Popular Science Monthly/Volume 49/August 1896/Spirit Writing and Speaking with Tongues
|"SPIRIT" WRITING AND "SPEAKING WITH TONGUES."|
THE word "automatism" not only designates a group of phenomena but also connotes a theory as to their origin, and this theory rests upon the popular conception of the relation of "soul" and body. The soul, according to it, is an entity of a peculiar kind, entirely distinct from and independent of the body. The body is a material machine, and does not essentially differ from the machines made by man. The relation between soul and body is one of reciprocal action and interaction. The body is the medium through which material realities external to it are communicated to the soul under the guise of the sensations and conceptions of consciousness; it possesses also the capacity of executing certain movements—as, for example, reflexes—without the concurrence of the soul. But the more complex movements of the body, especially those which adjust it to a constantly shifting environment and those which serve as the exponents of mental life, can not be executed without the co-operation of the soul. Occasionally these normal relations appear to be disturbed. Movements take place of the kind usually ascribed to the activity of the soul, and that soul disavows them. Sensations and perceptions enter into the range of consciousness for which no external reality can be found, and thoughts strangely unlike those proper to the thinker troop through his mind and force themselves upon his unwilling attention. These phenomena are ascribed to the agency of the body as distinguished from that of the soul on the one hand, and that of the material world on the other. The body is a machine out of gear; it is no longer controlled by the indwelling soul, and is constantly executing movements on its own account and forcing upon the soul sensations, perceptions, and ideas which stand for no realities save that of the disordered mechanism which produces them. Thus the three chief forms of automatism are: the automatism of movement, of sensation, and of thought or ideation. While I shall use the word automatism and its derivatives, I do not, of course, wish to be understood as subscribing to the theory which it connotes.
Automatic movements may be of any and all kinds. The simplest are those of which the actor is thinking at the time although himself unaware that his thought is passing over into movement. To this type belong the marvels of the pendulum which swings above a reflecting surface only, of the divining rod, of most forms of table-turning, of "thought transference" as practiced by Bishop and Cumberland, et id genus omne. Space forbids my entering into the discussion of these relatively familiar cases, and I shall turn at once to the more complex types.
Automatic writing is an exceedingly common phenomenon. It took its rise from table-turning. Ordinary tables being found in many cases too heavy for the "spirits" to lift, tiny three-legged tables were made for the purpose and termed "planchettes." Later the device was hit upon of attaching a pencil to one leg and placing a sheet of paper beneath to record the movements of the leg. This is our modern planchette. Two or three persons then put their hands on the instrument and wait to see "what planchette will say." Many automatists need no planchette. It is enough for them to take a pencil in hand and sit quietly with the hand on a sheet of paper. After the lapse of a variable period of time the hand will stiffen, twist, and fall to writing quite of its own accord. Of these methods planchette is the more likely to be successful. In the first place, the chances of finding an automatist among two or three people is obviously greater than in the case of one; furthermore, since all expect planchette to move, the slightest tendency to automatism on the part of any one is likely to be magnified by the unconscious co-operation of the others, and is less likely to be checked by the writer himself, since each ascribes the movement to any one but himself.
The writing produced by either of these methods may be regarded as belonging to one of two main types: 1. That which, although involuntary, is dependent upon the co-operation of the subject's consciousness. 2. That which is produced without the co-operation of the subject's consciousness. The latter, again, may be either intelligible or in "unknown tongues."
Intelligible automatic writing may be produced without the co-operation of the subject's consciousness, either when that consciousness is apparently unimpaired, or when the patient is in a trance state. The latter I need not now discuss, as it belongs to the same category as dreams, but the former calls for some comment.
There are two methods of proving that the automatic messages did not emanate from the subject's upper consciousness. In the first place, it is sometimes found that they become the more clear and copious the more effectually the upper consciousness of the subject is distracted from the writing. Miss G——, for example, whom I studied with some care, always did her best automatic writing when busily engaged in conversation or in reading aloud. I concealed her hand from her eyes, and it was but now and then that she would decipher a word by the sense of touch and movement as it was written. But the messages she wrote were always trivial, silly, and often self-contradictory.
In the second place, the content of the writing may be of such a character that we can scarcely ascribe it to the subject's consciousness. In hysterical patients, for example, the upper consciousness, or at least the consciousness which talks, is often anæsthetic to one or more sensory stimuli, yet the automatic writing betrays consciousness of the lost sensations. Prof. James, of Harvard, has noted the same phenomenon in an apparently normal patient. "The planchette began by illegible scrawling. After ten minutes I pricked the back of the right hand several times with a pin; no indications of feeling. Two pricks on the left hand were followed by withdrawal, and the question, 'What did you do that for?' to which I replied, 'To find out whether you are going to sleep.' The first legible words which were written after this were, 'You hurt me.' A pencil in the right hand was then tried instead of the planchette. Here again the first legible words were, 'No use (?) in trying to spel when you hurt me so.' Next, 'It's no use trying to stop me writing by pricking.' These writings were deciphered aloud in the hearing of S——, who seemed slow to connect them with the two pin-pricks on his left hand, which alone he had felt. . . . I pricked the right wrist and fingers several times again quite severely, with no sign of reaction on S——'s part. After an interval, however, the pencil wrote: 'Don't you prick me any more.'. . . S—— laughed, having been conscious only of the pricks on his left hand, and said, 'It's working those two pin-pricks for all they are worth.'" Yet the hand was not anæsthetic when directly tested.
Sometimes the automatic message is potentially known indeed to the upper consciousness, but not at the time present to it. Take, for example, one of Mr. Gurney's experiences:
"In 1870 I watched and took part in a good deal of planchette writing, but not with results or under conditions that afforded proof of any separate intelligence. However, I was sufficiently struck with what occurred to broach the subject to a hard-headed mathematical friend, who expressed complete incredulity as to the possibility of obtaining rational writing except through the conscious operation of some person in contact with the instrument. After a long argument he at last agreed to make a trial. I had not really the faintest hope of success, and he was committed to the position that success was impossible. We sat for some minutes with a hand of each upon the planchette, and asked that it should write some line of Shakespeare. It began by seesawing and producing a great deal of formless scribble; but then there seemed to be more method in the movements, and a line of hieroglyphics appeared. It took us some time to make it out, the writing being illegible just to that degree which at first baffles the reader, but which afterward leaves no more doubt as to its having been correctly deciphered than if it were print. And there the line indubitably stood: 'A little more than kin and less than kind.' Now, as neither of us had been thinking of this line, or of any line (for we had been wholly occupied with the straggling movements of the instrument), the result, though not demonstrative, is at any rate strongly suggestive of a true underground psychosis."
At other times the information conveyed is at once true and quite unknown to the subject. Some of these cases are undoubtedly due to the automatic reproduction of memories which can not at the time be recalled—a common phenomenon in all forms of automatism. Thus, in the case of B——, to which I shall refer at greater length hereafter, it was stated that a man named Parker Howard had lived at a certain number on South Sixteenth Street, Philadelphia, Upon going to the house, I found that a man named Howard—not Parker Howard, however—had lived there some time, but had moved away about two months before. Moreover, the whole Howard incident proved to be mythical; no such person as Parker Howard ever existed. But B—— told me that after his hand had mentioned the name, and before the address was given, he stepped into a shop and looked through a directory for the name. Probably, as he glanced over the list of Howards, his eye had fallen upon the address which his hand afterward wrote, but he had no recollection of it.
Many other cases are certainly due to accidental coincidence. B——, for example, wrote long accounts of events happening at a distance from him, which were afterward found to be in the main correct; but that this was a mere matter of chance was abundantly proved to B——'s own satisfaction. The chances of coincidence are much increased by the extremely illegible character of much of the script, which leaves wide room for "interpretation." I can not but suspect that the "anagrams" sometimes written automatically often owe their existence to this kind of "interpretation." Yet, after making all allowances for coincidence and forgotten memories, nearly all investigators admit that there remains a residuum which can not plausibly be explained by any accepted theory. I can not discuss this residuum here; it is enough to point to its existence, with the caution that no theory can be regarded as final unless it can explain all the facts.
The importance of this material from a psychological point of view can not be overestimated. If the man's hand can write messages without the co-operation of the man's consciousness, we are forced upon the one horn or the other of a very perplexing dilemma. Either these utterances stand for no consciousness at all, merely recording certain physiological processes, or else they indicate the existence of mentation which does not belong to any recognized human being. The first would seem to deny the doctrine of parallelism, according to which physiological processes of the degree of complexity requisite to the production of writing necessarily generate mental states, and this would lead us toward the old theory of the soul, or something like it. The second would compel the assumption either of personalities distinct from that of the subject, which is the theory of possession, or of segregated mental states. The latter is the theory which I am developing in these pages, and although I am far from satisfied with it, it is more in line with our present scientific conceptions than others, and accounts for some of the facts fairly well.
But this dilemma presents itself only when it can be shown that the subject's upper consciousness has nothing to do with the
production of the writing. I am convinced that experimenters do not pay sufficient attention to this point, and consequently much of the recorded material is to my mind of little significance. As my space is limited, I wish to lay especial stress upon this aspect of the problem.
A few years ago I had the opportunity of studying at leisure a remarkably good case of automatism. The subject, whom I shall call B——, was a man of intelligence and education, with whom I had long been on terms of intimacy, and of whose good faith I can therefore speak with some confidence. The writing was at first a mere scrawl, accompanied by quite violent twisting of the arm; little by little it became intelligible, wrote "Yes" and "No" took to printing in large capitals, and finally fell into an easy script almost identical with B——'s normal hand. The communications always professed to emanate from spirits, and, on the
whole, fulfilled in phraseology, style of script, etc., B——'s notions as to what the alleged spirit ought to say and write. One "spirit," for example, was R——, to whom writing had been ascribed by another automatist whom B—— had seen, and his writing, as executed by B——'s hand (Fig. 1), was clearly a rough imitation of the original (Fig. 2). Fig. 3 represents the script of another mythical spirit. Yet another alleged communicator was the late Stainton Moses; Fig. 4 is his signature as written by B——'s hand; Fig. 5 is a facsimile of his actual signature, which B—— had seen. I think there is here also an attempt at imitation, although a very bad one. Another "communicator" began as shown in Fig. 6; he then announced that he was born in 1629, and died in 1685. Now, B—— knows a little about seventeenth century script, and he instantly saw that this did not resemble it. Scarcely had he noticed the discrepancy when his hand began writing
the script figured as No. 7, which is not unlike that then in use. B—— thought at the time that he could not write this hand voluntarily without taking pains, but upon attempting it he found that lie could do it voluntarily as well as automatically (Fig. 8).
It was easy enough to prove that these communications had nothing to do with spirits. B—— satisfied himself upon that point in a very short time. But we kept on experimenting, to Figs. 4 and 5. determine whether they were of subconscious origin or not. To B—— himself they felt strangely external. To quote his own words:
"When I wish to write automatically I take a pencil and place my hand upon a sheet of paper. After the lapse of a few minutes I feel a tingling sensation in my arm and fingers; this is followed by a stiffening of the arm and by convulsive movements. After scrawling for a while, it will make a mark which suggests to me the beginning of a letter, and usually the letter will be clearly written almost before the thought enters my mind. It is then followed by some word beginning with that letter, and that by other words, constituting a 'communication' from some 'spirit.' The writing then proceeds quite rapidly. It seems to me that I read it as it is written; sometimes I apparently anticipate the writing, but quite often it does not proceed in accordance with my anticipation. Sometimes the writer seems to be at a loss how to complete his sentence, and begins again. At other times an illegible combination of signs will be repeatedly written, until
finally a word is evolved, and this appears to be what the writer had in mind at the outset. I am now satisfied, however, that there is never any foresight; my hand simply develops the illegible scrawl into the word which I think it most resembles, thus fulfilling my expectations. This is curiously shown in the emotion it displays. It will twist violently about, pound on the table, bruise my fingers, break my pencils, and show every sign of the greatest excitement, while I, the spectator, survey it with the coolest and most skeptical curiosity. But it will do this only when such emotion seems to me appropriate, just as the persons I see in my dreams may manifest an emotion which I do not share. My hand sometimes abuses me, especially for my skepticism, and sometimes reproves my faults in a very embarrassing manner. It has frequently urged me, upon very plausible grounds, to do things which I would not dream of doing. In every case save one the reasons given were untrue, and in that one I am satisfied the coincidence was due to chance. On two occasions my hand wrote a short stanza with little hesitation. I have never done such a thing myself, but the verses were so incoherent and so atrocious
that I have no doubt they were developed successively, each being based upon the suggestions of the preceding in the manner above described."
I can see no reason for ascribing B——'s writing to subconscious states. It was never intelligible unless B—— allowed himself to "read" it. If he persistently distracted his attention or refused to wonder what his hand was trying to write, it would make marks resembling writing, but never "wrote sense." It was highly suggestible. If he wondered why it did not print, it would instantly try to print; and if, while trying to print, he refused to wonder what it said, it produced strange characters resembling some unknown language. Fig. 9 is a facsimile of a few of these; they were written as rapidly as the hand could fly. Fig. 10 is a facsimile of some writing executed by a Dr. Mayhew, October 5, 1853 (Neueste spiritualistische Mittheilungen, Berlin, 1862), and purports to be an account written by a spirit from the planet Saturn of the Saturnian mythology. In this case the spirit kindly wrote a "translation" giving the general sense, and in B——'s case, had he for a moment believed that the writing was intelligible to the writer, I have no doubt that a "translation" 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.
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 the elected 'spiritual' vanguard of humanity. Not to understand these facts is not to understand the potent factors giving rise to the phenomenon."
In some way or other this grop of occultists, whose leader I shall call Miss J——, got the notion that Mr. Le Baron was the reincarnated spirit of the Pharaoh of the Exodus. Miss X——'s mother, they thought, had loved that king in a previous incarnation, and was still watching over his transmigrations. The time was now ripe for him to be forgiven his sins and to be brought to the light, and she was to make of him an instrument for a fuller revelation of God to humanity. They impressed this delusion upon Mr. Le Baron with all the energy of conviction. "Unless it be borne in mind," he says, "that the air was full of a greedy expectancy concerning the appearance of a reincarnated prophet, no solution of this problem is possible." His common sense protested, and he would not, perhaps, have been much affected had not a traitor within the camp presented itself in the form of his own highly suggestible and excitable nervous system, which caught the ideas with which he was surrounded and reflected them to the confusion of his understanding. This automatism first appeared in the form of writing. "My credulity was as profoundly sincere as it was pitifully pathetic. It was aroused by the narration of the purported history of a finger ring supposed to have been worn ages ago by a vestal virgin in one of the ancient temples of Egypt. Miss J—— believed she wore the ring in those days, and was herself the vestal virgin. On one occasion, in August, 1894, she asked me to place the ring on my finger and attempt automatic writing. I did so. Violent jerks followed, leading to scribbling upon the sheets of paper which were laid before me. This she attributed to spirits, and the placing on of the ring was in some way a sign to call them into activity. The 'invisible brotherhood' were subsequently declared to be en rapport with me, and in the exact ratio of my credulity concerning this assertion did this singular, insentient, emotional mechanism co-operate with the sensations of my common consciousness, and at times assume intelligible proportions."
The circumstances under which automatic speech appeared he was not able to fix with precision. He recollected two occasions, but was not able to say which came first. On one, he was at a seance at Miss J——'s house. He was asked to lie upon a couch upon which Mrs. J—— had lain during her last illness, and to look at a brilliantly illuminated portrait of her. In a short time he was seized with a convulsive paroxysm of the head and shoulders; this was followed by a flow of automatic speech purporting to emanate from the spirit of Mrs. J——, and fully confirming his friends' notions. Upon another occasion he was in a pine wood at night with them. Certain of the ladies professed to see signs and portents in the skies, and he had a similar convulsive attack followed by speech. This began with the words, "O my people! O my people!" and was of a semiprophetic character. As an illustration of the sort of confirmation thus given, I may quote a passage, spoken automatically September 6, 1894, and purporting to come from Mrs. J——: "I am the mother of the Evangel. There are several things which must be done. S—— (Miss J——) must go to the house of the man she got the things from on the day of the coming of the man from the other side of the water. Also tell her that she must tell the man that the work is to be of the kind he said he would help on. And tell her that I say that she must go to him and say that I am the one that sent her to him; and also say that the whole world is now ready for the coming of the day when the coming of the truth shall enlarge the whole possibilities of the race. You may also say that I said that he was the man that the whole of the thing on the day of the fate had to be turned to. Say that I am now with the man whom I shall go with in the spirit to direct him," etc.
Mr. Le Baron had heard of "speaking with tongues," and, believing as he did in transmigration, naturally inferred that he "must have some dead languages lurking away somewhere in the nooks and crannies of his much-experienced soul." Hence, not long after the invasion, his utterances assumed this character. They were poured forth very rapidly in deep, harsh, loud tones, coming apparently from the abdomen; often, he told me, "it seemed as if the malignity of a city were concentrated into a word," and many persons found the sound most startling. In an affidavit made February 2, 1895, he swore that "since the first day of September, 1894, he has experienced an automatic flow of foreign speech the meaning of which he does not understand when he utters it; that he is not a professed medium, and makes no claim to any supernatural or supernormal claims for the same; that he can utter by the command of his will this automatic flow of foreign consonantal and vowel combinations at any place and time to any length; and that the aforesaid automatic flow often assumes other linguistic forms than the following."
One or two illustrations of the "unknown tongues," in prose and verse, must suffice: "Shurumo te mote Cimbale. Ilunu teme tele telunu. Onstomo te ongorolo. Sinkete ontomo. Isa bulu, bulu, bulu. Ecemete compo tete. Olu mete compo. Lete me lu. Sine mete compote. Este mute, pute. Ompe rete keta. Onseling erne ombo lu mu. Outeme mo, mo, mo. Ebedebede tinketo. Imbe, Imbe, Imbe."
"Ede pelute kondo nadode
Igla tepete compto pele
Impe odode inguru lalele
Omdo resene okoro pododo
Igme odkondo nefulu kelala
Nene pokonto ce folodelu
Impete la la feme olele
Igdepe kindo raog japate
Relepo oddo og cene himano."
After the utterance in a "tongue" a "translation" was usually given in the same way, and the "translation" of the above poem, although somewhat incoherent, is of a distinctly higher order than most of the prose utterances. Witness one stanza:
"The coming of man from the roar of the ages
Has been like the seas in the breath of the storm;
His heart has been torn and his soul has been riven,
His joy has been short and his curse has been long.
But the bow of my promise still spreads in the heavens;
I have not destroyed the great sign of my love.
I stand at the door of the ark of creation,
And take in thy world like a storm-beaten dove,
And press to my bosom the world that I love."
Mr. Le Baron has shown traces of sensory automatism, hut very seldom. Once, in a sleeper returning from Chicago, he was awakened by a voice in his ears saying, "Enthusiasm shall fill the hearts of the multitude in the place of the hours of the day." He has also seen flashes of light.
As an illustration of automatic "prophecy" I may quote the following: "I have heard the wail of the dying and I have heard the wail of the man whose heart was broken. I have heard the voice of mirth and I have heard the voice of woe. I have heard the voice of him who is darkness and I have heard the voice of him who is light. I have heard the roar of the ocean and I have heard the song of the bird. I have heard the triumph of peace and I have heard the triumph of woe. I have heard the tears of the nations as they fell and I have heard the songs of the nations as they rose. I have heard the roar of cities and I have heard the music of the woodlands. I have heard the roar of the death of the man who was slain in battle and I have heard the shout of the victor. I have heard the new word and I have heard the old word," etc.
Mr. Le Baron never publicly admitted any belief in the veridical character of these utterances. As he says himself: "All this involved such an unscientific view of things, and was, moreover, so horribly egotistic and full of gall," impudence, and assumption, that I said nothing about it save to the few who had been throwing fuel upon the fire of my reincarnation conceptions and who were ready to believe anything in support of the hypothesis." Yet he was much impressed, as he frankly owns: "I, for the time heing and for months afterward, assented to the statement of my subliminal that my soul had pre-existed; I also believed that it knew when and where it had pre-existed. When it therefore stated that I had been sent through the fires of three thousand years of awful transmigration because, as Rameses or Sesostris, my way had not been 'the way of the Lord,' I either had to assent to the inference that my subliminal was a liar, or that it told the truth, or that it was mistaken. As it insisted upon pouring into my upper consciousness the loftiest of spiritual advice, I concluded that, if it was such a pure teacher of love and justice, it would make no mistake knowingly about a matter of history." Yet he never lost sight of the fundamental point—that, without verification, his automatic utterances were worthless, and he deliberately set himself the task of verifying or disproving them. He sought the advice of linguists and toiled through many a grammar and lexicon of little known languages with a purely negative result. The languages proved to be nothing more than meaningless combinations of sounds, and the supposed lofty communications from the Almighty were found to be the scarcely more intelligent reflection of the ideas with which the air was surcharged. As he himself jokingly phrased it in conversation, "I was like a cat chasing her own tail." I can not do better, in concluding my account of this case, than quote Mr. Myers's comment upon it: "He had the good fortune to meet with a wise and gentle adviser, and the phenomenon which, if differently treated, might have led on to the delusion of many, and perhaps to the insanity of one, became to the one a harmless experience, and to the world an acquisition of interesting psychological truth."
The only other outbreak of automatic speech of which any considerable details have been preserved was that which took place among the followers of the Rev. Edward Irving at the close of the first third of the present century. I have not been able to get access to all the extant information about this outbreak, but there can be little doubt that it was precisely analogous to Mr. Le Baron's experience. The "unknown tongues" were usually followed by a "translation," and all witnesses describe them as uttered in strange and unnatural tones. One witness speaks of them as "bursting forth, and that from the lips of a woman, with an astonishing and terrible crash." Says another, "The utterance was so loud that I put my handkerchief to my mouth to stop the sound, that I might not alarm the house." Another: "There was indeed in the strange, unearthly sound an extraordinary power of voice, enough to appall the heart of the most stout-hearted." Of its subjective side we have a vivid description from the pen of Robert Baxter, who was for a while one of Irving's leading prophets, but afterward, finding that the prophecies which his mouth uttered did not come true, he ascribed them to "lying spirits." He thus describes his own original experience:
"After one or two brethren had read and prayed, Mr. T—— was made to speak two or three words very distinctly and with an energy and depth of tone which seemed to me extraordinary, and fell upon me as a supernatural utterance which I ascribed to the power of God. The words were in a tongue I did not understand. In a few minutes Miss E. C—— broke out in an utterance
in English which, as to matter and manner and the influence it had upon me, I at once bowed to as the utterance of the Spirit of God. Those who have heard the powerful and commanding utterance need no description; but they who have not, may conceive what an unnatural and unaccustomed tone of voice, an intense and riveting power of expression, with the declaration of a cutting rebuke to all who were present, and applicable to my own state of mind in particular, would effect upon me and upon others who were come together expecting to hear the voice of the Spirit of God. In the midst of the feeling of awe and reverence which this produced I was myself seized upon by the power, and in much struggling against it was made to cry out and myself to give forth a confession of my own sin in the matter for which we were rebuked. . . . I was overwhelmed by this occurrence. . . . There was in me at the time of the utterance very great excitement, and yet I was distinctly conscious of a power acting upon me beyond the mere power of excitement. So distinct was the power from the excitement that in all my trouble and doubt about it I never could attribute the whole to excitement. . . . In the utterances of the power which subsequently occurred many were accompanied by the flashing in of conviction upon my mind, like lightning rooting itself in the earth; while other utterances, not being so accompanied, only acted in the way of an authoritative communication." At another time he was reading the Bible. "As I read, the power came upon me and I was made to read in the power, my voice raised far beyond its natural pitch, and with constrained repetition of parts and with the same inward uplifting which at the presence of the power I had always before experienced."
So far as I know, there exists no written record of the "tongues" spoken by the Irvingites, but the few specimens of their "prophecies" which I have seen present identically the same characteristics as those found in Mr. Le Baron's utterances —the same paucity of ideas, the same tendency to hover about one word or phrase with senseless repetitions. One illustration will serve, ex uno discite omnia:
"Ah, will ye despise, will ye despise the blood of Jesus? Will ye pass by the cross, the cross of Jesus? Oh! oh! oh! will ye crucify the Lord of glory? Will ye put him to an open shame? He died, he died, he died for you. He died for you. Believe ye, believe ye the Lamb of God. Oh, he was slain, he was slain, and he hath redeemed you; he hath redeemed you; he hath redeemed you with his blood! Oh, the blood, the blood, the blood that speaketh better things than the blood of Abel—which crieth mercy for you now, mercy for you now! Despise not his love, despise not his love, despise not his love!
"Oh, grieve him not! Oh, grieve not your Father! Rest in his love. Oh, rejoice in your Father's love! Oh, rejoice in the love of Jesus, in the love of Jesus, in the love of Jesus, for it passeth knowledge! Oh, the length! oh, the breadth! oh, the height! oh, the depth, of the love of Jesus! Oh, it passeth knowledge! Oh, rejoice in the love of Jesus! sinner, for what, for what—what, O sinner, what can separate, can separate, can separate from the love of Jesus?" etc.
Mr. Le Baron's "tongues" are constructed upon the same general principle, one phonetic element appearing to serve as the basis or core for a long series of syllables. I believe all these cases to be analogous to that of my friend B——, and I see no reason for ascribing them to subconscious activities of any kind.
- Proceedings of the American Society for Psychical Research, vol. i, p. 540.
- Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, vol. iv, p. 301, note.
- Some further details about this case can be found in my paper, The Experimental Induction of Automatic Processes, in the Psychological Review, July, 1805.
- Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, vol. vii, p. 250.
- Mr. Myers has Prof. James in mind.