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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 49.djvu/536

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POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

would have been as promptly forthcoming. This automatic production of mysterious characters is not uncommon. Prof. James, of Harvard, has examined many cases, but neither he nor any one else has ever, so far as I know, found any that could be deciphered.

Thus, the intelligibility of B——'s script is fully accounted for; but its automatic character remains more or less of a puzzle. I am inclined to regard it as due to the spontaneous "running" of some parts of the nervous mechanism which have nothing to do with consciousness. Precisely what parts we can not say, but if we suppose that consciousness accompanies cortical processes only, we may also suppose that they are to be found in the reenforcing and co-ordinating mechanism of the great basal ganglia. If so, this case might be regarded as strictly automatic—i. e., as due to mechanical causes only.[1]

I do not believe that all cases of automatic writing can be explained in this way; but I am convinced that experimenters do not take sufficient pains to eliminate the action of the subject's consciousness. They seem to think that where the sense of voluntary effort is lacking the subject's consciousness can not interfere.

For the first carefully observed and reported case of automatic speech we are indebted to Prof. James, of Harvard. His paper, together with an account written by the subject, will shortly appear in the Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research. I have not yet seen it, but he has kindly allowed me to make an independent study of the case for myself and to make use of it in this connection. The subject, whom I shall call Mr. Le Baron, is an Englishman thirty-eight years of age, is a man of education, has written a novel, a volume of poems, and a treatise on metaphysics, and is a reporter for a daily paper. In the summer of 1894 he fell in with a group of persons interested in occultism, and his association with them appears to have brought to the surface tendencies to automatism which had already manifested themselves sporadically. Of this association he thus speaks: "Before and almost immediately preceding this 'speaking with tongues' my nature had undergone a most remarkable emotional upheaval, which terminated in a mild form of ecstasy. Credulity and expectation are twin brothers, and my credulity was first aroused by the earnest narration of divers 'spiritualistic' experiences by a cultured lady of beautiful character, fine presence, and the noblest of philanthropic intuitions. A number of persons associated with this lady in her work secretly believed themselves


  1. Some further details about this case can be found in my paper, The Experimental Induction of Automatic Processes, in the Psychological Review, July, 1805.