Book: "Psychical Research, Science and Religion"

Author: Stanley De Brath

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- Chapter 5 -

The Subjective Facts (continued)


"It is no longer possible to consider the human being as an aggregate of thought-producing mechanism. The evidence compels admission that we are in presence of a dynamo-psychic focus whence emanate manifestations of a power whose limits we cannot define."

Dr. Osty, Supernormal Faculties in Man, p. 139

1. Thought-Transference

          IT is a commonplace of experiment that in the hypnotic state sensations in the hypnotizer can be transferred to the patient. When holding hands, but without verbal suggestion, the taste of salt, sugar, acids, bitters, astringents, etc., in the mouth of the former are perceived by the latter. Ammonia smelt by the former suffocates the latter, pin-pricks are transferred as if inflicted on the patient, and so forth.

Very numerous and detailed experiments have shown that ideas in the mind of the agent can be transferred to the percipient without hypnotic aid, though the latter has to make his mind as blank and receptive as possible, thus cultivating a passivity which is certainly analogous to light hypnotism. Many instances of such inter-cognition will be found in Sir Oliver Lodge's Survival of Man. One is as follows:

The percipient having been blindfolded, an opaque paper was shown to two agents simultaneously, having a square on one side and a St. Andrew's cross on the other. This paper was placed between the agents, so that one looked at the square and the other at the cross, without either knowing what the other was gazing at. There was no conversation or contact of any kind. The percipient knew nothing of any variation in the experiments. She drew a square, and, a little later, its two diagonals. Sir Oliver writes: "The experiment is no more conclusive than fifty others that I have seen at Mr. Guthrie's, but it seems to me somewhat interesting that two minds should produce a disconnected sort of impression on the mind of the percipient."

The latest, and perhaps the most complete, demonstration was given on February 3, 1924, by the Zancigs, husband and wife, at the National Hotel, Upper Bedford Place, London, where the Magicians' Club gave a test of the alleged powers of these two persons before a critical audience, assuring them that the test was an absolutely genuine one.

Mrs. Zancig was blindfolded by a Daily Mail representative, and to make still more certain, a black bag was placed over her head. But even this did not satisfy Mr. Eric Dingwall, the Research Officer of the S, P. R., who professed himself dissatisfied even with the black bag, which he was permitted to examine. Finally it was arranged that the lady should sit with her back to the audience, and furthermore that Mr. Zancig should be behind a screen, in view of the audience but concealed from his wife. Mr. Zancig, in his white suit (which some suggest has something to do with the "code") was handed a secret parcel prepared beforehand by Mr. E. T. Marr, a vice-president of the Club. No words were spoken, and then the wizard began to "concentrate" hard, and Mrs. Zancig to describe - first a package in brown paper tied with string; a yellow box "with something white about it" tied with white tape. Then three envelopes were opened one inside the other, and finally a slip of paper bearing the words, "Madam, frankly you have me beat."

This message Mrs. Zancig read slowly, spelling out some of the words. It was all correct. - Light, February 9, 1924.

Richet remarks that the chief difficulty attending all attempts to explain telepathy physiologically is that it is impossible even to imagine any process by which the minute chemical changes corresponding to a name, a date, or the detail of an event occurring in one brain can produce identical molecular changes in another brain. The "vibrations" so often appealed to explain nothing whatever: certain vibrations can give or reproduce a musical note or a shade of colour; other vibrations produce articulate speech, but all these are essentially physical and belong to the material world; the notion of "vibrations of thought" is a mere analogy or guess, without, as far as I am aware, the shadow of proof behind it. Some would-be scientific people are even beginning to talk of "wave-lengths of thought," Identical between agent and percipient, which is wholly unjustified by experiment, and is at best a figure of speech.

2. Psycho-Cognition-Cryptesthesia

These properties of the subconscious will have prepared the way for the study of cases of supernormal cognition which must be placed in a category by themselves, though there are aspects of the normal and semi-normal to which they are akin. The criterion of the super-normal is that it involves independence of Time and Space and of ordinary physics. The twenty-eight volumes of the Proceedings of the S.P.R. are a mine of information for the student: they contain a vast number of carefully sifted cases, and have been freely drawn upon by all writers on the subject. This applies also to the Proceedings of the American S.P.R. Unfortunately they are almost unreadable for the general public, not only from the immense mass of print, but from the overloading with critical detail so essential to scientific consideration. Several hundred cases abridged from these and other sources will be found in the books by Professor Richet and Camille Flammarion already alluded to, and in several English publications, especially Myers' Human Personality. One of the chief stumbling blocks in these complex matters is the desire to bring all phenomena that show superficial resemblances under some one formula. Thus the early spiritualists, perceiving quite justly that the chief value of all the phenomena is that they reveal an ultra-physical world, the reality of the soul and its continued life, referred everything to "spirits": later inquirers sought to reduce all to "telepathy," however distant the other hypothetical mind might be: others are so enamoured of "the subconscious mind" that they ascribe to it almost omniscient power combined with total absence of moral responsibility: while others again imagine a "reservoir" of all that has ever happened into which that clever subconscious can dip at will and select just those little personal details that characterize some one individual (say George Pelham) out of the millions deceased since his day. Prediction completely upsets this last ingenious hypothesis, so those who favour it deny predictions, however well proven. It is better to stick to the bare facts till those facts suggest inferences (though not necessarily any one hypothesis) that may cover the whole field.

Dr. Eugene Osty, a Parisian neurologist of great experience and large practice, who has now (January 1925) followed in the steps of Dr. Geley in taking up the onerous and unpopular work of the International Metapsychic Institute, has devoted twelve years to the experimental study of one single aspect of supernormal faculty - that in which perception is directed upon another human being. Of singularly cool and orderly mind, he has been able to collect a great mass of data, not one-tenth of which is published in the book in which he has summarized his principal results - La Connaissance Supranormale, translated as Supernormal Faculties in Man (Methuen). This book is absolutely essential to anyone who wishes to get reliable data on this most interesting branch of psychical research.

The mere heaping up of cases (unavoidable in the serial publications of the S.P.R.) leaves the reader perplexed by the want of order and classification; many instructive cases are buried under later ones and obscured by critical commentary. Dr. Osty's cases are clearly arranged in a logical order; they are brief, convincing in their detail, and readable; above all, they are definite experiments, not mere observations gathered, however carefully, at second hand.

The great superiority of the experimental method over mere observation is that it defines the conditions under which the phenomena studied have taken place; and, in this inquiry, it enables the disturbing factor of possible thought-transference from the questioner to be completely eliminated by ensuring that the questioner shall have no knowledge, or only the slightest acquaintance with, the person delineated. Knowing Dr. Osty personally, can testify to the care, accuracy, and freedom from bias with which he has collected these data.

His method of experimentation is: (1) to take down the exact words of the percipient; (2) to ascertain what the percipient might have already known; (3) to establish what he might guess under the given conditions; (4) to ascertain the mental content of the experimenter and of the personality on whom the faculty is directed with reference to the matter disclosed; (5) to consider the movement of thought of each during the experiment; (6) to compare the words taken down with the real facts; and (7) critical examination of the information given with reference to all these factors.

Some of his subjects work under hypnotism others in the normal state, though most of them fall into brief trance during the exercise of their gifts, this being in some cases so slight as to escape ordinary observation.

Their gifts are curiously specialized and often limited to one single type. Thus, one may be able to describe the general events of a life as a whole; another will give minute details of its more or less salient events; another can give accurate descriptions of a patient's internal organs; another will make a speciality of tracing lost objects; while yet another can reconstruct the history of a crime or a distant event. A few instances will show the amazing variety and penetrating nature of the faculty.

(a) Medical Diagnosis. - (Dr. Osty speaks:) In August1920 I received an urgent call to visit Mine. A. C., somewhat tired during the preceding days, and suddenly prostrated. I found this woman, aged about 38, in a state of collapse, pulse 120, temperature 36oC., tendency to syncope, hardly able to speak. Methodical examination disclosed nothing abnormal. Strong tonics improved her condition. On the third day another urgent call, the patient much worse, her family fearing immediate death. Next day I got her to write a few lines, and placed them in the hands of Mdlle. de Berly the same evening. She looked at the writing, crumpled the paper, held it to her forehead a moment and said:

"How feeble she is ... deadly weak ... a frail body that does not react against illness ... her whole nervous system is relaxed, especially the heart ... The body is infected; there is inward fever ... You will soon know what is the matter ... they will think her about to die, but you will discover the source of the trouble and will cure her quickly."

On the morning of the 19th I found her better, but at 6 p.m. she was worse than ever. I had previously directed that her temperature should be taken as nearly as possible every hour. This showed at noon 30.6o at I p.m. 40.5o varying round 40o till 5 p.m., followed by collapse. The case was one of tertian malaria bringing on heart failure in a patient predisposed to this. Mme. A. C. has never before had malarious attacks, and lived in a place where such were unknown before the war. (Much abbreviated.)

(b) Delineation of Character. (Abbreviated.) - On December 30, 1921, Mme. H. G, at Paris, received a short letter from Emily V. in the Ardennes offering herself as cook. This letter was placed in the hands of Mine. Fraya, who knew nothing but that the question referred to domestic service. She said:

This young person is very honest and painstaking ... devoted to her employers ... will give no trouble with lovers; she is afraid of men. She is anaemic and will often complain of being tired ... thinks herself unlucky ... honest, though fond of money ... has little intelligence and no memory ... very reserved, obstinate and slow to learn, but there is an ideal in her simple mind ... I advise you to engage her; she is not the perfect servant, but is very sincere."

Not much encouraged, Mme, H. C. engaged the girl, and found her exactly as described, about 20, anaemic and needing care, speaking very little except to complain of being tired, and so slow that after six months her mistress was doubtful if she could keep her. Dominant characteristics, an absolute terror of men, and an idealism manifest by constant attendance at the Salvation Army and frequent hymn-singing.

(c) Revelation of Moral Character. (Abbreviated, P. 71.) - Mr. G. was engaged to an attractive lady whom he had met on his travels. Having introduced me, he asked for my impressions on his prospective bride. I said that I could form no estimate of anyone by half an hour's conversation, but that if he had any of her writing we might test one of the clairvoyantes. Part of a letter was placed in Mine. Fraya's hands. She knew neither the person nor her handwriting. She said:

"The writer is imperious, overbearing, and devoured by pride and ambition ... it would be well to distrust her gentle and graceful manners, for these show great powers of dissimulation to gain confidence for interested ends ... In intimacy this manner gives place to an irritable and despotic temper. Too satisfied with herself to doubt her own charm, she thinks that no one can resist her. Changeable, impulsive, and incapable of moderation ... she constantly twists the truth, and has no scruple in accusing others to clear herself... "

Mr. G. was stupefied, and entirely refused to believe the portrait. A month later the lady showed some unexpected traits. Mr. G. made some cautious inquiries, and found that she was a divorcee who had wounded her husband with a pistol-shot, and was even then engaged to another man with the intention of marrying the richer of the two.

(d) Recovery of Lost Property. - (Abbreviated, P. 79) - In May 1921 Mme. S. went from Paris to Versailles for the day to visit friends. She was wearing a valuable diamond star, and on returning home missed the jewel. No trace could be found. She was taken to see Mine. Morel, who held one of her gloves - Mine. S. sitting in a corner of the room while her friend spoke to the clairvoyante. Mme. Morel, who works in a state of light hypnosis, asked - "What am I to see about this woman?" She was told - "Look for what is troubling her at this moment." She said - "She is distracted about the loss of something ... A large jewel, shining and valuable. It is not lost, it is hidden and will be restored ... I follow this lady as she leaves her home in an automobile with another person . . . she goes to a town near here ... I do not know its name ... she visits three houses ... the jewel has fallen near one of them. I see it picked up by a woman, young, very stout, with light eyes and hair. The jewel has been locked up; she thought of keeping it but is afraid ... she will restore it before the week is out. No police measures should be taken, she will give it back."

Mr. S., who had informed the Mayor of Versailles, received a letter four days later, summoning him to that town, and the jewel was restored by a workman whose sister had picked it up. The man was stout, and very fair in colouring. Mr. S. did not see the sister, whom he supposed to resemble her brother.

(e) Description of a Distant Event and Prediction. (Abbreviated, p. 96) - On April 12, 1916 M. Mirault happened to hear a refugee from the invaded provinces express his fears as to certain valuables that he had hidden in a wall when the Germans were approaching. Being due at a seance with Mme. Morel, M. Mirault asked the man to give him something of his, as he might be able to give him news of his papers. Quite astounded at such a proposition, the refugee gave him the small knot of ribbon from the interior of his hatband. This was put into Mme. Morel's hands, and after describing the man she said:

"I see him much disturbed ... he goes down into a cellar by a stone stair seventeen or eighteen steps. He is carrying a packet containing valuables and a little pot containing gold.... He lights a candle, displaces some empty kegs and pieces of wood... He digs at the foot of the wall in yellowish sand, and then into the wall itself, puts in the packet and the little pot, and closes up the masonry... "

"What has become of the gold and the papers?

"I see some time later, but before this present time, wrinkled hands seeking and finding, displacing all that ... but ... surprising, I see also, later on, the man who hid these things quite happy in possession of all - yes, all."

The refugee was stupefied when told, and stated all to be perfectly correct, even to the number of steps. After the armistice, he wrote that the cellar had certainly been searched, but not the wall, where he found all that had been hidden.

(f) Detection of a Crime. (Abbreviated, P. 235) - Between midnight and 8 a.m. on January 10 1919 a cupboard in the office of the American Red Cross, located in the Central Hotel at Bourges, was forced, and a cashbox containing 5,000 francs in money and 2,000 francs in cheques was stolen... I cut about fifteen inches of string from two nails inside the cupboard and put it into the hands of Mme. Morel. in Paris on January 12th, saying: 

"See what was witnessed by this object on the night between January 9th and 10th."

She made two false starts; after which I said: 

"I took this string from a cupboard where there has been a theft. See the scene of the theft." She said: " ... Yes, I see a cupboard . . . it has been forced.... I see two persons like shadows ... they are not strangers to the room, they know it. They do not go back into the house by the door ... they go out by an opening close to the cupboard ... it is a large opening, a window. It is in the morning, not yet daylight. The cupboard was forced in order to steal.... Papers and money have been taken.... He who did the active part is a man with light chestnut hair, dark eyes, irregular features, a square and rather flat face; his clothing is like unbleached serge ... he seems to have a long cloak of the same colour ... The other does not move, so to speak ... he is quite young ... looks cunning ... plays a subordinate part; he touched nothing. "

On January 15th the American police took up the affair; they arrested a young American chauffeur, and some days later, on finding that he had received 1,000 francs for taking an American captain to Paris, they issued a warrant against Captain S. Both men were tried by an American court-martial in June 1919; the chauffeur was acquitted; Captain S. was convicted and cashiered. According to the evidence he had passed most of the night enjoying himself in the hotel, and must have gone into the office about 3 a.m., forced the cupboard, and left by the window, which was found open by the night porter at daybreak. It was stated in evidence that Captain S. was assiduous in attendance at the Red Cross: no one would have thought of suspecting him.

The case is especially interesting because the clairvoyance began with imaginary matter and ended with exact cognisance of an event. The physical characteristics of the two men were exactly as given by Mme. Morel.

It must not be supposed from the preceding examples that anyone who wants supernormal information has only to go to a good clairvoyant to get it. These examples are selected from a great number of others more or less defective, to show that certain persons really have supernormal faculties independent of Time and Space. It is probable that such faculties are latent or potential in all of us. They appear in very various degrees.

In point of fact, many genuine revelations do not go beyond very trivial incidents, and are often complicated by thought-transference from the unskilful experimenters, when (as is nearly always the case) these are unaware of the necessity for complete mental detachment from the question in hand. Those who consult clairvoyants with real or imaginative preconceptions are nearly sure to be misled. This is the greatest safeguard against misuse by unprincipled persons who would, if they could, use information so obtained for the most wicked ends. Those who would understand the subject better should consult Dr. Osty's Chapter V (Part IV) on the Causes and Nature of Errors.



Contents / Preface / Chapter 1 / Chapter 2 / Chapter 3 / Chapter 4 / Chapter 5 / Chapter 6 / Chapter 7 / Chapter 8 / Chapter 9 / Chapter 10 / Appendix

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