FOR people who have studied psychical matters, or who have read any books on the subject, it is unnecessary to explain what a
'sitting' is. Novices must be asked to refer to other writings-to small books, for instance,
by Sir W. F. Barrett or Mr. J. Arthur Hill or Miss H. A. Dallas, which are easily accessible, or to my own
previous book on this subject called The Survival of Man, which begins more at the beginning so far as my own experience is concerned.
Of mediumship there are many grades, one of the simplest forms being the capacity to receive an impression or automatic
writing, under peaceful conditions, in an ordinary state; but the whole subject is too large to be treated here. Suffice it to say that
the kind of medium chiefly, dealt with in this book is one who, by waiting quietly, goes more or less into a trance, and is then subject
to what is called 'control'-speaking or writing in a manner quite different from the medium's own normal or customary manner,
under the guidance of a separate intelligence technically known as 'a control,' which some think must be a secondary personality-
which indeed certainly is a secondary personality of the medium, whatever that phrase may really
signify-the transition being effected in most cases quite easily and naturally. In this secondary
state, a degree of clairvoyance or lucidity is attained quite beyond the medium's normal consciousness, and facts are referred to
which must be outside his or her normal knowledge. The control, or second personality which speaks during the trance, appears to
be more closely in touch with what is popularly spoken of as 'the next world' than with customary human existence, and accordingly
is able to get messages through from people deceased; transmitting them through the speech or writing of the
medium, usually with some obscurity and misunderstanding, and with mannerisms belonging either to
the medium or to the control. The amount of sophistication varies according to the quality of the medium, and to the state of the
same medium at different times; it must be attributed in the best cases physiologically to the medium, intellectually to the control.
The confusion is no greater than might be expected from a pair of operators, connected by a
telephone of rather delicate and uncertain quality, who were engaged in transmitting messages
between two stranger communicators, one of whom was anxious to get messages transmitted, though perhaps not very skilled in
wording them, while the other was nearly silent and anxious not to give any information or assistance at all; being, indeed, more or
less suspicious that the whole appearance of things was deceptive, and that his friend, the
ostensible communicator, was not really there. Under such circumstances the effort of the distant
communicator would be chiefly directed to sending such natural and appropriate messages as should gradually break down the
inevitable scepticism of his friend.
I must assume it known that messages purporting to come
from various deceased people have been received through various mediums, and that the Society for Psychical Research has
especially studied those coming through Mrs. Piper-a resident in the neighbourhood of Boston, U.S.A.--during the past thirty
years. We were introduced to her by Professor William James. My own experience with this lady began during her visit to this
country in 1889, and was renewed in 1906. The account has been fully published in the
Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, vols. vi. and xxiii., and an abbreviated version of some
of the incidents there recorded can be referred to in my book The Survival of Man.
It will be convenient, however, to explain here that some of the communicators on the other side, like Mr.
Myers and Dr. Richard Hodgson, both now deceased, have appeared to utilise many mediums; and that to allow for possible
sophistication by normal mental idiosyncrasies, and for any natural warping due to the physiological mechanism employed, or
to the brain-deposit from which selection has to be made, we write the name of the ostensible communicator in each case with a
suffix-like Myers, Myers, etc.; meaning by this kind of designation to signify that part of the Myers-like
intelligence which operates through Mrs. Piper or through Mrs. Verrall, etc., respectively.
We know that communication must be hampered, and its form largely determined, by the unconscious but inevitable influence of
a transmitting mechanism, whether that be of a merely mechanical or of a physiological character. Every artist knows that he must
adapt the expression of his thought to his material, and that what is possible with one 'medium,' even in the artist's sense of the
word, is not possible with another.
And when the method of communication is purely mental or telepathic, we are assured that the communicator 'on the other
side' has to select from and utilise those ideas and channels which represent the customary mental scope of the medium; though by
practised skill and ingenuity they can be woven into fresh patterns and be made to convey to a patient and discriminating
interpreter the real intention of the communicator's thought. In many such telepathic communications the physical form which the
emergent message takes is that of automatic or semiconscious writing or speech; the manner of the utterance being fairly normal
but the substance of it appearing not to emanate from the writer's or speaker's own mind: though but very seldom is either the
subject-matter or the language of a kind quite beyond the writer's or speaker's normal capabilities.
In other cases, when the medium becomes entranced, the demonstration of a communicator's separate intelligence may
become stronger and the sophistication less. A still further stage is reached when by special effort what is called telergy is
employed, i.e. when physiological mechanism is more directly utilised without telepathic operation on the mind. And a still
further step away from personal sophistication, though under extra mechanical difficulties, is attainable in telekinesis or what appears to be the
direct movement of inorganic matter. To this last category - though in its very simplest
form - must belong, I suppose, the percussive sounds known as raps.
To understand the intelligent tiltings of a table in contact with human muscles is a much simpler matter. It is crude and
elementary, but in principle it does not appear to differ from automatic writing; though inasmuch as the code and the
movements are so simple, it appears to be the easiest of all to beginners. It is so simple that it has been often employed as a sort
of game, and so has fallen into disrepute. But its possibilities are not to be ignored for all that; and in so far as it enables a feeling of
more direct influence-in so far as the communicator feels able himself to control the energy necessary, instead of having to
entrust his message to a third person-it is by many communicators preferred. More on this subject will be found in Chapters VIII of
Part II and XIV of Part III.
Before beginning an historical record of the communications and messages received from or about my son since his death, I
think it will be well to prelude it by
(i) A message which arrived before the event;
(ii) A selection of subsequent communications bearing on
and supplementing this message;
(iii) One of the evidential episodes, selected from
subsequent communications, which turned out to
be exactly verifiable.
A few further details about these things, and another series of
messages of evidential importance, will be found in that Part of the Proceedings of the
S.P.R. which is to be published about October 1916.
If the full discussion allowed to these selected portions appears rather complicated, an unstudious reader may skip the
next three chapters, on a first reading, and may learn about the simpler facts in their evolutionary or historical order.