Book: "Psychical Research, Science and Religion"

Author: Stanley De Brath

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- Chapter 9 -

Confirmatory Evidence on Survival


Eternal form shall still divide
The eternal soul from all beside,
And I shall know him when we meet.

In Memoriam, Tennyson

          SO far our clue of facts has led us, that we can see concurrent evidence all pointing to the existence of a super-material order, confirming the deep instinct of humanity in all races and in all times, but profoundly modifying all the usual concepts of a surviving soul. There are, however, many who discredit these messages in spite of their remarkable agreement in substance though totally unconnected with each other, and contend that they take "spiritoid form" by reason of a tendency of the subconscious mind to "personify" its intuitions. This hypothesis is to some degree supported by the marvellous subconscious powers of psycho-cognition (of which a few cases were outlined in Chapter V of this book) so long as the automatic writings are considered apart from the objective phenomena recognized materialisations, recognized portraits, and direct writing (on the photographic plate or otherwise), and last, not least, the direct voice testified to by many reliable witnesses.(1)

(1) I have not included this last in my chain of facts, because my aim has been to include no link among mediumistic phenomena whose soundness has not been admitted by the scientific authorities from whom I have quoted, and of which I have not myself had indubitable personal experience. In the book The Voices, by Vice Admiral W. Usborne Moore (Watts, 1913), and in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's writings and lectures, there is abundant testimony to the entirely personal and characteristic nature of these voices under conditions that should exclude the suspicion of fraud with which all mediumistic phenomena are so often received, even when the conditions are such as to make fraud or illusion physically impossible.

1. Spontaneous Phenomena

It happens, however, that there are spontaneous phenomena in which there is no room for reasonable suspicions of any kind of illusion, whether in the phenomena themselves or in those who report them. I refer to the visions of deceased relatives by dying persons. These are frequently ascribed to hallucination. As to this, Professor Bozzano remarks in his book on the subject (P. 5): "If the determining cause of such phenomena is that the thought of the dying man is ardently turned on those dear to him, his hallucinations, instead of being exclusively of deceased persons - sometimes of those forgotten by him - should more frequently take the forms of absent friends still living to whom he is warmly attached. This, however, is never the case." But to obviate this objection altogether, I have selected among fifty-four cases of such appearances, three cases of perception by children too young to have preconceived notions on the subject:

(1) This case refers to a child of two years and seven months old (1883) named Ray. A baby brother of Ray's had lately died. Little Ray had repeated visions; lie constantly saw his brother sitting on a chair and calling him. "Mother " he said, "the little brother calls Ray; he wants him with him." Another day he said, "Don't cry, the little brother smiles at Ray. Ray is going to him." The child's intelligence was much above that usual to his age. He died two months and seven days after the death of his brother.

(2) Another instance is reported by M. Pelusi, librarian at the Victor Emmanuel library at Rome (Luce e Ombra, 1920, P. 20). A little girl of three years old, Hippolyte Notari, partly paralysed, was in the same room with her little brother of four months, who was dying. The father, the mother, and the grandmother of the two children were present. About fifteen minutes before the death of the infant little Hippolyte stretched out her arms, saying, "Look, mother, Aunt Olga." This Aunt Olga was a sister of her mother who had died a year previously. The parents asked, "Where do you see Aunt Olga?" The child said, "There, there," and tried insistently to get out of bed to go to her aunt. They let her get up, she ran to an empty chair, and was much discountenanced, because the vision had moved to another part of the room. The child turned round and said, pointing to a corner, "Aunt Olga is there." Then she became quiet and the baby died.

Both of these instances are given by Richet (P. 353), and he remarks:

Facts of this kind are very important. They are much more explicable on the spiritist theory than by the hypothesis of mere cryptesthesia. Among all the facts adduced to prove survival, these even seem to me the most disquieting.

(3) The third case (quoted by Bozzano) is that of Daisy Irene Dryden, the little daughter of the Rev. D. A. Dryden, a clergyman of the Methodist Episcopal Church in California, and his wife. She was born in September 1854 and died in October 1864. The account here given is abbreviated from the much longer story given in the journal of the American S.P.R. for June 1918, written from notes by the child's mother. At Mrs. Dryden's death her notes were published with an Introduction by the Rev. F. L. Higgins, who guarantees the absolute truthfulness of the narrative from his knowledge of the mother and from the concurrent testimony of other witnesses to the facts. He observes:

Instances of the opening of the spiritual senses just before death are by no means unheard of.... But such experiences are usually brief, and consequently convey to those around no definite knowledge of the other world, even when names of departed ones are called and words descriptive of them spoken. That which was remarkable in Daisy's case of open vision was its unusual length and the clearness of her revelations, resulting from the fact that there was time for her to familiarize herself with the wonderful things she saw and heard.

It is further stated by her mother that it she had not been educated in the least degree on the lines of mysticism or modern spiritualism." She died of enteritis following on typhoid fever, from which she seemed to be recovering during the two weeks before her death, but she steadily maintained that her departure was near. Four days before her death enteritis set in, and for the first twenty-four hours she suffered greatly. After that the pain passed and she became clairvoyant. This was noticed first by reason of a text from the Gospel of St. John read to her by her father, which led her to remark that she hoped to return to console her parents. She added: "I'll ask Allie about it."

Allie was her brother who had died of scarlet fever, aged six, about seven months before. She waited a short time and then said, "Allie says I may go to you sometimes; he says it is possible, but you will not know when I am there; but I can speak to your thought."

The mother writes:

As I have said, Daisy lingered on for three days after the first agonizing twenty-four hours had passed.... During this time she lived in both worlds, as she expressed it. Two days before she left us the Sunday-school superintendent came to see her. She talked very freely about going, and sent a message by him to the Sunday-school. When he was about to leave, he said, "Well, Daisy, you will soon be over the dark river." After he had gone, she asked her father to explain what he meant by "the dark river." He tried to explain it, but she said, "It is all a mistake; there is no river; there is no curtain; there is not even a line that separates this life from the other life." And she stretched out her little hands from the bed, and with a gesture said, "It is here and it is there. I know it is so, for I can see you all, and I see them there at the same time."

One morning while I was in the room, a kind neighbour, Mrs. W., was reading to her from John xiv. 1, 2. Daisy remarked, "Mansions, that means houses. I don't see real houses there; but there is what would be places to meet each other in. Allie speaks of going to such and such a place, but says nothing of houses. You see, perhaps the Testament tells about mansions so we will feel we are going to have a home in heaven, and perhaps when I get there I'll find a home. And if I do, the heavenly flowers and trees that I love so much here - for I do see them, and they are more beautiful than anything you could imagine - they will be there." I said, "Daisy, don't you know the Bible speaks of heaven being a beautiful city?"(1) She said, "I do not see a city," and a puzzled look came over her face, and she said, "I do not know; I may have to go there first."

(1) It is strange how the essential idea of the Civitas Dei which really means a State or "polity," represented by a "city," should have been liberalized, despite the highly allegorical foundations of precious stones (each of which symbolized a virtue) and the reference to the mystical cube-" the length and the breadth and the height thereof are equal" (Rev. xxi).

The same day her Sunday-school teacher, Mrs. H., was sitting beside her, when Daisy said, "Your two children are here." Now these children had gone to the other life several years before, and if they had lived in this world would have been nearly grown up. Daisy had never heard anyone speak of them, nor did the mother have any pictures of them, so she could not have known anything whatever about them before seeing them in the spiritual world. When asked to describe them, her description of them as full-grown did not agree with the mother's idea of them, so she said, "How can that be? They were children when they died." Daisy answered, "Allie says, 'Children do not stay children; they grow up as they do in this life.'" Mrs. H. then said, "But my little daughter Mary fell, and was so injured that she could not stand straight." To this Daisy replied, She is all right now; she is straight and beautiful and your son is looking so noble and happy."

Another friend came in, and Daisy was describing her daughter who died some years before, and spoke of her as being grown up; but the mother could not from the description recognize her child, until Daisy said, "She used to have a mark of a mole on the left side of her neck, but she does not have it now." Then the mother was convinced.

During the last days of her illness her elder sister Lulu used to sing to her, mostly from the Sunday-school hymn-book, and after one of these hymns, which spoke of the angels and their "snowy wings," Daisy exclaimed, "Oh, Lulu, isn't it strange? We always thought the angels had wings! But it is a mistake; they don't have any." Lulu replied, "But they must have wings, else how could they fly down from heaven?" "Oh, but they don't fly," she answered." they just come. When I think of Allie, he is here."

Once I inquired, "How do you see the angels? "She replied, "I do not see them all the time; but when I do, the walls seem to go away, and I can see ever so far, and you couldn't begin to count the people; some are near and I know them; others I have never seen before. She mentioned the name of Mary C., the sister of Mrs. S., who was a neighbour of ours in Nevada City, and said, "You know she had such a bad cough, but she is well now, and so beautiful, and she is smiling to me."

I was then sitting by her bedside, her hand clasped in mine. Looking up so wistfully to me, she said, "Dear mother, I do wish you could see Allie; he is standing beside you." Involuntarily I looked round, but Daisy continued," He says you cannot see him because your spirit eyes are closed, but that I can, because my body only holds my spirit, as it were, by a thread of life." I then inquired, "Does he say that now?" "Yes, just now," she answered. Then, wondering how she could be conversing with her brother when I saw not the least sign of conversation, I said, "Daisy, how do you speak to Allie? I do not hear you nor see your lips move. She smilingly replied, "We just talk with our think."

I then asked her further, "Daisy, how does Allie appear to you? Does he wear clothes?" She answered, "Oh no, not clothes such as we wear. There seems to be about him a white beautiful something, so fine and thin and glistening, and oh, so white, and yet there is not a fold or a sign of thread in it, so it cannot be cloth. But it makes him look so lovely."

The morning of the day she died she asked me to let her have a small mirror. I hesitated, thinking the sight of her emaciated face would be a shock to her. But her father, sitting beside her, remarked, "Let her look at her poor little face if she wants to." So I gave it to her. Taking the glass in her two hands, she looked at her image for a time, calmly and sadly. At length she said, "Thisbody of mine is about worn out. It is like that old dress of mother's hanging there in the closet. She doesn't wear it any more, and I won't wear my body any more, because I have a new spiritual body that will take its place. Indeed I have it now, for it is with my spiritual eyes I see the heavenly world while my body is still here. You will lay my body in the grave because I will not need it again. It was made for my life here, and now my life here is at an end, and this poor body will be laid away, and I shall have a beautiful body like Allie's."

Then she said to me, "Mother, open the shutters and let me look out at the world for the last time. Before another morning I shall be gone." As I obeyed her loving request, she said to her father, "Raise me up, father." Then, supported by her father, she looked out through the window and called out, "Goodbye, sky. Goodbye, trees. Goodbye, flowers. Goodbye, white rose. Goodbye, red rose. Goodbye, beautiful world," and added, "How I love it, but I do not wish to stay."

That evening, when it was half-past eight, she herself observed the time and remarked, "It is halfpast eight now; when it is half-past eleven, Allie will come for me." She was then, for the time being, reclining on her father's breast, with her head on his shoulder. This was a favourite position, as it rested her. She said, "Father, I want to die here. When the time comes, I will tell you."

Lulu had been singing for her, and as half-past eight was Lulu's bedtime she rose to go. Bending over Daisy, she kissed her and said, "Goodnight." Daisy put tip her hand and tenderly stroking her sister's face, said to her, "Goodnight." When Lulu was half-way up the stairs, Daisy again called out, "Goodnight and goodbye, my sweet darling Lulu."

At about a quarter past eleven, she said, "Now, father, take me up; Allie has come for me." After her father had taken her, she asked us to sing. Presently someone said, "Call Lulu," but Daisy answered promptly, "Don't disturb her, she is asleep," and then just as the hands of the clock pointed to the half-hour past eleven, she lifted up both arms and said, "Come, Allie," and breathed no more. Then tenderly laying her loved but lifeless form upon the pillow, her father said, "The dear child has gone, she will suffer no more."

For my own part, this simple and most touching narrative is more evidential to me than all the disquisitions of philosophers and the doctrines of divines. I do not envy those who can read it unmoved and fail to see, independently of the obvious honesty of the mother's account, the internal evidence of the child's real and actual sight, contradicting the accustomed imagery of winged angels, her recognition of her brother, her description of children unknown to her, then "grown up," her rejection of the "river" and the "city"; all so absolutely concordant with what we have from other sources. Let those who can speak of this child's perceptions as "hallucinations" and, "phantasms" keep their cheerless and blind opinions if they will. It is they who are the victims of illusion. If this case stood alone there might be some excuse for doubt: but it does not stand-alone. There are many other similar visions by dying children whose unsophisticated evidence is worth all the sceptical speculation with which the literature of this subject is encumbered.

I would be the last to disparage the critical faculty, but its function is to separate the true from the false - to establish the truth and not to leave us in a quagmire of doubt where all paths are treacherous alike. It should enable us to recognize truth when we are brought face to face with it. Criticism that degenerates into perpetual mistrust of everything that does not fit with our purblind and changing theories is useless and misses its purpose. What I might have felt had I not had the evidence which I have endeavoured to summarize in the foregoing chapters, I do not know, but taking the evidence all in all, I cannot feel the slightest doubt that the clue of plain facts has led to the heart of the mystery of life and death.(1)

(1) It may be added that after the death of his daughter Mr. Dryden was so deeply impressed by what she "most undoubtedly saw and heard" that he began a careful study of the New Testament in the original Greek, and published a volume entitled The Resurrection of the Dead, of which its editor says:

"In this forcibly written book of 2 15 pages, the teachings of the Bible as well as the best religious thought respecting the resurrection are compiled, and show conclusively, and in a manner surprisingly clear, that the resurrection taught in the New Testament, and particularly by St. Paul, is the resurrection of man's spiritual body, and that his natural body does not rise."

After an exceedingly useful life of nearly half a century in the ministry this lovable and conscientious clergyman died at the age of seventy years. His last days were made peaceful by the belief that what to us seems death is in the sight of the angels resurrection, and that he was immediately to arise in the full possession of the spiritual body, a belief first imparted to him thirty years before by his dying daughter's convincing revelations.

2. A Summary of the Evidence

We can now sum up the evidence before us:

The physical supernormal facts are undeniable evidence of external objectivity of the "unseen intelligent forces." That ideo-plasticity enters into their modes of manifestation I should be the last to deny, but in cases of a recognized materialization or where a portrait of a person unknown to both medium and sitters is produced, it is clearly not their thought that moulds the ectoplasmic emanation or (presumably) affects the sensitive film.

These objective phenomena indicate much wider aspects of the plasticity of matter to etherial forces directed by Mind.

The widest action of directed energy is its manifestation in purposive and increasing biological evolution, as explained by A. R. Wallace.

The same phenomena indicate the real existence of an individualized energy which the common consent of mankind has called "the soul."

In normal growth and function this is directed, in part consciously and in much larger part subconsciously, by Mind or Intelligence which Philosophy and Religion alike call the spirit of the man.

This individualized spirit is in solidarity with and (so to speak) is a minute fraction of the Cosmic Intelligence.

The survival of this individualized soul and spirit is indicated by:

(1) Materialization of living forms, some of which show volition and personality. Some of these are recognized persons (e.g. Count Potocki's sister).

(2) They can and do act on ordinary matter. (Telekinesis and wax moulds.)

(3) There are photographs which show power of acting on the sensitive film to produce varied forms and writing, all indicating volition also plainly recognizable portraits.

(4) The "unseen intelligent forces" (Richet) show faculties independent of time and space of the same type as those of Osty's sensitives.

(5) Impersonal as well as personal predictions are made (e.g. of the Russo-Polish war) which state that they come from an external personality; and these also are independent of time and space.

(6) "Messages," some of them containing precognitions, are of frequent occurrence; they are often totally opposed to the thoughts and feelings of the recipients (p. 82 ante).

(7) Some of these (vide P. 43) indicate positively a discarnate intelligence, and give instructions which, when carried out, are verified.

(8) Visions of the dying, of which Professor Bozzano has analysed fifty-five cases(1), especially of dying children, are entirely confirmatory of survival, and these modes are curiously concordant in instances so widely separated in time and place as to make independence of one another certain. These have a logical connection with:

(9) Wallace's perception of purposive evolution (World of Life), which is supported by facts which still hold the field; and with

(10) Wallace and Geley's psychological conclusions on the selective, directive and organizing power in the individual organism, which agree, though quite independent of each other.

Collectively, these are all in remarkable accord with the fundamental ideas of Religion - a Creative Power, a surviving soul, and its consequential hereafter. They fit also with the results of exegetical criticism that Biblical statements are expressed according to notions then prevalent. Mediaeval theology was built on the form of those statements, whose substance is now made intelligible. This harmonizes many disputes.

1. Phenomenses Psychiques au Moment de la Mort (Editions B.P.S., 8, Rue Copernic, Paris)

At the present time the English Church is divided into four chief parties:

(a) The Evangelicals, who cling to literalism, and insist on the acceptance de fide of an infantile theology and a physical resurrection.

(b) The Anglo-Catholics, who seek the re-union of Christendom by assimilating ritual and doctrine to that of Rome, and for the most part leave critical matter severely alone. These have adopted "purgatory," but do not see that the rational purgation is the sight of the consequences of the acts of earth-life, a sight that may be very scorching.

(c) The Modernists, who present the dilemma "Miracle v. Naturalism," dismissing the former on the grounds of physical science and of a purely Darwinian evolution which is now so much modified as to be almost obsolete. They admit frankly that they know nothing of the future state (Outspoken Essays, P. 273).

(d) Nominal members: numerically much stronger than (a), (b) and (c) combined; baptized, married and buried within the pale, but who put aside the whole theology, either disbelieving it wholly or (more frequently) not troubling about it at all. Some are regular church-goers for various reasons (real religious feeling, respectability, unwillingness to offend others, etc.), but most, especially in the artisan classes, never attending church or chapel but on occasions of marriage or death. In this section of nominal Christians there are all shades of agnosticism, from the men and women who give no real thought to the matter to the hard-shell materialists who are mostly restrained from derision by good feeling or good manners. There is also a large number of persons (especially among artisans) who stand outside the churches altogether, marry at the registrar's office, and scoff at all religion as superstition. The whole of the (Communist) left wing of the Socialist Party are necessarily of this type, and probably many of the right wing also. There are, however, in all parties except the Communist, large numbers who are profoundly dissatisfied with, and impatient of, theological inconsistencies, and look to the psychic facts for a more reasonable view of the universe. These are fast increasing in numbers and influence.

In consequence there is much mental unrest. The metapsychic facts solve the difficulty by indicating a Higher Naturalism which takes full cognizance of the sequences of physical science, but also shows that there are supernormal facts that indicate Mind acting on Matter through individualized energy.

Sir William Barrett says:

"We have no need to assume the mechanical God of Paley, nor any miraculous intervention of the Supreme Mind. In telepathy we find that one mind can impress another unconsciously.... If our incarnate minds can by suggestion direct and modify the cell-life of the body, it is not incredible that discarnate minds may effect similar or even profounder processes in the higher forms of life." - Sir William Barret in The Quest of January 2, 19I8.

3. Difficulties

The chief difficulties in accepting survival are two: (1) the number of such survivals on the theory that every human being is "an immortal soul"; and (2) invisibility.

I have touched on the first in the preface to this book, and shall therefore say no more on that here. As to the second objection, this invisibility probably turns on the properties of the ether and the fact of our sense-limitations. We do not give sufficient weight to the fact that matter itself readily becomes invisible and intangible, not only by assuming the gaseous form, but otherwise.

A piece of pure silver combines with nitric acid to become a nitrate. This dissolved in water gives a limpid solution, which, however, contains the whole of the metallic silver, now become invisible and intangible.

From the data of the supernormal facts I infer the existence of an invisible and intangible etherial body(1) which can become visible and tangible by accretion of the animalized ectoplasm. We must, of course, admit that here is much that we do not understand. The properties of the ether are as yet very little known. It has a very high rigidity, much higher than that of steel, so physicists tell us, but it is nevertheless frictionless, and the planets move in it apparently without retardation.

The phenomena, especially the photographic phenomena, indicate external intelligence, and it is even more difficult to imagine an intelligence without some objective vehicle, than to suppose that this vehicle eludes our materially-evolved senses, and, like the rigid ether, is invisible and intangible.

(1) See on this subject seven lectures by Sir Oliver Lodge, F.R.S., on Ether and Reality, published by Hodder & Stoughton, 1925.



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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