20 DECEMBER 1935, Page 9



THE idea that there may possibly exist other channels, besides those of the physical senses, through which the human mind can become acquainted with things or events beyond the limits of its body, is one which is apt to. arouse a sentiment of antagonism in the natural human being ; for the step beyond the senses immediately sug- gests superstition. The moment we give names to these alleged extra-sensory channels and call them telepathy (extra-sensory action of mind on Mind), clairvoyance (extra-sensory apprehension of events unknown to any human mind) and precognition (direct knowledge of future events), a host of disreputable associations crowd in to warn us that we are getting dangerously close to the " occult." Science scents its old enemy, magic ; and the common-sense person begins to look out for the crank. But if we make that effort of self-control which is necessary to isolate the very simple idea that there may be a perceptual faculty as yet unexplored, which needs only to be freed from its age-long association with super- stition, we shall begin to realise that there is nothing intrinsically unreasonable about it. Purged of its emo- tional trappings and thrown against the calmer background of philosophy, this idea begins to lose its air of the fantas- tic ; and the more we think over it, the more we realise that it is not only a possibility, but a possibility fraught with the deepest and most far-reaching importance. For it amounts to this. In that well-known parable of Plato's cave, where men sitting in chains were forced to look inwards towards the cavern, they were unable to know events passing in the outer world behind them except by the shadows they cast on the background of the cave. Now, the question raised by this suggestion of new perceptual possibilities is this. Can these men turn round and peep, if ever so little, over their shoulders ? The world of our five senses is reality shadowed on the background of our cave ; and the nature of this shadow- world has been a subject of discussion among philosophers since Plato himself pointed to its manifold particulars as exemplifying the eternal realm of universal. Ideas. Genera- tions of philosophers have carried on the inquiry since his time ; but today the nature of sense-perception' and of the .sense-perceived world still occupies a central arena of dispute and is apparently as far as ever from reaching the stage of settled agreement. And . now, as well as philosophical analysis, there is mathematical physics : and both point to a " something " which casts the shadows of our world ; but it is a " something " which is utterly removed from the sensuous world of daily facts. Why should it be unpractical or superstitious to examine strange ways of apprehending reality, if such exist ? May they not turn out to penetrate more directly into this strange world which casts the shadows ; and, by their Means, who knows but that the, wider truths of the universe may perhapS be revealed to man ? These.non-sensory modes of cognition may be cony' eni- ehtly classed together under the heading of Extra-,Sedsory Perception ; and some fifty years ago .the enthUsiasm of Frederick Myers and Edmund Gurney first began to,apply to them the .scientific method of inqUiry. By .simple experiments in ." thought, transference," they began to test the, possibility of the extra-sensory action of mind upon mind ; and from that time to the present, and especi- ally within; recent years, the quest has made progress towards a laboratory technique. Given care and accuracy in the experiments, the first question to be asked is whether positive results, if these are obtained, may not be due to chance : and to meet this criticism some very simple and easily controlled " event " must be chosen for the experiment, and the whole must be placed on a quantitative basis. In this way the probability of any result being due to chance can be easily calculated. Working on this basis, some .members of the staff of the University of Groningen reported in 1921 an experiment in which several agents concentrated their attention on a figure and a number drawn from two bags, while a per- cipient in another room indicated his, impression by pointing out a figure and a number indicated by a square on a marked-out board. They seem to have taken all adequate precautions, and they found that 187 experi- ments yielded 00 successes, whereas chance alone should have produced only 4i. Therefore a factor, not chance, which, it seems, can only have been telepathy, must have been here at work. Again, to quote from many instances only two more, Dr. T. B. Rhine, Associate Professor of Psychology in the Duke University of North Carolina, has reported in his book, entitled Extra-SensoryPerceptioq, a long series of experiments carried out with cards, with subjects who were mainly students of the University. Not only does Dr. Rhine report very high rates of scoring with his best subjects, but a remarkably high percentage of them seem to have been successful in demonstrating both telepathy and clairvoyance, It is, however, impos- sible to summarise his three years' work in 'a brief article, and the student the be referred to his actual report. . Recently, the present writer, has had a remarkable degree of success with a specially designed apparatus. Instead of cards, a row of five small boxes was used, the boxes being suitably padded and silenced. The agent thrust a pointer into one of the boxes, which was /eft open at the back, while the percipient on the further side of the screen opened a box according to inclinatiod; a success was scored each time the right box was opened. The expectation of success from chance alone was 20 per cent., but the best subject has maintained an average of over 80 per cent. through 33,400 trials, The odds against this resulting from chance amount to many millions of billions to one ; and several witnesses, who were officers of the Society for Psychical ,Besearch,, have watched some of these successes being obtained. It may be added that none of the subjects were mediums. Three other subjects out of the 00 tested have also scored far above chance ; and the best percipient. has been successful with six different agents. Here, it. may be claimed, telepathy has been demonstrated under experimental conditions—or, more strictly, telepathy and :clairvoyance combined. Since that time, electric lamps have been substituted for the pointer, and automatic devices provide against misuse of the apparatus and give a permanent record of:every experiment. Pure clairvoyance has been tested by using a mechanism which eliminates, telepathy by transposing the connexions to the lamps in such a way that the operator does not: know what lamp is being lit : and -).‘ ith this arrangemcnI a high score was obtained that the proliability agnilist its being chance was about live millions to one, Further, by making the percipient open the box be the hidden mechanism has selected and lit the lamp, it is possible to test precognition on this machine. Although conclusive figures on pre- cognition arc not yet available, the preliminary results point strongly towards it. It looks as if this strange faculty could pass the boundary into what we call the " future " without encountering that rigid barrier which holds us to the present moment in our sense-given world. If this should turn out to be provably true, then, indeed, our normal senses must be showing us a highly factitious version of the real ; and psychical research is beginning to shed a gleam of light on the nature of things which will grow into something more deeply penetrating than the whole range of physical science can show. For 'physical science in the last resort is sense-bound : but here is a faculty which by-passes the senses, and in so doing diverts our gaze from the shadows on the wall to that which is passing in the world behind.

[Next week : "The Trance Personalities of Mediumship " by Whately Caringtond