ON PSYCHICAL RESEARCH
Evidence of Purpose. By Zoe Richmond. (Bell. 3s. 6d.) Evidence of Personal Survival from Cross Correspondences. By H. F. Saltmarsh. (Bell. 3s. 6d.) Discarnate Influence in Human Life. By Ernesto Bozzano. (International Institute for Psychical Research. 8s. 6d.)
THE first three of these books can be warmly recommended to those who wish to know what are the subjects and what the methods and objects of investigation Which fall within that ample but ill-defined territory known as Psychical Research. The Society for Psychical Research has, during its lengthy , existence, accumulated an enormous mass of Proceedings. In a foreword to these three books, the Society stresses the need for a unifying theory, such as F. W. H. Myers put forward forty years ago, covering all the .various phenomena recorded in these Proceedings. But none such is available, and the outlines have accordingly confined themselves " to the less ambitious and arduous task of marshalling a quantity of well-attested evidence for phenomena of many different kinds."
In the achievement of this aim Messrs. Cuddon and Saltmarsh and Mrs. Richmond have been conspicuously successful. Here are no flamboyant claims, vague assertions, and conclusions which are dictated only by the wishes of the writers ; nor do the authors, where the truth is not known, supply the place of knowledge by converting their conjectures into dogmas. They content themselves with carefully presenting in summary form a mass of sifted evidence and considering soberly and with a due consideration of rival hypotheses, what conclusions, if any, may be based upon it.
Mr. Cuddon is a practising hypnotist. He describes the technique of hypnotism as applied to human beings, and has an interesting chapter upon the hypnotising of animals. He discusses rival theories of hypnosis, and puts forward his own, which is that hypnotism is a method of changing the level of consciousness upon which human beings function. The normal level is put out of action, and an internal level, whereon is to be found the real driving force of the human psyche, comes into action. In short, consciousness in the ordinary sense of the word is in abeyance, and our old friend the "unconscious " takes charge.
Mrs. Richmond's book seeks to provide an answer to the following question : since the communications which reach us through mediums in trances, in automatic writing, in dreams and (assuming them to be veridical) from apparitions, clearly emanate from some sort of mind, what sort of mind is it, and what is its purpose in communicating ? A large number of cases is summarised, and the existence of what may be termed supernormal methods of communication established. The existence of a special sensitivity in particular persons is also established. Now these communications " can sometimes be acted upon with advantage." Sometimes, but not always ; the warning may be a failure, or it may be definitely misleading. In regard to the question, who sends it, a discarnate entity, a living human being, or the agent's own unconscious self, which must be credited for the purpose with a supernormal cognition of the future, Mrs. Richmond suspends judgement. Sometimes she thinks the communications appear to emanate from a discarnate entity, but by no means always.
This is the question which is dealt with in Mr. Saltmarsh's book on Cross Correspondences. Cross Correspondence may be briefly described as follows. A medium goes into a trance and begins to write ; alternatively, she may be in full possession of her conscious faculties and write, without intending to do so, words which have no meaning for her. At about the same time, or soon after, another medium also takes up the automatic pen ; sometimes a third and even a fourth. The products of these automatic writings are, it is important to note, meaning- less when taken in isolation. An independent investigator puts them together, and they are found -to forth a message. Sometimes, as in the case of the Myers and. Verrall groups of investigators, the message is in the form of a puzzle; the key to which is furnished by yet another piece of automatic writing. Let me cite an analogy given by Mr. Saltmarsh. .•
" Two people are each given one piece of a jigsaw puzzle, taken separately each piece is meaningless, nor will they fit each other. A third person is then given a third piece, and when the pieces are all brought together it is found that they not only fit each other, but that when fitted they exhibit a coherent picture showing evidence of design and purpose." The question is, whO has designed the puzzle ? Chance is dismissed liy the very nature of the case. Fraud is ruled out, at any rate in regard to the group of cross correspondences which Mr. Saltmarsh examines, by the integrity of the persons concerned. Two hypotheses remain, ,the first that they are_ the product of the unconscious mind of some living Person. In favour of the unconscious mind hypothesis it may be
said (z) that all the minds of whose existence we have direct
evidence are attached to bodies : (2) that if the existence of an ,unconscious mind be granted, we have no authority for setting a limit to its powers. We know so little about the unconscious mind that we are certainly not entitled to say that it cannot know the future, invent puzzles, control the unconscious minds of other persons and direct them severally to -divulge the various parts of the puzzle. The relevant question is, why should an unconscious mind embark upon such a procedure ? Why, in other words, Should it try to deceive ? For the messages certainly purport to come from a discarnate entity. Myers, for example, says that he himself is the author of some of them. Therefore the supposed
unconscious mind must be credited with a desire to deceive, persisting in the case in question, for over twenty years, and fulfilling itself through a variety of different mediums. Here is Mr. Saltmarsh's pertinent comment :
" It may seem unreasonable to attribute to the same level of consciousness intellectual powers of a very high order and a rather stupid spirit of trickery and deception. One would not expect a scientist of the first rank to publish a set of false statements and fallacious inferences, cunningly designed to deceive, for the sole purpose of bolstering up an erroneous hypothesis."
The discarnate spirit hypothesis is exposed to various
difficulties which cannot be here mentioned. If we adopt it, we shall probably have to qualify it, as Mr, Saltmarsh seems inclined to do, with- the view that the mind responsible for the messages may be a complex one.
Signor Bozzano's book contains a discussion of the same issues, but it is not. on the same level. Signor Bozzano makes grandiose claims—" from the synthesis of my many publica- tions—long, short, or in the form of magazine articles—
when condensed in a small volume, there emerges incon- testably the spiritistic solution of the mystery of Being "-
and announces as demonstrated truths theorems which own no better authority than the exuberance of his own speculative imagination. His thesis is that, even if it were possible to explain trance communications on what he calls animistic lines, which it is not, there are other phenomena, such as
apparitions of deceased persons, which demand the survivalist hypothesis. Thus while some supernormal phenomena such as telepathy and clairvoyance are undoubtedly due to the agency of an incarnate human spirit, others require us to postulate the continued existence of that spirit after the dis- ruption of the body. Signor Bozzano may be right, but I cannot say that his book affords much temptation to tentative sceptics such as myself to depart from our normal attitude.
- C. E. M. JOAO.