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Title: Mrs. Piper & the Society for Psychical Research
Author: Sage, Michael, 1863-1931
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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Translated & Slightly Abridged from the French of M. Sage

By Noralie Robertson

With a Preface by Sir Oliver Lodge

Scott-Thaw Co.
New York


It is obvious that such a body of men, pledged to impartial
investigation, as the Society for Psychical Research could not
officially stand sponsor to the speculative comments of M. Sage, however
admittedly clear-sighted and philosophical that French critic may be.

But the publication of this translation has been actually desired and
encouraged by many individuals in the Society, it has been revised
throughout by a member of their Council, and it is introduced to the
general reader by their President.

The Society, indeed, is prepared to accept M. Sage's volume as a
faithful and convenient _résumé_ of experiments conducted under its own
auspices, and so far as it contains statements of fact, these statements
are quoted from authoritative sources. For the comments, deductions or
criticisms therein contained, the acute intellect of M. Sage is alone

It remains only to state in detail the principles on which the original
text has been "slightly abridged" by the translator. No facts or
comments have been left out that bear directly on the main subject of
the book, the omissions are wholly of matters which might be regarded as
superfluous for the understanding of the case of Mrs Piper. Occasionally
paragraphs have been condensed, a tendency to vague theorising has been
checked throughout, and certain irrelevant matter has been altogether
omitted. Such omissions are confined, indeed, to single sentences or
paragraphs, with only the exception of a somewhat technical discussion
of the Cartesian philosophy in Chapter XVII. It had at first been
intended to omit the whole of Chapter XI., as containing only fanciful
and non-evidential matter; but statements of this kind form an integral
part of the communications, and so, on the whole, it was thought fairer
to retain M. Sage's chapter on the subject, especially as it may be
found of popular interest.

The original appendix has been incorporated, after modifications, in
Chapter XII., since the incident here discussed was in progress as M.
Sage wrote and has since been closed. His conjectures as to its possible
development are naturally omitted. Finally all references to the
_Proceedings_ (or printed reports) of the Society itself have been
carefully verified. In every case the words of the reports themselves
are given in preference to any re-rendering of M. Sage's translations.



Preface by Sir Oliver Lodge                                       xi

Objects of the Society                                           xix

Chapter I                                                          1

Mrs Piper's mediumship--Is mediumship a neurosis?

Chapter II                                                         7

Dr Richard Hodgson--Description of the trance--Mrs
Piper not a good hypnotic subject.

Chapter III                                                       13

Early trances--Careful first observations by Professor
William James of Harvard University, Massachusetts, U.S.A.

Chapter IV                                                        20

The hypothesis of fraud--The hypothesis of

Chapter V                                                         27

A sitting with Mrs Piper--The hypothesis of

Chapter VI                                                        39

Phinuit--His probable origin--His character--What
he says of himself--His French--His
medical diagnosis--Is he merely a secondary
personality of Mrs Piper?

Chapter VII                                                       52

Miss Hannah Wild's letter--The first text given
by Phinuit--Mrs Blodgett's sitting--Thought-reading
explains the case.

Chapter VIII                                                      65

Communications from persons having suffered
in their mental faculties--Unexpected communications
from unknown persons--The respect due
to the communicators--Predictions--Communications
from children.

Chapter IX                                                        77

Further consideration of the difficulties of the
problem--George Pelham--Development of the
automatic writing.

Chapter X                                                         87

How George Pelham has proved his identity--He
recognises his friends and alludes to their opinions--He
recognises objects which have belonged to
him--Asks that certain things should be done for
him--Very rarely makes an erroneous statement.

Chapter XI                                                        99

George Pelham's philosophy--The nature of the
soul--The first moments after death--Life in the
next world--George Pelham contradicts Stainton
Moses--Space and time in the next world--How
spirits see us--Means of communication.

Chapter XII                                                      117

William Stainton Moses--What George Pelham
thinks of him--How Imperator and his assistants
have replaced Phinuit.

Chapter XIII                                                     126

Professor Hyslop and the journalists--The so-called
"confession" of Mrs Piper--Precautions taken by Professor
Hyslop during his experiments--Impressions of the sittings.

Chapter XIV                                                      134

The communications of Mr Robert Hyslop--Peculiar

Chapter XV                                                       147

The "influence" again--Other incidents--Statistics.

Chapter XVI                                                      154

Examination of the telepathic hypothesis--Some
arguments which render its acceptance difficult.

Chapter XVII                                                     161

Some considerations which strongly support the
spiritualistic hypothesis--Consciousness and
character remain unchanged--Dramatic play--Errors
and confusions.

Chapter XVIII                                                    169

Difficulties and objections--The identity of
Imperator--Vision at a distance--Triviality of the
messages--Spiritualist philosophy--Life in the
other world.

Chapter XIX                                                      176

The medium's return to normal life--Speeches
made while the medium seems to hover between
the two worlds.

Chapter XX                                                       182

Encouraging results obtained--The problem must be solved.



President of the Society for Psychical Research

_One of the facts which by general consent in the present stage of
psychological science require study is the nature, and if possible the
cause, of a special lucidity, a sensitiveness of perception, or
accessibility to ideas appearing to arrive through channels other than
usual organs of sense, which is sometimes met with among simple
people[1] in a rudimentary form, and in a more developed form in certain
exceptional individuals. This lucidity may perhaps be regarded as a
modification or an exaggeration of the clearness of apprehension
occasionally experienced by ordinary persons while immersed in a brown
study, or while in the act of waking out of sleep, or when
self-consciousness is for a time happily suspended._

_In men of genius the phenomenon occurs in the most dignified form at
present known to us, and with them also it accompanies a lapse of
ordinary consciousness, at least to the extent that circumstances of
time and place and daily life become insignificant and trivial, or even
temporarily non-existent; but the notable thing is that a few persons,
not of genius at all, are liable to an access of something not
altogether dissimilar, and exhibit a kind of lucidity or clairvoyant
perceptivity, which, though doubtless of a lower grade, is of a
well-defined and readily-investigated type, during that state of
complete lapse of consciousness known to us as a specific variety of

_Not that all trance patients are lucid, any more than all brown studies
result in brilliant ideas; nor should it be claimed that some measure of
lucidity, even of the ultra-normal kind now under consideration, cannot
exist without complete bodily trance. The phenomenon called "automatic
writing" is an instance to the contrary,--when a hand liberated from
ordinary conscious control is found, automatically as it were, to be
writing sentences, sometimes beyond the knowledge of the person to whom
the hand belongs. Some approach to unconsciousness, however, either
general or local, seems essential to the access of the state, and such
conditions as ordinarily induce reverie or sleep are suitable for
bringing it on; no one, for instance, would expect to experience it
while urgently occupied in affairs. Whether it is desirable to give way
to so unpractical an attitude, and to encourage the influx of ideas
through non-sensory channels, is another question which need not now
concern us. It suffices for us that the phenomenon exists, and that it
occasionally though very rarely takes on so well marked and persistent a
form as to lend itself to experimental investigation. It is true that in
these cases nothing of exceptional and world-compelling merit is
produced; the substance of the communication is often, though not
always, commonplace, and the form sometimes grotesque. It is true also
that a complete record of a conversation held under these
circumstances--perhaps a full record of a commonplace conversation held
under any circumstances--readily lends itself to cheap ridicule;
nevertheless, the evidence of intimate knowledge thus displayed becomes
often of extreme interest to the few persons for whom the disjointed
utterances have a personal meaning, although to the outsider they must
appear dull, unless he is of opinion that they help him to interpret the
more obscure workings of the human mind, or unless he thinks it possible
that the nature and meaning of inspiration in general may become better
understood by a study of this, its lowest, but at the same time its most
definite and controllable, form. Undoubtedly information is attainable
under these conditions from sources unknown, undoubtedly the entranced
or semi-conscious body or part of a body has become a vehicle or medium
for ostensible messages from other intelligences, or for impersonations;
but the cause of the lucidity so exhibited, the nature of the channel by
which the information is obtained, and the source of the information
itself, are questions which, although they are apt to be treated glibly
by a superficial critic, to whom they appear the most salient feature
and the easiest of explanation, are really the most difficult of all._

_It was to study such questions as this that a special society--the
Society for Psychical Research--was founded some twenty-two years ago._

_Perhaps the most remarkable, and certainly the most thorough, of all
the investigations made under the auspices of this Society has been the
case of the American lady, Mrs Piper; which, begun in 1887, has
continued ever since, with only such intervals as were necessitated by
the circumstances of the case. She was already known to the Professor of
Psychology at Harvard and to some other American savants, but she was
brought to the notice of the leaders of the English Society by Dr
Richard Hodgson, who has been for some years, and is still, acting as
its representative in America, and Secretary of its American Branch. A
complete record of the whole investigation has not yet been published,
but large portions of it have appeared from time to time in the
Proceedings of the Society._

_It is not to be supposed that the case is unique by any means; on the
contrary, it may in some senses be regarded as typical, but its features
are exceptionally well-marked, and the record has been more carefully
and continuously kept than that of any other case. Accordingly, some
emphasis has been given to it, and a general vague notion concerning the
case has diffused itself among educated persons beyond the limits of the

_And indeed it is one of really general interest, since the hypothesis
of fraud is entirely inapplicable to it, and in the opinion of the most
sceptical critics who have made an adequate study of the case, no
explanation more commonplace than that of telepathy will bear
examination. Other critics--and these are they who have gone into the
matter most thoroughly--find the hypothesis of telepathy to be
insufficient, and hold that some further explanation is necessary.
Opinions differ as to what that further explanation may be, and so far
as I know it has not been scientifically formulated as yet. To me it
appears probable that no one explanation will fit all the facts, and
that the subject is not yet ripe for theory. Working hypotheses must be
made, must be tested, and in all probability must be rejected, but our
main duty at the present stage is the careful examination and record of
facts. The working hypothesis most widely prevalent among the general
public, whether for the purpose of scoffing or for a foundation of
belief, is some crude form of the idea that the persistent intelligence
of persons who have severed their connection with matter is willing, and
occasionally even anxious, to take up temporarily the broken thread, and
so to operate as to transmit, through any channel which may be open, to
us who are still associated with planetary matter, messages which shall
serve as a sign of their continued existence and affection; and that the
biological organism or part of an organism of a living but unconscious
or semi-conscious person is an instrument which may, though with
difficulty, be utilised to that end._

_It is easy to express this hypothesis in such a way that it is
repugnant to common sense. It may be possible hereafter to formulate it
so that it shall correspond in some measure with the truth. But even
though it should turn out that intelligences can exist apart from the
surface of planets and the usual material concomitants, it by no means
follows that they must all at some period have been incarnate on the
earth. The recognition of modes of existence differing greatly from our
own, if it can ever be properly effected, will have an illuminating
bearing on many fundamental problems of life and death; but this is not
the place to attempt to discuss such a question, even if the time were
ripe for the discussion at all._

_The Society for Psychical Research, though it has now for some time
studied this among other questions, has arrived at no sort of agreement
concerning it; the only fact on which its members are generally agreed
is as to the reality of some kind of telepathy, an apparently direct
influence between mind and mind; and telepathy is no doubt an important
fact, but it by no means follows that it is a master-key capable of
furnishing the solution of every variety of psychical problem. The chief
work of the Society has not been the construction of theories; it has
accumulated and sifted a mass of evidence dealing with ultra-normal
human faculty, it has published much material and criticism in its
Proceedings, has printed more in its private Journal, and its members
have written books. To these accessible sources of information students
can be referred._

_But it is necessary to get some inkling of a subject before becoming a
student of it--people have not time to read a tithe of what is printed;
and inasmuch as many erroneous notions and misconceptions are prevalent,
even among educated persons, concerning the method and motives of the
Society, as well as concerning its ascertained results, it occurred to
the Council that perhaps a more popular account of the outline of some
of the facts, with abridged examples or illustrations of some of the
details, might be of service in spreading the rudiments of a wider
knowledge concerning at least one branch of a subject which must
certainly be of interest to the human race when it is rightly

_A popular statement was perhaps the more desirable since a number of
insignificant bodies have recently sprung up, showing considerable
energy in the business of advertisement, assuming colourable imitations
of our Society's designation, but having very different
objects--unscientific always, sometimes frankly pecuniary--so that it
was quite likely that a certain amount of confusion might occur._

_The idea of the Council, in the first instance, was to have a short
popular account or summary of the Piper case specially written by one of
their own members; but it was brought to their notice that a French
writer had already issued a small book of a character not very different
from that contemplated, and had steered his way cleverly through the
intricacies of a subject bristling with difficulty below the surface and
choked with detail throughout; so it was thought best to utilise the
skilful work of the French writer, and simply see to it that a faithful
translation was made, only introducing changes in the direction of still
further abbreviation occasionally._

_This is the book for which I consented, though I admit with some
misgivings, to write a preface when it was ready to appear; and now that
I see it in its English dress I find my misgivings justified._

_The author speaks deprecatingly of his purpose in writing it,
describing it as_ "un modeste ouvrage de vulgarisation," _and thereby
disarms criticism, for, considered from this point of view, it is
successful; but I must guard not only myself but all other members of
the Council of the S.P.R. from any endorsement of the sentiments and
comments which M. Sage scatters somewhat liberally through his pages.
Taken as they were intended in the original, they were not out of
keeping; they seemed to harmonise with the general tone and formed part
of a consistent artistic scheme. Translated they appear less
appropriate, but to omit them altogether would be to give the book a
different character, and probably to spoil it. As it stands, it is
readable, more readable than a profounder treatise would be. Let it
pass, therefore, as conveying to readers who have neither time nor
inclination to enter upon a detailed study some conception of the most
remarkable modern instance of the phenomenon to which I began by
referring--a phenomenon of which a better, but by no means yet a
complete or final, treatment can be studied in the work of Mr Myers
called_ Human Personality and its Survival of Bodily Death.



[1] Under the name "Second Sight," for instance.


The Society for Psychical Research was founded at the beginning of 1882,
for the purpose of making an organised and systematic attempt to
investigate various sorts of debatable phenomena which are _primâ facie_
inexplicable on any generally recognised hypothesis. From the recorded
testimony of many competent witnesses, past and present, including
observations recently made by scientific men of eminence in various
countries, there appeared to be, amidst much illusion and deception, an
important body of facts to which this description would apply, and which
therefore, if incontestably established, would be of the very highest
interest. The task of examining such residual phenomena had often been
undertaken by individual effort, but never hitherto by a scientific
society organised on a sufficiently broad basis. The following are the
principal departments of work which the Society at present undertakes:--

    1. An examination of the nature and extent of any influence which may
    be exerted by one mind upon another, otherwise than through the
    recognised sensory channels.

    2. The study of hypnotism and mesmerism; and an inquiry into the
    alleged phenomena of clairvoyance.

    3. A careful investigation of any reports, resting on testimony
    sufficiently strong and not too remote, of apparitions coinciding with
    some external event (as for instance a death) or giving information
    previously unknown to the percipient, or being seen by two or more
    persons independently of each other.

    4. An inquiry into various alleged phenomena apparently inexplicable by
    known laws of nature, and commonly referred by Spiritualists to the
    agency of extra-human intelligences.

    5. The collection and collation of existing materials bearing on the
    history of these subjects.

The aim of the Society is to approach these various problems without
prejudice or prepossession of any kind, and in the same spirit of exact
and unimpassioned inquiry which has enabled Science to solve so many
problems, once not less obscure nor less hotly debated. The founders of
the Society have always fully recognised the exceptional difficulties
which surround this branch of research; but they nevertheless believe
that by patient and systematic effort some results of permanent value
may be attained.

Investigating Committees (with the exception of the Committee for
Experiments) are not appointed by the Council; but any group of Members
and Associates may become an investigating Committee; and every such
Committee will, it is hoped, appoint an Honorary Secretary, and through
him report its proceedings to the Council from time to time.

The Council, if it accepts a report so made for presentation to the
Society, will be prepared to consider favourably any application on the
part of the Committee for funds to assist in defraying the expenses of
special experimental investigation.

The Council will also be glad to receive reports of investigation from
individual Members or Associates, or from persons unconnected with the

Any such report, or any other communication relating to the work of the
Society, should be addressed to Miss Alice Johnson (as Editor of the
_Proceedings_ and _Journal_), 20 Hanover Square, London, W., or to J. G.
Piddington, Esq., 87 Sloane Street, London, S.W.; or in America to Dr
Richard Hodgson, 5 Boylston Place, Boston, Mass.

Meetings of the Society, for the reading and discussion of papers, are
held periodically; and the papers then produced, with other matter, are,
as a general rule, afterwards published in the _Proceedings_.

The Proceedings of the Society may be obtained directly from the
Secretary, 20 Hanover Square, London, W., or from the Secretary of the
American Branch, or from any bookseller, through Mr R. Brimley Johnson,
4 Adam Street, Adelphi, London, W.C.

A Monthly Journal (from October to July inclusive) is also issued to
Members and Associates. The Journal contains evidence freshly received
in different branches of the inquiry, which is thus rendered available
for consideration, and for discussion by correspondence, before
selections from it are put forward in a more public manner.

The Council, in inviting the adhesion of Members, think it desirable to
quote a preliminary Note, which appeared on the first page of the
Constitution of the original Society, and which still holds good.

    "Note.--To prevent misconception, it is here expressly stated that
    Membership of the Society does not imply the acceptance of any
    particular explanation of the phenomena investigated, nor any belief as
    to the operation, in the physical world, of forces other than those
    recognised by Physical Science."

Conditions of Membership.

The conditions of Membership are thus defined in Articles 11-18:--

    The Society shall consist of: (_a_) _Members_, who shall subscribe two
    guineas annually, or make a single payment of twenty guineas, (_b_)
    _Associates_, who shall subscribe one guinea annually, or make a single
    payment of ten guineas.

    All Members and Associates of the Society shall be elected by the
    Council. Every candidate for admission shall be required to give such
    references as shall be approved by the Council, and shall be proposed
    in writing by two or more Members or Associates.

    All subscriptions shall become payable immediately upon election, and
    subsequently on the first day of January in each year. In the case of
    any Member or Associate elected on or after the 1st October, his
    subscription shall be accepted as for the next following year.

    Article 22 provides that if any Member or Associate desire to resign,
    he shall give written notice thereof to the Secretary. He shall,
    however, be liable for all subscriptions which shall then remain

    Ladies are eligible either as Members or Associates.

Privileges of Membership.

Articles 19 and 20 provide that Members and Associates are eligible to
any of the offices of the Society, and are entitled to the free receipt
both of the _Proceedings_ and of the _Journal_, to the use of Library
books in the Society's rooms, and to attend all the General Meetings of
the Society, to which they are also allowed to invite friends. They are
further entitled to purchase the _Proceedings_ of the Society issued
previous to their joining it,--and also additional copies of any Part or
Volume,--at half their published price.

Members have the additional privileges of borrowing books from the
Library, and of voting in the election of the Council, and at all
meetings of the Society.

A contents sheet of the whole series of _Proceedings_ may be had on
application to the Secretary, 20 Hanover Square, London, W.


[2] Any reports or papers which may be printed in the _Proceedings_ will
become the Society's property; but author or authors will be entitled to
receive 50 copies of any such report or paper gratis, and additional
copies, if required, at a small charge.

Mrs Piper

and the

Society for Psychical Research


Mrs Piper's mediumship--Is mediumship a neurosis?

Mrs Piper is what the spiritualists call a _medium_, and what the
English psychologists call an automatist, which is to say, a person who
appears at times to lend her organism to beings imperceptible to our
senses, in order to enable them to manifest themselves to us. I say that
it appears to be thus, not that it is so. It is difficult for many
reasons to admit the existence of these problematical beings. We shall
deny it or remain sceptical till the day comes when the evidence proves
too strong for us.

Mrs Piper's mediumship is one of the most perfect which has ever been
discovered. In any case, it is the one which has been the most
perseveringly, lengthily and carefully studied by highly competent men.
Members of the Society for Psychical Research have studied the phenomena
presented by Mrs Piper during fifteen consecutive years. They have
taken all the precautions necessitated by the strangeness of the case,
the circumstances, and the surrounding scepticism; they have faced and
minutely weighed all hypotheses. In future the most orthodox
psychologists will be unable to ignore these phenomena when constructing
their systems; they will be compelled to examine them and find an
explanation for them, which their preconceived ideas will sometimes
render it difficult to do.

Praise and warm gratitude are due to the men who have studied the case
of Mrs Piper. But we owe no less to Mrs Piper, who has lent herself to
the investigations with perfect good faith and pliability. None of those
who have had any continued intercourse with her have a shadow of doubt
of her sincerity. She has not taken the view that she was exercising a
new kind of priesthood; she has understood that she was an interesting
anomaly for science, and she has allowed science to study her. A vulgar
soul would not have done this. Her example, and also that of Mlle.
Smith, of whom Professor Flournoy has lately written,[3] deserve to be
followed. If the strange phenomena of mediumship have not yet been
sufficiently studied by as many persons as could be wished, scientific
men are chiefly to blame for the fact. Many of them regard with
disfavour facts which upset painfully-erected systems on which they have
relied for years. But the mediums are also to blame, for their vanity is
sometimes great, and their sincerity frequently doubtful.

Mrs Piper is American. Her husband is employed in a large shop in
Boston. Although of a home-loving disposition, Mrs Piper has travelled;
she has several times consented to leave her ordinary surroundings in
order to prevent all suspicion of fraud; she has given sittings in New
York and other places, and has paid a three months' visit to England.

Her education does not appear to have been carried very far. She has
doubtless read much, like all American women, but without method, and
probably very superficially. Her language is commonplace, sometimes even
trivial, but the records do not give me the impression that she is
really trivial-minded; language may be trivial when ideas are not. On
the whole, Mrs Piper's personality is attractive.

The point which naturally interests the man of science, and particularly
the doctor, is the state of health and the morbid heredity of Mrs Piper.
We have very insufficient information about these. I can find no
circumstantial report on this important matter anywhere. Mrs Piper was
rather seriously ill in 1890; a doctor attended her for several
consecutive months; this gentleman was also present at a sitting she
gave on the 4th December of this same year, 1890. It is evident that he
was in a position to study Mrs Piper closely. Dr Hodgson asked him for a
report, which would have been appended to the other documents. But this
doctor had the wisdom of the serpent. He promised, but changed his mind,
and absolutely refused to furnish any report whatever. Dr Hodgson asked
the subject a series of questions with the object of ascertaining the
state of health of her immediate ancestors, particularly from the
neuropathic point of view. She belongs to a family which appears to have
been very healthy and not in any way subject to nervous maladies.

Mrs Piper's own general state of health is even more interesting to our
inquiry than that of her ancestors, since most doctors persist in seeing
in mediumship a neurosis, sister or cousin to hysteria or epilepsy.

It is undeniable that many mediums present some physiological
peculiarity or other. Eusapia Paladino, for example, has a depression of
the left parietal bone. But, on the other hand, Mlle. Smith of Geneva,
who has been studied by Professor Flournoy, seems to enjoy health as
good as anybody's--even flourishing health. Perhaps, if a thorough
search were made, some defect might be discovered, but the person who
should not betray some inherited peculiarity probably could not be

As far as Mrs Piper is concerned, she seems to have enjoyed
irreproachable health till towards 1882 or 1883. The exact date is not
stated. About that time she suffered from a tumour, caused by a blow
from a sledge, and she feared cancer. This illness brought about the
discovery of her mediumship. Up to this time absolutely nothing abnormal
had occurred to her. Her husband's parents had had, in 1884, a sitting
with a medium which had much impressed them. They frequently advised
their daughter-in-law to take the advice of some medium who gave medical
consultations. To please them, she went to a blind medium named J. R.
Cocke, and there she had her first loss of consciousness or "trance."
But we shall return to this.

It is to be concluded that the prescription of the medium had no more
influence on the disease than those of ordinary doctors, for this tumour
continued to make Mrs Piper's health rather precarious for a long time.
She only decided in 1893 to undergo a surgical operation--laparotomy. No
complications resulted from it, and her convalescence was rapid.
However, in 1895, the after-effect of this operation was a serious
hernia, which necessitated a second operation in February 1896. She only
recovered thoroughly in October of the same year.

Many persons will be disposed to believe that Mrs Piper's tumour is the
explanation of her mediumship, particularly as the mediumship only
appeared after the tumour. It is rather difficult to prove them wrong.
There is, however, a fact which seems to indicate that they would be
mistaken. When Mrs Piper is ill, her mediumship decreases or becomes
less lucid; she only furnishes incoherent, fragmentary, or quite false
communications. The syncope or "trance," which is easy when she is well,
becomes difficult or even impossible when she is ill. Her health has
been good since her last operation, the syncopes are easy, and the
communications obtained in this state have acquired a degree of
coherence and plausibility which was previously wanting.

If, then, Mrs Piper's mediumship was the result of illness, it is
strange that her recovery should have favoured the development and
perfecting of this same mediumship. There appears to be a contradiction
here. I am not competent regarding the question, but, on examining the
facts, I can hardly believe that mediumship is a mere neurosis. After
all, are there not famous men of science who declare that genius itself
is only a neurosis? In their eyes the bandit is only a sick man; but the
genius also is only a sick man.

If it is true that the best and worst in humanity are only opposite
faces of the same medal, we should be tempted to think mankind even more
pitiable than we have hitherto believed.


[3] _Des Indes à la Planète Mars; étude sur un cas de somnambulisme_, by
Th. Flournoy. Pub. Alcan, Paris.


Dr Richard Hodgson--Description of the trance--Mrs Piper not a good
hypnotic subject.

Before proceeding further, I must ask my readers' permission to
introduce Dr Hodgson, the man who has studied Mrs Piper's case with the
greatest care and with the most perseverance. Dr Richard Hodgson went to
America expressly to observe this medium, and during some fifteen years
he has, so to say, hardly lost sight of her for a moment. All the
persons who have had sittings for a long time past have passed through
his hands; he introduces them by assumed names, and takes all possible
precautions that Mrs Piper, in her normal state, shall not obtain any
information about them. These precautions are now superfluous. Mrs Piper
has never had recourse to fraud, and everyone is thoroughly convinced of
the fact. But the slightest relaxation of supervision would lay the most
decisive experiments open to suspicion.

Dr Hodgson is one of the earliest workers for the Society for Psychical
Research. He has been a terrible enemy to fraud all his life. At the
time of the formation of the Society, Mme. Blavatsky, foundress of the
Theosophical Society, was making herself much talked about. The most
extraordinary phenomena were supposed to have occurred at the
Theosophical Society's headquarters in India. Dr Hodgson was sent there
to study them impartially. He quickly made the discovery that the whole
affair was charlatanry and sleight-of-hand. On his return to England he
wrote a report--which has not killed Theosophy, because even new-born
religions have strong vitality--but which has discredited this doctrine
for ever in the eyes of thoughtful people.

After this master stroke, Dr Hodgson continued to hunt down fraudulent
mediums. He learned all their tricks, and acquired a conjurer's skill.
It was he again who discovered the unconscious[4] frauds of Eusapia
Paladino during the sittings which this Italian medium gave at
Cambridge. When such a man, after long study of Mrs Piper's phenomena,
affirms their validity, we may believe him. He is not credulous, nor an
enthusiast, nor a mystic. I have written of him somewhat at length,
because, by force of circumstances, his name will often appear in these

To return to Mrs Piper and the phenomena which specially interest us.
Mrs Piper falls into trance spontaneously, without the intervention of
any magnetiser. I shall explain later, at length, what must be
understood by "trance."

Professor Charles Richet was one of the persons who had a sitting with
our medium while she was staying at Cambridge. He describes the trance
in these terms:--

"She is obliged to hold someone's hand in order to go into a trance. She
holds the hand several minutes, silently, in half-darkness. After some
time--from five to fifteen minutes--she is seized with slight spasmodic
convulsions, which increase, and terminate in a very slight epileptiform
attack. Passing out of this, she falls into a state of stupor, with
somewhat stertorous breathing; this lasts about a minute or two; then,
all at once, she comes out of the stupor with a burst of words. Her
voice is changed; she is no longer Mrs Piper, but another personage, Dr
Phinuit, who speaks in a loud, masculine voice in a mingling of negro
patois, French, and American dialect."

Sir Oliver Lodge, F.R.S., well-known among English men of science, and
at the time Professor of Physics at Liverpool, describes the opening of
the trance in very nearly the same words as Professor Richet in the
remarkable report which he published in 1890 on the sittings he had with
Mrs Piper. He also notices the slight epileptiform attack, although he
adds that he is not "pretending to speak medically."[5]

The Phinuit personality, of which Professor Richet speaks in the passage
above quoted, is what the Spiritualists call a "control." By "control"
is meant the mysterious being who is supposed to have temporarily taken
possession of the organism of the medium. Are these controls only
secondary personalities, or are they, as they themselves declare,
disincarnated human spirits, spirits of dead men who come back to
communicate with us by using an entranced organism as a machine? In
either case they must have a name. Phinuit has been one of Mrs Piper's
principal controls, but he is far from having been the only one. On the
contrary, they have been legion, and, what is strange, these controls
appear to be personalities as distinct from each other as possible, each
with his own style of language, his belief, his opinions, his tricks of
speech or manner.

Mrs Piper's trance has changed its aspect a little with the development
and perfecting of her mediumship. Formerly the controls communicated
only by using her voice; then some of them began to write. In some of
the sittings one personality communicated through the voice, while
another, entirely different, and speaking of utterly different matters,
communicated simultaneously in writing. For some years now the controls
have only communicated in writing, and have used the right hand only.
The right arm of the medium is in lively movement, while the rest of her
body lies inert, leaning forward upon cushions.

In a long report which has just appeared,[6] Mr James Hyslop, Professor
of Logic and Ethics at the University of Columbia, in the State of New
York, describes the beginning of the trance in detail as it now takes
place. At the first sitting he had with Mrs Piper he seated himself more
than a yard from her, in a position which enabled him to observe
attentively all that happened.

The medium remained quietly seated in an armchair for three or four
minutes. Then her head shook and her right eyebrow twitched; all this
time she was trimming her nails. She then leant forward on the cushions
which had been placed on the table for her head to rest upon, and closed
and rubbed her eyes; her face was slightly congested for some instants.
She opened her eyes again, and the ocular globes were visible, slightly
upturned; she blew her nose, and began to attend to her nails again. Her
gaze became slightly fixed. Her face once more changed; the redness
disappeared, and she grew slightly pale. The muscles relaxed, the mouth
was a little drawn on one side, and the stare became more fixed. Finally
her mouth opened and the trance came on gently, like a fainting fit,
without struggle. Then Dr Hodgson arranged her head on the cushions with
her right cheek on her left hand, so that her face was turned to the
left, and she was unable to see her right hand, which soon began to
write automatically.

During the trance the sensibility of Mrs Piper's organism to exterior
excitation is much blunted. If her arm is pricked, even severely, it is
withdrawn but slowly; if a bottle of ammonia is put to her nostrils, and
care is taken that it is inhaled, her head does not betray sensation by
the least movement. One day, if I am not mistaken, Dr Hodgson put a
lighted match to her arm, and asked Phinuit if he felt it.[7]

"Yes," replied Phinuit, "but not much, you know. What is it? Something
cold, isn't it?"

These and numerous other experiments show that if sensibility is not
abolished, it is at least very much blunted.

It might be concluded from the above that Mrs Piper would be an
excellent hypnotic subject. She is nothing of the kind. Without being
precisely refractory to hypnotism, she is only an indifferently good
hypnotic subject. Professor William James of Harvard has made
experiments to elucidate this point. His two first attempts to hypnotise
Mrs Piper were entirely fruitless. Between the second and third,
Professor William James asked Phinuit, during a mediumistic trance, to
be kind enough to help him to make the subject hypnotisable. Phinuit
promised; in fact, he always promises all that is asked. At the third
attempt Mrs Piper fell slightly asleep, but only at the fifth sitting
was there a real hypnotic sleep, accompanied by the usual automatic and
muscular phenomena. But it was impossible to obtain anything more.
Hypnosis and trance, in Mrs Piper, have no points of resemblance. In the
trance, muscular mobility is extreme. In hypnosis, just the contrary is
the case. If she is ordered during hypnosis to remember what she has
said or done, she remembers. During the trance, the control has more
than once been asked to arrange that Mrs Piper should recall, on waking,
what she had said; but this has never succeeded. During the mediumistic
trance she seems to read the deepest recesses of the souls of those
present like a book. During hypnosis there is no trace of this
thought-reading. In short, the mediumistic trance and the hypnotic sleep
are not one and the same thing. Whatever may be the real nature of the
difference, this difference is so great that it strikes the least
attentive observer at once.


[4] In the opinion of the chief witnesses of the Cambridge sittings the
frauds of Eusapia Paladino were not unconscious. Mr Myers said, in the
report to the Society immediately after the sittings:--"I cannot doubt
that we observed much conscious and deliberate fraud, of a kind which
must have needed long practice to bring it to its present level of
skill."--_Journal of Society for Psychical Research_ for 1895, p. 133,

[5] _Proc. of the S.P.R._, vol. vi. p. 444.

[6] _Proc. of S.P.R._, vol. xvi.

[7] _Proc. of S.P.R._, vol. viii. p. 5.


Early trances--Careful first observations by Professor William James of
Harvard University, Massachusetts, U.S.A.

I have already explained on what occasion Mrs Piper had her first
trance. Suffering from a traumatic tumour, she had gone to ask advice of
a blind medium named Cocke. This medium gave medical consultations, but
he also asserted that he had the power of developing latent mediumship.
At this first sitting Mrs Piper felt very strange thrills, and thought
she was going to faint. At the following sitting Mr Cocke put his hands
on her head. She felt at once that she was on the point of losing
consciousness. She saw a flood of light, as well as unrecognised human
faces, and a hand which fluttered before her face. She does not remember
what happened afterwards. But when she woke she was told that a young
Indian girl named _Chlorine_ had manifested through her organism, and
had given a remarkable proof of survival after death to a person who
happened to be present.

Mrs Piper was therefore really a medium. Her personal friends
immediately began to arrange sittings with her. Little by little
strangers were admitted to this private circle. Various self-styled
spirits communicated by her means in the earlier days. Phinuit, who
later took almost sole possession of Mrs Piper's organism, was far from
being alone at first; his place was disputed. The first controls, if
they themselves are to be believed, were the actress Mrs Siddons, the
musician John Sebastian Bach, the poet Longfellow, Commodore Vanderbilt
the multi-millionaire, and a young Italian girl named Loretta Ponchini.

At the outset Dr Phinuit, when he appeared, confined himself to
diagnosing and giving medical advice. He thought everything else beneath

At last, one evening, John Sebastian Bach announced that he and all his
companions were about to concentrate their power on Dr Phinuit, and make
him the principal control. Naturally we do not know what they did, but
it is certain that from that time Dr Phinuit became so much the
principal control that he had almost sole possession of Mrs Piper's
organism for years. As we shall see, he ceased to confine himself to
giving medical consultations. He willingly replied to all questions
addressed to him, and he even talked readily on all sorts of subjects
without being questioned at all.

The first person of educated intelligence who had an opportunity to
examine and study, although somewhat summarily, Mrs Piper's trance
phenomena, was Professor William James of Harvard University. In 1886 he
made a brief report of them, which he published in the _Proceedings of
the American Society for Psychical Research_. Professor James did not at
first recognise all the importance of the Piper case. No shorthand
report of the sittings was made, and he did not even take complete
notes. However, he assured himself that fraud had nothing to do with the
phenomena, but without taking all the minute precautions which others
have since taken. He satisfied himself that here was an interesting
mystery, and says so in his report, but he left the charge of looking
for the key to others. But I shall give an account of the sittings of
Professor James, in the first place because it would be improper to
neglect even the superficial studies of a man of such eminence, and
secondly, because they will give my readers a clear idea of the

Professor James made Mrs Piper's acquaintance in the autumn of 1885 in
the following way. His mother-in-law, Mrs Gibbens, had heard a friend
speak of Mrs Piper, and as she had never seen a medium, she asked for a
sitting out of curiosity. Mrs Gibbens, who went sceptical, returned
rather impressed. She had heard a number of private details which she
believed were unknown outside her family. On the day following Professor
James's sister-in-law went in her turn to see Mrs Piper, and obtained
even better results than her mother. For example, the inquirer had
placed a letter in Italian on the medium's forehead. It must be observed
that Mrs Piper is entirely ignorant of that language. Nevertheless,
Phinuit gave a number of perfectly correct details about the writer of
the letter. The mystery became interesting, as the young Italian who had
written it was only known to two people in the whole United States.
Later on, at other sittings, Phinuit gave the exact name of this young
man, which he had been unable to do at first.

Professor James's attitude when these facts were related to him can be
imagined. He did what most of us do, or have done. He played the _esprit
fort_, joked his relatives about their credulity, and thought that women
were decidedly deficient in critical spirit. His curiosity was none the
less awakened. Some days after, in the company of his wife, and having
taken all possible precautions that Mrs Piper should not know his name
or intentions beforehand, he went and asked her for a sitting. Intimate
details, principally about Mrs James's family, were repeated. Others
even more circumstantial were given. What was the least easily obtained
was just what could have been learned with the greatest facility if Mrs
Piper had acquired these details fraudulently or by normal means,
namely, proper names. Professor James was the first to notice a fact
which a large number of observers have since remarked. The impression
that the names are shouted to Phinuit by a spirit is unavoidable.
Phinuit, who is to transmit them, hears imperfectly, doubtless on
account of his position, which all the controls describe as very
uncomfortable and painful--the organism of the medium seems to plunge
the controls into a semi-somnolence.

Thus Phinuit mangles the names he repeats. It appears that the
communicating spirit is conscious of this and corrects. Phinuit repeats
the name thus several times, and very often only succeeds in giving it
exactly after several attempts. It even sometimes happens that a name
cannot be given all at a sitting, but then it is generally given at a
subsequent one.

Thus, at this first sitting of Professor James, the name of his
father-in-law, _Gibbens_, was first given as _Niblin_, and then as
_Giblin_. Professor James had lost a child a year before. He was
mentioned, and his name, _Herman_, was given as _Herrin_. But the
details which accompanied the enunciation of the name prevented mistake,
on the part of the sitters, about the person intended.

Professor James brought away from this first sitting the conclusion that
unless Mrs Piper, by some chance inexplicable to him, knew his own and
his wife's families intimately, she must be possessed of supernormal
powers. In short, his first scepticism was shaken, and he had twelve
further sittings with Mrs Piper in the course of the winter. Moreover,
he obtained circumstantial details from relatives and friends who
likewise had sittings.

The following are some examples of Phinuit's clairvoyance.[9]

Professor James's mother-in-law had, on her return from Europe, lost her
bank-book. At a sitting held soon afterwards Phinuit was asked if he
could help her to find it. He told her exactly where it was, and there
it was found.

At another sitting, Phinuit said to Professor James, who this time was
not accompanied by Mrs James, "Your child has a boy named Robert F. as a
playfellow in our world." The Fs. were cousins of Mrs James, who lived
in a distant town.

On returning home Professor James said to his wife, "Your cousins the
Fs. have lost a child, haven't they? But Phinuit made a mistake about
the sex; he said it was a boy." Mrs James confirmed the perfect
exactness of Phinuit's information; her husband had been wrong.

At the second sitting which Mrs Gibbens had she was told among other
things that one of her daughters, mentioned by name, had at the time a
bad pain in her back, to which she was by no means subject. The detail
was found to be exact.

On another occasion Phinuit announced to Mrs James and her brother,
before the arrival of any telegram, the death of their aunt, which had
just occurred in New York. It is true that this death was momentarily

At another sitting Phinuit said to Professor James, "You have just
killed a grey and white cat with ether. The wretched animal spun round
and round a long time before dying." This was quite true.

Phinuit, again, told Mrs James that her aunt in New York, the one whose
death he had announced, had written her a letter warning her against all
kinds of mediums. And he sketched the old lady's character, not very
respectfully, in a most amusing way.

I quote these examples to give an idea of the kind of information
furnished by Mrs Piper's controls. But it must not be believed that this
is all. The controls do not need to be entreated to speak. Phinuit is
particularly loquacious, and he often talks for an hour on end. His
remarks are frequently incoherent, and often also obviously false. But,
at the very least, in the good sittings, truthfulness and exactitude
much preponderate, whatever may be the source from which Phinuit
obtains his facts; whether he gets them from disincarnated spirits, as
he asserts; whether he reads them in the consciousness or
sub-consciousness of the sitter, or whether they are furnished him by
what he calls the "influence" which the persons to whom the objects
presented to him belonged have left upon them.

I have forgotten to say that Phinuit asks to have brought to him objects
of some sort which have belonged to the persons about whom he is
consulted. He feels the objects, and says at once, "I feel the influence
of such-a-one; he is dead or he is alive; such a thing has happened to
him." Detail follows on detail, for the most part exact.

As I have already said when speaking of Professor James, Phinuit showed
intimate knowledge of Mrs James's family. Now, there were no members of
the family in the neighbourhood; some were dead, others in California,
and others in the State of Maine.

What I have said will suffice to give the reader a first idea of the
general features of the phenomena. I shall be able in future, while
reporting the facts, to examine as I proceed the hypotheses which they


[8] _Proc. of S.P.R._, vol. vi. p. 651.

[9] _Proc. of S.P.R._, vol. vi. p. 657.


The hypothesis of fraud--The hypothesis of muscle reading--"Influence."

When phenomena of this nature are related, the first hypothesis that
occurs to the reader's mind is that of fraud. The medium is an impostor.
His trick may be ingenious and carefully dissimulated, but it is
certainly merely a trick. Therefore, in order to pursue these studies
with any good results, this hypothesis must be disposed of once for all.
Now this is not easy. Most men are so made that they have a high opinion
of their own perspicuity, but a very unfavourable one generally of that
of other men. They always believe that if they had been there they could
have quickly discovered the imposture. Consequently, no precaution must
be omitted; all safeguards must be employed, and it will be seen that
the observers of Mrs Piper's phenomena have not neglected to do this.

Professor James concealed the identity of as many as he could of the
sitters whom he introduced to Mrs Piper. Personally, he was soon
convinced that fraud had nothing to do with the phenomena. But the point
was to convince others. It occured to a member of the Society for
Psychical Research that it would be a good plan to cause Mrs Piper to
be followed by detectives when she went out, and not only herself, but
all the other members of her family. A singular idea, in my opinion.
However, if detectives had not been employed, many people would even
to-day believe that it would be possible to clear up the Piper mystery
in a very short time, in the most natural way in the world. This is why
Dr Hodgson, on his arrival in America, set detectives on the tracks of
Mr and Mrs Piper. Absolutely nothing was discovered; Mr and Mrs Piper
asked nobody indiscreet questions, made no suspicious journeys, did not
visit cemeteries to read the names on graves. Finally, Mrs Piper, whose
correspondence is at all times limited, received no letters from
Intelligence Agencies.

Later on, the method taken to make sure of her good faith was revealed
to Mrs Piper. She was not at all offended; on the contrary, she saw how
absolutely legitimate was the precaution. This is another proof of her
uprightness and intelligence.

Again, the idea that Mrs Piper could obtain the information she gives by
means of inquiries made abroad is _à priori_ absurd to anyone who has
studied the phenomena with any care. Her sitters, whom she received
under assumed names, to the number of several hundreds, came from all
points of the United States, from England, and even from other parts of
Europe. The greater number passed through the hands of Professor James
and Dr Hodgson, and all necessary precautions were taken that Mrs Piper
should see them for the first time only a few moments before the
commencement of the trance. Indeed, they were often only introduced
after the trance had begun. These precautions have never injured the
results. The sittings, at least those which were not spoilt by the
medium's state of health, have always been marked by a large number of
perfectly accurate details.

If Mrs Piper obtained the information through spies in her employment,
these spies would be obliged to send her private details about all the
families in the United States and Europe, since she hardly ever knows to
whom she will give a sitting the next day. Dr Hodgson arranges for her.
Formerly Professor James did this, at least in a large number of cases.
Now the scientific honesty of Dr Hodgson or Professor James (I mention
this only for foreign readers who may not be acquainted with the
reputation of these two gentlemen) can no more be suspected than that of
a Charcot, a Berthelot, or a Pasteur. Then, what interest could they
have in deceiving us? These experiments had cost them considerable sums,
not to speak of time and trouble; they have never profited by them.

Again, Mrs Piper is without fortune. She would not have the means to pay
such a police as she would need. She is paid for her sittings, it is
true; she gains about two hundred pounds a year, but such a police
service would cost her thousands. But there was an excellent way of
putting the hypothesis of fraud out of question; it was to take Mrs
Piper out of her habitual environment, to a country where she knew
nobody. This was done. Certain members of the Society for Psychical
Research invited her to England, to give sittings in their houses. She
consented without any difficulty. She arrived in England on 19th
November 1889, _on_ the Cunard Company's steamer _Scythia_. Frederic
Myers, whose recent loss is deplored by psychology, should have gone to
the docks and have taken her to his house at Cambridge. But at the last
moment he was called to Edinburgh, and asked his friend, Professor
Oliver Lodge, of whom we have already spoken, to receive Mrs Piper in
his stead. Professor Lodge installed her in an hotel with her two little
girls who came with her. The same evening Mr Myers arrived, and took her
to his house next day.

Experiments at Cambridge began at once. This is what Mr Myers says about

"I am convinced that Mrs Piper, on her arrival in England, brought with
her a very slender knowledge of English affairs or English people. The
servant who attended on her and on her two young children was chosen by
myself, and was a young woman from a country village whom I had full
reason to believe both trustworthy and also quite ignorant of my own or
my friends' affairs. For the most part I had myself not determined upon
the persons whom I would invite to sit with her. I chose these sitters
in great measure by chance; several of them were not resident in
Cambridge, and except in one or two cases, where anonymity would have
been hard to preserve, I brought them to her under false names,
sometimes introducing them only when the trance had already begun."

Professor Oliver Lodge in his turn invited Mrs Piper to come and give
sittings at his home in Liverpool. She went, and remained from 18th
December to 27th December 1889. During this time she gave at least two
sittings a day, which fatigued her much. Professor Lodge gave up for the
time all other work to study her. He enumerates at length all the
precautions he took to prevent fraud. He also declares that Mrs Piper,
who was perfectly aware of the watch kept upon her, never showed the
least displeasure, and thought it quite natural. He wondered whether, by
chance, she might not have among her luggage some book containing
biographies of men of the day, and asked permission to look through her
trunks. She consented with the best possible grace. But Professor Lodge
found nothing suspicious. Mrs Piper also handed over to be read the
greater number of the letters she received; they were not numerous;
about three a week. The servants in the house were all new; they knew
nothing of the family's private affairs, and thus could not inform the
medium about them. Besides, Mrs Piper never tried to question them. Mrs
Lodge, who was very sceptical at first, kept guard over her own speech,
so as not to give any scraps of information. The family Bible (on the
first pages of which, according to custom, memorable events are
recorded) and the photographic albums were locked away. Professor Lodge,
like the others, presented most of his sitters under false names.
Finally, he affirms that Mrs Piper's attitude never justified the least
suspicion; she was dignified, reserved, and not in any way indiscreet.

In short, during the fifteen years the experiments have continued, all
the suggestions made by sceptical and sometimes violent objectors have
been kept in view, that the fraud might be discovered, if fraud there
were. All has been in vain. The explanation of the phenomena must
consequently be sought elsewhere.

As for the trance itself, all those who have seen it agree in saying
that it is genuine and in no way feigned.

The hypothesis of fraud being disposed of, recourse has been had to
another, which it has also become necessary to abandon--that of the
reading of muscular movements. It appears that the thought-readers who
exhibit themselves on the platform accomplish their wonderful feats by
interpreting, with remarkable intelligence, sharpened by long practice,
the unconscious movements of the persons whose wrists they are holding.

Now it is true that formerly Mrs Piper became entranced while holding
both hands, or at least one hand, of the sitter. She kept their hands in
hers during most of the trance. But Professor Lodge says this was far
from being always the case. She often dropped the sitter's hands and
lost contact with them for half an hour at a time. Phinuit, or some
other control, nevertheless continued to furnish exact information.
Shall we say that while he was holding hands he had laid in a provision
of knowledge for the whole half-hour? Seriously we cannot.

But as this objection had often been made, the sitters endeavoured to
avoid contact with the medium. For a long time Mrs Piper has fallen into
the trance without holding anyone's hand. Her whole body reposes,
plunged in a deep sleep, except the right hand, which writes with giddy
rapidity and only rarely endeavours to touch the persons present.
Professor Hyslop, in the report which has just appeared,[11] affirms
that he avoided the slightest contact with the medium with all possible
care, and yet we shall see farther on how exact were the facts he
obtained, since he believes that he has established the identity of his
dead father without the possibility of a doubt. Therefore the hypothesis
of thought-reading by means of muscular indications must also be put

Finally, Phinuit affirms that the objects presented to him, and which he
touches, furnish him with information about their former possessors,
thanks to the "influence" such persons have left on the articles; and in
a multitude of cases we should be almost forced to admit that it may be
so. But here we are already plunged into depths of mystery. What can
this "influence" be? We know nothing about it. Must we believe in it?
Must we believe Phinuit when he says that he obtains his information
sometimes from the "influence" left upon the objects, sometimes directly
from the mouths of the disembodied spirits? Before reaching that point,
other hypotheses must be examined.


[10] _Proc. of S.P.R._, vol. vi. p. 438.

[11] _Proc. of S.P.R._, vol. xvi.


A sitting with Mrs Piper--The hypothesis of

The reader may not be displeased to have a specimen of these strange
conversations between human beings and the invisible beings, who assert
that they are the disincarnated spirits of those who day by day quit
this world of woe. It will not be difficult to give the reader a
specimen of them. At least one half of the fourteen or fifteen hundred
pages dedicated to the Piper case in the _Proceedings of the Society for
Psychical Research_ are composed of reports of sittings, either taken
down in shorthand or given in great detail. In some of these reports
even the most insignificant exclamations of those present are noted.

I have chosen the 47th of the sittings which took place in England, not
because it is peculiarly interesting, but because Professor Lodge's
published report of it is not too long, and I have no room for more
extended developments.

The account of this sitting will perhaps disappoint some readers.
"What!" they will say, "is that all that spirits who return from the
other world have to say to us? They talk as we do. They speak of the
same things. They are not spirits." This conclusion would perhaps be too
hasty. I do not assert that they are spirits or that they return from
another world. I know nothing about it. But if this other world existed
we should expect that there would not be an abyss between it and our
own. Nature makes no leaps. That is surely a true principle in, and for,
all worlds.

We have a means, although an imperfect one, of endeavouring to discover
if the communicators are really returning spirits. It is to ask them to
prove their identity by relating as large a number of facts as possible
concerning their life upon earth. The investigators of the Piper case
have for fifteen years devoted themselves to this task, apparently easy,
in reality difficult and ungrateful.

In the earlier experiments in the Piper case the conversation almost
always takes place between the sitters and Dr Phinuit. Dr Phinuit does
not willingly give up his post, though he does so sometimes. When he is
giving information which he says he has received from other spirits he
sometimes talks in the third person; sometimes, on the contrary, he
reports word for word in the first person. This detail must not be
forgotten in reading the reports. The following is a report of the 47th
sitting in England.

The sitters are Professor Oliver Lodge and his brother Alfred Lodge. The
latter takes notes. The phrases between parentheses are remarks made by
Professor Lodge after the sitting.[12]

Phinuit.--"Captain,[13] do you know that as I came[14] I met the medium
going out, and she's crying. Why is that?"

O. L.--"Well, the fact is she's separated from her children for a few
days and she is feeling rather low about it."

Phinuit.--"How are you, Alfred? I've your mother's influence strong.
(Pause.) By George! that's Aunt Anne's ring (feeling ring I had put on
my hand just before sitting) given over to you. And Olly dear,[15]
that's one of the last things I ever gave you. It was one of the last
things I said to you in the body when I gave it you for Mary. I said,
'For her, through you.'" [This is precisely accurate.]

O. L.--"Yes, I remember perfectly."

Phinuit.--"I tell you I know it, I shall never forget it. Keep it in
memory of me, for I am not dead. Each spirit is not so dim (?) that it
cannot recollect its belongings in the body. They attract us if there
has been anything special about them. I tell you, my boy, I can see it
just as plain as if I were in the body. It was the last thing I gave
you, for her, through you, always in remembrance of me." (Further
conversation and advice ending, "Convince yourself,[16] and let others
do the same. We are all liable to mistakes, but you can see for
yourself. There's a gentleman wants to speak to you.")

Mr E.[17]--"Lodge, how are you? I tell you I'm living, not dead. That's
me. You know me, don't you?"

O. L.--"Yes, delighted to see you again."

Mr E.--"Don't give it up,[18] Lodge. Cling to it. It's the best thing
you have. It's coarse in the beginning, but it can be ground down fine.
You'll know best and correct (?). It can only come through a trance. You
have to put her in a trance. You've got to do it that way to make
yourself known."

O. L.--"Is it bad for the medium?"

Mr E.--"It's the only way, Lodge. In one sense it's bad, but in another
it's good. It's her work. If I take possession of the medium's body and
she goes out, then I can use her organism to tell the world important
truths. There is an infinite power above us. Lodge, believe it fully.
Infinite over all, most marvellous. One can tell a medium, she's like a
ball of light. You look as dark and material as possible, but we find
two or three lights shining. It's like a series of rooms with candles at
one end. Must use analogy to express it. When you need a light you use
it, when you have finished you put it out. They are like transparent
windows to see through. Lodge, it's a puzzle. It's a puzzle to us here
in a way, though we understand it better than you. I work at it hard. I
do. I'd give anything I possess to find out. I don't care for material
things now, our interest is much greater. I'm studying hard how to
communicate; it's not easy. But it's only a matter of a short time
before I shall be able to tell the world all sorts of things through one
medium or another. [And so on for some time.] Lodge, keep up your
courage, there's a quantity to hope for yet. Hold it up for a time.
Don't be in a hurry. Get facts; no matter what they call you, go on
investigating. Test to fullest. Assure yourself, then publish. It will
be all right in the end--no question about it. It's true."

O. L.--"You have seen my Uncle Jerry, haven't you?"[19]

Mr E.--"Yes, I met him a little while ago--a very clever man--had an
interesting talk with him."

O. L.--"What sort of person is this Dr Phinuit?"

Mr E.--"Dr Phinuit is a peculiar type of man. He goes about continually,
and is thrown in with everybody. He is eccentric and quaint, but
good-hearted. I wouldn't do the things he does for anything. He lowers
himself sometimes--it's a great pity. He has very curious ideas about
things and people; he receives a great deal about people from themselves
(?), and he gets expressions and phrases that one doesn't care
for--vulgar phrases he picks up by meeting uncanny people through the
medium. These things tickle him, and he goes about repeating them. He
has to interview a great number of people, and has no easy berth of it.
A high type of man couldn't do the work he does. But he is a
good-hearted old fellow. Good-bye, Lodge! Here's the doctor coming."

O. L.--"Good-bye, E.! Glad to have had a chat with you."

[_Doctors voice reappears._][20]

Phinuit.--"This [ring] belongs to your aunt. Your Uncle Jerry tells me
to ask.... By the way, do you know Mr E.'s been here; did you hear him?"

O. L.--"Yes, I've had a long talk with him."

Phinuit.--"Wants you to ask Uncle Bob about his cane. He whittled it out
himself. It has a crooked handle with ivory on the top. Bob has it, and
has cut initials in it." [There is a stick, but description inaccurate.]
"He has the skin also, and the ring. And he remembers Bob killing the
cat and tying its tail to the fence to see him kick before he died. He
and Bob and a lot of the fellows all together in Smith's field, I think
he said. Bob knew Smith. And the way they played tit-tat-too on the
window pane on All Hallows' Eve, and they got caught that night too."
(At Barking, where my uncles lived as children, there is a field called
Smith's field, but my Uncle does not remember the cat incident.) "Aunt
Anne wants to know about her sealskin cloak. Who was it went to Finland,
or Norway?"

O. L.--"Don't know."

Phinuit.--"Do you know Mr Clark--a tall, dark man, in the body?"[21]

O. L.--"I think so."

Phinuit.--"His brother wants to send his love to him. Your Uncle Jerry,
do you know, has been talking to Mr E. They have become very friendly.
E. has been explaining things to him. Uncle Jerry says he will tell all
the facts, and all about families near, and so on, that he can recall.
He says if you will remember all this and tell his brother, he will
know. If he doesn't fully understand he must come and see me himself,
and I will tell him. How's Mary?"[22]

O. L.--"Middling; not very well."

Phinuit.--"Glad she's going away." [She was, to the Continent; but Mrs
Piper knew it.] "William[23] is glad. His wife used to be very
distressed about him. You remember his big chair where he used to sit
and think?"

O. L.--"Yes, very well."

Phinuit.--"He often goes and sits there now.[24] Takes it easy, he says.
He used to sit opposite a window sometimes with his head in his hands,
and think and think and think." (This was at his office.) "He has grown
younger in looks, and much happier. It was Alec that fell through a hole
in the boat, Alexander Marshall, her first father."[25] (Correct, as
before.) "Where's Thompson? The one that lost the purse?"

O. L.--"Yes, I know."

Phinuit.--"Well, I met his brother, and he sent love to all--to sister
Fanny, he told me especially. He tried to say it just as he was going
out, but had no time--was too weak."

O. L.--"Oh, yes, we just heard him."

Phinuit.--"Oh, you did? That's all right. She's an angel; he has seen
her to-day. Tell Ike I'm very grateful to him. Tell Ike the girls will
come out all right. Ted's mother and.... And how's Susie? Give Susie my

O. L.--"I couldn't find that Mr Stevenson you gave me a message to.
What's his name?"

Phinuit.--"What! little Minnie Stevenson? Don't you know his name is
Henry? Yes, Henry Stevenson. Mother in spirit too, not far away.[26]
Give me that watch." (Trying to open it.) "Here, open it. Take it out of
its case. Jerry says he took his knife once and made some little marks
with it up here, up here near the handle, near the ring, some little
cuts in the watch. Look at it afterwards in a good light and you will
see them." (There is a little engraved landscape in the place described,
but some of the sky-lines have been cut unnecessarily deep, I think,
apparently out of mischief or idleness. Certainly I knew nothing of
this, and had never had the watch out of its case before.--O. J. L.)

This example shows the kind of information given. Much of it is true;
other assertions are unverifiable, which does not prove that they are
untrue; others contain both truth and errors; finally, there are
certainly some which are entirely untrue. For this reason these
transcendental conversations very much resemble the conversations of
incarnated human beings. _Errare humanum est._ And it would appear that
the heavy corpse we drag about with us is not alone to blame when we
sacrifice to Error.

But, since the hypothesis of fraud and of unconscious muscular movement
may not be invoked, where shall we find the source of the mass of exact
information Mrs Piper gives us? The simplest hypothesis, after those we
have been obliged to set aside, consists in believing that the medium
obtains her information from the minds of those present. She must be
able to read their souls, as others read in a book; thought-transference
must take place between her and them. With these data, she would be
supposed to construct marionettes so perfect, so life-like, that a large
number of sitters leave the sittings persuaded that they have
communicated with their dead relatives. If this were true, the fact
alone would be a miracle. No genius, neither the divine Homer, nor the
calm Tacitus, nor Shakespeare, would have been a creator of men to
compare with Mrs Piper. Even were it thus, science would never have met
with a subject more worthy of its attention than this woman. But the
greater number of those who have had sittings with Mrs Piper affirm that
the information furnished was not in their consciousness. If they
themselves furnished it, the medium must have taken it, not from their
consciousness, but from their subconsciousness, from the most hidden
depths of their souls, from that abyss in which lie buried, far out of
our reach, facts which have occupied our minds for a moment even very
superficially, and have left therein, it appears, indelible traces.

Thus the mystery grows deeper and deeper. But this is not all. At every
moment Mrs Piper gives the sitters details which they maintain that they
never could have known. Consequently she must read them instantaneously
in the minds of persons, sometimes very far distant, who do know them.
This is the telepathic hypothesis, upon which for the moment we will not
insist, for we shall be obliged to study it carefully later on.

Professor Lodge has made a list, necessarily incomplete, of incidents
mentioned by the medium in the English sittings which the sitters had
entirely forgotten, or which they had every reason to suppose they had
never known, or which it was impossible they should ever have known.
This list contains forty-two such incidents. To give my readers some
idea of their nature, I will quote four or five of them. I will take
these incidents from the history of the Lodge family, in order to avoid
introducing new personages unnecessarily.

At the 16th sitting,[27] on November 30, 1889, Phinuit tells Professor
Lodge that one of his sons has something wrong in the calf of his leg.
Now at the time the child was merely complaining of pain in his heel
when he walked. The doctor consulted had pronounced it rheumatism, and
this was vaguely running in Dr Lodge's mind. However, some time after
the sitting, in May 1890, the pain localised itself in the calf. Now
there could be no auto-suggestion in this case, for Professor Lodge
tells us he had said nothing to his son.

At the 44th sitting,[28] Professor Lodge asked his Uncle Jerry, who is
supposed to be communicating, "Do you remember anything when you were
young?" Phinuit (for him) replies at once, "Yes, I pretty nigh got
drowned. Tried to swim the creek, and we fellows all of us got into a
little boat. We got tipped over. He will remember it. Ask Bob if he
remembers that about swimming the creek; he ought to remember it." Uncle
Robert, consulted, remembers the incident perfectly, but gives different
details. This sort of confusion about the details of a distant event,
the partial memory, occurs often to all of us.

Thus disincarnated beings would seem to resemble incarnate ones on this
point also. Apparently it was not the boat which upset, but the two
young Lodges, Jerry and Robert, on getting out of it, began some
horse-play on the bank, and fell into the stream. They were obliged to
swim, fully dressed and against a strong current, which was carrying
them under a mill-wheel.

At the 46th sitting,[29] Phinuit reports that the last visit the father
of Professor Lodge paid was to this Uncle Robert, and that he didn't
feel very well. Professor Lodge knew nothing of this fact, or, if he had
once known it, had so completely forgotten it that he was obliged to
apply to one of his cousins to know if it was true. The cousin replied
in confirmation of the fact.

At the 82nd sitting,[30] Uncle Jerry, speaking of his brother Frank, who
is still living, expresses himself thus about an event of their

"Yes, certainly! Frank was full of life; he crawled under the thatch
once and hid. What a lot of mischief he was capable of doing. He would
do anything; go without shirt, swop hats, anything. There was a family
near named Rodney. He pounded one of their boys named John. Frank got
the best of it, and the boy ran; how he ran! His father threatened
Frank, but he escaped; he always escaped. He could crawl through a
smaller hole than another. He could shin up a tree quick as a monkey.
What a boy he was! I remember his fishing. I remember that boy wading up
to his middle. I thought he'd catch his death of cold; but he never

This Uncle Frank was aged about 80, and was living in Cornwall: the
general description is characteristic. Professor Lodge wrote to him to
ask if the above details were correct. He replied, giving exact details:
"I recollect very well my fight with a boy in the corn field. It took
place when I was ten years old, and I suppose a bit of a boy-bully."

On the 29th November[31] Professor Henry Sidgwick, of Cambridge, had a
sitting with Mrs Piper. It was arranged that Mrs Sidgwick, who stayed at
home, should do something specially marked during the sitting. Mrs Piper
was to be asked to describe it, to prove her power of seeing at a
distance. Phinuit, when questioned, replied, "She is sitting in a large
chair, she is talking to another lady, and she is wearing something on
her head." These details were perfectly correct. Mrs Sidgwick was
sitting in a large chair, talking to Miss Alice Johnson, and she had a
blue handkerchief on her head. However, Phinuit was wrong about the
description of the room in which this happened.


[12] For detailed report of these sittings see _Proc. of S.P.R._, vol.

[13] At the first sitting in Liverpool there was some talk of a sea
captain. Phinuit, who was rather fond of nicknames, jocularly attached
the epithet "Captain" to Professor Lodge.

[14] _I.e._, "As I entered the medium's organism."

[15] Here Phinuit is supposed to be reporting in the first person words
of Aunt Anne, treated as if present.

[16] Of a future life.

[17] Phinuit seems to have left, and Mr E. takes his place. This Mr E.
was an intimate friend of Professor Lodge; he had appeared at a
preceding sitting and had offered proofs of his identity, which were
verified later. Professor Lodge recognised his mode of address. Phinuit,
we remember, always addressed Professor Lodge as "Captain."

[18] The investigation into psychic matters.

[19] In accordance with a statement previously made by Phinuit.

[20] These changes in the medium's voice are very surprising. If there
is fraud in the case, Mrs Piper must be the most accomplished actress
who has hitherto appeared.

[21] _I.e._, still living.

[22] Mrs Lodge.

[23] Mrs Lodge's step-father.

[24] These assertions, that spirits return to the places they have lived
in, and unknown to us, do what they were accustomed to do, are very odd.
But the literature of the subject is full of such accounts.

[25] Mrs Lodge's father. Phinuit had alluded to this accident in a
previous sitting, but without being able to explain if it had happened
to Mrs Lodge's father or her step-father.

[26] In these communications the self-styled spirits always affirm that
the dead get farther and farther by degrees from our universe, in
accordance with time, and their own progress. The Stevenson episode,
referred to above, is described on page 71.

[27] _Proc. of S.P.R._, vol. vi. p. 467.

[28] _Ibid._ p. 503.

[29] _Proc. of S.P.R._, vol. vi. p. 514.

[30] _Ibid._, p. 549.

[31] _Proc. of S.P.R._, p. 627.


Phinuit--His probable origin--His character--What he says of
himself--His French--His medical diagnosis--Is he merely a secondary
personality of Mrs Piper?

An interesting question arises at the point we have reached--"What is
Phinuit? Whence his name? Whence does he come? Should we believe that he
is a disincarnated human spirit, as he himself obstinately affirms, or
must we think him a secondary personality of Mrs Piper?" If he is a
spirit, that spirit is not endowed with a love of truth, as we shall
see, and on this point he too much resembles many of ourselves. In any
case we may notice in passing the obstinacy of these controls in wishing
to pass for disincarnated spirits; the fact is at least worthy of
attention. I am willing to allow that this may be a suggestion imposed
by the medium on her secondary personalities; but I ask myself why this
suggestion can never be annulled. Numerous efforts have been made, above
all in the case of Phinuit; they have ended only in provoking jests from
the disincarnated doctor, who absolutely insists on remaining a spirit.
However this may be, we will here endeavour to discover the origin of
this control.

It will not have been forgotten that Mrs Piper's mediumship blossomed
forth, if I may thus express myself, during the sittings she had with
the blind medium J. R. Cocke. Now this medium was then, and has, I
believe, always since been, controlled by a certain doctor called Albert
G. Finnett, a French doctor of the old school which produced Sangrado.
This old barber-surgeon, as his medium calls him, is very modest. He
says that he is "nobody particular"; I hope he does not mean to say that
he resembles Jules Verne's Captain Nemo. There is a considerable
resemblance between this name Finnett and the English pronunciation of
Phinuit. Therefore we may well inquire whether the medium Cocke, when
developing Mrs Piper's mediumship, may not also have made her a present
of his control. Dr Hodgson has questioned Phinuit on this point several
times. But Phinuit asserts that he does not know what is meant, and that
Mrs Piper's is the first human organism through which he has manifested.
I will not try to settle the question.

If Phinuit has not varied about his own name, he has certainly varied in
its orthography. Till 1887, whenever he consented to sign his name, he
signed Phinnuit, with two _n_'s. Dr Hodgson accuses himself of being the
originator of the orthographic variation. He carelessly took the habit
of writing Phinuit with one _n_, and gave this orthography to his
friends. Mrs Piper, in the normal state, often had occasion to see the
name thus written. And so, in the first half of 1888, Phinuit also began
to write his name with one _n_. Dr Hodgson only discovered the mistake
later on looking over his notes.

The reader will perhaps be astonished that I speak of the Phinuit
personality as if it were already established that the hypothetical
doctor were really a spirit; that is to say, a personality as distinct
from that of the medium as the reader and I are from one another. I must
hold this point in reserve. The investigators of the Piper case, finding
as decided a difference between the controls and the subject in a normal
state as exists between individuals of flesh and blood, have adopted the
language of these controls for convenience' sake, while warning us that,
in so doing, they have no intention of prejudging their nature. I do,
and shall continue to do, the same. There is no impropriety in this so
long as it is well understood.

To return to Phinuit's character. This doctor in the Beyond is not a bad
fellow; on the contrary, he is very obliging, and his chief desire is to
please everybody. He repeats all he is asked to repeat, makes all the
gestures suggested to him by the communicators in order that they may be
recognised; even those of a little child. In his rather deep voice he
sings to a weeping mother the nursery song or the lullaby which she sang
to her sick child, if the song will serve as a proof of identity. I find
at least one such case in Dr Hodgson's report. The couplet sung was
probably well-known to Mrs Piper; it is a common one. But as this song
had often been sung during her last illness by the child who was
communicating, and as it was the last she sang upon earth, the
coincidence is at least surprising. Probably Mrs Piper took the air and
the words from the source whence she takes so many other details--a
source unknown to us.

However, if Dr Phinuit is good-hearted, he is also occasionally
deplorably trivial. His language is rarely elevated, and his expressions
are almost always vulgar. On occasion he does not dislike a joke or a
touch of humour. Thus we have seen that he mischievously persisted in
addressing Professor Lodge as "Captain." On another occasion he is a
long time in finding a person's name--Theodora. Then he adds, mockingly,
"Hum! it is a fine name once one has got hold of it." This does not
prevent Phinuit from altering Theodora into Theosophy, and calling the
person in question Theosophy! I could easily give other examples of
Phinuit's wit. But on this point I must remark that the word "Theosophy"
astonishes me in Phinuit's mouth, even when he is making a joking use of
it. Evidently Mrs Piper knows the name and the thing well. But at the
time when Dr Phinuit attended his contemporaries in flesh and blood,
there was, I believe, no question of Theosophy, nor of its foundress,
Madame Blavatsky. There was indeed a sect of Theosophists at the end of
the eighteenth century, but it was very obscure.

Dr Phinuit is, besides, very proud of his exploits. He likes to make
people believe that he knows and sees everything. Indeed, perhaps it is
because he likes to seem not to be ignorant of anything that he
sometimes asserts so many controverted facts. And this is to be
deplored; for how much more useful service he would render if his facts
were not doubtful! Unluckily, this is far from being the case. Phinuit
occasionally seems to tell falsehoods deliberately. This has been made
evident when he has been asked to prove his identity by giving details
of his terrestrial life.

In December 1889,[32] he replies to Professor Alfred Lodge, the brother
of Professor Oliver Lodge,--

"I have been from thirty to thirty-five years in spirit, I think. I died
when I was seventy, of leprosy; very disagreeable. I had been to
Australia and Switzerland. My wife's name was Mary Latimer. I had a
sister Josephine. John was my father's name. I studied medicine at Metz,
where I took my degree at thirty years old, married at thirty-five. Look
up the town of ----, also the Hôtel Dieu in Paris. I was born at
Marseilles, am a Southern French gentleman. Find out a woman named
Carey. Irish. Mother Irish; father French. I had compassion on her in
the hospital. My name is John Phinuit Schlevelle (or Clavelle), but I
was always called Dr Phinuit. Do you know Dr Clinton Perry? Find him at
Dupuytren, and this woman at the Hôtel Dieu. There's a street named
Dupuytren, a great street for doctors.... This is my business now, to
communicate with those in the body, and make them believe our

I think a bad choice was made of Dr Phinuit to fill this part. The
information he here gives us about himself does not bear marks of
absolute sincerity. We might say he was an Englishman or American trying
to pass himself off for a Frenchman to his fellow-countrymen, and having
a very small acquaintance with France and French affairs. And if he had
even stopped there! But no. He has often contradicted himself. He tells
Dr Hodgson[33] that his name is Jean Phinuit Scliville. He could not
tell the date of his birth or death. But, on comparing the facts he
gives, we might conclude that he was born in 1790, and that he died in
1860. He tells Dr Hodgson that he studied medicine in Paris, at a
college called _Merciana_ or _Meerschaum_, he does not know exactly
which. He adds that he also studied medicine at "Metz in Germany." It is
no longer he who had a sister named Josephine; it is his wife.
"Josephine," he says, "was a sweetheart of mine at first, but I went
back on her, and married Marie after all." This Marie Latimer is
supposed to have been thirty when she married Dr Phinuit, and to have
died at fifty. He asks Dr Hodgson, "Do you know where the Hospital of
God is (Hospital de Dieu)?" "Yes, it is at Paris." "Do you remember old
Dyruputia (Dupuytren)?" "He was the head of the hospital, and there is a
street named for him." Phinuit asserts that he went to London, and from
London to Belgium, and travelled a great deal, when his health broke

In the above-quoted passage, Phinuit asserts that he had set himself to
prove the existence of spirits. If he had set himself the contrary task
he would have been more likely to succeed, when he gives us such
information as the above. If we went no further, we should need to ask
ourselves how serious men can have concerned themselves during so long a
period with such idle stories. Happily, as we shall see later, others
have succeeded in establishing their identity better than Phinuit has
done. Phinuit himself, even if he tells the most foolish stories when he
speaks of himself, reveals profoundly intimate and hidden secrets when
he speaks of others. Truly, it is correctly said that these phenomena
are disconcerting. But they are none the less interesting to science
when their authenticity and the sincerity of the medium are beyond
discussion, as in the present case. I will therefore go on examining the
Phinuit personality; it will be the reverse side of the medal.

An American doctor, whom Dr Hodgson designates by the initials C. F. W.,
has a sitting with Mrs Piper on May 17, 1889. Here is a fragment of the
dialogue between him and Phinuit.[34]

C. F. W.--"What medical men were prominent in Paris in your time?"

Phinuit.--"Bouvier and Dupuytren, who was at Hôtel Dieu."

C. F. W.--"Was Dupuytren alive when you passed out?"

Phinuit.--"No; he passed out before me; I passed out twenty or thirty
years ago."

C. F. W.--"What influence has my mind on what you tell me?"

Phinuit.--"I get nothing from your mind; I can't read your mind any more
than I can see through a stone wall." (Phinuit added that he saw the
people of whom he spoke objectively, and that it was they who gave him
his information.)

C. F. W.--"Have you any relatives living in Marseilles?"

Phinuit.--"I had a brother who died there two or three years ago."

A little later on, at the same sitting, Phinuit says,

"Many people think I am the medium; that is all bosh."

Well, so much the better. But if Phinuit is not Mrs Piper, neither does
he appear to be a Frenchman. A further proof of this is that he is
incapable of keeping up a conversation in French. He speaks English with
a pronounced _café-concert_ French accent, it is true, but that is not a
proof. He likes to count in French, and sometimes he pronounces two or
three consecutive words more or less correctly. But who would venture to
maintain that Mrs Piper's sub-consciousness has not received them in
some way; it would be all the more likely, because at one time our
medium had a governess for her children who spoke French fluently.
However, Dr C. F. W., quoted above, says that Phinuit understood all
that he said to him in French, which Mrs Piper in her normal state could
not have done. On the other hand, Professor William James says that
Phinuit does not understand his French. Whom shall we believe? One thing
is certain, French or not, Phinuit does not speak French. Dr Hodgson
asked him why this was. Phinuit, who is never at a loss, explained as
follows:--"He had been a long time in practice at Metz, and as there are
a great many English there he had ended by forgetting his French." This
is just such a piece of childishness as the secondary personalities
invent.[35] Dr Hodgson pointed out the absurdity of the explanation to
Phinuit, and added, "As you are obliged to express your thoughts through
the organism of the medium, and as she does not know French, it would be
more plausible if you said that it would be impossible to express your
thoughts in French by means of Mrs Piper."

Phinuit found the explanation magnificent, and some days after served it
up whole to another inquisitive person who questioned him.

As Dr Hodgson continued to tease him about his name, he ended by
admitting, or believing, that his name was not Phinuit at all.

"It was the medium Cocke who insisted that my name was Phinuit one day
at a sitting. I said, 'All right, call me Phinuit if you like, one name
is as good to me as another.' But you see, Hodgson, my name is
Scliville, I am Dr John Scliville. But, when I think about it, I had
another name between John and Scliville."

Phinuit did think about it, and at another sitting he said he had
remembered. His name now was Jean Alaen Scliville. Alaen, as we see, is
unmistakably French. In short, these are wretched inventions, quite as
wretched and much less poetic than the Martian romance, due to the
subconsciousness of Mlle. Smith.

Does Phinuit better justify the title of doctor which he assumes? On
this point opinions are less divided. His diagnosis is often
surprisingly exact, even in cases where the patient does not himself
know what his illness is. As long ago as 1890, Professor Oliver Lodge
expresses himself as follows with regard to Phinuit's medical knowledge.
The opinion of a man of science like Professor Lodge is of great weight,
though he is a physicist and not a doctor.

"Admitting, however, that 'Dr Phinuit' is probably a mere name for Mrs
Piper's secondary consciousness, one cannot help being struck by the
singular correctness of his medical diagnosis. In fact, the medical
statements, coinciding as they do with truth just as well as those of a
regular physician, but given without any ordinary examination, and
sometimes without even seeing the patient, must be held as part of the
evidence establishing a strong _primâ facie_ case for the existence of
_some_ abnormal means of acquiring information."[36]

Dr C. W. F., of whom we have spoken above, asks Phinuit to describe his
physical state for him, and Phinuit describes it perfectly. But here,
evidently, seeing that C. W. F. was a doctor, and must have known about
himself, we may only be concerned with thought-transference. Being
curious, Dr C. W. F. asked Phinuit how many years he had to live.
Phinuit replied by counting on his fingers in French up to eleven. This
happened in 1889. If the prophecy was fulfilled, Dr C. W. F. must have
gone to rejoin his colleague in the other world. It would be interesting
to know whether this is the case.

In general, the other doctors who have had sittings with Mrs Piper find
more fault with Dr Phinuit's prescriptions than with his diagnosis. They
blame the prescriptions as being more those of a herbalist than a
doctor. This would not be a great reproach. If a Dr Phinuit has really
existed, he must have practised fifty or sixty years ago, and must have
studied at the beginning of the last century. Therapeutics of that epoch
differed considerably from those of the present day. For this reason Dr
C. W. F. asks whether Dr Phinuit's medical knowledge really exceeds
what Mrs Piper might have read in a manual of domestic medicine. As far
as the diagnosis is concerned, his knowledge assuredly exceeds this.

Dr C. W. F. reports a fact which, though it would not prove Dr Phinuit's
medical ignorance, would once more prove his ignorance of French, and
even of the Latin of botanists. Dr F. asked,[37] "Have you ever
prescribed _chiendent_ or _Triticum repens_?" using both the French and
Latin names. Phinuit seemed much surprised, and said, "What is the
English of that?" It is certain that a French doctor, and, above all, a
doctor in the beginning of the last century, must know _chiendent_, and
even _Triticum repens_.

Mrs Piper told Dr Hodgson that Phinuit had often been shown medicinal
plants, and had been asked their names, and that he had never made a
mistake. Dr Hodgson procured specimens of three medicinal plants from
one of his friends. He himself remained entirely ignorant of their names
and uses. Phinuit carefully examined the plants, and was unable to
indicate their names or their uses. But neither would this incident
prove much. The living practitioners who could not be caught in this way
must be rare.

I will give two or three of Phinuit's diagnoses as examples. I will
choose those which have been given to Dr Hodgson about himself, as my
readers now know him well.

At one of the first sittings[38] Dr Hodgson had with Mrs Piper, Phinuit
pronounced the following judgment on his physical constitution, "You are
an old bach (bachelor), and will live to be a hundred." And he added
that Dr Hodgson had at the time a slight inflammation of the nasal
membranes, though there was no external sign to guide him.

On another occasion Dr Hodgson asked him a question about a pain he had
had but which he no longer felt. Phinuit was evasive at first, saying,
"I have told you already that you are perfectly well." He then passed
his hand over Dr Hodgson's left shoulder, placed his finger under the
left shoulder-blade scapula, on the exact spot where the pain had been,
and said it must have been caused by a draught, which was probably true.
Another time, Dr Hodgson complained of a pain, without explaining where.
Phinuit instantaneously put his finger on the painful spot, below the
chest. He said at first that the pain was caused by indigestion, but
then corrected himself spontaneously and said it was caused by a muscle
strained in some unusual exercise. Dr Hodgson had not thought of this
explanation; but it was true that, two days before, when going to bed,
and after some weeks' interruption, he had exercised himself with
bending his body backwards and forwards. The pain appeared next day.
Phinuit ordered applications of cold water on the painful spot, and
friction with the hand. Naturally there exist other diagnoses more
complicated and extraordinary than those I have quoted.

In terminating this study of Phinuit, I must return to the eternal
question--Is Phinuit a different personality from Mrs Piper, or is he
only a secondary personality? None of those who have studied the
question closely have ventured to decide it categorically. There is no
so clearly defined distinction between the normal personality and the
secondary personalities which have so far been studied as there is
between Mrs Piper and Phinuit. In fact, the medium and her control have
not the same character, nor the same turn of mind, nor the same
information, nor the same manner of speech. It is not so with normal and
secondary personalities. Our personality may split into fragments,
which, at a cursory glance, may appear to be so many different
personalities. But when these fragments are closely studied numerous
points of contact are found. When suggestion is added to this
segregation, the separation between the normal and secondary
personalities is even more emphatic. But then there are traces of
automatism present which are not to be found in Phinuit. He seems to be
as much master of his mental faculties and of his will as you or I.

Finally, if we consider that many of Mrs Piper's controls carry the love
of truth further than Phinuit, that they have succeeded in proving their
identity in the eyes of their intimates, who were none the less sceptics
to begin with; if we consider the George Pelham and Hyslop cases, among
others, which we shall fully discuss a little further on, we shall be
almost tempted to let Phinuit benefit by the doubt about his colleagues,
and to believe that he is really a consciousness different from that of
Mrs Piper.


[32] _Proc. of S.P.R._, vol. vi. p. 520.

[33] _Ibid._, vol. viii. p. 50.

[34] _Proc. of the S.P.R._, vol. viii. p. 98.

[35] _Proc. of S.P.R._, part xxi. vol. viii. p 51.

[36] _Proc. of S.P.R._, vol. vi. p. 449.

[37] _Proc. of S.P.R._, vol. viii. p. 51.

[38] _Ibid._


Miss Hannah Wild's letter--The first text given by Phinuit--Mrs
Blodgett's sitting--Thought-reading explains the case.

There is a case of which I shall speak with some detail in this chapter,
for three reasons:--(1) The good faith of the experimenters being
unquestioned, if the experiment had succeeded we should certainly have
had a first step towards proof of a future life. Experiments of this
kind must be arranged if the desired end is to be attained. Even if only
one out of ten were successful, we should have established a method of
procedure, and should certainly in time discover the truth. (2) This
example will once again show the reader the character of Phinuit, who
hesitates at no invention, and risks being caught in the act of
imposture sooner than own to his ignorance or incapacity. (3) The reader
will find in it examples of the untrue assertions which are found in all
the bad sittings.

This dishonesty of Phinuit certainly complicates the problem singularly.
But I wish to present it as it actually is, with its dark and bright
sides. Science must endeavour to explain both.[39]

Miss Hannah Wild died on July 28, 1886. She was a strong Baptist, and
remained so to her last moments. About a year before her death a Boston
spiritualist paper published a message supposed to have come from her
dead mother. Miss Hannah Wild was much struck by it.

Her sister advised her to try the following experiment. Miss Hannah Wild
should write a letter whose contents she alone knew, and when she died,
she should return, if not prevented by circumstances stronger than her
will, and communicate the contents of the letter to her sister through
some medium. The letter would only be opened when some message bearing
all the marks of authenticity should arrive.

This was done. Hannah Wild wrote the letter, sealed it and enclosed it
in a tin box. It was understood that no mortal hand was to touch it.
When giving it to her sister she said, "If I can come back it will be
like ringing the City Hall bell!"

Mrs Blodgett, Hannah Wild's sister, adds, "Hands have never touched that
letter; it was in my husband's safe. When I sent it to Professor James I
took it out with scissors."

Mrs Blodgett having, in the last half of 1886, seen Professor James's
name in a journal concerned with Psychical Research wrote to him and
told him the above circumstances. In consequence he tried to get the
letter read through Mrs Piper. He sent her, not the letter, of course,
but a glove which Miss Hannah Wild had worn on the day she wrote the
letter, and the lining of her hat.

Mr J. W. Piper, Mrs Piper's father-in-law, acted as sitter. Phinuit took
his time, and tried for the contents of the letter during several
sittings. The result was a long dramatic elucubration, which reminds us
involuntarily of certain of Mlle. Smith's subliminal productions. I will
give three paragraphs of it. The remarks between parentheses are Mrs
Blodgett's; the reader will appreciate the facts by the light the
remarks throw upon them. However, it may not be useless to remark that
Phinuit found Miss Hannah Wild's exact name, which had been carefully
hidden from him.

1. "Dear Sister,--In the bottom of my trunk in the attic with my clothes
I have placed a little money and some jewels, given to me, as you know,
by mother, and given to her by grandfather, who has now passed away.
Bessie, I now give to you; they are all I have, I wish I could have
more. It has grieved me not a little not to have given the Society
something, but as you know, sister, I am unable to do so. If it be
possible I will give them my presence in spirit." (Sister left no trunk.
Never lived in any house with an attic. Mother never gave her any
jewels. Mother's father died in 1835. Mother died in 1880, and gave all
her jewels to me. These jewels had previously been given to mother by
myself. Sister left money, and could have given the Society some had she
chosen to do so.)

2. "The table-cover which I worked one year ago I want you to give
sister Ellen, John's wife. The reason I did not dispose of them before
will be a satisfactory proof of spirit return. My dearest sister, should
you ever marry, as I think you will, take the money and use it as you
think best, to buy a wedding outfit." (She never worked a table-cover. I
worked one and gave her. Brother John died when five years old. There
is no one by the name of Ellen connected with the family. She did think
I would marry, but knew that I had plenty of money to buy an outfit.)

3. "Do not dress in mourning for me, for if it be true the spirit can
return I want to see you dressed in light, not black. Not for me now, my
dear sister Bessie. Try to be cheerful and happy through your married
life, and when you hear from me--this for you a copy, 'remember sister
Hannah is not dead, only passed out of the body.' I will give you a
beautiful description of our life there and of my darling mother if I
see her." (Hannah always wore black, and often said it would be wicked
for me to take it off, for my child always said, "Mamma, you will always
wear black for me," and I have worn black for twenty years, ever since
my child died.)

And so forth.

Phinuit's elucubrations were six good manuscript pages long. Except
Hannah Wild's name everything was wrong. And yet Mr J. W. Piper affirms
that during all the sittings he had the feeling that he was talking to
the spirit of Miss Hannah Wild. Phinuit was asked for a description of
the communicator; all the details were false. After this it is
unnecessary to say that the letter Miss Hannah Wild had written before
her death, when opened by Professor James, after receiving the Phinuit
letter, differed totally from that document.

So far the Blodgett-Wild case is on the whole commonplace. Phinuit lied
when he pretended to communicate with Hannah Wild's spirit; for there is
no more reason here than elsewhere to suppose conscious fraud on Mrs
Piper's part. But this is the point at which the case becomes
interesting, and where it may perhaps throw some light on Phinuit's
manner of procuring information, and on the character of Phinuit
himself. If we judged only from this case, it would seem that Phinuit
was merely a secondary personality of Mrs Piper, possessing the
extraordinary power of reading people's minds unhindered by distance.
But let us say at once that a number of other cases render the problem
much more complex. The conclusion to be drawn from what follows is, that
if Phinuit is really what he asserts that he is, he does not draw his
information only from disincarnated spirits, whom he is supposed to
perceive objectively; he also reads the minds of the living, and with
the information he finds there he creates personages, apparently
life-like, and bearing a strong resemblance to deceased persons.

On the 30th of May 1888[40] Mrs Blodgett in person had a sitting with
Mrs Piper. The time was fixed by Dr Hodgson, who took care, as usual,
not to name the future sitter, and not to give any hint of her identity.
In my eyes this sitting is remarkable. Mrs Blodgett, with great good
sense, sums it up thus: "All the details which were in my mind Phinuit
gave exactly. On all the points of which I was ignorant he gave false
replies, or said nothing."

During the whole sitting Phinuit asserted that he was literally
repeating the words of Miss Hannah Wild, present. I shall quote the most
typical incidents. The remarks between parentheses are taken from Mrs
Blodgett's comments.

Hannah Wild.[41]--"Bessie, Betsie Blodgett, my sister. How glad I am to
see you! I am Anna, Hannah, your sister, Hannah Wild. How's father and
all the folks? Oh, I am so glad to see you!" (All this time Mrs Piper
kept on slapping me with her hand just like sister. When she died my
name was not Blodgett but Bessie Barr.)

H. W.--"Saw you once before in that audience. Threw a message at you."
(Four weeks after sister's death, John Slater, a medium, said, pointing
to me amongst a large audience, "There is a lady here who wants to have
you know she is here. She says she will tell you what is in that paper

H. W.--"How's the Society, Lucy Stone and all of them?" (Lucy Stone is
the editor of the _Woman's Journal_, and wrote a piece about sister when
she died.)

H. W.--"My photo in that bag."

Mrs Blodgett had brought a bag containing several things which had
belonged to her sister. Mrs Piper tried to open it, but could not. It
seems that Miss Hannah Wild, living, could only open the bag with
difficulty. Mrs Blodgett opened it. The so-called Hannah Wild threw the
objects out pell-mell, saying, "Picture of mine in here." This was so.
Now this photograph was the only thing in the bag which Mrs Blodgett did
not know was there; she had slipped her sister's will into an envelope
in which the photograph already was, but she had not consciously noticed
it was there. Her subconsciousness had probably been more
perspicacious, and it is from that Phinuit had probably drawn the
detail; at least unless he has the power of seeing certain things
through opaque bodies.

H. W.--(Takes her will, which she had shaken out of the envelope
containing the photograph.) "This is to you. I wrote it and gave it to
you. That was my feelings at the time I wrote it. You did not think as I
did. You made me feel sad sometimes. But you did take good care of me. I
always felt there was something that would never part us. Do just as I
told you to. You remember about my dress? Where's my comb? You remember
all about my money? I told you what to do with that. That ain't written
in this paper. I told you that on my death-bed." (All this is correct,
except that I know nothing about a comb. The will disposed of her books
and dresses and all her things, except her money.)

H. W.--"How is Alice?"

Mrs B.--"What Alice?"

H. W.--"The little girl that's a namesake." (Our living sister Alice had
a child named Alice Olivia, and Hannah always called her Alice: it was
our mother's name. The others called her Ollie. Hannah did not like
this, and did all she could to make us know that she did not want the
Alice dropped.)

H. W.--"Mother is here. Where's doctor? Where's brother?" (My husband is
a doctor; Hannah knew him. We have one brother living named Joseph, who
travels most of the time.) Hannah Wild takes a gold chain wrapped in
silk. Mrs Blodgett says, "Hannah, tell me whose and what is that?"

H. W.--(Feeling tassel at end of chain) "My mother's chain." (The chain
was a long chain of mother's. It was cut in two after she died. Hannah
had worn one half. The half which I took to the sitting had not been
worn since mother's death, and it had a tassel on the end, different
from the half Hannah had worn.)

H. W.--"Who's Sarah?"

Mrs B.--"Sarah Grover?"

H. W.--"No, Sarah Obb--Hodg--" (The medium's hand points to Mr Hodgson,
and the voice says it belongs to him.) Then Hannah Wild adds, "Sarah
Hodson." (Sarah Hodson was a friend of sister's at Waterbury,
Connecticut. I had thought of her the night before when I met Mr
Hodgson, as she also came from London, England.)

H. W.--"Where is my big silk handkerchief?"

Mrs B.--"I gave it to Clara. You told me to."

H. W.--"Where is my thimble?"

Mrs B.--"I don't know."

H. W.--"I saw you put it into this bag." (The handkerchief was a large
silk one given to sister by a lady who lived with us for years, and it
came from England. I did not know I had put Hannah's thimble in the bag,
but found on return to the hotel that it was there on the bed, with the
rest of the things I had taken out of the bag before starting for the

Mrs B.--"Can you tell me, sister, how many brothers you have in spirit

H. W.--"One, two, three." (I asked her how many brothers, because
William had only been dead since March 27 in the same year (1888).
"Three" was correct.)

Mrs B.--"Can you tell me where that letter is now that you wrote?"

H. W.--"It is at home, in tin box."

Mrs B.--"Can't you tell me more about it?"

H. W.--"I have told you. It would be like ringing church bells if I
could come back." (The letter was in the bag wrapped up in rubber cloth.
Sister did say when we put the letter in tin box, "It would be like
ringing the City Hall bell if I can come back.")

H. W.--"Where's William and doctor?"

Mrs B.--"Hannah, you tell me where William is."

H. W.--"He is here. I found him."

Mrs B.--"How long has he been?"

H. W.--"Weeks. You know all about it. He sticks to you all the time
every day. William wants to know how you like that lot."

Mrs B.--"What lot?"

H. W.--"You ought to know. You bought it to bury him in. William is
better out of the world than in it. He was a strange fellow. He don't
like that lot. Do you?"

Mrs B.--"No." (I had bought him a lot in Woodlawn Cemetery, N.Y. His
wife wanted him buried there. We wanted to take him to our home and bury
him by mother. Brother was very proud, and we thought the lot was not as
nice as he would like.)

At the end of the sitting the so-called Hannah Wild said that she must
go because it was church time, and she would not miss it. Mrs Blodgett
remarks that this is also characteristic of her sister. It was
Decoration Day, and the living Hannah Wild would certainly not have
missed it. This last incident is odd; but there are many analogous ones
in the literature of the subject and in Mrs Piper's sittings. Often the
communicator will not allow that he is dead, or has passed into another
world; if he is asked what he is doing, he appears surprised, and
affirms that he is carrying on his usual occupation; if he is a doctor,
he asserts that he continues to visit his patients. Phinuit is often
asked to describe the people of whom he speaks. He pictures them as they
were on earth, in their customary dress, and he affirms that he so sees
them. At the end of one sitting Professor Hyslop's father exclaims,
"Give me my hat!" Now this was an order he often gave in his lifetime
when he rose painfully from his invalid chair to accompany a visitor to
the gate. I repeat, these incidents are odd and embarrassing for the
spiritistic hypothesis. It is difficult to admit that the other world,
if it exists, should be a servile copy of this. Should we suppose that
the bewilderment caused by death is so great in certain individuals that
it is some time before they perceive the change in their environment? It
is difficult to admit this. Should we suppose these speeches are
automatisms of the communicator, rendered half unconscious towards the
end of the sitting by the heavy atmosphere of the medium's organism?
But, when the communication is not direct, when an intermediary is
speaking through the organism, what should we think? Are these traits
thrown in intentionally by the communicator, the better to prove his
identity? No doubt these incidents are very embarrassing to the
spiritistic hypothesis. On the other hand, if we allow that the
self-styled communicators are created by the entranced Mrs Piper from
the elements she finds here and there in the minds of living persons,
these incidents are quite natural; it would be surprising not to meet
with them. I mention the difficulty in passing; it will not fall to my
lot to solve it.

However this may be, Mrs Blodgett left the sitting convinced that she
had been conversing with her own consciousness externalised, and not
with the spirit of her sister. But if it had not been for the previous
incident of the letter, which had invited distrust, and if Mrs Blodgett
had had less judgment, she would probably have left the sitting
convinced that she had been talking to her defunct sister. Many
spiritualists must commit like errors every day. This shows what
circumspection is needed in such studies as these.

Mrs Blodgett asked Dr Hodgson to have some sittings for her, to try
again to obtain the text of the famous letter.[42] At the sitting of
August 1, 1888, Dr Hodgson gave Phinuit a lock of Hannah Wild's hair.
Phinuit began by saying it was not her hair; he then recognised his
mistake, but said that someone else must have touched it. Then he gave a
new version of the letter. "This letter is concerned with an incident in
Hannah's former life," he affirmed. Then he dictated, "It's something
about Hannah's early history, that letter is. At one time I met a person
whom I loved. A circumstance in our affection changed my whole life. Had
it not been for this one thing I should have been married and happy.
Consequently I went into religious work, and did all the good I could.
Whoever reads this letter after I am gone will know why I remained
Hannah Wild...." Mrs Blodgett's comment on this text is very
interesting. She says, "This is not what my sister wrote on her
deathbed, but it is perfectly true. It was the great grief of sister's

How could Phinuit guess this by simply touching a lock of hair? Can it
be that our feelings, our sorrows and joys, leave a persistent vibration
on the objects we touch, which sensitives can perceive after even a long
interval? Numerous and well-observed facts would almost compel us to
believe so. It would seem as if the vibrations of the soul imprinted
themselves on matter as sound waves are recorded on the cylinder of a
phonograph. Certain subjects, in an abnormal state, would be able to
recover them. There is, after all, nothing in this repugnant to science.

This abnormal state, which allows sensitives to apprehend past
vibrations, is perhaps only a partial abandonment of the body by the
spirit. In that case it would be easier to understand that those who,
like Phinuit, have entirely quitted their bodies, those who are in
another world, can read these vibrations as easily as we can read a
book. But if this is so, why does not Phinuit own it? It would be marvel
enough to satisfy his vanity. It would not, in any event, prevent his
obtaining information directly from disincarnated beings. But he ought
to state precisely in each case from what source he derives his
knowledge. He does nothing of the kind, and thus renders it almost
impossible for us to believe in his individuality.

At this same sitting Phinuit asserted that he would give the letter word
for word if he had a longer lock of hair. So Mrs Blodgett sent a longer
lock, which was given to him on October 3, 1888. The text he gave was as
incorrect as the preceding ones. A last effort was made in 1889, again
without result. Miss Hannah Wild has not come back from the other world
to tell us what she wrote on her death-bed.

I will end with another example which demonstrates Phinuit's cleverness
in reading people's minds even at a distance. On June 3, 1891,[43] Mrs
Blodgett wrote a letter to Phinuit. Dr Hodgson read it to him at a
sitting on the 15th of the same month. This drew from Phinuit the
following statement, which had nothing to do with the contents of the
letter: "She's been reading a funny book--a life of somebody. She called
on an old friend of Hannah's--somebody I told her to go and see. Mrs
Blodgett has a friend named Severance." Mrs Blodgett writes on June 17,
"Really Phinuit is doing wonderfully well as far as thought-transference
goes. Saturday night, June 13, I gave a talk to the Young Women's Rooms
about Helen Gardener's new book, _Is this your Son, my Lord?_" (On the)
"14th I did not go to see the friend in body, but I know my mind went,
and I wrote him the letter to ask him what Phinuit told me to do when
there." Mrs Blodgett adds:--"I had a friend named Severance, but sister
Hannah had never heard of him."


[39] _Proc. of S.P.R._, vol. viii. p. 69.

[40] _Proc. of S.P.R._, vol. viii. p. 75.

[41] Phinuit is speaking, but as he is supposed to be repeating Miss
Hannah Wild's words literally, it is easier to speak as if she were
speaking directly.

[42] _Proc. of S.P.R._, vol. viii. p. 78.

[43] _Proc. of S.P.R._, vol. viii. p. 83.


Communications from persons having suffered in their mental
faculties--Unexpected communications from unknown persons--The respect
due to the communicators--Predictions--Communications from children.

The Blodgett-Hannah Wild case is, I repeat, of a kind to throw discredit
on the spiritualist hypothesis. If it and analogous cases alone were
considered, it would be needful to ask why earnest men, after long
hesitation, have finally given the preference to this hypothesis. But
psychic phenomena, and mediumistic phenomena in particular, are
infinitely various; they present a multitude of aspects, and it would
not be wise to consider them separately.

In this Hannah Wild case everything seems to support the telepathic
hypothesis. By this must be understood, not only the reading of thoughts
in the consciousness, and even in the subconsciousness, of the persons
present, but also in that of absent persons, however far off they may
be. And what Phinuit calls "the influence" must be added. This
mysterious "influence" might be the traces of vibrations left on objects
by our thoughts and feelings. Evidently this hypothesis plunges us into
mystery, at least as much as does the spiritualist hypothesis.
Nevertheless, we should be obliged to give it the preference, if it
were sufficiently supported, because it is, after all, more in touch
with our present conceptions than its rival.

Even the incident of the medium who, designating Mrs Blodgett amidst a
numerous audience, said to her, "There is a lady here who wants to speak
to you; she will soon give you the contents of the paper," can easily be
explained by telepathy. Mrs Blodgett was in the presence of a medium.
Now some medium was to reveal to her the mysterious text of her sister's
letter. That was enough to bring the recollection of the letter into the
foreground of her consciousness, where the medium may have read it

But again, there are an infinite number of other cases which telepathy
does not explain at all, or only insufficiently. I shall try to show
this by repeating some of the arguments put forward by Dr Hodgson in his
remarkable report in 1898, and in the chapter entitled "Indications that
the 'Spirit' Hypothesis is True."[44]

The most important of these arguments is founded upon the communications
of persons whose mental faculties had been impaired by illness for a
more or less long period before their deaths. A long series of
concordant observations inspired Dr Hodgson with this argument. It is as
follows:--"If we had to do with telepathy, the communications should be
most clear and abundant in the cases where the memories of the dead are
most clear and abundant in the minds of the living."

But experience shows that this is not so. When the self-styled
communicator has suffered from mental illness before his death, the
communications repeat the trouble feature by feature; they are full of
confusion and incoherence. This confusion and incoherence is all the
graver, as the mental trouble preceding death was graver. It disappears
slowly, but sometimes traces of it appear years after. Telepathy does
not explain this. If there is madness in the mind of the dead person,
there is none in the minds of the living who remember him. On the other
hand, if we introduce the spiritualist hypothesis, the fact is quite
admissible, either because the mental trouble may only slowly disappear,
or because (and the controls assert this) the mere fact of the
disincarnated spirits plunging again into the atmosphere of a human
organism temporarily reproduces the trouble.

Besides, there is always more or less incoherence in the communications
made very shortly after death, even when the communicator has kept his
full mental faculties up to his last moments. But if the communicator
were really what he says he is, we should expect this, for three
reasons--the violent shock of disincarnation must trouble the mind; the
arrival in an entirely new environment, where he must at first be unable
to distinguish much, should trouble him still more; and lastly, these
first attempts at communication may be impeded by his want of skill in
using the strange organism; he would require a sort of apprenticeship.

But when no mental trouble has preceded death, the incoherence of the
first communications does not last. They soon become as clear as the
imperfection of the means which the dead man has to use permits. In the
George Pelham case, which we shall examine later on, the first
communications were also incoherent. Yet George Pelham was soon to
become one of the most clear and lucid, if not the most clear and lucid,
of all the dead persons who have claimed to manifest through Mrs Piper's
organism. But George Pelham died suddenly by an accident, and his
intellectual faculties, which, moreover, were above the average, had
never been injured.

This is, I repeat, what experience seems to show. But doubtless many
more observations are needed before we can affirm that it is really

However, unless Dr Hodgson and his colleagues are mistaken, these facts
are contrary to what we should expect on the telepathic theory. I will
quote some examples.

Dr Hodgson tried to obtain communications from one of his friends,
designated by the initial A., more than a year after the latter's death.
He spent six sittings over it, but the result was meagre. He obtained
some names, and with difficulty some mention of certain incidents of
A.'s life. Some of the incidents were even unknown to Dr Hodgson at the
time, but all was full of incoherence and confusion. Finally he gave it
up on the advice of George Pelham, who said that A.'s spirit would not
be clear for some time yet. This A. had suffered from violent headaches
and nervous exhaustion for some years before his death, though the
troubles had not amounted to insanity. Now, just at the time when A. was
incapable of manifesting clearly, other spirits were manifesting with
all desirable lucidity in identical circumstances. Another case quoted
by Dr Hodgson is that of a Mr B. who had committed suicide in a fit of
insanity. He was not personally known to Dr Hodgson. During several
years Mr B.'s communications were extremely confused, even about matters
with which Dr Hodgson was well acquainted.

A third communicator, an intimate friend of Dr Hodgson's, had also
committed suicide. About a year after his death he still seemed to be
ignorant of events which he had known well in his lifetime and which
were quite clear in the inquirer's mind. More than seven years after his
death he wrote through the medium's hand, "My head was not clear, and is
not yet, when I speak to you."

On December 7,[45] 1893, M. Paul Bourget, of the _Académie Française_,
and his wife, had a sitting with Mrs Piper. M. Paul Bourget much wished
to communicate with an artist who had committed suicide at Venice by
throwing herself out of a gondola. There exists no written report of
this sitting, and consequently we do not know exactly what it was worth.
But on December 11[46] M. Bourget had another sitting, and this time Dr
Hodgson accompanied him and took notes. The artist seemed to make
desperate efforts to communicate and to write herself, but she could
only produce two or three French words, amongst which apparently was the
exclamation, "Mon Dieu!" Nevertheless her Christian name was given and
the place where she had killed herself, Venice, and the syllable _Bou_,
the beginning of Bourget, was often repeated. Why were the results so
poor? M. and Mme. Bourget knew this person well, and their minds were
full of reminiscences on which the medium had only to draw.

However, some people might reason as follows. Objects having been used
by the persons with whom it is desired to communicate are nearly always
given to Mrs Piper. If the medium obtains her information not only from
the minds of the living, but likewise from the "influence," that is,
from the vibrations which our thoughts and feelings may have left
recorded on these objects, the imperfections of the earlier
communications of persons whose minds have been disturbed might be
explained by the theory that the "influence" left by an insane person
would be neither so clear nor so easy to read as that left by a sane
one. But then why should the communicators grow clear with time? Why
should they become lucid at the time when they ought to be still more
confused, if the telepathic hypothesis is the correct one?

But this interpretation falls to the ground entirely when we take into
account the numerous communicators who are unknown, or almost unknown,
to the sitters, of whom absolutely nobody is thinking, and who come in
the middle of a sitting to send a message to their surviving relatives.
Mrs Piper cannot have produced these communications by means of the
"influence" left on objects, unless we suppose that the presence of
these objects is not necessary and that any "influence" may strike the
medium from any point of the compass at the moment when she least
expects it. That would perhaps be stretching the hypothesis beyond
allowable limits. And these cases are, I repeat, numerous and very
interesting. I quote three for my readers' edification.

During the 46th[47] of the English sittings with Messrs Oliver and
Alfred Lodge as sitters, Phinuit suddenly exclaimed,--

"Oh, dear, there is something very bad about this. Here's a little child
called Stevenson--two of them--one named Mannie (Minnie?) wants to send
her love to her father in the body and the mother in the body--she had
sore throat and passed out. He is very bad and has gone away very
unhappy. She's clinging to me and begging me to tell you that she's
little Mannie Stevenson, and that her father's almost dead with grief,
he sits crying, crying dreadful, and he's gone away very unhappy. Tell
him she's not dead, but sends her love to him; and tell him not to cry."

Professor Lodge.--"Can she send her name any better?"

Phinuit.--"Oh, they called her Pet, and when she was ill they called her
Birdie. And tell mamma too, do."

Professor L.--"Well, I will if I can."

Professor Lodge could not discover the Stevenson family, which was a
pity, for two reasons; first, that a message from beyond the tomb might
have restored the despairing parents to a little hope and calm; and
secondly, because cavillers could not have attributed the incident to
the medium's cunning, which they would not fail to do if other
incidents of the same nature did not make this interpretation almost

At the 45th English sitting,[48] when Messrs Oliver and Alfred Lodge and
Mr and Mrs Thompson were the sitters, Phinuit suddenly said,--

"Do you know Richard Rich, Mr Rich?"

Mrs Thompson.--"Not well; I knew a Dr Rich."

Phinuit.--"That's him; he's passed out. He sends kindest regards to his
father." And Phinuit began directly to speak of something else.

At the 83rd sitting, when Mr and Mrs Thompson were again present,
Phinuit said all at once,--

"Here's Dr Rich;" upon which Dr Rich proceeds to speak.

Dr Rich.--"It is very kind of this gentleman" (_i.e._, Dr Phinuit) "to
let me speak to you. Mr Thompson, I want you to give a message to

Mr Thompson.--"I will give it."

Dr R.--"Thank you a thousand times; it is very good of you. You see I
passed out rather suddenly. Father was very much troubled about it, and
he is troubled yet. He hasn't got over it. Tell him that I am
alive--that I send my love to him. Where are my glasses" (the medium
passes her hands over her eyes)? "I used to wear glasses" (true). "I
think he has them, and some of my books. There was a little black case I
had; I think he has that too. I don't want that lost. Sometimes he is
bothered about a dizzy feeling in his head--nervous about it--but it is
of no consequence."

Mr T.--"What does your father do?"

(The medium took up a card and appeared to write on it, and pretended to
put stamp in corner.)

Dr R.--"He attends to this sort of thing. Mr Thompson, if you will give
this message I will help you in many ways. I can and I will."

Professor Lodge remarks about this incident, "Mr Rich, senior, is head
of Liverpool Post Office. His son, Dr Rich, was almost a stranger to Mr
Thompson, and quite a stranger to me. The father was much distressed by
his son's death, we find. Mr Thompson has since been to see him and
given him the message. He (Mr Rich, senior) considers the episode very
extraordinary and inexplicable, except by fraud of some kind. The
phrase, 'Thank you a thousand times,' he asserts to be characteristic,
and he admits a recent slight dizziness. Mr Rich did not know what his
son means by _a black case_. The only person who could give any
information about it was at the time in Germany. But it was reported
that Dr Rich talked constantly about a black case when he was on his

No doubt Mr and Mrs Thompson knew Dr Rich, having met him once. But they
were quite ignorant of all the details here given. Whence did the medium
take them? Not from the "influence" left on some object, because there
was no such object at the sitting.

At a sitting on the 28th November 1892,[49] at the house of Mr Howard,
when those present were Mr and Mrs Howard, their daughter Katherine, and
Dr Hodgson, Phinuit suddenly asked,--

"Who is Farnan?"

Mr Howard.--"Vernon?"

Phinuit.--"I don't know how you pronounce it. It is
F-a-r-n-s-w-o-r-t-h." (Phinuit spelt it.)

Dr Hodgson.--"What about it?"

Phinuit.--"He wants to see you."

Dr H.--"He wants to see me?"

Phinuit.--"Not you, but this lady."

Mrs H.--"Well, what does he want to say to me? Is it a woman or a man?"

Phinuit.--"It is a gentleman; and do you remember your Aunt Ellen?"

Mrs H.--"Yes; which Aunt Ellen?"

Phinuit.--"She has got this gentleman." (_I.e._, this man was in her

Further on, Phinuit adds, "That gentleman wanted to send his love to
her, and to be remembered to you--so that you may know he is here, and
it is a test. These little things sometimes interrupt me greatly and
when I go to explain it to you, you can't understand it. But sometimes
when I am talking to you, I am suddenly interrupted by somebody who
don't realise what they are doing, and then I give you what they say as
near as I can, you understand that, and it is very difficult sometimes
for me to discern it and place it in the right place."

Mrs Howard asked her Aunt Ellen if she had known anyone named
Farnsworth, without telling her more. Phinuit was right: a gardener
named Farnsworth had worked for her uncle and then for her grandfather
thirty-five or forty years before. Mrs Howard had never heard of him.

Incidents like those I have just related are evidently difficult to
explain on the telepathic theory.

But a more complete refutation of the telepathic hypothesis would be to
get a certain number of fulfilled predictions. The medium could not read
events which have not yet occurred, either in the minds of the living or
in the "influence" left on objects. Phinuit has often tried his hand at
predictions; I will quote one.

At M. Bourget's second sitting,[50] in 1893, a Mrs Pitman appeared, who
had lived a long time in France and spoke French well, and who offered
to help the artist with whom M. Bourget wished to talk in her efforts to

In 1888, Mrs Pitman, who was a member of the American Society for
Psychical Research, had had two sittings with Mrs Piper. Among other
things, Phinuit said to her, "You are going to be very sick; you will go
to Paris; you will be very sick: you will have great weakness in the
stomach and head. A sandy complexioned gentleman will attend you while
you are ill beyond the sea." In consequence of this, Mrs Pitman asked
Phinuit what the end of the illness would be. Phinuit made evasive
replies. Mrs Pitman asked Dr Hodgson's intervention; he insisted in his
turn, and Phinuit got out of it by saying, "After she gets over the
sickness she will be all right."

Mrs Pitman replied that there was nothing the matter with her stomach;
she contradicted Phinuit on every point, and he appeared much annoyed.
But Mrs Pitman soon fell ill. She was attended by a Dr Herbert, who was
very fair; he diagnosed inflammation of the stomach. Then Mrs Pitman
began to believe in Phinuit's prediction; but interpreting his last
words wrongly, she believed she should recover. Dr Charcott attended her
at Paris for a nervous illness. She suffered from weakness in the head,
and her mental faculties were impaired. In short, she died.

Again, other communications which do not fit in with the telepathic
theory are those from very young children. When they communicate a short
time after death, they reproduce their childish gestures, they repeat
the few words they had begun to stammer; they ask by gestures for the
toys they liked. All these details are evidently to be found in the
minds of the parents. But when these children communicate long years
after their death, it is as if they had grown in the other world; they
only rarely allude to the impressions of their babyhood, even when these
impressions remain vivid in the minds of the father and mother. George
Pelham was one day acting as intermediary for a child who had been dead
many years. The mother naturally spoke of him as a child, and George
Pelham remonstrated, "Roland is a gentleman; he is not a little


[44] _Proc. of S.P.R._, vol. xiii. p. 370.

[45] _Proc. of S.P.R._, vol. xiii. p. 494.

[46] _Ibid._, p. 495.

[47] _Proc. of S.P.R._, vol. vi. p. 514.

[48] _Proc. of S.P.R._, vol. vi. p. 509.

[49] _Proc. of S.P.R._, vol. xiii. p. 416.

[50] _Proc. of S.P.R._, vol. xiii. p. 496.

[51] _Proc. of S.P.R._, vol. xiii. p. 512.


Further consideration of the difficulties of the problem--George
Pelham--Development of the automatic writing.

Phinuit's empire remained uncontested till the month of March 1892. He
sometimes yielded his place to other controls, but rarely through a
whole sitting. However, in March 1892, a new communicator appeared, who
imposed his collaboration on Phinuit, with the latter's consent or
without it. This newcomer called himself George Pelham,[52] and asserted
that he was the disincarnated spirit of a young man of thirty-two, who
had been killed four or five weeks before by a horse accident. However
that may be, this new control had more culture, more moral elevation,
and a greater love of truth than the so-called French doctor. The latter
benefited by the companionship; he tried to be more truthful, and seemed
to make fewer appeals to his imagination; in short, all the sittings
improved, even those in which Phinuit appeared alone.

The newcomer did everything in his power to establish his identity. His
success is still a matter open to discussion, in the view of some
persons, and their doubts at least prove that, in order to solve this
greatest of all problems, it is not enough that the communicators
should give us numerous details which would seem at a first glance to
establish their identity, though the few cases in which identity appears
to be proved furnish us with a strong presumption in favour of survival
after death. If George Pelham is what he says he is, future generations
will _owe_ him profound gratitude; he has done all that he could, under
circumstances which are, it appears, very unfavourable, although we are
not in a position to understand the difficulties.

It is not always easy to prove identity, even between the living.
Imagine a man in England, at the end of a telegraph or telephone wire;
imagine that a certain number of his friends at the other end of the
wire, in France, refuse to believe him when he says he is So-and-so, and
say, "Please prove your identity." The unfortunate man will be in
difficulties. He will say, "Do you remember our being together in such a
place?" The reply will be, "Nonsense; somebody has told you of that
incident, and it does not in the least prove that you are the person you
say you are." And so on, and so on. One fact is incontestable, however;
there is somebody at the end of the wire. The telepathic theory asserts
that, in spite of appearances, there is no one at the end of the wire,
or, at least, that no one is there but the medium, temporarily endowed
with powers as mysterious as they are extraordinary. But to return to
George Pelham.

Pelham is not his exact name. The last syllable has been slightly
modified, from motives of discretion. He belonged to a good family in
the United States, which counts Benjamin Franklin amongst its
ancestors. He had studied law, but when his studies were finished he
gave himself up exclusively to literature and philosophy. He had
published two works, which brought him much praise from competent
judges. He had lived for a long time in Boston or its neighbourhood. The
last three years of his life were passed in New York. In February 1892
he fell from his horse and was killed on the spot.

He had interested himself in Psychical Research, though very sceptical
about the matter. He was a member of the American Society, and later of
the American Branch of the Society for Psychical Research. Dr Hodgson
knew him very well, and liked to talk to him on account of the soundness
of his judgment and the liveliness of his intelligence. But neither time
nor circumstances had allowed ties of affection or real friendship to be
established between them.

Two years before George Pelham's death, he and Dr Hodgson had a long
discussion regarding a future life. George Pelham maintained that it was
not only improbable, but also inconceivable. Dr Hodgson maintained that
it was at least conceivable. After much exchange of argument, George
Pelham ended by allowing so much, and finished the conversation by
saying that, if he should die before Dr Hodgson, and should find himself
"still existing," he would "make things lively" in the effort to reveal
the fact.

George Pelham, more fortunate than many others who, before or after him,
have made the same promise, seems to have kept his word. That many
others have been unable to do so proves nothing. The means of
communication are still definitely rare; Mrs Piper is an almost unique
medium of her kind up to the present day. It may be that the great
majority of the inhabitants of the other world are in the same position
as the great majority in this, and are ignorant of the possibility of
communication. Even if those who promise to return know of this
possibility, the difficulty of recognising their friends must be great,
since they do not seem to perceive matter. Their friends who are still
in the body should, it appears, call them by thinking intently of them,
by presenting to good mediums articles which belonged to the dead, and
to which a strong emotional memory is attached, and by asking the
controls of these mediums to look for them.

When these precautions are not taken, the survivors are wrong to blame
their friends' failure to keep their word, or to conclude that all is
ended with the death of the body.

George Pelham may have been enabled to manifest himself by particularly
favourable circumstances. He knew of Mrs Piper's existence, although,
most probably, Mrs Piper did not know him. In 1888 the American Society
for Psychical Research had nominated a commission for the investigation
of mediumistic phenomena; this commission asked Mrs Piper for a series
of sittings. I do not know whether George Pelham was a member of the
commission, but he was present at one of the sittings. The names of all
the sitters were carefully kept private, and nothing happened of a
nature to draw the attention of the medium to George Pelham, who in all
probability passed unnoticed.

Dr Hodgson thinks he can affirm that Mrs Piper only quite recently
learned that George Pelham had been present at one of her sittings. The
name of George Pelham must have been revealed to her considerably later
on, for, in her normal state, she is quite ignorant of what she has said
in her trance state; she learns it, as do all those who are interested
in these questions, by reading the _Proceedings of the Society for
Psychical Research_ except when Dr Hodgson thinks proper to tell her

With the appearance of George Pelham there arose a new method of
communication--the method of automatic writing.

It was only on March 12, 1892,[53] that it was granted to Dr Hodgson to
be present for the first time when this writing was produced; although
it had occurred on rare occasions before. Phinuit was serving as
intermediary for a communicator who called herself Annie D. Towards the
end of the sitting Mrs Piper's arm rose slowly till the hand was over
the top of her head. The arm remained rigid in this position, but the
hand trembled very rapidly. Phinuit exclaimed, "She's taken my hand
away," and added, "she wants to write." Dr Hodgson put a pencil between
Mrs Piper's fingers and a block-book on her head. "Hold the hand," said
Phinuit. Dr Hodgson grasped the wrist and stopped the trembling. Then
the hand wrote, "I am Annie D. I am not dead but living," and some other
words; then Phinuit murmured, "Give me back my hand." The arm remained
contracted and in the same position for a short time, but finally,
slowly, and as though with much difficulty, it moved down to the side.
During the following sittings the writing was produced in the same
inconvenient position. But on April 29, 1892, Dr Hodgson arranged a
table so that Mrs Piper's right arm could rest comfortably on it; then,
seizing the arm and commanding with all his power, "You must try to
write on the table," he succeeded, by using not a little force, in
getting the arm down. Since then the writing has been produced with the
arm resting more or less on the table. When a control takes possession
of the arm to write, it is seized with violent spasmodic convulsions.
The block-books, writing-books, pencils, and everything on the table are
thrown in confusion on to the floor. Sometimes considerable force must
be employed to keep the arm still. Then a pencil is placed between the
fingers, and the writing begins. Sometimes, but rarely, the writing is
interrupted by a spasm; the hand is firmly closed and the wrist bent,
but after a few seconds the spasm disappears, and the writing begins

On most occasions, since the automatic writing has become easy, two
controls have manifested simultaneously--one by means of the voice, the
other by writing; Phinuit continuing to use the voice, according to his
former custom. George Pelham, although he also uses the voice
occasionally, prefers writing. On the 24th February 1894 a control
wrote, "There is no reason why various spiritual minds cannot express
their thoughts at the same time, through the same organism." This is
really what happens. The voice may keep up a conversation with a sitter
while the hand keeps up another in writing with someone else on a wholly
different subject. If the sitter who is talking with the hand allows his
attention to be distracted by what the voice says, the hand recalls his
attention by its movements. When anyone is speaking to the hand control,
it is necessary to speak to the hand, and close to the hand, or there is
a risk of not being understood. In short, one must behave as if the hand
were a complete and independent being.

Observation of this phenomenon suggested to Dr Hodgson that by using the
left hand he could perhaps obtain three communications on three
different subjects. He tried and succeeded, although imperfectly; no
doubt because, in the normal state, the left hand is not used to

Formerly Phinuit used to protest when the hand was seized, and asked at
once that it should be returned to him, as we have seen above. Since the
automatic writing has been developed the hand may be used by one control
without the fact being perceived by the control who is using the voice.
One day Phinuit was talking with a sitter about his relations, when the
hand suddenly, and so to say surreptitiously, wrote for Dr Hodgson a
communication supposed to come from an intimate friend, and treating of
a subject altogether different from those of which the voice was
speaking. Dr Hodgson adds that it was "precisely as if a caller should
enter a room where two strangers to him were conversing, but a friend
of his also present, and whisper a special message into the ear of the
friend without disturbing the conversation."[54]

Phinuit seems to prefer not to notice what the hand is doing. He talks
as long as he has an interlocutor, but, when the messages given through
the hand distract the attention of this interlocutor, Phinuit often
says, "I'll help him." What does he mean by this? It is a mystery. But
if it is wished to continue the conversation with him, the ear must be
addressed directly he is ready to resume. All this does not interrupt
the writing; the head and the hand do not interfere with one another.

The observers of these strange phenomena, especially Dr Hodgson,
maintain that the controls write without consciousness that they are
writing, as, no doubt, they speak without consciousness that they are
speaking. According to what they say, these controls perceive in the
body of the medium two principal masses of the mysterious fluid, the
unknown energy which appears like light to them, and which they call the
"light." One of these masses is in the head, the other in the hand. The
controls think "in" this light, and their thoughts are transmitted to us
automatically through the organism.

The automatic writing differs according to the controls. They do not
always succeed in reproducing the characteristics of their handwriting
when alive. George Pelham has tried to do so at least once, and did not
succeed. But this should not surprise us; we do not work as well with
other people's tools as with our own. In any case this difference in the
handwriting is a presumption the more in favour of the difference of

The writing often looks like that on a lithographic stone, and can only
be read when reflected in a glass; this writing, which is called
mirror-writing, is produced as rapidly as ordinary writing, though Mrs
Piper, in her normal state, would be unable to write in this way. This
mirror-writing has been often observed in subjects who write
automatically; the cause for it is still to be found.

On other occasions words are written backwards. Thus for _hospital_,
_latipsoh_ will be obtained. With certain mediums not only words but
whole sentences are thus written. To read them, they must be begun at
the last letter and read backwards to the first. Syllables are also
often misplaced in Mrs Piper's automatic writing; thus _hospital_ may be
written _hostipal_. I remind the reader that I am referring to facts
well attested by competent men, about which there can be no question of

There exist detailed minutes of many of the sittings, copied from
stenographic notes. An attempt was made to introduce a phonograph.
Phinuit jokingly felt the mouth with his hands and asked, "What is this
thing with a tube?" The attempt to explain its use to him was
unsuccessful. However, the phonograph recorded the sitting fairly well,
but the experiment was not repeated--why, I do not know, for the
intonations of the controls would have been an interesting study.

I have often used expressions of affirmation in this chapter, and the
reader might therefore conclude that the existence of spirits is no
longer a hypothesis in my eyes, but a reality. I have already warned
him, and warn him again, that I speak thus only for convenience' sake,
and that the existence of spirits is still as hypothetical to me as to
anyone else.


[52] Not the real name. _See_ p. 78, _Trans._

[53] _Proc. of S.P.R._, vol. xiii. p. 291.

[54] _Proc. of S.P.R._, vol. xiii. p. 294.


How George Pelham has proved his identity--He recognises his friends and
alludes to their opinions--He recognises objects which have belonged to
him--Asks that certain things should be done for him--Very rarely makes
an erroneous statement.

Some of my readers must have asked themselves what the returning George
Pelham can have said to make grave and intelligent men think he has
proved his identity. I shall try to give them some idea by relating such
incidents as I can report without entering into too slight or complete
details. I cannot relate everything, in the first place for want of
space, and secondly, because I should be tiresome--a thing to be avoided
in a popular work like the present.

When Dr Hodgson wrote the report which appeared in 1898, George Pelham,
who, like Phinuit, is always ready to act as intermediary (though
employing writing instead of speech) had had occasion to see one hundred
and fifty sitters, among whom thirty were old friends of his. He
recognised the whole thirty, and never mistook a stranger for a friend.
He not only addressed them all by name but took with each of them the
tone he had been accustomed to take.

We do not speak in the same way to all our friends. The tone of our
conversation differs according to the character and the age of the
person we address, and according to the degree of esteem or affection we
have for him. These shades of manner are typical, though instinctive,
and therefore are difficult to reproduce artificially.

George Pelham, then, addressed the thirty friends whom he had the
opportunity of meeting through the medium in the tone which he was in
the habit of taking formerly with each one of them. The incidents I
shall quote are only examples; I have said why I cannot recapitulate all
that has been published about these sittings.[55] Besides, the sitters,
for reasons easy to imagine, have declined to permit the publication of
all that was most private, and consequently most convincing, in the

From the beginning George Pelham asks to see his father. He says that he
wishes to talk to him about private affairs, and also that he should
like to convince him, if possible, of his existence in a new world. Mr
Pelham was at once informed, and though he was very sceptical both by
nature and education, he, with his second wife, George Pelham's
step-mother, visited Mrs Piper at once. They were introduced under false
names. Quite at the beginning of the sitting George Pelham wrote,
"Hullo, father and mother, I am George!" The communications which
followed were altogether what Mr Pelham, senior, would have expected
from his living son.

At one of the earliest sittings he asks after one of his friends, a
young writer, and urges that he should edit one of his, George Pelham's,
unpublished papers.

While George Pelham was living in Boston he was connected by bonds of
strong affection with the Howard family. He lived with them often and
for long periods. He and James Howard often discussed serious
philosophical problems together. At the first sitting George Pelham
insistently asked for the Howards.[56] "Tell Jim I want to see him. He
will hardly believe me, believe that I am here. I want him to know where
I am. O good fellow!" He welcomes Mr and Mrs Howard in a characteristic
way: "Jim, is that you? Speak to me, quick. I am not dead. Don't think
me dead. I'm awfully glad to see you. Can't you see me? Don't you hear
me? Give my love to my father, and tell him I want to see him. I am
happy here, and more so since I find I can communicate with you. I pity
those people who can't speak."

A Mr Vance has a sitting. George Pelham had known him. At first the
communicator does not appear to notice him, being occupied in giving
messages to Dr Hodgson. But presently George Pelham recognises him, and
says, "How is your son? I want to see him some time." "George, where did
you know my son?" "In studies in college." "George, where did you stay
with us?" "Country, peculiar house, trees around, porch that projects at
the front. Vine at the side. Porch at the front, and swing on the other
side." All this was correct.[57]

Miss Helen Vance and George Pelham had belonged at the same time to a
society formed for mutual aid in the art of writing. She came to a
sitting some time after it had begun. Mrs Piper, in her normal state,
had never met her. Nevertheless, George Pelham asks her at once, "How is
the society getting on?" A little later on, the following dialogue takes
place between Miss Vance and George Pelham: "Now, whom do you have to
correct your writings?" "We correct one another's." "But do they give
satisfaction?" "Yes." "What, in their corrections?" "Yes, but not as
much as you; your corrections were better than theirs." "Well, that is
what I am trying to get out of you." "In other words, George, you wanted
a compliment from me." "Oh, bosh, you know me better than that."

Miss Warner had two sittings with Mrs Piper[58] five years after George
Pelham's death. He had known her when she was quite a child, but he had
not seen her for three years before he died, and in eight years a child
becomes a tall young girl. Consequently, at the first sitting, George
Pelham did not recognise Miss Warner at all. At the second sitting he
admitted this and said, "I do not think I ever knew you very well."
"Very little. You used to come and see my mother." "I heard of you, I
suppose." "I saw you several times. You used to come with Mr Rogers."
"Yes, I remembered about Mr Rogers when I saw you before." "Yes, you
spoke of him." "Yes, but I cannot seem to place you. I long to place all
my friends, and could do so before I had been gone so long. You see, I
am farther away--every day I get further away from you. I do not recall
your face; you must have changed." At this moment Dr Hodgson said, "Do
you remember Mrs Warner?" "Of course, oh, very well. For pity's sake,
are you her little daughter?" "Yes." "By Jove! how you have grown! I
thought so much of your mother, a charming woman."

George Pelham not only recognises his friends,[59] as we have just seen;
he also remembers their opinions, their occupations, their habits. James
Howard is an author. He asks him, "Why don't you write on this subject?"
(the future life). Rogers writes also. He asks, "What is Rogers writing
now?" "A novel." "I don't mean that. Isn't he writing something about
me?" "Yes, he is preparing a memoir of you." "That is kind of him. One
is pleased not to be forgotten. He was always very good to me when I was

He remembers the opinions of his father, and the discussions they had
upon philosophical questions. "I should like to convince my father," he
says; "but it will be hard. My mother will be easier." He says to James
Howard, "Do you remember how we used to ask each other for books of
certain kinds, about certain books, where they were, and you always knew
just where to find them." Formerly, when James Howard and George Pelham
were talking together in the evening, the first-named habitually smoked
a long pipe. At a sitting held in the library where these conversations
used to take place, George Pelham said to Mr Howard, "Get the long pipe
and smoke." Katharine is one of James Howard's daughters, who plays the
violin. Formerly her practising used to greatly annoy George Pelham, who
lived with the Howards. He said to her at a sitting, "Katharine, how is
the violin? To hear you playing is horrible, horrible." Mrs Howard
replies, "Yes, George, but don't you see she likes her music because it
is the best she has." "No, but that is what I used to say."

"Marte" is a pseudonym adopted by Dr Hodgson to designate a well-known
American writer. He is a monist, a partisan of Darwinism, convinced that
the death of the body is for us the end of all. At a sitting George
Pelham said to him, "Evolution is all right in the real life, as Darwin
says, but it goes on evoluting in the ideal life, which fact he, of
course, knew nothing of until he came here."

George Pelham also recognises objects which have belonged to him,
principally those which have some remembered emotional association.

John Hart, at the first sitting at which George Pelham appeared, gave
some sleeve-links he was wearing, and asked, "Who gave them to me?"
"That's mine. I sent that to you." "When?" "Before I came here. That's
mine. Mother gave you that." "No!" "Well, father then, father and mother
together. You got those after I passed out. Mother took them, gave them
to father, and father gave them to you. I want you to keep them. I will
them to you." All this is correct.

At another sitting Mrs Howard gives a photograph. She placed it on the
top of the medium's head. "Do you recognise this?" "Yes, it is your
summer house; but I have forgotten the name of the town." "Don't you
remember D.?" "Oh, the little brick house and the vine, grape-vine some
call it. Yes, I remember it all; it comes back as distinctly as the
daylight. Where is the little outhouse?" All this is correct. The
outhouse which George Pelham was surprised not to see was a henhouse
left just out of the photograph. At another sitting Mrs Howard put a
book on the medium's head. We must not forget that the medium's eyes are
shut, and the ocular globes upturned. "Do you recognise this book?" "Oh,
yes, it is my French Lyrics." Needless to add that this was correct.
George Pelham asks for information on the subjects which interested him
in life. He asks to have things done for him. At the first sitting he
said to the sitter, John Hart, "Go up to my room, where I write. I left
things all mixed up. I wish you'd go up and straighten them out for me.
Lots of names, lots of letters. You answer them for me."

Evelyn is another of Mr. Howard's daughters. George Pelham had given her
a book, and had written her name in it. He asks her if she remembers it.

He has not forgotten his former speeches either. He was fond of Evelyn,
but this did not prevent his constantly teasing her. Thus she is weak in
mathematics. At one sitting George Pelham says to her, "I won't
tantalise Evelyn now; I used to torment her a great deal, but she will
forgive me, I know." Which does not prevent his adding directly after,
"Evelyn is a girl that can always tell how much two and two is. You
have just learned, haven't you? You are not a great one for mathematics,
are you?" But he adds quickly, "Now be good, Evelyn. It doesn't matter
so much about your lessons; being good is the most important point of

James Howard had asked George Pelham several questions to which the
latter had not replied, asserting that he had forgotten. On this account
James Howard still doubted George Pelham's identity. One day the former
said, "George, tell me something that you and I alone know. I ask you,
because several things I have asked you you have failed to get hold of.
We spent a great many summers and winters together and talked on a great
many things and had a great many views in common, went through a great
many experiences together. Tell me something now that you remember." The
hand at once began to write eagerly: the occurrences related were so
private that they cannot be published. At a given moment the hand wrote
"Private." Dr Hodgson then left the room. On his return James Howard
told him that he had obtained all the proof he could desire, and that he
was "perfectly satisfied, perfectly."

At the first sitting at which George Pelham appeared, when John Hart was
the sitter, George spoke suddenly of Katharine, James Howard's daughter,
and he said something which at the time had no meaning for John Hart.
"Tell her, she'll know. I will solve the problems, Katharine." When John
Hart reported these words to the Howards they were more struck than by
anything else. During George Pelham's last stay with them he had talked
frequently with Katharine upon deep philosophical questions, such as
Time, Space, Eternity, and had pointed out to her how unsatisfactory the
commonly-accepted solutions were. Then he had added the words of the
communication almost textually, "I will solve those problems some day,
Katharine." Remark that at this time the Howards had never yet seen Mrs
Piper, that John Hart knew absolutely nothing of these conversations,
and that Dr Hodgson, who took notes at the sitting, did not at the time
know the Howards or of the conversations.

George Pelham had received a good classical education. He was a
Humanist. Consequently a rather large number of Latin expressions are
found in his language; usual, no doubt, with people of his education,
but with which Mrs Piper is not acquainted in her normal state. Phinuit,
who cannot have been a good Latinist, does not employ them either.
Observation of this fact inspired Professor Newbold[60] with the idea of
asking George Pelham to translate a short fragment of Greek, and he
proposed the first words which occurred to him; the beginning of the
Paternoster: [Greek: Pater hêmôn ho en tois ouranois]. George Pelham
made some attempts, and finally translated "Our Father is in heaven."
Professor Newbold then proposed a longer phrase, which he composed
himself on the spot for the occasion: [Greek: Ouk esti thanatos; hai gar
tôn thnêtôn psychai zôên zôsin athanaton, aidion, makarion]. This means,
"There is no death; the souls of mortals really live an immortal eternal
happy life." George Pelham called to his aid Stainton Moses, who in his
lifetime passed for a good Hellenist. Both together only succeeded in
understanding the first proposition, "There is no death." These
experiments, at all events, prove that Mrs Piper in the trance state can
understand a little Greek, though in her normal state she does not even
know the letters. Again, George Pelham and Stainton Moses may have known
Greek tolerably well and have forgotten it: it is an accident which has
happened to many of us.

With regard to this translation of Greek, we might form another
hypothesis. We might suppose that the spirits of George Pelham and
Stainton Moses--if there are spirits--perceiving thought directly, and
not its material expression, have partly understood what Professor
Newbold wanted to say, without knowing in what language it was
expressed. If they did not understand wholly and completely, it would be
because a thought expressed in a foreign language has in our minds a
certain vagueness. We might go further; we might suppose that Mrs
Piper's subconsciousness perceives the thought directly, independently
of the form in which it is expressed. Mrs Piper has often pronounced
words and short sentences in foreign languages. Phinuit likes to say,
"Bonjour, comment vous portez vous? Au revoir!" and to count in French.
Mme. Elisa, an Italian, the dead sister of Mrs Howard, succeeded in
writing or pronouncing some short sentences in more or less odd Italian.
I find also at a sitting where the communicator was supposed to be a
young Hawaian three or four words of Hawaian very appropriate to the
circumstances. Mrs Piper is ignorant of all this in her normal state. I
have just said that spirits--if there are spirits--perceive thought
directly. They themselves tell us this. On the other hand, they do not
perceive matter, which is non-existent to them. This brings me to a new
feature of the sittings, principally of those with George Pelham. If
this feature does not increase the proofs of identity, it is at least an
evidence of the abnormal powers of the medium.[61] George Pelham is
asked to go and see what a certain person is doing at a given time and
to come back and relate it. He goes, and partially succeeds. This is
what appears to happen: if the act is strongly conceived in the mind of
the person he is watching, he perceives it clearly; if it is nearly
automatic, he perceives it vaguely; if it is wholly automatic, he does
not perceive it at all. He often says that actions have occurred which
have only been planned and not executed, at other times he reports past
actions as present. This is because spirits have not, it appears, a
clear notion of time. I have unfortunately neither time nor space to
give examples of this.

Can we say that the communicator George Pelham has never made a
partially or wholly erroneous assertion? No. But the number of such
assertions is very small, which was not the case when Phinuit reigned
alone. Here is one such assertion, at which there has been much
cavilling; people have insisted on seeing in it the stamp of Mrs Piper
and her social environment, and not at all the stamp of the aristocratic
George Pelham. George Pelham is asked, "Could you not tell us something
which your mother has done?" He replies,[62] "I saw her brush my
clothes and put them away. I was by her side as she did it. I saw her
take my sleeve buttons from a small box and give them to my father. I
saw her put some papers in a tin box." When Mrs Pelham is questioned by
letter, she replies, "George's clothes were brushed and put away, not by
me, but by the man who had valeted him." And the hasty conclusion is,
Mrs Piper on this occasion thought herself among her own class. She
forgot that Mrs Pelham did not brush and put away clothes herself. This
is perhaps a too hasty triumph. The most highly-bred women may
occasionally brush and put away clothing. Now suppose that what I have
said above about the way in which spirits perceive our actions should be
true. George Pelham may have seen the project of the action in his
step-mother's mind, and not its execution by the valet. It may be
objected that he ought to have supposed she would not do it herself.
Why? I do not see it. Perhaps he knew that his step-mother was capable,
occasionally, of putting away clothes herself.

George Pelham is often asked questions which he cannot answer. But he
does not at all pretend to have forgotten nothing. If there is another
world, spirits do not go there to ruminate on what has happened in our
incomplete life. They go there to be carried away in the vortex of a
higher and greater activity. If, therefore, they sometimes forget, it is
not astonishing. Nevertheless, they seem to forget less than we do.


[55] Those readers who are interested in this question are recommended
to read Dr Hodgson's Report, _Proc. of S.P.R._, vol. xiii., _Trans._

[56] _Proc. of S.P.R._, vol. xiii. p. 300.

[57] _Ibid._, p. 458.

[58] _Proc. of S.P.R._, p. 324.

[59] For reports of these sittings see _Proc. of S.P.R._, vol. viii. pp.

[60] _Proc. of S.P.R._, vol. xiv. p. 46.

[61] _Proc. of S.P.R._, vol. xiii. p. 329.

[62] _Proc. of S.P.R._, vol. xiii. p. 303.


George Pelham's philosophy--The nature of the soul--The first moments
after death--Life in the next world--George Pelham contradicts Stainton
Moses--Space and time in the next world--How spirits see us--Means of

The communicator, George Pelham, did not confine himself to obtaining
recognition from his friends; he talked a great deal of philosophy with
them, especially with Dr Hodgson. Indeed, if he had not done so, the
omission might have created a doubt as to his identity, for in his
lifetime he was fond of such discussions. But for the present Dr Hodgson
has kept back these speculations from the other side of the grave,
thinking quite rightly that no value would attach to them until
unmistakable evidence had been produced for the existence of "another
world." Still there are to be found among the reports of the sittings
some fragments of these philosophic theories, and they form an
interesting subject of study.

The philosophy may be only that of Mrs Piper. But it may on the other
hand be the philosophy of the discarnate George Pelham, and for that
reason it is not unworthy of examination. Supposing, however, that the
assertions made are actually those of an inhabitant of the other world
who in this world was intelligent, honest and cultivated, the question
still arises whether we must regard them as expressing Absolute Truth.
Surely not; if another world exists beyond this one, its inhabitants
have mounted one step--but one step only--above us on the infinite
ladder of existence. They do not see the Eternal face to face. It is
quite possible that they may be able to see clearly truths of which we
have no glimpse, but we are not bound to believe more than we like of
what they tell us.

If the existence of the discarnate George Pelham is established, a new
light is undoubtedly thrown on the old problem as to the nature of the
soul, a problem as old as the world itself. The disciples of Plato's
Socrates tried to interpret it by the charming analogy of the lyre and
its harmony; asking whether man may not be compared to a lyre and his
soul to its harmony, a harmony which ceases to exist when the instrument
is broken. Using more modern terms, we may ask whether the soul is the
resultant of the forces of the bodily organism, or whether it is the
indestructible and mysterious motor which produces the action of that

George Pelham declares that the soul is in truth the motor, and that the
body is merely a machine used temporarily by the soul to act upon the
obscure world of matter. He speaks to this effect: Thought exists
outside matter and is in no way dependent upon matter. The destruction
of the body does not have as its consequence the destruction of thought.
After the dissolution of the body the Ego continues its existence, but
it then perceives thought directly, is much more free, and can express
itself much more clearly than when it was stifled by matter. The soul
and thought are one; thought is the inseparable attribute of the Ego or
individual soul. On its arrival in this world the soul is ready to
register innumerable new thoughts; it is a _tabula rasa_ upon which
nothing has been inscribed.

This is a noble thought, if true, and one that wonderfully widens our
narrow outlook. But, as I have said, I reserve my right of critical
examination. Elsewhere George Pelham says, "We have an astral
facsimile--the words are his--of our physical body, a facsimile which
persists after the dissolution of the physical body." This would seem to
be the astral body of the Theosophists. But the term "facsimile" is
perplexing, as I have always believed that the particular form which
Humanity actually has was entirely determined by the laws of our
physical universe, that it was an adaptation to its surroundings, and
that if a modification, however slight, were made in, for instance, the
laws of gravity, the human shape would undergo a corresponding
variation. Sir William Crookes has lately made some interesting
observations on this subject. But to this question I will return again.

Now, the physics of the next world must be very different from the
physics of this world, seeing that the next world is not material, or at
least that its matter is excessively subtle. How then should the shape
we men have in this world persist in the next?

Now, if we have an astral body which accompanies our Ego in the next
world, and if that astral body consists of a fluid similar to what we
suppose ether to be, or identical with that ether, this fluid must be
matter in some form, though matter obviously subject to quite other laws
than those of our world of palpable substance. Moreover, there is no
proof that the soul is not the resultant of the organic forces of this
astral body. If this astral body, as is probable, in its turn suffers
disintegration, there is no proof that the soul survives this second
disaggregation. If all these suppositions were proved, the old problem
concerning the nature of the soul would have been carried back a stage,
but it would not have been solved.

But, as things are, this is, perhaps, to carry speculation too far. Let
us curb our ambition and ask George Pelham what are the sensations felt
immediately after death. Everything was dark, he says; by degrees
consciousness returned and he awoke to a new life. "I could not
distinguish anything at first.[63] Darkest hours just before dawn, you
know that, Jim. I was puzzled, confused." This is probable enough. If
things are thus, death must be a sort of birth into another world, and
it is easy to understand that the soul which has been just born into
that new world cannot see or comprehend much in it till some time after
such birth.

James Howard remarked to George Pelham that he must have been surprised
to find himself still living, to which George Pelham replied, "Perfectly
so. Greatly surprised. I did not believe in a future life. It was beyond
my reasoning powers. Now it is as clear to me as daylight." Elsewhere he
says that when he found that he actually lived again he jumped for joy.
This joy is comprehensible enough; those of us who are resigned to the
prospect of annihilation are few. The thought that death is annihilation
makes us, against all principles of logic, shiver to the very marrow.
Such a feeling perhaps points to a revolt of the soul within that knows
itself immortal and cannot without a shiver of fear face the idea of
non-existence, an idea in opposition to its very nature.

With the impressions of George Pelham may be compared those of another
communicator called Frederick Atkin Morton, who had passed into the next
world in quite a different way. This Morton had lately started a
newspaper; anxiety, overwork, and perhaps other causes made him lose his
reason. His insanity lasted but a short time; in one of its attacks he
shot himself in the head and was killed on the spot. The first time that
he tried to communicate, his remarks showed great incoherence;--no
matter for surprise if Dr Hodgson's observations on this subject are
recalled. But his thoughts soon became clear, and at the second sitting
his communications were definite enough. This is how he relates to his
brother Dick his impressions about his own death. He does not speak of
suicide, an action which he probably committed without full
consciousness of what he was doing, but at the end of the sitting Mrs
Piper's hand wrote the word "Pistol." Death had been due to a pistol
shot.[64] "When on Sunday," he says, "I began to lose my mental
equilibrium, then suddenly I realised nothing and nobody." In answer to
the question as to what his next experience was he goes on: "I found I
was in this world. I did not know for the moment where I was only I
felt strange and freer; my head was light in weight, also my body ... my
thoughts began to clear when I observed I had departed from my material
body. Ever since then I have been trying to reach you, Dick. I saw a
light and many faces beckoning me on and trying to comfort me, showing
and assuring me I should soon be all right, and almost instantly I found
I was. Then I called for you and tried to tell you all about where and
how I was, and, with one exception, this is the only chance I have had.
Now you see I am taking advantage of the opportunity."

After the question of how a man passes into the next world, the most
interesting one to us is how he feels when he gets there. Generally
speaking, the reports are satisfactory. One of Professor Hyslop's
uncles, though he seems to have had a happy life here, says to his
nephew, among other things,[65] "I would not return for all I ever
owned--music, flowers, walks, drives, pleasures of all kinds, books and
everything." Another communicator, John Hart, the first sitter to whom
George Pelham appeared, said on his own first appearance, "Our world is
the abode of Peace and Plenty." If this is the case, what a pleasant
surprise awaits us, for in this world we have not much experience of
Peace and Plenty. But I fear that John Hart has exaggerated; every day
the Reaper's sickle casts from this world into the other such elements
of discord, not to reckon those who must long ago have been there, that
I wonder what means are taken to prevent their creating a disturbance.
However this may be, if when we leave this world we pass into another,
let us hope that the new world will be a better place than the old one,
or else we shall have every reason to regret that death is not

But George Pelham, in his turn, assures us that we do not lose by the
change. He died, it will be remembered, at the age of thirty-two. When
Dr Hodgson asked him whether he had not gone too soon, he replied with
emphasis, "No, Hodgson, no, not too soon."

If, however, spirits are happy, more or less happy, according to the
spiritualists, as they are more or less developed--and there seems
nothing inadmissible in this theory--we must suppose that their
happiness is not purely contemplative. One could soon have enough of
such happiness as that. They are active; they are, as we are, occupied,
though we cannot understand wherein their occupation consists. That this
is so is affirmed and reaffirmed in the sittings, and we might assume
it, even if the spirits did not assert it. George Pelham says to his
friend, James Howard, that he will have an occupation soon.[66] The
first time that I read this statement, in a review which only reproduced
a short fragment and in no way gave the real effect of these sittings, I
remember that the impression produced on me was very disagreeable. How
unsophisticated, I thought, must these so-called investigators be not to
see that such a phrase as that cannot come from a spirit; it bears too
clearly the stamp of earth!

Since then reflection has made me admit that spirits might very well
also have their occupations; the next world, if it exists, must be a
sphere of fresh activity. Work is the universal law. When George Pelham
was asked in what consisted the occupations of spirits, he replied that
they were like the noblest occupations of men, and consisted in helping
others to advance. This reply will doubtless not satisfy those who are
actuated only by an idle curiosity, but it contains a profound
philosophic truth. If our varied occupations upon earth are regarded
from a somewhat superior point of view, it will be seen that their
ultimate end is nothing else than the perfection of mankind. Those of us
who have evolved furthest realise this, and the rest do not; the case
must be the same in the next world, though George Pelham does not say
so. All our efforts and exertions are regarded with indifference by
nature who has no use for them, but the necessities of life make men
feel that they are brothers, and oblige them to polish one another, like
the stones of the beach rolled to and fro by the waves and rounded and
polished by rubbing one against another. Willingly or not, consciously
or unconsciously, we force one another to advance and to improve in all
respects. The world has been, I think with justice, compared to a
crucible in which souls are purified by pain and work and prepared for
higher ends. I should not like to go as far as Schopenhauer and say that
it is a mere penal settlement.

A celebrated English medium, William Stainton Moses, in a book well
known to spiritualist readers, _Spirit Teachings_, developed, or rather
allowed his spirit-guides to develop, the theory that souls leave this
earth taking with them all their desires and all their evil passions.
Having no body in the next world to enable them to gratify these desires
they are subjected to a veritable punishment of Tantalus. Thereupon they
endeavour to satisfy their material passions at least, if I may so say,
vicariously; they urge on incarnate men, all unaware, to abandon
themselves to these vices and passions. They incite the gambler to play,
the drunkard to drink; in a word, they push, as far as in them lies,
every vicious man to the bottom of the abyss created by his own vice;
crime and debauchery intoxicate them and fill them with joy. Further
developed and noble souls, in spite of all their efforts, are unable to
conjure away the influence of the undeveloped and evil souls. In a word,
we have here the old fable of demons and angels arranged to suit the
doctrines of modern spiritualism. It is indeed the old fable with a
difference; demons desire the perdition of man from jealousy, because
being themselves eternally condemned they wish to drag down with them as
many souls as possible; the evil souls of Stainton Moses desire the
perdition of man to gratify their own bad inclinations. Demons are
spirits, wicked indeed, but yet spirits, whereas the evil souls of
Stainton Moses are only miserable ghosts driven mad by love of matter.
Certainly everything is possible, as Professor Flournoy says, but this
theory is somewhat astonishing, for it seems to make the inhabitants of
the next world gravitate round our miserable earth, and is like the old
astronomical theory that placed our little globe in the centre of the
universe. If there be another world, it is hard to believe that its
inhabitants spend the greater part of their time in attending to us,
some of them to harm us and the rest to do us good.

Professor William Romaine Newbold, in a sitting which took place on June
19, 1895, asked George Pelham what we ought to think of this theory of
Stainton Moses.[67]

Professor Newbold.--"Does the soul carry with it into its new life all
its passions and animal appetites?"

George Pelham.--"Oh, no, indeed, not at all. Why, my good friend and
scholar, you would have this world of ours a decidedly material one if
it were so."

Professor Newbold.--"The writings of Stainton Moses claimed that the
soul carried with it all its passions and appetites, and was very slowly
purified of them."

George Pelham.--"It is all untrue."

Professor Newbold.--"And that the souls of the bad hover over the earth
goading sinners on to their own destruction."

George Pelham.--"Not so. Not at all so. I claim to understand this, and
it is emphatically not so. Sinners are sinners only in one life."

The result of this denial of Moses's doctrine was that George Pelham was
asked to find Stainton Moses and beg him to come himself and
communicate. Here is a fragment of conversation between Professor
Newbold and the discarnate Stainton Moses.

Professor Newbold.--"You taught that evil spirits tempt sinners to their
own destruction?"

W. S. Moses.--"I have found out differently since I came over here. This
particular statement given me by my friends as their medium when I was
in the body is not true."[68]

Professor Newbold.--"Your second statement was that the soul carries its
passions and appetites with it."

W. S. Moses.--"Material passions. Untrue. It is not so. I believed that
we had every desire after reaching this life as when in the body, but I
find that we leave all such behind; in other words, evil thoughts die
with the body."

So on this point the teaching of George Pelham differs from that of
Stainton Moses. But, says Professor Newbold, for the most part they
agree pretty well.

Now when we reach this other world it is certain that we shall at first
be completely at a loss there, as all that we here regard as
indispensable conditions of existence will there be lacking. Spirits say
that they do not perceive matter which is for them as if non-existent,
whereas here present-day science asserts that outside matter moved by
force there is nothing. It would be strange if the science of to-morrow
were to prove that matter is only a sort of temporary illusion of mind.
Here we conceive nothing outside space and time, whereas spirits seem to
have but confused notions of space and time. Such, in the first place,
is the view which they constantly assert; and, in the next place, if
they are asked, for example, how long it is since they died they are
generally unable to say. In their communications again, they often
relate as occurring in the present actions that have taken place long
ago. I have said already that George Pelham has often been asked to go
and see what certain absent persons are doing and to return and report
it; he has generally been successful, but he has sometimes made the
curious mistake of taking the past for the present. Here is an
illustration. He is told to go and see what Mrs Howard, absent at the
time, was doing; he returns and reports. Dr Hodgson writes to ask Mrs
Howard what she was doing at the time of the sitting, and hears from her
in reply that she did none of the things reported on the day of the
sitting, but that she had done them all in the course of the afternoon
and evening of the preceding day.[69] It seems likely that George Pelham
had read the thoughts of Mrs Howard, and in his inability to appreciate
time had taken the past for the present.

The same sort of thing seems to occur in the case of space. Phinuit, to
oblige Professor Newbold, goes to find Stainton Moses. Phinuit says that
he inhabits a great sphere, and that Stainton Moses lives in a very
distant part of this sphere. But in spite of this he brings him back
almost at once. When the medium is presented with objects likely to
attract the so-called spirits with whom the sitters are anxious to
communicate, these spirits for the most part arrive at once, no matter
where they may have died; John Hart, who died at Naples, communicates
two days afterwards at Boston. But it is hardly to be presumed that the
spirits are there waiting for us. If their appearance can be hastened
or delayed by sympathy or antipathy, on the other hand what we call
distance seems not to disturb them in the least; and yet we are
perpetually finding in the communications such phrases as, "Every day I
am getting further from you," "Now I am very far away from you." But
such phrases are probably not to be interpreted literally. The spirits
go further from us as they make progress in the spiritual world and
doubtless also as the things of this world occupy less and less place in
their recollections.

The spirits see us but they do not see our bodies, since they do not
perceive matter. They see the spirit within us but it appears to them
more or less obscure, as long as it is within the body. "It is by the
spiritual part of your being that I see you," says George Pelham, "that
I am able to follow you and to tell you from time to time what you are

And what do they think of our life upon earth? Here is a quotation from
George Pelham which will tell us:[70] "Remember we always shall have our
friends in the dream life, _i.e._, your life so to speak, which will
attract us for ever and ever, and so long as we have any friends
sleeping in the material world; you to us are more like as we understand
sleep, you look shut up as one in prison."

Professor Hyslop had a sister who died as a very young child; she sends
a short message to her brother saying that he dreams while she lives and
that she sends him her love.

Our life then would seem to be but a sleep accompanied by dreams which
are sometimes terrible nightmares. If this be so we can but hope for
dawn and waking, and wish soon to hear the crowing of the cock which
will put to flight the phantoms of the night. Happy should we be if we
had a certainty that it would be so!

This reminds me of a fine passage in a Spanish poet, which I cannot
refrain from quoting: "To live is to dream; experience teaches that man
dreams what he is till the moment of awakening. The king dreams that he
is a king and passes his days in the error, giving orders and disposing
of life and property. The rich man dreams the wealth that is the cause
of his anxiety; the poor man dreams the poverty and need from which he
suffers. I too dream that I am here laden with chains, and in by-gone
days I dreamt that I was happy. Our dreams are but dreams within a

So our world may be compared with the cave of which Plato speaks in the
Seventh Book of the _Republic_. In the conversation between Dr Hodgson
and George Pelham, when George Pelham promised that if he were the first
to die and if he found that he had another life he would do all that he
could to prove its existence, they referred to the old Platonic myth. In
the communications of the so-called George Pelham allusion was made to
the allegory, and that justifies me in briefly recalling it.

Plato imagines prisoners who from their birth have been enchained in a
dark cave in such a way that they are not able either to move or to turn
their heads, and can only look straight in front of them. Behind and
above the captives a great fire burns, and between the fire and the
captives men pass to and fro carrying in their hands vessels, statues,
images of animals and plants, and many other objects. The shadows of
these men and of the objects that they carry are thrown upon that wall
of the cavern which is opposite to the captives, who thus know nothing
of the external world but these shadows which they take to be realities,
and they spend their time discussing the shadows, naming them and
classifying them.

One of the captives is carried off from the gloomy place and transported
into the external world. At first the light dazzles him and he can
distinguish nothing. But by degrees, as time goes on, his sight adapts
itself to its surroundings and he learns to look upon the stars and
moon, and the sun itself. When he has been brought back into the cave
and again sits beside his companions, he takes part in their discussions
and tries to make them understand that what they take for realities are
only shadows. But they, confident in the results of their lengthy
reflections on the subject, laugh him to scorn. The same thing would
happen to a soul which had dwelt for a time in the world of spirit and
had been brought back into the world of matter.

When Plato's captive is brought back into the cave, his eyes, no longer
used to half-darkness, can distinguish nothing for some time; if he is
questioned about the shadows of the passing objects he does not see
them, and his answers are full of confusion. Perhaps something like this
happens to the discarnate spirits who try to manifest themselves to us
by borrowing the organism of a medium. Such at least is the suggestion
of George Pelham; in that way he would explain the incoherence, the
confusion, the false statements made by many of the communicating
spirits:[71] "For us to get into communication with you, we have to
enter into your sphere, as one like yourself asleep. This is just why we
make mistakes as you call them, or get confused and muddled so to put
it. I am not less intelligent now. But there are many difficulties. I am
far clearer on all points than I was, shut up in the body. 'Don't view
me with a critic's eye, but pass my imperfections by.'"

George Pelham also tells us how we may summon the spirits of those with
whom we desire to communicate. The thoughts of his friends reach him; if
he is to come and make himself manifest his friends must think of him.
He adds that, so far from the communications being injurious to the
communicating spirits or the sitters, they are positively to be desired.

On one occasion Dr Hodgson asked what became of the medium during the

George Pelham.--"She passes out as your ethereal goes out when you

Dr Hodgson.--"Well, do you see that there is a conflict, because the
brain substance is, so to speak, saturated with her tendencies of

George Pelham.--"No, not that, but the solid substance called brain--it
is difficult to control it simply because it is material; her mind
leaves the brain empty as it were, and I myself, or other spiritual mind
or thought, take the empty brain, and there is where and when the
conflict arises."

All this is very unintelligible in the present condition of our
knowledge. But here is another passage even less intelligible and one
which in its _naïveté_ almost suggests that the speaker is playing with
us. George Pelham says to his friend James Howard at the first sitting
at which James Howard was present:[73] "Your voice, Jim, I can
distinguish with your accent and articulation, but it sounds like a big
brass drum. Mine would sound to you like the faintest whisper."

J. Howard.--"Our conversation, then, is something like telephoning?"

George Pelham.--"Yes."

J. Howard.--"By long-distance telephone."

George Pelham laughs.

Understand who may! Are these only analogies? One does not know what to
think. Another difficult thing to understand is the "weakness" which the
spirits complain that they feel, especially towards the end of the
sittings. George Pelham actually says that we must not demand from
spirits just what they have not got, namely, strength. If the spirits
mean that the medium's "light" grows weak and no longer provides them
with the unknown something that they require in order to communicate,
why do they not express themselves more clearly?

It will perhaps be thought that I have dwelt a little too long on what
I have called the philosophy of George Pelham. I have thought it best to
do so, and there is no harm done so long as I leave it to my readers to
believe as much as they like.


[63] _Proc. of S.P.R._, vol. xiii. p. 301.

[64] _Proc. of S.P.R._, vol. xiv. p. 18.

[65] _Proc. of S.P.R._, vol. xvi. p. 315.

[66] _Proc. of S.P.R._, vol. xiii. p. 301.

[67] _Proc. of S.P.R._, vol. xiv. p. 36.

[68] In another sitting W. S. Moses says that, as he held this view very
strongly in life, he felt sure that he had been told it by his

[69] _Proc. of S.P.R._, vol. xiii. pp. 305, 306.

[70] _Proc. of S.P.R._, vol. xiii. p. 362.

[71] _Proc. of S.P.R._, vol. xiii. pp. 362, 363.

[72] _Proc. of S.P.R._, vol. xiii. p. 434.

[73] _Proc. of S.P.R._, vol. xiii. p. 301.


William Stainton Moses--What George Pelham thinks of him--How Imperator
and his assistants have replaced Phinuit.

For those of my readers who are unacquainted with spiritualist
literature, and in order to facilitate the understanding of what
follows, I must give a short sketch of the life of the English medium,
William Stainton Moses. He was born in 1839, and died in 1892. He
studied at Oxford, and was then curate at Maughold, near Ramsey, in the
Isle of Man. His great kindness made him beloved by all his parishioners
there. When an epidemic of smallpox drove even the doctors away, he
remained faithfully at his post, caring for bodies and comforting souls.
But he had precarious health, and was overworked at Maughold. He
obtained another curacy, where there was less work, at Saint George's,
Douglas, also in the Isle of Man. It was at Douglas that the friendship,
broken only by death, was formed between him and Dr Stanhope Speer. A
throat-affection soon after prevented his preaching, and he left the
service of the Church to give himself up to teaching. He went to London,
where he became tutor to the son of Dr Stanhope Speer, who was living
there. Finally, at the beginning of 1871, he obtained a mastership in
University College School, and there he remained till 1889.

Till 1872 William Stainton Moses knew nothing of spiritualism. If he had
vaguely heard of it, he had no doubt hastened to condemn the new
superstition which carried off sheep from his flock.

However, in 1872, Mrs Speer, being ill and confined to her room, read
Dale Owen's book, _The Debatable Land_. The book interested her, and she
asked Stainton Moses to read it. He did so, but only to please his
friend's wife. Nevertheless he became curious to know how much truth
there might be in the matter. He visited mediums, and took Dr Speer with
him, and both were soon convinced that here was a new force.

It was at the time when spiritualistic phenomena were attracting much
attention in the United States and England, and when learned bodies were
appealed to from all sides to put an end to these phantasmagoria. It was
the period when the materialised apparition of Katie King appeared and
talked to numerous spectators who came from widely separated places. Sir
William Crookes could see her and photograph her as much as he pleased;
heedless of his environment, he published what seemed to him the truth.

Thereupon the man whose brain had till then been considered one of the
most lucid and best organised which humanity has produced, lost
considerably in the opinion of his contemporaries. But no doubt the
future will avenge him.

The Speer family and Stainton Moses now began to hold sittings by
themselves. Stainton Moses[74] at once showed himself to be an
extraordinarily powerful medium. Neither he nor anybody else had
suspected this mediumship till now. Many other mediumships have been
revealed in the same way, suddenly, by experiment. This shows that
faculties, valuable for the study of these disturbing problems, may
exist in some of us who least expect it.

The physical phenomena which occurred in the presence of Stainton Moses
were numerous and varied.

These phenomena cannot be due to the subconsciousness of Stainton Moses,
and they seem to point to external intervention more clearly than do the
communications he has left us. The best known of these communications is
entitled _Spirit Teachings_. It is a long dialogue between self-styled
disincarnated spirits and Stainton Moses. Stainton Moses also wrote
automatically without being entranced. _Spirit Teachings_, among other
things, was obtained in this way. The medium is still saturated with his
theological education; he discusses, he cavils, and his spirit-guides
show him the absurdity of a great part of his beliefs. We know that his
robust faith began to be shaken by doubt about the time when his
mediumship revealed itself. If we left the above-mentioned phenomena out
of consideration, we might not unreasonably be tempted to see in these
dialogues only a doubling of personality; on one hand the personality of
the clergyman defending his doctrines foot by foot, on the other hand
the personality of the reasoning man formulating his own objections to

The self-styled spirit-guides of Stainton Moses formed a united group
obeying one chief, who called himself Imperator. Rector, Doctor,
Prudens, were his subordinates. Naturally, they asserted they were the
souls of men who had lived on earth; the above names were borrowed for
the circumstance; their real names were revealed to Stainton Moses, who
wrote them in one of his note-books, but always refused to publish them.
I beg the reader to observe this detail, which will become important

Stainton Moses had the temperament of an apostle but not at all that of
a man of science. The contents of the messages interested him much more
than their origin. The former clergyman liked better to discuss a
doubtful text than patiently to accumulate facts while guarding himself
in all possible ways against fraud. Certainly he was scrupulously
honourable; no conscious falsehood ever passed his lips, but his
temperament makes his interpretations doubtful, and with reason. He was
one of the first members of the Society for Psychical Research, but the
methods which the Society adopted from the beginning were not of a kind
to please him; for his part, he believed that abundant proofs already
existed, and he saw no use in minutely examining a large number of small

Dr Speer's son, whom Stainton Moses had taught, praises his judgment,
his modesty, his inexhaustible charity. Modest he really was, and it
never occurred to him to be vain of the miraculous phenomena which
occurred in his presence; he never thought of making a venal use of his
mediumship. Although he published his communications, he hardly ever
published reports of his phenomena. It was Frederic Myers who published
these from the note-books of the Speer family and of Stainton Moses
himself. The notes are in agreement, although they were made separately,
and without any idea of publication.

The son of Dr Speer asserts that Stainton Moses never refused a
discussion, and never despised an opponent. But, on the other hand,
Frederic Myers, who knew him well, assures us that he bore contradiction
badly, and was quickly irritated by it. The manner in which he retired
from the Society for Psychical Research tends to prove that it is Myers
who is right. The son of Dr Speer, in his gratitude to his former
master, must have deceived himself.

I will now explain the reason of this long preamble about Stainton
Moses. At a sitting which took place on June 19, 1895, Professor
Newbold, conversing with George Pelham, obtained from him the
enunciation of doctrines which contradicted those given by Stainton
Moses in _Spirit Teachings_. Professor Newbold[75] then asked,--

"Do you know of Stainton Moses?"

George Pelham.--"No, not very much. Why?"

Professor Newbold.--"Did you ever know of him or know what he did?"

G. P.--"I only have an idea from having met him here."

Professor N.--"Can you tell me what he said?"

G. P.--"No, only that he was W. Stainton Moses. I found him for E.[76]
and Hodgson."

Professor N.--"Did you tell Hodgson this?"

G. P.--"I do not think so."

At the sitting on the next day, Professor Newbold returns to the charge.

"Can you bring Stainton Moses here?"

G. P.--"I will do my best."

Professor N.--"Is he far advanced?"

G. P.--"Oh, no, I should say not. He will have to think for a while

Professor N.--"What do you mean?"

G. P.--"Well, have you forgotten all I told you before?"

Professor N.--"You mean about progression by repentance?"

G. P.--"Certainly I do."

Professor N.--"Was not he good?"

G. P.--"Yes, but not perfect by any means."

Professor N.--"Was he a true medium?"

G. P.--"True, yes, very true; his 'light' was very true, yet he made a
great many mistakes and deceived himself."

Phinuit, sent to find Stainton Moses, ends by bringing him. George
Pelham warns the sitter against the confusions and incoherences of
Stainton Moses's communications. "When he arrives," says George Pelham,
"I will wake him up."

Professor N.--"Is he asleep?"

G. P.--"Oh, Billie, you are stupid, I fear, at times. I do not mean wake
him up in a material sense."

Professor N.--"Nor did I."

G. P.--"Well, then, old man, don't be wasting light."

Professor N.--"I'm not wasting light, but I am obliged to find out what
you mean."

G. P.--"Well, this is what I wish also."

Professor N.--"Stainton Moses has been nearly three years in the
spirit.... Do you mean to say that he is not yet free from confusion?"

These explanatory passages would be of great value if we were sure that
we were not dealing with a secondary personality of Mrs Piper.

Later still, George Pelham returns to the probable mental confusion of
Stainton Moses, and to the necessity for taking certain precautions in
order to obtain clear communications. He was quite right. These
sittings, in which Stainton Moses was the self-styled communicator, are
exactly those which make the spiritualist hypothesis most difficult to
accept. All the exact information given existed already in the minds of
those present; all the rest was untrue. Stainton Moses had an excellent
chance of proving his identity. We have said that he had written down
the real names of his "spirit-guides" or "controls" in one of his
note-books. At the time these sittings were taking place in America,
Frederic Myers, in England, was studying these note-books in order to
publish so much of them as he thought fit. He knew these names, but I
believe he was the only person in the world who knew them. Stainton
Moses was told, "Give us the names of your spirit-guides; it will be a
splendid proof. Mr Myers knows them, but we do not. We will send them to
him, and if they are correct we shall no longer be able to have a
reasonable doubt of your identity." The self-styled Stainton Moses
seemed perfectly to understand what was asked of him; he gave the names,
and every one of them was wrong.

In October 1896 Dr Hodgson made George Pelham understand the necessity
of obtaining exact information from Stainton Moses, in order that the
problem, which seemed to interest George Pelham as much as it did Dr
Hodgson, might be solved. Stainton Moses then said that he would ask the
help of his former spirit-guides. The latter communicated directly
several times, in November and December 1896 and in January 1897. But
finally they demanded that the "light" of the medium should be put at
their exclusive disposal. Imperator explained that these unconsidered
experiments with all sorts of spirits--more or less undeveloped and
disturbed--as communicators, had made Mrs Piper as a medium into a
machine "worn out," and incapable of being really useful. He, Imperator,
and his friends would be able to restore her in time. But they must have
the right to keep away such communicators as they should judge likely to
injure her again. Dr Hodgson explained the importance of trying this
experiment to Mrs Piper in her normal state. Mrs Piper, docile as usual,
consented. The last appearance of Phinuit occurred on January 26, 1897.
Phinuit had formerly said, "They find fault with me, they won't
understand that I do all I can, but when they do not hear my voice any
longer they will regret me." However, he is not regretted. Whoever the
controls Imperator, Rector, Doctor and Prudens may be, since they have
controlled the communications, these have acquired a coherence,
clearness and exactness unknown before; errors are rare, and evident
falsehood unknown. Besides, Mrs Piper enters the trance differently.
Formerly there was more or less painful struggle; she had violent
convulsions and spasmodic movements; at present she enters the trance
quietly, as if she were falling asleep.

If, in truth, Mrs Piper entranced is merely an automaton, a "machine,"
of which use is made to communicate between two worlds, it is perfectly
evident that, on this side as well as the other, it is well to have
honourable and experienced experimenters. Phinuit was not perhaps
wanting in experience, but he was assuredly wanting in honesty; or
possibly he did not perceive the extreme importance of veracity in these
matters; he did not lie for the pleasure of lying, but he did not
hesitate to lie, if needs were, to escape from some difficulty.

The new report of Professor Hyslop, which I am about briefly to analyse,
will show us the new phase of Mrs Piper's mediumship. The results are
already good. Imperator asserts nevertheless that the "machine" still
needs repair, and that he will obtain still more wonderful results


[74] For an account of the mediumship of W. Stainton Moses the reader is
referred to Mr F. W. H. Myers's articles in the _Proc. of S.P.R._, vol.
ix. p. 245, and vol. xi. p. 24.

[75] _Proc. of S.P.R._, vol. xiv. p. 36.

[76] Another communicator.


Professor Hyslop and the journalists--The so-called "confession" of Mrs
Piper--Precautions taken by Professor Hyslop during his
experiments--Impressions of the sittings.

The last report[77] we possess of the phenomena accompanying Mrs Piper's
trance is that of Professor James Hervey Hyslop, of Columbia University,
New York. This report appeared in November 1901. The minutes of the
sittings, the notes, the remarks of the sitter, the discussion of
hypotheses, the account of experiments made at the University in order
to throw light on certain points, all together make a report of 650
pages of close reading. It refers, notwithstanding, only to sixteen
sittings, of which the first took place on December 23, 1898. But the
smallest incidents and the slightest arguments are scrupulously weighed.
It is, in short, a work of considerable extent.

Professor Hyslop has an absolutely sincere and very lucid mind. It is a
pleasure to follow him through this mass of facts and arguments;
everything is scrupulously classified, and the whole is illuminated by a
high intelligence. Professor Hyslop occupies with good right an eminent
place amongst the thinkers of the United States. Besides his classes,
he gives numerous lectures, which are well attended.

The report he has published has been long waited for. As he is a man of
mark and has long occupied himself with Psychical Research, the
inquisitive journalists on the other side of the Atlantic quickly found
out that he had been experimenting with Mrs Piper. He was interviewed;
he was prudent, and contented himself with recommending the reporters to
study the preceding reports published upon the same case. But reporters
are not so easily contented; they have to satisfy an exacting master in
the public, which wants to know everything, and which would cease to
purchase any paper simple enough to say, "I have done all I could to get
information on this point for you, but I have failed." The public will
have none of such honesty as that, though if a falsehood is offered, it
is not angry; in the first place, because at the moment it does not
recognise the falsehood, and in the second, because by the time it finds
out it is busy over something else. Consequently, as they must live,
journalists find themselves sometimes obliged to invent. So the
reporters put into Professor Hyslop's mouth the following sensational
words, "In a year I shall be able to demonstrate the immortality of the
soul scientifically." These words were reproduced by the greater number
of the American papers and by a large number of English ones. Specialist
publications in France in their turn commented on them. It will be
understood with what eagerness the report was expected after this by
all men interested in psychical studies. They have not been
disappointed. Professor Hyslop is too modest for such unbounded
pretension; he knows that the great problem will not be solved at one
stroke, nor by one man. "I do not claim," he says, "to demonstrate
anything scientifically, not even the facts I offer." This phrase does
not at all resemble the declaration put into his mouth. But if he has
not definitively and scientifically proved the immortality of the soul,
he has approached the problem very nearly and thrown a vivid light on
more than one point. In any case the journalists have advertised him
thoroughly, perhaps without intending it.

Speaking of journalists, I must relate another quite recent incident,
which is interesting to us, as it concerns Mrs Piper personally. One of
the editors of the _New York Herald_ interviewed Mrs Piper and on
October 20, 1901, published an article somewhat speciously entitled,
"The Confessions of Mrs Leonora Piper." In this article it was stated
that Mrs Piper intended to give up the work she had been doing for the
S.P.R. in order to devote herself to other and more congenial pursuits,
that it was on account of her own desire to understand the phenomena
that she first allowed her trances to be investigated and placed herself
in the hands of scientific men, with the understanding that she should
submit to any tests they chose to apply, and that now, after fourteen
years' work, the subject not being yet cleared up, she felt disinclined
for further investigation. Her own view of the phenomena was expressed
in this article as follows:--"The theory of telepathy strongly appeals
to me as the most plausible and genuinely scientific solution of the
problem.... I do not believe that spirits of the dead have spoken
through me when I have been in the trance state.... It may be that they
have, but I do not affirm it.... I never heard of anything being said by
myself during a trance which might not have been latent in my own mind
or in the mind of the person in charge of the sitting, or in the mind of
the person trying to get communication with someone in another state of
existence, or of some companion present with such a person, or in the
mind of some absent person alive somewhere else in the world."

In the _Boston Advertiser_ of October 25, 1901, there appeared a
statement dictated by Mrs Piper to a representative of the paper, saying
that she had made no such statement as that published in _the New York
Herald_ to the effect that "spirits of the departed do not control" her,
and later in the _Boston Journal_ for October 29, 1901, there appeared
an account of interviews with Dr Hodgson and Mrs Piper, in which Mrs
Piper stated that though she had said "something to the effect that" she
"would never hold another sitting with Mr Hodgson," and that she "would
die first" to a _New York Herald_ reporter the summer before, when she
gave the original interview, she now intended, regardless of whatever
may have been said, to go on with the present arrangement with Dr
Hodgson and the Society as formerly. She still held and expressed the
view that the manifestations are not spiritualistic, and felt that the
telepathic theory is more probable than the spiritualistic hypothesis.

It will be seen that in none of these reports is there any justification
for the somewhat sensational use of the word "Confessions" in the
original article. Mrs Piper made no statements, as the use of that word
suggests, concerning the source of her knowledge; she expressed her
preference for one of two hypothetical explanations of the origin of
that knowledge. No question was raised in the original article as to Mrs
Piper's honesty or as to the genuineness of her trance phenomena; on the
contrary she is represented by the reporter of the _New York Herald_ as
holding a view of those phenomena which asserts that they are not
fraudulent. She expresses her personal preference for the telepathic
hypothesis rather than the spiritualist hypothesis as an explanation of
them; on this point it should be remembered that the medium is not in a
more favourable position for forming an opinion than those who sit with
her, since she does not remember what passes while she is in trance, and
is therefore dependent for her knowledge on the reports of the sitters.

The allegation of the _New York Herald_ as to her intention to
discontinue the sittings was unfounded; after a suspension of some
months owing to the state of her health, she gave a sitting to Dr
Hodgson on October 21, the day after the article in the _Herald_
appeared, and it was then arranged to resume the sittings after a
further interval of three months. This has been done, and Mrs Piper gave
sittings to Dr Hodgson all through the spring of last year, and is still
doing so through the winter of 1902-1903.

The reader will excuse this digression on a subject which made some stir
at the time, and is interesting as throwing light on the medium's own
attitude towards her trance phenomena.

To return to Professor Hyslop's report.

Professor Hyslop told only his wife and Dr Hodgson of his intention to
have sittings with Mrs Piper. The days were fixed, not with Mrs Piper in
the normal state, but with Imperator, the chief of the present controls,
while she was in trance. Now we must never forget that Mrs Piper has no
recollection of what happens during the trance. Professor Hyslop's name
was not given to Imperator; Dr Hodgson called him the "four times
friend," because Professor Hyslop had at first asked for four sittings.
I should not call this a transparent pseudonym.

Professor Hyslop had once been present at one of Mrs Piper's sittings,
and his name had been pronounced. Although there seemed to be small
chance of her recognising him, as the sitting had taken place six years
before, and Professor Hyslop did not then wear a beard as he now does,
he put on a mask while he was in a closed carriage at some distance from
Mrs Piper's house. He kept on his mask during the first two sittings,
and then the precaution became useless, because his father's name was
pronounced by Mrs Piper at the end of the second. Dr Hodgson presented
him as Mr Smith, which name is given to all new sitters. Professor
Hyslop never spoke before Mrs Piper in her normal state, except twice to
utter short sentences, and he took pains to change his voice as much as
possible. He avoided all contact with the medium throughout all the
sitting. Most of the facts were obtained from the communicators without
previous questioning. When Professor Hyslop was obliged to ask a
question, he did so in such a way that it did not contain a suggestion
of the answer. To prevent Mrs Piper's seeing him during the sitting, he
kept always behind her right shoulder, the easiest position too for
reading the writing.

But when we recollect that Mrs Piper's head is always buried in pillows
during the trance, we shall think this a superfluous precaution.

As I have said in the preceding chapter, Phinuit no longer manifests.
This is what now appears to take place on the "other side." Rector
places himself in the "machine," and it is he who produces the automatic
writing. This Rector seems to have had much experience of these
phenomena. The communicator comes close to Rector and speaks to him, in
whatever manner spirits may speak. Imperator remains outside the
"machine," and prevents the approach of all those likely to injure it,
or who have nothing to do with the sitter. Besides, before he allows a
communicator to enter the "machine," he gives him advice as to what he
should do, and helps him to arrange and clear up his ideas. Imperator's
two other helpers, Doctor and Prudens, appear but rarely. George Pelham
appears sometimes, when his services are needed.

The communicators were few in number during Professor Hyslop's sixteen
sittings. They were, his father, Robert Hyslop, who gave much the most
important communications; his uncle, Carruthers; his cousin, Robert
Harvey MacClellan; his brother Charles, who died in 1864, aged four
years and a half; his sister Annie, who also died in 1864, aged three
years; his uncle, James MacClellan; and lastly, another MacClellan named

Professor Hyslop's father, Robert Hyslop, is the communicator who takes
up the greater part of the sittings. But he cannot remain long in the
"machine," he complains of having his ideas confused, of suffocating or
getting weak; for example, he says, "I am getting weak, James, I am
going away for a moment; wait for me." During these absences Imperator
sends another member of the family in his place "so that the light may
not be wasted." It would thus seem that the "weakness" which the spirits
complain of is only a feeling they have when they have been in contact
with the "machine" for a certain time; Imperator says that then they are
like a sick and delirious man. This explains the words of George Pelham,
"You must not ask of us just what we have not got--strength." But it is
indispensable to say that the former communicators did not explain
enough about this weakness; and they were not sufficiently well inspired
to go out when they felt it coming on. Dr Hodgson at last, having often
remarked this semi-delirium of the communicators towards the end of a
sitting, when the light was failing, succeeded in suggesting to them to
go away when they felt themselves getting weak. The possibility of this
suggestion is interesting to those who prefer the hypothesis of


[77] Professor Hyslop's report is contained in _Proc. of S.P.R._, vol.


The communications of Mr Robert Hyslop--Peculiar expressions--Incidents.

After we have read the report of Professor Hyslop, weighed the slightest
facts with him, discussed the arguments for and against with him, we
cannot be surprised at his having ended by adhering to the spiritualist
hypothesis; in other words, we cannot be surprised that, in spite of his
previous prejudice, he should have ended by exclaiming, "I have been
talking with my father, my brother, my uncles. Whatever supernormal
powers we may be pleased to attribute to Mrs Piper's secondary
personalities, it would be difficult to make me believe that these
secondary personalities could have thus completely reconstituted the
mental personality of my dead relatives. To admit this would involve me
in too many improbabilities. I prefer to believe that I have been
talking to my dead relatives in person; it is simpler." This is the
conclusion at which Professor Hyslop has arrived, and he takes the
reader with him, in spite of himself. As may be imagined, I do not
pretend to do the same in a hurried sketch like the present. Here, as
was the case with George Pelham, the incidents quoted are only examples
selected from a great number; some important detail of the said
incidents may even be accidentally omitted. If the forgotten detail
lays the incident open to some great objection, the reader must blame me
only for it, and turn to Professor Hyslop's book for himself.[78]

Professor Hyslop's father, Mr Robert Hyslop, was a private person in the
strictest sense of the word; he never did anything to attract public
attention to him; he did not write in the papers, and never, or hardly
ever, lived in towns. He was born in 1821, and lived on his farm in Ohio
till 1889, when he went into a neighbouring State. He returned to his
old home in August 1896, ill with a sort of cancer of the larynx. The
old home then belonged to his brother-in-law, James Carruthers, and he
died there on the 29th of the same month. In 1860 he had contracted a
spinal affection, the result of over-exertion, and this had degenerated,
some years later, into locomotor ataxy; he lost by degrees the use of
one of his legs and used a crutch; there was afterwards an improvement,
but he could never walk without a stick. In 1876 he had a slight attack
of apoplexy, which affected his hearing, one ear being quite deaf. Three
years before his death he further had the misfortune to lose his voice,
probably from paralysis of the larynx. A year before his death a fresh
affliction was added to all the others; he thought it was catarrh, but
it was probably cancer of the larynx; and it was accompanied by frequent
spasms which threatened his life.

In short, for thirty-five years at least, Mr Robert

Hyslop was an invalid. His life was by necessity passed indoors, or at
least on his farm. This life was necessarily without events calculated
to attract a stranger's notice. There was consequently very little
possibility that the medium could obtain information about him by normal
means. But when an obscure man like Mr Robert Hyslop returns from the
Beyond to establish his identity by relating a number of small facts,
too slight and unimportant to have been observed outside his intimate
circle, such a man furnishes us with a much stronger presumption in
favour of a future life than a personage in public life could do. Even
if the latter only reported incidents of his private life, it would be
easier to suppose that the medium had been able to procure them. During
nearly all his life, but principally during the last twenty years, the
thoughts of Mr Robert Hyslop turned on a small number of subjects--his
solicitude for his family; the administration of his farm, which gave
him much care; the fulfilment of his religious duties, in which he never
failed; and lastly, political events, which much interested him, because
they naturally reacted upon his private affairs. Consequently the
greater part of the facts I shall quote belonged to one or other of
these four categories of his preoccupations.

But, to begin with, it will be useful to speak of a point which
characterises an individual as clearly as his features do--I mean his
speech. Each of us has his own language, his familiar expressions; each
of us expresses himself in his own way under given circumstances. When
Buffon said "the style is the man," he expressed an absolute truth. When
somebody talks to us by telephone, without giving his name, we say,
without a shade of hesitation, "It is So-and-so. I know him by his
style." I repeat that everybody has this individuality of expression; it
is, however, less marked in educated people. But men only slightly
cultivated use stereotyped expressions, above all when they are growing
old; the language of some of them is almost entirely composed of
aphorisms and proverbs. If Mr Robert Hyslop did not altogether belong to
this class, he yet, his son tells us, used particular expressions, and
always the same in analogous cases; some of them indeed were altogether
peculiar to him.

Now, when he communicates through Mrs Piper, he uses the same language
that he used when alive. Professor Hyslop has incessantly occasion to
remark, "This expression is quite like my father; he would have used it
when he was alive in such a case." There is even a passage of the
communications so characteristic in this way that it is nearly too much
so; it would almost suggest fraud. I will reproduce one of these
passages.[79] "Keep quiet, don't worry about anything, as I used to say.
It does not pay. You are not the strongest man, you know, and health is
important for you. Cheer up now and be quite yourself. Remember it does
not pay, and life is too short there for you to spend it in worrying.
What you cannot have, be content without, but do not worry, and not for
me. Devoted you were to me always, and I have nothing to complain of
except your uneasy temperament, and that I will certainly help."

When a father has repeated the same advice in the same terms hundreds of
times in his life, and when, after his death, he repeats it again
through an intermediary, it must certainly be difficult to say, "That is
not he; it is not my father."

I should much like to give the reader the greatest possible number of
these small facts, which convince us almost in spite of ourselves. But
it is impossible to do so without surrounding them with commentaries
indispensable to bring out all their importance. Thus, Mr Robert had a
horse named Tom, an old and faithful servant. It had grown too old to
work, but he would not kill it. He pensioned it, so to speak, and left
it to die a natural death on the farm. At one sitting he asks, "Where is
Tom?" and as James Hyslop did not understand what Tom he was speaking
of, the communicator added, "Tom, the horse, what has become of him?"

Mr Robert Hyslop wrote with quill pens, which he trimmed himself; he had
often trimmed them for his son James. He recalls this detail about the
quill pens at one of the sittings.

He was very bald, and had complained of feeling his head cold during the
night. His wife made him a black cap which he wore once. At one of the
sittings he spoke of this cap. James Hyslop, who had been away from home
a long time, had never heard of any black cap. But he wrote to his
step-mother, who corroborated the statement.

At another sitting the communicator, Robert Hyslop, said that there were
always two bottles on his desk, one round and one square. Professor
Hyslop was ignorant of this detail, as of the preceding. His
step-mother, when questioned, had difficulty in remembering this, but
his brother recalled it at once; the round bottle held ink and the
square one contained gum.

Another time Robert Hyslop asks, "Do you remember the penknife I cut my
nails with?" "No, father, not very well." "The little penknife with the
brown handle. I had it in my vest and then coat pocket. You certainly
must remember it?" "Was this after you went west?" "Yes." Professor
Hyslop was unaware of the existence of this penknife. He wrote
separately to his step-mother, brother and sister, asking them if their
father had possessed a brown-handled penknife with which he cut his
nails, without telling them why he wanted this information. All three
replied, "Yes, we have it still." But it appears that Mr Robert Hyslop
did not keep the knife either in his coat or waistcoat pockets, but in
his trousers pocket.

These little facts will suffice as examples. I will go on to more
important ones.

Mr Robert Hyslop had a son who had caused him much anxiety all his life.
He had often talked of these anxieties to his favourite son James, and
had died carrying them with him into the grave. He speaks of them
repeatedly during the sittings exactly as he did in life. "Don't you
remember, James, that we often talked of your brother and the trouble he
gave us? Don't worry about it any more, all will go well now, and if I
know that you do not worry I shall be all right."

He remembers all the members of his family and names them correctly,
except for two odd mistakes of which I shall speak later. He alludes to
incidents in the lives, and traits in the characters of each of them. He
sends them expressions of affection, "Have I forgotten anybody, James,
my son? I should not like to forget anybody." He specially asks after
his youngest child, Henrietta; he wants to know if she has succeeded in
her examinations, and he expresses delight when he hears that, on the
whole, life promises well for her.

Mr Robert Hyslop was an orthodox Calvinist; he belonged to the small,
very strict sect of Associate Presbyterians and refused to join the
United Presbyterian Church in 1858. He was extremely rigid in religious
matters. When he caused his son James to be educated, he hoped the
latter would become a minister, though he left him free choice. When he
saw his son modify his religious beliefs he was very much pained. By
degrees, however, he became resigned. It is easy to understand from all
this that religious preoccupations were in the foreground in his mind.
He often talked of religion to his family, he read the Bible and
numerous commentaries on it, and sometimes, rather than allow his family
to go to the church of a less orthodox sect, he himself preached to them
at home. Consequently, if he had not alluded to his former religious
life during the sittings, the omission might have caused a grave doubt
of his identity. But this is not the case; he constantly alludes to his
ancient religious ideas.

At one of the first sittings he says, for example, "Do you remember what
my feeling was about this life? Well, I was not so far wrong after all.
I felt sure that there would be some knowledge of this life but you
were doubtful, remember you had your own ideas, which were only yours,

This last phrase, "You have your own ideas," Professor Hyslop remarks,
had been often repeated to him by his father in his lifetime. "He meant
that I was the only one of his children who was sceptical, and this was
true." Robert Hyslop's former religious ideas were the cause of a
strange incident. One day Dr Hodgson said to him, "Mr Hyslop, you ought
to look for my father and make friends with him. He had religious ideas
like yours. I think you would understand each other very well, and I
should be pleased." At a following sitting the communicator said to Dr
Hodgson, "I have met your father; we talked, and we liked each other
very much, but he was not very orthodox when he was alive." Dr Hodgson's
father was really a Wesleyan--that is to say, he belonged to a very
liberal sect. But in another place Robert Hyslop adds, "Orthodoxy does
not matter here; I should have changed my mind about many things if I
had known." In another sitting he says to his son, alluding to the
telepathic hypothesis, "Let that thought theory alone. I made theories
all my life, and what good did it do me? It only filled my mind with
doubts." In short, it appears that Robert Hyslop, the rigid Calvinist,
has greatly modified his views since he has been disincarnated.

At the last visit Professor Hyslop paid to his father, in January or
February 1895, a long conversation took place between them on religious
and philosophical subjects. Professor Hyslop spoke of his psychical
studies. The possibility of communication between the two worlds was
discussed at length, and Swedenborg and his works were mentioned. During
the sittings Robert Hyslop constantly returns to this conversation,
which had made a profound impression on him; much more profound than
would have been expected, considering his religious views. He recalls
the points which were discussed by him and his son one after another,
and adds, "You remember I promised to come back to you after I had left
the body, and I have been trying to find an opportunity ever since."
Now, no such promise had been made explicitly. But James Hyslop had
written to his father on his deathbed, "Father, when all is over, you
will try to come back to me." Robert Hyslop must from that moment have
resolved to return if possible; and he must have believed he had told
his son so, which was not the case.

When he was living in Ohio, Mr Robert Hyslop had a neighbour named
Samuel Cooper. One day Cooper's dogs killed some sheep belonging to
Robert Hyslop. An estrangement followed, which lasted several years. At
one of the sittings in which Dr Hodgson represented Professor Hyslop, he
asked a question which the latter had sent him in writing. Professor
Hyslop hoped the question would turn his father's attention to the
incidents of his life in Ohio. The question was, "Do you remember Samuel
Cooper, and can you say anything about him?" The communicator replied,
"James refers to the old friend I had in the West. I remember the visits
we used to make to each other well, and the long talks we had concerning
philosophical topics." At another sitting, when Dr Hodgson was again
alone, he returned to the same idea. "I had a friend named Cooper who
was of a philosophical turn of mind and for whom I had great respect,
with whom I had some friendly discussion and correspondence. I had some
of his letters ... you will find them." Another time, when Professor
Hyslop was present, he said, "I am trying to remember Cooper's school."
The next day he returns to the point, "You asked me, James, what I knew
about Cooper. Did you think I was no longer friend of his? I had kept
some of his letters; and I think they were with you." In all this there
was not a trace of Samuel Cooper, and Professor Hyslop did not know what
to think. He therefore put a direct question in order to bring his
father back to the point he had in mind. "I wanted to know if you
remembered anything about the dogs killing sheep?" "Oh, I should think I
did ... but I had forgotten all about it. That was what we had the
discussion about.... Yes, very well, James, but just what you asked me
this for I could not quite make out as he was no relation of mine ... if
I could have recalled what you were getting at I would have tried to
tell you. He is here, but I see him seldom." This episode is
interesting. All that Robert Hyslop said at first about Cooper has
nothing to do with Samuel Cooper, but is entirely true of an old friend
of his, Dr Joseph Cooper. Robert Hyslop had really had many
philosophical discussions with him, and they had corresponded. Professor
Hyslop had perhaps heard his name, but did not know that he was an old
friend of his father. It was his step-mother who told him this, in the
course of an inquiry he made amongst his relatives to clear up doubtful
incidents in the sittings. We see that disincarnated beings are capable
of misunderstanding as well as ourselves.

But the following is the most dramatic incident. Professor Hyslop,
remembering that his father had thought his last illness catarrh, while
he himself believed it to be cancer of the larynx, asked the
communicator a question aimed at bringing up the word "catarrh." He
asked, "Do you know what the trouble was when you passed out?" The
double meaning of the word "trouble" caused a curious misunderstanding,
which the telepathic hypothesis will find it difficult to explain.

The communicator replied in distress, "No, I did not realise that we had
the least trouble, James, ever. I thought we were always most congenial
to each other. I do not remember any trouble--tell me what it was about?
You do not mean with me, do you?" "Father, you misunderstand me. I mean
with the sickness." "Oh, yes, I hear--I know now. Yes, my stomach."
"Yes, was there anything else the matter?" "Yes, stomach, liver and
head--difficult to breathe. My heart, James, made me suffer. Don't you
remember what a trouble I had to breathe? I think it was my heart which
made me suffer the most--my heart and my lungs. Tightness of the
chest--my heart failed me; but at last I went to sleep." A little
further on he says, "Do you know, the last thing I recall is your
speaking to me. And you were the last to do so. I remember seeing your
face; but I was too weak to answer."

This dialogue at first disconcerted Professor Hyslop. He had tried to
make his father tell the name of the malady from which the latter
thought he suffered--catarrh. It was only when he read over the notes of
the sitting, a little later, that he perceived all at once that his
father had been describing the last hours of his life in the terms
habitual to him. Professor Hyslop had been mistaken again. The doctor
had noticed pain in the stomach at 7 a.m. The heart action began to
decline at 9.30; this was shortly followed by terrible difficulty in
breathing, and death followed. When his father's eyelids fell, James
Hyslop said, "He is gone," and he was the last to speak. This last
incident seems to indicate that consciousness in the dying lasts much
longer than is believed.

Soon after Professor Hyslop asked his father if he remembered some
special medicine he had sent him from New York. The communicator had
much trouble in remembering the very strange name of this medicine, but
ended by giving it, though incorrectly spelled.

During the first fifteen sittings Professor Hyslop had asked as few
questions as possible, and when he was obliged to do so, he had so
expressed them that they should not contain the answer. But at the 16th
sitting he abandoned this reserve intentionally. He wished to see what
the result would be if he took the same tone with the communicator as is
taken with a friend in flesh and blood. Professor Hyslop says, "The
result was that I talked with my disincarnated father with as much ease
as if I were talking with him living, through the telephone. We
understood each other at a hint, as in an ordinary conversation." They
spoke of everything--of a fence which Robert Hyslop was thinking of
repairing when he died; of the taxes he had left unpaid; of the cares
two of his children had caused him, one of whom had never given him much
satisfaction, while the other was an invalid; of the election of
President M'Kinley and of many other things.

Can it be said that there were no inexact statements made by the
communicator during all these sittings? There are some, but very few. I
shall speak of them in the following chapter. In any case, there is no
trace of a single intentional untruth in the whole sixteen sittings.


[78] _Proc. of S.P.R._, vol. xvi. In what follows here there is no
attempt to give the actual words of Professor Hyslop's communicators.

[79] _Proc. of S.P.R._, vol. xvi. p. 40.


The "influence" again--Other incidents--Statistics.

At this point I must return to a fact which is surprising on any
hypothesis we may prefer: the utility of presenting to the medium
objects which have belonged to the person from whom we wish to obtain
the supposed communications. Phinuit used to say that he found the
"influence" of the dead persons on these objects, and the "influence"
was all the stronger if the object had been worn or carried long, and if
it had passed through few hands; different successive "influences" seem
to weaken one another. I have said that we are totally ignorant of the
nature of this "influence," but I have also said that it might not
improbably be supposed to consist of vibrations left by our thoughts and
feelings upon material objects. However this may be, Phinuit seemed to
read this "influence," and draw from it the greater part of the
information he gave. Generally, in spite of his affirmations to the
contrary, he did not appear to be in direct relation with the
communicators at all. Since the disappearance of the Phinuit _régime_
and the appearance of that of Imperator, the presentation of small
objects is still of use; but it must be remarked that it has never been
indispensable, and that communicators often appear without having been
attracted by any "influence." But under the present system the
information received appears to be much less read from the "influence";
there is much more sense of the real presence of the communicators. Of
what use, then, are the small objects given to the medium? Neither the
controls nor the communicators have explained, which is a pity. Under
the new system managed by Imperator and his helpers such small articles
seem chiefly useful for "holding" the communicator, for preventing his
going away, and for maintaining a certain cohesion in his thoughts.
Rector constantly repeats, "Give me something to keep him and clear up
his ideas." The communicator would apparently need a _point de repère_
in order to remain at the desired place, and this _point de repère_
would be furnished him by some object he has often used, the "influence"
left on which he seems to perceive more clearly than anything else.
According to George Pelham, we may also suppose that the communicator
somehow perceives the mind of the sitter, but this mind is imprisoned in
matter, and greatly clouded by it; the communicator only recognises the
mind of the sitter when it is functioning actively, if I may thus
express it; when the sitter is thinking, and, above all, thinking of the
communicator. This is why, when the communicator perceives that his
ideas are becoming confused, he constantly says reproachfully to the
sitter, "Oh! why don't you speak? Say something to me, help me. You want
me to work for you, but you will not do anything for me." The dead
cousin of Professor Hyslop, Robert MacClellan, says to him, for example,
"Speak to me, for Heaven's sake. Help me to reach you." Analogous
passages are very numerous.

I return to Professor Hyslop's report. The most important communicator
after his father during the sittings was his uncle Carruthers, whose
name, however, was always mangled by Rector, and given as _Clarke_ or
_Charles_. This uncle had died only twenty days before the first
sitting.[80] At his first communication he inquires anxiously about his
wife Eliza, Robert Hyslop's sister, whom his death had left desolate.
"It is I, James," he says to the inquirer. "Give my love to Eliza; tell
her not to get discouraged, she will be better soon. I see her often in
despair." Professor Hyslop asks, "Do you know why she grieves?" "Yes,
because I left her; but I did not really leave her. I wish I could tell
you all I would like ... you would not think I had left entirely. Will
you comfort her? She ought not to be left lonely." "Yes, I will comfort
her." "I am so glad!" At that time Professor Hyslop did not guess that
his aunt was so completely alone and in such deep despair. He only found
this out on inquiry.

I will quote another incident of "Uncle Carruthers'" communications,
because on account of its stamp of vivid realism it is one of those
which the telepathic hypothesis does not explain satisfactorily. Mr
Carruthers suddenly perceives the presence of Dr Hodgson and says, "You
are not Robert Hyslop's son, are you? You are not George."[81] Dr
Hodgson replies, "No, I am not George." "No, James, I know you very
well, but this one" (speaking again to Dr Hodgson), "Did you know the
boys? Did you know me?"

I shall only quote one more incident of these interesting sittings. The
communicator this time is Professor Hyslop's brother Charles, who died
in 1864 aged four and a half. Robert Hyslop's last child had been born
long after Charles's death. "James, I am your brother Charles. I am
happy. Give my love to my new sister Henrietta. Tell her I shall know
her some day. Our father often talks of her." A little further comes
this curious phrase, "Our father would much like you to have his
pictures, _if you are still in the body, James_."

I have said there were some inexact statements, but they are very few. I
will quote two concerning proper names.

The family name of "Uncle Carruthers" could never be given properly. He
was always called Uncle Charles or Clarke. The error is probably
attributable to Rector, to whom the name Carruthers was not familiar.

The other mistake is odder still, though it may also be attributed to
Rector. Robert Hyslop's second wife was named Margaret, familiarly
called Maggie. Now, although it was impossible to misunderstand when
Robert Hyslop was talking of his wife, this name Maggie never came
correctly. Professor Hyslop waited a long time without rectifying the
mistake; he waited for the communicator to perceive it and correct it
himself, but this spontaneous correction was not made. At last he wanted
the matter cleared up, and Dr Hodgson explained that the name of
Professor Hyslop's step-mother had not been given. Rector, failing to
understand, gave up his place to George Pelham, who began by
administering a tolerably sharp scolding to the sitters. "Well, why do
you not come out and say, Give me my step-mother's name, and not confuse
him about anything except what you really want? By Jove! I remember how
you confused me, and I don't want any more of it. I am going to find
out, and if your step-mother has a name you shall have it." George
Pelham went out of the "machine" and returned shortly, saying, "I do not
see any reason for anxiety about _Margaret_." Margaret was really the
name asked for, but one would have expected to obtain it in its more
habitual form, Maggie. However, it is easy to understand that Robert
Hyslop should not have given the familiar name of his wife to a stranger
like George Pelham.

While Professor Hyslop was preparing his report, a number of his friends
who knew of his researches asked him what proportion of truth and error
he had met with in these manifestations. This frequently-repeated
question suggested to him the idea of making tables in which this
proportion should be made clear at a glance. This kind of statistics
would be important for the class of persons who think themselves
stronger-minded than the rest, and who tell you, "I only believe in the
eloquence of figures." Such people do not realise that battalions of
figures are like battalions of men, not always so strong as is supposed.

However, Professor Hyslop took all the "incidents" or statements made
by the communicators and classed them according to the amount of truth
or error they contained. He then divided the incidents into factors. I
will give an example which will help me to define later on what
Professor Hyslop means by _incident_ and _factor_[82]: "My Aunt Susan
visited my brother." This is an incident, or statement of a complete
fact. This incident is composed of four factors which are not
necessarily connected with one another. The first is _my aunt_, the
second the name _Susan_, the third the _visit_, the fourth _my brother_.
Therefore an incident may be defined as a name, a conception or a
combination of conceptions forming an independent fact; it may be again
a combination of possibly independent facts forming a single whole in
the mind of the communicator. The factors would be the facts, names,
actions, or events which do not necessarily suggest each other, or which
are not necessarily suggested by a given name or fact.

Naturally, in tables constructed on these lines, the facts cannot be
classified according to their importance as _proofs_; they can only be
reckoned as true or false. Thus incidents which have only a restricted
value as proofs are on a level with others which are in themselves very
valuable as proofs. This is really the weak point of these statistics.
The proofs need to be examined one by one, and not as a whole.

However, the tables have one advantage; the greatest sceptic, after a
glance at them, can no longer invoke chance, the great _Deus ex machinâ_
of the ignorant and indolent.

Professor Hyslop has constructed a table for each sitting, and a table
of the sittings as a whole. I cannot reproduce these tables for the
readers, who would require the notes of the sittings to understand them.
I shall only give the definite results.

Thus, out of 205 incidents, 152 are classed as true, 37 as
indeterminate, and only 16 as false. Out of the 927 factors composing
these incidents, 717 are classed as true, 167 as indeterminate, and 43
as false.[83]

It should be said that Professor Hyslop has perhaps overestimated the
number of false and unverifiable incidents. Many incidents or factors
classed as false or unverifiable have been later found to be exact. And
besides, the incidents of a transcendental and consequently unverifiable
nature might have been omitted from these tables. But in this case again
it has been thought better to give the false and doubtful facts full
play. The reader must draw from these results whatever conclusion seems
to him the most correct.


[80] _See_ Professor Hyslop's Report, _Proc. of S.P.R._, vol. xvi. p.
90, etc., for "Carruthers."

[81] Name of one of Professor Hyslop's brothers.

[82] _Proc. of S.P.R._, vol. xvi. p. 115.

[83] _Proc. of S.P.R._, vol. xvi. p. 121.


Examination of the telepathic hypothesis--Some arguments which render
its acceptance difficult.

I have mentioned in passing what should be understood by the word
_telepathy_. I shall repeat my explanation; it is necessary that the
reader should have it well in mind, as in this chapter I am about to
examine the telepathic hypothesis and endeavour to find out if it will
cover the facts which we are studying. By telepathy is here meant, not
only the power of obtaining information from the consciousness and
subconsciousness of the sitters on the part of the secondary
personalities of Mrs Piper, but also their power to read the
consciousness and subconsciousness of persons somewhere or anywhere else
on earth, no matter where, distance in no way increasing the difficulty
of this reading. This is evidently among hypotheses a wide and
far-reaching one, and yet, if we reject the spiritualistic hypothesis,
there is no other which will cover all the facts.

The following arguments here briefly indicated are, with others,
developed at length in Professor Hyslop's book. I shall not again go
over those which circumstances have necessitated my explaining with
sufficient clearness before in the course of this work.

To begin with, what is the origin of this telepathic hypothesis? Is it
justified by the facts of experimental or spontaneous observation among
psychologists? Certainly not; if we only reckoned the experiments and
observations of official psychology, the hypothesis of telepathy, as we
understand it, would be almost unfounded. This hypothesis is in reality
founded on our ignorance; we may admit it temporarily, because we are
ignorant of the latent powers of the human mind, and because we have
every reason to think these latent powers great and numerous. I think
that the first wide use of it was made in the famous book by Gurney,
Myers, and Podmore, _Phantasms of the Living_. The telepathic hypothesis
might very well be admitted as an explanation of the facts recorded in
that book, although the spiritualistic hypothesis would explain them as
well, or even better. But when we are considering other facts, such as
those of Mrs Piper's trance, for example, the telepathic hypothesis, in
order to explain them, must be stretched beyond permitted limits.

In the first place, with regard to reading the consciousness of those
present, it would seem that, if we were dealing with telepathy, the
so-called communicator ought generally to bring out the facts of which
the sitters have been thinking most intently. But this hardly ever
happens; in Professor Hyslop's sittings it never happens. Certainly many
of the incidents related were in the consciousness of the sitters, but
the latter were not thinking about them till the communicator recalled

For the same way, if we were dealing with telepathy, it is to be
supposed that the communicators would be the persons whom the sitters
expect. Now this is far from being the case. In the fifteen years during
which Mrs Piper's mediumship has been studied, a great number of
communicators have appeared about whom nobody was thinking. Professor
Hyslop, among others, says that he has met with several communicators
whom he did not in the least expect. Others whom he expected did not
appear. It is a fact worthy of remark that in Professor Hyslop's
sittings only those persons appeared who were capable of telling
something of a nature to prove their identity; the others seem to have
been systematically put aside by Imperator, even when information
concerning them was abundant in the consciousness and subconsciousness
of the sitter.

It would seem that, if we were dealing with telepathy, the self-styled
communicators would most easily utter the least remote ideas of the
sitters' minds; the nearest, most vivid ideas ought to appear first. Now
this is far from being the case. It seems to make no difference to the
communicator whether the idea is familiar or otherwise to the minds of
the living.

When it is a question of facts entirely unknown to the sitters and known
only to persons living at a great distance, this distance might be
expected to affect telepathic mind-reading; nothing in nature authorises
us to neglect this law of distance. We can only conceive the telepathic
process as a propulsion of waves through space; these waves should
decrease with distance; the contrary is absolutely inconceivable. Now
this does not happen; if the fact exists only in the consciousness of a
person who is at the time at the far ends of the earth, it makes no
difference in the precision of the details. If an analogy should be made
between telepathy--as we must conceive it, to explain the phenomena--and
wireless telegraphy, Mrs Piper entranced must be regarded as a mere
coherer of the telepathic waves. But this analogy is non-existent;
wireless telegraphy is far from being unaffected by distance, and
besides, when the coherer functions, it is because another instrument is
emitting particular waves. When a fact known only to a distant person is
reported, as in Mrs Piper's phenomena, it rarely happens that the
distant person was actively thinking of the fact, which was lying
unnoticed in the lowest strata of his consciousness. When the
experimenter makes his inquiries at the conclusion of the sitting, it is
often found that a definite effort on the part of the absent person is
required before the fact is recalled to memory.

It would be well to reflect before we grant to telepathy a power of
omniscience, independent of all known laws.

Another well-observed fact, opposed to the telepathic theory, is the
selection made amongst incidents by the communicator. If we were dealing
with telepathy, the secondary personalities of the medium would
sometimes be mistaken, make blunders, record facts which the so-called
communicator could never have known, but which the sitter alone knows
well. Now this never happens. The reported facts are always common to at
least two consciousnesses, that of the communicator and that of the
sitter, or that of the communicator and that of a distant person. The
inaccuracies prove nothing against this argument; if they are wilful
falsehoods they simply prove that the communicator is a liar, and not
that he is a secondary personality of Mrs Piper. If the reported facts
are unverifiable, this does not prove that they are inexact.

If the telepathic theory expresses the truth, we must grant an almost
infinite power to telepathy. This supposition is indispensable to
account for the facts. Then how shall we understand the errors and
confusions of the communicators? How can an infinite power seem at times
so limited, so finite, when the conditions remain unchanged? On the
other hand, the lapses of memory and confusions are quite explicable on
the spiritualistic theory; we cannot reasonably think that a change so
great as death should not induce some disturbance of mind, at least
temporarily, or should not greatly weaken certain groups of memories
which, in the new surroundings, have no longer any practical use.

A change of communicators has always been frequent, but was especially
so in Professor Hyslop's sittings. Mr Robert Hyslop constantly says to
his son, "James, I am getting weak; wait for me, I am coming back." And
then another communicator appears on the spot. The telepathic hypothesis
cannot explain this fact; it would seem quite natural that the
communicator should be always the same. To explain it, another
hypothesis--that of suggestion on the part of the sitter--must be added
to the telepathic hypothesis. But the spiritualistic hypothesis, on the
other hand, explains this perfectly well, even though we may be
compelled to reckon with the complications which the admission of the
existence of another world may introduce.

The existence of the self-styled intermediaries between sitter and
communicator is another fact which does not fit in with the telepathic
theory. Formerly Phinuit was the most common intermediary; then George
Pelham collaborated with him; in Professor Hyslop's sittings, and, I
believe, in all subsequent sittings since the installation of the
Imperator _régime_, the intermediary is Rector. It is he who presides at
the functioning of the "machine," because he is particularly
competent--so say the communicators. These intermediaries have very
defined and life-like characters. Phinuit, George Pelham and Rector are
as unlike each other as possible. What, on the telepathic hypothesis,
has had the power to create them? Mrs Piper's secondary personalities
should have incarnated the communicator without intermediary. In order
to understand this ephemeral reconstitution of a consciousness which has
for ever vanished, we should have to allow that the scattered elements
of this consciousness had temporarily grouped themselves around the
_point de repère_ formed by the secondary personality of Mrs Piper. We
should then see how difficult it is to explain the presence of these
intermediaries. But if, on the other hand, we accept the spiritualistic
hypothesis as well founded, we must admit that these intermediaries
account for their presence very plausibly.

Here is another argument, which, I think, is very strong, against the
hypothesis of telepathy. Subjects in the hypnotic state, and the
secondary personalities which appear in this hypnotic state, according
to the precise and decisive experiments made by modern science, have an
extremely definite notion of time. If you tell a hypnotised subject to
perform an action in a year, at such an hour and minute, he will never
fail, so to speak, although when he is awakened there remains in his
memory no trace of the order. Now the communicators, in the phenomena we
are studying, have an extremely vague notion of time, because, they say,
time is not a concept of the world in which they live. How is it that
telepathy, which can do so much, owns itself incapable, or nearly so, of
determining the moment when an action has been performed? What prevents
it from reading the idea of time, as well as any other idea, in the
minds of the persons present, since the notion of time is as clear and
precise in them at least as any other notion?

To conclude, I should say that we are entirely ignorant of the point
where the powers of telepathy begin and end. What I have just said makes
the telepathic hypothesis an unlikely explanation; but, as Boileau said
long ago, "Le vrai peut quelque fois n'être pas vraisemblable"--Truth
may sometimes be unlikely.


Some considerations which strongly support the spiritualistic
hypothesis--Consciousness and character remain unchanged--Dramatic
play--Errors and confusions.

The unity of character and consciousness in the communicators is one of
the reasons which most strongly support the spiritualistic hypothesis.
If we were dealing with Mrs Piper's secondary personalities, the first
difficulty would be found in their great number. I do not know the exact
number of communicators who have asserted their appearance by means of
her organism. But several hundreds may be found in the Reports of the
Society for Psychical Research, and they are certainly far from being
all mentioned. Now each communicator has kept the same character
throughout, to such an extent that, with a little practice, it is
possible to recognise the communicator at the first sentence he utters,
if he has already communicated. Some of the communicators only appear at
long intervals, but nevertheless they remain unchanged. But, on the
telepathic hypothesis, it is not easy to understand that a self-styled
communicator, a merely ephemeral consciousness reconstituted out of the
scattered recollections of the sitters, should be thus reconstituted
only at long intervals, suddenly, often without apparent cause, and
always with the same characteristics. This unity of consciousness and
character is particularly evident in the controls--that is, in such of
the communicators as have appeared uninterruptedly for years, on account
of their acting as intermediaries for others, and helping them with
their experience. If it cannot reasonably be admitted that the
occasional communicators are only secondary personalities of the medium,
the impossibility must be extended to the controls. Either all the
communicators are, without exception, secondary personalities, or none
of them are; for all give the same impression of intense life-likeness
and reality. If they are indeed secondary personalities, science has
hitherto studied none like them. I have already sketched Phinuit's
character, which has remained consistently the same during twelve years.
The reader should also have a sufficiently clear notion of George
Pelham's individuality, which is also consistent; even now, when George
Pelham appears, we find him unchanged.

The individualities of the present controls are even more marked, and
not less consistent. None of those who, up to the present time, have
communicated through Mrs Piper have in the least resembled Imperator and
his assistants. The principal traits of Imperator's character are a
profound and sincere religious sentiment, much gravity and seriousness,
great benevolence, an infinite pity for man incarnate on account of the
miseries of this life of darkness and chaos; and with this, an imperious
temper, so that he does well to call himself Imperator; he commands, and
will be obeyed, but he wills only the right. The other spirits who
gravitate around him--Rector, Doctor, Prudens, and George Pelham--pay
him profound respect. This character of Imperator is quite the same as
we find in the works of Stainton Moses. Those who decline to accept the
spiritualist hypothesis on any terms may say that Mrs Piper has drawn
the character from this source. She must at least know the book we have
mentioned--_Spirit Teachings_. When the effort to communicate with
Stainton Moses was made, and nothing was obtained but incoherence and
falsehood, Dr Hodgson, wishing to discover what influence the normal Mrs
Piper's knowledge of Stainton Moses's works might have upon the
secondary personality calling itself Stainton Moses (if we are dealing
with secondary personalities), took her a copy of _Spirit Teachings_.
She read it, or it is to be concluded she did so, but there was no
result, and no effect upon the communicator who called himself Stainton
Moses. Nevertheless, I repeat, it may be asserted with some probability
that Mrs Piper took the character of Imperator from this source. But
then, from whence did she take the other characters?

Imperator and his friends speak in a distinctive biblical style.
Generally, at the beginning of the sittings, Imperator either utters a
prayer himself or dictates one to Rector, who reproduces it. Here is a
specimen. "Holy Father, we are with Thee in all Thy ways, and to Thee we
come in all things. We ask Thee to give us Thy tender love and care.
Bestow Thy blessings upon this Thy fellow-creature. Help him to be all
that Thou dost ask him. Teach him to walk in the path of righteousness
and truth. He needs Thy loving care. Teach him in all things to do Thy
holy will ... and we leave all else in Thy hands. Without Thy care we
are indeed bereft. Watch over and guide his footsteps and lead him into
truth and light. Father, we beseech Thee so to open the blinded eyes of
mortals that they may know more of Thee and Thy tender love and care."
Among the phrases which ring familiarly to English ears we notice one
peculiarity, and one that constantly recurs. Imperator calls God
"Father," and yet, when he commends man to God, he calls him God's
fellow-creature, His neighbour, and not His creature. Evidently
Imperator's idea of God differs from ours; it would seem that he thinks
us an emanation from the Divine, eternal as the Divine itself.

Many readers may not be inclined to attach much value to Imperator's
prayers. They will take them for one of the diabolical inventions of
which secondary personalities are capable. Evidently, if we take them
apart from the rest, this is the most plausible explanation; but the
character and ideas of Imperator must be considered as a whole. I can
assure my readers that there is nothing diabolical about him. If
Stainton Moses and Mrs Piper have created him, they have created a
masterpiece; Imperator inspires respect in the most sceptical.

There is another aspect of the phenomena which telepathy does not
explain; the dramatic play. The personages at the other end of the wire
act, as far as we can judge, with all the appropriateness and
distinctive characteristics of reality. There are incidents of this
dramatic play, which telepathy cannot explain, in nearly all the
sittings. I have given some of them in passing, and will now give some
more examples. At M. Bourget's second sitting Mrs Pitman, whom I have
mentioned before, suddenly appears, and speaks nearly as follows:[84]
"Monsieur, I come to offer you my help. I lived in France and spoke
French fairly well when I was living. Tell me what you want, and I can
perhaps help you to communicate with this lady." In order to understand
the appropriateness of this intervention we must remember that George
Pelham, who was acting as intermediary, had complained at the beginning
of the sitting that the communicating spirit spoke French and that he
did not understand her.

One day George Pelham is asked for information about Phinuit, and is
about to give it. But Phinuit, who is manifesting through the voice
while George Pelham is doing so in writing, perceives this and cries,
"You had better shut up about me!" And the spectators witnessed a sort
of struggle between the head and the hand. Then George Pelham writes,
"All right, it is settled; we will say no more about it."

During a sitting in which the sitter's wife gave proofs of identity of a
very private nature to her husband she said, "I tell you this, but don't
let that gentleman hear." "That gentleman" could not be Dr Hodgson, who
had left the room; it was the invisible George Pelham who was habitually
present at the sittings at this period.

On April 30, 1894, Mr James Mitchell has a sitting.[85] Phinuit begins
by giving him appropriate advice about his health. He ends by saying,
"You worry, too." Then he adds, "There's a voice I hear as plainly as
you would a bell rung, and she says, 'That's right, doctor, tell him not
to worry, because he always did so--my dear husband--I want him to enjoy
his remaining days in the body. Tell him I am Margaret Mitchell, and I
will be with him to the end of eternity, spiritually.'"

The communicators often ask one or more of those present to go out of
the room, and they give one or other of the following reasons, according
to circumstances. The first is that very private information is about to
be given. I have quoted an example in speaking of George Pelham, when
James Howard asked him to tell something which only they two knew.
George Pelham, preparing to do so, begins by asking Dr Hodgson to leave
the room. How oddly discreet for secondary personalities! On other
occasions certain persons are asked to go out temporarily, because, say
the controls, "You have relations and friends who want very much to
communicate with you, and they prevent all communication by their
insistence and their efforts."

On a certain occasion Professor Hyslop rises and goes to the other end
of the room, passing Mrs Piper, upon which George Pelham, apparently
offended, writes, "He has passed in front of Imperator! Why does he do

It would need a volume to recount all the little analogous incidents
which telepathy does not explain. These will do as examples. Will it be
said that these small dramas resemble the creations of the same kind
which occur in delirium or dreams? But in the first place, in delirium
and dreams, the spectator does not realise, as he does here, the
presence of persons who have given many details tending to prove their
identity. Again, the real cause of these creations of dream and delirium
is unknown to us. We might assert, without being fanciful, that sickness
is only their opportunity and not their cause. Lastly, a third group of
facts, which strongly militates in favour of the spiritualist
hypothesis, consists of the mistakes and confusions. This would probably
not be the opinion of a superficial observer; many take these errors and
confusions as a reason for entirely rejecting the spiritualist
hypothesis; generally because they have a strange notion of a "spirit,"
without any analogy in nature. Deceived by absurd and antiquated
theological teaching, they imagine that the most pitiable drunkard, for
example, becomes a being of ideal beauty and omniscience from the day he
is disincarnated. It cannot be so. Our spirits, if we have them, must
progress slowly. When they leap into the great unknown they do not at
the same time leap into perfection; they were finite and limited, and do
not become immediately infinite. Disincarnated man, like incarnated man,
has lapses of intelligence, memory and morality. The existence of these
lapses very well explains the greater part of the mistakes in the
communications. I have no room to develop this idea, but the reader can
do it easily. I will only quote one example of lapse of memory. Mr
Robert Hyslop said he had a penknife with a brown handle, which he
carried first in his waistcoat pocket and afterwards in his coat. On
inquiry, it was discovered that he was mistaken, and that he really
carried it in his trousers pocket. What man living has not made a
hundred such mistakes? In order to explain the phenomena we are studying
by the telepathic hypothesis, we must suppose that telepathy has
infinite power with which no obstacle can interfere. Then why does it
make mistakes? And why does it make just the mistakes that an imperfect,
finite spirit would make? Must we suppose that Dame Telepathy is a mere
incarnation of the demon of fraud and deceit?


[84] Evidently addressing George Pelham.

[85] _Proc. of S.P.R._, vol. xiii. p. 519.


Difficulties and objections--The identity of Imperator--Vision at a
distance--Triviality of the messages--Spiritualist Philosophy--Life in
the other world.

Up till now I have said a great deal of evil of telepathy. I believe
that I have demonstrated, not that the theory is false, but that it is
an unlikely explanation of the facts. Shall we say, then, that the
spiritualistic hypothesis, the only reasonable one after the dismissal
of telepathy, can be accepted without difficulty and without objections?
Not at all. Many objections, more or less serious, are still made to the
spiritualistic hypothesis. To my mind there is only one that is serious;
I will speak of it in conclusion. Many of the others are raised by
persons who have a merely superficial acquaintance with the problem;
their arguments are more polemical than scientific.

To begin with, some of them want to know why the controls, Imperator,
Doctor, Rector, Prudens, conceal themselves under these pseudonyms. If
they are, as they say, disincarnated spirits, who formerly lived in
bodies, why do they not say who they were? Does not their silence on
this point indicate that they are only secondary personalities of the

This objection is not very serious. In the first place, the controls
told Stainton Moses their names. If they do not wish these names
revealed, it is without doubt for excellent reasons, which it is not
difficult to imagine. There is every indication that these controls
belonged to a generation considerably remote from ours; their language,
the turn of their minds, and some of their assertions, all point to
this. If they were well-known men, and had revealed their names, the
critics would merely see a reason the more for crying fraud. They would
say, "The medium has read all that, and repeats it to us in hypnosis."
If, on the other hand, they were obscure persons, and had given
information about their lives, the information would be unverifiable.
And then the sceptics would cry on the spot, "Folly; these are the
inventions of the medium's secondary personality." The controls may have
still other reasons for not revealing themselves to us. This life, when
once it has been left behind, may seem to the spirit to be a more or
less painful nightmare. There is nothing astonishing in the fact that he
does not care to recall to others the part he played in this nightmare,
even if the part were a distinguished one. We ourselves know nothing but
this life; we do not admit that there is any other. Therefore we all
wish to shine in it like meteors, if possible. Possibly disincarnated
spirits, seeing things from a higher point of view, think otherwise. In
short, the controls, Imperator, Rector, Doctor and Prudens, may refrain
from speaking of their former life simply because they are wise. Would
it not have been wiser of Phinuit to hold his tongue than to tell us a
mass of improbabilities?

Amongst those who study these phenomena there are many who see in the
triviality of the greater part of the messages a strong presumption
against the spiritualist hypothesis. Some of these messages are signed,
it is true, by illustrious names--though that is not the case with Mrs
Piper. But this regrettable fact may be variously explained. In the
first place, there may be rogues, charlatans and fools on both sides,
since it is probable that the soul passes from this world to the other
just as it is, and that, if it progresses at all, it progresses slowly.
How many individuals see in spiritualism only a means of putting forward
their wretched personalities or of exploiting their contemporaries! Such
persons would not shrink from representing their lucubrations as
communications from the next world; they would sign them with the most
august of names if to do so would further their designs. Finally, it is
not even necessary to suppose that these messages are due to dishonesty;
the number of mystifiers may be at least as great on the other side as
on this; a sort of law of affinity which seems to rule the world of
spirits may cause these lower beings to be attracted by uncultured
mediums, while the great spirits are repelled by them. It would be these
larvæ of the other world who give the messages which disconcert when
they do not scandalise us. But the man of science should not be rebuffed
by these messages which, in spite of their contents, are important, if
they result in irresistible proof of the fact that there exist outside
of us and around us intelligent beings resembling ourselves.

But when we are dealing with developed spirits, who have begun by giving
proofs of their identity, it is not true that the messages are always
trivial. They often contain ideas of much breadth of view and elevation.
The form is generally defective, but those who have studied Mrs Piper's
phenomena will be indulgent to the form, and sometimes even to the
matter. The spirit in contact with the medium's organism suffers, as I
have said several times, from a kind of delirium; besides which the
organism only responds to his efforts imperfectly. "My dear friends,"
says George Pelham, "do not look at me too critically; to try to
transmit your thoughts through the organism of a medium is like trying
to crawl through a hollow log." In short, the difficulties are enormous.

It may very well be that great spirits have really been the authors of
very poor messages. It has happened to each of us to make poetical or
other compositions in our dreams which we have thought admirable; we say
in delight, "What a pity I shall not be able to remember that when I
wake!" But sometimes we do remember, and then we smile with contempt at
what had delighted us during sleep. Now the communicators constantly
repeat that they are dreaming while they are in the atmosphere of the
medium. "Everything seems so clear to me," says Robert Hyslop to his
son, "and when I try to tell you, James, I cannot."

These considerations prove that we must not hasten to conclude, with
Professor Flournoy, that if there is a future life it is one of
wretched degeneration, one more misery added to all the others which
overwhelm us in this miserable universe.

No; as Professor James says, in this world we live only at the surface
of our being; if death is not annihilation, then it is an awakening. It
does not follow that the life of the other world is not higher and more
intense than this, because communication with it is difficult.

Another serious objection to the spiritualist hypothesis is the
philosophy with which certain too eager persons have connected it.
Spiritualism, which should at present be but the mere beginning of a
science, is, according to them, already a philosophy for which the
universe holds no secrets. How should such puny creatures as ourselves
hope to solve the problems of the universe by _a priori_ reasoning? All
that we can reasonably hope, is to wrench from nature some of the
secrets nearest to us, surrounding ourselves with a thousand precautions
in order not grossly to deceive ourselves.

I rank the spiritualistic philosophy with other philosophies. Perhaps
some of its dicta proceed from spirits, if spirits exist, but the system
as a whole most surely does not. But then, it will be said, the people
who have elaborated this philosophy must have been impostors. No, not
inevitably; I will even venture to say that imposture is unlikely. The
key to the mystery may be found in other characteristics of humanity.

The most formidable obstacle to the admission of the spiritualist
hypothesis is in the messages which tend to represent the other world,
in which, it appears, matter is not perceived, and space and time are
unknown, as being all the same a servile copy of this, or a sketch of
it. If Phinuit or another control is asked to describe a communicator,
the description is generally given with exactness, and is the same there
as it was here; sometimes the communicator even goes so far as to wear
the same clothes, made of the same material. But these descriptions are
without importance, as it may be replied that the communicators or
controls give these details purely to prove identity. However, I know of
no message in which the communicator has been frank enough to say, "Of
course you may suppose that the form I have here is not the same as I
had in your world." Or again, "The idea of form differs totally in our
world and in yours; I cannot make you understand what that idea is here,
so it is of no use to question me." Unfortunately neither communicators
nor controls speak thus; they all say or allow it to be supposed that
the human form is the same in both worlds.

But when action and events in that world are represented as being the
same as in this, then our credulity cries out in remonstrance. That a
deceased doctor should tell us that he continues to visit his patients,
a painter that he continues to daub canvas, is more than we can admit.
But, it may be explained, the doctor and the painter are temporarily
delirious; they do not know what they are saying. Unfortunately these
passages are too numerous to be always attributed to delirium. Certain
communicators say, with all the gravity in the world, and when they seem
in full possession of themselves, that they breathe, live in houses,
listen to lectures, and that a deceased child is beginning to learn to
read. This is an enormous difficulty, I repeat. I point it out without
trying to solve it; I am unable to offer a plausible explanation.
Professor Hyslop has tried, but I do not think he has succeeded.


The medium's return to normal life--Speeches made while the medium seems
to hover between the two worlds.

In Mrs Piper's case, the moments which precede the actual quitting of
the trance offer, at least at present, a special interest. I think it
well therefore to dwell on this point a little. To avoid endless
circumlocutions, I shall speak as if the spiritualistic hypothesis were
proved. Indeed, whatever the future fate of this hypothesis may be, and
in spite of the serious objection spoken of in the last chapter, it is,
I believe, the only one that can be reasonably adopted for the moment.

When the sitting is over and the automatic writing has ceased, Mrs Piper
begins to return gradually to her normal state. She then utters with
more or less distinctness some apparently disconnected phrases which it
is sometimes difficult to catch. She is like a person talking in sleep.
Dr Hodgson and Professor Hyslop have collected as many of these broken
sentences as they could, keeping them separately under a different
heading from the record of the rest of the sitting proper. At the end,
Mrs Piper often asks this odd question, "Did you hear my head snap?" And
after her head is supposed to have snapped she looks round her in
apparent astonishment and alarm, and then all is over, she no longer
remembers what she has said or written during the trance.

We shall see that these scraps of phrase are less incoherent than they
seem, and that it is worth while to collect them. Very often when
numerous unsuccessful efforts have been made to recall a proper name
during the sitting, Mrs Piper pronounces it when coming out of the
trance; when she is re-entering her body, the communicator or
communicators repeat the name to her insistently, and make great efforts
to cause her to remember and pronounce it as she comes out of the
trance. I have already quoted an example of this. M. Paul Bourget asked
the name of the town in which the artist he was communicating with had
killed herself. The name did not come, but Mrs Piper pronounced it as
she was leaving the trance--_Venice_. Mr Robert Hyslop's name was given
in the same way the first time, but accompanied by very significant
scraps of speech as follows. Mrs Piper first tried to pronounce the
name, then she said _Hyslop_, and went on,--

"I am he.[86] Tell him I am his father. I--Good-bye, sir. I shouldn't
take him away that way. Oh, dear. Do you see the man with the cross[87]
shut out everybody? Did you see the light? What made the man's hair all
fall off?"

Dr Hodgson asks, "What man?"

Mrs Piper.--"That elderly gentleman that was trying to tell me
something, but it wouldn't come."

At a first glance this passage seems mere incoherence, but all the
portions of sentences have a very clear meaning when they are examined
together with the events of the sitting. They are, as it seems,
commissions with which the medium is charged as she is returning into
her organism, or they are observations made among themselves by the
spirits present, which the medium automatically repeats, or they are the
observations and questions of the medium herself. All that Mrs Piper
says on coming out of the trance belongs to one of these three

In the passage quoted, the words, "I am he. Tell him that I am his
father," are a commission with which the medium is charged by Mr Robert
Hyslop. Mrs Piper takes leave of Robert Hyslop with the formula,
"Good-bye, sir." The phrases which follow, "Oh, dear. I shouldn't take
him away that way. Do you see the man with the cross shut out
everybody?" are the remarks of spirits repeated automatically, or Mrs
Piper's own remarks on Imperator, who, seeing the light exhausted,
imperiously sends off everybody, including Mr Robert Hyslop himself, in
spite of his desire to remain with his son. Imperator must even have
used some force, to justify the observation, "I should not take him away
that way." The final phrases are always Mrs Piper's own questions and
remarks: When she says, "Did you see the light?" she alludes without
doubt to the light of the other world, invisible to us. The other
sentences are clear enough, when we remember that Mr Robert Hyslop was
entirely bald. There are utterances like these, only apparently
incoherent on coming out of all the trances; but they vary in length.
The last words, if I am not mistaken, always come from Mrs Piper
herself, which is logically to be expected, since she gradually loses
the memory of the world she has just quitted, up to the definite moment
of waking, marked by the so-called snap in her head.

These speeches on coming out of trance constitute, in our eyes, one more
argument against the hypothesis of telepathy and secondary
personalities, because there is no trace of simulation. To suppose
simulation would be to accord to telepathy too much skill in the arts of

These speeches bring into the foreground the question: "What becomes of
the medium's spirit during the trance, if there is a spirit?" The
controls say that it leaves the organism and remains in the company of
the group of communicating spirits.

"But then," it will be said, "if she lives for the time being in the
other world, why does she not relate her impressions when she wakes?"

We must not forget that for spirits our life is a sleep, and that we are
only conscious of what we acquire through the medium of our five senses.
When the spirit is again plunged into the prison of the body, after
having left it for a time, it goes to sleep once more and forgets all;
it recommences living the fragmentary life which is all that the five
senses permit. The complete absence of memory in the medium when awake
is no more astonishing than the same phenomenon in a subject coming out
of hypnosis, during which he may have talked, and even done much.

Besides, during the short instants when Mrs Piper is as if suspended
between two worlds, she still has a vague recollection of what she has
just heard; the fragments of sentences she utters bear sufficient
witness to this. She rarely fails to shed a few tears, and to say, "I
want to stop here, I don't want to go back to the dark world!" Here is a
characteristic passage, as an example. Mrs Piper, coming out of the
trance, begins to weep and murmur, "I do not want to go back to the
darkness.... Oh, it is, it is, it must be the window ... but I want to
know.... I want to know where they are all gone[88].... It is funny ...
I forgot that I was alive.... Yes, Mr Hodgson, I forgot.... I was going
to tell you something, but I have forgotten what it was.... You see,
when my head snaps, I forget what I was going to say.... It must be
night. Oh, dear! I feel so weak.... Is that my handkerchief?"

On other occasions she uses an odd figure of speech. "You see Rector
turns round a dark board and says that's your world--and he turns round
the other side and that's light, and he says that's his world. I don't
want to go back to the dark world."

Another time she says, quite at the end, "Is that my body? how it

It appears that Imperator, before sending her back to the "dark world,"
prays for her, and she sometimes repeats fragments of the prayers

"Is that a blessing? Say it."[89]

"Father be and abide with thee for evermore."

"Servus Dei--I don't know."

"I have all these to look out for. I leave thee well."

"Go and do the duties before thee."

"Blessings on thy head."

"The light shall cease."

"Why do you say that?"

"Are you going? Good-bye."

"I want to go along the same path with you."

"Hear the whistle?" (This was an earthly whistle, which those present
also heard.)


[86] _Proc. of S.P.R._, vol. xvi. p. 322.

[87] That is to say, Imperator, who always signalises his presence by
making a cross on the paper, or, with his hand, in the air.

[88] The spirits in whose company she has been.

[89] _Proc. of S.P.R._, vol. xvi. p. 396.


Encouraging results obtained--The problem must be solved.

And now, can there be a conclusion to this work? It does not allow of
any conclusion. The most I can do in terminating is to record certain
facts. Dr Hodgson, Professor Hyslop and others, who, though
unprejudiced, began these studies as sceptical as anyone, have ended,
after long years of hesitation, by giving their adhesion to the
spiritualist hypothesis. But, as they are careful to point out, they
accept this hypothesis conditionally, and not definitely. New
experiments and new facts may turn their minds in quite another

Should we follow them? Should we each admit conditionally the
spiritualist hypothesis? Not at all; it is not thus that knowledge is
attained. Whoever believes that he has excellent reasons for preferring
any other hypothesis should remain unshakable in his convictions till
the time when new facts may oblige him to abandon them. Science does not
ask that we should prefer this or the other explanation; it only asks
that we should study the facts unprejudiced, that we should be sincere,
and not shut our eyes childishly to the evidence.

If a future life is to be, I will not say proved, but admitted by a
majority, a great number of experimenters, or, if you please, observers,
working independently of one another in all quarters of the globe, must
reach identical conclusions. Again, it must be possible for any
intelligent man willing to make the effort, and retracing the path
followed by the first observers, to arrive at the same conclusions. The
_magister dixit_ is out of date. Teachers in the present day must show
their disciples the path of truth, and not try to impose upon them what
they themselves regard as truth. Modern science knows no infallible
Pope, speaking _ex cathedrâ_.

Further, we must not confine ourselves to the study of one side of
mediumship only. The phenomena produced in the presence of mediums are
various. All the phenomena classified as "psychical" must be carefully
considered and thoroughly investigated. The grain must be separated from
the chaff; it must be decided which among these phenomena appear to be
due to spirits, which, according to the evidence, are due to incarnated
minds, and finally, which (if there are such) have only ordinary
physical causes. The new workmen who are entering the field of science
have before them a long task of clearing the ground, but the ground
seems to be of unexampled fertility; with a very little goodwill we
shall reap such a harvest as has never been seen.

No doubt, though mediums able to produce certain second-rate phenomena
are not rare, good mediums are not easy to discover; they are less rare,
however, than the bones of _Anthropopithecus erectus_. When a good
medium is discovered it is not necessary to call a committee together
and put the value he may have for science to the vote. If the "other
world" exists, it appears that no "missing link" exists between it and
our own.

Thus the general conclusion to be drawn from the work described in this
little book, and from the other work of the Society for Psychical
Research, is that devotion to these studies is far from being fruitless.
Even official science might turn in this direction, if only in order to
defend the doctrines dear to it. It will come to that, without doubt,
but will it be soon? Humanity is but poor stuff, though the monists do
not hesitate to hold it up to us as the highest expression in our corner
of space of the consciousness of their great god Pan. The great majority
of human units is composed of minds in first childhood, eager only for
childish things.

By slightly modifying Plato's allegory it is easy to arrive at an
understanding of the state of humanity at the present time. Imagine very
imperfect, very undeveloped beings, possessing, however, an infinity of
latent potentialities; imagine them born in a dark cavern where they
swarm pell-mell, passing their time chiefly in devouring one another.
Every moment this cavern is entered, and a certain number of these poor
beings are taken out of it and carried into the light of day, that they
may enjoy a higher life, and admire the beauties of nature. Those
remaining in the cavern weep for their companions and think that they
have for ever vanished. But in the vault of the cavern there are
fissures through which a little light filters. A few inquisitive beings,
a little more developed than their brothers, climb up to these
fissures; they look out, and believe that signs are made to them from
outside. They say to themselves, "Those who are making signs to us are
perhaps the companions who are constantly being carried off from amongst
us; in that case they cannot be dead; they must be continuing to live up
there." And they call to their brothers below, "Come and see; it looks
as if our companions who go up yonder every day are making signs to us.
We are not sure; but if we unite our efforts and intelligences perhaps
we shall end by being certain." Do you suppose that the swarms on the
ground of the cave will run? They have quite other things to do. They do
not stone the importunate seekers, but they look on them askance and
heap annoyances upon them. But we will drop allegory; and merely say how
deplorable it is that psychical studies do not inspire more enthusiasm.

The doctors at first declared that mediumship was a form of neurosis.
Nothing is less certain; I will even say that nothing is less probable.
Educated people of independent social position when by chance they
discover that they possess mediumistic gifts hide them carefully,
instead of offering them spontaneously for study; they do not wish to be
supposed to be diseased; nobody likes to proclaim his defects in public.
This is why well-known mediums are nearly all recruited from the lower
classes and the poor; they are obliged to make merchandise of their
gifts; they are paid to produce phenomena, and, when these do not occur
spontaneously, they cheat. Mediums should be sought for in the class of
educated people who are not obliged to work for their daily bread.
There are as many or more in this class as in any other if we would only
look for them. What should such mediums fear? Do not Mlle. Smith and Mrs
Piper, when they allow competent persons to study their mediumship,
render more valuable services to society than do so many social
encumbrances, so many flies on the wheel who deafen us with their
buzzing? Have they any reason to be ashamed?

Finally, in order to attain to any result in these studies, money is
needed--why not say so? Interesting subjects must be paid when they need
payment, and competent investigators must be paid when they need a
salary. If a thousandth part of the sum devoted in a year to the art of
killing were devoted to the solution of this problem, before ten years
were over we should have settled the question, and humanity could boast
an unexampled victory.

In America and all the Anglo-Saxon countries many persons, as noble as
they are generous, give for science, for universal instruction, for
founding universities and colleges. May they be blessed! They make a
noble use of their money. But it is regrettable that as much money as is
needed can be found for the search after--let us say--the
_Anthropopithecus erectus_, and that it cannot be found for Psychical

If I am not mistaken, a prize has been offered to whoever can find the
means of communicating with the planet Mars. If this communication were
ever established, I do not see how humanity would benefit by it, beyond
the satisfaction of its curiosity; which is, however, a noble and
legitimate curiosity. But how much more helpful and interesting it
would be to communicate with the world beyond the grave, if such a world
there be, the world whither we are all bound. Perhaps some time mankind
will realise this fact.

Colston and Coy. Limited

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