who write automatically quite independently of each other, who are at a distance from each other, who are sometimes unknown to each other, and who at first were unaware that any kind of correspondence was going on.

In many cases, moreover, the messages as separately obtained were quite unintelligible, and only exhibited a meaning when they were subsequently put together by another person. So that the content of the message was in no living mind until the correspondences were detected by laborious criticism a year or two later; then at last the several parts were unified and the whole message and intention made out.

The object of this ingenious and complicated effort clearly is to prove that there is some definite intelligence underlying the phenomena, distinct from that of any of the automatists, by sending fragments of a message or literary reference which shall be unintelligible to each separately - so that no effective mutual telepathy is possible between them, - thus eliminating or trying to eliminate what had long been recognised by all members of the Society for Psychical Research as the most troublesome and indestructible of the semi-normal hypotheses. And the further object is evidently to prove as far as possible, by the substance and quality of the message, that it is characteristic of the one particular personality who is ostensibly communicating, and of no other.

That has clearly been the aim of the communicators themselves. Whether or not they have been successful is a question which it may take some time and study finally and conclusively to decide.

If a student is to form a first band judgment of an value on this subject, he must, as I have said, read in fill the elaborate papers of Mr. Piddington and Miss Johnson and Mrs. Verrall in the important recent volumes of the Proceedings of the Society; which is no light task.

Discovery of Cross-Correspondences

But as giving the best introductory and purely initial account of this large and evidently growing subject, I will quote from the paper of our Research Officer, Miss Johnson, her Chapter VII, called "The Theory of Cross-Correspondences, since it was through her patient care and perspicacity that the existence of such things, on the way to something like their present striking form, was first demonstrated.

It opens with a quotation from the writings of F. W. H. Myers, which illustrates his attitude to the subject when living:

"It is not we who are in reality the discoverers here. The experiments which are being made are not the work of earthly skill. All that we can contribute to the new result is an attitude of patience, attention, care; an honest readiness to receive and weigh whatever may be given into our keeping by intelligences beyond our own. Experiments, I say, there are; probably experiments of a complexity and difficulty which surpass our imagination; but they are made from the other side of the gulf, by the efforts of spirits who discern pathways and possibilities which for us are impenetrably dark." (Human Personality, vol. ii. P. 275.)

And then it continues:

"In Human Personality Mr. Myers hints more than once at a favourite theory of his that the influence of science on modem thought is not confined to this life alone, but may be carried on into the next, and so tend to improve the evidence for communication from the dead. The latter, he suggests, are coming to understand more and more clearly what constitutes really good evidence, and may gradually discover better means of producing it. [In the above passage he formulates this conjecture most clearly, and] it would seem from our recent investigations that some such experiments as he there foreshadowed may actually be taking place.

"Mr. Myers and Dr. Hodgson made attempts at different times to obtain connections between the utterances - either spoken or written - of different automatists. It is by no means easy even to obtain suitable conditions for trying such experiments, and unfortunately, as far as I am aware, no complete record of these attempts seems to exist. Some references to them, however, occur in a number of letters written by Mr. Myers to Mrs. Thompson for instance, on October 24th, 1898, he wrote as follows:

"'Dr. Hodgson is staying on in America for the winter, sitting with 'Mrs. Piper. It would be grand if we could get communication between the "controls" on each side.'"

Some interesting connections between the automatisms of Mrs. Thompson and those of other sensitives were already recorded in Mr. Piddington's paper, 'On the Types of Phenomena displayed in Mrs. Thompson's trance,' in Proceedings, S.P.R., vol. xviii. pp 104-307.

But the most notable development of cross-correspondence, and the first appearance of a really complicated and remarkably evidential type of them, have taken place since Mr. Myers's death.

This was shown first in Mrs. Verrall's script, and a considerable section of her Report on it (Proc. vol. xx. pp. 205-275) is devoted to an account of the cross-correspondences between her script and the script or automatic speech of other automatists.

"In studying these in proof in the early part of 1906 - says Miss Johnson, our Research Officer - I was struck by the fact that in some of the most remarkable instances the statements in the script of one writer were by no means a simple reproduction of statements in the script of the other, but seemed to represent different aspects of the same idea, one supplementing or completing the other. Thus, in one case (p. 223), Mrs. Forbes's script, purporting to come from her son Talbot, stated that he must now leave her, since he was looking for a sensitive who wrote automatically, in order that he might obtain corroboration of her own writing. Mrs. Verrall, on the same day, wrote of a fir-tree planted in a garden, and the script was signed with a sword and suspended bugle. The latter was part of the badge of the regiment to which Talbot Forbes had belonged, and Mrs. Forbes had in her garden some fir-trees, grown from seed sent to her by her son. These facts were unknown to Mrs. Verrall.

"In another case (pp. 241-245) - too complicated to summarise here - Mrs. Forbes produced, on November 26th and 27th 1902, references, absolutely meaningless to herself, to a passage in the Symposium which Mrs. Verrall had been reading on these days. These references also applied appropriately to an obscure sentence in Mrs. Verrall's own script of November 26th; and on December 18th, attempts were made in Mrs. Forbes's script to give a certain test word, 'Dion' or 'Dy,' which, it was stated, 'will be found in Myers's own...' Mrs. Verrall interpreted the test word at the time, for reasons given, as 'Diotima,' and a description of the same part of the Symposium, including the mention of Diotima, did occur in Human Personality, which was published about three months later, in February 1903. Further references to the Symposium appeared in Mrs. Forbes's script in the early part of 1903 (see Mrs. Verrall's Report, p. 246).

"In another case (pp. 269-271), October 16th, 1904, Mrs. Verrall's script gave details, afterwards verified, of what Mrs. Forbes was doing; and immediately afterwards Mrs. Verrall had a mental impression of Mrs. Forbes sitting in her drawing-room, with the figure of her son standing looking at her. Mrs. Forbes's script of the same day, purporting to come from her son, stated that lie was present and wished she could see him, and that a test was being given for her at Cambridge.

"I became convinced through the study of these cases that there was some special purpose in the particular form they took, - all the more because in Mrs. Verrall's script statements were often associated with them, apparently to draw attention to some peculiar kind of test, - deseribed, e.g. as superposing certain things on others, when all would be clear.

"The characteristic of these cases - or at least of some of them-is that we do not get in the writing of one automatist anything like a mechanical verbatim reproduction of phrases in the other; we do not even get the same idea expressed in different ways, - as might well result from direct telepathy between them. What we get is a fragmentary utterance in one script, which seems to have no particular point or meaning, and another fragmentary utterance in the other, of an equally pointless character; but when we put the two together, we see that they supplement one another, and that there is apparently one coherent idea underlying both, but only partially expressed in each.

"It occurred to me, then, that by this method, if by any, it might be possible to obtain evidence more conclusive than any obtained hitherto of the action of a third intelligence, external to the minds of both automatists. If we simply find the same idea expressed even though in different forms - by both of them, it may, as I have just said, most easily be explained by telepathy between them; but it is much more difficult to suppose that the telepathic perception of one fragment could lead to the production of another fragment which can only, after careful comparison, be seen to be related to the first.

"The weakness of all well-authenticated cases of apparent telepathy from the dead is, of course, that they can generally be explained by telepathy from the living. If the knowledge displayed by the medium is possessed by any person certainly existing, - that is, any living person, - we must refer it to that source rather than to a person whose existence is uncertain, - that is, a dead person. To do otherwise would be to beg the whole question at issue, for the very thing to be proved is the existence of the dead person.

"Hitherto the evidence for survival has depended on statements that seem to show the control's recollection of incidents in his past life. It would be useless for him to communicate telepathically anything about his present life, because there could be no proof of the truth of the communication. This is the fundamental difference between the types of evidence for telepathy from the living and for telepathy from the dead.

"Now, telepathy relating to the present, such as we sometimes get between living persons, must be stronger evidentially, than telepathy relating to the past, because it is much easier to exclude normal knowledge of events in the present than of events in the past. But it has been supposed impossible that we could ever get this kind of evidence for telepathy from the dead; since events in the present are either known to some living person, - in which case we could not exclude his telepathic agency, - or they are unknown to any living person, in which case it would be difficult or impossible to prove that they had occurred.

"In these cross-correspondences, however, we find apparently telepathy relating to the present, - that is, the corresponding statements are approximately contemporaneous, - and to events in the present which, to all intents and purposes are unknown to any living person; since the meaning and point of her script is often uncomprehended by each automatist until the solution is found through putting the two scripts together. At the same time we have proof of what has occurred (i.e. some special indication that a correspondence is being attempted) in the scripts themselves. Thus it appears that this method is directed towards satisfying our evidential requirements.

"Now, granted the possibility of communication, it may be supposed that within the last few years a certain group of persons have been trying to communicate with us, who are sufficiently well instructed to know all the objections that reasonable sceptics have urged against the previous evidence, and sufficiently intelligent to realise to the full all the force of these objections. It may be supposed that these persons have invented a new plan, - the plan of cross-correspondences, - to meet the sceptics' objections. There is no doubt that the cross-correspondences are a characteristic element in the scripts that we have been collecting in the last few years, - the scripts of Mrs. Verrall, Mrs. Forbes, Mrs. Holland, and, still more recently, Mrs. Piper. And the important point is that the element is a new one. We have reason to believe, as I have shown above, that the idea of making a statement in one script complementary of a statement in another bad Dot occurred to Mr. Myers in his lifetime, - for there is no reference to it in any of his written utterances on the subject that I have been able to discover. Neither did those who have been investigating automatic script since his death invent this plan, if plan it be. It was not the automatists themselves that detected it, but a student of their scripts; it has every appearance of being an element imported from outside; it suggests an independent invention, an active intelligence constantly at work in the present, not a mere echo or remnant of individualities of the past."

Yes, it suggests an independent invention - an active intelligence constantly at work in the Present, not a mere echo or remnant of individualities of the past.

And so the matter has gone on developing, and a still further and more elaborate system of evidently experimental and designed cross-correspondence has now been discovered by Mr. Piddington in the scripts of the automatists mentioned, when independently compared together; with veiled statements in those same scripts which symbolically but definitely claim that such correspondences are to be found if looked for. Those so far discovered are reported in the Society's Proceedings - a series of documents upon a consideration of which I do not propose to enter, since at this stage they are not capable of effective abridgement.


Summarising once more our position as regards cross-correspondence - we have in the course of the last few years been driven to recognise that the controls are pertinaciously trying to communicate, now one now another definite idea, by means of two or more different automatists, whom at the same time they are trying to prevent from communicating telepathically or unconsciousIy with one another; and that in order to achieve this deliberate aim the controls express the factors of the idea in so veiled a form that each writer indites her own share without understanding it. Yet some identifying symbol or phrase is often included in each script, so as to indicate to a critical examiner that the correspondence is intended and not accidental; and, moreover, the idea thus co-operatively expressed is so definite that, when once the clue is found, no room is left for doubt as to the proper interpretation.

That is precisely what we have quite recently again and again obtained. We are told by the communicators that there are other correspondences not yet detected by us; and by more careful collation of the documents this has already been found true. The evidence needs careful and critical study; it is not in itself sensational, but it affords strong evidence of the intervention of a mind behind and independent of the automatist.

"If this be so - says Mrs. Sidgwick in a Presidential Address - the question what mind this is, becomes of extreme interest and importance. Can it be a mind still in the body? or have we got into relation with minds which have survived bodily death and are endeavouring which by means of the cross-correspondences to produce evidence of their operation? If this last hypothesis be the true one, it would mean that intelligent cooperation between other than embodied human minds and our own, in experiments of a new kind intended to prove continued existence, has become possible; and we should be justified in feeling that we are entering on a new and very important stage of the Society's work.

Consider for a moment the purport and full bearing of a judgment which, though still in form hypothetical, I hold for my own part to be fully justified: - Intelligent co-operation between other than embodied human minds and our own ... has become possible.

It is surely difficult to over-estimate the importance of so momentous an induction when it can finally be made.

Man's practical outlook upon the universe is entering upon a new phase. Simultaneously with the beginning of a revolutionary increase in his powers of physical locomotion - which will soon be extended into a third dimension and no longer limited to a solid or liquid surface - his power of reciprocal mental intercourse also is in process of being enlarged; for there are signs that it will some day, be no longer limited to contemporary denizens of earth, but will permit a utilisation of knowledge and powers superior to his own, - even to the extent of ultimately attaining trustworthy information concerning other conditions of existence.


Other articles by Oliver Lodge

In Memory of Prof. Frederic W. H. Myers
On the Subliminal Self and on the Book Human Personality
Psychic Science
The Mode of Future Existence
What Science Means For Man
The Possibility of Survival from a Scientific Point of View
The Mechanism of Survival
Problems Raised by the Idea of Survival
On the Asserted Difficulty of the Spiritualistic Hypothesis from a Scientific Point of View
A Summary of Dr. Hodgson's Report

Do We Survive?

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