The Naturalisation of the Supernatural/Chapter 12
MESSAGES RECEIVED THROUGH TRANCE OR AUTOMATISM
AMONGST the subjects of investigation set out in the original prospectus of the Society, as already indicated, was the study of hypnotism and the phenomena of the induced trance. In the Society’s early years some valuable experimental work in this direction was done by the late Edmund Gurney, especially in investigating the relations of the hypnotic to the normal consciousness. And up to the present time we have let pass no opportunity for studying any case of automatism, abnormal lapse of memory, or secondary consciousness. Again, F. W. H. Myers has done the work of a pioneer in his wide survey of the whole field of these perplexing and obscure phenomena, and has shown how order can be evolved out of chaos. But the subject is now recognised as legitimate for scientific enquiry. Even English medical men have at length reluctantly admitted the existence of the hypnotic state, and are beginning to discern in it profitable material for study. On the Continent hypnotism has been incorporated in medical practice in many independent quarters for nearly a generation; of recent years the baffling manifestations of dissociated personality are, especially in France and America, being made the subject of careful and prolonged research; and automatic reactions are being accurately measured in psychological laboratories. Now that this province has been definitely annexed by medical men and professional psychologists, the special function of the Society for Psychical Research is fulfilled. The investigation is not of course concluded; it is in fact little more than begun. Our own researches will continue, it is hoped, to yield fruit: they are indeed probably necessary for the elucidation of some aspects of the subject. But the study as a whole has reached a stage at which the wider resources of the alienist's clinique, and the more exact methods of the psychological laboratory are needed for its further progress. To enable the reader to appreciate the real bearing of the evidence presented in the two chapters which follow, it is necessary to give some account of the results already attained and of the conclusions to which they point, even though at the present stage of the nascent science a brief-summary of this kind must necessarily be incomplete and perhaps to some extent misleading.
Briefly then, to the older philosophy the mind of man seemed a thing apart, a clear-cut indissoluble unity, whose permanence and identity admitted neither doubt or degree. To the new experimental psychology, the unity of consciousness is a mere illusion; it is even as the "elementary" nature of earth, air, and water, the unreasoned judgment of ignorance. The composite and unstable nature of our consciousness can be inferred even from the manifestations of normal waking and sleep. Our waking consciousness at any given moment may by careful introspection be found to consist in a heterogeneous mass of impressions of every degree of intensity. Take, for instance, the case of a man walking about and talking with a friend in some crowded place. His consciousness will include many distinct groups of ideas; he will be "thinking" primarily of some particular aspect of the subject under discussion, but there will enter as elements into his consciousness ideas of its other aspects and of cognate subjects. He will also be conscious of his interlocutor's appearance, voice, etc.; he will be conscious, more dimly, of the appearance of his surroundings and of the other persons near him; there will probably be present to him also some twilight knowledge of scraps of conversation overheard; and, lastly, there will be an obscure but adequate conception of his own movements in walking and speaking, and of his tactile, muscular, and organic sensations generally.
In the language of physiology, consciousness reflects the simultaneous, co-ordinate activities of an immense number of nerve-centres, but reflects them very imperfectly, much as—to employ Ribot's illustration—a map represents the main features of a countryside.
But when, as in sleep, the pressure on the limits of consciousness is relieved by the inactivity of some of the higher cerebral centres, the "critical point" of consciousness is lowered, various new elements rise above the threshold, and elements hitherto subordinate acquire greater prominence. Of the throng of images present to the mind during sleep, the most part are so evanescent as to fade from the memory shortly after waking. The common run of dreams, no doubt, are comparable in intensity to the feebler reverberations accompanying the main movement of our waking thoughts, and assume temporary importance only because they do not come into competition with more vivid impressions. Thus sensations of organic processes are frequently predominant during sleep, just as the Clank and clash of shunting trains, the gross machinery which underlies our social life, forms an unregarded element in the complex mass of sound which fills our ears in the daylight hours, but attains to solitary distinctness in the quiet of the night.
We thus sometimes obtain in dreams knowledge of latent illness of which no sign could be discerned in our waking hours. Again, in sleep we frequently revert to forgotten memories of our earlier years, and our dreams are constantly coloured by the emotional tone which prevailed in childhood. Our consciousness in dreams is thus still a compound, but it is a compound which includes different elements. Further, in dreams there may be spontaneous intellectual activity, unrelated to the main stream of consciousness, as when problems are solved or poetry composed in sleep.
Until a generation or two ago the survey of our intellectual processes was practically limited to the two fields of sleep and wakefulness, with stray facts gleaned from delirium or occasional instances of automatic action,—Dr. Carpenter's "unconscious cerebration." But the observations accumulated in the last twenty or thirty years have revolutionised our conception of man's personality. On the one hand, in the hypnotic trance we commonly find a memory and consciousness differing from those of normal life. Many hypnotic subjects retain in waking life no recollection of what they have done and suffered in the hypnotic trance; but when again hypnotised they can recall all that passed in the previous trance, and will, moreover, almost invariably, be cognisant of their waking life as well. To put it briefly, the hypnotic memory in such cases includes the normal memory, as the larger of two concentric circles includes the smaller. How far this secondary consciousness is pre-existent, or how far it owes its being to the suggestion of the hypnotiser is still undecided. But some experiments made by Edmund Gurney indicate that some of the limitations of consciousness and memory in the hypnotic state are purely artificial. He has shown that in many hypnotic subjects two distinct stages can be demonstrated in the hypnotic trance, each with a memory peculiar to itself and mutually exclusive. In some subjects, indeed, he succeeded in evoking three such stages, the memory in each being distinct and exclusive, so that the subject in state A would carry on an animated conversation on any imaginary incident suggested to him by Gurney; when thrown into state B he would have completely forgotten the subject of his talk in state A, but would talk on a fresh subject similarly suggested, which would in turn be forgotten on his being placed in state C. He could be led backwards and forwards through these three states several times in the course of an evening, and would converse in each state freely on the ideas peculiar to that state, or on any other which might be suggested to him. After a few days, however, these artificial barriers would disappear, and the trance memory would show itself undivided.
Now the phenomena which can be observed on a small scale in these artificial divisions of memory occur in much more impressive form in certain pathologic cases. Sometimes, as in the life-history of Ansel Bourne, the patient may entirely lose his memory and his sense of identity, and have to begin life over again in an unfamiliar environment. Sometimes, as in the classic case of Felida X., or the more recent history, recorded by Dr. Morton Prince, of Miss Beauchamp, two, or more, states of consciousness may alternate, and this alternation may be observed to continue for years. The memories proper to these states may be mutually exclusive; or on the other hand, the memory in state B may, as in the hypnotic trance, include that in state A; whilst in state A the unhappy patient may know nothing of his doings and sufferings in state B.
Much light has been thrown upon the pathology of these cases of double consciousness by Janet's studies conducted on hysterical patients in the Salpetriere. Broadly speaking, he has shown that these alterations of memory and consciousness correspond with alterations in the physical basis of memory. The patient for whom, in the state to which attacks of hystero—epilepsy had reduced her, the memory of a great part of her past life was a blank, possessed also a seriously curtailed sensory equipment. She had no sense of touch, and no muscular sense. She would "lose her legs in bed " as she herself described it, and could walk only by looking at her limbs and the ground. She was very deaf, and her sight, her most serviceable sense, was extremely restricted. But when under hypnotic treatment, she recovered the use of her limbs, and could walk without looking at her feet or the floor, and recovered also her normal powers of vision. A corresponding enlargement of the memory was observed. She would not only be conscious of all her life as a hospital patient, but she could remember also the years of her childhood.
Now there are indications in many cases of spontaneous trance of similar physical deficiencies accompanying, and presumably conditioning, the changes of consciousness. Thus M. Flournoy records in the case of his subject, Hélène Smith, disturbances of the muscular system (contractions, convulsions, and involuntary movements of various kinds), partial paralysis, and local anaesthetic patches. In less extreme cases the secondary personality may be characterised by neurasthenia, impaired circulation, and generally some degree of ill health. Even in the case of automatic writing it can occasionally be demonstrated that the writing hand is anaesthetic, and some degree of anaesthesia is reported to have been observed in subjects during the performance of a post-hypnotic promise.
Speaking broadly, then, it may be inferred that all changes in memory and consciousness are conditioned by changes in the physical basis of memory and consciousness; in sleep the supply of blood to the brain is diminished; in intoxication the higher centres are poisoned; the enlargement of memory in the case of the Salpétrière patient represents the removal of an inhibition, the revivification of dormant tracts of cerebral tissue; and even the simplest case of automatic action appears to involve a temporary segregation of certain groups of brain cells constituting a sensori-motor area.
In the more familiar forms of dissociated consciousness—sleep, delirium, alcoholic intoxication, epilepsy—the lines of cleavage are, so to speak, horizontal. It is the higher controlling centres, and generally speaking those parts of the brain concerned with the life of relation, whose activity is repressed or altogether suspended. The total amount of consciousness, to speak figuratively, may not in all cases be affected, but the level sinks; it includes less of the higher and more of the lower. In various forms of trance, however, and in cases of double personality, the cleavage is commonly vertical. The new consciousness is approximately on the same level as the old. The higher cerebral centres still continue their functions; the new personality is not a mere torso, as in sleep; it is so to speak complete in itself. It is not necessarily either higher or lower, it is merely different. The difference, generally speaking, may be presumed to lie in the inclusion or exclusion of certain sensorimotor areas, the reviviﬁcation or inhibition of certain cerebral tracts, with all the memories and sensations based upon them. The earliest indications of this vertical cleavage, it should be noted, may be traced in the various forms of automatism, beginning with simple reverie, and going on to crystal gazing, table-turning, and automatic writing. In such cases as a rule the control of the primary consciousness is not lost, but a parasitic secondary consciousness, a small dissociated area, has become active on its own account.
Now the feeling of personal identity depends upon the memory of past and the consciousness of present sensations. Any change in these is liable to impair the sense of personality. That sense of personality is not seriously affected in sleep or intoxication, partly because the states are familiar, partly no doubt because the consciousness is not so much changed as mutilated. But when the dissociation is of a sudden or unfamiliar kind, and especially when, to continue our metaphor, the lines of cleavage are mainly vertical, the sense of personal identity may be altogether lost. The patient will in such a case feel that he is a different person, and will repudiate his former personality. This in fact is what frequently happens, not only in the more extreme pathologic cases, but even in profound hypnotism or in the spontaneous trance observed at spiritualistic séances. Even the talking table will personify itself, and the hand of the automatic writer will frequently proclaim its separate individuality. The new consciousness will then speak of the normal personality as "he" or "she" or the "medium"; and give to itself a wonderful new name. The name chosen will be apt to reflect the wishes of the entranced subject, or the prepossessions of the bystanders; it may be that of a Hebrew prophet, one of Solomon's genii, an Indian chief, or a deceased friend of those present. It is important to note, however, that this assumption of an alien personality speaking through the entranced person is made in many cases in good faith by all parties concerned. It is, in short, an inference from the observed phenomena, which is almost inevitably made by persons without special knowledge of the subject. The pseudo-personality will in many cases give proof of knowledge outside the range of the primary consciousness; it may show traces of keener sensibilities, and even of new faculties. Again, in some cases, it will act in opposition to its host. It will repudiate their common identity; and will take pains to thwart the schemes made by the other self. This opposition of the primary and secondary consciousness occurs even in the simpler forms of automatism; planchette will frequently write coarse or blasphemous expressions which are repugnant to the upper self. Extreme instances of opposition will be found in certain pathologic cases, especially in the mutual relations of the several "personalities" incarnated in the body of Miss Beauchamp. Strange and almost incredible as are some of the things recorded, they seem to represent no more than an exaggerated form of the struggle between opposing tendencies which is constantly taking place in human life—a struggle which forms indeed the very basis of moral evolution.
Thus, when the secondary personality assumes the name of a deceased friend of those present, mimics his attitude, his gestures and ways of speaking, and the external features of his personality,
the recollection of the extraordinary self-consistency and fidelity with which some entranced subjects will act out impersonations of historic characters compels us to be cautious in endorsing the authenticity of such representations. Even when the pseudo-personality shows an intimate knowledge of the life and family affairs of the deceased person whom it claims to represent, it may be of incidents almost passed from living memories, we are bound to consider whether the knowledge displayed could not have been gained by cunning guesses, or telepathically from the minds of the living friends present in the room. There are, however, as will be seen later, instances on record which are difficult to reconcile with this explanation. And there are a few cases where information has been given by the pseudo-personality which could not apparently have been within the knowledge of any living mind. Such instances are, however, at present scanty and ambiguous; at most, therefore, in view of the momentous issues involved, they may perhaps be held to justify suspension of judgment.After this preface we will pass to consider some examples of messages received in some form of trance or automatism, or, at lowest, when there is reason to suspect some slight dissociation of consciousness. Sometimes the state of reverie is present in what seems a condition of normal wakefulness. At any rate the lapse from ordinary consciousness may be so slight that the percipient is not aware of any change, and is able to observe and record his own impressions as if in full possession of his waking faculties. Some of the telepathic impressions cited in previous chapters appear to have been received when the percipient was in a reverie of this character. Crystal visions, it is probable, generally imply some lapse from normal wakefulness. Indeed, as already said, some writers are of opinion that any subjective vision, whether or not attaining to the proportion of an actual hallucination, involves a greater or less degree of dissociation of consciousness. In case No. 50, Chapter X., the description would certainly imply marked divergence from the normal state; but as the experience recorded by Miss Whiting took place when she was in bed, after, as she supposes, she had been awakened from sleep, we should perhaps hardly be justified in regarding it as other than a dream. In the following case we have an example of self-induced reverie. The narrator is a member of the Society for Psychical Research who has long studied psychical phenomena, and is well known as an accurate and impartial investigator. He has for some years made a careful study of his own mental processes; and, for the purpose of receiving telepathic impressions, he has cultivated with some success a passive attitude which he has found favourable to their reception, whilst still permitting him to exercise his powers of observation and judgment. The following is one of many apparently veridical impressions in his experience.
No. 62. From Mr. C. Rio De Janerio
[The record from which this particular incident is extracted is dated May, 1901, but the account is based upon contemporary notes.]
On the 22nd May, 1896, Mr. C., whilst having his hair cut, talked over some psychical experiences with the hairdresser, Senor Guimarães. The latter mentioned some incidents in connection with his dead wife. C. received the impression that the wife's name was Maria—and that white flowers had been strewn over her in her coffin. Both impressions were correct. The name is of course too common to make the coincidence of any particular significance; but white flowers, it is noted, are not generally used in Brazil at the funeral of a married woman. C. further was impressed to draw a profile, which Senor Guimãries recognised as strikingly like the dead woman. Mr. C. then continues:
"On May 26th C. sat alone in his sleeping-room trying for automatic writing. He wrote the name 'Maria,' and afterwards 'Guimarães.' Having asked for further proofs of identity, the experimenter sought for an answer rather in visual terms than in the disconnected and partly illegible words traced by his hand on the paper. Thereupon came dim fragmentary images of ships; be imagined himself under the bows of an ocean steamer; then his vision was focussed for a moment or so on a distant vessel thrown on her beam ends in a rough sea so that the deck was visible. He had an idea that she carried many people on board. Immediately afterwards a boat with green bows was pictured coming up over a large wave. She was also full—perhaps she was bringing away persons from the endangered vessel. There was nothing vivid or decided in all this. The series was more like the faint memory images of events far removed in time. Meanwhile C. had scrawled on the paper, among much that was illegible, the words 'bornt' and 'swound,' probably misspellings of 'burnt' and 'swooned.' From these inklings of passive and motor automatism he drew, with anything but confidence, the following conclusions: Maria Guimarães had been in some shipwrecked or burning vessel; she had been taken off in a boat that was painted green; she fainted on the occasion. The whole affair seemed to be so very improbable that C. hesitated to speak to Senor Guimãries about it."
On the 30th May, however, C. related his impression to Senor Pinto, who immediately (i. e., within an hour) made a written note of C.'s vision—"a ship being wrecked and persons who were being saved in a boat." C. thereupon told his vision to Senor Guimarães, who replied that his wife had, before their marriage, been shipwrecked with her mother; that they had been taken off in a boat, Dona Maria in a fainting condition. Senor Guimarães was married in 1873, shortly after his wife's arrival in Brazil from São Miguel. He could not himself remember the name of the wrecked ship, but his daughter thought it was the Maria da Gloria. In fact it was ascertained that in 1873, the year of Signora Guimarães's arrival in Brazil, and on a date corresponding to that of her voyage, a vessel named Maria da Gloria, trading between the Azores and Brazil, had, after touching at São Miguel, sprung a leak, so that the passengers had to be landed in boats. The vessel was not, however, lost.
It would thus appear that C. received an impression of a striking and unusual incident which had taken place many years before in the life of a dead person whom he had never seen. No details however seem to have been given which could not have been derived from the mind of the widower.
More generally, however, messages of this kind, purporting to emanate from the dead, are received either when the "medium" is in a state of trance, or if awake, through some form of automatic action. The simplest form of automatism, and that which seems the easiest to cultivate, is the movement of the table in tilting out messages by means of the alphabet, or the movement of some instrument like Ouija, with a pointer and a dial. An instrument of this kind, consisting of a sliding rod and an alphabet board, was the means of communication in the following case. The account was procured by the American Branch of the Society.
No. 63. From Judge W. D. Harden
345 W. 34th St., New York, October 3rd, 1888.
Major Lucius B. died at Savannah, Georgia, on the 1st April, 1888. His widow sent on the 16th April the following statement to Judge Harden.
"In compliance with your request I will state: After my honoured husband Major Lucius B.'s departure from this life, I was in distress of mind that none could understand but one surrounded by similar circumstances. Of his business transactions I knew but little. After a week or two of stunning agony, I aroused myself to look into our financial condition. I was aware that he had in his keeping a note given by Judge H. W. Hopkins to some several hundred which was due, and I searched all the nooks and corners of his secretaire, manuscript, letters, memorandum-books, read several hundred letters; but all for naught. For two months I spent most of the time going over and over, but with the same result. I finally asked him at a'séance about the note.
"Q.: 'Have you deposited the note anywhere?' A.: 'I have.'
"Q.: 'Where?' No answer.
[Mrs B. wrote to Judge Hopkins that the note could not be found. But the following Sunday she and her daughter tried to get a communication through the little instrument described]
"After a little conversation we put our hands on the rod and it promptly spelt 'Look in my long drawer and find Willie.' I became excited, ran to the bureau and pulled out the bottom drawer, turned the contents upon the floor, and commenced to search. Under all the things was a vest; in its little breast pocket was the note.
"Major B. was in the habit of calling the bottom drawer, where only his undergarments were kept, 'My long drawer,' to designate it from several small drawers set aside for his use. The vest was the only garment, other than underwear, in the drawer. The vest was the one taken off him when he first became ill. He was unconscious during the first day of his illness. The vest was put in the drawer after or during his illness by my friend, I think, who assisted in caring for him while sick.
"The drawer had not been opened that we knew of after he left us until the note was discovered. Although I had moved to another room, I gave instructions that the bottom drawer was not to be disturbed.
"As soon as the rod spelt 'Look in my long drawer and find Willie,' I was perfectly electrified with the knowledge that Willie H.'s note was in that drawer, although I never would have thought of looking in such a place for a valuable paper.
"Major B. and myself always spoke to and of Judge H. as 'Willie,' he being a relation of mine and a favourite of Major B. from Willie's childhood."
The account is confirmed by Miss Nina B., who appends her initials. Dr. Louis Knorr, of Savannah, writes to say that Miss Nina B. went round on the same afternoon to tell him of the discovery of the note; as he was out he did not actually hear the news until later. Mrs. B. knows the event was on a Sunday but cannot remember the exact date; but Dr. Knorr is able to fix it as having been either on the 13th or 20th May.
We have several records in which the fact of a death, unknown to any of those present, has been announced at a spiritualistic'séance. In the following case, which was carefully recorded at the time by Professor Aksakof, of St. Petersburg, the announcement was conveyed through automatic writing.
No. 64. From Professor Asakof
On Jan. 19th, 1887, the engineer Kaigorodoff, of Wilna, called on Professor Aksakof and informed him that his Swiss governess, Mdlle. Emma Stramm, who was in the habit of writing automatically, had received at a'séance held in his presence at Wilna, on Jan. 15th at 9 p. m., a message written in French stating that August Duvanel was dead, the cause of death being stated as a clot of blood (engorgement de sang). M. Aksakof saw the original communication and made a note of the occurrence.
In four days Mdlle. Stramm received a letter from her father giving the news in the same words; his letter was shown to Professor Aksakof a few days after its receipt. August Duvanel had been a suitor of Mdlle. Stramm, and she had in fact come to Russia in 1881 to escape from him and her parents' importunity. She had not seen or heard of him since her departure. In 1882 Duvanel had left Neufchâtel, where the Stramms lived, and gone to Canton Zurich. On Jan. 15th, 1887, living at the time alone in a small hamlet remote from his friends, August Duvanel, as M. Aksakof afterwards learnt, died by his own hand. The death, by Wilna time, took place at 4.30 p. m.—about five hours before the news was received by Mdlle. Stramm in Wilna. The Stramm family at Neufchatel did not hear of the death until two days later. No one was with Duvanel when he died; nor would his relations, in any event, have been likely to send a telegram on the subject to Mdlle. Stramm in Russia. Nor could such a telegram, if sent, have been received, so M. Kaigorodoff assured M. Aksakof, without his knowledge. The most puzzling feature in the case remains to be noted. M. Stramm when he wrote to his daughter on the 18th Jan. knew of the circumstances of the death; but to avoid causing her a shock, he ascribed it to engorgemnt de sang, using the same words as those given in the automatic writing; which professed to be dictated by the scribe's spirit brother, Louis.
The facts are fully attested by Professor Aksakof's contemporary notes; so that, short of imputing deliberate deception to the automatist, there seems to be no possible explanation which does not at the least involve telepathy. But such an interpretation presents, as will be seen, considerable difficulty. For a discussion of the interpretation of the case on the assumption of spirit communication the reader is referred to Mr. Myers's comments.
In the following case the "message" was received in the borderland between sleep and waking. The percipient's state seems to have been intermediate between that of the waking automatist, who, as in the cases just recorded, would appear to be almost or altogether in possession of his normal senses, and the entranced medium, in whom the primary consciousness is altogether in abeyance. It is interesting to note that some of the most striking "test" communications are received from Mrs. Piper's lips at the moment when she is emerging from the trance.
No. 65. From Mr. John E. Wilikie (Chief of the Secret Service Department at Washington)
"Washington. April 11th, 1898.
"In October, 1895, while living in London, England, I was attacked by bronchitis in rather a severe form, and on the advice of my physician, Dr. Oscar C. De Wolf, went to his residence in 6 Grenville Place, Cromwell Road, where I could be under his immediate care. For two days I was confined to my bed, and about five o'clock in the afternoon of the third day, feeling somewhat better, I partially dressed myself, slipped on a heavy bath robe, and went down to the sitting-room on the main floor, where my friend, the doctor, usually spent a part of the afternoon in reading. A steamer chair was placed before the fire by one of the servants, and I was made comfortable with pillows. The doctor was present, and sat immediately behind me reading. I dropped off into a light doze, and slept for perhaps thirty minutes. Suddenly I became conscious of the fact that I was about to awaken; I was in a condition where I was neither awake nor asleep. I realised fully that I had been asleep, and I was equally conscious of the fact that I was not wide awake. While in this peculiar mental condition I suddenly said to myself: 'Wait a minute. Here is a message for the doctor.' At the moment I fancied that I had upon my lap a pad of paper, and I thought I wrote upon this pad with a pencil the following words:
"'Dear Doctor: Do you remember Katy McGuire, who used to live with you in Chester? She died in 1872. She hopes you are having a good time in London.'
"Instantly thereafter I found myself wide awake, felt no surprise at not finding the pad of paper on my knee, because I then realised that that was but the hallucination of a dream, but impressed with that feature of my thought which related to the message, I partly turned my head, and, speaking over my shoulder to the doctor, said: 'Doctor, I have a message for you.'
"The doctor looked up from the British Medical Journal which he was reading, and said: 'What 's that?’
"'I have a message for you,' I repeated. 'It is this: "Dear Doctor: Do you remember Katy McGuire, who used to live with you in Chester? She died in 1872. She hopes you are having a good time in London.'"
"The doctor looked at me with amazement written all over his face, and said: 'Why, ——— what the devil do you mean?'
"'I don't know anything about it except that just before I woke up I was impelled to receive this message which I have just delivered to you.'
"'Did you ever hear of Katy McGuire?' asked the doctor.
"'Never in my life.'
"'Well,’ said the doctor, 'that 's one of the most remarkable things I ever heard of.'"
Dr. De Wolf writes:
"6 Grenville Place. Cromwell Road, S. W., May 4th, 1898.
"Dear Sir: Mr. Wilkie’s statement is correct except as to unimportant details. My father practised his profession of medicine in Chester, Mass., for sixty years—dying in 1890. I was born in Chester and lived there until 1857, when I was in Paris studying medicine for four years. In 1861 I returned to America and immediately entered the army as surgeon and served until the close of the war in 1865. In 1866 I located in Northampton, Mass., where I practised my profession until 1873, when I removed to Chicago.
"Chester is a hill town in Western Massachusetts, and Northampton is seventeen miles distant. While in Northampton I was often at my father's house—probably every week—and during some of the years from 1866 to 1873 I knew Katy McGuire as a servant assisting my mother.
"She was an obliging and pleasant girl and always glad to see me. She had no family in' Chester and I do not know where she came from. Neither do I know where or when she died—but I know she is dead."
Dr. De Wolf adds that Mr. Wilkie was never within five hundred miles of Chester. He adds: "Neither of us were believers in spiritual manifestations of this character, and this event so impressed us that we did not like to talk about it, and it has been very seldom referred to when we met."
It must be borne in mind that the record was made three years after the incident. Moreover, Dr. De Wolf, in answer to our first letter and before receiving from us Mr. Wilkie's account, professed to be unable to "recall with any definite recollection" the circumstances. But there seems little reason to doubt the substantial accuracy of the narrative. We cannot, of course, absolutely exclude the possibility that Mr. Wilkie had at one time heard of these details of his friend's early life. The two had met, as Dr. De Wolf tells us, soon after his removal to Chicago in 1873, when the memory of Kitty McGuire would have been still comparatively recent. But in the circumstances such an explanation can scarcely be held as plausible.
In the next case the percipient was fully entranced It will be observed that she did not claim to be "possessed," but only to be in communication with spirits of the dead.
No. 66. From Dr. O. Vidigal, San Paulo, Brazil.
[A second-hand account of the case, translated from the Revue Spirite, appeared in the Spiritualist newspaper Light for March 21st, 1896. Subsequently Dr. Hodgson investigated the case, and the testimony of the chief witnesses was obtained both orally and in writing. Dr. Vidigal, his wife, Mr. Edward Silva and his daughter were seen and their evidence obtained in June, 1896. The original account, drawn up after Dr. Hodgson's inquiries, and printed in the Journal, S. P. R., for October, 1898, is extremely long. A brief summary of the case is therefore printed here.]
In September, 1893, Dr. Vidigal went to the Emigration Depdt and engaged as a servant a young Spanish girl of ten or twelve years of age, who had arrived in Brazil only a day or two previously. Very soon after her arrival at Dr. Vidigal's house (perhaps on the same evening) she was hypnotised by a visitor, Mr. Edward Silva, at the request of Dona Vidigal's mother, who asked that the girl should try to see what was going on at her hacienda some miles distant. Instead of replying to the questions put to her, however, the girl had visions on her own account z—beautiful sights as she described them. She then professed to get into communication with her own father. Later she gave a message purporting to proceed from Dr. Vidigal's mother, who had died on the 16th June, some three months before the date of the'séance. The message was to the effect that the deceased lady had left a sum of 75 milreis (between,6 3 and £4) in the pocket of a dress which was still hanging in her room. Most of the dead lady's wardrobe had been given away; but two dresses still remained in the room. The room had not, it is believed, been entered since her death; and nothing was known of the existence of the sum of money. In fact the family were rather straitened at the time and in want of money. Dona Julia (Dr. Vidigal's wife), with another lady, went straightway to the room and found sewn up in one of the two dresses the exact sum of money described.
From the careful enquiry into this case, there can be little doubt that the circumstances are correctly stated. And it is extremely difficult to suppose that the fact communicated was known to any living person. Mr. Silva, it should be added, had made the acquaintance of Dr. Vidigal only a short time previously, and had never known the deceased lady. None of Dr. Vidigal's family had entered the room in which his mother had died since her death, and he is satisfied that none of the servants would do so.
- It must be admitted that this inference has been drawn in certain cases by observers whose training and special knowledge render them peculiarly qualified to form a judgment in such matters. In discussing the case of Miss Beauchamp, for instance. Mr. W. M' Dougell explicitly rejects the view taken by Dr. Morton Prince himself, that "Sally" is to be regarded as merely a lay-product of the patient's mental disintegration, a split-off group of states of consciousness. In Mr. M'Dougall's view, if the facts are correctly recorded, the personality named "Sally" must be regarded as "a psychic being or entity distinct from that of the normal Miss B———": in short, if I understand him rightly, an invading or obsessing spirit. (Proceedings, S. P. R., xix., pp. 410 sqq.)
- See. e. g., No. 15, Chapter III.
- Journal, S. P. R., March, 1902. pp. 204–08.
- The account, though written by C. himself. is thrown for convenience into the third person.
- Proceedings, S. P. R., vol. viii.. pp. 239–41.
- The account. which is given at great length in the Psyhiscshe Studien for Feb., 1887, and in Proceedings, S. P. R., vol.vi., pp. 343 sqq., is here briefly summarised.
- Proceedings, vi., pp. 348–9
- Journal, S. P. R., July, 1898.