The Making of Religion
by Andrew Lang
Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

Professor Richet writes:[20]

'On Monday, July 2, 1888, after having passed all the day in my laboratory, I hypnotised Leonie at 8 P.M., and while she tried to make out a diagram concealed in an envelope I said to her quite suddenly: "What has happened to M. Langlois?" Leonie knows M. Langlois from having seen him two or three times some time ago in my physiological laboratory, where he acts as my assistant.—"He has burnt himself," Leonie replied,—"Good," I said, "and where has he burnt himself?"—"On the left hand. It is not fire: it is—I don't know its name. Why does he not take care when he pours it out?"—"Of what colour," I asked, "is the stuff which he pours out?"—"It is not red, it is brown; he has hurt himself very much—the skin puffed up directly."

'Now, this description is admirably exact. At 4 P.M. that day M. Langlois had wished to pour some bromine into a bottle. He had done this clumsily, so that some of the bromine flowed on to his left hand, which held the funnel, and at once burnt him severely. Although he at once put his hand into water, wherever the bromine had touched it a blister was formed in a few seconds—a blister which one could not better describe than by saying, "the skin puffed up." I need not say that Leonie had not left my house, nor seen anyone from my laboratory. Of this I am absolutely certain, and I am certain that I had not mentioned the incident of the burn to anyone. Moreover, this was the first time for nearly a year that M. Langlois had handled bromine, and when Leonie saw him six months before at the laboratory he was engaged in experiments of quite another kind.'

Here the savage reasoner would infer that Leonie's spirit had visited M. Langlois. The modern inquirer will probably say that Leonie became aware of what was passing in the mind of M. Richet. This supranormal way of acquiring knowledge was observed in the last century by M. de Puysegur in one of his earliest cases of somnambulism. MM. Binet and Fere say: 'It is not yet admitted that the subject is able to divine the thoughts of the magnetiser without any material communication;' while they grant, as a minimum, that 'research should be continued in this direction.'[21] They appear to think that Leonie may have read 'involuntary signs' in the aspect of M. Richet. This is a difficult hypothesis.

Here follows a case recorded in his diary by Mr. Dobbie, of Adelaide, Australia, who has practised hypnotism for curative purposes. He explains (June 10, 1884) that he had mesmerised Miss —— on several occasions to relieve rheumatic pain and sore throat. He found her to be clairvoyant.

'The following is a verbatim account of the second time I tested her powers in this respect, April 12, 1884. There were four persons present during the seance. One of the company wrote down the replies as they were spoken.

'Her father was at the time over fifty miles away, but we did not know exactly where, so I questioned her as follows: "Can you find your father at the present moment?" At first she replied that she could not see him, but in a minute or two she said, "Oh, yes; now I can see him, Mr. Dobbie." "Where is he?" "Sitting at a large table in a large room, and there are a lot of people going in and out." "What is he doing?" "Writing a letter, and there is a book in front of him." "Whom is he writing to?" "To the newspaper." Here she paused and laughingly said, "Well, I declare, he is writing to the A B" (naming a newspaper). "You said there was a book there. Can you tell me what book it is?" "It has gilt letters on it." "Can you read them, or tell me the name of the author?" She read, or pronounced slowly, "W.L.W." (giving the full surname of the author). She answered several minor questions re the furniture in the room, and I then said to her, "Is it any effort or trouble to you to travel in this way?" "Yes, a little; I have to think."

'I now stood behind her, holding a half-crown in my hand, and asked her if she could tell me what I had in my hand, to which she replied, "It is a shilling." It seemed as though she could see what was happening miles away easier than she could see what was going on in the room.

'Her father returned home nearly a week afterwards, and was perfectly astounded when told by his wife and family what he had been doing on that particular evening; and, although previous to that date he was a thorough sceptic as to clairvoyance, he frankly admitted that my clairvoyant was perfectly correct in every particular. He also informed us that the book referred to was a new one, which he had purchased after he had left his home, so that there was no possibility of his daughter guessing that he had the book before him. I may add that the letter in due course appeared in the paper; and I saw and handled the book.'

A number of cases of so-called 'clairvoyance' will be found in the 'Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research.'[22] As the authors of these essays remark, even after discounting, in each case, fraud, malobservation, and misreporting, the residue of cases can seldom justify either the savage theory of the wandering soul (which is not here seriously proposed) or Hegel's theory that the fuehlende Seele is unconditioned by space. For, if thought transference be a fact, the apparent clairvoyant may only be reading the mind of a person at a distance. The results, however, when successful, would naturally suggest to the savage thinker the belief in the wandering soul, or corroborate it if it had already been suggested by the common phenomena of dreaming.

To these instances of knowledge acquired otherwise than by the recognised channels of sense we might add the Scottish tales of 'second sight.' That phrase is merely a local term covering examples of what is called 'clairvoyance'—views of things remote in space, hallucinations of sight that coincide with some notable event, premonitions of things future, and so on. The belief and hallucinatory experiences are still very common in the Highlands, where I have myself collected many recent instances. Mr. Tylor observes that the examples 'prove a little too much; they vouch not only for human apparitions, but for such phantoms as demon dogs, and for still more fanciful symbolic omens.' This is perfectly true. I have found no cases of demon dogs; but wandering lights, probably of meteoric or miasmatic origin, are certainly regarded as tokens of death. This is obviously a superstitious hypothesis, the lights being real phenomena misconstrued. Again, funerals are not uncommonly seen where no funeral is taking place; it is then alleged that a real funeral, similar and similarly situated, soon afterwards occurred. On the hypothesis of believers, the percipients somehow behold

'Such refraction of events As often rises ere they rise.'

Even the savage cannot account for this experience by the wandering of the soul in space; nor do I suggest any explanation. I give, however, one or two instances. They are published in the 'Journal of the Caledonian Medical Society,' 1897, by Dr. Alastair Macgregor, on the authority of the MSS. of his father, a minister in the island of Skye.

'He once told me that when he first went to Skye he scoffed at the idea of such a power as second sight being genuine; but he said that, after having been there for some years as a clergyman, he had been so often consulted beforehand by people who said they had seen visions of events which subsequently occurred, to my father's knowledge, in exact accordance with the form and details of the vision as foretold, that he was compelled to confess that some folks had, apparently at least, the unfortunate faculty.

'As my father expressed it, this faculty was "neither voluntary nor constant, and was considered rather annoying than agreeable to the possessors of it. The gift was possessed by individuals of both sexes, and its fits came on within doors and without, sitting and standing, at night and by day, and at whatever employment the votary might chance to be engaged."'

Here follows a typical example of the vision of a funeral:

'The session clerk at Dull, a small village in Perthshire, was ill, and my grandfather, clergyman there at the time, had to do duty for him. One fine summer evening, about 7 o'clock, a young man and woman came to get some papers filled up, as they were going to be married. My grandfather was with the couple in the session clerk's room, no doubt attending to the papers, when suddenly all three saw through the window a funeral procession passing along the road. From their dress the bulk of the mourners seemed to be farm labourers—indeed the young woman recognised some of them as natives of Dull, who had gone to live and work near Dunkeld. Remarks were naturally made by my grandfather and the young couple about the untimely hour for a funeral, and, hastily filling in the papers, my grandfather went out to get the key of the churchyard, which was kept in the manse, as, without the key, the procession could not get into God's acre. Wondering how it was that he had received no intimation of the funeral, he went to the manse by a short cut, got the key, and hurried down to the churchyard gate, where, of course, he expected to find the cortege waiting. Not a soul was there except the young couple, who were as amazed as my grandfather!

'Well, at the same hour in the evening of the same day in the following week the funeral, this time in reality, arrived quite unexpectedly. The facts were that a boy, a native of Dull, had got gored by a bull at Dunkeld, and was so shockingly mangled that his remains were picked up and put into a coffin and taken without delay to Dull. A grave was dug as quickly as possible—the poor lad having no relatives—and the remains were interred. My grandfather and the young couple recognised several of the mourners as being among those whom they had seen out of the session clerk's room, exactly a week previously, in the phantom cortege. The young woman knew some of them personally, and related to them what she had seen, but they of course denied all knowledge of the affair, having been then in Dunkeld.'

I give another example, because the experience was auditory, as well as visual, and the prediction was announced before the event.

'The parishioners in Skye were evidently largely imbued with the Romanist-like belief in the powers of intercession vested in their clergyman; so when they had a "warning" or "vision" they usually consulted my father as to what they could do to prevent the coming disaster befalling their relatives or friends. In this way my father had the opportunity of noting down the minutiae of the "warning" or "vision" directly it was told him. Having had the advantage of a medical, previous to his theological, training, he was able to note down sound facts, unembellished by superadded imagination. Entering into this method of case-taking with a mind perfectly open, except for a slight touch of scepticism, he was greatly surprised to discover how very frequently realisations occurred exactly in conformance with the minutiae of the vision as detailed in his note-book. Finally, he was compelled to discard his scepticism, and to admit that some people had undoubtedly the uncanny gift. Almost the first case he took (Case X.) was that of a woman who had one day a vision of her son falling over a high rock at Uig, in Skye, with a sheep or lamb.

'CASE X.—She heard her son exclaim in Gaelic, "This is a fatal lamb for me." As her son lived several miles from Uig, and was a fisherman, realisation seemed to my father very unlikely, but one month afterwards the realisation occurred only too true. Unknown to his mother, who had warned him against having anything to do with sheep or lambs, the son one day, instead of going out in his boat, thought he would take a holiday inland, and went off to Uig, where a farmer enlisted his services in separating some lambs from the ewes. One of the lambs ran away, and the fisher lad ran headlong after it, and not looking where he was going, on catching the lamb was pulled by it to the edge of one of the very picturesque but exceedingly dangerous rocks at Uig. Too late realizing his critical position, he exclaimed, "This is a fatal lamb for me," but going with such an impetus he was unable to bring himself up in time, and, along with the lamb, fell over into the ravine below, and was, of course, killed on the spot. The farmer, when he saw the lad's danger, ran to his assistance, but was only in time to hear him cry out in Gaelic before disappearing over the brink of the precipice. This was predicted by the mother a month before. Was this simply a coincidence?'

Dr. Macgregor's remarks on the involuntary and unwelcome nature of the visions is borne out by what Scheffer, as already quoted, says concerning the Lapps.

In addition to visions which thus come unsought, contributing knowledge of things remote or even future, we may glance at visions which are provoked by various methods. Drugs (impepo) are used, seers whirl in a wild dance till they fall senseless, or trance is induced by various kinds of self-suggestion or 'auto-hypnotism.' Fasting is also practised. In modern life the self-induced trance is common among 'mediums'—a subject to which we recur later.

So far, it will be observed, our evidence proves that precisely similar beliefs as to man's occasional power of opening the gates of distance have been entertained in a great variety of lands and ages, and by races in every condition of culture.[23] The alleged experiences are still said to occur, and have been investigated by physiologists of the eminence of M. Richet. The question cannot but arise as to the residuum of fact in these narrations, and it keeps on arising.

In the following chapter we discuss a mode of inducing hallucinations which has for anthropologists the interest of universal diffusion. The width of its range in savage races has not, we believe, been previously observed. We then add facts of modern experience, about the authenticity of which we, personally, entertain no doubt; and the provisional conclusion appears to be that savages have observed a psychological circumstance which has been ignored by professed psychologists, and which, certainly, does not fit into the ordinary materialistic hypothesis.

[Footnote 1: Callaway, Religion of the Zulus, p. 232.]

[Footnote 2: Graham Dalzell, Darker Superstitions of Scotland, p. 481.]

[Footnote 3: See good evidence in Ker of Kersland's Memoirs.]

[Footnote 4: Autus Gellius, xv. 18, Dio Cassius, lxvii., Crespet, De la Haine du Diable, Proces de Jeanne d'Arc.]

[Footnote 5: See 'Shamanism in Siberia,' J.A.I., November 1894, pp. 147-149, and compare Scheffer. The article is very learned and interesting.]

[Footnote 6: Williams mentions second sight in Fiji, but gives no examples.]

[Footnote 7: Primitive Culture, i. 447. Mr. Tylor cites Dr. Brinton's Myths of the New World, p. 269. The reference in the recent edition is p. 289. Carver's case is given under the head 'Possession' later.]

[Footnote 8: Journal Historique p. 362; Atlantic Monthly, July 1866.]

[Footnote 9: Probably impepo, eaten by seers, according to Callaway.]

[Footnote 10: Callaway's Religion of the Amazulu, p. 358.]

[Footnote 11: Oxford, 1674.]

[Footnote 12: Voyages.]

[Footnote 13: From Charlevoix, Journal Historique, p. 362.]

[Footnote 14: Bastian, Ueber psych. Beobacht. p.21.]

[Footnote 14: Op. cit. p.26.]

[Footnote 15: Miss Kingsley, Travels in West Africa, p. 460.]

[Footnote 16: Primitive Culture, ii, 181; Mason's Burmah, p. 107.]

[Footnote 17: Schoolcraft, i. 394.]

[Footnote 18: Brinton's Religions of Primitive Peoples, p. 57.]

[Footnote 19: Purchas, p. 629.]

[Footnote 20: S.P.R. Proceedings, vol. vi. 69.]

[Footnote 21: Binet and Fere, Animal Magnetism, p. 64.]

[Footnote 22: Vol. vii. Mrs. Sidgwick, pp. 30, 356; vol. vi. p. 66, Professor Richet, p. 407, Drs. Dufay and Azam.]

[Footnote 23: The examples in the Old Testament, and in the Life of St. Columba by Adamnan, need only be alluded to as too familiar for quotation.]



Among savage methods of provoking hallucinations whence knowledge may be supernormally obtained, various forms of 'crystal-gazing' are the most curious. We find the habit of looking into water, usually in a vessel, preferably a glass vessel, among Red Indians (Lejeune), Romans (Varro, cited in Civitas Dei, iii. 457), Africans of Fez (Leo Africanus); while Maoris use a drop of blood (Taylor), Egyptians use ink (Lane), and Australian savages employ a ball of polished stone, into which the seer 'puts himself' to descry the results of an expedition.[1]

I have already given, in the Introduction, Ellis's record of the Polynesian case. A hole being dug in the door of his house, and filled with water, the priest looks for a vision of the thief who has carried off stolen goods. The Polynesian theory is that the god carries the spirit of the thief over the water, in which it is reflected. Lejeune's Red Indians make their patients gaze into the water, in which they will see the pictures of the things in the way of food or medicine that will do them good. In modern language, the instinctive knowledge existing implicitly in the patient's subconsciousness is thus brought into the range of his ordinary consciousness.

In 1887 the late Captain J. T. Bourke, of the U.S. Cavalry, an original and careful observer, visited the Apaches in the interests of the Ethnological Bureau. He learned that one of the chief duties of the medicine-men was to find out the whereabouts of lost or stolen property. Na-a-cha, one of these jossakeeds, possessed a magic quartz crystal, which he greatly valued. Captain Bourke presented him with a still finer crystal. 'He could not give me an explanation of its magical use, except that by looking into it he could see everything he wanted to see,' Captain Bourke appears never to have heard of the modern experiments in crystal-gazing. Captain Bourke also discovered that the Apaches, like the Greeks, Australians, Africans, Maoris, and many other, races, use the bull-roarer, turndun, or rhombos—a piece of wood which, being whirled round, causes a strange windy roar—in their mystic ceremonies. The wide use of the rhombos was known to Captain Bourke; that of the crystal was not.

For the Iroquois, Mrs. Erminie Smith supplies information about the crystal. 'Placed in a gourd of water, it could render visible the apparition of a person who has bewitched another.' She gives a case in European times of a medicine-man who found the witch's habitat, but got only an indistinct view of her face. On a second trial he was successful.[2] One may add that treasure-seekers among the Huille-che 'look earnestly' for what they want to find 'into a smooth slab of black stone, which I suppose to be basalt.'[3]

The kindness of Monsieur Lefebure enables me to give another example from Madagascar.[4] Flacourt, describing the Malagasies, says that they squillent (a word not in Littre), that is, divine by crystals, which 'fall from heaven when it thunders,' Of course the rain reveals the crystals, as it does the flint instruments called 'thunderbolts' in many countries. 'Lorsqu'ils squillent, ils ont une de ces pierres au coing de leurs tablettes, disans qu'elle a la vertu de faire faire operation a leur figure de geomance.' Probably they used the crystals as do the Apaches. On July 15 a Malagasy woman viewed, whether in her crystal or otherwise, two French vessels which, like the Spanish fleet, were 'not in sight,' also officers, and doctors, and others aboard, whom she had seen, before their return to France, in Madagascar. The earliest of the ships did not arrive till August 11.

Dr. Callaway gives the Zulu practice, where the chief 'sees what will happen by looking into the vessel.'[5] The Shamans of Siberia and Eastern Russia employ the same method.[6] The case of the Inca, Yupanqui, is very curious. 'As he came up to a fountain he saw a piece of crystal fall into it, within which he beheld a figure of an Indian in the following shape ... The apparition then vanished, while the crystal remained. The Inca took care of it, and they say that he afterwards saw everything he wanted in it.'[7]

Here, then, we find the belief that hallucinations can be induced by one or other form of crystal-gazing, in ancient Peru, on the other side of the continent among the Huille-che, in Fez, in Madagascar, in Siberia, among Apaches, Hurons, Iroquois, Australian black fellows, Maoris, and in Polynesia. This is assuredly a wide range of geographical distribution. We also find the practice in Greece (Pausanias, VII. xxi. 12), in Rome (Varro), in Egypt, and in India.

Though anthropologists have paid no attention to the subject, it was of course familiar to later Europe. 'Miss X' has traced it among early Christians, in early Councils, in episcopal condemnations of specularii, and so to Dr. Dee, under James VI.; Aubrey; the Regent d'Orleans in St. Simon's Memoirs; the modern mesmerists (Gregory, Mayo) and the mid-Victorian spiritualists, who, as usual, explained the phenomena, in their prehistoric way, by 'spirits[8].' Till this lady examined the subject, nobody had thought of remarking that a belief so universal had probably some basis of facts, or nobody if we except two professors of chemistry and physiology, Drs. Gregory and Mayo. Miss X made experiments, beginning by accident, like George Sand, when a child.

The hallucinations which appear to her eyes in ink, or crystal, are:

1. Revived memories 'arising thus, and thus only, from the subconscious strata;'

'2. Objectivation of ideas or images—(a) consciously or (b) unconsciously—in the mind of the percipient;

'3. Visions, possibly telepathic or clairvoyant, implying acquirement of knowledge by supernormal means.'[9]

The examples given of the last class, the class which would be so useful to a priest or medicine-man asked to discover things lost, are of very slight interest.[10]

Since Miss X drew attention to this subject, experiments have proved beyond doubt that a fair percentage of people, sane and healthy, can see vivid landscapes, and figures of persons in motion, in glass balls and other vehicles. This faculty Dr. Parish attributes to 'dissociation,' practically to drowsiness. But he speaks by conjecture, and without having witnessed experiments, as will be shown later. I now offer a series of experiments with a glass ball, coming under my own observation, in which knowledge was apparently acquired in no ordinary way. Of the absence of fraud I am personally convinced, not only by the characters of all concerned, but by the nature of the circumstances. That adaptive memory did not later alter the narratives, as originally told, I feel certain, because they were reported to me, when I was not present, within less than a week, precisely as they are now given, except in cases specially noted.

Early in the present year (1897) I met a young lady who told me of three or four curious hallucinatory experiences of her own, which were sufficiently corroborated. She was innocent of psychical studies, and personally was, and is, in perfect health; the pale cast of thought being remote from her. I got a glass ball, and was present when she first looked into it. She saw, I remember, the interior of a house, with a full-length portrait of a person unknown. There were, I think, one or two other fancy pictures of the familiar kind. But she presently (living as she was, among strangers) developed a power of 'seeing' persons and places unknown to her, but familiar to them. These experiences do seem to me to be good examples of what is called 'thought transference;' indeed, I never before could get out of a level balance of doubt on that subject, a balance which now leans considerably to the affirmative side. There may be abundance of better evidence, but, knowing the persons and circumstances, and being present once at what seemed to me a crucial example, I was more inclined to be convinced. This attitude appears, to myself, illogical, but it is natural and usual.

We cannot tell what indications may be accidentally given in experiments in thought transference. But, in these cases of crystal-gazing, the detail was too copious to be conveyed, by a looker-on, in a wink or a cough. I do not mean to say that success was invariable. I thought of Dr. W.G. Grace, and the scryer saw an old man crawling along with a stick. But I doubt if Dr. Grace is very deeply seated in that mystic entity, my subconscious self. The 'scries' which came right were sometimes, but not always, those of which the 'agent' (or person scried for) was consciously thinking. But the examples will illustrate the various kinds of occurrences.

Here one should first consider the arguments against accepting recognition of objects merely described by another person. The crystal-gazer may know the inquirer so intimately as to have a very good guess at the subject of his meditation. Again, a man is likely to be thinking of a woman, and a woman of a man, so the field of conjecture is limited. In answer to the first objection I may say that the crystal-gazer was among strangers, all of whom, myself included, she now saw for the first time. Nor could she have studied their histories beforehand, for she could not know (normally) when she left home, that she was about to be shown a glass ball, or whom she would meet. The second objection is met by the circumstance that ladies were not usually picked out for men, nor men for women. Indeed, these choices were the exceptions, and in each case were marked by minutely particular details. A third objection is that credulity, or the love of strange novelties, or desire to oblige, biases the inquirers, and makes them anxious to recognise something familiar in the scryer's descriptions. In the same way we know how people recognise faces in the most blurred and vague of spiritist photographs, or see family resemblances in the most rudimentary doughfaced babies. Take descriptions of persons in a passport, or in a proclamation sketching the personal appearance of a criminal. These fit the men or women intended, but they also fit a crowd of other people. The description given by the scryer then may come right by a fortuitous coincidence, or may be too credulously recognised.

The complex of coincidences, however, could not be attributed to chance selection out of the whole possible field of conjecture. We must remember, too, that a series of such hits increases, at an enormous rate, the odds against accidental conjecture. Of such mere luck I may give an example. I was writing a story of which the hero was George Kelly, one of the 'Seven Men of Moidart.' A year after composing my tale, I found the Government description of Mr. Kelly (1736). It exactly tallied with my purely fanciful sketch, down to eyes, and teeth, and face, except that I made my hero 'about six feet,' whereas the Government gave him five feet ten. But I knew beforehand that Mr. Kelly was a clergyman; his curious career proved him to be a person of great activity and geniality—and he was of Irish birth. Even a dozen such guesses, equally correct, could not suggest any powers of 'vision,' when so much was known beforehand about the person guessed at. I now give cases in the experience of Miss Angus, as one may call the crystal-gazer. The first occurred the day after she got the glass ball for the first time. She writes:

'I.—A lady one day asked me to scry out a friend of whom she would think. Almost immediately I exclaimed "Here is an old, old lady looking at me with a triumphant smile on her face. She has a prominent nose and nut-cracker chin. Her face is very much wrinkled, especially at the sides of her eyes, as if she were always smiling. She is wearing a little white shawl with a black edge. But! ... she can't be old as her hair is quite brown! although her face looks so very very old." The picture then vanished, and the lady said that I had accurately described her friend's mother instead of himself; that it was a family joke that the mother must dye her hair, it was so brown and she was eighty-two years old. The lady asked me if the vision were distinct enough for me to recognise a likeness in the son's photograph; next day she laid several photographs before me, and in a moment, without the slightest hesitation I picked him out from his wonderful likeness to my vision!'

The inquirer verbally corroborated all the facts to me, within a week, but leaned to a theory of 'electricity.' She has read and confirms this account.

'II.—One afternoon I was sitting beside a young lady whom I had never seen or heard of before. She asked if she might look into my crystal, and while she did so I happened to look over her shoulder and saw a ship tossing on a very heavy choppy sea, although land was still visible in the dim distance. That vanished, and, as suddenly, a little house appeared with five or six (I forget now the exact number I then counted) steps leading up to the door. On the second step stood an old man reading a newspaper. In front of the house was a field of thick stubbly grass where some lambs, I was going to say, but they were more like very small sheep.. were grazing.

'When the scene vanished, the young lady told me I had vividly described a spot in Shetland where she and her mother were soon going to spend a few weeks.'

I heard of this case from Miss Angus within a day or two of its occurrence, and it was then confirmed to me, verbally, by the other lady. She again confirms it (December 21, 1897). Both ladies had hitherto been perfect strangers to each other. The old man was the schoolmaster, apparently. In her MS., Miss Angus writes 'Skye,' but at the time both she and the other lady said Shetland (which I have restored). In Shetland the sheep, like the ponies, are small. Fortuitous coincidence, of course, may be invoked. The next account is by another lady, say Miss Rose.

'III.—Writes Miss Rose—My first experience of crystal gazing was not a pleasant one, as will be seen from the following which I now relate as exactly as I can remember. I asked my friend, Miss Angus, to allow me to look in her crystal, and, after doing so for a short time, gave up, saying it was very unsatisfactory, as, although I saw a room with a bright fire in it and a bed all curtained and people coming and going, I could not make out who they were, so I returned the crystal to Miss Angus, with the request that she might look for me. She said at once, "I see a bed with a man in it looking very ill and a lady in black beside it." Without saying any more Miss Angus still kept looking, and, after some time, I asked to have one more look, and on her passing the ball back to me, I received quite a shock, for there, perfectly clearly in a bright light, I saw stretched out in bed an old man apparently dead; for a few minutes I could not look, and on doing so once more there appeared a lady in black and out of dense darkness a long black object was being carried and it stopped before a dark opening overhung with rocks. At the time I saw this I was staying with cousins, and it was a Friday evening. On Sunday we heard of the death of the father-in-law of one of my cousins; of course I knew the old gentleman was very ill, but my thoughts were not in the least about him when looking in the crystal. I may also say I did not recognise in the features of the dead man those of the old gentleman whose death I mention. On looking again on Sunday, I once more saw the curtained bed and some people.'

I now give Miss Angus's version of this case, as originally received from her (December 1897). I had previously received an oral version, from a person present at the scrying. It differed, in one respect, from what Miss Angus writes. Her version is offered because it is made independently, without consultation, or attempt to reconcile recollections.

'At a recent experience of gazing, for the first time I was able to make another see what I saw in the crystal. Miss Rose called one afternoon, and begged me to look in the ball for her. I did so, and immediately exclaimed, "Oh! here is a bed, with a man in it looking very ill [I saw he was dead, but refrained from saying so], and there is a lady dressed in black sitting beside the bed." I did not recognise the man to be anyone I knew, so I told her to look. In a very short time she called out, "Oh! I see the bed too! But, oh! take it away, the man is dead!" She got quite a shock, and said she would never look in it again. Soon, however, curiosity prompted her to have one more look, and the scene at once came back again, and slowly, from a misty object at the side of the bed, the lady in black became quite distinct. Then she described several people in the room, and said they were carrying something all draped in black. When she saw this, she put the ball down and would not look at it again. She called again on Sunday (this had been on Friday) with her cousin, and we teased her about being afraid of the crystal, so she said she would just look in it once more. She took the ball, but immediately laid it down again, saying, "No, I won't look, as the bed with the awful man in it is there again!"

'When they went home, they heard that the cousin's father-in-law had died that afternoon,[11] but to show he had never been in our thoughts, although we all knew he had not been well, no one suggested him; his name was never mentioned in connection with the vision.'

'Clairvoyance,' of course, is not illustrated here, the corpse being unrecognised, and the coincidence, doubtless, accidental.

The next case is attested by a civilian, a slight acquaintance of Miss Angus's, who now saw him for the second time only, but better known to her family.

'IV.—On Thursday, March —? 1897, I was lunching with my friends the Anguses, and during luncheon the conversation turned upon crystal balls and the visions that, by some people, can be seen in them. The subject arose owing to Miss Angus having just been presented with a crystal ball by Mr. Andrew Lang. I asked her to let me see it, and then to try and see if she could conjure up a vision of any person of whom I might think.... I fixed my mind upon a friend, a young trooper in the [regiment named], as I thought his would be a striking and peculiar personality, owing to his uniform, and also because I felt sure that Miss Angus could not possibly know of his existence. I fixed my mind steadily upon my friend, and presently Miss Angus, who had already seen two cloudy visions of faces and people, called out, "Now I see a man on a horse most distinctly; he is dressed most queerly, and glitters all over—why, it's a soldier! a soldier in uniform, but it's not an officer." My excitement on hearing this was so great that I ceased to concentrate my attention upon the thought of my friend, and the vision faded away and could not afterwards be recalled.—December 2, 1897.'

The witness gives the name of the trooper, whom he had befriended in a severe illness. Miss Angus's own account follows: she had told me the story in June 1897.

'Shortly after I became the happy possessor of a "crystal" I managed to convert several very decided "sceptics," and I will here give a short account of my experiences with two or three of them.

'One was with a Mr. ——, who was so determined to baffle me, he said he would think of a friend it would not be possible for me to describe!

'I had only met Mr. —— the day before, and knew utmost nothing about him or his personal friends.

'I took up the ball, which immediately became misty, and out of this mist gradually a crowd of people appeared, but too indistinctly for me to recognise anyone, until suddenly a man on horseback came galloping along. I remember saying, "I can't describe what he is like, but he is dressed in a very queer way—in something so bright that the sun shining on him quite dazzles me, and I cannot make him out!" As he came nearer I exclaimed. "Why, it's a soldier in shining armour, but it's not an officer, only a soldier!" Two friends who were in the room said Mr. ——'s excitement was intense, and my attention was drawn from the ball by hearing him call out, "It's wonderful! it's perfectly true! I was thinking of a young boy, a son of a crofter, in whom I am deeply interested, and who is a trooper in the —— in London, which would account for the crowd of people round him in the street!"'

The next case is given, first in the version of the lady who was unconsciously scried for, and next in that of Miss Angus. The other lady writes:

'V.—I met Miss A. for the first time in a friend's house in the south of England, and one evening mention was made of a crystal ball, and our hostess asked Miss A. to look in it, and, if possible, tell her what was happening to a friend of hers. Miss A. took the crystal, and our hostess put her hand on Miss A.'s forehead to "will her." I, not believing in this, took up a book and went to the other side of the room. I was suddenly very much startled to hear Miss A., in quite an agitated way, describe a scene that had most certainly been very often in my thoughts, but of which I had never mentioned a word, She accurately described a race-course in Scotland, and an accident which happened to a friend of mine only a week or two before, and she was evidently going through the same doubt and anxiety that I did at the time as to whether he was actually killed or only very much hurt. It really was a most wonderful revelation to me, as it was the very first time I had seen a crystal. Our hostess, of course, was very much annoyed that she had not been able to influence Miss A., while I, who had appeared so very indifferent, should have affected her.—November 28, 1897.'

Miss Angus herself writes:

'Another case was a rather interesting one, as I somehow got inside the thoughts of one lady while another was doing her best to influence me!

'Miss ——, a friend in Brighton, has strange "magnetic" powers, and felt quite sure of success with me and the ball.

'Another lady, Miss H., who was present, laughed at the whole thing, especially when Miss —— insisted on holding my hand and patting her other hand on my forehead! Miss H. in a scornful manner took up a book, and, crossing to the other side of the room, left us to our folly.

'In a very short time I felt myself getting excited, which had never happened before, when I looked in the crystal. I saw a crowd of people, and in some strange way I felt I was in it, and we all seemed to be waiting for something. Soon a rider came past, young, dressed for racing. His horse ambled past, and he smiled and nodded to those he knew in the crowd, and then was lost to sight.

'In a moment we all seemed to feel as if something had happened, and I went through great agony of suspense trying to see what seemed just beyond my view. Soon, however, two or three men approached, and carried him past before my eyes, and again my anxiety was intense to discover if he were only very badly hurt or if life were really extinct. All this happened in a few moments, but long enough to have left me so agitated that I could not realise it had only been a vision in a glass ball.

'By this time Miss H. had laid aside her book, and came forward quite startled, and told me that I had accurately described a scene on a race-course in Scotland which she had witnessed just a week or two before—a scene that had very often been in her thoughts, but, as we were strangers to each other, she had never mentioned. She also said I had exactly described her own feelings at the time, and had brought it all back in a most vivid manner.

'The other lady was rather disappointed that, after she had concentrated her thoughts so hard, I should have been influenced instead by one who had jeered at the whole affair.'

[This anecdote was also told to me, within a few days of the occurrence, by Miss Angus. Her version was that she first saw a gentleman rider going to the post and nodding to his friends. Then she saw him carried on a stretcher through the crowd. She seemed, she said, to be actually present, and felt somewhat agitated. The fact of the accident was, later, mentioned to me in Scotland by another lady, a stranger to all the persons.—A.L.]

VI.—I may briefly add an experiment of December 21, 1897. A gentleman had recently come from England to the Scottish town where Miss Angus lives. He dined with her family, and about 10.15 to 10.30 P.M. she proposed to look in the glass for a scene or person of whom he was to think. He called up a mental picture of a ball at which he had recently been, and of a young lady to whom he had there been introduced. The lady's face, however, he could not clearly visualise, and Miss Angus reported nothing but a view of an empty ball-room, with polished floor and many lights. The gentleman made another effort, and remembered his partner with some distinctness. Miss Angus then described another room, not a ball-room, comfortably furnished, in which a girl with brown hair drawn back from her forehead, and attired in a high-necked white blouse, was reading, or writing letters, under a bright light in an unshaded glass globe. The description of the features, figure, and height tallied with Mr. ——'s recollection; but he had never seen this Geraldine of an hour except in ball dress. He and Miss Angus noted the time by their watches (it was 10.30), and Mr. —— said that on the first opportunity he would ask the young lady how she had been dressed and how employed at that hour on December 21. On December 22 he met her at another dance, and her reply corroborated the crystal picture. She had been writing letters, in a high-necked white blouse, under an incandescent gas lamp with an unshaded glass globe. She was entirely unknown to Miss Angus, and had only been seen once by Mr. ——. Mr. —— and the lady of the crystal picture corroborated all this in writing.

I now suggested an experiment to Miss Angus, which, after all, was clearly not of a nature to establish a 'test' for sceptics. The inquirer was to write down, and inclose in an envelope, a statement of his thoughts; Miss Angus was to do the same with her description of the picture seen by her; and these documents were to be sent to me, without communication between the inquirer and the crystal-gazer. Of course, this could in no way prove absence of collusion, as the two parties might arrange privately beforehand what the vision was to be.

Indeed, nobody is apt to be convinced, or shaken, unless he is himself the inquirer and a stranger to the seeress, as the people in these experiments were. Evidence interesting to them—and, in a secondary degree, to others who know them—can thus be procured; but strangers are left to the same choice of doubts as in all reports of psychological experiences, 'chromatic audition,' views of coloured numerals, and the other topics illustrated by Mr. Galton's interesting researches.

In this affair of the envelopes the inquirer was a Mr. Pembroke, who had just made Miss Angus's acquaintance, and was but a sojourner in the land. He wrote, before knowing what Miss Angus had seen in the ball:

'VII.—On Sunday, January 23, 1898, whilst Miss Angus was looking in the crystal ball, I was thinking of my brother, who was, I believe, at that time, somewhere between Sabathu (Punjab, India) and Egypt. I was anxious to know what stage of his journey he had reached.'

Miss Angus saw, and wrote, before telling Mr. Pembroke:

'A long and very white road, with tall trees at one side; on the other, a river or lake of greyish water. Blue sky, with a crimson sunset. A great black ship is anchored near, and on the deck I see a man lying, apparently very ill. He is a powerful-looking man, fair, and very much bronzed. Seven or eight Englishmen, in very light clothes, are standing on the road beside the boat.

'January 28, 1898.'

'A great black ship,' anchored in 'a river or lake,' naturally suggests the Suez Canal, where, in fact, Mr. Pembroke's brother was just arriving, as was proved by a letter received from him eight days after the experiment was recorded, on January 31. At that date Mr. Pembroke had not yet been told the nature of Miss Angus's crystal picture, nor had she any knowledge of his brother's whereabouts.

In February 1898, Miss Angus again came to the place where I was residing. We visited together the scene of an historical crime, and Miss Angus looked into the glass ball. It was easy for her to 'visualise' the incidents of the crime (the murder of Cardinal Beaton), for they are familiar enough to many people. What she did see in the ball was a tall, pale lady, 'about forty, but looking thirty-five,' with hair drawn back from the brows, standing beside a high chair, dressed in a wide farthingale of stiff grey brocade, without a ruff. The costume corresponds well (as we found) with that of 1546, and I said, 'I suppose it is Mariotte Ogilvy'—to whom Miss Angus's historical knowledge (and perhaps that of the general public) did not extend. Mariotte was the Cardinal's lady-love, and was in the Castle on the night before the murder, according to Knox. She had been in my mind, whence (on the theory of thought transference) she may have passed to Miss Angus's mind; but I had never speculated on Mariotte's costume. Nothing but conjecture, of course, comes of these apparently 'retrospective' pictures; though a most singular and picturesque coincidence occurred, which may be told in a very different connection.

The next example was noted at the same town. The lady who furnishes it is well known to me, and it was verbally corroborated by Miss Angus, to whom the lady, her absent nephew, and all about her, were entirely strange.

'VIII.—I was very anxious to know whether my nephew would be sent to India this year, so I told Miss Angus that I had thought of something, and asked her to look in the glass ball. She did so, but almost immediately turned round and looked out of the window at the sea, and said, "I saw a ship so distinctly I thought it must be a reflection." She looked in the ball again, and said, "It is a large ship, and it is passing a huge rock with a lighthouse on it. I can't see who are on the ship, but the sky is very clear and blue. Now I see a large building, something like a club, and in front there are a great many people sitting and walking about. I think it must be some place abroad, for the people are all dressed in very light clothes, and it seems to be very sunny and warm. I see a young man sitting on a chair, with his feet straight out before him. He is not talking to anyone, but seems to be listening to something. He is dark and slight, and not very tall; and his eyebrows are dark and very distinctly marked."

'I had not had the pleasure of meeting Miss Angus before, and she knew nothing whatever about my nephew; but the young man described was exactly like him, both in his appearance and in the way he was sitting.'

In this case thought transference may be appealed to. The lady was thinking of her nephew in connection with India. It is not maintained, of course, that the picture was of a prophetic character.

The following examples have some curious and unusual features. On Wednesday, February 2, 1897, Miss Angus was looking in the crystal, to amuse six or seven people whose acquaintance she had that day made. A gentleman, Mr. Bissett, asked her 'what letter was in his pocket,' She then saw, under a bright sky, and, as it were, a long way off, a large building, in and out of which many men were coming and going. Her impression was that the scene must be abroad. In the little company present, it should be added, was a lady, Mrs. Cockburn, who had considerable reason to think of her young married daughter, then at a place about fifty miles away. After Miss Angus had described the large building and crowds of men, some one asked, 'Is it an exchange?' 'It might be,' she said. 'Now comes a man in a great hurry. He has a broad brow, and short, curly hair;[12] hat pressed low down on his eyes. The face is very serious; but he has a delightful smile.' Mr. and Mrs. Bissett now both recognised their friend and stockbroker, whose letter was in Mr. Bissett's pocket.

The vision, which interested Miss Angus, passed away, and was interrupted by that of a hospital nurse, and of a lady in a peignoir, lying on a sofa, with bare feet.[13] Miss Angus mentioned this vision as a bore, she being more interested in the stockbroker, who seems to have inherited what was once in the possession of another stockbroker—'the smile of Charles Lamb.' Mrs. Cockburn, for whom no pictures appeared, was rather vexed, and privately expressed with freedom a very sceptical opinion about the whole affair. But, on Saturday, February 5, 1897, Miss Angus was again with Mr. and Mrs. Bissett. When Mrs. Bissett announced that she had 'thought of something,' Miss Angus saw a walk in a wood or garden, beside a river, under a brilliant blue sky. Here was a lady, very well dressed, twirling a white parasol on her shoulder as she walked, in a curious 'stumpy' way, beside a gentleman in light clothes, such as are worn in India. He was broad-shouldered, had a short neck and a straight nose, and seemed to listen, laughing, but indifferent, to his obviously vivacious companion. The lady had a 'drawn' face, indicative of ill health. Then followed a scene in which the man, without the lady, was looking on at a number of Orientals busy in the felling of trees. Mrs. Bissett recognised, in the lady, her sister, Mrs. Clifton, in India—above all, when Miss Angus gave a realistic imitation of Mrs. Clifton's walk, the peculiarity of which was caused by an illness some years ago. Mrs. and Mr. Bissett also recognised their brother-in-law in the gentleman seen in both pictures. On being shown a portrait of Mrs. Clifton as a girl, Miss Angus said it was 'like, but too pretty.' A photograph done recently, however, showed her 'the drawn face' of the crystal picture.[14]

Next day, Sunday, February 6, Mrs. Bissett received, what was not usual—a letter from her sister in India, Mrs. Clifton, dated January 20. Mrs. Clifton described a place in a native State, where she had been at a great 'function,' in certain gardens beside a river. She added that they were going to another place for a certain purpose, 'and then we go into camp till the end of February.' One of Mr. Clifton's duties is to direct the clearing of wood preparatory to the formation of the camp, as in Miss Angus's crystal picture.[15] The sceptical Mrs. Cockburn heard of these coincidences, and an idea occurred to her. She wrote to her daughter, who has been mentioned, and asked whether, on Wednesday, February 2, she had been lying on a sofa in her bed-room, with bare feet. The young lady confessed that it was indeed so;[16] and, when she heard how the fact came to be known, expressed herself with some warmth on the abuse of glass balls, which tend to rob life of its privacy.

In this case the prima facie aspect of things is that a thought of Mr. Bissett's about his stockbroker, dulce ridentem, somehow reflected itself into Miss Angus's mind by way of the glass ball, and was interrupted by a thought of Mrs. Cockburn's, as to her daughter. But how these thoughts came to display the unknown facts concerning the garden by the river, the felling of trees for a camp, and the bare feet, is a question about which it is vain to theorise.[17]

On the vanishing of the jungle scene there appeared a picture of a man in a dark undress uniform, beside a great bay, in which were ships of war. Wooden huts, as in a plague district, were on shore. Mr. Bissett asked, 'What is the man's expression?' 'He looks as if he had been giving a lot of last orders.' Then appeared 'a place like a hospital, with five or six beds—no, berths: it is a ship. Here is the man again.' He was minutely described, one peculiarity being the way in which his hair grew—or, rather, did not grow—on his temples.

Miss Angus now asked, 'Where is my little lady?'—meaning the lady of the twirling parasol and staccato walk. 'Oh, I've left off thinking of her,' said Mrs. Bissett, who had been thinking of, and recognised in the officer in undress uniform, her brother, the man with the singular hair, whose face, in fact, had been scarred in that way by an encounter with a tiger. He was expected to sail from Bombay, but news of his setting forth has not been received (February 10) at the moment when this is written.[18]

In these Indian cases, 'thought transference' may account for the correspondence between the figures seen by Miss Angus and the ideas in the mind of Mr. and Mrs. Bissett. But the hypothesis of thought transference, while it would cover the wooden huts at Bombay (Mrs. Bissett knowing that her brother was about to leave that place), can scarcely explain the scene in the garden by the river and the scene with the trees. The incident of the bare feet may be regarded as a fortuitous coincidence, since Miss Angus saw the young lady foreshortened, and could not describe her face.

In the Introductory Chapter it was observed that the phenomena which apparently point to some unaccountable supernormal faculty of acquiring knowledge are 'trivial.' These anecdotes illustrate the triviality; but the facts certainly left a number of people, wholly unfamiliar with such experiments, under the impression that Miss Angus's glass ball was like Prince Ali's magical telescope in the 'Arabian Nights.'[19] These experiments, however, occasionally touch on intimate personal matters, and cannot be reported in such instances.

It will be remarked that the faculty is freakish, and does not always respond to conscious exertion of thought in the mind of the inquirer. Thus, in Case I. a connection of the person thought of is discerned; in another the mind of a stranger present seems to be read. In another case (not given here) the inquirer tried to visualise a card for a person present to guess, while Miss Angus was asked to describe an object which the inquirer was acquainted with, but which he banished from his conscious thought. The double experiment was a double-barrelled success.

It seems hardly necessary to point out that chance coincidence will not cover this set of cases, where in each 'guess' the field of conjecture is boundless, and is not even narrowed by the crystal-gazer's knowledge of the persons for whose diversion she makes the experiment. As 'muscle-reading' is not in question (in the one case of contact between inquirer and crystal-gazer the results were unexpected), and as no unconsciously made signs could convey, for example, the idea of a cavalry soldier in uniform, or an accident on a race-course in two tableaux, I do not at present see any more plausible explanation than that of thought transference, though how that is to account for some of the cases given I do not precisely understand.

Any one who can accept the assurance of my personal belief in the good faith of all concerned will see how very useful this faculty of crystal-gazing must be to the Apache or Australian medicine-man or Polynesian priest. Freakish as the faculty is, a few real successes, well exploited and eked out by fraud, would set up a wizard's reputation. That a faculty of being thus affected is genuine seems proved, apart from modern evidence, by the world-wide prevalence of crystal-gazing in the ethnographic region. But the discovery of this prevalence had not been made, to my knowledge, before modern instances induced me to notice the circumstances, sporadically recorded in books of travel.

The phenomena are certainly of a kind to encourage the savage theory of the wandering soul. How else, thinkers would say, can the seer visit the distant place or person, and correctly describe men and scenes which, in the body, he never saw? Or they would encourage the Polynesian belief that the 'spirit' of the thing or person looked for is suspended by a god over the water, crystal, blood, ink, or whatever it may be. Thus, to anthropologists, the discovery of crystal-gazing as a thing widely diffused and still flourishing ought to be grateful, however much they may blame my childish credulity. I may add that I have no ground to suppose that crystal-gazing will ever be of practical service to the police or to persons who have lost articles of portable property. But I have no objection to experiments being made at Scotland Yard.[20]

[Footnote 1: Information, with a photograph of the stones, from a correspondent in West Maitland, Australia.]

[Footnote 2: Report Ethnol. Bureau, 1887-88, p. 460; vol. ii. p. 69. Captain Bourke's volume on The Medicine Men of the Apaches may also be consulted.]

[Footnote 3: Fitzroy, Adventure, vol. ii. p. 389.]

[Footnote 4: L'Histoire de la grand Ile Madagascar, par le Sieur de Flacourt. Paris, 1661, ch. 76. Veue de deux Navires de France predite par les Negres, avant que l'on en peust scavoir des Nouvelles, &c.]

[Footnote 5: Religion of the Amazulu, p. 341.]

[Footnote 6: J.A.I., November 1894, p. 155. Ryckov is cited; Zhurnal, p. 86.]

[Footnote 7: Rites and Laws of the Yncas, Christoval de Molina, p. 12.]

[Footnote 8: See Miss X's article, S.P.R. Proceedings, v. 486.]

[Footnote 9: Op. cit. v. 505.]

[Footnote 10: If any reader wishes to make experiments, he, or she, should not be astonished if the first crystal figure represents 'the sheeted dead,' or a person ill in bed. For some reason, or no reason, this is rather a usual prelude, signifying nothing.]

[Footnote 11: Sunday afternoon. It is not implied that the pictures on Friday were prophetic. Probably Miss Rose saw what Miss Angus had seen by aid of 'suggestion.']

[Footnote 12: Miss Angus could not be sure of the colour of the hair.]

[Footnote 13: The position was such that Miss Angus could not see the face of the lady.]

[Footnote 14: I saw the photographs.]

[Footnote 15: I have been shown the letter of January 20, which confirmed the evidence of the crystal pictures. The camp was formed for official purposes in which Mr. Clifton was concerned. A letter of February 9 unconsciously corroborates.]

[Footnote 16: The incident of the feet occurred at 4.30 to 7.30 P.M. The crystal picture was about 10 P.M.]

[Footnote 17: Miss Angus had only within the week made the acquaintance of Mrs. Cockburn and the Bissetts. Of these relations of theirs at a distance she had no knowledge.]

[Footnote 18: I have seen a photograph of this gentleman, Major Hamilton, which tallies with the full description given by Miss Angus, as reported by Mrs. Bissett. All the proper names here, as throughout, are altered.

This account I wrote from the verbal statement of Mrs. Bissett. It was then read and corroborated by herself, Mr. Bissett, Mr. Cockburn, Mrs. Cockburn, and Miss Angus, who added dates and signatures.]

[Footnote 19: The letters attesting each of these experiments are in my possession. The real names are in no case given in this account, by my own desire, but (with permission of the persona concerned) can be communicated privately.]

[Footnote 20: The faculty of seeing 'fancy pictures' in the glass is far from uncommon. I have only met with three other persons besides Miss Angus, two of them men, who had any success in 'telepathic' crystal-gazing. In correcting 'revises' (March 16), I leant that the brother of Mr. Pembroke (p. 105) wrote from Cairo on January 27. The 'scry' of January 23 represented his ship in the Suez Canal. He was, as his letter shows, in quarantine at Suez, at Moses's Wells, from January 25 to January 26. Major Hamilton (pp. 109, 110), on the other hand, left Bombay, indeed, but not by sea, as in the crystal-picture. See Appendix C. Mr. Starr, an American critic, adds Cherokees, Aztecs, and Tonkaways to the ranks of crystal gazers.]



We have been examining cases, savage or civilised, in which knowledge is believed to be acquired through no known channel of sense. All such instances among savages, whether of the nature of clairvoyance simple, or by aid of gazing in a smooth surface, or in dreams, or in trance, or through second sight, would confirm if they did not originate the belief in the separable soul. The soul, if it is to visit distant places and collect information, must leave the body, it would be argued, and must so far be capable of leading an independent life. Perhaps we ought next to study cases of 'possession,' when knowledge is supposed to be conveyed by an alien soul, ghost, spirit, or god, taking up its abode in a man, and speaking out of his lips. But it seems better first to consider the alleged super-normal phenomena which may have led the savage reasoner to believe that he was not the only owner of a separable soul: that other people were equally gifted.

The sense, as of separation, which a savage dreamer or seer would feel after a dream or vision in which he visited remote places, would satisfy him that his soul, at least, was volatile. But some experience of what he would take to be visits from the spirits of others, would be needed before he recognised that other men, as well as he, had the faculty of sending their souls a journeying.

Now, ordinary dreams, in which the dreamer seemed to see persons who were really remote; would supply to the savage reasoner a certain amount of affirmative evidence. It is part of Mr. Tylor's contention that savages (like some children) are subject to the difficulty which most of us may have occasionally felt in deciding 'Did this really happen, or did I dream it?' Thus, ordinary dreams would offer to the early thinker some evidence that other men's souls could visit his, as he believes that his can visit them.

But men, we may assume, were not, at the assumed stage of thought, so besotted as not to take a great practical distinction between sleeping and waking experience on the whole. As has been shown, the distinction is made by the lowest savages of our acquaintance. One clear waking hallucination, on the other hand, of the presence of a person really absent, could not but tell more with the early philosopher than a score of dreams, for to be easily forgotten is of the essence of a dream. Savages, indeed, oddly enough, have hit on our theory, 'dreams go by contraries.' Dr. Callaway illustrates this for the Zulus, and Mr. Scott for the Mang'anza. Thus they do discriminate between sleeping and waking. We must therefore examine waking hallucinations in the field of actual experience, and on such recent evidence as may be accessible. If these hallucinations agree, in a certain ratio, beyond what fortuitous coincidence can explain, with real but unknown events, then such hallucinations would greatly strengthen, in the mind of an early thinker, the savage theory that a man at a distance may, voluntarily or involuntarily, project his spirit on a journey, and be seen where he is not present.

When Mr. Tylor wrote his book, the study of the occasional waking hallucinations of the sane and healthy was in its infancy. Much, indeed, had been written about hallucinations, but these were mainly the chronic false perceptions of maniacs, of drunkards, and of persons in bad health such as Nicolai and Mrs. A. The hallucinations of persons of genius—Jeanne d'Arc, Luther, Socrates, Pascal, were by some attributed to lunacy in these famous people. Scarcely any writers before Mr. Galton had recognised the occurrence of hallucinations once in a life, perhaps, among healthy, sober, and mentally sound people. If these were known to occur, they were dismissed as dreams of an unconscious sleep. This is still practically the hypothesis of Dr. Parish, as we shall see later. But in the last twenty years the infrequent hallucinations of the sane have been recognised by Mr. Galton, and discussed by Professor James, Mr. Gurney, Dr. Parish, and many other writers.

Two results have followed. First, 'ghosts' are shown to be, when not illusions caused by mistaking one object for another, then hallucinations. As these most frequently represent a living person who is not present, by parity of reason the appearance of a dead person is on the same level, is not a space-filling 'ghost,' but merely an hallucination. Such an appearance can, prima facie, suggest no reasonable inference as to the continued existence of the dead. On the other hand, the new studies have raised the perhaps insoluble question, 'Do not hallucinations of the sane, representing the living, coincide more frequently than mere luck can account for, with the death or other crisis of the person apparently seen?' If this could be proved, then there would seem to be a causal nexus, a relation of cause and effect between the hallucination and the coincident crisis. That connection would be provisionally explained by some not understood action of the mind or brain of the person in the crisis, on that of the person who has the hallucination. This is no new idea; only the name, Telepathy, is modern. Of course, if all this were accepted, it would be the next step to ask whether hallucinations representing the dead show any signs of being caused by some action on the side of the departed. That is a topic on which the little that we have to say must be said later.

In the meantime the reader who has persevered so far is apt to go no further. The prejudice against 'wraiths' and 'ghosts' is very strong; but, then, our innocent phantasms are neither (as we understand their nature) ghosts nor wraiths. Kant broke the edges of his metaphysical tools against, not these phantasms, but the logically inconceivable entities which were at once material and non-material, at once 'spiritual' and 'space-filling.' There is no such difficulty about hallucinations, which, whatever else may be said about them, are familiar facts of experience. The only real objections are the statements that hallucinations are always morbid (which is no longer the universal belief of physiologists and psychologists), and that the alleged coincidences of a phantasm of a person with the unknown death of that person at a distance are 'pure flukes.' That is the question to which we recur later.

In the meantime, the defenders of the theory, that there is some not understood connection of cause and effect between the death or other crisis at one end and the perception representing the person affected by the crisis at the other end, point out that such hallucinations, or other effects on the percipient, exist in a regular rising scale of potency and perceptibility. Suppose that 'A's' death in Yorkshire is to affect the consciousness of 'B' in Surrey before he knows anything about the fact (suppose it for the sake of argument), then the effect may take place (1) on 'B's' emotions, producing a vague malaise and gloom; (2) on his motor nerves, urging him to some act; (3) or may translate itself into his senses, as a touch felt, a voice heard, a figure seen; or (4) may render itself as a phrase or an idea.

Of these, (1) the emotional effect is, of course, the vaguest. We may all have had a sudden fit of gloom which we could not explain. People rarely act on such impressions, and, when they do, are often wrong. Thus a friend of my own was suddenly so overwhelmed, at golf, with inexplicable misery (though winning his match) that he apologised to his opponent and walked home from the ninth hole. Nothing was wrong at home. Probably some real ground of apprehension had obscurely occurred to his mind and expressed itself in his emotion.

But one may illustrate what did look like a coincidence by the experience of the same friend. He inhabited, as a young married man, a flat in a house belonging to an acquaintance. The hall was covered by a kind of glass roof, over part of its extent. He was staying in the country with his wife, and as they travelled home the lady was beset with an irresistible conviction that something terrible had occurred, not to her children. On reaching their house they found that one of their maids had fallen through the glass roof and killed herself. They also learned that the girl's sister had arrived at the house, immediately after the accident, explaining that she was driven to come by a sense that something dreadful had happened. The lawyer, too, who represented the owner of the house, had appeared, unsummoned, from a conviction, which he could not resist, that for some reason unknown he was wanted there.[1] Here, then, was not an hallucination, but an emotional effect simultaneously reaching the consciousness of three persons, and coinciding with an unknown crisis.[2]

Cases in which a person feels urged to an act (2) are also recorded. Indeed, the lawyer's in our anecdote is such an instance. Not to trouble ourselves (3) with 'voices,' hallucinations of sight, coinciding with a distant unknown crisis, are traced from a mere feeling that somebody is in the room, followed by a mental, or mind's eye picture of a person dying at a distance, up to a kind of 'vision' of a person or scene, and so on to hallucinations appealing, at once, to touch, sight, and hearing. As some hundreds of these narratives of coincidental hallucinations in every degree have been collected from witnesses at first hand, often personally known, and usually personally cross-questioned, by the student, it is difficult to deny that there is a prima facie case for inquiry.[3]

There is here no question of 'spirits,' with all their physical and metaphysical difficulties. Nor is there any desire to shirk the fact that many 'presentiments' and hallucinations of the sane coincide with no ascertainable fact. We only provisionally posit the possibility of an influence, in its nature unknown, of one mind on another at a distance, such influence translating itself into an hallucination. An inquiry into this subject, in the ethnographic and modern fields, may be new but involves no 'superstition.'

We now return to Mr. Tylor, who treats of hallucinations among other experiences which led early savage thinkers to believe in ghosts or separable souls, the origin of religion.

As to the causes of hallucinations in general, Mr. Tylor has something to say, but it is nothing systematic. 'Sickness, exhaustion, and excitement' cause savages to behold 'human spectres,' in 'the objective reality' of which they believe. But if an educated modern, not sick, nor exhausted, nor excited, has an hallucination of a friend's presence, he, too, believes that it is 'objective,' is his friend in flesh and blood, till he finds out his mistake, by examination or reflection. As Professor William James remarks, in his 'Principles of Psychology,' such solitary hallucinations of the sane and healthy, once in a life-time, are difficult to account for, and are by no means rare. 'Sometimes,' Mr. Tylor observes, 'the phantom has the characteristic quality of not being visible to all of an assembled company,' and he adds 'to assert or imply that they are visible sometimes, and to some persons, but not always, or to everyone, is to lay down an explanation of facts which is not, indeed, our usual modern explanation, but which is a perfectly rational and intelligible product of early science.'

It is, indeed, nor has later science produced any rational and intelligible explanation of collective hallucinations, shared by several persons at once, and perhaps not perceived by others who are present. Mr. Tylor, it is true, asserts that 'in civilised countries a rumour of some one having seen a phantom is enough to bring a sight of it to others whose minds are in a properly receptive state.' But this is arguing in a circle; What is 'a properly receptive state'? If illness, overwork, 'expectant attention,' make 'a properly receptive state,' I should have seen several phantoms in several 'haunted houses.' But the only thing of the sort I ever saw occurred when I was thinking of nothing less, when I was in good health, and when I did not know (nor did I learn till long after) that it was the right and usual phantom to see. Mr. Podmore remarks that various members of the Psychical Society have sojourned in various 'haunted houses,' 'some of them in a state of expectancy and nervous excitement,' which never caused them to see phantoms, for they saw none.[4]

Mr. Tylor treats of waking hallucinations in much the same manner as he deals with 'travelling clairvoyance.' He does not study them 'in the field of experience.' He is not concerned with the truth of the facts, important as we think it would be, but with his theory that hallucinations, among other causes, would naturally give rise to the belief in spirits, and thus to the early philosophy of Animism. Now, certainly, the hallucination of a person's presence, say at the moment of his death at a distance, would suggest to a savage that something of the dying man's, something symbolised in the word 'shadow,' or 'breath' (spiritus), had come to say farewell. The modern 'spiritualistic' theory, again, that the dead man's 'spirit' is actually present to the percipient, in space, corresponds to, and is derived from, the animistic philosophy of the savage. But we may believe in such 'death-wraiths,' or hallucinatory appearances of the dying, without being either savages or spiritualists. We may believe without pretending to explain, or we may advance the theory of 'Telepathy,' Hegel's 'magical tie,' according to which the distant mind somehow impresses itself, in a more or less perfect hallucination, on the mind of the person who perceives the wraith. If this be so, or even if no explanation be offered, the truth of the stories of coincidental apparitions becomes important, as pointing to a new region of psychical inquiry. Then the evidence of savages as to hallucinations of their own, coincident with the death of their absent friends, will confirm, quantum valeat, the evidence of many modern observers in all ranks of life, and all degrees of culture, from Lord Brougham to an old nurse.[5]

As to hallucinations coincident with the death of the person apparently seen, Mr. Tylor says: 'Narratives of this class I can here only specify without arguing on them, they are abundantly in circulation.'[6] Now, the modern hallucinations themselves can scarcely, perhaps, be called 'survivals from savagery,' though the opinion that an hallucination of a person must be his 'spirit' is really such a survival. It is with that opinion, with Animism in its hallucinatory origins, that Mr. Tylor is concerned, not with the hallucinations themselves or with the evidence for their veridical existence.

Mr. Tylor gives three anecdotes, narrated to him, in two cases, by the seers, of phantasms of the living beheld by them (and in one case by a companion also) when the real person was dying at a distance. He adds: 'My own view is that nothing but dreams and visions could have ever put into men's minds such an idea as that of souls being ethereal images of bodies.'[7] The idea may be perfectly erroneous; but if the occurrence of such coincidental appearances as Mr. Tylor tells us about could be shown to be too frequent for mere chance to produce, then there would be a presumption in favour of some unknown faculties in our nature—a proper theme for anthropology.

The hallucinations of which we hear most are those in which a person sees the phantom of another person, who, unknown to him, is in or near the hour of death. Mr. Tylor, in addition to his three instances in civilised life, alludes to one in savage life, with references to other cases.[8] We turn to his savage instance, offering it at full length from the original.[9]

'Among the Maoris' (says Mr. Shortland) 'it is always ominous to see the figure of an absent person. If the figure is very shadowy, and its face is not seen, death, although he may ere long be expected, has not seized his prey. If the face of the absent person is seen, the omen forewarns the beholder that he is already dead.'

The following statement is from the mouth of an eyewitness:

'A party of natives left their village, with the intention of being absent some time, on a pig-hunting expedition. One night, while they were seated in the open air around a blazing fire, the figure of a relative who had been left ill at home was seen to approach. The apparition appeared to two of the party only, and vanished immediately on their making an exclamation of surprise. When they returned to the village they inquired for the sick man, and then learnt that he had died about the time he was said to have been seen.'

I now give Maori cases, communicated to me by Mr. Tregear, F.R.G.S., author of a 'Maori Comparative Dictionary.'

A very intelligent Maori chief said to me, 'I have seen but two ghosts. I was a boy at school in Auckland, and one morning was asleep in bed when I found myself aroused by some one shaking me by the shoulder. I looked up, and saw bending over me the well-known form of my uncle, whom I supposed to be at the Bay of Islands. I spoke to him, but the form became dim and vanished. The next mail brought me the news of his death. Years passed away, and I saw no ghost or spirit—not even when my father and mother died, and I was absent in each case. Then one day I was sitting reading, when a dark shadow fell across my book. I looked up, and saw a man standing between me and the window. His back was turned towards me. I saw from his figure that he was a Maori, and I called out to him, "Oh friend!" He turned round, and I saw my other uncle, Ihaka. The form faded away as the other had done. I had not expected to hear of my uncle's death, for I had seen him hale and strong a few hours before. However, he had gone into the house of a missionary, and he (with several white people) was poisoned by eating of a pie made from tinned meat, the tin having been opened and the meat left in it all night. That is all I myself had seen of spirits.'

One more Maori example may be offered:[10]

From Mr. Francis Dart Fenton, formerly in the Native Department of the Government, Auckland, New Zealand. He gave the account in writing to his friend, Captain J.H. Crosse, of Monkstown, Cork, from whom we received it. In 1852, when the incident occurred, Mr. Fenton was 'engaged in forming a settlement on the banks of the Waikato.'

'March 25, 1860

'Two sawyers, Frank Philps and Jack Mulholland, were engaged cutting timber for the Rev. R. Maunsell at the mouth of the Awaroa creek—a very lonely place, a vast swamp, no people within miles of them. As usual, they had a Maori with them to assist in felling trees. He came from Tihorewam, a village on the other side of the river, about six miles off. As Frank and the native were cross-cutting a tree, the native stopped suddenly, and said, "What are you come for?" looking in the direction of Frank. Frank replied, "What do you mean?" He said, "I am not speaking to you; I am speaking to my brother." Frank said, "Where is he?" The native replied, "Behind you. What do you want?" (to the other Maori), Frank looked round and saw nobody. The native no longer saw anyone, but bid down the saw and said, "I shall go across the river; my brother is dead."

'Frank laughed at him, and reminded him that be had left him quite well on Sunday (five days before), and there had been no communication since. The Maori spoke no more, but got into his canoe and pulled across. When he arrived at the landing-place, he met people coming to fetch him. His brother had just died. I knew him well.'

In answer to inquiries as to his authority for this narrative, Mr. Fenton writes:

'December 18, 1883.

'I knew all the parties concerned well, and it is quite true, valeat quantum, as the lawyers say. Incidents of this sort are not infrequent among the Maoris.

'F.D. FENTON, 'Late Chief Judge, Native Law-Court of N.Z.'

Here is a somewhat analogous example from Tierra del Fuego:

'Jemmy Button was very superstitious' (says Admiral Fitzroy, speaking of a Fuegian brought to England). 'While at sea, on board the "Beagle," he said one morning to Mr. Bynoe that in the night some man came to the side of his hammock and whispered in his ear that his father was dead. He fully believed that such was the case,' and he was perfectly right.... 'He reminded Bennett of the dream.'[11]

Mr. Darwin also mentions this case, a coincidental auditory hallucination.

I have found no other savage cases quite to the point. This is, undeniably, 'a puir show for Kirkintilloch,' a meagre collection of savage death-wraiths, but it may be so meagre by reason of want of research, or of lack of records, travellers usually pooh-poohing the benighted superstitions of the heathen, or fearing to seem superstitious if they chronicle instances. However few the instances, they are, undeniably, exact parallels to those recorded in civilised life.

In filling up the lacuna in Mr. Tylor's anthropological work, in asking questions as to the proportion between phantasms of the living which coincide with a crisis in the experience of the person seen, and those which do not, it is obviously necessary to reject all evidence of people who were ill, or anxious, or overworked, or in poignant grief at the time of the hallucination. It will be seen later that neither grief nor amatory passion (dominating the association of our ideas as they do) beget many phantasms. Our business, however, is with the false perceptions of persons trustworthy, as far as we know, sane, healthy, not usually visionary, and in an unperturbed state of mind.

There remains a normal cause of subjective hallucinations, expectancy. This appears to be a real cause of hallucination or, at least, of illusion. Waiting for the sound of a carriage you may hear it often before it comes, you taking other sounds for that which you desire. Again, in an inquiry embracing 17,000 people, the S.P.R. collected thirteen cases of an hallucinatory appearance of one person to another who was expecting his arrival. Once more, it is very conceivable that a trifle, the accidental opening of a door, a noise of a familiar kind in an unfamiliar place, may touch the brain into originating an hallucination of a person passing through the door, or of the place where the sound now heard used once to be familiar. Expectancy, again, and nervousness, might doubtless cause an hallucination to a person who felt uncomfortable in a house with a name to be 'haunted,' though, as we have seen, the effect is far less common than the cause. All these sorts of causes are undoubtedly more apt to be prevalent among superstitious savages than among educated Europeans. And it stands to reason that savages, where one man 'thinks he sees something,' will be readier than we are to think they 'see something' too. Yet collective hallucinations, which are shared by several persons at once, are especially puzzling. Even if they occur when all are in a strained condition of expectancy, it is odd that all see them in the same way.[12] Examples will occur later. When there is no excitement, the mystery is increased. We may note that, among the expectant multitudes who looked on while Bernadette was viewing the Blessed Virgin at Lourdes, not one person, however superstitious or hysterical, pretended to share the vision. Again, only one person, and he on doubtful evidence, is asserted to have shared, once, the visions of Jeanne d'Arc. In both cases all the conditions said to produce collective hallucination were present in the highest degree. Yet no collective hallucination occurred.

Narratives about hallucinations coincident with a death, narratives well attested, are abundant in modern times, so abundant that one need only refer the curious to Messrs. Gurney and Myers's two large volumes, 'Phantasms of the Living,' and to the S.P.R 'Report of Census of Hallucinations' (1894). Mr. Tylor says: 'The spiritualistic theory specially insists on cases of apparitions, where the person's death corresponds more or less nearly with the time when some friend perceives his phantom.' But visionaries, he remarks truly, often see phantoms of living persons when nothing occurs. That is the case, and the question arises whether more such phantoms are viewed (not by 'visionaries') in connection with the death or other crisis of the person whose hallucinatory appearance is perceived, than ought to occur, if there be no connection of some unknown cause between deaths and appearances. As Mr. Tylor observes, 'Man, as yet in a low intellectual condition, came to associate in thought those things which he found by experience to be connected in fact.'[13] Did early man, then, find in experience that apparitions of his friends were 'connected in fact' with their deaths? And, if so, was that discovered connection in fact the origin of his belief that an hallucinatory appearance of an absent person sometimes announced his death?

That the belief exists in New Zealand we saw, and find confirmed by this instance, one of 'many such relations,' says the author. A Maori chief was long absent on the war-path. One day he entered his wife's hut, and sat mute by the hearth. She ran to bring witnesses, but on her return the phantasm was no longer visible. The woman soon afterwards married again.

Her husband then returned in perfect health, and pardoned the lady, as she had acted on what, to a Maori mind, seemed good legal evidence of his decease. Of course, even if she fabled, the story is evidence to the existence of the belief.[14]

What, then, is the cause of the belief that a phantom of a man is a token of his death? On the theory of savage philosophy, as explained by Mr. Tylor himself, a man's soul may leave his body and become visible to others, not at death only, but on many other occasions, in dream, trance, lethargy. All these are much more frequent conditions, in every man's career, than the fact of dying. Why, then, is the phantasm supposed by savages to announce death? Is it because, in a sufficient ratio of cases to provoke remark, early man has found the appearance and the death to be 'things connected in fact'?

I give an instance in which the philosophy of savages would lead them not to connect a phantasm of a living man with his death.

The Woi Worung, an Australian tribe, hold that 'the Murup [wraith] of an individual could be sent from him by magic, as, for instance, when a hunter incautiously went to sleep when out hunting.'[15] In this case the hunter is exposed to the magic of his enemies. But the Murup, or detached soul, would be visible to people at a distance when its owner is only asleep—according to the savage philosophy. Why, then, when the wraith is seen, is the owner believed to be dying? Are the things bound to be 'connected in fact'?

As is well known, the Society for Psychical Research has attempted a little census, for the purpose of discovering whether hallucinations representing persons at a distance coincided, within twelve hours, with their deaths, in a larger ratio than the laws of chance allow as possible. If it be so, the Maori might have some ground for his theory that such hallucinations betoken a decease. I do not believe that any such census can enable us to reach an affirmative conclusion which science will accept. In spite of all precautions taken, all warnings before, and 'allowances' made later, collectors of evidence will 'select' affirmative cases already known, or (which is equally fatal) will be suspected of doing so. Again, illusions of memory, increasing the closeness of the coincidence, will come in—or it will be easy to say that they came in. 'Allowances' for them will not be accepted.

Once more, 17,000 cases, though a larger number than is usual in biological inquiries, are decidedly not enough for a popular argument on probabilities; a million, it will be said, would not be too many. Finally, granting honesty, accurate memory, and non-selection (none of which will be granted by opponents), it is easy to say that odd things must occur, and that the large proportion of affirmative answers as to coincidental hallucinations is just a specimen of these odd things.

Other objections are put forward by teachers of popular science who have not examined—or, having examined, misreport—the results of the Census in detail. I may give an example of their method.

Mr. Edward Clodd is the author of several handbooks of science—'The Story of Creation,' 'A Manual of Evolution,' and others. Now, in a signed review of a book, a critique published in 'The Sketch' (October 13, 1897), Mr. Clodd wrote about the Census: 'Thousands of persons were asked whether they had ever seen apparitions, and out of these some hundreds, mostly unintelligent foreigners, replied in the affirmative. Some eight or ten of the number—envied mortals—had seen "angels," but the majority, like the American in the mongoose story, had seen only "snakes."... In weighing evidence we have to take into account the competency as well as the integrity of the witnesses.' Mr. Clodd has most frankly and good-humouredly acknowledged the erroneousness of his remark. Otherwise we might ask: Does Mr. Clodd prefer to be considered not 'competent' or not 'veracious'? He cannot be both on this occasion, for his signed and published remarks were absolutely inaccurate. First, thousands of persons were not asked 'whether they had seen apparitions.' They were asked: 'Have you ever, when believing yourself to be perfectly awake, had a vivid impression of seeing, or being touched by a living being or inanimate object, or of hearing a voice; which impression, so far as you could discover, was not due to any external physical cause?' Secondly, it is not the fact that 'some hundreds, mostly unintelligent foreigners, replied in the affirmative.' Of English-speaking men and women, 1,499 answered the question quoted above in the affirmative. Of foreigners (naturally 'unintelligent'), 185 returned affirmative answers. Thirdly, when Mr. Clodd says, 'The majority had seen only "snakes,"' it is not easy to know what precise sense 'snakes' bears in the terminology of popular science. If Mr. Clodd means, by 'snakes,' fantastic hallucinations of animals, these amounted to 25, as against 830 representing human forms of persons recognised, unrecognised, living or dead. But, if by 'snakes' Mr. Clodd means purely subjective hallucinations, not known to coincide with any event—and this is his meaning—his statement agrees with that of the Census. His observations, of course, were purely accidental errors.

Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9     Next Part
Home - Random Browse