"A greater god is at work and has greater deeds in store"
IN THE long story of man's endeavours to understand his own environment and to govern his own fates, there is one gap or omission so singular that, however we may afterwards contrive to explain the fact, its simple statement has the air of a paradox. Yet it is strictly true to say that man has never yet applied to the problems which most profoundly concern him, those methods of inquiry which in attacking all other problems he has found the most
The question for man most momentous of all is whether or not he has an Immortal soul; or - to avoid the word
immortal, which belongs to the realm of infinities - whether or not his personality involves any element which can survive bodily death. In this direction have always lain the gravest fears, the farthest-reaching hopes, which could either oppress or stimulate mortal minds.
On the other hand, the method which our race has found most effective in acquiring knowledge is by this time familiar to all men. It is the method of modern Science - that process which consists in an interrogation of Nature entirely dispassionate, patient, systematic; such careful experiment and cumulative record as can often elicit from her slightest indications her deepest truths. That method is now dominant throughout the civilised world; and although in many directions experiments may be difficult and dubious, facts, rare and elusive, Science works slowly on and bides her time, - refusing to fall back upon tradition or to launch into speculation, merely because strait is the gate which leads to valid discovery, indisputable truth.
I say, then, that this method has never yet been applied to the all important problem of the existence, the powers, the destiny of the human soul.
Nor is this strange omission due to any general belief that the problem is in its nature incapable of solution by any observation whatever which mankind could make. That resolutely agnostic view - I may almost say that scientific superstition -
'ignoramus et ignorabimus' - (We do not know and will not know) is no doubt held at the present date by many learned minds. But it has never been the creed, nor is it now the creed, of the human race generally. In most civilised countries there has been for nearly two thousand years a distinct belief that survival has actually been proved by certain phenomena observed at a given date in Palestine. And beyond the Christian pale - whether through reason, instinct, or superstition - it has ever been commonly held that ghostly phenomena of one kind or another exist to testify to a life beyond the life we know.
But neither those who believe on vague grounds nor those who believe on definite grounds that the question might possibly be solved, or has actually been solved, by human observation of objective facts, have hitherto made any serious attempt to connect and correlate that belief with the general scheme of belief for which Science already vouches. They have not sought for fresh corroborative instances, for analogies, for explanations; rather they have kept their convictions on these fundamental matters in a separate and scaled compartment of their minds, a compartment consecrated to religion or to superstition, but not to observation or to experiment.
It is my object in the present work - as it has from the first been the object of the Society for Psychical Research, on whose behalf most of the evidence here set forth has been collected, - to do what can be done to break down that artificial wall of demarcation which has thus far excluded from scientific treatment precisely the problems which stand in most need of all the aids to discovery which such treatment can afford.
Let us consider how it has come about that, whereas the problem of man's survival of death is by most persons regarded as a problem in its nature soluble by sufficient evidence, and whereas to many persons the traditional evidence commonly adduced appears insufficient, - nevertheless no serious effort has been made on either side to discover whether other and more recent evidence can or cannot be brought forward.
A certain broad answer to this inquiry, although it cannot be said to be at all points familiar, is not in reality far to seek. It is an answer which would seem strange indeed to some visitant from a planet peopled wholly by scientific minds. Yet among a race like our own, concerned first and primarily to live and work with thoughts undistracted from immediate needs, the answer is natural enough. For the fact simply is that the intimate importance of this central problem has barred the way to its methodical, its scientific solution.
There are some beliefs for which mankind cannot afford to wait. 'What must I do to be saved?' is a question quite otherwise urgent than the cause of the tides or the meaning of the marks on the moon. Men must settle roughly somehow what it is that from the Unseen World they have reason to fear or to hope. Beliefs grow up in direct response to this need of belief; in order to support themselves they claim unique sanction; and thus along with these specific beliefs grows also the general habit of regarding matters that concern that Unseen World as somehow tabooed or segregated from ordinary observation or inquiry.
One great tradition, as we know, has won the adhesion and reverence of the great majority of European minds. The complex results which followed from this triumph of Christianity have been discussed by many historians. But one result which here appears to us in a new light was this - that the Christian religion, the Christian Church, became for Europe the accredited representative and guardian of all phenomena bearing upon the World Unseen. So long as Christianity stood dominant, all phenomena which seemed to transcend experience were absorbed in her realm - were accounted as minor indications of the activity of her angels or of her fiends. And when Christianity was seriously attacked, these minor manifestations passed unconsidered. The priests thought it safest to defend their own traditions, their own intuitions, without going afield in search of independent evidence of a spiritual world. Their assailants kept their powder and shot for the orthodox ramparts, ignoring any isolated strongholds which formed no part of the main line of
Nevertheless that which the years had once brought they brought again; and every here and there some marvel, liker to the old stories than any one cared to assert, cropped up between superstition on the one hand and contemptuous indifference on the other. Witchcraft, Swedenborgianism, Mesmerism, Spiritism - these especially, amid many minor phenomena, stood out in turn as precursory of the inevitable wider inquiry.
The belief in witches long passed - as well it might - as the culminant example of human ignorance and folly. Since about 1880, however, when French experiments especially had afforded conspicuous examples of what a hysterical woman could come to believe under suggestion from others or from herself, it has begun to be felt that the phenomena of witchcraft were very much what the phenomena of the Saltpetriere would seem to be to the patients themselves, if left alone in the hospital without a medical staff. And in "Phantasms of the Living", Edmund Gurney, after subjecting the literature of witchcraft to a more careful analysis than any one till then had thought it worth while to apply, was able to show that practically all recorded first-hand depositions (made apart from torture) in the long story of witchcraft may quite possibly have been
true, to the best belief of the deponents; true, that is to say, as representing the conviction of sane (though often hysterical) persons, who merely made the almost inevitable mistake of confusing self suggested hallucinations with waking fact. Nay, even the insensible spots on the witches were no doubt really anaesthetic involved a first discovery of a now familiar clinical symptom - the
zones analgesiques of the patients of Pitres or Charcot. Witchcraft, in fact, was a gigantic, a cruel psychological and pathological
experiment conducted by inquisitors upon hysteria; but it was conducted in the dark, and when the barbarous explanation dropped out of credence much of possible discovery was submerged as well.
Again, the latent possibilities of 'suggestion', - though not yet under that name, and mingled with who knows what else? - broke forth into a blaze in the movement headed by Mesmer; - at once discoverer and charlatan. Again the age was unripe, and scientific opposition, although not so formidable as the religious opposition which had sent witches to the stake, was vet strong enough to check for the second time the struggling science. Hardly till our own generation - hardly even now - has a third effort found better acceptance, and hypnotism and psycho-therapeutics, in which every well-attested fact of witchcraft or of mesmerism finds, if not its explanation, at least its parallel, are establishing themselves as a recognised and advancing method of relieving human ills.
Once more. At no time known to us, whether before or since the Christian era, has the series of
trance-manifestations, - of supposed communications with a supernal world, - entirely ceased. Sometimes, as in the days of St Theresa, such trance or ecstasy has been, one may say, the central or culminant fact in the Christian world. Of these experiences I must not here treat. The evidence for them is largely of a subjective type, and they may belong more fitly to some future discussion as to the amount of confidence due to the interpretation given by entranced persons to their own phenomena.
But in the midst of this long series, and in full analogy to many minor cases, occurs the exceptional trance-history of Emmanuel Swedenborg. In this case, as is well known, there appears to have been excellent objective evidence both of clairvoyance or telaesthesia(1) and of communication departed persons, - and we can only regret that the philosopher Kant, who satisfied himself of some part of Swedenborg's supernormal gift, did not press further his inquiry.
Telaesthesia. - Any direct sensation or perception of objects or conditions independently of the recognised channels of sense, and also under such circumstances that no known mind external to the percipient's can be suggested as the source of the knowledge thus gained.
Apart, however, from these objective evidences, the mere subject matter of Swedenborg's trance - revelations was enough to claim respectful attention. It was to Swedenborg first that that unseen world appeared before all things as a realm of law; a region not of mere emotional vagueness or stagnancy of adoration, but of definite progress according to definite relations of cause and effect, resulting from structural laws of spiritual existence and intercourse which we may in time learn partially to apprehend. For my own part I regard Swedenborg, - not, assuredly, as an inspired teacher, nor even as a trustworthy interpreter of his own experiences, - but vet as a true and early precursor of that great inquiry which it is our present object to advance.
The next pioneer whom I must mention even in this summary notice, is the celebrated physicist and chemist, Sir W. Crookes. Just as Swedenborg was the first leading man of science who distinctly conceived of the spiritual world as a world of law, so was Sir W. Crookes the first leading man of science who seriously endeavoured to test the alleged mutual influence and interpenetration of the spiritual world and our own by experiments of scientific precision. Beyond the establishment of certain supernormal facts Crookes declined to go. But a large group of persons have founded upon these and similar facts a scheme of belief known as Modern Spiritualism, or Spiritism. Later chapters in this book will show how much I owe to certain observations made by members of this group - how often my own conclusions concur with conclusions at which they have previously arrived. And yet this work of mine is in large measure a critical attack upon the main Spiritist position, as held, say, by Mr A. R. Wallace, the belief, namely, that all or almost all supernormal phenomena are due to the action of spirits of the dead. By far the larger proportion, as I hold, are due to the action of the still embodied spirit of the agent or percipient himself. Apart from speculative differences, moreover, I altogether dissent from the conversion into a sectarian creed of what I hold should be a branch of scientific inquiry, growing naturally out of our existing knowledge.
The step next in order in this series of approximations was taken in the year 1873 - at the crest, as one may say, of perhaps the highest wave of materialism which has ever swept over these shores - when it became the conviction of a small group at Cambridge that the deep questions thus at issue must be fought out in a way more thorough than the champions either of religion or of materialism had yet suggested. Our attitudes of mind were in some ways different; but to myself, at least, it seemed that no adequate attempt had vet been made even to determine whether anything could be learnt as to an unseen world or no; for that if anything were knowable about such a world in such fashion that Science could adopt and maintain that knowledge, it must be discovered by no analysis of tradition, and by no manipulation of metaphysics, - but simply by experiment and observation; - simply by the application to phenomena within us and around us of precisely the same methods of deliberate, dispassionate, exact inquiry which have built up our actual knowledge of the world which we can touch and see. I can hardly even now guess to how many of my readers this will seem a truism, and to how many a paradox. Truism or paradox, such a thought suggested a kind of effort, which, so far as we could discover, had never yet been made. For what seemed needful was an inquiry of quite other scope than the mere analysis of historical documents, or of the
origines of any alleged revelation in the past. It must be an inquiry resting primarily, as all scientific inquiries in the stricter sense now must rest, upon objective facts actually observable, upon experiments which we can repeat to-day, and which we may hope to carry further tomorrow. It must be an inquiry based on the presumption that
if a spiritual world exists, and if that world has at any epoch been manifest or even discoverable, then it ought to be
manifest or discoverable now.
It was from this side, and from these general considerations, that the group with which I have worked approached the subject. Our methods, our canons, were all to make. In those early days we were more devoid of precedents, of guidance, even of criticism that went beyond mere expressions of contempt, than is now readily conceived. Seeking evidence as best we could, we were at last fortunate enough to discover a convergence of experimental and of spontaneous evidence upon one definite and important point. We were led to believe that there was truth in a thesis which at least since Swedenborg and the early mesmerists had been repeatedly, but cursorily and ineffectually, presented to mankind - the thesis that a communication can take place from mind to mind without the agency of the recognised organs of sense. We found that this agency, discernible even on trivial occasions by suitable experiment, seemed to connect itself with an agency more intense, or at any rate more recognisable, which operated at moments of crisis or at the hour of death. Edmund Gurney - the invaluable collaborator and friend whose loss in 1888 was our heaviest discouragement - set forth this evidence in a large work, "Phantasms of the Living", in whose preparation Mr Podmore and I took a minor part.
Of fundamental importance, indeed, is this doctrine of telepathy - the first law, may one not say? - laid open to man's discovery, which, in my view at least, while operating in the material, is itself - a law of the spiritual or
metetherial world. In the course of this work it will be my task to show in many connections how far-reaching are the implications of this direct and supersensory communion of mind with mind. Among those implications none can be more momentous than the light thrown by this discovery upon man's intimate nature and possible survival of
(2) The Society for Psychical Research was founded in 1882, Professor W. F. Barrett taking a leading part in its promotion. Henry Sidgwick was its first President, and Edmund Gurney as its first Honorary Secretary - he and I being Joint Honorary Secretaries of its Literary Committee, whose business was the collection of evidence.
We gradually discovered that the accounts of apparitions at the moment of death - testifying to a supersensory communication between the dying man and the friend who sees him - led on without perceptible break to apparitions occurring after the death of the person seen, but while that death was vet unknown to the percipient, and thus apparently due, not to mere brooding memory, but to a continued action of that departed spirit. The task next incumbent on us therefore seemed plainly to be the collection and analysis of evidence of this and other types, pointing directly to the survival of man's spirit. But after pursuing this task for some years I felt that in reality the step from the action of embodied to the action of disembodied spirits would still seem too sudden if taken in this direct way. So far, indeed, as the evidence from apparitions went, the series seemed continuous from phantasms of the living to phantasms of the dead. But the whole mass of evidence
prima facie pointing to man's survival was of a much more complex kind. It consisted largely, for example, in written or spoken utterances, coming through the hand or voice of living men, but claiming to proceed from a disembodied source. To these utterances, as a whole, no satisfactory criterion had ever been applied.
In considering cases of this kind, then, it became gradually plain to me that before we could safely mark off any group of manifestations as definitely implying an influence from beyond the grave, there was need of a more searching review of the capacities of man's incarnate personality than psychologists unfamiliar with this new evidence had thought it worth their while to undertake.
It was only slowly, and as it were of necessity, that I embarked on a task which needed for its proper accomplishment a knowledge and training far beyond what I could claim. The very inadequate sketch which has resulted from my efforts is even in its author's view no more than preparatory and precursive to the fuller and sounder treatment of the same subject, which I doubt not that the new century will receive from more competent hands. The truest success of this book will lie in its rapid supersession by a better.
Let me then without further preamble embark upon that somewhat detailed survey of human faculty, as manifested during various phases of human personality, which is needful in order to throw fresh light on these unfamiliar themes. My discussion, I may say at once, will avoid metaphysics as carefully as it will avoid theology. I avoid theology because I consider that in arguments founded upon experiment and observation I have no right to appeal for support to traditional or subjective considerations, however important. For somewhat similar reasons I do not desire to introduce the idea of personality with any historical
resume of the philosophical opinions which have been held by various thinkers in the past, nor myself to speculate on matters lying beyond the possible field of objective proof. I shall merely for the sake of clearness begin by the briefest possible statement of two views of human personality which cannot be ignored, namely the old-fashioned or common-sense view thereof, which is still held by the mass of mankind, and the newer view of experimental psychology, bringing out that composite or 'colonial' character which on a close examination every personality of men or animals is seen to wear. The following passage, from Reid's 'Essay on the Intellectual Powers of Man', expresses the simple
prima facie view with care and precision, yet with no marked impress of any one philosophical school:
The conviction which every man has of his identity, as far back as his memory reaches, needs no aid of philosophy to strengthen it; and no philosophy can weaken it without first producing some degree of
insanity... My personal identity, therefore, implies the continued existence of that indivisible thing which I call myself. Whatever this self may be, it is something which thinks, and deliberates, and resolves, and acts, and suffers. I am not thought, I am not action, I am not feeling; I am something that thinks, and acts, and suffers. My thoughts and actions and feelings change every moment; they have no continued, but a successive existence; but that
self or I, to which they belong, is permanent, and has the same relation to all succeeding thoughts, actions, and feelings which I call
mine... The identity of a person is a perfect identity; wherever it is real it admits of no degrees; and it is impossible that a person should be in part the same and in part different, because a person is a
monad, and is not divisible into parts. Identity, when applied to persons, has no ambiguity, and admits not of degrees, or of more and less. It is the foundation of all rights and obligations, and of all accountableness; and the notion of it is fixed and precise.
Contrast with this the passage with which NI. Ribot concludes his essay on 'Les Maladies de la
It is the organism, with the brain, its supreme representative, which constitutes the real personality; comprising in itself the remains of all that we have been and the possibilities of all that we shall be. The whole individual character is there inscribed, with its active and passive aptitudes, its sympathies and antipathies, its genius, its talent or its stupidity, its virtues and Its vices, its torpor or its activity. The part thereof which emerges into consciousness is little compared with what remains buried, but operative nevertheless. The conscious personality is never more than a small fraction of the psychical personality. The unity of the Ego is not therefore the unity of a single entity diffusing itself among multiple phenomena; it is the coordination of a certain number of states perpetually renascent, and having for their sole common basis the vague feeling of our body. This unity does not diffuse itself downwards, but is aggregated by ascent from below; it is not an initial but a terminal point.
Does then this perfect unity really exist? In the rigorous, the mathematical sense, assuredly it does
not. In a relative sense it is met with, - rarely and for a moment. When a good marksman takes aim, or a skilful surgeon operates, his whole body and mind converge towards a single act. But note the result; under those conditions the sentiment of real personality disappears, for the conscious individual is simplified into a single idea, and the personal sentiment is excluded by the complete unification of consciousness. We thus return by another route to the same conclusion;
the Self is a co-ordination. It oscillates between two extremes at each of which it ceases to exist; - absolute unity and absolute incoherence.
The last word of all this is that since the consensus of consciousness is subordinated to the consensus of the organism, the problem of the unity of the Ego is in its ultimate form a problem of Biology. Let Biology explain, if it can, the genesis of organisms and the solidarity of their constituent parts. The psychological explanation must needs follow on the same track.
Here, then, we have two clear and definite views - supported, the one by our inmost consciousness, the other by unanswerable observation and inference, - yet apparently incompatible the one with the other. The supporters of the view that 'The Self is a coordination', - and this, I need hardly say, is now the view prevalent among experimental psychologists, - have frankly given up any notion of an underlying unity, - of a life independent of the organism, - in a word, of a human soul. The supporters of the unity of the Ego, on the other hand, if they have not been able to be equally explicit in
denying the opposite view, have made up for this by the thorough-going way in which they have
ignored it. I know of no source from which valid help has been offered towards the reconcilement of the two opposing systems in a profounder synthesis. If I believe - as I do believe - that in the present work some help in this direction is actually given, this certainly does not mean that I suppose myself capable of stitching the threadbare metaphysical arguments into a more stable fabric. It simply means that certain fresh evidence can now be adduced, which has the effect of showing the case on each side in a novel light; - nay, even of closing the immediate controversy by a judgment more decisively in favour of
both parties than either could have expected. On the one side, and in favour of the co-ordinators, - all their analysis of the Self into its constituent elements, all that they urge of positive observation, of objective experiment, must - as I shall maintain on the strength of the new facts which I shall adduce - be unreservedly conceded. Let them push their analysis as far as they like - let them get down, if they can, to those ultimate infinitesimal psychical elements from which is upbuilt the complex, the composite, the 'colonial' structure and constitution of man. All this may well be valid and important work. It is only on their
negative side that the conclusions of this school need a complete overhauling, deeper, bolder inquiry along their own line shows that they have erred when they asserted that analysis showed no trace of faculty beyond such as the life of earth - as they conceive it - could foster, or the environment of earth employ. For in reality analysis shows traces of faculty which this material or planetary life could not have called into being, and whose exercise even here and now involves and necessitates the existence of a spiritual world.
On the other side, and in favour of the partisans of the unity of the Ego, the effect of the new evidence is to raise their claim to a far higher ground, and to substantiate it for the first time with the strongest presumptive proof which can be imagined for it; - a proof, namely, that the Ego can and does survive not only the minor disintegrations which affect it during earth-life - but the crown' disintegration of bodily death. In view of this unhoped-for ratification of their highest dream, they may be more than content to surrender as untenable the far narrower conception of the unitary Self which was all that 'common-sense philosophies' had ventured to claim. The 'conscious Self' of each of us, as we call it, - the empirical, the supraliminal Self, as I should prefer to say, - does not comprise the whole of the consciousness or of the faculty within us. There exists a more comprehensive consciousness, a profounder faculty, which for the most part remains potential only so far as regards the life of earth, but from which the consciousness and the faculty of earth-life are mere selections, and which reasserts itself in its plenitude after the liberating change of death.
Towards this conclusion, which assumed for me something like its present shape some fourteen years since, a long series of tentative speculations, based on gradually accruing evidence, has slowly conducted me. The conception is one which has hitherto been regarded as purely mystical; and if I endeavour to plant it upon a scientific basis I certainly shall not succeed in stating it in its final terms or in supporting it with the best arguments which longer experience will suggest. Its validity, indeed, will be impressed - if at all - upon the reader only by the successive study of the various kinds of evidence to which this book will refer him.
The idea of a
threshold (limen, Schwelle), of consciousness; - of a level above which sensation or thought must rise before it can enter into our conscious life; - is a simple and familiar one. The word
subliminal - meaning 'beneath that threshold', - has already been used to define those sensations which are too feeble to be Individually recognised. I propose to extend the meaning of the term, so as to make it cover
all that takes place beneath the ordinary threshold, or say, if preferred, outside the ordinary margin of consciousness; - not only those faint stimulations whose very faintness keeps them submerged, but much else which psychology as yet scarcely recognises; sensations, thoughts, emotions, which may, be strong, definite, and independent, but which, by the original constitution of our being, seldom emerge into that
supraliminal current of consciousness which we habitually identify with ourselves. Perceiving (as this book will try to show) that these submerged thoughts and emotions possess the characteristics which we associate with conscious life, I feel bound to speak of a
subliminal or ultra-marginal consciousness, - a consciousness which we shall see, for instance, uttering or writing sentences quite as complex and coherent as the supraliminal consciousness could make them. Perceiving further that this conscious life beneath the threshold or beyond the margin seems to be no discontinuous or intermittent thing; that not only are these isolated subliminal processes comparable with isolated supraliminal processes (as when a problem is solved by some unknown procedure in a dream), but that there also is a continuous subliminal chain of memory (or more chains than one) involving just that kind of individual and persistent revival of old impressions, and response to new ones, which we commonly call a Self, - I find it permissible and convenient to speak of subliminal Selves, or more briefly of a subliminal Self. I do not indeed by using this term assume that there are two correlative and parallel selves existing always within each of us. Rather I mean by the subliminal Self that part of the Self which is commonly subliminal; and I conceive that there may be, - not only
co-operations between these quasi-independent trains of thought, - but also upheavals and alternations of personality of many kinds, so that what was once below the surface may for a time, or permanently, rise above it. And I conceive also that no Self of which we can here have cognisance is in reality more than a fragment of a larger Self, - revealed in a fashion at once shifting and limited through an organism not so framed as to afford it full manifestation.
Now this hypothesis may be attacked as being too elaborate for the facts, - as endowing transitory moments of subconscious intelligence with more continuity and independence than they really possess. These ripples over the threshold, it may be said, can be explained by the wind of circumstance, without assuming springs or currents in the personality deep below.
But soon we shall come upon a group of phenomena which this view will by no means meet. For we shall find that the subliminal uprushes, - the impulses or communications which reach our emergent from our submerged selves, - are (in spite of their miscellaneousness) often characteristically different in quality from any element known to our ordinary supraliminal life. They are different in a way which implies faculty of which we have had no previous knowledge, operating in an environment of which hitherto we have been wholly unaware. This broad statement it is of course the purpose of my whole work to justify. Assuming its truth here for argument's sake, we see at once that the problem of the hidden self entirely changes its aspect. Telepathy and telaesthesia - the perception of distant thoughts and of distant scenes without the agency of the recognised organs of sense; - those faculties suggest either incalculable extension of our own mental powers, or else the influence upon us of minds freer and less trammelled than our own. And this second hypothesis, - which would explain by the agency of discarnate minds, or spirits, all these supernormal phenomena, does at first sight simplify the problem, and has by Mr A. R. Wallace and others been pushed so far as to remove all need of what he deems the gratuitous and cumbrous hypothesis of a subliminal Self.
I believe, indeed, that it will become plain as we proceed that some such hypothesis as this, - of almost continuous spirit-intervention and spirit-guidance, - is at once rendered necessary if the subliminal faculties for which I argue are denied to man. And my conception of a subliminal self will thus appear, not as an extravagant and needless, but as a limiting and rationalising hypothesis, when it is applied to phenomena which at first sight suggest Mr Wallace's extremer view, but which I explain by the action of man's own spirit, without invoking spirits external to himself. I do not indeed say that the explanation here suggested is applicable in all cases, or to the complete exclusion of the spirit-hypothesis. On the contrary, the one view gives support to the other. For these faculties of distant communication exist none the less, even though we should refer them to our own subliminal selves. We can, in that case, affect each other at a distance, telepathically; - and if our incarnate spirits can act thus in at least apparent independence of the fleshly body, the presumption is strong that other spirits may exist independently of the body, and may affect us in similar manner.
It may be useful to conclude this introductory chapter by a brief summary of the main tracts across which our road must lie. It will be my object to lead by transitions as varied and as gradual as possible from phenomena held as normal to phenomena held as supernormal, but which like the rest are simply and solely the inevitable results and manifestations of universal Law.
Following then on this first or introductory chapter is one containing a discussion of the ways in which human personality disintegrates and decays.
Alternations of personality and hysterical phenomena generally are in this connection the most instructive to us.
In Chapter III we utilize the insight thus gained and discuss the line of evolution which enables man to maintain and intensify his true normality. What type of man is he to whom the epithet of
normal, - an epithet often obscure and misleading, - may be most fitly applied? I claim that that man shall be regarded as normal who has the fullest grasp of faculties which inhere in the whole race. Among these faculties I count subliminal as well as supraliminal powers; - the mental processes which take place below the conscious threshold as well as those which take place above it; and I attempt to show that those who reap most advantage from this submerged mentation are men of
Chapter IV deals with the alternating phase through which man's personality is constructed habitually to pass. I speak of
sleep; which I regard as a phase of personality, adapted to maintain our existence in the spiritual environment, and to draw from thence the vitality of our physical organisms. In this chapter I also discuss certain supernormal phenomena which sometimes occur in the state of sleep.
Chapter V treats of
hypnotism, considered as an empirical development of sleep. It will be seen that hypnotic suggestion intensifies the physical recuperation of sleep, and aids the emergence of those supernormal phenomena which ordinary sleep and spontaneous somnambulism sometimes exhibit.
Chapter VI deals with the messages which the subliminal self sends up to the supraliminal in the form of sensory hallucinations: the visions fashioned internally, but manifested not to the inward eye alone; the voices which repeat as though in audible tones the utterance of the self within.
automatisms, as I have termed them, are very often telepathic - involve, that is to say, the transmission of ideas and sensations from one mind to another without the agency of the recognised organs of sense. Nor would it seem that such transmission need necessarily cease with the bodily death of the transmitting agent.
Chapter VII shows that those who communicated with us telepathically in this world may communicate with us telepathically from the other. Thus
phantasms of the dead receive a new meaning from observations of the phenomena occurring between living men.
In Chapter VIII we consider in what ways
motor automatisms - the unwilled activity of hand or voice - may be used as a means of such communication. Unwilled writings and utterances furnish the opportunity for experiment more prolonged and continuous than the phantasms or pictures of sensory automatism can often give, and, like them, may sometimes originate in telepathic impressions received by the subliminal self from another mind.
Chapter IX shows that these motor automatisms are apt to become more complete, more controlling, than sensory automatisms. They may lead on, in some cases, to the apparent
possession of the sensitive by some extraneous spirit, who seems to write and talk through the sensitive's organism, giving evidence of his own surviving identity.
The reader who may feel disposed to give his adhesion to this culminating group of the long series of evidences which have pointed with more and more clearness to the survival of human personality, and to the possibility for men on earth of actual commerce with a world beyond, may feel perhaps that the
desiderium orbis catholici,(3) the intimate and universal hope of every generation of men, has never till this day approached so near to
fulfillment. There has never been so fair a prospect for Life and Love. But the goal to which we tend is not an ideal of personal happiness alone. The anticipation of our own future is but one element in the prospect which opens to us now. Our inquiry has broadened into a wider scope. The point from which we started was an analysis of the latent faculties of man. The point towards which our argument has carried us is the existence of a spiritual environment in which those faculties operate, and of unseen neighbours who speak to us thence with slowly gathering power.
(3) Longing for a universal world.
The conclusions to which our evidence points are not such as can be discussed or dismissed as a mere matter of speculative curiosity. They affect every belief, every faculty, every hope and aim of man; and they affect him the more intimately as his interests grow more profound. Whatever meaning be applied to ethics, to philosophy, to religion, the concern of all these is here.