W. H. Salter

William Henry Salter

1880-1969. Went to Trinity College, Cambridge, with a Classical Scholarship in 1899, took a first class degree in 1901, turned to read Law, and was called to the Barin 1905. Joined the Society for Psychical Research in 1916, to become a member of its Council three years later. From 1920 to 1931, a very difficult financial period, he served as Honorary Treasurer; and from 1924 to 1948 he was Honorary Secretary. He was President from 1947 to 1948. He made many contributions to the SPR Journal and Proceedings, and published two admirable books, Ghosts and Apparitions (1938) and Zoar (1961).

From Zoar, or The Evidence for Psychical Research Concerning Survival
(1961, Sidgwick and Jackson, London).

Chapter 13: Cross-Correspondences

- W. H. Salter -

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          A WEAKNESS of the evidence for survival so far presented is that even at its best, and when the doubts and difficulties raised by normal factors, such as chance and latent memory, and also by paranormal powers of the living, telepathy in particular, have been overcome, all that could be considered as established would be that a person's memories, or some of them, continued to exist with some degree of organised coherence after the death of the body. Reviewing Myers's Human Personality Walter Leaf wrote:

"The evidence is very striking and very strong. It proves, I think, that memories of the dead survive, and are under special conditions accessible to us. But I do not see that it proves the survival of what we call the living spirit, the personality - a unit of consciousness, limited and self-contained, a centre of will and vital force, carrying on into another world the aspirations and the affections of this." (Proc. XVIII, 59.)

Myers himself indeed looked forward to evidence accruing at some not too remote date of "the will and vital force" of discarnate personalities, for in Vol. II of Human Personality (p. 274) he writes:

"We cannot simply admit the existence of discarnate spirits as inert or subsidiary phenomena; we must expect to have to deal with them as agents on their own account, agents in unexpected ways, and with novel capacities."

It may be significant that a new type of evidence first makes its appearance soon after Myers's death and ostensibly through the agency of a discarnate group of which he is a leader. The One-Horse-Dawn experiment, begun within three months of his death, is an early example. It cannot, for reasons already explained, be considered a case of straightforward telepathy. The answer is concealed within a pattern of extreme complexity, and a pattern implies a designer, who may conveniently be called "the script intelligence", a non-committal phrase which leaves open for later consideration who, or what, the script intelligence is, or are.

One naturally looks first to the subconscious of either the agent, who knew the target, or of the percipient, who may have gained subconscious knowledge of it by telepathy from him. But in either case, why, instead of a simple and direct answer, all this roundabout elaboration and mystification, which resulted in the full degree of success only being recognised after both agent and percipient were dead, and then only through Piddington's exceptional gifts of industry and ingenuity? The subconscious is not generally so modest or diffident as to deny itself the early triumph of a recognised success, or to risk the chance that its success may never even he recognised. That the subconscious of both agent and percipient had some share in the result may be taken for granted. Either of them could perhaps have provided all the materials used to form the pattern, i.e., the passages from Greek literature, and the notes to Jebb's editions, but did either work out the pattern in which the materials were used?

A similar problem arises in connection with Myers's "posthumous" packet, where recognition of the considerable, though incomplete, degree of success attained depended on the comparison of several documents, some published, some unpublished, and on the curious circumstance that among the twenty-two persons who witnessed the opening of the packet, one (Mrs. Sidgwick) had some recollection of Myers's connection with Hallsteads. There were, moreover, only a few copies of the unpublished document which was an indispensable link between the script and the contents of the packet, and she had access to one of these. The automatist's subconscious, if nothing more were involved, seems to have been at immense pains to disguise a considerable success as a complete failure, and to have run the risk of it never being recognised as anything else.

The problem of design becomes still more difficult in relation to the cross-correspondences, which occupy a large proportion of the space in SPR Proceedings from 1906 on. This chapter and the next will be occupied with a discussion of this most difficult and involved matter. The trouble arises partly from the sheer bulk of the material, automatic scripts running to more than two thousand, and from the number of persons concerned as automatists and Communicators, and even more from the quantity of topics which form the subject matter-topics which, however unrelated they may seem to be when looked at singly, are found to be linked together in the oddest ways. Finally there is the allusive phrasing, consisting largely of quotations in several languages, and the use of symbols to denote both persons and topics.

I should not attempt the task of condensing this material into two chapters were it not that these scripts are regarded by many of the acutest students of survival evidence as being of the greatest importance, and that up to the present few attempts have been made to put together the gist of the numerous articles already published in Proceedings in such a way that it can readily he understood by a reader without previous knowledge of the subject(1). There are moreover some correlations between the various scripts, and between them and various persons and events, which have not previously been made public.

(1) Saltmarsh's Evidence of Personal Survival from Cross-Correspondences (Bell, 1938) deserves the highest praise.

The present chapter will go over ground which would have been familiar enough to psychical researchers, say, forty years ago, but is less so to the present generation. The succeeding chapter by discussing new material may perhaps give the material already published a new aspect, and make its purpose clearer. In the hope of not putting too heavy a strain on the reader's patience the case has been simplified by cutting out several subsidiary topics which would require long explanation, but there is a point beyond which simplification involves distortion I have tried not to exceed that.

The essence of cross-correspondences is that between the scripts of two or more automatists writing independently there is a significant connection through both or all of them writing the same phrase or alluding to the same topic. The qualifying words "significant" and "independently" are of the essence. There is no significance in two or three people quoting the same phrase or referring to the same topic, if the phrase or topic is thoroughly commonplace. Nor, even with rather less commonplace phrase or topics, if the scripts are spread at random over a long period, or if they are the natural product of a common train of thought set going by some stimulus affecting them all, some interesting event, perhaps, reported in the newspapers. With a little help from chance such correspondences would be bound to occur, particularly in a group the members of which had much the same intellectual background. The possibility of subconscious telepathic leakage has also to be borne in mind.

When the cross-correspondences began to be noticed, careful arrangements were made to ensure that no automatist received random information as to the writings of any other member of the group. Where such information was given, it was done deliberately by the investigators, and the fact, with relevant particulars as to time, etc., was carefully noted. There being no question as to the good faith of the automatists, it was thus possible for the investigators to say with certainty whether at any given time any member of the group had seen a particular script, or part of a script, written by another member. For the sake of simplicity, I shall use the word "scripts" to cover all the documentary matter comprising the cross-correspondences, even though that includes, besides the automatic writings of several members of the group, the recorded trance-utterances of Mrs. Piper and later of my wife and Mrs: Willett, and the records which another member, Mrs. Stuart Wilson, made of impressions received by her in a state of slight dissociation. For the same reason the word "automatist" will be used to cover all members of the group, although Mrs. Piper was a famous professional medium, whose mediumship was for the most part unconnected with this group.

The group may be said to have begun to function as a group when Mrs. "Holland" was directed by her script to write to Mrs. Verrall of whom she knew no more than could be gathered from a few references to her in Human Personality, in which no mention was made of her automatic writing. Mrs. "Holland" was the sister of Rudyard Kipling and the wife of an army officer, named Fleming, serving in India. In 1903, after reading Human Personality shortly after its publication, she felt impelled to resume the practice of automatic writing, her earlier attempts at which she had discontinued. The scripts she wrote in the latter part of that year and in 1904 show several traces of apparently paranormal knowledge of such things as Mrs. Verrall's address at Cambridge, and the Greek text over the gateway of Selwyn College. Both Myers and Mrs. Verrall lived near the College, and he had often expressed to her his scholarly annoyance at an error in the carving, so that a reference to the text in a script purporting to be inspired by Myers, and one of a series intended to be read by Mrs. Verrall, was singularly apt: see Proc. XXI, 234, 235.

Of the many cross-correspondences in which Mrs. Holland took part, I will first choose for comment that known, from a phrase in her script, as Ave Roma Immortalis. It was reported by Alice Johnson with brief comment in Proc. XXI, 297-303, and more fully in Proc. XXVII, 11-24. It is contained within four scripts, the first written on the 2nd and the last on the 7th March 1906. In the first script, of 2nd March 1906, Mrs. Verrall quoted a line of Latin verse which she recognised as coming from the 2nd book of the Aeneid and as part of the narrative of the fall of Troy. The rest of the script seemed meaningless to her, but her husband told her that he saw a connection between this verse and another Latin passage occurring later in the script. Except for telling her that one phrase (primus inter pares) meant the Pope, he did not explain what meaning he found in the passage. He thought, though he did not tell her so, that it referred to Raphael's picture in the Vatican of Pope Leo I, under the celestial protection of St. Peter and St. Paul, turning back Attila from his intended attack on Rome.

Two further scripts of Mrs. Verrall's written on the 4th and 5th March conveyed no meaning to her, apart from the words "the Stoic persecutor", which she saw could only mean the emperor Marcus Aurelius. Actually, as Alice Johnson interprets these three scripts, and I have no doubt rightly, they present "a thumbnail sketch" of the history of Rome, or at least of imperial and Christian Rome. After allusions to the fall of Troy which led to the foundation of Rome, there follow references to the emperors Trajan and Marcus Aurelius, and the columns set up to commemorate their exploits; the persecution of the Christians; Pope Leo I and the protection of the city against Attila by Saints Peter and Paul; Gregory the Great, who increased the Papal power; the placing of the statues of St. Peter and St. Paul on the columns where the statues of Trajan and Marcus Aurelius had formerly stood; the triumph of the Church under Popes Julius II and Leo X, for whom Raphael worked.

The last script, that of the 7th March, 1906, was written by Mrs. Holland who had no normal knowledge of Mrs. Verrall's scripts of 2nd, 4th and 5th March. It included the words "Ave Roma immortalis. How could I make it any clearer without giving her the clue?"

In several of his writings Myers takes the story of Rome as told in the Aeneid as symbolic of the spiritual evolution of mankind. The last paragraph of the last chapter of Human Personality compares the "nascent race of Rome, which bore from the Trojan altar the hallowing fire" with "the whole nascent race of man". Mrs. Verrall and Mrs. Holland must both have been familiar with this sentiment of Myers. A reference to or elaboration of it in the scripts of either or both would therefore not be significant by itself, and apart from special circumstances. It is to be noted however (1) that the whole affair was begun and ended in six days, which would have been most improbable if the only operative cause had been a common train of thought, aided by chance: that there are in the scripts of each automatist words suggesting a cross-correspondence, Mrs. Verrall's script saying that she would receive a message from another woman and that "after some days" she would easily understand what she was writing, and Mrs. Holland writing "How could I make it any clearer without giving her the clue," which correctly implies that the other automatists's part was complete: (3) that the Rome that Myers used as a symbol was that of the Aeneid, written in the earliest days of the Empire, while Mrs. Verrall's scripts, after the reference to the fall of Troy, are all about the later Empire, from Trajan on, and the triumph of Christian Rome, to which the words Roma immortalis are much more appropriate.

Once again we have a pattern for which a designer must be sought, and once again Verrall's role as possible agent must be considered. There is no trace of his conscious intention, as there was in the One-Horse Dawn experiment, but it is conceivable that, after he had formed the opinion that the script of 2nd March 1906 referred cryptically to Raphael's picture, his subconscious, ruminating on the two saints as protectors of Rome, might have formed the associations with Trajan, Marcus Aurelius and their columns mentioned above, and telepathically have impressed them on Mrs. Verrall's subconscious, and that at the same time and in like manner he impressed Mrs. Holland's subconscious with the general idea of Roma immortalis. This suggestion cannot be either proved or disproved, but, if taken to be correct, it offers no explanation of why and how the subject ever found its way into the first script, that of 2nd March 1906.

Inability of the automatists to grasp the meaning of what they are writing recurs so frequently in the whole body of scripts as strongly to suggest that their cryptic language, sometimes their superficially nonsensical language, was deliberately used by the script-intelligence to frustrate the automatist's understanding until the purpose of the script-intelligence had been effected. 

The Sevens case (Proc. XXIV, 222-253) was much more diffuse and complex. In all its stages it was spread over four and a half years, from July 1904 to January 1909, but with a stage of marked activity between the 20th April and 24th July 1908. Seven persons were involved, three of them being the principal members at that time of the SPR group of automatists (Mrs. Verrall, Mrs. Holland, and my wife, H.V.). The other four were the medium, Mrs. Piper, two minor automatists, Mrs. Frith and Mrs. Home, and Piddington. A full account of the affair as reported by Alice Johnson sets out some connections between the scripts of these seven which for simplicity's sake I omit, confining myself to three topics, references to the number Seven, to Dante and to Piddington's part in the affair.

On the 13th July 1904, at some time in the middle of the day that cannot be exactly fixed, Piddington wrote a "posthumous letter" at the Society's room in London, scaled it, and gave it to Alice Johnson to keep. The letter began as follows:

"If ever I am a spirit, and if I can communicate, I shall endeavour to remember to transmit in some form or other the number SEVEN.

"As it seems to me not improbable that it may be difficult to transmit an exact word or idea, it may be that, unable to transmit the simple word seven in writing or as a written number, 7, I should try to communicate such things as: 'The seven lamps of architecture', 'The seven sleepers of Ephesus', 'unto seventy times seven', 'We are seven', and so forth. The reason why I select the word seven is because seven has been a kind of tic with me ever since my early boyhood..."

He continues by referring to his habit of taking it as a good omen for his golf if he saw from the links a railway engine drawing seven carriages, and added that he had purposely cultivated "this tie', as the memory of it might "survive the shock of death".

On the same day at 11.15 a.m. Mrs. Verrall, who was then in Surrey, wrote a script which, after some nonsensical Latin and Greek words, continued:

"But that is not right-it is something contemporary that you are to record - note the hour - in London half the message has come."

The rest of the script purports to give the contents of Myers's "posthumous" envelope (see p. 168), and ends "Surely Piddington will see that this is enough and should be acted on. F.W.H.M" This is, I think, the only instance of any direction in all Mrs. Verrall's scripts to "note the hour" because "something contemporary" was to be recorded. The only "contemporary" event relevant to communications from Myers was Piddington's "posthumous" letter. Although this was probably not written till shortly after Mrs. Verrall's script, and although the phrase "half the message" is not altogether appropriate to this opening move in a cross-correspondence involving six other persons, nevertheless the script may, without too great a strain, be regarded as referring to Piddington's "posthumous" letter, of the existence of which Mrs. Verrall had no normal knowledge. These two documents of 13th July 1904 complete the first stage.

Nothing more happened for over three years. On the 6th August 1907 H.V. wrote:

"A rainbow in the sky
     fit emblem of our thought
The sevenfold radiance from a single light
     many in one and one in many."

The script continued with a Latin sentence, which might be construed as meaning that someone had sent messages to various persons, and that these messages were to be "coordinated". That is how Mrs. Verrall seems to have understood the script when she read it on the 28th August 1907, for she herself wrote a script including these words:

"Try this new experiment - Say the same sentence to each of them and see what completion each gives to it. Let Piddington choose a sentence that they do not know and send part to each. Then see whether they can complete."

The third stage was introduced by Piddington's discovery on the 15th February 1908 that a script written by Mrs. Holland on the 8th April 1907, which mentioned Leah and Rachel, was a reference to two passages of Dante. One passage was from the Convito and has no bearing on the cross-correspondence. The other is the account in Canto 27 of the Purgatorio of the dream which Dante had while in the Seventh Circle.

These allusions seemed to throw light on other references to Dante in the scripts of Mrs. Verrall, H.V., and Mrs. Piper, and in March Piddington showed Mrs. Verrall and H.V. the draft of a paper in which he analysed all the references to Dante - they were not at that time numerous - to be found in all the scripts. This led Mrs. Verrall to read the Purgatorio, the 27th and 28th Cantos of which in particular were discussed in his draft. H.V. did not herself follow up the Dante references, nor did she know that her mother was doing so.

As from this point allusions to the Divina Commedia are closely connected in the scripts with allusions to seven, it may make the case easier to follow if a brief summary is here given of the contents of Cantos 27-31 of the Purgatorio to which most of the allusions relate. Mention has already been made of Dante's dream of Rachel in Canto 27. In Canto 28 he, Vergil and Statius reach a flowery meadow through which runs a small stream. Following this towards the sunrise (Canto 29) they see approaching seven candlesticks the flames of which leave in the heavens a trail of the colours of the rainbow. This is the last place at which Vergil is mentioned as present. As a pagan he is not permitted to see the mystic vision of Christ and the Church, typified by a Grifon drawing a Car. It is not however until Canto 30 that Dante notices that he is no longer there. In Canto 31 Dante is instructed to gaze on "the emeralds", that is on the gleaming eyes of Beatrice who is standing in the car: only as reflected in them, as a Sun in a mirror, can he see the Grifon in its two-fold nature.

There are in the scripts, besides several allusions to these Cantos which seem to me certain, several others which, as being doubtful, I do not mention. Mrs. Verrall finished her reading of these Cantos on the 8th May 1908 and on the same day wrote sixteen lines of English verse on Vergil, as one who had led others to Christianity but by his continuance as a pagan could not enter the Earthly Paradise: "Not for his eyes that Vision in its glory" etc. On the same day Mrs. Piper in America, during the waking-stage that followed her trance, said 'Ye are Seven. I said Clock! Tick, tick, tick." "We are seven" is one of the phrases Piddington mentioned in his "posthumous" letter, and "tick, tick, tick," though it appears primarily to refer to Hodgson, may also allude to the "tic" that Piddington twice speaks of.

On the 11th May 1908 H.V. wrote a script including references to (1) Jacob's ladder, (c) a spinning top with many colours that blend into one, (3) the seven-branched candlestick and the seven colours of the rainbow, (4) "many mystic sevens... we are seven." The script is signed F. W. H. Myers. Of the items in this script (1) is mentioned in Cantos 21 and 22 of the Paradiso as seen in the Seventh Heaven; (2) may be the wheel of Cantos 10, 12 and 28 of the Paradiso; (3) alludes to the seven candlesticks of Canto 29 of the Purgatorio.

On the 12th May 1908 Mrs. Piper gave a sitting at which Dorr, the American investigator, asked her to explain some of the words she had spoken on the 8th May, including "We are seven". She wrote "We were seven in the distance as a matter of fact" and, after questions on other subjects, "Seven of us, 7, seven".

On the 11th June Mrs. Frith wrote a poem including the following lines:

"Pisgah is scaled the fair and dewy lawn
Invites my footsteps till the mystic seven
Lights up the golden candlestick of dawn."

The Biblical Pisgah has no connection with any mystic seven, or golden candlestick of dawn, and it seems clear that the intention is to refer to the Earthly Paradise and to Cantos 28 and 29 of the Purgatorio.

On the 23rd July 1908 Mrs. Holland, then at sea, wrote:

"There should be at least three in accord and if possible seven."

She proceeds to describe symbolically the seven who should be in accord, specifying six of the actual seven correctly, but leaving out Piddington and apparently including a minor automatist, Mrs. Forbes, who was not in fact concerned. The latter part of the same script had these words: "Take this for token 'Green beyond belief' ... Not only on the ocean may the Green Ray appear." Alice Johnson understood the emphatic reference to Green to allude to the "emeralds" of Canto 31 which reflected the Grifon as a mirror reflects the sun. In view of Mrs. Holland's earlier references to Dante this seems to me probably right.

On the 24th July 1908 a Myers Control, purporting to speak through Mrs. Home, said "Seven times seven and seventy-seven send the burden of my words to others".

That concludes the third act of the drama. The fourth is brief. On the 19th November 1908 Alice Johnson told Piddington of a sevens cross-correspondence with Dante allusions to be found in the scripts of Mrs. Verrall, Mrs. Holland, Mrs. Piper, H.V., Mrs. Frith and Mrs. Home. (While there is no doubt that both Mrs. Piper and Mrs. Home refer with emphasis to the Sevens topic, the possible allusions to Dante, which Alice Johnson noted in their scripts, seem to me very doubtful, and I have accordingly not dwelt an them.) On the 27th November 1908, after he and she had examined the case more thoroughly, he told her that the subject of his "posthumous" letter was variations on the theme of Seven. She then got out his sealed envelope from the locked drawer where she had kept it. They examined it, found the seals intact and opened it. Until that day she had had no inkling what the contents might be.

On the 27th January 1909 Mrs. Verrall, who did not even know that such an envelope existed, wrote a script ending with the following passage:

"And ask what has been the success of Piddington's last experiment? Has he found the bits of his famous sentence scattered among you all? And does he think that is accident, or started by one of you? But even if the source is human, who carries the thoughts to the receivers? Ask him that. F.W.H.M."

This script obviously refers back to her script of 28th August 1907, and implies that the experiment then suggested had been carried out and successfully concluded. An "experiment", or something looking very like an experiment, involving Piddington had been carried out and concluded, in my view, with considerable success. It was not quite of the kind indicated in the scripts. Piddington never sent parts of a sentence to various automatists. He put on record various associations with Seven, but made no conscious effort to transmit them. Various references to Seven did some time later appear in the scripts and speech of several automatists; and that these did not find their way into the scripts "by accident" is, I think, clear from the very condensed account of the case I have given. Alice Johnson's fuller analysis should however leave no trace of doubt. But were they "started by one of you", whether by "you" the Communicator is supposed to mean just the automatists, or a group including Piddington with them?

The identity of the script-intelligence behind these references to Seven and to Dante must depend in part on whether the references to both topics are taken as constituting a single cross-correspondence, or as two that happened to overlap in time. Two of the automatists, Mrs. Piper and Mrs. Home, make no allusions to Dante that could, in my opinion, be regarded as other than very doubtful, and this is to some extent an argument against the unitary view. But in the scripts of Mrs. Verrall, Mrs. Holland, Mrs. Frith and H.V. the two subjects are very closely combined, so that on the whole the unitary view is to be preferred. Either view presupposes some subconscious collaboration between Piddington, as writer of the "posthumous" letter, and Mrs. Verrall, whose reading of the Purgatorio was followed by a new development in the scripts of three other members of the group besides herself. The unitary view presupposes that the collaboration was very close.

Collaboration between agent and percipient at a subconscious level was suggested in Chapter III as part of the process resulting in veridical apparitions of the more complex kind, but in those cases the collaboration is apparently brief. In the Sevens-cum-Dante case on the other hand it extended over at least three months and, on the unitary view, over more than four years. There is no reason to suppose that every detail of the contribution to the whole made by each automatist was present to the subconscious mind of either Piddington or Mrs. Verrall. Illustrations of the two main subjects are drawn from a great variety of sources, each having some special connection with the automatist who draws on it. Thus. Mrs. Holland's reference to the Green Ray which may appear "not only on the ocean", where a green ray is sometimes seen immediately after the sun sinks below the horizon, suggests the individual contribution of an automatist who was at the time at sea, as she was Alice Johnson (Proc. XXIV at p. 256) writes:

"What was it that from each and all of these miscellaneous sources extracted the strands needed for the interweaving of Seven and Dante? The task would not, of course, be very difficult for anyone who had such a plan in mind, - assuming that he was able to influence the automatists to carry it out. I maintain only that there is strong evidence of the existence of such a plan, and I think it looks like the plan of one mind, and not of two or more."

She argues (p. 261) that the case affords "strong, evidence of the design or agency of some intelligence which was cognisant of the whole scheme, as finally revealed", and that this could not be attributed to the subconscious of either Piddington or Mrs. Verrall. This is in effect an argument that the script-intelligence was the discarnate mind of F. W. H. Myers whose name or initials are appended to some of the scripts. The argument for an external designer is frankly subjective, being based on what the design "looked like" to Alice Johnson, but subjective judgments are not to be despised when made by a person of her acuteness of mind, scientific training and immense knowledge of the scripts of the SPR group.

Her argument, which applies equally to all the more complex cross-correspondences, depends on "the element of complementariness" shown, as she claimed, by the fact that in them each automatist contributed a part of the pattern and none the whole. The critics of this view argued that an appearance of "complementariness" might arise accidentally if some automatist attempted to impress an idea expressed in her own script on the scripts of some other automatist. As the economist Pigou put it in Proc. XXIII

"The two scripts would indeed be orientated about the same idea; but they would be very far from identical ... mildly complementary correspondences are likely to result from attempts at simple correspondences."

He quotes as illustration Verrall's attempt in the One-Horse Dawn experiment to influence Mrs. Verrall's script telepathically, the reproduction in her script being fragmentary and incomplete.

This was not a satisfactory basis for his argument, as in that experiment a conscious telepathic agent could be pointed to, and the like could not be done with any of the cross-correspondences. In the Sevens case Piddington comes nearest to it as the only person concerned who took conscious, deliberate action, but so far from having any wish to transmit telepathically the contents of his. "posthumous" letter, that was precisely what he did not wish, as it would have frustrated his purpose to put on record what might after his death prove a good test of survival. As against sub. conscious telepathic transmission from him there is the combination of Seven with Dante allusions, of which he knew nothing until it had figured in the scripts for over a month. Neither the One-Horse Dawn experiment nor the Sevens case was as simple as Pigou's argument demands.

It soon became evident to the investigators that the scripts of all the automatists taken together did not constitute a hotch-potch of unrelated material in which cross-correspondences, self-contained and of short duration, were embedded at random, but that they had such complex connection with each other as to make it difficult to analyse them separately. As early as 1908 Piddington discussing (Proc. XXII) the "concordant automatisms", as he calls them, that had by that time been traced, was forced to use a diagram of 23 circles showing the parent topics printed in red, and the subsidiary ones in black, with dotted lines joining seven of the circles to others in order to explain their inter-connections. This he supplemented with three tabular statements showing which topics were implicit and which explicit; their distribution among the various automatists; and the chronological order of their emergence. When in the course of years the scripts, and his study of them, had further developed, no two-dimensional diagram would any longer have met his needs, even had the supplementary tables been doubled or trebled. The whole thing, as he said to me, was one huge cross-correspondence.

Piddington meant, I think, that running through the whole of the scripts of the SPR group and extending over thirty years there was a design comparable to that of particular cross-correspondences examples of which have been given, in that it could not be grasped by any automatist from knowledge of her own scripts but only by someone who had the scripts of the whole group to study. Substantially, I think, this is true and is very remarkable in view of the composition of the group and the changes that in the course of time took place in its membership. But some qualifications must be made. The automatists were prevented from understanding the significance of their scripts by the cryptic language of them and by the use of symbols to denote persons or topics. As the years went by the symbolism became more and more complex and, as was natural, occasional failures occurred in the consistency with which the symbols were used. In the main however the design as pieced together by the investigators is coherent and it is certainly far from commonplace. It includes a sort of time-table related to events of which the automatists did not foresee the occurrence, particularly the First World War.

This involved changes from time to time in the type of phenomena to be found in the scripts. The cross-correspondences, for instance, having served their purpose become fewer and less elaborate. The parts played by the automatists were not interchangeable, so that one of them might he furthering the design by occupying the centre of the stage, while others were left with nothing to do except wait for their cue. They seem to have adopted the practice of filling in their spare time with repeating points already made, explanations as to the process of communication, or what appears to be mere padding. If during these periods the flow of script had been completely checked, they might have lost interest and not been prepared to resume their parts when occasion required. This is of course speculative. What is well established is that there is a design running through the scripts of every member of the group.

As to four of the principal members of the group, Mrs. Verrall, Mrs. Holland, H.V., Mrs. Piper, there is no need to say more here than to give the dates of their activity. Mrs. Verrall's automatic writing began in 1901 and continued until very shortly before her death in 1916. Mrs. Holland's connection with the group began in the autumn of 1903 and continued until a breakdown in her health in 1910. H.V. also began writing in 1903, but wrote few scripts until 1907. She went on producing scripts until 1932, but with much less frequency in the latter part of that period. Mrs. Piper's long mediumship began in 1886 and continued until after 1920: it was only however for a part of that time, for a few years following Hodgson's death in 1905, that her scripts had any close connection with those of other members of the group.

Three other automatists played very important parts in the group. Mrs. "Willett" (Mrs. Coombe-Tennant), whose husband was Myers's brother-in-law, developed her faculty to write in 1908 and continued until after 1930 with some interruption during the First World War. Dame Edith Lyttelton joined the group in 1913, but much of her automatic writing did not claim any connection with the scripts of the group: I do not know how long her connection may be considered as lasting. Mrs. Stuart Wilson, the American wife of an officer in the British Army, responded during the First World War to an appeal by the SPR for persons willing to take part in experiments in telepathy. Her "scripts" were the records she made of impressions received by her in a state of slight dissociation shortly before going to sleep. They were found on examination to be connected with the scripts of other members of the group, and they continued till about 1930, when Piddington, who had become the principal investigator and was overwhelmed with the mass of material requiring his attention, invited her and H.V. to stop writing unless they felt a strong impulse.

Without some explanation as to the nature of this so-called "group" that word might be misleading, as suggesting a very much closer personal familiarity between its members than in fact existed. Mrs. Verrall and H.V. naturally saw a good deal of each other, even after H.V. had moved to London. Her mother saw most of her scripts when or soon after they were written and showed her some of her own: all this was recorded in detail and passed on to the investigators, who took it into account in their interpretation of their writings. That however was a special case, and speaking broadly the only connection between the automatists began when concordances between their scripts were noticed. This did not in some cases result in any personal contacts. Mrs. Willett's identity was never known to Mrs. Holland or Mrs. Wilson. Mrs. Wilson never knew personally any member of the group except H.V., with whom she made contact through the experiments in telepathy. The scantiness of her personal connection with the group and the difference of national background added greatly to the value of her contribution to the total effect, but this sort of detachment was in a less degree characteristic of the group as a whole. Of the less important members of the group a few have been named, but in a short account such as this no further mention of them need be made.

An argument that for thirty years F. W. H. Myers, Henry Sidgwick and their friends spent their post mortem energies, the time of a group of women several of whom had fairly important duties of other kinds, and the ingenuity of interpreters such as Alice Johnson, Piddington and G. W. Balfour, in proving their survival and identity by intricate verbal puzzles like the cross-correspondences, would defeat itself. They would have been almost as worthily occupied in banging tambourines in the darkness of a sťance-room. Proof of their survival and identity was indeed one of their purposes as claimed in the scripts, but not the only, nor indeed the most important purpose.

As declared in the scripts, the ultimate purpose of the Communicators, or of the script intelligence if that phrase is preferred, was the bringing about of a world-order based on international peace and social justice. That is not a trivial project, nor one unworthy of the persons represented as engaging in it. Nor was it one which either the automatists or the interpreters could feel that they were, in their respective roles, wasting time and effort in furthering. It might indeed be suggested that to all the automatists the ideal was so acceptable as to make it unnecessary to look for a paranormal explanation of the emphasis laid on it in the scripts of the group, whether written before, during or after the First World War. Common trains of thought in a group the members of which, notwithstanding differences of nationality, and some acute differences of political opinion, had all been reared in the same climate of humanist idealism, might account for the support which the project receives in their scripts, without invoking inspiration from an external source.

But this would not suffice to account for the way the subject is developed in their scripts, for the use of a symbolic scheme common to the group, and itself depending for its meaning on facts not normally known to any member of the group until long after the appropriate symbols had been established, and the facts had been referred to, cryptically indeed, but as regarded in retrospect with no uncertainty. The next chapter will seek to explain this.

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Contents | Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 5 | Chapter 6 | Chapter 7 | Chapter 8 | Chapter 9 | Chapter 10 | Chapter 11 | Chapter 12 | Chapter 13 | Chapter 14 | Chapter 15 | Chapter 16

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