Spiritism And Telepathy - Mrs. Leonora E. Piper
( Originally Published 1904 )
IN constructing a title for this paper, I have not been impelled to use the name of Mrs. Piper because I imagine that her recent statement in the New York Herald has settled the question of spiritism adversely to the claims of that cultus. I have not so high an estimate of the value of her opinion. Nor do I agree with her spiritistic enemies in holding that her opinion is valueless because of the amnesia incident to trance. This, at most, would place her on a level with outsiders, -- and this is their contention. It must be remembered, however, that not only was Mrs. Piper present at all her seances, but that she had the benefit of subsequent discussions of her phenomena by the able savants who had her in charge, and that she must have read their subsequent reports with much more than ordinary interest and intelligence. Moreover, we must not forget that she has been subjected, on two hemispheres, and during nearly a score of years, to a key-hole espionage by the ablest detectives of the London emerged triumphant, both at home and abroad, not a shadow of a suspicion resting upon her character in any relation of life. Testimonials to this effect from all the leading members of the Society for Psychical Research have been numerous and voluminous, and almost hysterical in their insistence ; so that she stands before the public to-day, secure in the possession of the highest possible credentials in proof of her absolute honesty, integrity, and purity. It is also in evidence that she is liberally endowed with that rarest of all mental attributes, common sense, the inseparable concomitant of the cardinal virtues. It is idle to say that the opinion of a woman thus endowed, and thus fortified by all that gives sanction to human testimony, and who necessarily knows more than any one else can know of the workings of her own inner consciousness, is not of greater value than the opinion of an outsider.
Nevertheless, as before remarked, her opinion does not settle the question ; and in this respect she remains on a par with all who have opinions on the subject. It is not, therefore, because of her interpretation of her own phenomena that I use her name ; but because the investigation of those phenomena by the Society for Psychical Research marks an epoch in the history of Spiritism. It is of that. investigation that I propose to offer a few remarks. In doing so I shall not attempt an exhaustive criticism of the methods of investigation employed by the members of that society. I shall merely attempt to point out briefly what I conceive to be the proper method of studying the phenomena in the light of their latest reports detailing the proceedings at the Piper seances.
Never before in the history of the scientific investigation of modern spiritism have the conditions been so favorable for the production of decisive results, one way or the other, as in this case. An ideal " medium," mentally, morally, and psychically considered, is conceded, nay, strenuously insisted upon, by all the investigators. She has been absolutely under their control during a long series of years, and necessarily free from the adverse influence of the Philistines. That the investigators are also all that can be desired will be as freely conceded. They are all gentlemen of great ability, uncompromising integrity, and vast learning. Best and most important of all, they have a thoroughly logical appreciation of what it is necessary to prove in order to establish the claims of spiritism. That is to say, they know that the one thing needful is proof of personal identity on the part of the soi-disant " spirits " who "communicate." In this all-important attitude they stand in violent contrast to that long line of so-called " scientific investigators," on either side of the question, who have imagined, on the one hand, that the essential claims of spiritism can be established by verifying the physical phenomena; and, on the other hand, that those claims can be disproved by catching a trickster in the act of simulating psychical phenomena by legerdemain. In other words, they know that the purely physical phenomena of spiritism possess not the slightest evidential value, pending the settlement of the all-inclusive question of personal identity. They know, for instance, that if a piano should be levitated to the ceiling without physical contact or mechanical appliances, and all the rest of the household furniture should go into convulsions, the question would still remain whether the energy displayed proceeded from discarnate spirits, or was -due to the "psychic force" (Crookes) of the medium. Hence they have wisely determined to ignore all physical phenomena, and to confine their attention to such mediums as Mrs. Piper, through whom, according to the spiritistic hypothesis, spirits can establish their identity by direct conversation with the sitter.
It is but simple justice to the British members of the Society for Psychical Research to say that to them the credit is due for thus divesting the subject of all those irrelevant side issues which have heretofore served but to obscure the real question. It is, however, with a glow of patriotic pride that we recall the fact that they were compelled to come to this country for an honest medium, and to draw upon our universities for a man capable of conducting a spiritistic propaganda in the highest style of the art. It is but a matter of common justice to say that Professor Hyslop is the ablest psychical researcher who has yet attempted a personal investigation of the Piper phenomena. He is the peer of the best in scholastic attainments ; he is professor of logic in Columbia University ; his honesty is transparent, and the report of his investigations covers 649 pages of the Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research.
If, therefore, he has failed to make a case for spiritism, one never can be made this side of the borderland; for there probably can never again be assembled under one roof such a combination of favorable conditions and instrumentalities. If there was an unsound element in the combination it did not reside with the medium, nor in the character or ability or attainments of the investigator. Nor do I see the slightest reason for distrusting his statements of fact. His deficiencies, therefore, if any are to be found, must be either in logic, or in the propaedeutics of psychic science, or in both.
The discussion of the subject will be conducted under two heads : 1, The issue that Professor Hyslop has defined; and 2, The issue that Professor Hyslop has ignored.
Referring at large to the phenomena detailed in his report, Professor Hyslop says :
" The issue that is presented here is simply whether spiritism, or telepathy from living persons exclusively, is the more rational hypothesis to account for the facts."
It will thus be seen that the learned professor of logic assumes at the outset that the two hypotheses stand on an equal footing, thus forgetting for the moment the logical axiom that supermundane causes must never be assigned to phenomena so long as they or their cognates are explicable by reference to known natural causes.
To hold spiritism strictly to this rule, however, would be to end the discussion before it begins, for all admit that the " great bulk " (Myers) of the supernormally acquired knowledge of mediums is due to telepathy. It would, therefore, require demonstrative proof to overcome the logical implication that all such knowledge is not thus acquired; just as it would require the production and public exhibition of a " white crow" (James) to prove that crows are not all black. It would, however, require but one white crow for that purpose, and it would require but one demonstrated case of survival of personal consciousness after the death of the body to prove the essential claim of spirit-ism, a future life. But this one case has not yet been produced, and Professor Hyslop is frank enough to admit that he has demonstrated nothing. (See note on p. 4 of his report.) The issue, therefore, as he has defined it, is conservative and legitimate.
To prepare one for an intelligent discussion of the question whether spiritism or telepathy is the more rational hypothesis to account for, the phenomena produced by Mrs. Piper, it would seem that the essential prerequisite would be a knowledge (1) of the facilities and the difficulties, real or supposed, incident to communicating with spirits of the dead, and (2) of the methods, powers, and limitations of telepathic communication between living persons. Unfortunately we can know nothing of the former except what spiritists tell us ; and their stories are so contradictory that it is impossible for the layman to assign any certain limits to the difficulties or to the facilities. Thus, the old spiritists tell us that communication is always easy, provided we have a good medium and a harmonious environment. The late Professor Hare, for instance, found no difficulty whatever in organizing a " convocation of spirits " of the ablest dead men he could think of, who cheerfully submitted to a prolonged catechism. To say that Professor Hare learned from that " convocation," and others equally well posted, all that was worth knowing about the spirit land and other things, would be to limit unduly the scope of the acquired in-formation. Judge Edmunds was equally fortunate in obtaining authentic information, not only of the geography and topography of the spirit land, but of its current philosophy ; whilst Andrew Jackson Davis succeeded, without apparent effort, in tapping the philosophers of all the ages for material for upwards of thirty volumes of most remarkable literature. Thousands of others were equally fortunate in obtaining access to the inhabitants of all the spheres. Nor were the spirits themselves in the habit of complaining of lack of facilities, even when a Daniel Webster addressed his sitters in the language of a stevedore; or Noah Webster spelled Jehovah with a little g, or Lindley Murray split his infinitives into kindling-wood. The enemy might blaspheme, and to do them entire justice they did, but the spirits themselves were oblivious to all such degenerative implications. They did not complain of difficulties of communication, nor of the failure of light," nor of infirmities due to their last illness of the body, nor of the failure of memory, nor of any of the multi-form infirmities which afflict Mrs. Piper's familiar spirits when submitting to a scientific examination. It is true that there were occasional lapses of memory, as when Socrates forgot that he had been a Greek philosopher, when proudly recalling his career as a Roman Senator. This lapse, however, was afterwards explained by an erudite spiritist by saying that those " old fellows " have been dead so long that they have for-gotten the unimportant particulars " of their earthly lives. Satisfactory as this explanation is to spiritists, it does not explain the amnesia of another spirit at the same sitting who had forgotten his own middle name within a year after entering the spirit land. Nor does it explain the prompt response of " Cantharides, the Greek philosopher," when that coleopterous "personality " was summoned by a waggish Philistine. That, however, was easily explained by the statement that there are always spirits present at seances who delight in serving the cause of Truth by promptly " meeting fraud with fraud." In the logic of spiritism this formula has always occupied a foremost place, and it still performs yeoman's service whenever a fictitious person-age responds with alacrity to a summons.
But then, as now, there were mediums and mediums. Some were ignorant, and others were educated. Some of them were destitute of the ability to acquire information by supernormal means; whilst others could at times correctly name the strangers present at their seances, and describe and name a long list of their friends, living or dead. At other times the same mediums would fail miserably. In a word, the same diversity of mediumistic powers prevailed then as now ; the same " harmonious conditions " were requisite ; and supernormally acquired knowledge on the part of mediums was even more common than it is to-day. But there was one significant circumstance connected with early mediumship that does not prevail at this time; and that is that modern spiritism found a host of ready trained psychics in the mesmeric subjects of that epoch. Mesmerism was at the zenith of its popularity, mesmeric subjects were numerous, and under mesmeric methods telepathic powers were easily developed, and the exhibition of those powers was commonly the piece de resistance of the stage curriculum. But the significant part of it was that, not only was every mesmeric subject found to be a good medium, but the best of the mediums, that is to say, those who could demonstrate their possession of knowledge supernormally acquired, were for a long time drawn almost exclusively from those whose telepathic powers had been previously developed by mesmeric methods. This fact was noted at the time by the opponents of spiritism, and telepathy was thus shown to afford an easy explanation of all supernormally acquired information. Indeed, Dr. Dods, a noted mesmerist of that day, paralleled every phase of that class of spiritistic phenomena by the employment of mesmeric psychics and processes. With Dr. Dods it was but the a b c of mesmerism to develop telepathic powers in his subjects so perfectly that they could correctly describe events wholly unknown to the psychic or to any other person present. And this is all that the best mediums can ever do. It is all that spiritists claim can be done in proof of personal identity. It is true that in experimental telepathy the " dramatic play of personality " is necessarily lacking. Of this " dramatic play " Professor Hyslop discourses exhaustively, seemingly oblivious of the fact that trance subjects are dominated by the inexorable law of suggestion ; and that any suggested character will always be dramatically personated, and with marvellous fidelity to the original, be it a dog or a philosopher, a spirit of health or a goblin damned.
This, however, is a digression. The point I wish remembered is that the alleged difficulties of communication by spirits seem to be widely variant ; and that the facility in each case appears to be proportioned, not to the mental capacity of the spirit, but to the psychic powers of the medium. This, to say the least, is not what one would naturally expect, if the communications were from spirits. But we know that if the phenomena are to be explained by telepathy, the psychic powers of the medium must necessarily be the measure of limitation.
But, as before remarked, it is impossible to know what are the difficulties which beset communicators from other worlds than ours. One thing, however, appears to be beyond question, if we are to accept the testimony of spiritists, and that is that the spirits are as voluble as fishwives when they tell us something that can neither be verified nor disproved ; but when subjected to anything like a scientific investigation their volubility is succeeded by a remarkable want of facility of clear and unequivocal expression, and they are troubled by a constantly recurring failure of " light." At critical moments their memory fails them, and they forget their own names and those of their nearest relatives. At other times, however, they have lucid intervals, the light is clear, and they can give names and dates with great facility, besides giving information that neither the psychic nor the sitters could have previously obtained through sensory channels.
These are some of the salient features of the limitation and of the power displayed by Mrs. Piper's spirits for the benefit of science and Professor Hyslop. And it must not be forgotten in this connection that special facilities were provided in his case for easy, free, and unlimited communication, without reference to the infirmities that might happen to afflict the particular spirits called for. To that end two great spirits were imported from England to act as amanuenses and advisers generally. They were specially well qualified by experience, having already acquired an international reputation by acting in the capacity of familiars of the late W. Stainton Moses. They were good, and wise, and great; and their names, respectively, were " Imperator " and " Rector," names well calculated to impress. That they were good is evidenced by their uniformly pious language and deportment. That they were wise is shown by their refusal to reveal their own identity. That they were great is demonstrated by the fact that they had, before emigrating to America, evolved a system of spiritistic philosophy that converted an English orthodox clergyman from the error of his ways.
Manifestly the performance of such a feat must have required unlimited facilities for communication, plenty of light, a retentive memory, and an unfailing vocabulary. And it is in evidence that they had all these, and much more, under the mediumship of Stainton Moses. But it was all in violent contrast with the paralytic conditions prevailing under the Piper-Hyslop regime. I think that spiritists will agree with me that the contrast is due to variant mediumistic powers, rather than to varying facilities for knowing things, and communicating them, on the part of the same spirits. If, then, it is due to the variant psychic powers of the mediums, I have a right to assume, provisionally, at least, that the limitations, always most in evidence when personal identity is in question, are the limitations of telepathy between living persons.
This leads us to the second branch of our inquiry, namely, as to " the methods, powers, and limitations of telepathic communications between living persons."
As I promised merely to suggest in this paper the proper method of studying Professor Hyslop's report from a scientific standpoint, I shall, in pursuing this branch of the inquiry, cite but a few illustrative examples showing that the successes and the failures of his alleged " communicators " were just such as are incident to telepathic communications.
The following propositions are too well authenticated and understood by all intelligent psychical researchers to require proofs to sustain them :
(1) Telepathy is a power belonging exclusively to the subjective mind, or the " subliminal self," as it is frequently designated by the Society for Psychical Research. That is to say, the objective mind, or " supra liminal self," which is the mind of ordinary waking consciousness, is not necessarily aware of the content of the subjective mind. Hence the phenomenon of " latent memory," as Sir William Hamilton designated it many years ago. That is, knowledge once acquired may re-main latent in the subjective mind for an indefinite period. It may, however, be elevated above the threshold of normal consciousness in many ways, as by automatic writing, etc., or it may be reached by telepathy.
(2) Telepathic powers are best developed under abnormal conditions, as in trance, or in spontaneous or induced somnambulism.
(3) These powers vary in efficiency with different psychics, and in the same psychic they vary at different times, and under varying conditions which are not yet clearly defined.
(4) Rapport is, of course, always necessary; but the essential conditions of rapport are not yet clearly understood. It is known, however, that relatives and friends are either actually or potentially en rapport at all times.
These fundamental facts will not be disputed; and when they are considered in connection with the prodigious if not perfect memory of the subjective mind, it will be seen that no limits can at present be assigned to the potentialities of telepathy. Its limitations, however, are more clearly defined and understood. Hence it is that one who is acquainted with those limitations and their proximate causes is better qualified to account for the failures of telepathy than any one can be to assign limits to its potentialities. But it so happens that even a knowledge of the causes of failure is of great value in enabling one to know to what class a particular phenomenon belongs.
The fundamental difficulty in telepathic communication consists in the fact that the power is not adapted to practical mundane uses. It seems, in fact, to be a means of communicating thoughts especially adapted to a disembodied existence; for it is never available here except under abnormal conditions. Even under the most favorable conditions the thoughts communicated must be interpreted, so to speak, in terms of our sensory experience. That is to say, the percipient must be caused to see something (visions) or hear something (clairaudience) that will enable her to grasp the idea sought to be communicated.
It will at once be seen that the inherent difficulties of telepathic communication are great, and in the conveyance of abstract ideas they are practically insuperable. It is true that if a psychic is clairaudient, and conditions are perfect, much may be conveyed in words. But clairaudience is a rare faculty, and perfect conditions hard to obtain ; and when obtained they rarely last long enough for purposes of scientific investigation. We may, therefore, confine our attention to the most common methods of communicating telepathic information, which is by causing the percipient to see visions that convey the idea. I shall do this, not only because it is the most common method, but because it is, all things considered, the best that has yet been devised ; and for further reason that it is evidently the one employed in the Piper seances.
It is obvious that intelligence communicated by means of visions must be extremely limited in scope and subject matter. It is, in fact, just that kind of information that can be conveyed, in objective life, by a series of pictures ; or, at best, by pantomime. Anything, there-fore, that can be told by a picture, as for instance, a tragedy, can be very clearly reproduced by a good psychic, under good conditions. But abstract ideas can-not be thus represented. Symbolical visions, it is true, may sometimes convey such intelligence to a very limited extent ; but its limitations are obvious. Again, under favorable conditions a vision may be very distinct; but those conditions are subject to frequent changes, and for no assignable cause; so that at one moment a psychic may be very lucid, and at the next be groping in the dark. This literally describes the situation when conditions fail; for telepathic visions, when the psychic's eyes are closed, come out of the darkness, with varying brilliancy, when conditions are favorable; and fade into it again, with varying indistinctness, when conditions fail. In a word, the lucidity of a telepathist is proportioned to the clearness of her visions ; and the clearest of them are often evanescent, unstable, and " variable as the shade." Mrs. Piper's soi-disant spirits, therefore, de-scribed an actual want, in literal terms, when they so often complained of the failure of light." Again, it frequently happens that the fault is not in the psychic so much as in the sitter; for the clearness of a telepathic vision depends largely upon the power of visualization possessed by the subjective mind of the agent or sitter. This power varies in intensity in different individuals ; and in the same person it fluctuates within very wide limits. The reasons for this are not yet clearly under-stood ; but it seems to depend upon the passivity of the individual. Hence it is that trained psychics make the best sitters or agents ; for they are habitually passive at seances, and their subjective minds are habitually active, -- and that mind is the source of all information in telepathy. On the other hand, a novice often defeats the object of a seance by his over-anxiety, or want of passivity, to say nothing of his lack of subliminal training.
It should be here noted that telepathic messages cognized clairaudiently are subject to the same limitations of power and fluctuations of conditions. That is to say, a clairaudient psychic does not always hear clearly, any more than does a clairvoyant psychic always see clearly. Hence it happens that in either case, when conditions are imperfect or fluctuating, proper names are difficult- to perceive. Some psychics, however, are both clairaudient and clairvoyant, to a limited extent, and thus have two strings to their bow. But even they are subject to the same uncertain conditions and limitations, and hence cannot always be certain of proper names ; or, for that matter, of anything else. I mention proper names particularly because the failures in cognizing them, by even the best of psychics, are frequent in so-called spirit intercourse as well as in experimental telepathy, and presumably for the same reasons.
One important fact remains to be noted, and that is that proper names, and sometimes other - words, and even short sentences, are telepathically conveyed to clairvoyant psychics by means of visions of printed or written words, projected into the field of psychic vision. Obviously, the foregoing remarks relating to the varying conditions of telepathic lucidity, apply with peculiar force to phantasmic representations of words or phrases, and especially of proper names.
I have now stated a few of the salient powers and limitations of telepathy with especial reference to the difficulties habitually encountered in communicating intelligence by that means. They are among the propaedeutics of psychic science, without an understanding of which it is impossible to appreciate either the potentialities of telepathy, or intelligently to assign causes for its multiform failures and limitations. With an under-standing of them we can at least judge, with proximate certainty, in any correctly reported case, whether the difficulties encountered are such as are incident to telepathy. If we find that they are, we have a right to assume telepathy to be the true explanation of the mysteries, at least until it is definitely shown to be either inadequate, or impossible, or both. Professor Hyslop has essayed the task of proving that it is both inadequate and impossible ; but to do so he assumes the existence of difficulties that do not exist except in his imagination, as I shall attempt to show in its proper place.
First, however, I desire to suggest the proper method of analyzing his report by citing a few illustrative examples, taken at random, showing beyond a reasonable doubt that telepathy affords an explanation of all the phenomena he describes. In doing so I shall assume, provisionally, that all the supernormally acquired information possessed by the medium existed, latent, in the subjective mind of the sitter. How so much of it got there is a question second to none in importance; but it must be deferred for the moment.
The first point to which I wish to invite attention relates to proper names. Those who have read the report (S. P. R. Proc., Part XLI. Vol. XVI.) will remember the constant alternation of lucidity and amnesia on the part of somebody, spirits or Mrs. Piper's subliminal, when the names of alleged communicators were called for. Often the name would be given with gratifying promptitude ; but at other times when the "light failed there would be groping, guess-work, "fishing" for clues, and sometimes total failure, followed by very voluble explanations that did not explain. Time and space forbid the citation of special examples ; but they confront us almost everywhere in the report. Professor Hyslop tells us that it is all due to the limitations of spirit power, first, to remember the simplest facts of mundane experience, and, secondly, to communicate that knowledge through the best of mediums. Of these limitations we can know nothing, of course, except what Professor Hyslop tells us. But how does he know? He also informs us that the trouble is not due to the limitations of telepathy, because telepathy has no limitations. That is to say, he holds that the phenomena in question cannot be due to telepathy if telepathic knowledge is not infinite," or " omniscient," -which is a very easy, if not a logical, way of disposing of a difficulty. Of this, later on.
Nevertheless, any one who knows anything at all of telepathy is aware that it is hedged about by just such difficulties in regard to names as were encountered in the Piper-Hyslop seances. Moreover, to suppose that those difficulties were due to the mental status of the spirits themselves, involves implications of degeneracy not warranted by current spiritistic philosophy.
Again, there are many other phenomena detailed in the report which point clearly almost demonstrably to telepathy ; as, for instance, when the medium or the soi-disant spirit undertook to state the disease of which he, or some one else, died. In one instance it was incorrectly stated as typhoid fever; and in another it was correctly stated as throat disease. Obviously, typhoid fever could not well be represented by a phantasm, but a sore throat could be easily represented by a vision of a person with a bandaged throat.
Much stress has been laid upon the fact that a certain jack-knife, belonging to Professor Hyslop's father, was correctly described, together with some of the uses for which it was employed during its late owner's lifetime, such as paring his nails, etc.' I submit that it is not difficult to imagine the projection of a phantasmic jack-knife upon Mrs. Piper's field of psychic vision; nor would it seem to be difficult to guess at some of its uses, even without the aid of a phantasm.
Again, much of evidential value is attached, by Professor Hyslop, to the fact that Mrs. Piper correctly described a skull-cap once worn by his father; but the name of the person with whom it was left was difficult to obtain. This very clearly illustrates the foregoing remarks relating to the comparative difficulty in obtaining names by telepathy.
I might cite many more examples of a similar character, but time and space forbid. But they will serve to suggest to the student the proper method of analyzing the Piper phenomena as reported by Professor Hyslop. All that is necessary is to bear in mind the methods of telepathy and its consequent limitations. When this rule is intelligently observed there will be found no difficulty in the telepathic explanation of all that seems so mysterious to Professor Hyslop.
As before remarked, I have thus far assumed that all the supernormally acquired knowledge of which Mrs. Piper was possessed was not only obtained telepathically, but that it was obtained directly from the subjective mind of Professor Hyslop. This the learned Doctor would strenuously deny, on the ground that the great bulk of the information upon which he relies to prove his case for spiritism, was never known to him before he obtained it from Mrs. Piper, but was, however, subsequently verified. And I freely admit that neither Professor Hyslop, nor any other person present at the Piper-Hyslop seances was ever in conscious possession of any of the facts revealed by the trance personality of the medium, prior to the date of the seances.
The question now arises, and this is the crucial question for spiritism, how did Mrs. Piper obtain that wonderful fund of information which she so haltingly gave out at those famous seances?
Before attempting to answer this question from my own point of view I will state the position of Professor Hyslop.
To do entire justice to the intelligence of the learned professor, he does not seriously deny the fact of the existence of telepathy as a possible factor in some cases. On the other hand, however, he holds that spiritism is the preferable hypothesis for the explanation of the Piper phenomena, for the reason that the telepathic theory necessarily presupposes " infinite knowledge " on the part of the psychic. It is, therefore, in his mind, " spiritism against omniscience " (page 134). No won-der that he " halts " on page 133, and becomes " suspicious " on page 136, and actually " gasps " on the same page "at the magnitude of the theories that are invented to sustain the case against spiritism." And well may skeptical science also " gasp," not to say, " throw up the sponge," if it has at last come to pass that the hypothesis of superstition can be disproved by no other argument than one that is based upon the presupposition that Mrs. Piper is omniscient.
To do Professor Hyslop justice it must be said that he did not invent the theory. That he believes it, or thinks he does, is evinced by his constant reiteration of it; but he manages to throw the blame of it upon !,Dr. Hodgson (p. 157). In defence of Dr. Hodgson it should be stated that he is not wholly responsible; for Dr. Bovee Dods, in one of his lectures, gave utterance to a similar extravagance when undertaking to account for the supernormally acquired knowledge of his mesmeric subjects. To his credit be it said, however, that his extravagant notions did not extend to implications of omniscience; and in further extenuation it must be remembered that he wrote fifty years ago, and knew nothing of the later development of experimental psychology. Nevertheless, he did develop telepathy in his subjects to such an extent that they came into possession of knowledge of facts not previously known to any one present. But, how to account for the fact, he knew neither more nor ''less than do the ablest spiritists of the Society for Psychical Research spiritistic propaganda. He did know, how-ever, that spirits of the dead had nothing to do with it.
The question now is, is it necessary to suppose that Mrs. Piper was possessed of " infinite knowledge"
order to account for her possession of information not previously existent in the normal consciousness of any one present? Is it necessary to suppose that she is, either actually or potentially in communication with the " whole Universe of intelligence " in order to account for the facts? Is it even necessary to suppose that she was in telepathic communication with any one on earth, or in heaven above, besides Professor Hyslop? I think not.
It seems to me that it is only necessary to suppose that Professor Hyslop was en rapport with the members of his own family, in order to account for his possession, subliminally, of all the knowledge that was in evidence at the Piper seances. Certainly there is nothing in the history of telepathic investigation to negative this proposition. Indeed, it may be confidentially asserted that if observation and experience teach us anything at all in reference to that mysterious power, it is that relatives and friends are always en rapport, and that they are always either actually or potentially, in communication. This is, perhaps, the most important induction possible in the case, and it certainly makes for the telepathic theory; for all the " communicators," of evidential importance, were relatives of the sitter. As yet we know little of the power of telepathic acquisition of knowledge; but all that we do know goes to show that it is enormous. The limitations apparently pertain wholly to the power of communicating the, acquired intelligence, as I have already shown. It is also known that the great bulk of subliminal intelligence remains latent indefinitely, and is never, except under abnormal conditions, elevated above the threshold Of normal consciousness. It is also in evidence that subliminal memory is prodigious, - potentially, if not actually, perfect ; so that what once enters that storehouse of memory is always available under favorable conditions.
Has spiritism no better method of refuting the arguments in favor of the telepathic theory than to exaggerate, distort, and misrepresent it in order to find an excuse for answering it with a point-blank denial or a sneer? It seems not.
Dr. Hodgson, the official spiritistic propagandist of the Society for Psychical Research, set the pace some years ago, and the rest have obediently followed in his footsteps ever since. Thus, in his report on the Piper phenomena (see p. 394, Part XXXIII., S. P. R.), he tells us just what must be presupposed if we ate to accept the telepathic explanation of said phenomena. To do the learned Doctor justice, he begins by candidly admitting that " if the information given at the sittings, both in matter and form, was limited to the knowledge possessed by the sitters, we should have no hesitation in supposing that it was derived from their minds, telepathically or otherwise." But, as some of the information given out was held not to be thus limited, he proceeds to say :
" We must then make the arbitrary suppositions that Mrs. Piper's percipient personality gets into relation with the minds of distant living persons, (1) who are intimate friends of the sitters at the time of the sitting, and (2) who are scarcely known, or not at all known, to the sitter. And many of these dlstant living persons had, so far as they knew, never been near Mrs. Piper. These cases then compel us to assume a selective capacity in Mrs. Piper's percipient personality, and not only selectilve as to the occurrences themselves, but discriminative as t4 the related persons."
If all this were true, it must be confessed that the telepathic hypothesis would be hedged about with serious logical difficulties. Fortunately it is not true, as I shall show later on. But this is nothing compared with the logical consequences involved in the telepathic hypothesis, which are, in part, set forth by Dr. Hodgson in words following, to wit :
"And I may add here that these arbitrary suppositions may be increased yet further to cover other forms of evidence that may be obtained hereafter, such as the giving of information supposed to be possessed by the dead alone, or the manifestation of knowledge not yet acquired by the human race, so far as we are aware, such as the existence of heavenly bodies previously unknown, or the customs of the inhabitants of other planets, verified, let us assume, in future years."
It will thus be seen that the learned Doctor has found no difficulty in frightening himself away from the telepathic hypothesis by the simple process of constructing a few " arbitrary suppositions." And it must be admitted that the "supposition" that the inhabitants of this earth can communicate telepathically with the inhabitants of " unknown " planets, is well calculated to frighten almost anybody who is not a spiritist, especially if he is told that he must believe it as a logical penalty for believing in the telepathic explication of Mrs. Piper's phenomena.
But, robust and strenuous as are Dr. Hodgson's suppositions, they are feeble in comparison with those of his pupil, Dr. Hyslop. As I have shown in my opening article, that gentleman holds that the telepathic explanation of the Piper phenomena is absolutely untenable except under the presupposition that that lady is " omniscient," or at the least is endowed with the ability to draw at will upon " the whole universe of intelligence." Thus believing, he is enabled to quiet his logical con science when he ignores the real issue in the case.
Hon. Luther R. Marsh is another who finds a way to avoid the necessity for argument by the same general process. He tells us that the telepathic hypothesis re-quires the assumption that the sitter must be omniscient, or words to that effect. That is to say, his mind must be filled with " an endless arcana of knowledge," " chuck-full " of " all things that have ever transpired in the world, and in the spirit sphere."
This is a decided modification of the assumptions of Doctors Hodgson and Hyslop, who hold that the telepathic hypothesis requires us to assume that the medium is " omniscient." To do Mr. Marsh entire justice, it must be said that his assumption is just as sensible, and just as near the truth, as that of Doctors Hodgson and Hyslop. They are both designed, apparently, to exaggerate the claims of their opponents for the purpose of denying them.
Judge Dailey presents another modification of the same polemical weapon. It is not so extravagant as those we have named ; but the design is identical. I refer to what he says of my proposition relating to telepathy by three. He quotes the proposition and then proceeds to say that it means something that is obviously foreign to its plain import.
And now comes the Rev. Dr. Savage, with still an-other modification of the same assumption, in which " unlimited powers " and " universal knowledge " are supposed to be necessary to enable the medium to do her work by the aid of telepathy.
Now, let us examine this question in the light of what is known of telepathic powers, and see if these extravagant assumptions are really a necessary part of the telepathic theory when it is invoked to account for spiritistic phenomena.
First, however, let us try to find a common ground of agreement, to the end that the issue may be more clearly defined. I think I may take it for granted that all intelligent spiritists who know anything about telepathy will admit that when a medium, acting under test conditions, states a fact that the sitter already knows, telepathy can-not be eliminated from the list of possible causes. In-deed, no scientific psychical researcher would for a moment consider the possibility of any other explanation. Why? Simply because he knows telepathy to be a vera causa, and he does not know anything about spirits. At least he is not certain about them ; and most likely he is an adherent of the scientific axiom which Dr. Savage has given us, namely, " we must not ex-plain the unknown by something else that is still more unknown." I have quoted Dr. Hodgson as an adherent to this principle; and F. W. H. Myers in his Science and a Future Life (see p. 32), tells us that, forgotten or unforgotten, active or latent, " whatever has gone into the mind may come out of the mind." We may, therefore, safely assume that all are agreed that whatever the sitter knows must be presumed to be available to the medium. Nor will it be disputed that the sitter may obtain access to knowledge telepathically.
Now, if the exhaustive investigations of the Society for Psychical Research count for anything at all, it must be admitted that they have demonstrated two things in regard to telepathy, namely, (I) that telepathy is a power belonging exclusively to the subjective mind, or subliminal consciousness ; and that, consequently, information may be received from, or imparted to, another subjective mind, without the knowledge or consent of the objective mind of either. The evidence for this in the Society's reports is overwhelming. (2) It is also in evidence that relatives, friends, and acquaintances are always en rapport, and that they are always either actually or potentially in communication. Of 83o cases reported in Phantasms of the Living, only thirty-six were between strangers. But that number is sufficient to show that rapport, for telepathic purposes, is not exclusively confined to relatives or intimates.
We have, then, a basis of admitted facts and principles to start upon, namely, (1) that telepathy must be presumed whenever the sitter has prior knowledge of the fact communicated by the medium; (2) that subliminal knowledge may be acquired telepathically, unconsciously to the percipient. The only point likely to be in dispute, therefore, is as to whatever telepathically acquired knowledge can be conveyed telepathically to the psychic or medium. If it can, we have an easy telepathic solution of all the phenomena of which we have been speaking.
To put the case in concrete form, so that my meaning may not be misunderstood or distorted, let us apply the principle to one of Dr. Savage's test cases, namely, the communication supposed to be from his deceased son. All that is necessary is to suppose, (1) that Dr. Savage and his son were in telepathic rapport during the life-time of the latter ; and that (2) for some reason he de-sired to have his private papers taken care of by his father, his best friend, his heart-to-heart confidant during all the years of his life. Thus far no one will dispute the assumptions. (3) Next we must suppose that the desire was conveyed from son to father by the only means available at the time, namely, by telepathy. No one who is conversant with the work of the Society for Psychical Research can doubt this for a moment. Of the 830 cases cited in Phantasms of the Living, a large proportion were cases showing that the dying agents were endeavoring to acquaint their relatives or friends with some unsatisfied desire, or at least with the fact that they were in extremis. Indeed, it may be said that if the investigations of the Society for Psychical Re-search render anything approximately certain, it is that dying persons make an effort to inform their relatives and friends of their condition, especially if there is any special object to be gained by so doing. If, then, the friend or relative toward whom the effort is directed happens to be endowed with psychic powers, the effort is successful; and the information conveyed to the subliminal consciousness is thereby elevated to the supraliminal. On the other hand, if the friend is not a psychic the information remains latent in the subliminal, and may never rise above the threshold.
But, in such a case, if the person afterwards becomes subjective from any cause, there is likely to ensue an uprush of the contents of the subliminal, and he thus becomes conscious of the information that had been telepathically conveyed to him originally. This phenomenon has been designated by Myers as "deferred percipience," several instances, some of them experimental, being cited in Phantasms of the Living.
These cases demonstrate that information telepathically conveyed, unconsciously to the percipient, reaches his subliminal consciousness nevertheless, and remains latent until an opportunity presents itself for elevating it above the threshold of normal consciousness. This may happen spontaneously, as when the percipient happens to attain the proper psychic conditions ; or it may be brought about by the percipient coming in contact with a psychic who is endowed with telepathic powers, as in Dr. Savage's case.
This latter supposition, singularly enough, marks the parting of the ways. Why? I do not know why it should be denied that information telepathically received from one party can be telepathically conveyed to a third person, unless it is because the admission of the truth of the proposition would be equivalent to an abandonment of the spiritistic hypothesis, and an admission of the entire validity of the telepathic explanation.
Dr. Savage's case presents the issue in its simplest form. He will not deny that he was in telepathic rapport with his son. Nor will he deny that it was possible that the latter conveyed, telepathically, the in-formation relating to his private papers to his father. But he will doubtless deny that it was possible for Mrs. Piper to obtain, telepathically, the content of that message from the mind in which it was lodged.
That would be " telepathic a trois," or telepathy by three ; and the average spiritist becomes hysterical when-ever that subject is broached. Why? Is it because he sees that, if it is once admitted that information telepathically received can be telepathically transmitted to a third person, the claims of spiritism must be abandoned in favor of the telepathic hypothesis? I can imagine no other adequate cause for either the emotional and insensate denial of the proposition or for the studied attempt to ignore it. Much less can I see any other cause for the assertion that the telepathic hypothesis requires the presupposition of omniscient intelligence on the part of the medium. Be that as it may, the fact remains that, if telepathy by three is a telepathic potential, it does afford a full and complete explanation of every case yet reported where the psychic was shown to possess supernormally acquired knowledge not objectively in the possession of any one present. It affords, for instance, an easy explanation of each of the twelve cases reported by Dr. Savage, as well as of all the cases cited by Professor Hyslop. It covers, in fact, every conceivable case of the kind.
It becomes important, therefore, to know whether telepathy by three is a telepathic potential. Fortunately for our present purposes, Dr. Clark Bell has quoted Mr. Lang on that subject, and he reports several cases of the kind. It is, in fact, a very common phenomenon, although little attention has been paid to it, for the reason that its scientific value as bearing upon the subject of spiritism has not been fully appreciated by scientists until quite recently. In the cases cited by Mr. Lang spirits were out of the question, for nobody was dead ; and numerous instances might be cited in experimental telepathy by means of hypnotism or mesmerism, where all concerned were alive and well.
It is true that in some cases the source of the telepathic message may be difficult to trace, as in the one reported by Judge Dailey. But no particulars possessing the slightest evidential importance in his case have been verified. A soi-disant spirit comes to him and tells him that his name is John. Taylor ; that he was born in New Bedford ; that he ran away when a boy and went to sea ; that he had a very checkered career, which he described with great particularity; that everybody that he ever knew in New Bedford was dead ; for he had not visited his native place for over sixty years. All this Judge Dailey thinks he has " verified, " to a certain extent," by going to New Bedford and finding that " Taylor was a very common family name " in that city (as it is in most other cities) ; that there were names on tombstones that Taylor had mentioned; that there were streets there that he had named, etc., etc. But not one item was verified that tended to establish the personal identity of John Taylor, or to show that any one of his numerous stories was true.
Now, Judge Dailey tells us that he is "a lawyer, and claims to know something of legal principles." But he does not say that he is an expert in weighing the value of evidence. If he is, what would he say of the weight of a witness's testimony should he claim to have witnessed a murder, and, in the absence of the corpus delicti, seek to verify his statement by showing a street in the city where the tragedy was alleged to have occurred, and by naming somebody whose patronymic could be found on a tombstone in the city cemetery? I may appear to be straining a point in Judge Dailey's favor when I say that I still have enough confidence in his legal ability to believe that he would summarily dismiss the jury and throw the case out of court, if that was the only evidence in the case. And yet it exactly parallels the evidence by which he seeks to establish the personal identity of John Taylor, and verify the history of his life as given through the medium in the case. Well may the learned Judge ask me who telepathed the personal history of John Taylor to the medium. I confess that I do not know. But I do know that all the facts bearing upon the case which the Judge learned on his scientific pilgrimage to New Bedford, could easily have been learned from a local history of that city.
As I remarked, it is sometimes difficult to trace the telepathic connections so as to say just where the information conveyed to the medium originated. But they are generally just such cases as that upon which Judge Dailey pins his faith ; that is to say, cases that cannot be either verified or disproved. I confess that I am not sufficiently well versed in Judge Dailey's legal standard of evidential values to see clearly just how it is that an absence of facts tends to prove or to disprove anything in an inductive investigation. Nor can I quite appreciate the logic of that attitude of mind which impels a hysterical shout of triumph from every spiritistic throat whenever a medium tells a long and weird tale that can neither be disproved nor verified. To the mind of the average spiritist such cases are the most convincing, for they can then triumphantly ask, How can telepathy account for this? " To which the obvious answer is that telepathy is not called upon to account for unverified statements.
This class of cases, however, is not the one that presents the real difficulties that may sometimes occur, although they are very rare. Let us suppose an extreme case: Suppose a soi-disant spirit presents himself at a seance and announces himself as a stranger to all present ; and then proceeds to relate facts entirely unknown to those present. Then suppose that those facts should be afterwards fully verified. Obviously, in such a case, it would be difficult to trace the telepathic connection. But would anybody but a spiritist imagine that the telepathic hypothesis had been disproved by an occasional failure to find the facts in such a case? I think not. And yet these are the cases upon which spiritists rely to establish their own theories and to " disprove" the telepathic hypothesis. In other words, it is the essence of the logic of spiritism to rely chiefly upon the absence of facts when conducting an inductive investigation. Is Judge Dailey's legal education responsible for this principle of his logic? If so, he would hang a man for murder simply for the want of evidence to establish either his guilt or his innocence.
Logically, the case stands thus : (1) There are sporadic cases where it is difficult to determine from what source a telepathic communication originated.
(2) On the other hand, there are innumerable cases where the telepathic connection is obvious, as in all Professor Hyslop's cases, in all Dr. Savage's cases, and in most of those cited by Judge Dailey.
(3) In all cases where the facts are known, " telepathy by three " affords a complete telepathic explanation.
I submit that those few cases in which the facts are not known should not be allowed to weigh one hair against the great mass of cases where the telepathic connection is obvious ; especially since the latter can all be explained on the telepathic hypothesis, assuming, of course, that telepathy by three " is a telepathic potential.
I resubmit my original proposition : If A can, by any known means of communication, convey a message to B, B can convey the same message by the same means to C, other things, of course, being equal.
If not, why not?
I have repeatedly submitted this proposition to spiritists, and as repeatedly asked the same question. If it is not true there must be a valid answer to the proposition ; but that answer has never been attempted otherwise than by the bare assertion, without argument, that " it is carrying telepathy too far." On the other hand, if the proposition is true, spiritism, considered as a scientific proposition, is disposed of. Nor can this question be successfully evaded by an attempt to ignore it, nor by substituting for argument such assertions as that the telepathic theory requires the presupposition of omniscience on the part of the psychic.