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Clairvoyance Or Telepathy?

( Originally Published 1918 )

THE word clairvoyance has been used at times for almost any kind of supernormal perception, and it is usual to designate as "normal clairvoyance" the descriptions and names and messages given by a medium not in trance, though some of these are almost certainly telepathy from the dead. This kind of thing Mr. Myers well called "transcendental vision, or the perception of beings regarded as on another plane of existence"; though when there are veridical messages, indicating initiative on the other side, the total process evidently goes beyond "perception" on this. Our prejudices against survival, however, ingrained by a century of materialistic science, make us hesitate to invoke telepathy from the other side, and we are willing to give much credit to "clairvoyance," in the limited sense of vision of the past or distant. On the other hand, this power of sensing without the normal sense-organs is so extraordinary that when it is a case of earthly clairvoyance—supernormal perception of something happening at a distance —we tend to fall back on telepathy, which wire-less telegraphy has made easy to believe in, though the analogy is deceptive. And, obviously, things occurring at a distance are usually perceived by, or known to, someone, and this some-one may have influenced the clairvoyance. As Myers pithily says : "Telisthesia merges into telepathy, since we cannot say how far the perception of a distant scene may in essential be the perception of the content of a distant mind."

The following case is an illustration of this:

"Strange Story in connection with a Railway Disaster.

"In the month of June in the year 1909 (the date of the month I forget, but it was a gloriously bright Saturday afternoon), accompanied by my wife, I caught the 2.30 p.m. New Westminster to Vancouver car, boarding it on 8th Avenue at about 2.45 P.M., as the car was not on time, being about five minutes late. I wish to call particular attention to the time, as it has an important bearing on subsequent events. We could not have been seated more than ten minutes, for the car had not reached Central Park, when my wife exclaimed: `Look! A train has plunged through Fraser River Bridge ! What bridge is that?'—calling my attention to headlines in a newspaper, a copy of the Vancouver World, which a passenger occupying the seat in front of us was reading. In large black type running across two columns I read distinctly the following:



"Further details in smaller type followed, but before I could read them the man turned the paper over, and at the time we noticed that he did not appear to be interested in this part of the paper. There had been two accidents on this line in this vicinity only a few months previously, in one of which a number of Japanese had lost their lives, near Sapperton, so that another mishap was somewhat startling; but, as I remarked, it was strange that I had heard nothing of this affair on the Fraser Bridge, as I had been at the Schaake Machine Works on Front Street all that morning, and anything so serious as this would have been the talk of the place ; on the other hand, if it had occurred after noon, how could it have got into print in a Vancouver paper in time to reach New Westminster by 2.30 P.M.? After discussing the matter for several minutes, we concluded there was a big mistake somehow, and that if there had been a wreck on the Great Northern Railway it certainly could not have been on this Fraser River Bridge; so we dismissed the subject from our minds for the time being, and, after spending a pleasant afternoon in Stanley Park, returned to New Westminster early in the evening. Immediately on arrival at home, however, we were informed that there had been an accident on the Great Northern Railway that afternoon, the locomotive jumping the metals at the junction of the Y on the Fraser River Bridge when approaching New Westminster Station, and, plunging into the space between the two tracks, had disappeared into the river below, carrying with it the engineer and fire man, both of whom perished. Fortunately the couplings had broken, and the rest of the train was brought to a standstill in time to avert a worse catastrophe. Our youngest daughter, who had been on the river that afternoon, and had brought the news home, was much surprised that we had seen the report in print so early in the day; on the other hand, we contended that the accident must have taken place in the morning, or at any rate about noon; and it was not till the following morning, when, having to visit a mill on the Surrey side, I was driving a rig over the bridge, and was informed by the toll-keeper that 2.55 P.M. was the time it happened, that I grasped the fact that the news of the accident was flashed to us at the time it actually occurred.

"As soon as possible I secured copies of the Saturday edition of the Vancouver World, but could find no report of the matter; and when the news was published in later editions it did not take the form in which we saw it.

"Neither before nor since have I experienced any similar incident of this nature—in fact, I had been accustomed to ridicule these stories as hysterical yarns—but the previous winter I had been reading several Theosophical works, much to my wife's disgust, and, becoming interested - in some of these weird narratives, and being a man of weak faith, I had expressed a strong wish to have practical experience of these things before I could believe that they were possible.

"The great outstanding feature of the engine plunging through Fraser River Bridge could relate to no other accident on the Great Northern Railway, and the time we had the news in the car must have been between 2.50 and 3 P.M. On this I have a most unwilling witness in my wife; in fact, one of the peculiarities of the incident is that we both saw it word for word alike.

"Now, what explanation can be offered for this remarkable and weird phenomenon? If I go to the Theosophists or Spiritualists I shall be told that some friendly departed spirit, wishing to encourage me in Theosophical or spiritualistic studies, had gratified my wish for practical proof of these apparently superhuman incidents ; an ordinary Christian, if he does not doubt my word (which he most probably will do), might say that Satan and his angels had planned the whole business in order to lead me farther astray from the Orthodox Belief; but though I have elsewhere had distinct proof that even today there is apparently a super-human force working on this earth which can communicate with us, yet is it not possible that we may have latent powers or senses not thoroughly developed which will enable us to have knowledge of events happening many miles distant?

"I would gladly welcome a satisfactory ex-planation to this peculiar business, as I hate mysteries and would like to probe this matter to the bottom. At present it is a puzzle to me."


Now, what is the explanation of that? We call it clairvoyance, perhaps; but what do we mean? As a matter of fact, we cannot tell whether the railway accident was subliminally perceived and projected hallucinatorily as a newspaper announcement, or whether the percipients became momentarily aware of the con-tent of some distant person's mind. It is curious that both Mr. and Mrs. Carter saw the heading; but perhaps Mr. Carter's vision of it was a ricochet from his wife's, who was the first percipient, though she was the more sceptical of the two about these things.

But in ordinary fairness we must admit, while holding to clairvoyance or telepathy from a distant living mind as the most likely explanation, that a spiritualistic explanation may be the true one. The driver and fireman were killed instantly; and, there being some reason to suppose that in such cases the released spirit is more able and more likely to cause effects in the material world than in cases of gradual withdrawal by illness, it does not seem improbable that one of them communicated the news of the disaster to Mrs. Carter's subliminal, which then sent up its message as a hallucination; as some people, having forgotten something, can see it printed in a crystal in a moment of what is perhaps self-induced hypnosis. If human beings survive at all, and if telepathy is not primarily a physical process, telepathy from the dead seems likely to be easier than telepathy from the living, for in the former case there is freedom from the clog of the body at one end at least. So this case may have been a projection from the dead. We do not know.

The form of the experience reminds me of a dream that I had recently. I have no psychic faculty, and should much like to exhibit this as my one ewe lamb of psychic performance; but I cannot honestly do so, partly because it was not exact enough, and partly because, even if it had been, the thing was not beyond my subliminal's guessing powers. I dreamt that I saw a newspaper heading : "Official: Landing of 300,000 Troops at Penzance." I reasoned seriously as to the troops' nationality, and concluded that an invasion by Germans at that end of England was unlikely, since we hold the Channel and the North Sea; and that therefore the men were probably the first of the army from America. Next morning I read that the first American unit had landed at a British port; but there were indications that it was not near Penzance, and the numbers seem to have been nearer three hundred than three hundred thou-sand. But perhaps I did receive some telepathic impact from somewhere, for a curious feature was that my waking self—I regret to say—believed Penzance to be inland until I looked at a map. But I renounce the case's evidentiality, not without regret, but with complete finality.

The next case seems to contain "suggestions of true clairvoyance or non-telepathic perception of distant places, though the evidential quality is not high.

"I was at a Quakers' meeting one Sunday, about fourteen miles away from Bristol, at a place called Winscombe, where my old school, Sidcot, is situated. I was at work at engineering in Bristol at the time, and this particular Sunday morning I had gone out cycling. Just after the meeting began I was thinking of my special friend (Lloyd by name) who worked in the same shop as I did. And then I went over to Bristol and saw him ! My mind left my body and took a journey through space to Bristol. I expected him to be out, so had a good hunt round the countryside, and found him outside Eastville Park with a friend of his. I verified the time Monday morning, and found that he was at the spot, at the time I came over to Bristol, where I had seen him. All the time I was there I was conscious, though I do not remember the journey either there or back. This latter may be easily explained if the speed of travel of the mind is of the same order as that of light. Then, also—and this is the part I wish to emphasize—the impression left on me is that I was poised in the air, and that I saw not only my friend, but the roads, the fields, etc. Indeed, part of the country I then saw was new to me, and I have since been able to verify in person the correctness of my impression of most of it. It is some five or six miles away from my home. In fact, it suggests to me very forcibly what I should imagine a trip in an aeroplane would be like from the point of view of observing the country, except that my sight would hardly be quite so clear and we should travel slower. I have had other similar experiences, but only one or two that are really as clear as this, and I generally assume, unless I have good reason to think otherwise, that they are the result of imagination.

"So much with regard to the reception of impressions of physical matter. I still have something to say with regard to the effect of my mind on it. I used to go out cycling some-times with my father and mother, and as they both had better bicycles than I had, and father was heavier than I, they used to freewheel faster. I found that I either had to pedal at intervals, or lean forward over the handle-bars so as to reduce wind resistance, if I wanted to keep up with them. I tried using my will to help myself along, and found that if I was in a suitable mood I could keep up with them, and sometimes go even a little faster, on a slight downhill. This practically means to say that, translating into ordinary English force-units, my will exercised a force of two or three pounds' weight pushing me along the road. Really I ought to say pushing itself along the road, and incidentally me because I was connected to it. This is enough to tell me that the force of my will is a very difficult thing to detect, because it is so small in relation to the weight of matter to be moved, hence it needs a delicate experiment to make it evident.

"Of course, what I say here must be judged by the full facts of the case. I am only young ( just turned twenty), and these experiments have been carried on rather as opportunities occurred to me than as a set plan of scientific investigation. I have always endeavoured to get at the truth of these questions, but can regard nothing as rigidly proved except that transmission of ideas from mind to mind can be as accurately and completely effected without the use of any one of the five senses as connecting links as with.

"My further conclusions with regard to the relation of mind to brain I cannot regard as proven facts, but only as valuable indications of the direction in which the truth will probably lie when unearthed by accurate investigations in the future."


The supposed application of force by will-power is not at all an absurd idea, for some-thing of the sort occurs in "physical phenomena" as described by many investigators. If it really occurred in Mr. Robinson's case, the source of the energy was no doubt his own body, as in the case of Miss Goligher (Dr. Crawford's "Reality of Psychic Phenomena"), through whose instrumentality objects are moved without contact. The "how" is not understood, but the fact is established.

The next case gives an exceptionally good series of telepathic experiences between two living people, partly in dream and partly by waking impression and vision. The young man seems to be a remarkable sensitive, for he is practically always right; so chance coincidence is mathematically ruled out. The romantic element in the story is scientifically regrettable, if humanly interesting; for we tend to suspect lapses from accuracy where feeling enters. But the two people are very systematic, and documentary proof is being preserved.

"December 27, 1915.

"I am taking the liberty of writing you (trusting you will not find it an intrusion on your time) about some very strange and wonderful psychic happenings that have occurred to me from time to time. For a long, long while—always, I think—this side of life has deeply interested me : and I eagerly read your books and others on the subject: but so far have found nothing in any of the data given therein so wonderful as the remarkable experiences between my most intimate friend and myself, and I feel I owe it to you, in your great search after the law of these strange phenomena, to give you at least some of the bare facts.

"When my friend was a boy still in his early teens, he—in a waking state—became aware one night of the shining appearance of a woman in his room : attracted and thrilled, but not affrighted thereby, he got out of bed to go to her, but she stayed him by a gesture, smiling, and, being very sensitive to impressions, he realized that this was no being of flesh and blood; and in a while it vanished from his sight through the door. He describes it as a radiant being—the brow, hands, and breasts being, as it were, the nucleus of the radiance. The face was indelibly stamped on his memory. Six or seven years later, on meeting me, he recognized in me the material form of the astral body (?) that had visited him. In one sense this did not surprise him, as he had felt he would one day meet in the flesh what had grown dear to him in the spirit : and from that day to this his psychic knowledge of all that concerns me has been extraordinary, and at all times perfect.

"Three years ago, when he was on a visit to London, and I here, we both became aware one evening of some alien force that threatened to separate us. Each of us wrote that same night relating the experiences, and afraid one or other was about to die. Our letters crossed. In his he states that he went out into the garden to combat the fear, and that while there he distinctly heard me playing on the piano : mine told him that I played the piano to try and drive away what was becoming an unbearable horror, viz., fear of being separated.

"Soon after he went quite suddenly to Canada on business. On his return journey, he says, the radiant form of me appeared on the deck and in the cabin two or three times.

"Many strange things occurred about that time : among others we dreamed a long, tragic, complicated dream on the same night, detail for detail; when he came to see me the following day, he told me he knew all that had taken place in my dream—he had had identically the same one ! We were both speechless! (That occurrence seems to me one step farther on than most of the phenomena one hears or reads of—because dreams are not altogether subject to the control of the mind ; and to transmit from mind to mind incoherent dream happenings is amazing and baffling.)

"In August of last year (1914) he was among the first to be called out to join the (naval) forces : and while in training at Walmer I went to see a clairvoyante, who told me I had been `astrally united' to my friend six years previously to meeting in the flesh; she also told me many strange and wonderful things—bidding me `keep my astral body' about my friend, as it would safeguard him in danger. When he went with the Naval Brigade to the defence of Antwerp (of which I only heard through the newspapers), no one knew where he was for fifteen or more days, during which time I knew not whether he was alive : but I threw the whole force of my being into `thought' and wrapped it psychically about him, determined to save him if possible. I wrote a postcard to Ostend on the chance of his getting it somehow, on which I wrote, `Have Faith.' Some months later he wrote saying that when the horror in the trenches was at its worst, and he was ready to drop with fatigue and hunger and the sight of his friends dying, my astral body appeared to him, pointed on, and said, `Have Faith,' and then went before him during the long march into Groningen, where he has been interned ever since. A few months ago the postcard I sent to Ostend was returned to me, having been to Berlin in search of him! My appearance must been at the time of writing that postcard (I have all the letters dated and in order of all the happenings I am relating).

"During his absence in Holland we have on two occasions dreamed the facsimile dreams on the same nights : one of my days he de-scribed in its every detail, even to the name of a book I read aloud. He sees and describes even my new frocks !

"On May 1st, 1915 (11.15 A.M.), I was in a slight collision in mid-Mersey which gave me a shock; when the shock was over I turned to a friend and said, `I should not be surprised if my friend in Holland knows all about it!' Three weeks later several postcards came to my people asking if all was well with me; and a letter to me, dated May 1st, 11.15 A.M., in which he says he received at that moment a shock of two ships colliding in mid-Mersey, on one of which I was aboard. (The sense of my safety did not come to him for a fortnight! Then it did—before receiving a word from me.) I have the letter dated and timed beside me here.

"Another time I received word from him that a firm of London publishers was returning some mystical poems I had sent them, and bidding me not to grieve, as they were in advance of their time. The MSS. came one day before his letter, which had been three weeks on the way!

"I could enumerate almost countless incidents of like nature, but will just add one more. He wrote asking me, about two months ago, to try and get news of a seagoing chum of his, of whom he had heard nothing since war broke out, and asking me to write to this man's fiancee.

"I wrote, and received a fortnight ago a letter from him, telling me he had heard nothing of my friend in Holland, and that he himself had been out to India, where he had been seriously ill in hospital, but that he was well now, and back in England for Christmas. I sent the note on a few days ago to Holland (where it will arrive—if it gets there at all—in another ten days), but have received a day or two ago a letter from my friend, saying that through clairvoyance he has at last traced his chum, who `has been in India, I feel sure, and very ill there,' but that he has `seen him in a ship westward bound, due in England at Christmas' ! So sure is he that his knowledge is correct that he even asks me to pass on the information to his chum's, fiancee lest she should not know ! His knowledge, too, of others is marvellous. I have heard him describe rooms and people he has never seen, to perfection.

"I wish you knew him. His is a rarely beautiful spiritual nature: and his gifts are quite uncultivated. He is a natural psychic and clairvoyant, and far in advance, I think, of many who have made these things a lifelong study. I have been with him during three trance states (which he beautifully calls `conscious sleep'), and have heard him conversing with beings removed from our plane.

"Physically he is strong, vigorous, athletic (only twenty-one) , mentally well balanced, and full of healthy activity; a keen nature student. It is simply, I think, the possession of a `sixth sense' which makes him more, not less, of a man : and his power of vision into the occult is, I should imagine, of the first order. He believes absolutely in pre-existence, as I myself am inclined to do: and he explains his inner knowledge of me as the result of intimacy in former lives. But this is by the way. I won-der sometimes if psychic phenomena might ever be explainable—in part—on these lines of a pre-existence?

"Will you pardon me for this long letter? and if ever you desire a detailed, dated account of our experiences (if they are of any use) we will make them out in order after the war is over `(when all the letters on both sides are to hand) and let you have them."


It may be asked why I include this and other telepathic experiences in a volume purporting to give evidences of survival. I do so because, in the present state of affairs, telepathy between the living seems to point to a conception of human personality which involves survival. We know of no "brain-waves" or wireless receiving stations inside our skulls, and distance in many cases is no impediment. For example, we may think of the collision jarring Miss Aston's nerves and brain, which sent up their message to her mind, which "telepathed" the news across in some non-physical way to her friend's mind, which sent word down to his normal consciousness and no doubt caused some sort of physical brain concomitant, as thoughts presumably do. This doctrine of the Self being greater and "higher" than its ordinary manifestation is rendered probable by many phenomena of supernormal power in hypnosis and the like, and some such view of telepathy fits in with it. Thus the brain, though necessary now and for our present kind of experience, is only an instrument or vehicle of some of our powers, and may indeed be a clog or hindrance. Communication down here, as compared with the direct superphysical communication up there, may be somewhat as writing is to telephoning—a slow and indirect process. The brain is not a necessary condition of the existence of thought or feeling. Spirit is the primary thing; and, if telepathic incidents take place between spirit and spirit rather than between brain and brain, such incidents supply, by implication, evidence for survival, and are a suitable introduction to evidence of more direct kind.

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