SOME rather striking sittings were held by a lady named Mrs. Grove, whose deceased friends, a Mr. Marble and some others, sent many appropriate messages, which were in many respects akin to those which had been received by the same sitter through other mediums.
Her friends were perfectly obscure people, totally unknown to Mrs. Piper, and unknown in any district in which Mrs. Piper had been; hence these utterances have an importance of their own, more akin to that of the time when Phinuit showed himself able to deal with the concerns of miscellaneous strangers. They are reported in the Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research (Vol. xxiii., pp. 255 - 279), but I do not repeat them here, though I repeat an experiment made in connexion with them:-
on the recognition of a Photograph
The waking stages of the last sitting of the first Edgbaston series, in December 1906 and of the first of the second series, in May I907, - with an interval between them of five months, - are worth recording because of an experiment I made in connexion with the likeness of a person supposed to have been communicating during the trance (in this case Mr. Marble): the point being to see whether there would be any recognition of a photograph by the automatist, before her state had become entirely normal, - that is during the sort of period in which it is customarily possible dimly to remember dreams (see page 204). This stage is referred to by, Dr. Hodgson oil page 401 of vol. xiii. - where he calls it Mrs. Piper's subliminal stage, and says that it is a condition in which she frequently has visions of the distant or departing "communicators."
the first occasion I waited rather a long time before trying the experiment, - something more than an hour, - and the recognition was uncertain; but faint as it was, it seemed to be a residual effect of the trance: since it was not permanent, and by next day had entirely disappeared.
On the second occasion I tried directly after the waking stage was complete; and then the recognition was immediate and certain. But in a few minutes it had become vague and dim, and before the end of the day it had again completely ceased.
Sequel to sitting No. 13, which had lasted from II.10 to I.10 on 3rd December, 1906
After lunch I took eleven photographs of men, and asked Mrs. Piper if she had ever seen any of them. She looked over them, hesitating on the one representing Mr. Joseph Marble for some time, and then picked that out and said she had seen that man somewhere, but she could not remember where. Nothing was said by me during the process, of course.
Next day, in the evening, I tested Mrs. Piper again with another set of photographs of men, partly the same and partly different, but containing among others the critical one. This time, however, it was looked at without comment and without interest, and no remembrance of the appearance seemed to persist. She remembered the fact of having recognised one before; but when asked to do it again, she picked out, after much hesitation, a different one as a possibility, and said that she thought it had been found in America that the memory evaporated in time, and that it was strongest within an hour of the sitting. The test made the day before had been made about an hour and a hall after sitting at which "Mr. Marble" had been one of the communicators. Next time the experiment was tried more promptly.
Sequel to Waking Stage of No. 14 On 19th May 1907
(A number of men's photographs were placed in a row before her as soon as she had come to: she immediately pounced on one without the slightest hesitation.)
That is the man I saw. I saw him. That is the man I saw. I saw him up there: such a nice face, I could see
him. I could see Mr. Hodgson pushing him up to the front.
(The selection was correct; the photograph was one of the person she calls Joe, i.e. of the late Mr. Joseph Marble.)
(An hour or so later. I again put the photographs in front of her. She looked at them as if for the first time, and said)
I do not know the photographs.
(She then hesitated long over the right one, saying she had "seen him somewhere," but finished up by saying)
No, I do not know.
The result of this experiment, with other experiences with other mediums also, relating to the description of the personal appearance of a person spoken of in the trance, has satisfied me that-whatever may be the cause - a visual likeness of the people supposed to be communicating in the trance is sometimes really impressed at the time upon the sub-conscious mind of a medium. A veridical dream impression seems to be caused in these cases; but like other dream impressions it fades. The visual impression is merely an extension of the impression of character and of speech, which is also impressed upon the same stratum of her subconsciousness, and is of a similarly evanescent character..
Undoubtedly the existence of real interest and affection on the part of a person present is an awakening cause of a particular veridical impression. It is that which determines the selection, out of the infinite multitude of other impressions which otherwise might equally well be produced, But although sympathy of this kind is the selective and determining, cause, I do not feel that it is the creative or constructive cause. It appears to me that there is an agency or energy lying ready, which is capable of arousing in the subconsciousness of an entranced person, or of persons endowed with appropriate faculty a vast multitude of impressions-good, bad and indifferent; and that out of this multitude of possible impressions some are selected with more or less discrimination as appropriate to a particular case, - the presence of a sitter being the detent or trigger which liberates or guides the energy in one direction and not in another.
On the whole, these experiences, with many, others which are omitted, tend to render certain the existence of some outside intelligence or control, distinct from the consciousness, and as far as I can judge from the subconsciousness also, of Mrs. Piper or other medium. And they tend to render probable the working hypothesis, on which I choose to proceed, that that version of the nature of the intelligences which they themselves present and favour is something like the truth. In other words, I feel that we are in secondary or tertiary touch - at least occasionally - with some stratum of the surviving personality of the individuals who are represented as sending messages.
I call the touch secondary, because in these cases it is always through the medium and not direct; and I call it generally tertiary, because it represents itself as nearly always operating through an agency or medium on that side also - an agency which calls itself "Rector" or "Phinuit." That these latter impersonations are really themselves individuals, I do not venture either to assert or deny; but it is difficult or impossible to bring them to book, and an examination of their nature may be deferred: it is the impersonation of verifiable or terrestrially known individuals to which it behoves us in the first instance to pay attention.
The fact that a photograph can be clearly recognised when the medium has only seen the person clairvoyantly, on the other side of the veil, is suggestive; since it seems to show that the general appearance is preserved - or in other words that each human body is a true representation of personality.
A careful analysis and examination of the facts, both for and against the genuine activity of deceased Communicators, has been made by Dr. Hodson, and will be found in his Report in Proceedings, vol. xiii. pages 357-412 (Extracts are quoted above in Chapter XVIII.) He is led distinctly to countenance, and indeed to champion, a cautious and discriminating form of spiritistic theory, - not as a working hypothesis only, but as truly representing part of the facts. His experience was so large, and his critical faculty so awake, that such a conclusion of his is entitled to the gravest consideration. If I had to pronounce a prematurely decided opinion, my own view would agree with his.
The old series of sittings with Mrs. Piper convinced me of survival, for reasons which I should find it hard to formulate in any strict fashion, but that was their distinct effect. They also made me suspect - or more than suspect - that surviving intelligencies were in some cases consciously communicating - yes, in some few cases consciously; though more usually the messages came in all probability from an unconscious stratum, being received by the medium in an inspirational manner analogous to
The hypothesis of surviving intelligence and personality, -not only surviving but anxious and able with difficulty to communicate, - is the simplest and most straightforward, and the only one that fits all the facts. But the process of communication is sophisticated by many influences, so that it is very difficult, perhaps at present impossible, to disentangle and exhibit clearly the part that each plays.
One thing that conspicuously suggests itself is that we are here made aware, through these trivial but illuminating facts, of a process which by religious people has always been recognised and insisted on, viz. the direct interaction of incarnate with discarnate mind, - that is to say, an intercourse between mind and mind in more than one grade of existence, by means apart from, and independent of, the temporary mechanism of the body.
The facts indeed open the way to a perception of the influence of spirit generally, as a guiding force in human and terrestrial affairs, - active not under the exceptional circumstances of trance alone, but always and constantly and normally, - so uniformly active in fact that by ordinary people the agency is undetected and unperceived. Most people are far too busy to attend: they are too thoroughly occupied with what for the time are certainly extremely important affairs. A race of inspired people would be hopelessly unpractical, - though Society is usually grateful for the existence and utterance of a few individuals of this type.
The fact that these communications are obtained through subconscious agency is sometimes held to militate against their importance as a subject of study. But have not men of genius sometimes testified that brilliant ideas do surge lip into their consciousness from some submerged stratum, at a time when they are incompletely awake to the things of this world? And ordinary people are aware that a brown study favours the conscious reception of something presumably akin to inspiration, by relegating ordinary experience to the background, and thereby enabling new and unfamiliar ideas to enter or germinate in the mind.
A trance, or any state of complete unconsciousness renders the normal though obscure activity of an unfamiliar psychical region still more manifest. Not indeed to the patient - who is unaware of the whole phenomenon, or remembers it only after the indistinct and temporary fashion of a dream - but to an observer or experimenter, who is allowed to enlarge his experience and to receive impressions by deputy; thereby attaining, at second hand, some of the privileges of intuition or clairvoyance or even of genius, while he himself remains in an ordinary and business-like condition. His experience in fact may be regarded as an undeserved, and therefore only moderately valuable, kind of vicarious inspiration.