THE UNIQUE and peculiarly interesting feature of this series is that they
purported to be experiments invented and arranged on 'the other side.'
On January 17th, 1901,
Frederic Myers died. He had, during his life, played a leading part in
scientific psychical research and had an intense desire to discover objective
evidence of survival such as would establish high logical probability, in fact,
what would be considered as proof in any science of observation. He, himself,
fully believed in survival, although he knew that the evidence available was not
sufficient to compel general belief. In the communications which purport to come
from him through automatic writing we can see again and again the passionate
longing to prove his continued existence, and to convince his friends on earth
of his identity. For example, in
Mrs. Holland's script of January 12th, 1904, Myers, purporting to
If it were possible for the soul to die back into
earth life again I should die from sheer yearning to reach you to tell you that
all that we imagined is not half wonderful enough for the truth,
I am trying with all the forces ... together to
prove that I am Myers, and again through Mrs. Holland, Oh, I am feeble
with eagerness - how can I best be identified.
 Proc, SPR, Vol. XXI, p 233.
 Proc, SPR, Vol. XXII, p 105.
 Proc, SPR, Vol. XXI, p 234.
Now Myers, as an experienced psychical researcher, was fully aware of the
difficulty of eliminating the possibility of explaining away evidential messages
by telepathy or clairvoyance. The matter stands thus. The very large bulk of
those cases wherein evidence of a supernormal kind is put forward as proving
personal survival, consists of communications of knowledge which is not in the
possession of any living person concerned, but was, or could have been,
possessed by the individual from whose surviving spirit the messages purport to
Now, it is clear that for such communications to be of any value as evidence,
the information conveyed must be capable of verification, and this implies that
some living person must know the facts or else that some record exists or some
circumstances from which the facts may be inferred.
But if this be so, it is always possible to hold that the information was
conveyed telepathically to the mind of the medium from the living person who
knew the facts, or else that the medium clairvoyantly became aware of the record
or circumstances in which it is embodied. We have to bear in mind that it is not
only the ordinary supraliminal knowledge of living persons which is available,
but also the subliminal; further that a telepathic impression may be received
and lie dormant in subliminal mind of the percipient, emerging into ordinary
consciousness only after a lapse of time, sometimes of quite considerable
In these circumstances it is hard to imagine any possible evidence which could
bring unequivocal proof of survival. Now Myers, as I have said, was fully aware
of all this, and what makes these experiments so peculiarly interesting is that,
if we take the statements of the communicators at their face value, it looks as
though his surviving spirit had invented a means of getting over the difficulty
and had endeavoured to carry it out.
I must, however, lay stress on the words 'at their face value.' Whether this
represents a true picture of what actually occurred and whether the spirit of
Fred Myers survived his bodily death and carried over into his new mode of
existence his memories, affections and interest in psychical research, must be
decided on the evidence itself.
When reading the reports of the cases and the scripts of the various
automatists, one can hardly help feeling that it was indeed Myers,
Sidgwick and the rest, who once had lived on earth and worked
enthusiastically for psychical research, continuing their labours from the other
side, and making strenuous endeavours to prove their identity.
But feelings are not enough, in fact, they should be sternly put aside by those
who seek scientific knowledge. I shall have to speak of the dramatic personation
later and try to assess its evidential value, but until it has been subjected to
severe criticism its persuasive influence must be discounted.
Briefly, the plan which purports to have been devised by Myers and his
associates on the other side is as follows.
Suppose a message in cryptic terms be transmitted through one automatist, and
another message, equally incomprehensible, through a second at about the same
time, and suppose that each automatist was ignorant of what the other was
writing, we have then two meaningless messages entirely disconnected with each
Now, if a third automatist were to produce a script which, while meaningless
taken by itself, acts as a clue to the other two, so that the whole set could be
brought together into one whole, and then show a single purpose and meaning, we
should have good evidence that they all originated from a single source.
It may be looked at like this. Two people are each given one piece of a jigsaw
puzzle, taken separately each piece is meaningless, nor will they fit each
other. A third person is then given a third piece, and when the pieces are all
brought together, it is found that they not only fit each other, but that when
fitted they exhibit a coherent picture showing evidence of design and purpose.
It is quite obvious that telepathy between the automatists, in so far as their
supraliminal knowledge is concerned, would not explain these facts, for none of
them is able to understand the meaning of their own particular fragment, and so
could not possibly convey to the other automatists the knowledge required to
supply the missing portions. In most cases the puzzle - for the very essence of
the whole thing is that they are puzzles - has been solved by an independent
investigator, in fact, frequently the automatists themselves have remained in
ignorance of any scripts but their own.
It is true that this independent source might possibly be the subliminal mind of
one of the automatists, or that of some living person. We can only form a
tentative decision on this point when we have studied the actual cases as we
have to rely entirely on internal evidence, i.e., the nature and characteristics
of the messages.
A case such as this where three automatists are concerned would be the ideal
type of Cross Correspondence, as they are called, and it must be admitted that
up to the present no perfect example has been found.
A less convincing form of cross correspondence would be where two automatists
independently produce scripts which, taken separately, are meaningless, but when
put together are found to be complementary and mutually explanatory. Of this
type we have several good examples.
Besides these cross correspondences there are a large number of instances where
the script of two or more automatists has references to the same subject at
about the same time. In such cases the complementariness is reduced to simple
reference to a single topic, and, in the absence of other evidence, we should
have no hesitation in explaining them, provisionally at least - for all
explanations are provisional at the present stage of our knowledge - as being
due to telepathy between the automatists.
That telepathy does occur I have little doubt, but the cases seem to form a
series of ascending complexity until we reach a point at which the hypothesis of
simple telepathy fails. Where the line should be drawn it is impossible to say.
This, then, is the scheme or plan which, by their own account, was invented by
the communicators on the other side, and we have passages in the scripts to bear
this out. For example, the automatist is sometimes exhorted 'to weave together'
and told that singly they can do little. In Mrs. Verrall's script we find:
Record the bits and when fitted they will make
I will give the words between you neither alone
can read but together they will give the clue he wants.
 Proc, SPR, Vol. XXI, p. 385.
 Ibid., p. 382.
Moreover, there occurs in several instances instructions to the automatist to
send her script, either to one of the other automatists, or else to one of the
investigators, in fact, it was on account of such instructions that in one or
two cases the automatists were first brought together.
I will conclude these preliminary explanations by quoting a few passages from a
paper by Miss Alice Johnson, Proceedings, Vol. XXI, June, 1908, wherein
the theory of Cross Correspondences is fully discussed for the first time. On
page 375, she says:
'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 well might 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
On page 377, she writes:
'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 realize 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 sceptic's objections...
'We have reason to believe ... that the idea of making a statement in one script
complementary of a statement in another had not 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 that detected it, but a student of the 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.'
And on page 389,
'Assuming that the controls are actually trying to
communicate some definite idea by means of two different automatists, whom at
the same time they were trying to prevent from communicating telepathically with
one another, what the controls have to do is to express the factors of the idea
in so veiled a form that each writer indites her own share without understanding
it. Yet the expression must be so definite that, when once the clue is found, no
room is left for doubt as to the proper interpretation.
'It will be seen that, ex hypothesi, the idea must be prevented from
reaching the subliminal consciousness of the automatists; yet we cannot be
certain in any case that it has been so prevented, as we can only interrogate
their supraliminal consciousnesses. It is conceivable, however, that the
controls are more capable than living persons of manipulating their own
telepathic faculties. Just as we in ordinary conversation can say what we like
and abstain from saying what we wish not to say; so it is possible that the
controls can telepathically convey certain things to the automatists, stopping
short at whatever point they choose, and thus excluding subliminal comprehension
of the underlying ideas.'
H. F. Saltmarsh's "Evidence of Personal
Survival from Cross-Correspondences" (London: G. Bell, 1938).