Book: "Psychical Research, Science and Religion"

Author: Stanley De Brath

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- Chapter 6 -

Prediction and the Hidden Memory


"Time is duration set out by measures."

Locke, Human Understanding, II, xiv, 17

          MOST persons regard Time as a stream flowing through the field of the present; and for practical purposes this answers well enough. But a very little reflection shows that our notions of Time are intimately related to Matter. It is measured by the motion of the earth with respect to the sun giving us the year and the day - the latter being divided into hours, minutes, and seconds. Days and years do not coincide; the sidereal year is 365 days, 6 h. 9 min. 9. 5 sec. "Leap-years" were devised to harmonize the days with astronomical facts. Time is therefore essentially a relation of change in Matter, either of position as of the earth to the sun, or intrinsic as the ageing of a man or a tree. Psychological changes are almost independent of Time - a dream, for instance, may cover a long series of sensations in an almost inappreciable fraction of time.

The phenomena we shall now consider are bound up with our concepts of Time.

1. Predictions and Premonitions

A very large number of premonitions of death are on record. When these refer to the patient's own death, though he may be in perfect health at the time, they may possibly be due to a subtle and subconscious sensation rather than to psychocognition properly so called. These, as well as the numerous presentiments of various kinds which are, much more often than not, unverified by results, are absolutely ruled out by Professor Richet's criteria for supernormality: he lays down that three conditions must be fulfilled before we can hold a prediction to be supernormal:

(1) The fact must be independent of the person to whom the premonition has come:

(2) It must be so detailed that it cannot be ascribed to chance nor to sagacity:

(3) The conditions under which it is given must be noted down or reported before the event referred to.(1)

(1) In face of these criteria it is amazing to read the remarks by reviewers of Professor Richet's book that "if the presentiments that are not fulfilled are balanced against those that are, the latter do not exceed the number that chance would account for." Do these gentlemen read the books on which they presume to instruct the public? Or do they "cut the leaves and smell the paper-knife," as one reviewer actually said his practice is when reviewing a book on psychic matters.

Richet quotes Bozzano's fifty-fourth case. In February 1890 Mrs. R. V. went to consult a clairvoyante, who warned her that her husband would leave for South Africa and would die there In November of the same year and that he should put his affairs in order. She noted this in her diary at the time. Mr. V.'s departure, then uncertain, duly took place, but the precautions were not taken, Mr. V. being in robust health. He died In November as predicted, and much trouble and expense followed.

A most remarkable prediction of the whole course of the Russo-Polish war is recorded in the Revue Metapsychique for September-October 1921. The first prediction was obtained at Warsaw by the Polish S.P.R., countersigned by twelve members and sent to Paris before the events predicted look place. It was followed by a series of others, all of which were exactly verified. They were received clairaudiently, and claimed to be from an external source.

This first message was received with entire incredulity: at that time (June 10th) the Poles seemed completely victorious; they occupied an important part of Russia and had taken Kieff. The Bolsheviks were in full retreat; on June 9th the line of the river Socha had been forced, and on June 10th the victory of the Beresina was officially announced.

Prediction of June 10th

The Council of Ministers is not yet constituted, but sooner or later you will hear of Witos.

What misfortunes! What disasters! How many dead on your battle-fields. A disaster to your troops. During this month there will be a great change in the Council. Witos will be Prime Minister. A greater man than your ministers will give you his friendly help. In August everything will change. A stranger arrives with whom Pilsudski takes counsel. He will have much influence.

The systematic strikes will come to an end. Towards the middle of August your misfortunes will change, but up to that time there will be nothing but disasters.

Events realized

The disaster predicted, though quite unexpected, did not fail to come about. A general offensive by the Bolsheviks began on June 28th on the northern front. On July 8th the line of the Upper Beresina (550 kil. from Warsaw) was abandoned. Minsk was lost on the 13th, ViIna on the 16th, and Lida (350 kil.) on the 18th. The attack on Warsaw began on August 13th, and on the 15th the battle began to go in favour of the Poles.

On the 18th the victory of the Vistula was complete, but up to the 15th the Polish army had only defeats, The arrival of the stranger, General Weygand, and his cooperation with Marshal Pilsudski, had a great share in saving Poland. Mr. Witos, till then almost unknown, became Prime Minister July 24th.

Only a small part of the predictions is quoted above. They continued till August 19th, and were verified in every single particular.

2. A Personal Predicition(1)

(1) Reprinted from the author's contribution to Survival (Putnam's, 1924).

In 1897 I was employed as Technical Assistant to the Uganda Railway Construction Board at the Foreign Office, and though the work was far advanced I had no thought of leaving it. But in December of that year, Miss B., a friend living with my wife and myself, went on a visit to a lady whom I will call Kate (not a professional clairvoyante), who very rarely exercised her power. She shut her eyes, took Miss B.'s hand, and said:

Now I see you going overseas; now you are living in a large house, it looks like a barrack or institution of some kind, and it has two towers. Now I see you driving in a country lane with a stout elderly lady who has curls all over her head, in a curious vehicle like a large bath-chair drawn by a pony.

On Miss B.'s return nothing more was thought of the prediction which seemed quite wide of any probability. But in March 1898 quite unexpected events took me to the Channel Islands, where I was offered a single-storied house unsuitable for the purpose under discussion, which concerned the son, N., of the owner, who suggested that the house might be remodelled, and asked me to draw the plans. These involved raising the house one story and adding a new wing. I drew the plans for him in May. To my drawing he added two towers. The alterations were completed in September and we went into residence.

Some weeks later Miss B. found herself driving with a lady, the wife of the owner, precisely as described, and in a vehicle as specified. The prediction, till then forgotten, flashed into her mind. I suggested laying before Kate a photograph of the house along with others, but giving no hint of the purpose. This was done, and Kate at once picked out the photograph saying, "Why! that is the house I 'saw' you in."

The points of interest are that the house was not even designed at the time of the vision the people were unknown to us all even by name I had no thought of going overseas; the house was not built till six months later; the drive in the lanes was later still; and the vision in this case was precise, not symbolical.(1)

(1) Confronted with such facts most persons either pass them by without any thought at all or infer sheer fatalism. The truth seems to be that we act from conditioned choices, the conditions being inherent in the mentalities that we have made for ourselves and in the environing circumstances. Miss B. deceased in August 1913, having been a most valued colleague in my educational work from 1898 to that date, and one whose loss affected me greatly. Some years later, when my military duties during the war were ended, I received through a very passive automatist, who is ignorant of what she writes, frequent communication purporting to come from the deceased lady. Among many other questions I put the following, and received the answers appended:

Can you explain how Kate could foresee in January the house not built till September?

A. I cannot say how, but although you did not know it, those events were bound to follow the workings of the minds. It had nothing to do with Kate, really.

Then whom had it to do with?

A. You and me, with N,'s need, and his father and mother. Kate was only the medium.

Q. How was she impressed?

A. She was clairvoyant, and the link came through me as being closely associated with you.

Q. That agrees with Osty's conclusions, but what is so difficult to get at is, how could the fact of your connection with me bring the future into vision? "Clairvoyance" is only a word expressing a fact. 

A. I am not able to say more than Our Lord said, "Ye are all members one of another," and as colleagues, of course my personality showed signs of your future and mine.

The automatist had certainly not read Osty's book, the English translation not having then appeared; and I as certainly did not connect the prediction with any theory. My own state of mind was rather a hope that I might get some new light on the nature of Time. This, it will be noticed, was not referred to in the answers, and whatever the source of the information, the facts remain

I do not think that these facts imply Fatalism but they do imply Determinism. In cases of prediction it seems to me probable that the subconsciousness of the medium, or the consciousness of the communicating intelligence (as the case may be), has access to the minds that will produce the events. Laplace said that an Intelligence cognisant of all causes could predict all results. In the case of the Russo-Polish war, the military movements were the results of the minds concerned, and any person with full written reports of all that was happening on both sides, could have predicted the movements and their issues.

The Hidden Memory (Cryptomnesia)

The British Medical Journal of January 31, 1919, has some details of a most interesting instance of this faculty. It is that of a signaller in the R.F.C. who was buried in a trench by the explosion of a heavy shell. When dug out, the objects that he saw seemed to him to be displaced at right angles. This dislocation persisted, and he could not remember when the displacement, which had happened before, had first occurred. The medical treatment was hypnotic; the hypnotist, endeavouring to trace the first occurrence of the kind, carried him back through his past life. On suggesting to him that he was six years old, he lived vividly through his old experiences. "He is sitting on a wooden horse in the dining-room; his aunt comes in and wishes to wash him before going to bed; he declines, and edges away from her; the horse catches on the hearth-rug, and he falls on the fender, striking his temple. He knows no more till he finds himself in bed, his aunt bathing his face." After this incident the displacement first occurred. Further suggestions carried him back to five, four, and three years old, in which states he recalls their experiences.

De Rochas made a special study of this regressional memory, and found that it can nearly always be brought to the surface under hypnotism. It has also been deeply studied by Flournoy with similar results, and there is good reason to think that all the events of a lifetime which have affected the development of the personality are ineffaceably stored in the hidden memory long after the brain memory has let them slip.

This subconscious memory accounts for much in the actions of each one of us. Our "experience of life" is little more than the net outcome of impressions whose genesis has passed from our consciousness. Normal psychology is beginning to take these origins into serious account: morbid states are frequently the result of deep impressions on a young mind that have passed into subconciousness, and uncorrected by reason, have become fixed ideas or even monomania.

This process accounts, too, for much reluctance to face unwelcome facts. Nathaniel Hawthorne says that "no sagacious man will long retain his sagacity if he lives exclusively among reforming and progressive people without periodically returning to the settled system of things, to correct himself by a new observation from the old standpoint": his subconsciousness becomes dominated by one set of ideas.

We all know the permanence of first impressions sometimes these can be traced. My own impressions of Roman Catholicism were formed on reading Kingsley's Westward Ho! when about twelve years old: not till long after was I able to form a juster opinion. More often the cause of a bias has been forgotten, but the bias remains.

Habits are formed in like manner, and each repetition of an act strengthens the subconscious disposition to repeat it; and this applies equally to good and bad habits. Almost anyone of mature age who can reflect dispassionately on his past life will realize how very little reason had to do with his choice of a profession, his religious and political opinions, his marriage, the education of his children and the conduct of his home. I do not say it should be otherwise. I merely state that even in the most important matters we act from impulses and afterwards find reasons to justify them.



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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