Book: "Psychical Research, Science and Religion"

Author: Stanley De Brath

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- Chapter 7 -

Some Scientific Inferences


"Sit down before facts like a little child, be prepared to give up every preconceived notion, follow humbly wherever and to whatever abysses Nature leads; or you shall learn nothing." 


          THESE words were written with reference to those who maintained an infantile literalism in religion against the plainest geologic and evolutionary facts. But "the whirligig of Time brings its revenges": the position is now completely different - the facts for which HuxIey contended are now fully accepted, and it is to an entirely new series of facts that involve immanent Mind that his words now apply-facts which many priests (of Science and Religion alike) have hitherto refused to consider. But the usual period of two generations has now elapsed since those facts were certified by two men of Science of the first rank (Crookes and Wallace) and their general recognition is about due.

1. Directed Energy the Fundamental Fact

In the preface to his Treatise on Metapsychics Professor Richet says:

The three fundamental phenomena of this new science can be summed up in three sentences:

(1) Cryptesthesia (the lucidity of former writers) is a faculty of cognition that differs from the normal sensorial faculties.

(2) Telekinesis is a mechanical action that differs from all known mechanical action, being exerted at a distance and without contact on persons or objects, under certain determinate conditions.

(3) Ectoplasm (the materialization of former writers) is the formation of divers objects, which in most cases seem to emerge from a human body and take on the semblance of material realities - clothing, veils, and living bodies.

These make up the whole of Metapsychics. It seems to me that to admit this is to admit a great deal. To go farther is to go beyond the present limits of science.

I do, however, claim that science - strict and inflexible science - ought to admit these three strange phenomena that it has, up to the present, refused to recognize.

In certain respects metapsychics cannot be compared with any other science. No intelligence is apparent in the various modes of energy, whereas both in objective and subjective metapsychics the phenomena seem due to some kind of intelligence. This intelligence ... may be purely human; but if so, it proceeds from a region of human intelligence quite unknown to us, since it reveals things that our senses cannot reveal, and acts upon matter otherwise than by muscular contraction. In any case the province of metapsychics differs from that of all other forces, these latter being certainly blind and unconscious.

The essential fact in these three classes of phenomena is that their proximate causes are intelligent. The energy that produces them is directed.

That is the first and most crucial inference from the certified facts.

2. The Intelligence is of a Human Type

Considering the objective group, intelligent direction appears most obviously in the photographic and ectoplasmic phenomena. The appearances are of living faces and members-chiefly human faces and human members. In certain cases they respond to requests and act from their own volition, as in the instances of the formation of hollow wax moulds. These forms, though not under the control of the medium's will, are in organic connection with him.

But in the photographic process there is no such organic connection; the intelligence seems entirely external. That there is no invisible image posing before the camera is obvious from the fact that images are independent of the lens; and are different on either side of the plate when a stereoscopic camera is used. Auto-suggestion can have no part, for the portraits produced are almost always unknown to the medium and often unknown to the sitters, even when subsequently recognized by other persons. Who wrote the greeting - "Bonjour, vous etes le bienvenu" - cited above? Or the Colley letter? Both were impressed by direct writing on the negative. In the former case the mediums certainly know no French; I certify they did not touch the plates; Dr. Geley certainly did not think of greeting himself; and I assuredly had no such thought in my mind, being wholly occupied in watching the procedure, of whose supernormality I was not then convinced.

All the physical modes of energy - electric, magnetic, chemical, mechanical, thermal, luminous, etc. - are blind forces. Wherever there is life these forces are directed to produce specific forms, and conversely wherever specific forms are produced (except crystals) we infer a living agency, directing the energy that produces them.

This is the second inference - there is a living agency behind the phenomena

3. "From the Unconscious to the Conscious"

All Nature is full of this directed energy. It is inherent in every form of vegetable and animal life. The spectroscope reveals that other systems are composed of chemical matter like that of our solar system; it is therefore reasonable to infer that the same physical and biologic laws govern the whole universe.

It has long been admitted by men of science that we live in the midst of an infinite and omnipresent energy from which all things proceed.

Philosophy has also admitted that this eternal procession of energy is directed by Mind. Science, concerned with phenomena and their proximate causes only, still lags behind this inference, yet the whole evolution of life on this planet shows a continuous progress from lower to higher types of consciousness.

A. R. Wallace, in his World of Life, shows that each great geologic epoch is marked by a fresh accession of consciousness up to the development of a being capable of that degree of intelligence that has its inflorescence in religion and morality - the consciousness of right and wrong, and the moral Imperative. The next three paragraphs are summarized from that book.(1)

The Primary (Palaeozoic) period is that of fishes and amphibia; the Secondary (Mesozoic) that of reptiles In amazing abundance and variety; and the Tertiary (Cainozoic) is that of an almost equal abundance of mammalia and birds. At the close of each of these great periods, probably extending to many thousands of years, the dominant form of life, Instead of being modified by small continuous adaptations into new species and genera, was

(1) This work, published by Messrs. Chapman & Hall in 1910, is one that every student of psychic phenomena ought to possess. The demonstration of organizing mind in Nature is singularly complete and cogent, entirely, or almost entirely, swept away and succeeded by new developments from small parent forms. Each of these dominant forms of life represents a higher stage of organization with corresponding developments of Intelligence.

4. The Palaeozoic Period

This differs from the two later eras in having no known beginning, and the consensus of opinion among the highest authorities is that the existing geologic record only carries us back to about the middle of the time that life has existed on the earth. Its special conditions were probably a high and uniform temperature with abundant moisture and a larger proportion of carbon dioxide in the air than there has ever been since.

We may look on this period as the natural precursor of the subsequent rapid development of terrestrial and aerial animal life. The vegetable life was superabundant, and its traces remain in the coal-beds, which, by fixing enormous amounts of carbon from the atmosphere, purified the air sufficiently for the higher type of air-breathing animals. In this first and world-wide coal-making epoch we see the result of a cosmic adaptation that influenced all future life-development.

5. The Mesozoic Period

On passing to the Secondary strata, the archaic boneless fishes entirely disappear and are replaced by true vertebrate fishes, and while the early amphibia linger on, their place is soon taken by true reptiles which rapidly develop into creatures of strange forms and often of huge dimensions, whose skeletons, to the uninstructed eye, might easily be taken for those of mammalia, as in fact some of them have been mistaken. These early reptiles already show high specialization. Some have enormous canine teeth; others were adapted to feed on the luxuriant vegetation. The remarkable thing is that some hundreds of species of varied forms and sizes, herbivorous and carnivorous, should have been gradually developed, arrived at maturity, and completely died out during the comparatively short periods of the Permian and the Trias or in the interval between them. They were succeeded by the huge reptile forms with which our museums have made most persons familiar - the largest land-animals that have appeared on the earth. Some of these were eighty feet in length, both neck and tail being very long in proportion to the massive body; and they all have in common the fact of very small brains, some of the largest having a brain no larger than that of a dog, "as if they were marked out for extinction from the first." The different species were extremely numerous, adapted to terrestrial, marine, and aerial life; yet not one of the varied forms of the terrestrial dinosaurs, the aerial pterodactyls or the aquatic ichthyosaurs, all abounding down to the time of the chalk formations, ever survived the chasm that intervened between the latest Secondary and the earliest Tertiary deposits yet discovered. Superior to the fish, their intelligence was still of a very low type.

In the same period there occur the first traces of mammalian life, all quite small, not much larger than a rat. Then during the blank in the record separating the Secondary from the Tertiary era the whole of this teeming reptilian life totally disappeared with the two exceptions of crocodiles and tortoises. To complete the great series of life-changes (perhaps as a necessary preparation for them) plants underwent a similar transformation, the prominent forms being succeeded by higher flowering plants, which thenceforward took the first place and now form fully 99 percent of the whole mass of vegetation with a variety of nourishing products in foliage, fruit, and flower, never before available.

6. The Tertiary Epoch

Now here we have a tremendous series of special developments of life-forms simultaneous in all parts of the earth, affecting both plants and animals, insects and vertebrates, all contemporaneous in a general sense, and all determining the transition from a lower to a much higher grade of organization and consciousness. Directly we pass from the chalk to the lowest of the Tertiary deposits we seem to be in a new world of life. Not only have the gigantic dinosaurs and the accompanying swimming and flying reptiles totally disappeared, but they are replaced in every part of the world by mammals which already exhibit indications of being the ancestors of hoofed animals, of the present carnivora, and of apes.

For the purpose of this brief outline of leading facts it is unnecessary to touch on the development and extinction of great numbers of the more developed species during the most recent geological formations. In the latest age the great Irish elk, the cave-lion, the sabre-toothed tiger, cave-bears and hyaenas, extinct deer, antelopes, sheep and cattle were abundant over Europe, some reaching our own country. Lyddeker, Geographical History of Mammals, p. 1:8, says: "It would seem that there must be some general, deep-seated cause affecting the life of a species, with which we are at present unacquainted."

7. Mind in Nature

Enough has been said to indicate, though not adequately to represent, Wallace's contention that the whole course of visible evolution is a progress by the action of Creative Mind directing natural energies from relatively unconscious to more and more conscious forms of life, culminating (so far) in Man - spiritual being capable of much further progress, He says:

If, as John Hunter, T. H. HuxIey, and other eminent thinkers have declared, "life is the cause, not the consequence of organization", so we may believe that mind is the cause, not the consequence of brain development. The first implies that there is a cause of life independent of the organism through which it is manifested, and this cause must itself be persistent - eternal-life, any other supposition being essentially unthinkable. And if we must posit an eternal life as the cause of life, we must equally posit as eternal Mind as the cause of mind.

Darwin always admitted Variability as a fundamental fact without which Natural Selection would be powerless or even non-existent.

He elaborated his theory of Pangenesis for the purpose of rendering the many strange facts of inheritance more intelligible, but even if it were proved to be an exact representation of the facts it would not be an explanation, because, as Weismann, Kerner, and many others admit, it would not account for the forces, the directive agency, and the organizing power that are the essential features of growth....

To appreciate Wallace's position it must be remembered that he states in the most positive manner that he had definitely freed himself from all theological dogmas. It was by study of Nature in the first place, and of the supernormal facts in the second, that he came to his conclusion:

When we look upon Man as being here for the very purpose of developing diversity and individuality, to be further advanced in a future life, we see more clearly the whole object of our earth-life as a preparation for it ... I have fully discussed the evidences in plant and animal life indicating a prevision and definite preparation of the earth for Manan old doctrine, supposed to be exploded, but which, to all who accept the view that the universe is not a chance product, will, I hope, no longer seem to be outside the realm of scientific inquiry. Still more important is the argument, set forth in some detail, showing the absolute necessity of a creative and directive power and mind as exemplified in the wonderful phenomena of growth, of organization, and fundamentally of cell-structure, and of life itself.

8. The Evolutionary Scheme

Wallace's scheme outlined in the last section may be roughly summarized as follows:

Mind is all-pervading. The manifestation of its infinitude runs in both directions - infinitely great in the stellar universe, infinitely small in atoms and cells, but present in every atom of inorganic matter as the origin of physical laws. In the organic world every living form-plant, animal or man - expresses some one or more attributes of the creative Mind. This is the real omnipresence of Spirit-our telescopes and microscopes show that infinitude, for they never get to finality; there is always much more beyond their powers.

This Mind does not act on Matter directly, but through the equally omnipresent energy which is probably etherial in its nature. Every form expresses the Creative Intelligence up to the degree of which that form is capable. The higher animals already manifest a certain amount of unselfish parental love, but the consciousness of Man, alone among all material beings, is sufficiently evolved to be capable of ethical choices; i.e. to be capable of presenting some of the higher characters of Creative Love and Wisdom that we mean when we speak of "God."

In every atom there is much more space than substance: the positive nucleus and the negative electrons are small relatively to the atom itself, whether the atoms be free or combined into molecules. This space must be pervaded by the ether. If then this skin of matter could be stripped off, there would remain an etherial individualized form of living energy. This would apply to any living form-plant or animal. There is nothing contrary to reason in this idea of invisible form. Richet says:

That there should be intellectual powers other than those of mankind and constructed on a wholly different plan is not only possible but highly probable.... It is absurd to suppose that ours is the only mind in Nature, and that inevitably every intelligent power is organized on the human or animal model. Why should there not be intelligent and puissant beings distinct from those perceptible to our senses?

9. Body, Soul, and Spirit

Allusion has already been made (p. 26) to Dr. Geley's synthesis of the supernormal facts. His experiments on ectoplasmic materialization led him to perceive that the formless ectoplasm extruded by a medium grows under the eyes of the observers into human forms and faces. There must be an energy that performs this change. It also conforms to a pre-existent Idea. It is therefore a directed energy. He at once recognized that this process has a close analogue in the transformation of insects and in the quickening of life in an egg or a seed.

In the chrysalis the larva is reduced to a white emulsion in which nearly the whole organism except the central nerve and portions of the digestive tube disappear. In this formless pulp, shut off from external influences, entirely new organs adapted to aerial life are rapidly generated. Not only so, but, as previously noticed, a highly complex and beautiful colour scheme, consisting of thousands of minute scales, is formed, and those scales are arranged in mosaic patterns of extraordinary variety and brilliance whose detail is revealed by the microscope, this pattern being always in conformity with the pre-existing Idea of the species. The same process to a different end takes place in every egg and every seed. He therefore inferred that a living being, and more especially a human being, proceeds primarily from (1) an archetypal Directive Idea, acting through (2) an individualized soul-energy with both physical and mental aspects, producing (3) a material representation on the material plane.

The Directive Idea in the individual is in solidarity with the vast Immanent Intelligence in Nature: it is a minute fraction (so to speak) of the Creative Intelligence of the Cosmos. This being essentially true, it has always been perceived under one form or another. Plato's intuitional contemplation perceived it as body (soma), soul (psuche), and spirit (pneuma), the latter receiving its vital impulse from the Logos - the Divine Reason or Word. Aristotle defined the process as an entelechy, meaning the complete realization of directing Energy. These conclusions, found in the Prologue to the Fourth Gospel and in St. Paul's epistles, are not necessarily copied one from another, but may well be common perception of a truth underlying the life-process. The entirely independent Vedanta philosophy of India presents similar ideas under a metaphysical aspect, to which St. Paul gives spiritual, and Plato philosophical expression. Mere differences of formulation should not blind us to the similarity of ideas.

The novelty and distinction of Geley's view is that it is a scientific and experimental confirmation of the essential idea implied in entelechy. This latter word is coming again into general use by biologists. It means realization of an end as distinct from the process; it is realization in contrast with potentiality.

Frequently, it is true, Aristotle fails to draw any strict line of demarcation between energy and entelechy; but, in theory at least, the two are definitely separated from each other ... Entelechy is the realization that contains the end of a process, the last stage in the process from potentiality to reality.
E. WALLACE, Aristotle's Psychology, p. xiii.

Now this idea could not be fully developed till the modern discovery of Energy as a concrete power, known in its electrical, chemical, thermal, magnetic, and other manifestations. Entelechy involves the realization of an idea; well and good: but, Whose idea? It merely states a purposive factor in Nature; it does not explain its origin nor its mechanism. Geley substitutes for the vague notion a precise and concrete individualized energy, as precise and concrete as the electric "current" that energizes the live wire. Energy qua "force" is no more intelligent than Matter; there must therefore be Intelligence directing evolution and growth. He explains intelligibly on this basis the phenomena of hypnosis, alterations of personality, healing, supernormal phenomena, and mediumship -not of course in full detail but in broad principle. Geley is here again in close agreement with Alfred Russel Wallace, who was led by the study of the same supernormal and natural facts to the inference that the primary cause of Variability, without which, as Darwin fully admitted, adaptation and selection could not act, is a psychic factor. That great biologist showed conclusively in his World of Life that Evolution is purposive - being under a directive idea manifest by its actual result - "the development of a spiritual being."

Now a spiritual being is one possessed of moral and ethical qualities. It is therefore to the development of these higher qualities that we must look as the true course of human evolution. There is no perceptible advance in physical evolution in the last five thousand years. We are certainly neither more beautiful nor more intellectual than the Greeks of 500 B.C., but there is plenty of scope for moral evolution! Huxley points out the same thing: the desire for keener sight is met by the microscope and telescope, not by improved eyes.

10. The Present Position

It is nothing short of amazing that after the testimony to the reality of supernormal phenomena given by years of careful work in England, France, Germany, Italy, and Poland by skilled experimentalists such as Wallace, Crookes, Lodge, Richet, Geley, Morselli, Bozzano, Schrenck-Notzing, and Ochorowicz (to name a few only of leading authorities) that critics should still be wasting time on discussions whether this or that medium has been guilty of fraud, instead of drawing the inferences so greatly needed at the present juncture. Enough has been thoroughly substantiated to serve as the foundation of the entirely new science which Professor Richet has called Metapsychics, and to enlighten inquiring minds that have neither the time nor the aptitude for original investigation, but who can see the enormous importance of the general development of the qualities that depend on wide recognition of spiritual realities, and of Religion as vital perception of those realities rather than as assent to any special forms of creed.

The present social and political troubles of the world are reducible to one simple fact - intellectual progress has far outstripped moral development,(1) so that the vast powers that science has placed in the hands of mankind are largely used for destruction instead of upbuilding. Preparation for war by land and sea absorbs enormous sums that should be devoted to social betterment; and however necessary this may be in States such as England, France, and Italy, who only want security from aggression and see plainly enough that war is as ruinous to the victors as to the vanquished, it is none the less true that the whole danger is due to human disregard of the moral factors of prosperity - which are industry, goodwill, and religious belief.

(1) High, or even faultless, moral character is assumed by all the makers of socialist and other Utopias.

The actual facts are: (1) There are far too many persons engaged on "distribution" - far too many shops peddling other men's work. (2) Average morality is so low that as soon as men can dictate terms their work becomes much lower in quality and much less in quantity.

Theoretically and utopially, nationalized undertakings might be feasible (with modifications) if the management were chosen for ability alone and not by political "influence" or nepotism - if the men were as keen to do good work as to get high wages - if in fact they had the temper of the professional classes; if politics were left outside the yard gates; and if 70 per cent of distributors were employed on useful production.

All necessaries to civilized life and leisure to enjoy them could then be within reach of all.

It is character that forbids, or rather the want of it; there are too many who are only amenable to Fear or Pain. Fear too - thoroughly justified Fear - is the cause for armaments. All Utopias take for granted that if fear of consequences were removed all would go well! If that were so all Utopias would work-with a few common-sense modifications.

Not only so, but this prostitution of science has engendered a peril that menaces the very existence of European civilization by its repercussion on industry and credit. That peril is Poison-gas War against manufacturing and business centres. These diabolical projects will never be exorcised by agreements or political methods. Edison has said that no effective defensive measures are possible in view of the number of vulnerable points. The peril can only be averted by general recognition of the true line of human evolution - friendly co-operation leading to that peace that is not merely the absence of actual strife, but harmony between men of goodwill.

Nothing will so surely lead to this as conviction of the reality of the soul, its survival, and its self-wrought destiny; and that is why William Ewart Gladstone said that Psychical Research is the most important scientific work that is being done in the world.



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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