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Title: Spiritualism and the New Psychology - An Explanation of Spiritualist Phenomena and Beliefs in - Terms of Modern Knowledge
Author: Culpin, Millais
Language: English
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                            BY MILLAIS CULPIN





    [_All rights reserved_]


My object in writing this book is to present an explanation of so-called
occult phenomena concerning which credulity is still as busy as in the
days of witchcraft. The producers of these phenomena have been exposed
efficiently and often, but their supporters are as active as ever, and
show a simple faith which is more convincing than any argument.
Moreover, the producers themselves--mediums, clairvoyants,
water-diviners, seers, or whatever they may be--are sometimes of such
apparent honesty and simplicity that disbelief seems almost a sacrilege;
therefore part of my aim is to show how a man believing firmly in his
own honesty may yet practise elaborate trickery and deceit.

As the book is intended for readers presumably unacquainted with the
trend of modern psychology, it is necessary to point out how much of the
opinions set forth are accepted by workers at the subject.

The theory of dissociation has, as far as I know, no opponents. It was
applied by Pierre Janet to hysteria and water-divining, thought-reading,
etc., all of which he regarded as psychologically identical.[1]

[Footnote 1: See _L'Automatisme Psychologique_. Alcan; Paris.]

The theory of the unconscious, which we owe to Freud, of Vienna, is
still strongly opposed, and the influence, or even the existence, of
repressions is disputed by those who have not looked for them,
undoubted cases of loss of memory being regarded as something of quite
different nature. A growing number of workers, however, both here and in
America, appreciate the importance of these contributions to psychology.

The possible development of the hysteric from the malingerer by the
repression of the knowledge of deceit is an idea of my own, which is not
accepted by any one of importance.

These explanations are necessary in fairness to the reader, but I regard
appeals to authority on matters of opinion as pernicious, and try to
present my opinions in such a way as to allow them to be judged on their

Nevertheless, since I take for granted that supernatural phenomena are
not what their producers would have us believe, and at the same time
make no general attempt to prove their human origin, I must refer the
reader to books on the subject, viz., _Studies in Psychical Research_,
by the late Frank Podmore, which treats the spiritualists
sympathetically and weakens occasionally in its unbelief; _Spiritualism
and Sir Oliver Lodge_, by Dr. Charles Mercier, which is a direct and
vigorous attack upon them; and _The Question_, by Edward Clodd, a book
dealing with the subject historically from primitive man to 'Feda'.
Stuart Cumberland, in _Spiritualism--the Inside Truth_, records some of
the results of his vain search for spiritist phenomena that will bear
investigation; and in _The Road to Endor_ the authors relate the story
of a deliberate fraud that was accepted by their friends as a genuine

M. C.




















The body of man is made up of an infinite number of cells--minute masses
of living substance--grouped into organs subserving particular
functions, and held together by skeletal structures, bones and
containing membranes such as the horny layer of the skin which are
formed by the living cells. The whole is comparable to citizens grouped
in farms and factories subserving one or other function necessary for
the commonweal; and just as the city has its transport connecting the
whole, distributing food and the various products of the factories, a
drainage and scavenger system taking away the waste material, and a
telephone system through which operations can be ordered and
co-ordinated according to the needs of the commonweal, so has the body
its blood circulation, digestive and excretive systems, and a
co-ordinating nervous system. How small are the cells, how infinite
their number is shown by the fact that each drop of blood the size of a
pin's head contains five million red corpuscles; there are five or six
pints of blood in the body!

The living substance, e.g. of a nerve cell, appears as a watery
substance crowded with a countless number of granules, which are so
small that only the light dispersed around each is visible under the
highest power of the microscope when illuminated by a beam of light
against a dark ground, just as the halo of each dust particle in the air
is made visible by a beam of light crossing a dark room, and just as
these dust particles are in dancing motion due to the currents of air,
so are the particles in the living substance ceaselessly kept dancing by
the play of inter-molecular forces. From the dead substance of the cells
the chemist extracts various complex colloidal substances, e.g.
proteins, fats, carbohydrates, and various salts, and these in their
turn he can resolve into chemical elements. The interplay of energy
between the multitude of electrically charged granules inside the cell,
and the environment outside keeps up the dance of life, the radiant
energy of the sun, and the atomic energy of the elements being the
ultimate source of the energy transmutations exhibited by both living
and non-living matter.

In the living cell there is an interplay of the energy of masses of
molecules forming the granules, of single molecules in watery solution,
of atoms which compose the molecules, and of electrons, the various
groupings of which compose the atoms of the elements. The elements
themselves are now recognised to be transmutable through simplification
and rearrangement of their electronic structure, and to be evolved out
of one primordial electronic unit, a unit of energy, unknowable in
nature, out of the groupings and transmutations of which arise all
manner of living and non-living forms, the apparently indestructible
stable materials being no less in a state of flux and evolution than the
most unstable. The complexity of the transmutations of energy and
ultimate unknowableness and mystery of their cause are no less in the
case of a drop of water or a particle of dirt than in that of a living
cell. The scientific conception of the universe, the very opposite of
materialism, approaches pantheism.

The living substance of a uni-cellular organism, similarly the congery
of cells forming the body of man, has evolved the power of sensing and
of moving towards, or away from life-giving or destroying sources of
energy. Special sense-organs, receptive of one or other form of energy
have been evolved through the æons of the struggle for existence,
together with nervous and muscular systems, to enable him to preserve
his life in the midst of the shocks and thrills of his environment.
There are also evolved inner senses, and a sympathetic nervous system
which knits all parts of the body in harmonious action; the community of
action also being brought about by the circulating fluids of the body,
the blood and the lymph, to which each living cell gives and from which
each cell takes. For communion with the environment, eyes for visual,
and sense organs in the skin for thermal radiant energy have been
perfected, ears for sound waves travelling through air, taste organs for
substances in solution, smell organs for particles of substances
floating in the atmosphere, touch organs for sensing movements of

The receptive cells of the special sense organs are composed of watery,
granular, living substance and elaborate mechanisms have been evolved
for converting one or other form of energy into such a form that it can
be received by the living substance, e.g. the intricate structure of the
eye with its focussing lenses, retinal cells laden with pigment
sensitive to light, the ear with its drum membrane vibrating in unison
with sound waves in the air, its chain of transmitting osicles, and
complicated receiving organ placed in the spiral turns of the cochlea.
Be it noted, the receptive cells of the sense organs are immersed in
fluid, and each sense organ is specifically sensitive, i.e. only to that
form of energy which it has been evolved to receive through countless
ages of evolution.

The nervous system is composed of myriads of nerve cells, and of nervous
fibres, which are long and exceedingly slender processes of these cells
formed of similar substance, each shielded and insulated by a double
coat. The nerve cells and the nerves are arranged in an ordered plan
which has been unravelled by ingenious methods. They connect all parts
of the body one with another. Think of the whole telephone system of
Britain linked up together with millions of receivers, thousands of
local exchanges, hundreds of central exchanges, etc., the nervous system
with its sense organs, sensory nerves, lower and higher nerve centres
and motor nerves, is infinitely more intricate than that. The whole
forms an interlacing feltwork formed of watery nerve cells and
processes, and not only receives sensory stimuli and transmits them as
motor impulses, but is more or less permanently _modified_ by each
sensory thrill which enters it, memorising each, more or less, for
longer or shorter time according to its character or intensity. Thus the
response of the nervous system to sensory excitation changes with
education, habits form and character develops from birth to manhood, to
decay again from manhood to old age, ceaselessly changing, but becoming
graved on a certain plan. The making thereof depends on inborn qualities
of the living substance--the conjugate product of the male and female
parents, this moulded by environmental conditions, both in utero and
after birth, by food, and the ceaseless instreaming of sensations.
Depending on the nutrition of the cortex of the great brain, abrogated
by narcotics, absent in sleep, consciousness of our being flickers from
moment to moment, the product of the instreaming of sensations from the
outer world and from our own body, and of memories of past sensations,
aroused, by some present sensation. Conscious judgement arises from the
balancing of present sensations with memorised sensations and leads to
purposeful actions.

Beneath the conscious world an infinite host of functions are carried
out unconsciously, functions depending on the nervous connection of one
part with another, just as the common people carry out a host of actions
through the telephone system without the cognisance of the government
which is seated at the highest central exchange.

To find food, satisfy the sexual instinct, escape enemies, gain shelter
from excessive physical changes of environment, the special senses and
nervous system have then been evolved and perfected in the intricacy of
their mechanism through vast æons of evolution. There is evidence that
man has for some million years trod the earth; but the senses of sight,
hearing, smell, taste, touch were evolved in the vast procession of
lower animals which preceded him for those millions of years which reach
back and ever back to the first generation of life.

The realisation of these facts saves the physiologist from being
deceived, either by fraudulent tricks or those natural chances of human
occurrence which occasion the belief of the credulous in telepathy. He
recognises that the human nervous system is built on a common plan, and
that it is to be expected that the sensory stimuli received from a given
environmental condition will often arouse the same train of thought in
two or more people, standing together, especially in those who
habitually associate. Such coincidences of thought, which astonish the
ignorant, are due to natural law. Human experience shows that
judgements of fundamental importance which would, if transmittable to
another at a distance by telepathy, win a fortune, save a defeat, etc.,
are never so transmitted. The Stock Exchange and the army in the field
must have their telephone and telegraph systems and messengers. No more
concentrated will to send information, which might bring succour, say
from the artillery, could be given than by men in peril of their lives
in the trenches, when the enemy came swarming over the top, but we know
that with the wires cut and the human messengers killed no succour came.
Neither does it come to the liner which, in full proud course with its
freight of thousands of souls strikes an iceberg, unless the wireless
mechanism be installed and operated so that the S.O.S. signal is
despatched. Otherwise it sinks without trace, as the Germans advised
their 'U' boats to let their victim merchant ships sink.

The phenomena of wireless telegraphy and of radio-active elements have
led people to think that some direct means of communication of energy
from one brain to another may be possible, that is without intervention
of the special senses. There is not the least evidence in favour of this
view; the evolution of the senses is wholly against it. It is true that
all vital activity is accompanied by electrical change--by a flow of
electrons--in the living matter, the nervous impulse itself may be so
transmitted. Such electrical change by a special evolution of structure
is magnified in the electric organ of certain fishes and used by them as
a weapon of offence. It is then sensed just as an electric shock from a
battery is sensed, and the intensity of the shock lessens inversely as
the square of the distance. There is no evidence that the minute
electrical changes accompanying nervous action in man are transmittable
to a distance through space; the nerves are evolved to confine and
convey these as nerve impulses to suitable receivers within their body
whereby function is co-ordinated.

A radio-active element enters into the composition of the living matter,
e.g. potassium. A nutritive fluid can be prepared from a watery solution
of sodium calcium and potassium salts capable of keeping the excised
heart of the frog in action. The place of potassium in this fluid can be
taken by the energy radiated from radio-active material placed suitably
near the weak solution of the other two salts which contains the heart.
Too strong a radiation kills the heart. Wonderful as this new discovery
is it is comparable with the well-known fact that the radiant energy of
the sun--either heat rays or the cold ultraviolet rays of intense
chemical action--while beneficent, when properly graded, kill the living
substance which is over-exposed to them. Hence the evolution of the
green colour of plants and the pigment in the skin of animals, which
acts as screens.

It has recently been shown that trees pick up the long waves used in
wireless telegraphy, and can be used as receivers, but there is no
evidence that animals are sensitive to these waves. No one knew either
of their existence or of that of magnetic storms until instruments were
invented suitably tuned to pick up the waves of energy and demonstrate
them to one or other of man's special senses--sight, hearing or touch.

Every invention of science goes to prove that knowledge enters only
through the avenue of the senses, which are tuned to the receipt of
certain forms of energy. Other forms of energy to which the senses are
not tuned must be converted by instrumental means into a form of energy
which can be sensed.

Contrary then to scientific evidence is the supposition that waves of
energy proceed directly through space from the watery granular living
substance of one brain, confined within skull and skin, and passes into
the similar substance of another. If any such direct transmission and
reception of energy were possible why were æons spent in the evolution
of sense organs, and why is the labour of men spent in perfecting the
means of communication of his thoughts by observation of the movements
of expression, by speech, writing, semaphore, heliograph, telegraph and
telephone and by waves of energy sent through wires or wireless space?

In _The Road to Endor_, we read how two clever officers, E. H. Jones and
C. W. Hill, giving the whole time of a tedious captivity to evolving
tricks of the business, successfully fooled a hundred of their
fellow-officer prisoners, men of intelligence and education, into belief
in telepathy. In the appendix of their book there is given a portion of
their telepathy code to show the sort of system which may be worked, a
code which allowed the communication of the names of hundreds of common
articles, numbers, the names of all the officers in the camp, etc. They
could use the code with, or without speaking; perfection in its use, the
authors say, involved a good deal of memory work and constant practice.
'Nothing but the blankness of our days, and the necessity of keeping our
minds from rusting could have excused the waste of time entailed by
preparation for a thought-reading exhibition. It is hardly a fitting
occupation for free men.' What these officers could do obviously the
professional conjurer can do, no less the humbug and quack who swindles
money out of the credulous and superstitious. Let no one give credence
to telepathy till he or she has read this most amusing and educative
book. The authors no less humbugged the camp by planchette writing
whereby they transmitted messages supposed to come from disembodied
spirits. They fooled not only their fellow-prisoners with these spirit
messages, but the Turkish interpreter and Commandant of the camp,
gaining thereby important concessions. They planned a daring method of
escape which depended on exciting the cupidity of the Commandant and on
a hunt for buried treasure, occupying many months of preparation, and
only failing at the last through the unwitting interference of a brother
officer. Some of their 'spirit' messages were actually transmitted
through the Commandant to the War Office in Constantinople, so implicit
became his obedience. What these two officers affected is unequalled by
anything in Sir Oliver Lodge's evidence as set forth in _Raymond_. They
give details of how they used chance remarks and trivial facts heard and
memorised months beforehand, and of how they observed and were guided by
the slightest variation in tone of answer or movement of their victims,
which expressed interest and excitement or the reverse, and so built up
a story of some past action which clinched belief. The hits were
striking and memorised, and the misses unnoticed, forgotten--for such is
the tendency of the human mind. Such are the methods of the professional
medium, and in _The Road to Endor_ they lie unravelled and fully

The physiologist recognises the tendency of those with unstable, nervous
temperaments--e.g. hysterical girls--to gain interest and cause
excitement at any cost of trouble in developing methods of deceit. Hence
the ghostly visitations of houses, the mysterious bell-ringings,
rappings, spillings of water, etc. I, myself, have personally come
across and investigated two of these cases--one of a young, educated
woman who played pranks on the house of her hosts, pouring water into
their beds, etc.; the other of a servant-maid who caused the
disappearance of meat from the larder, and dirtying the cat's feet made
it make foot-marks on a perpendicular wall leading to the larder window,
who spirited away the gardener's firewood and wrote mysterious letters
in a feigned hand, the imprint of which were found in her blotting-book,
and who reported she saw a mysterious woman prowling round the house.

The few eminent scientists who have expressed their belief in
spiritualism are mostly physicists, e.g. Crookes, Oliver Lodge and W.
Barrett--men who have not made a life-study of physiology and nervous
disorders, who are not familiar with the attainments and methods of
conjurers and professional impostors, and are shielded in their
laboratories and home life from close acquaintance with human deceit and
cunning. Their familiarity with the transmission of waves of energy in
dead material, and through space leads them to concepts which cannot
justly be applied to living beings. To the physiologist, who recognises
the majestic unity of natural phenomena, belief in telepathy and
spiritualism appear a form of materialism as gross as the ju-ju
superstition of the Benin native.

Nothing can excite greater contempt than the mean trivialities which are
served as communications from that infinite, silent universe wherein the
energy of individual life sinks on death.

The belief in spiritualism works grave harm on ignorant, credulous
people of nervous temperament, and fills the pockets of rascally
impostors. Its practice should then be as sternly suppressed by the law
as any other fraud and imposture. Dr. Culpin, in his valuable and
thoughtful treatment of this subject, shows, _inter alia_, how the
medium requires no less to be protected from deception and ruin of his
own soul than does his dupe.




From the moment of waking till we fall asleep again our thoughts are
busy, one thought following another all day long without a break and
each being in some way related to the preceding one. Memories come up
into the stream, the outer world is constantly affecting it through our
senses, and we tend to think that all our mind-work is done in this
'stream of consciousness'.

But beneath our stream of consciousness lies a deep sea of memories,
feelings, and directive influences. All our previous experience is
buried there, and no man knows how much he knows. Every one has
experienced the sudden recollections which come up unsought when a
sight, a sound, or a scent makes association with something long past
and apparently forgotten; and not only our memories of things, places,
and people, but our past mental processes themselves lie in this deep
sea of the _unconscious_, to help or hinder us in the present or

I speak of the unconscious, though there are objections to the use of
the word, which may lead to such a contradiction of terms as
'unconscious knowledge'. It is much more than a storehouse of memories:
it is the seat of mental processes which take place unknown to us and
are revealed at times in strange and unexpected ways. It comes into
contact with the stream of consciousness, and, as we so often find in
attempting to classify natural phenomena, there are no well-marked lines
of demarcation between one and the other, though the extremes are
definite enough.

The unconscious is not always a willing servant and often refuses to
obey the wishes of its owner. Every one has at some time vainly tried to
recall a name which is 'on the tip of the tongue', and one name after
another is tried till perhaps the right one comes up and leaves us
wondering where the difficulty was. There is, according to the teaching
of some psychologists, always a reason for this failure to remember,
though even an apparently ordinary example may need a skilful analysis
to show how the failure arose and why the other names presented
themselves. Slips of the tongue are likewise dependent upon unconscious
influences, and, although I was once sceptical, a few examinations of my
own slips have convinced me of the truth of this little theory. Here is
an example of one of them, such as occurs often enough and would
ordinarily be passed over without further examination:--

Sitting one evening with friends who were interested in this subject, I
read aloud a paragraph from the book I was reading, and was asked the
name of the author. My answer, after a slight pause, was 'Robert Brown';
it was immediately corrected by one of my friends, who pointed out that
the author was Robert Smith (the names are fictitious), and called upon
me for an explanation of the mistake. The first question was, 'Who is
Brown?' and the only Brown I knew was a man concerning whom I had a few
days before received a letter with information about him which led me to
regard him with strong dislike. The next point was that we had been
recently discussing the private life of Robert Smith, and I had
manifested dislike towards his actions. Then I remembered that when I
was asked the name of the author there had flashed into my consciousness
the feeling that he was not precisely the sort of man I liked. Although
the rest of the chain of thought was unknown to me at the time, yet it
became plain, under my friends' cross-examination, that this feeling of
dislike had called up the name of the other victim of my displeasure,
though questions from my friends were necessary before I could remember
to whom the other name referred.

The last point is quite characteristic, for there seems to be a definite
resistance in the mind of the perpetrator of the slip against piecing
together his thought processes, and the aid of some one else is
necessary to enable, or force him, to do it; then he feels compelled to
acknowledge the hidden thoughts. The difficulty in recognising and
admitting the cause of such slips is due to their being so often the
expression of feelings which the owner does not like to publish to the
world or perhaps even acknowledge to himself.

But the unconscious is not always, or even often, such a useless
intruder upon our everyday life. It economises our energies, and often
takes us by short cuts to ends which would otherwise need continued
reasoning. 'Intuition' is the product of previous experience, and rises
into the consciousness as a finished judgement without the owner of the
gift being aware of the factors concerned in its formation. One kind of
intuition is improperly called in my profession 'clinical instinct',
but, unlike instinct, it is a result of training and experience, and is
never seen without them. Here is an example which came under my notice:
An ophthalmic house-surgeon, busy with new patients, sees a man aged
about thirty-five, who complains of failing sight, and without further
investigation he writes on the man's book, 'Tobacco amblyopia?' and
sends him in to his chief. Later on his chief asks him, 'How did you
spot this case?' and the house-surgeon answers, 'I don't know, but he
looked like it'. The chief agrees that there is something which can be
seen but not described in the looks of a sufferer from this complaint.
Now this house-surgeon, though keen on his work, had seen only a few
cases of that disease, and I do not now accept his explanation of how he
'spotted' it. A man of thirty-five may find his sight failing from
various causes, but the common ones are not many. If the cause had been
'long-sight', he would have complained that he could not see to read;
certain general diseases causing loss of sight at that age would perhaps
have visible symptoms; the man was too young for cataract, and his eyes
looked healthy. In short, tobacco amblyopia was a reasonable guess, and,
when we remember that the disease is caused by smoking strong pipe
tobacco, and that the man who smokes that tobacco generally smells of
it, it is fair to suppose that it was not the evidence of his eyes alone
that guided the house-surgeon in his guess, though he was not conscious
of any train of reasoning nor was he aware of the smell of stale

This suggests that a stimulus may act upon our thoughts without our
being conscious of the origin of the feeling produced, and this is what
happens in connection with that well-known sensation, felt on visiting a
new place, that one has been there before. If a close examination is
made it will be found that there is really something--a picture, a
scent, or even so slight a stimulus as a puff of warm air--which has
stirred a memory in the unconscious; this memory fails to reach the
consciousness in its entirety, or it would immediately be recognised as
caused by the particular stimulus, but in its incomplete form it appears
as a memory of nothing in particular. Such a memory being inconceivable
it is at once joined on to the whole scene, and one feels 'I've surely
been here before'. This feeling may be regarded as an intuition in its
most useless and incomplete form, but its theoretical importance will be
seen later.

Women exercise intuition more than do men, and up to a point this gives
them an advantage, though it may annoy the male who prefers to find his
reasons on the surface and call them logical.

    'The reason why I cannot tell,
    But this I know and know full well,
    I do not like thee, Dr. Fell',

is a perfect example of intuition, and a full analysis of the
unconscious of the poet would undoubtedly recall a wealth of reasons
why. Still, intuition is likely to be a fallible guide, and the man who
wishes to avoid trouble with his personal dislikes must always be
prepared to check it by whatever conscious knowledge and reasoning power
he may possess. The lines quoted above would be a poor defence against a
charge of assault.

The person who is guided by intuition in some accustomed situation may
be incapable of understanding why another person has not that power. I
saw an example of this when I was making a short journey in the North
Queensland bush with a white boy who had been reared in that district,
but was a stranger to the particular locality in which we then were. It
was a rainy day, and we were bound for a place which could be reached by
following a stream down to the main river and then travelling up the
latter, and this route I proposed to take. My companion showed
astonishment at this, and said, pointing as it were along the other side
of the triangle, 'But that's the way.' I agreed, but told him that I
couldn't find the way and should get 'bushed' if I tried. He could not
understand, but we set off for a ride of some nine to ten miles through
fairly dense timber with the boy as guide. In vain I asked him how he
kept his course; in similar circumstances I should have marked a tree as
far ahead as possible and ridden towards it, marking another before I
reached the first, and so on. All he could say was, 'That's the way',
and I puzzled him by my questions more than he puzzled me by his ability
to go straight to our destination.

The sense of direction is of course well known amongst animals, and I
have often in my bush-days confidently trusted my horse to take me to
his and my home on the darkest of nights. Although one talks of the
'sense of direction', there is no need to assume anything more than
ordinary sense perceptions interpreted by the unconscious workings of
the mind. The man who is over-anxious about his capabilities cannot
allow his unconscious to take charge of his thoughts in this way. I was
always afraid of being lost in the bush and always preoccupied with the
need for carefully watching my course; therefore, although I could find
my way, I never developed a 'sense of direction'.

To sum up, the unconscious is a collection of mental processes,
memories, desires, and influences of infinite variety which are not
always or even often perceived as such by our conscious mind, but the
presence of which may and does influence our thoughts and actions. By
its aid we obtain results the factors of which are unknown to us, and of
which we fail to recognise the origin, and in it is stored not only what
we remember but also what we forget. It is in relation to our stream of
consciousness and normally blends with it, but the more independently we
can allow it to operate the more surely does it reach its end in certain

I must add that Freud introduces a _foreconscious_ to indicate the
mind-contents which are accessible to the consciousness, but are not of
it, but for the sake of simplicity I have avoided the use of that word.
The reader must bear in mind that such terms are used to describe not
phenomena, but conceptions. Newspapers, the voices of men in the train
or the street, marks on ballot-papers, are all phenomena, but 'public
opinion' is only a conception useful to facilitate the expression of
ideas. If one asks, 'Where is this unconscious and what does it look
like?', I can only answer by asking, 'Where is this "public opinion" and
what does it look like?'

The same caution is necessary in regard to other phrases. The stream of
consciousness and dissociation are conceptions only, and are not
intended to indicate the existence of things having relation to each
other in space; the words are used as convenient means to sum up
processes which I hope to show really take place.



Every man likes to think that his creed, religious, political, or
social, is founded upon reason; but let the reader consider the beliefs
of his acquaintances and he will soon realise that they depend far more
upon early training, social position, and the general influence of
surroundings than upon any reasoning process. After this exercise let
him turn his critical powers upon his own beliefs and examine closely
how far they are dependent upon reason or upon influences which he has
not recognised before.

Who can say that, in the days when Home-Rulers and anti-Home-Rulers
abounded, the average voter was swayed by a reasoned knowledge of the
subject? Yet he was quite sure that his side was right and the other
wrong, and found it hard to understand how any sane man could own the
opinions the other fellows held. Let us picture two neighbours of
opposite political beliefs:--if they are both keen gardeners they may
exchange views about methods and manures, and in case of difference of
opinion one will possibly convince the other by argument. On other
matters, too, they will mutually be open to conviction. If one favours
Ilfracombe for a holiday and the other swears by Torquay, the latter may
decide to try Ilfracombe for a change. But let them discuss Home Rule
till the crack of doom and neither will convince the other by any
process of reasoning; yet each will believe firmly that his opinions are
the results of reason, finding an infinity of argument to support them.

Or let anyone start a discussion on a so-called moral question, such as
polygamy. He will arouse the warmest expressions of opinion that
polygamy is sinful, absurd, and unworkable, and may point in vain to
such countries as China, where it apparently works with no more trouble
than occurs with our system. Reasons will be showered on him, but
scarcely anyone will admit that he objects to polygamy because he has
been taught to regard monogamy as the only proper state of marriage.

A man, honestly believing that he is always actuated by certain moral
principles, may do things which others regard as opposed to those
principles, and if approached on the subject will be greatly annoyed and
produce a chain of argument to justify his actions.

Scarcely any of us are free from these failings; certain beliefs we keep
stored away, allowing nothing to interfere with them. They are placed in
logic-tight compartments and carefully guarded by a pseudo-reasoning
which satisfies our desire for logical explanation.

To this pseudo-reasoning is given the name of 'rationalisation', and,
lest anyone may be offended by finding the same term applied to the
process by which lunatics defend their delusions, I will add that there
is no dividing line between health and disease, and the modes of thought
of the insane are not so very different from those of the ordinary man.

To return now to the subject of 'logic-tight compartments'. Each
contains a collection of ideas which are treated by the owner in a
special way, cherished and guarded carefully from those forces which may
cause modification. At the same time he will probably refuse to admit
that they influence his consideration of certain questions related to
them. The more logic-tight the compartment is, the more warmly does its
owner defend it; but where plain reasoning is concerned few men can be
roused to enthusiasm. Even though there may be people who regard the
reasonings of Euclid as purely appeals to the emotions, what
mathematician could grow excited about a man who denied the truth of the
Fifth Proposition? But to run counter to a man's political or social
beliefs is a sure way to raise the controversial temperature.

As will be easily seen, rationalisation is of everyday occurrence with
all of us, and the man who rationalises always believes he is reasoning.

Consider now the business rogue who makes a success of his roguery and
then launches out as a philanthropist, still continuing his roguery as a
permanent side-line. Such cases are not unknown, and the man seems able
to carry on without any sense of conflict between his two activities.
Or consider those not uncommon instances where a man prominent in
religious work is detected in some financial crime; it is usual to
regard him as a hypocrite who has used religion as a cloak, but it is
equally probable that he was honestly religious, that his earliest steps
into crime were reconciled to his principles by rationalisations, and,
as he advanced, a logic-tight compartment was built up to prevent
conflict between his wrong-doing and his self-respect.

In these examples we have a part of the stream which comes into contact
with the main stream of consciousness only by means of a process of
rationalisation which allows the two to exist without great mental
conflict, but this will never be admitted by the owner, though other
people may be acutely conscious of it.

Here, to simplify explanation, I must introduce the word _complex_ as
used to indicate a system of ideas having a common centre,[2] whether
the system is present in the consciousness or exists only in the

[Footnote 2: The word 'complex' was originally used by Freud only in
regard to ideas existing in the unconscious, but the way in which I use
it is convenient and follows the custom of some English writers.]

Our ideas of morality, religion, or politics form complexes, as do our
desires and disappointments. An ardent photographer or naturalist is
possessed of a complex concerning his hobby, and this complex tends to
turn his thoughts in the corresponding direction. If a keen botanist
and an equally keen amateur photographer are travelling by train each
views the scenery according to his complex: the one might note the trees
and plants, their flowering or bursting into leaf, and how they vary
with the soil, and might speculate as to what finds a closer view might
produce; the other sees the same objects, but is busy composing
pictures, thinking out distances and exposures, or differences of light
and shade.

The man with 'a bee in his bonnet' gives an example of a single powerful
complex; but all our thinking is a matter of complexes except on those
rare occasions when logic alone is concerned, such as the consideration
of a problem of mathematics. Scientific men are prone to believe that
their mind-work is purely logical; so it is, up to a certain point, and
the more exact the science the less room there is for thinking in
complexes; but the reception of a new theory is always opposed by those
whose firmly established complexes are offended by it. The aim of
scientific training is to eliminate complex thinking and substitute
logic, and in the exact sciences this is practically attained; but as
soon as the trained man forsakes his laboratory or workshop methods he
is at the mercy of his complexes and becomes the ordinary rationalising
human being.

There is a great difference between a complex, such as photography, of
which the influence is recognised and admitted by its owner, and
another, such as a political one, where the influence is strongly
denied. The latter is kept in a logic-tight compartment and reconciled
to the reason by rationalisations.

Instincts have their abode in the unconscious and differ from acquired
influences in being inborn and common to the race. It is difficult to
determine what emotions and desires are truly inborn, as Benjamin Kidd
shows in a valuable personal observation.[3]

[Footnote 3: _The Science of Power_, p. 284. Methuen & Co., 1918.]

He found a wild duck's nest as the young birds had just emerged from the
egg, the mother-bird flying off at his approach. He took the young birds
out of the nest and they showed no fear, nestling from time to time on
his feet. Then he moved away and saw the mother-bird return with 'the
great terror of man' upon her; next he approached the group again, but
the mother-bird flew away with warning quacks and the little ones
scattered to cover. He found one of them, but it was now 'a wild
transformed creature trembling in panic which could not be subdued'.

McDougall, whose work on Instinct holds high rank, places 'flight' with
its emotion of 'fear' among the primary instincts. The apperception of
danger is necessary in order to call up this instinct, and Kidd shows
that when once the fear of danger from man is planted in the young birds
it becomes integrated with the instinct and inseparable from it.
Acquired tendencies associated with emotion can therefore share the
strength of instincts (the application of this fact is the theme of Mr.
Kidd's book), and we accordingly find the results of early training
accepted by the consciousness as perfect and unquestionable. This same
characteristic applies, in a modified degree, to all complex thinking.
Carry on an argument with an intelligent man on any complex-governed
subject, and he will nearly always come down to the bed-rock foundation
that he believes his view to be right because he _feels it_. Then you
may cease the discussion.

It is by this reasoning that we can understand the attributes of the
German mind. The German had certain complexes concerning the Right of
Might so built into his unconscious that he gave them the obedience that
is demanded by an instinct, and nothing short of national disaster could
induce him to relinquish them.



How we remember is an old and unsolved question, but few people think of
asking how we forget: and yet one problem is as important as the other.
I cannot answer either except by putting a new one, which is, 'Do we
ever forget?'

If we specify the factors concerned in memory and say that it depends
upon impression, retention, and recall, then what do we mean by
'forgetting'? If an event makes no impression upon the mind there is
neither remembering nor forgetting; if there is retention of a memory,
but one cannot recall it, it is nevertheless stored in the mind and may
yet be revived by some association. So that the only certain factor in
forgetting is the loss of power of recall, for what is apparently quite
forgotten may still be retained in the unconscious.

Can we voluntarily forget? If by that is meant, 'Can we voluntarily lose
the power of voluntary recall?' I must, strange as it seems at first
sight, assert that we can, though I make the proviso that 'voluntarily'
is a word with a very elastic meaning, and one whose definition would
open up the never-ended argument about Free-will. I will take refuge in
a quotation[4]:--

     'We ought not to assume that a clear and full anticipation or idea
     of the end is an essential condition of purposive action, and we
     have no warrant for setting up the instances in which anticipation
     is least incomplete as alone conforming to the purposive type, and
     for setting apart all instances in which anticipation is less full
     and definite as of a radically different nature.'

[Footnote 4: McDougall, _Social Psychology_, p. 359.]

Expressing this idea in the terms employed in the previous chapters, we
can picture an action as being produced by motives in consciousness, and
these motives as being influenced to a greater or less extent by the
instincts, emotions, and desires of the unconscious. Every action is
influenced by the unconscious, however voluntary it may appear. The
young man who seeks the society of a maiden may think he is acting
voluntarily and with full consciousness of the end in view, but the end
is often visualised by the friends of the pair before the young man
realises where his instincts and emotions have led him.

The man who resolutely refuses to think of an unpleasant experience and
shuts off the thought of it whenever it rises into his consciousness may
not have the intention of placing it beyond reach of voluntary recall,
but he may succeed in so doing, and the process by which the end was
reached was voluntary. That we have this power is shown by the
investigation of war-strained soldiers of the type said to be suffering
from 'shell-shock'. These men are often stout fellows who have fought
long and bravely, and whose condition is a result of the emotions they
have suffered rather than of any particular shell explosion. Their
typical symptoms are depression, dreams of battle horrors, tremors and
stammerings, and strange fears without apparent cause.

In an ordinary case there is great difficulty in persuading the man to
talk about his war experiences: he says plainly that he doesn't want to
talk about them, or may persistently avoid the subject, or he gives a
poor account and shows difficulty in recall, or he claims to have
forgotten and requires stimulating in order to remember, or he may have
an absolute blank in his memory for certain periods.

Here we see all grades of the result of trying to forget, and the more
successful the result the more difficult is the cure; for though the
memories are repressed their associated emotions cannot be so dealt
with, but remain in consciousness exaggerated and distorted. The
dependence of an emotion upon a repressed memory prevents the sufferer
from knowing its cause, and the sufferer from an apparently causeless
emotion is to be pitied, for he can see no end to his trouble.

A man who was afraid of walking in the dark for fear of falling into
holes which he knew only existed as a product of his fancy, affords a
simple example of this condition. He said that his fear was absurd,
therefore it was useless to point out to him its absurdity; the proper
course was to show that it was not absurd, that it had a cause, and
that the cause was something in the past which, when recognised, could
be reasoned away. Fortunately the cause was easily found by any one with
a knowledge of modern war: there was soon brought to light a 'forgotten'
memory of his mates being drowned in shell-holes at night, and the fear
disappeared as the patient learnt to look his memories in the face and
not sink them into his unconscious.

More striking, however, are those cases in which a man forgets all his
war experiences, and, though he is ready to believe that he has spent,
say, two years in France, has no recollection of them. Such cases are
not rare, the loss of memory often including part or all of the
patient's previous life. One man could only remember the last three
months of his life and failed to recognise his own father, though his
memory was subsequently restored; this loss, occurring suddenly, could
hardly be in any degree voluntary, though it served the purpose of
excluding many horrible memories from his consciousness. Another nervous
lad was so constituted that he forgot all incidents that frightened him,
only to be haunted by the emotions attached to them. Seeing a
steeple-jack fall was forgotten, and produced nightmares for years; a
practical joke gave him a terror of the dark; his sister calling to him
when burglars were in the house gave him hallucinations of voices; and
minor incidents were equally forgotten, each producing its own symptoms.
As the individual memories were brought up from his unconscious he went
through the fright again, but the associated symptoms soon disappeared.

In these pathological losses of memory, whether for one incident or for
a whole period, it is important to note that the patient does not
necessarily recognise the incident when he is told of it, just as the
lad mentioned above failed to recognise his father when he met him. A
patient may in a sleep-walking state act as if performing a definite
action, such as bayoneting one of the enemy, and when awake deny all
knowledge of such an incident; yet the memory of it may return later
with overwhelming emotion. This failure to recognise a personal
experience is of great importance in the consideration of some
spiritualist phenomena.

It requires little thought to realise that the only memories we try to
repress are those that conflict with our other feelings or desires, and
their repression is to some extent tolerated by a healthy man and may be
regarded to that extent as a normal process.

But in addition to the repression of unpleasant memories there are other
ways of forgetting. It has been assumed that each individual has a limit
to his capacity for remembering, and that when that limit is reached
fresh memories can be stored up only by casting out old ones. Whether
that be so or not, it is certain that we can recall to consciousness
only a tiny fraction of our past experiences, and no one can say what
proportion that fraction bears to the whole contents of the storehouse
of the unconscious. Let two men meet and recall old school-days spent
together: one memory brings up another, schoolboy phrases and terms of
speech appear as it were spontaneously, and by their united efforts the
two recall far more than the sum of their recollections before the
meeting, and still neither knows how much is left untouched.

The ordinary man reads many books, and each one leaves some impression
and has some influence upon his later thoughts, though in time the
recollection, not only of the contents of the book, but even of having
read it, may fade away. This is the explanation of some cases of
literary plagiarism: a previously read phrase comes up from the
unconscious, and all recognisable connections with memory having been
lost it is greeted as a fresh creation and given rank accordingly.

There is still another type of forgetting: most of us know the man who
'draws the long bow', who embellishes his story and embroiders it with
imagined incidents, whilst we listen and wonder how much the narrator
himself believes. Fishermen's stories and snake yarns are examples, and
one explains the mental process of the story-teller by saying, 'He's
told the story so often that at last he believes it himself.' The
process is really one of forgetting and is closely allied to the
repression of an unpleasant memory, for the man is the victim of a
mental conflict: on the one side is his desire to tell a good story, and
on the other is his moral complex which forbids a lie, so he solves the
conflict by forgetting that the embroideries are inventions. This type
is an important one, and what I shall call the 'repression of the
knowledge of deceit' plays an important part in the explanation of the
abnormal phenomena with which this book deals. In tracing the
development of the abnormal we must start with what is nearest the
normal, and the man who embroiders his story gives an illustration of
the simplest form of this particular repression.

Now, just as memories are repressed because they were repugnant to the
other contents of the consciousness, so other complexes may be repugnant
and meet the same fate. To be torn by conflicting emotions is the fate
of most people at some time or other, and the conflict between two
complexes may be solved in various ways. The healthy way is to face the
difficulty, to reason it out, and reach a conclusion by which action may
be guided; another way, a common one, is to seclude one complex in a
logic-tight compartment and so avoid the conflict. The man who uses
sharp or shady methods in the city and is a gentle-minded philanthropist
in other walks of life is using the latter method, and will produce such
rationalisations as 'business is business' when the contents of his
different compartments need protection from each other.

But for some people such methods are impossible: either they cannot
directly solve the conflict or they are too self-critical to build a
logic-tight compartment, and in such cases a repression of one of the
opposing complexes may result. In this way complexes concerning
ambitions and desires may be repressed, and so may those concerning
fears and dislikes. The youth put to an uncongenial trade, the man or
woman married to an unsuitable partner, may find no escape from the
position and decide to bear it and forget its anxiety. How far this
succeeds depends upon the previously existing tendencies of the
individual: he may suffer no evil from the repression or, like the
soldier's repressed war memories, it may manifest itself by indirect
means and the unfortunate sufferer becomes a victim of one of the varied
forms of neurosis.

The day-dreams of youth are rarely openly expressed: no one can tell
what fantasies a child may have, and many of us are familiar with the
thoughtful child who sits lost in meditation and presents an
impenetrable barrier to the grown-up who would enter into the secrets of
the day-dream. These fancies may be, and probably are, completely
forgotten, but they can still lie in the unconscious, and Freud and his
followers claim that they influence us throughout life.



As you sit reading this book you perhaps cross your legs or move to an
easier position. Did you think, 'My leg is beginning to feel tired, I'll
shift it?' Did you even know you were shifting it? Watch a friend next
time he drives you in his car. If he is an expert driver he will talk to
you whilst his car slips through the traffic, and handle the various
gears and controls as occasion arises without apparently giving any
thought to the action; moreover, if you direct his attention to what he
is doing he may do it with less accuracy than before--like the billiard
player who carefully studies a shot and then makes a miss-cue. It is not
sufficient to call the driving automatic, though that word is often used
to describe actions of this type, for it is dependent upon innumerable
stimuli that reach the driver's mind through all his senses and there
produce sensations and impulses which have to be translated into
actions. There is much real mind-work involved, and we must regard the
driving as carried on by a part of his consciousness which is
temporarily apart from his main stream, the latter being devoted to your
intellectual entertainment.

So far as it concerns this example the splitting-off is normal. Most of
us develop such capability in some way or other: the skilful pianist
will talk while playing from sight a difficult passage, and the smoker
carries out puffing actions by his little split-off stream whilst the
main stream is solving the problem of the moment. All sorts of trivial
actions are done unknown to the doer. For instance, a man whilst reading
may have the habit of turning a pencil over and over and if any one
gently removes the pencil he will reach out for it and continue to turn
it, whilst his main stream knows nothing of the little by-play.

We see that consciousness is not fully and evenly aware of all our
actions; some actions with their accompanying mental process can be
carried on by an independent stream and, as in the case of the pianist,
the streams are of such balanced complexity that we can regard them as
co-equal. Others, like turning over the pencil, are associated with such
a lack of awareness that they hardly seem conscious, and if they are
regarded as due to a split-off stream the stream is a very minor one.

This loss of awareness can be carried further, and actions involving
complicated processes can be performed without the main personality
knowing of them. The easiest example by way of illustration is automatic
writing, often carried out by Planchette, which is a small platform
mounted on wheels and bearing a pencil whose point touches a sheet of
paper. If two people, sitting opposite each other, place their
finger-tips upon the platform it immediately begins to move, for unless
the muscular push of one operator is absolutely balanced by that of the
other the apparatus moves away from one of them; the other person
straightway resists the movement and pushes in an opposite direction,
and thus a see-saw motion is kept up which the operators cannot stop.
The resulting scrawls on the paper may be deciphered according to fancy,
but with practice a legible product is obtained; further, some people
are able to concentrate the mind upon, or in other words fill the stream
of consciousness with, another set of ideas by means of talking or
reading, so that the automatic writing is carried on by a split-off
stream of which the main stream is unaware. One person can use
Planchette alone, though the experiment is oftener carried out as
described above because unintended movements are more readily produced
by two operators.

By this trick of splitting-off, or dissociation, the operator is able to
allow ideas and memories from the unconscious to come to the surface
unrestrained by the cramping control of the consciousness; hence the
product of the automatism is usually fantastic and imaginative, though
memories are available which may be beyond the reach of the

An excellent example of this dissociation is given in _The Gate of
Remembrance_, a book which I shall consider later.

The view might be held that the dissociated stream is really a part of
the unconscious whose results make themselves manifest in the
consciousness, as I described in the first chapter when writing about
intuition; but in automatic writing the main personality is not aware of
the results: the dissociated writer does not know what he has written
until he reads it, and it may be as much news to him as to a bystander.

The two streams of thought flowing side by side exemplify one kind of
dissociation of consciousness, and others of this kind will be described
later; this type I shall call _continuous dissociation_, but there is
another which at first sight seems quite different and of which I will
give an example:--

An ex-soldier suffered from fears and depressions which made his life a
misery, and an endeavour was made to find the cause in a repressed
memory. His account of events was complete up to a certain time, but
there his recollections ceased; then one day something touched up the
hidden memory and in the presence of his doctor he went through a most
dramatic scene, showing horror at falling down a dark dug-out upon the
bodies of dead Germans and at subsequent experiences which had strongly
affected him and whose revival produced again the same emotions as the
original events. At the next interview the following dialogue took

'I want you to tell me about falling down the dug-out.'

'What dug-out, sir?'

'The one you told me about last time.'

'I don't remember telling you about it.'

'Yes you do, the dug-out at....'

'No, I don't remember any dug-out at....'

There was no reason why the man should lie, and his expression of
surprise and absence of other emotion seemed indicative of truth. When
the doctor made the man close his eyes and thus shut out his present
surroundings the memory returned with strong emotional reaction, less
intense, however, than on the former occasion.

This case can be explained by regarding his repressed complex as lying
in the unconscious, held there by the repugnance he felt towards it;
then during the interview with the doctor it rose into consciousness and
swept every other thought away. The stream of consciousness was suddenly
cut off, its place being taken by this new stream with its recollections
and emotions, and when the ordinary consciousness resumed its flow there
was no connection between it and the dramatic episode which had
interrupted, so that all memory of the episode was lost.

We can picture the repressed complex not as lying in the unconscious but
as forming a dissociated stream flowing parallel with the main one, and
showing its presence by producing those apparently causeless fears and
depressions from which the patient suffered, till it suddenly swept
aside the main stream and took its place. This alternative view shows
the absence of any sharp division between the concept of the unconscious
and of a dissociated consciousness, and at the same time brings this
_abrupt dissociation_ into harmony with continuous dissociation. Such a
dissociation, but with less emotional contents, can persist for a long
time, the subject living, as it were, the life of the dissociated
stream. Then we have a man with no memory of his previous life, but
whose repressed memories, desires, or troubles, forming a complex in the
unconscious, have finally broken across the stream of consciousness and
taken its place as a second personality. Such instances have been
described[5] as 'double personalities', and to this group belong those
cases in which a man is found wandering with all memory of his name or
associations gone. In soldiers with repressed war memories the
repression may include the whole of their war experiences, and they can
tell nothing of, say, a year spent in France; here, as long as the
repression continues, there is the potentiality of the outbreak of a
second personality.

[Footnote 5: See the _Psychology of Insanity_.]

The story of _Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde_, stripped of those portions which
R. L. Stevenson introduced to make it suit his public--the bodily change
and the drugs which produced it--can be read with interest as a study of
the development of a dissociation, the main personality being aware of
the dissociated stream but unable to control it when once the
splitting-off had been accomplished.

A less fanciful story of a dissociation is given in _A Tale of Two
Cities_, where the unfortunate Dr. Manette, having learnt shoemaking
whilst a prisoner in the Bastille, insists on retaining his tools and
material after he is rescued and brought to England, in times of stress
secluding himself for a period and living his old life again, working at
the old employment and hardly aware of the real world around him.

The source of the story might be made a subject of research by the
Dickens Fellowship, for it is too accurate to be purely a fantasy of
Charles Dickens, who, like all of his craft that live, was no mean
psychologist. Even Dr. Manette's insistence upon retaining his tools,
unaware as he was of his own reason for doing so, is consistent with
what really happens when a dissociated stream influences the

The different degrees of dissociation can be represented
diagramatically. (See opposite page.)

It is to be noted that the dissociation may be the result of purposive
action on the part of the subject, though, as will be seen in later
chapters, an entirely wrong interpretation may be given to it by the
person most concerned and by other people as well; or it may be the
result of a repression, and in that case any interpretation given by the
subject must necessarily be a wrong one, for he is ignorant of its cause
on account of the mechanism of repression, or, to put it differently, if
he knows the cause it is no longer repressed.

[Illustration: Two streams of equal value and under the same control.
Examples: The pianist and the motor-car driver. _A normal phenomenon_,
but linked to the next class by cases of absent-mindedness.]

[Illustration: Two streams, one being the ordinary stream of
consciousness and the other a stream not under the control of the main
personality, which is concerned only with the ordinary stream. Examples:
automatic writing, water-divining and hysteria (see Chapter VIII).
_Continuous dissociation._]

[Illustration: A continuous dissociation with a sudden irruption of the
dissociated into the main stream, completely replacing it for a period.
Examples: The case of the ex-soldier and those of double personality;
also somnambulisms and spiritualist trances. _Abrupt dissociation._]

Once again I will emphasise the difficulty of drawing a line between
normal and abnormal. My boy guide referred to in Chapter I was as near
normal as could be, though the means by which he kept his course might
be described as a product of dissociation. If he had been imaginative
and I credulous he could have foisted upon me a supernatural explanation
of his powers and taken his place with clairvoyants and water-diviners.
But there are manifestations of distinctly abnormal character to explain
which is the object of this book, and for the people producing these
manifestations I propose the name of Dissociates, since dissociation is
the key to the understanding of the phenomena they present.

The logic-tight compartments previously described are to be regarded as
partial dissociations to which we are all liable, the partitions being
unrecognised by their owner and the contents kept apart from the
modifying influences of the main personality. Hence when the onlooker
becomes aware of the presence of such a dissociation he does not judge
the contents of the compartment by the same standard that he applies to
the person as a whole.

There is nothing fresh in this point of view, which is admitted when
virulent political opponents can be good friends by each ignoring the
dissociated prejudices of the other, or in everyday life when in some
circles the discussion of political or religious subjects is avoided for
the sake of good fellowship.

Extreme dissociation by reason of a logic-tight compartment is shown in
that kind of insanity in which the sufferer behaves as an ordinary
being with ordinary actions and ideas except for the influence of a
systematised delusion (generally persecutory or grandiose) of most
irrational type which is impregnable to explanation or argument. On all
other points the man is sane, and the purely mental origin of the
disease is suggested by his remaining in good health and without mental
deterioration apart from the delusional system, in this respect
differing greatly from the sufferers from most other forms of insanity.
Some psychiatrists claim to have traced the delusions back to
repressions that took place in early life.[6]

[Footnote 6: For a fuller account of dissociation I would refer the
reader to _The Psychology of Insanity_, by Dr. Bernard Hart, to which I
am indebted for the form of some of my ideas. (Cambridge University



Water-divining, or dowsing, is accepted in many parts of the world and
used as a practical method of locating underground water. Official
bodies as well as private individuals employ practitioners of the art,
and among people generally there is a strong belief in its genuineness.

It is carried out by means of a forked twig, hazel by traditional
preference, which is grasped in the dowser's two hands and is said to be
twisted upwards by an unknown force when there is water underground. As
an addition it is sometimes claimed that the twig will indicate the
presence of metals by being twisted downwards.

Believers in the twisting of the twig are generally ignorant that it was
formerly used in the pursuit and detection of criminals and the finding
of buried treasure[7] and that it was being used in the year 1918 to
locate a seam of coal. Going farther afield, we learn that the
witch-findings practised by African savages are sometimes carried out by
means of a stick which points at the victim.

[Footnote 7: See Janet, op. cit., p. 368, where he also says: 'Il est
probable que, dans quelques campagnes, subsiste encore la croyance aux
révélations de la baguette divinatoire.']

Such varied uses demand a new and complicated system of physics if the
results are due to any forces external to the diviner, but my own
observations satisfy me that we need not overturn our ordinary
conceptions of cause and effect to explain the different properties of
the divining-rod.

When a friend told me of the presence of a dowser in the neighbourhood
and gave me a would-be convincing account of how he had seen him at
work, how the twig was twisted upwards with such force that my informant
was unable to depress it, and how the man was employed by engineers to
tell them where to sink wells, I became interested and asked to see the
marvel. The resulting experiment, though conducted haphazard, was
instructive as regards both water-divining and credulity.

The man broke a forked twig from a bush, and, holding it in the way
described later, was directed down a path leading to a tennis-court.
Along this path no water was known to exist, but the twig rose twice.
Beneath the tennis-court ran a water-pipe which had burst during the
previous winter, and of which the position was known to six at least of
those present. This pipe was located by the man, and he demonstrated it
again and again by walking across it, the twig rising each time. It rose
again when he was directed past a cook-house. Next he was sent along a
path leading from the cook-house to the main building, and the twig rose
several times. He said, 'There is water all along here', and was told
that there was a pipe running along the path. Here I intervened and
asked him to try across one edge of the path, which was about six feet
wide. The twig rose, and, just as on the tennis-court, he walked again
and again across the indicated line, the twig rising every time, though
as a fact the pipe lay on the other side of the path. He explained to us
that God gave 'the gift' to Moses, and that now only one man in ten
thousand received the gift.

When he left I took a twig and showed that I had the gift, or, at least,
that the twig performed in my hands exactly as it had done in his.
'But', said my friends, 'he found the pipe on the tennis-court.' It
mattered nothing that he had found water twice within a few yards where
none was known, or that at least six of the bystanders knew of the
existence of the water-pipe and were ready to show their anticipation as
he approached it and their delight when he located it, nor that he
located the other pipe on the wrong side of the path. The movements of
the twig might be a fraud, his other finds might be failures or guesses,
but his one success was enough for them. Even the Padre, when I said
that the man had the face typical of a mystic, was moved to ask, 'But
may not a mystic have powers of which we know nothing?'

In short, the rising of the twig was produced by the man himself, and
his findings were guesses, aided by ordinary knowledge as to where
water-pipes are to be expected, and more especially aided by the
attitude and expression of the bystanders.

Yet by his manner he showed that he plainly believed in his own powers:
otherwise his reference to the gift of God was simple blasphemy, and he
seemed an earnest man.


How can we explain this belief on the one hand and the trickery on the
other? First let us examine the mechanism involved in the upward
twisting of the twig. Suppose you take a tough and springy forked twig,
each arm of the fork being about nine or ten inches long, hold it with
the apex away from you, and, with your palms facing together and your
finger-tips pointing upward, place the thumb and little finger of each
hand inside the fork at the places marked T and F. Now close each hand,
and you have each arm of the fork firmly gripped; next, keeping your
elbows well in, bend the arms of the fork outward as in Fig. 2, with
your palms now looking upward. You will then find that a sort of trigger
action tends to occur, and by a slight pressure of your ring-fingers
against the twig you can make it rise. Still gripping firmly and
pressing your hands a little together you will find it continues to
rise, and by bending your hands downwards at the wrists and pressing
your elbows to your side you can easily persuade an observer, and
perhaps yourself, that you are trying to hold the twig down. You may
even find that it leaves a pressure mark on your little finger, which
you can show as evidence of how you tried to restrain it. If one arm of
the fork is weaker than the other it may break, and that of course will
be conclusive proof of the working of a mysterious power. So we see
there is nothing very strange in the man believing that his muscular
action was not responsible for the moving of the twig; but his two-sided
make-up--piety on one side and trickery on the other--can best be
explained by a dissociation, with repression of the knowledge of
trickery as far as the main personality is concerned. We might split up
his consciousness like this:--

    Piety, and belief in      Knowledge of the means
    water-divining            employed. Hypersensitive
    as the gift of God.       mechanism for carrying it on.

Perhaps it is unfair to talk of trickery; he may have deceived himself
from the start and never known that he was deceiving any one.

At first I pictured him as learning the trick from some one else, trying
it on with his friends--maybe across a bridge over a stream--and being
taken seriously, and then, when he could not escape from his reputation
without owning up to the fraud, being compelled for his peace of mind to
repress the deceit complex and carry on as a Dissociate. The man himself
would be the last person to gain information from, for his repression,
however it began, is now complete.

The discussion that followed the experiment was instructive: most of the
bystanders appeared to believe in the existence of some unknown force of
nature operating through a specially-gifted person, the mechanism of the
twig being unnoticed and the greatest emphasis placed upon the one
success. I have no doubt that in a short time the memory of that one
success would be the only part of the performance not forgotten.
Moreover, if any one of the bystanders had told me the story, describing
fully and fairly everything he had observed, I should have been unable
to criticise the facts thus presented and denial of the miraculous
would have been ineffectual; yet these bystanders were all educated and
intelligent men.

With the information gained from this experiment I was able to
understand the next example. The subject was mentioned in a provincial
newspaper, and incidentally a story was told of how a dowser who also
had the power of locating metals was able by means of the twig to
indicate the position of two sovereigns concealed under a carpet,
showing the relationship of water-divining to some forms of 'thought
reading.' In the next number of the paper appeared 'some corroborative
testimony' from a well-known local gentleman, who was also a dowser, and
some of his testimony I will quote:--

     'I have had twigs as thick as my little finger twist off and break
     after scoring my hand until it was red. The muscles of the arm
     become contracted when the bodily magnetism is affected by the
     presence of water, and a strong spring will make my arms ache
     badly. It is quite true that only running water affects me, and on
     one occasion I had a curious example of this. It was on a Saturday
     evening, and I quite accidentally found the presence of water close
     to a house where my sister was living. The following day I told her
     about the spring and tried the spot, when no effect was observable.
     On enquiry she told me that there was a pipe underneath connected
     with a ram which was always put out of action on Sunday.'

Further on, referring to another incident, he says:--

     'I had dowsed the ground, and in addition had noted, with the help
     of an eminent geologist, the geological strata. The dowsing
     satisfied me that the ground was full of water: the geological
     survey suggested the best place to collect it. I suppose the power
     must have something to do with the composition of the blood and
     nerve cells, but I have never yet come across a scientific
     explanation of the power, which is certainly possessed by many

Here we have a country gentleman of indisputable honesty and
intelligence attributing to unknown forces such movements and sensations
as any one can produce who follows the preceding instructions, water or
no water being present. The 'bodily magnetism' is a pure rationalisation
and beyond discussion, but the story of the pipe and the ram is
different: a ram is a pump worked by a stream of water and the noise of
it is carried a long way, especially along any pipe connected with it,
and if I told this gentleman that he had heard the noise of the ram he
would strenuously deny the possibility, and might challenge me to test
whether I could hear the noise; but I have no dissociated water-divining
personality unhampered by my conscious efforts and trained to pick up
such indications. It would seem incredible to him that he heard the
noise of the ram on the Saturday, failed to hear it on the Sunday,
deduced that the water was no longer running, and then showed this
deduction by refraining from tilting up the twig; but with our knowledge
of dissociation and repression, and of the working of the unconscious,
we can understand all this taking place without his main stream of
consciousness being aware of it.

The reference to geology is also instructive; he evidently has a
knowledge of that subject, and he might perhaps admit that the
indications of the twig coincided with the geological indications,
though he is unaware of and cannot admit any dependence of the former on
the knowledge of the latter.

Thus in both these cases the likelihood of the presence of water is only
a matter of observation--skilled and minute no doubt--and the movement
of the twig is in no way caused by any physical forces except those
exercised by the muscles of the dowser. That the second personality of
the dowser is able to deceive him is now explained, and his obvious
honesty so influences non-critical observers that their credulity is no
cause for wonder.

An example of water-divining without dissociation was given me by Dr. W.
H. Bryce, of Fifeshire, whose words are as follows:--

     'There was an old Scot who was reputed to be very skilful in
     finding water and who was so employed throughout his neighbourhood.
     He was not above using the twigs, but told me they were no use, but
     he judged entirely by the lie of the land. In his own language he
     always looked for the "rise of the metals" in looking for water. A
     diviner came to the neighbourhood and located water in two places.
     In the one place the old countryman said, "How can he get water
     there? Now at the top of the den where the metals rise each way he
     might get it." Bores were sunk at both places that the diviner
     indicated, but no water was got.'

This man would probably have refused such a test as locating a
water-pipe, for his conclusions were based upon conscious reasoning and
he would be incapable of making guesses or picking up indications from
the behaviour of bystanders; therefore in the eyes of the credulous he
would be inferior to the wonder-working dowser.

One repeatedly hears stories of how the dowser has found water when
geologists have failed, but the man who is sufficiently uncritical to
accept the working of the twig as due to some strange 'gift' is likely
to be as credulous in observation and beliefs concerning the rest of the



'The power of suggestion' is a plausible explanation of varied
phenomena. By it the feelings of a crowd are swayed, fashions are
spread, mistakes are made, and beliefs are imposed upon the multitude,
and in the production of hypnotic and hysterical manifestation the words
'power of suggestion' and 'personal magnetism' are sufficient
explanation of all things visible and invisible.

'Personal magnetism' and its kindred phrases implying the existence of
some subtle physical force are, except when used figuratively, mere
incoherences, but suggestion is an undoubted cause of certain effects
and we must try to understand the meaning of the word.

McDougall defines suggestion as 'a process of communication resulting in
the acceptance with conviction of the communicated proposition in the
absence of logical grounds for its acceptance'.[8]

[Footnote 8: _Social Psychology_, p. 97.]

Our thinking (apart from the observation of cause and effect in the
small affairs of ordinary life) is generally a matter of complexes,
logic being concerned only in rare cases; hence if we use the above
definition the greater part of our accepted propositions owe their
acceptance to suggestion. This is true as regards most of our political,
religious, and social beliefs, and, since children believe what they are
taught chiefly because the teacher says so, there does not seem much
opinion or knowledge of the abstract for which suggestion is not

If a suggestion agrees with the complexes already existing in the mind
of the hearer then acceptance is likely to follow; this partly explains
the psychology of crowds and the power of oratory, which appeals to
emotions and prejudice rather than to reason. The knowledge that one's
fellows believe is sufficient to convince the ordinary man, and often
the existence of widespread belief is used as an argument to prove the
truth of a proposition. One recognises this tendency at once in people
of another race and other superstitions. An educated Chinese once
assured me that blood from those nearly related would mix if dropped
into a bowl of water, and drops from the veins of strangers would remain
apart, and that this test was used to decide cases of disputed
relationship. When I showed incredulity my friend assured me, 'It's
true, quite true, every one knows it.'

Within a day or two an Englishman, whilst discussing telegony, or the
influence of a first mating upon the progeny of subsequent pairings,
maintained that the widespread belief among dog-breeders in the
existence of this influence proved its truth, and my recollection of
the argument of my Chinese friend showed me how alike are the causes of
belief among all mankind.

Man tends to believe what his fellows believe and act as his fellows
act, and this tendency has been erected into an instinct by Trotter, who
shows how important the Herd Instinct is to all gregarious animals,
including man.[9]

[Footnote 9: _Instincts of the Herd in Peace and War._ T. Fisher Unwin.]

But if suggestion is to be made synonymous with the Herd Instinct it
explains too much, and we must seek to narrow its meaning or use another
word. It is already used in a somewhat special sense to account for the
acceptance of propositions which an ordinary man in his ordinary state
of mind would not accept, and especially is it used in relation to
abnormal states such as hypnosis and hysteria.

An authoritative and confident manner makes easy the acceptance of
suggestion, as every confidence-trick man knows; the writer of
advertisements or political articles knows it too, but in the last
example we see a new factor. The hardened Big-ender would be impervious
to the most imposing suggestions from a Little-endian source, but would
accept the saddest nonsense from a journal of his own party. We see here
an active desire to accept propositions that accord with a powerful
complex, and as complexes become more separated from the influence of
reason so this desire increases.

This I shall call 'receptivity', and to the term I shall give a further
meaning in the sense not only of desiring to accept propositions but of
anticipating or guessing them, of picking up hints as to what is in the
minds of the other persons concerned and reflecting them as if they
originated in the mind of the receiver.

In some cases of hysteria the patient presents a weak or paralysed limb,
and this limb is often so insensitive that pins may be pushed through
the skin without any manifestations of pain. This phenomenon, which
resembles the insensitive patches that under the name of 'Devil's claws'
were found upon witches when witchcraft was fashionable, has been long
known as a sign of hysteria. There is now a tendency to ascribe it to
suggestibility or, as I should prefer, to receptivity.

In the early stage of the disease some one examines the arm, pricks it,
and asks, 'Do you feel that?' It is my experience that the patient
sometimes flinches at the first prick, but answers 'No', and until this
newly-implanted belief is removed he never flinches again when the limb
is pricked.

The question is taken by the patient to mean that the doctor expects
that the prick will not be felt--or why should he ask? The hint is
accepted and the insensibility established, though its unreal nature is
shown by the fact that the patient is not especially disposed to burn or
injure the limb, unlike the sufferer from a true loss of sensation, who
is always liable to such an accident owing to the lack of the protective
sense of pain. I believe that this is the true explanation for many
cases, and put it forward as a good example of receptivity.

The insensitiveness is similarly explained by Babinski,[10] who uses a
different method of examination. He blindfolds the patient, who must not
have been subjected to a previous test, and stimulating him variously in
different places asks what he feels. This avoids the suggestion of loss
of sensation, and the result is that Babinski finds few examples of such
loss in cases where the 'Do you feel that?' method would produce many
positive results.

[Footnote 10: _Hysteria or Pithiatism and Nervous Troubles of Reflex
Order._ London University Press.]

It may also be explained by a dissociation of consciousness, in which
the split-off stream deals with the paralysed limb and therefore the
main stream of consciousness knows nothing about the prick. The
difference between the two theories is not so great as appears, for the
control of the supposed loss of sensation, once it is established, finds
its home in a split-off stream, and the process I describe is only a
stage in the dissociation.

I must admit, however, to seeing cases where a hysterical loss of voice
of long duration is accompanied by a loss of sensation in the throat
which is not explicable by receptivity, and it is possible for the
dissociation to be directly responsible for the loss.

Jung expresses sound views when he writes:--

     'It should long ago have been realised that a suggestion is only
     accepted by one it suits.... This pseudo-scientific talk about
     suggestion is based upon the unconscious superstition that
     suggestion actually possesses some magic power. No one succumbs to
     suggestion unless from the very bottom of his heart he be willing
     to co-operate.'[11]

[Footnote 11: _Analytical Psychology_, p. 469. Baillière, Tindall & Cox,

Whilst stripping suggestion of its magic I by no means deny its power.
Let one person at a dinner suggest that the fish is tainted and he will
generally have one or two supporters who would have eaten it without a
doubt of its freshness if no one had cast suspicion upon it; or let one
of a class of medical students say with sufficient assurance that he
hears a murmur over a patient's heart and, even if the heart sounds are
quite ordinary, others will hear it too.

There are conditions, such as fatigue or sleep, in which the effort
necessary to examine the truth of a proposition seems too great, and
suggestions are accepted which would be rejected in a state of fuller
consciousness. For example, I was awakened one night, when a hospital
resident, and told that one of my patients was very restless. I could
not remember the man, but asked a few questions about him and ordered a
soporific. Next morning on waking I became aware that I had no such
patient, and on enquiry found that I had been mistaken for another
resident whose slumbers had been undisturbed, thanks to my
suggestibility, for had I been fully awake I should have repudiated any
connection with the case. The confident manner of the messenger
assisted the suggestion, and I like to think that had there been a trick
intentionally played upon me even my sleepy consciousness might have
detected some warning change of tone.

Psychologists regard hypnotic suggestibility as only a further stage of
this sleepy non-resistance, but I see in the former a more active desire
to accept. Though suggestion might be further classified according to
the factors concerned in its acceptance, the class showing 'receptivity'
is the important one for our consideration.

There remains auto-suggestion to be considered; it is as difficult to
define as suggestion, but in the absence of any more precise term it
must be accepted as indicating certain mental processes.

The sensations felt in the arms and hands by the water-diviner or
table-turner are partly the result of auto-suggestion and partly of
muscular contractions, themselves produced by the same cause, and some
of the varied sensations of the hysteric are of similar origin. Creepy
feelings at the mention of snakes, and unpleasant sensations at the
thought of those 'minor horrors of war' that live in undergarments, are
further examples.

As far as the persons concerned are able to judge, the sensations are
often real enough, though it was long before I could believe that a
confirmed hysteric who complained of a severe pain really suffered from
that pain; the description of a water-diviner's sensations, given by
himself and quoted in another chapter, are such that one must believe in
the honesty of the writer.

One might say auto-suggestion arises from the unconscious or from a
dissociated stream of consciousness, and this would make it account for
hallucinations and obsessions, but here we must again take account of
borderline cases. The person who feels a cold shiver at the mention of a
snake cannot tell us precisely to what extent the shiver is due to
conscious thoughts, or whether he feels it just because he must; and the
feeling may be due to what he remembers being told about snakes, in
which case it would not be due to pure auto-suggestion.

The explanation of the success of suggestion in particular cases is to
be sought in the emotional state of the subject. When I was the victim,
as described above, my readiness to believe arose from my being
accustomed to nocturnal interruptions when my patients were in trouble
and also from my reliance on the hospital staff, my emotional state
being one of expectation and confidence. If to these influences are
added stronger emotional forces, such as wonder or terror, acceptance of
suggestion is still easier, and when people assembled together are
swayed by these feelings the Herd Instinct reaches its full strength and
we have the ingredients for the manufacture of a collective delusion.
There are many examples of strange and supernatural occurrences vouched
for by masses of observers, and I see no reason to doubt the good faith
of the historians. We all know how infectious is emotion and how hard it
is for one man to remain unmoved when around him are others all under
the influence of some excitement, and man always insists on finding
reasons for his feelings or objects for his emotions. When wonder or
terror are roused by the operation of the Herd Instinct, the individual,
not knowing their origin, projects them externally and seeks an object
for them. He is now ready to see or hear anything that will fit his
emotions, and when an object is suggested he will speedily accept its
existence as a reality.

I will give some further examples of suggestion in varying degrees of
strength. During the arrival of recently wounded men at a hospital in
France, I was in a ward with two eminent members of my profession and
another medical officer. As one man seemed bad the sister asked me to
see him at once; his left arm was paralysed, and he had a wound on the
head where in the brain beneath lies the 'motor area' of the left arm.
Looking at the wound, which was obscured by hair and blood, I said,
'That's pulsating'; the two consultants and the other officer agreed
with my observation, and appropriate treatment was recommended. The
importance of pulsation lies in the fact that it is a sign of the
exposure of brain substance, which pulsates strongly, and in this case
it signified the presence of a hole in the skull which allowed the
pulsation to appear; but in the operating theatre shortly afterwards the
skull was found intact, and therefore pulsation had not been present.

How did this joint error of observation arise? The combination of a
gunshot wound of the head with a paralysed limb may occur in connection
with a hole in the skull, and such penetrating wounds were common before
the introduction of helmets. My unconscious had worked out the
probabilities and led me to expect the signs of penetration; deceiving
myself, by my confident manner I imposed my belief upon my colleagues,
who had, I may assume, placed unjustified confidence in my reliability
as an observer; and we all saw that which was not.

Another example shows how ghost stories arise: A man related to me how
at the age of sixteen he was sleeping with his brother, and woke up to
see a ghostly face on the wall. So far we have an ordinary half-awake
hallucinatory condition, which is not uncommon; but the lad became
terrified and tried to cover his head to hide the sight, when the
brother woke up, and, being told of the face, promptly saw it too. The
brother's evidence is strongly corroborative, not of the presence of a
ghost, but of the power of suggestion when the way is prepared by strong
emotion. It may be remarked that the man was one of those nervous people
who fear the dark or being alone; seeing a ghost was not the cause of
his condition, but resulted from the inculcation of a belief in ghosts
in a person predisposed to fall a prey to his own unconscious.

The next example is a well-worn tale which has been quoted by Frank
Podmore, W. H. Myers, Sir William Barrett, and probably many others. I
take it from pages 62 and 63 of _Human Personality_, vol. i.[12]

[Footnote 12: Longmans & Co., London, 1903.]

It (the account) was given by Mr. Charles Lett on December 3, 1885, and
reads as follows:--

     'On the 5th of April, 1873, my wife's father, Captain Towns, died
     at his residence, Cranbrook, Rose Bay, near Sydney, New South
     Wales. About six weeks after his death my wife had occasion, one
     evening about nine o'clock, to go to one of the bedrooms in the
     house. She was accompanied by a young lady, Miss Britton, and as
     they entered the room--the gas was burning all the time--they were
     amazed to see, reflected as it were upon the polished surface of
     the wardrobe, the image of Captain Towns. It was barely
     half-figure, the head, shoulders, and part of the arms only
     showing--in fact it was like an ordinary medallion portrait, but
     life-size. The face appeared wan and pale, as it did before his
     death; he wore a kind of grey flannel jacket, in which he had been
     accustomed to sleep. Surprised and half alarmed at what they saw,
     their first idea was that a portrait had been hung in the room, and
     that what they saw was its reflection, but there was no picture of
     the kind.

     'Whilst they were looking and wondering, my wife's sister, Miss
     Towns, came into the room, and before either of the others had time
     to speak, she exclaimed, "Good gracious! Do you see Papa?" One of
     the housemaids happened to be passing downstairs at the moment and
     she was called in, and asked if she saw anything, and her reply was
     "Oh, Miss: the master." Graham--Captain Towns' old
     body-servant--was then sent for, and he also exclaimed, "Oh, Lord
     save us! Mrs. Lett, it's the Captain!" The butler was called, and
     then Mrs. Crane, my wife's nurse, and they both said what they
     saw. Finally Mrs. Towns was sent for, and, seeing the apparition,
     she advanced towards it ... as she passed her hand over the panel
     of the wardrobe the figure gradually faded away, and never again

     'These are the facts of the case, and they admit of no deceit; no
     kind of intimation was given to any of the witnesses; the same
     question was put to each one as they came into the room, and the
     reply was given without hesitation by each.

     'Mrs. Lett is positive that the recognition of the appearance on
     the part of each of the later witnesses was _independent_, and not
     due to any suggestion from the persons already in the room.'

Then follows a statement by two of the witnesses that this account is

In the lapse of twelve years between the incident and its narration a
story of this nature would have been re-told many times, and we know
what happens under such conditions. As the tale is given, however, it
reveals more than the narrator thinks it does.

Most interesting is the denial of suggestion when we have present all
the factors necessary for suggestion of the most powerful kind. Picture
Miss Towns coming into the room whilst the first two were 'looking and
wondering' (and not in silence, we may be sure, in spite of the words
'before either of the others had time to speak', which are interpolated
to strengthen the story); she straightway experiences the same emotion
as do the others and sees what they see. Now we have three emotional
people, and as each new witness is brought along the emotion increases
till it would require a very self-possessed and sceptical person to
resist its influence. The butler and the nurse simply _had_ to see the
ghost, though the account is a little ambiguous at that point.

'The same question was put to each one as they came into the room', but
is it likely that under such a condition of excitement enough
self-control was left to every individual to ensure that the same
question, _and nothing else_, was put to each newcomer? Such a thing
could only happen by careful pre-arrangement, which was lacking here,
and the writer's insistence shows that somewhere in his mind was present
the suspicion that suggestion had a hand in the production of the
unanimous evidence.

Mrs. Lett is equally insistent that the recognition was not due to any
suggestion from the persons already in the room, but she was unaware
that suggestion can occur without intent and that the most powerful
suggestion is that which is unintentional. Can we suppose that there
were no signs of wonder and awe on the faces of those present, no
excited exclamations, no glances towards the wardrobe, no pointing of
hands: only a few calm and self-possessed people asking each newcomer if
he or she saw anything? If two or three people tried by suggestion to
persuade others to see a ghost they would not be able to reach the
emotional state of the actors in this scene, and the intentional effort
at suggestion would have a good chance of failure.

The minute account of the apparition, given by some one who was not
present, and told as if it were the result of the immediate observations
of the first two witnesses, has been influenced by discussion after the
incident and is itself another product of suggestion. The narrator has
over-shot the mark in his protest against the possibility of suggestion,
and has produced a story in which the apparition is not the only

I have given this analysis because the story is quoted repeatedly by
writers on the spiritualist side, and until one examines it critically
it appears convincing.

The rumour of the Russian troops passing through England in September,
1914, will go down in history as a proof that mass credulity was then as
powerful as ever. The rumour, however it began, was aided by the usual
forces: Herd Instinct (for what every one believed was felt to be true),
the desire to believe in what we wanted to happen, and the desire to be
personally connected with important events. The last factor was shown by
the number of people who claimed to have personal experience of the
transit of the Russian reinforcements; every one had seen the troops or
knew some one who had. One of my friends, a man eminent in a profession
which demands clear thinking, told me that his own brother-in-law was
responsible for arrangements for their railway transport.

The reader will see in this rumour a perfect example of the working of
suggestion in a case familiar to every one, and if the lesson is borne
in mind a list of believers in some unnatural occurrence will not
necessarily carry conviction.



The history of hypnotism is closely associated with that of charlatanry,
though at some periods the practice has reached an honourable position
in therapeutics. The 'temple sleep' of ancient Greek medicine was a
hypnosis, but in later days hypnotism fell into oblivion till the time
of Mesmer, when it was so mingled with quackery and theatrical display
that some disrepute is even to this day attached to its honest use in
curative medicine.

The common attitude to it is one of mistrust. Thanks to its exploitation
by novelists, 'hypnotic power' is regarded as marvellous and uncanny,
and the mysterious person who exercises it is able to lead his victims
along any path. The fashion for public shows of Mesmerism has apparently
died away, their place being taken by thought-reading performances which
cater for the desire of man to believe that he is seeing a manifestation
of the occult.

The 'mesmeric eye', whose pupil dilates or contracts at the will of its
owner while its gaze remains fixed, has by imaginative writers been
ascribed alike to Lord Kitchener and the monk Rasputin, and presents a
phenomenon unknown to physiologists. The 'will-power' of the hypnotist
is as much a product of imagination, whilst the confident and willing
co-operation of the subject is really the factor of most importance.

Nobody but a very credulous person can be hypnotised against his will,
and at the beginning of the process the full co-operation of the subject
is necessary, though with repeated sittings his suggestibility becomes
increased and to that extent his 'will-power' may be said to have

In the induction of hypnosis the essentials are quiet surroundings and
confidence of success on the part of both operator and subject. The
subject is then led to think only of the operator and his remarks and
directions, whilst generally some mechanical method is used which by
tiring the eyes produces a feeling of sleepiness. Success varies
according to the skill and confidence of the operator and their
persuasive effect on the subject.

Several sittings may be necessary before any depth of hypnosis is
obtained. If the result is successful the stream of consciousness is
thinned out and its place is taken by other thoughts and suggestions
supplied by the operator. In light hypnosis there is produced a
condition in which suggestions concerning, say, the cessation of bad
habits or modes of thought are more readily accepted than in the normal
state of consciousness, the subject having afterwards a complete memory
of the sitting. In deeper stages hypnotic sleep is produced,
suggestions concerning the bodily functions--producing, for example,
temporary rigidity or paralysis or loss of feeling--may take effect, and
the memory of the sitting may not be recalled afterwards; the subject
may carry out various movements by direction of the operator, and may
believe what his senses should contradict. In this deeper stage he is in
a condition to receive suggestions as to actions to be performed after
the hypnotic state has ceased.

The explanation of the increased suggestibility of the hypnotic subject
lies in the abolition, total or partial, of his stream of consciousness.
Such critical powers as he possesses are suspended and he has no
standard by which to judge assertions presented to him, like a man in a
dream who through a similar absence of standards of comparison sees no
absurdity in the suspension of the laws of gravity. The unconscious of
the subject is now accessible to suggestions which may be planted there
and will bear fruit even if the subject is unaware of them. It is an
experimental commonplace for a subject, told in a hypnotic state to
perform a simple but unnecessary action after waking, to invent a
rationalisation to account for doing it, whilst having no suspicion that
he does it as a result of suggestion.

But throughout all the stages he still has a volition of his own and
will do nothing that seriously conflicts with his well-rooted ideas of
conduct. If he is persuaded that an imaginary some one is sitting in a
chair, and is directed to stab him with an imaginary knife, he will
perhaps do so, for he would not object to doing so in his waking state;
but suggest to him that he should steal a real watch, and if he be a man
of ordinary honesty he will find reasons for not stealing it, though
perhaps the man of criminal tendencies would fall to the suggestion.

A story in illustration of this resistance was told me by a doctor who
practised hypnotism for the cure of the alcohol habit. Having
successfully suggested to a patient that whisky would produce nausea, he
congratulated himself on a cure, but to his annoyance the patient came
home one day cheerfully intoxicated with beer. Further hypnosis was
tried and, although the hypnotic state was induced as before, suggestion
had no further effect on the drinking habit. It turned out that the
patient had decided not to be cured of the beer habit, hence the

In hypnosis we have another example of dissociation; during the process
of induction the stream of consciousness is thinned out or completely
abolished according to the depth of hypnosis. The fact that there may or
may not be during the waking state a recollection of the events in a
previous hypnosis shows that the dissociation may be continuous or
abrupt (see Chapter IV). The substituted stream is made up of
suggestions from the operator and of material from the unconscious, for
the hypnosis may be used to revive memories that have been lost to the
consciousness through repression. In this last use we see a relation to
automatic writing and other methods of bringing to light the contents of
the unconscious.

In my account of the water-diviner I suggested that his dissociated
stream was especially trained to pick up indications that are not
observed by his ordinary self. The study of the hypnotic state shows
that our senses sometimes work better when freed from the control of the
consciousness, so that the subject is able to see or hear or feel what
is unobserved by the ordinary man. He possesses a hyperæsthesia such as
we see in a sleeping dog who wakes at the approach of a footstep
inaudible to the human ear and recognises whether it belongs to friend
or stranger. A similar alertness and its opposite can be seen at work in
ordinary sleep. The mother is roused by the slightest whimper of her
babe, whilst louder noises pass unheard; but the person who, with the
best intention of breaking a bad habit, has an alarm clock by his
bedside, may neglect its call for a few mornings and end by entirely
failing to hear it.

The hyperæsthesia belonging to the unconscious is shown in other
conditions than hypnosis and ordinary sleep. Jung quotes experiments[13]
of Binet, who says: 'According to the calculations I have been able to
make, the unconscious sensitiveness of a hysteric is on some occasions
fifty times more acute than that of a normal person.'

[Footnote 13: _Analytical Psychology_, p. 25.]

Dr. Hurst, writing on War Neuroses,[14] says: 'In one severe case true
hyperacusis was present, and Captain E. A. Peters estimated that the
patient heard sixteen times more acutely than the average normal
individual. It was possible to carry on a conversation with him by
whispering in one corner of the ward when he was lying in the opposite
corner, although men with normal hearing who were standing half-way
between in the centre of the room could not hear a word of what was

[Footnote 14: _British Medical Journal_, September 29, 1917.]

I myself knew a war-strained patient who, as a result of terrifying
experiences, had a dread of aeroplanes and could not only hear a plane
long before his comrades but could tell at once by the hum of the engine
whether it was British or German. In other respects his hearing was no
better than his neighbour's.

Another case under my observation was that of a nervous lady with a fear
of draughts. Whilst secluded in her bedroom she claimed to be affected
when far-away doors were open, and showed a most uncanny and accurate
knowledge as to whether they were open or shut, though this knowledge
was probably derived from the sense of hearing and not from any
sensitivity to heat or cold.

The word 'hyperæsthesia' is used to denote an excessive acuity of our
senses. The examples quoted above refer to the sense of hearing; but
other senses, such as touch and sight, may be similarly sharpened.
Binet's experiments were carried out on the sense of touch.

There is no question here of the development of any new sense; the
hyperæsthesia is only an exaggeration of the senses we already possess.
Its importance lies in its common alliance with a dissociated
receptivity which may lead it to be overlooked and cause its results to
be ascribed to something else.



The mystery of dreams and their interpretation has occupied men's
thoughts in all ages. The Jews paid great attention to them, as the Old
Testament shows, and there is evidence that the prophet Daniel had a
shrewd knowledge, based upon psychological facts, concerning dream

There are probably 'Dream Books' still sold which purport to provide
interpretations for the enquiring dreamer, but it is only in recent
years that the scientific study of dreams has produced useful results.

Freud laid the foundations of our modern knowledge, but unfortunately
certain parts of his theories have raised so much antagonism that the
sound work he has done is still scorned and dream interpretation is
regarded as fanciful; nevertheless I propose to show that in dreams we
have a key to the unconscious of the dreamer.

Before attempting an explanation of dreams we must first consider sleep,
which is an interruption of consciousness, so that whatever mind work is
carried on in sleep is a product of dissociation. The interruption of
consciousness is more or less complete, the light sleeper reacting to
external stimuli, turning away from a touch or making movements to
protect himself from heat or cold, whilst the heavy sleeper fails to
react to these minor disturbances. The memory of occurrences in the
outside world during sleep may be vaguely present in the waking stage,
and some sleepers will answer questions or obey orders without waking
and have little or no recollection of them afterwards. Such observations
point to a resemblance between sleep and that form of dissociation
called hypnosis.

In hypnosis the memories and emotions in the unconscious may be brought
to the surface, and in sleep the unconscious, escaping from the control
of the consciousness, sends up thoughts and feelings which manifest
themselves in dreams. How far external stimuli cause or influence dreams
is uncertain, but the more one investigates the less importance does one
attach to physical stimuli.

The dreams of adults are concerned largely with what I have described in
a previous chapter as repressions. These repressions are buried in the
unconscious, and their efforts to come into consciousness cause our
apparently senseless and fantastic dreams. If we dreamed distinctly
about these forgotten episodes, and remembered the dream on waking, they
would come into consciousness and be recognised, but, being buried and
refused admission to the wide-awake world, before entering consciousness
they are so distorted as to be unrecognisable. To the mechanism that
holds them down or distorts them is given the name of the 'censor', and
the interpreter of dreams must seek to evade the censor and resolve the
distorted story into its proper elements.

This method is of value in that treatment of the war-strained soldier
which aims at making him face his memories and grow accustomed to them,
for if a memory is repressed it tends to appear in the sufferer's
dreams, which give an opportunity for its recovery by dream analysis.
The opponents of this method picture the analyst, armed with a
dictionary of dream meanings, listening to a patient's account of a
dream, then giving him an explanation and persuading him to believe it;
but, though a shrewd guess may often be made as to the meaning of a
dream, the interpretation, to be of any value, must come from the
patient. He is made to close his eyes and, visualising the dream, to
describe it carefully. If it is a terrifying dream the telling of it
will reproduce the feeling of terror, and appropriate questions will
recall the occasion on which the same feeling first occurred. If the
real incident is recalled there is an emotional outbreak which often
startles the observer, who has the satisfaction of knowing that the
greater the outbreak the greater will be the benefit.

Here is an example of the practical use of a dream: The patient had lost
all memory of his experience in France, and this loss spread to his life
before the war so that he failed to recall even his former employment;
he slept badly and had terrifying dreams, one of which was as follows:--

     'I was on a pleasure steamer with a lot of cheerful people; it went
     to sea and then entered a dark cavern. On the floor of the cavern
     were broken skeletons, and at the far end of the cavern was a hole
     with light showing through. Two pirates with cocked hats came and
     led seven of us up the cavern, where we saw some old men with
     whiskers. The pirates were quite kind and led us through another
     hole into a small cavern; the wall of the cavern began to fall
     down, so I picked up a broken sword and began to bore into the
     wall. Then something like a ball of fire came at me, and I woke up

Though the reader could probably guess what the dream was about yet the
man had no idea of the meaning, for the censor was still at work. He was
made to close his eyes and visualise the ball of fire till he became
frightened again, so frightened, indeed, that he was in a state of
dissociation, his stream of consciousness being filled by the feeling of
terror and only in relation to the outside world by means of the voice
of the questioner. (The fact that memories restored by this method are
often forgotten again as soon as the patient opens his eyes is proof of
a dissociation.) At this stage he was told, 'You felt like that in
France, what was it?' The normal stream of consciousness being cut off,
the censor was now out of action, and the man, putting his hands to his
head, cried, 'It's a Minnewerfer', and when he became calmer told of a
dug-out being blown in and several of his mates being killed. Then he
was taken over the dream and made to look at the various parts and tell
what they 'turned to'. The pleasure steamer was the boat in which he
went to France, the cheery people on board being other soldiers; he now
recognised the place from which the boat started and the port where he
landed. The cavern was a tunnel up which a captain and a sergeant-major
(the pirates) had led seven men; the cocked hats resolved into the
sergeant-major having a piece torn from the cloth cover of his helmet
which flapped in the wind; the broken skeletons were the bodies of his
slain comrades; the second cavern was the dug-out; the broken sword a
bayonet which broke when he tried to dig his way out with it; the old
men were German prisoners, and the ball of fire was the flash of the

All this was explained by the patient. If he had been told the probable
meaning of the dream he might have believed it; but the result would
have been valueless--it was necessary that he should bring up the
memories himself. The dream is unusually coherent, but serves as a good
example of the modern methods of dream interpretation.

Half-conscious fears or desires are often represented by symbolisms
apparent to the analyst but unrecognised by the dreamer. A man told me
of a dream in which he met some one whom he had defeated in a business
disagreement, and, to his surprise, he shook hands with his old
opponent. I told him that he felt the pricking of conscience and was
desirous of making amends. This was little more than a guess, but its
truth was admitted though the dreamer said that he had hardly realised
his feelings before. It is characteristic of dreams, as of the slips of
the tongue discussed in Chapter I, that there is an obstacle to the
dreamer's unaided understanding of them. A simple dream of my own will
illustrate this: When going upstairs at a seaside hotel my wife,
noticing a stuffed bird, said to me, 'Is that a sea-gull?' and I
answered 'Yes'. The next morning I remembered a dream for which I could
trace no cause, and said to my wife, 'I wonder why I dreamed of my old
schoolmaster last night?' At this she asked, 'Which one?' and when I
answered, 'Mr. Gull', the connection at once became obvious, though
something had prevented my seeing the obvious without aid.

Since a dream is a product of dissociation, we expect to find in it the
same qualities that belong to the product of other dissociations. The
world of the dream is pictured as something external to the dreamer and
not arising from his own mind, just as the revelations of automatic
writing or the movements of the divining-rod are accepted as coming from
some one or something other than the agent.

The dream taps the unconscious, the stories about poets and musicians
who rise in the night-watches to pen their elusive inspirations being
paralleled by the poetic imagery in the automatic writings of the
Glastonbury archæologists.

Lost memories appear in the dream and the dreamer may deny the
incidents, as mentioned in Chapter III. In the same way the apparently
honest medium may produce a memory, more or less distorted, as a
revelation, and deny that it is a memory.

The dissociated stream is hypersensitive and makes use of hints and
fears that have passed unperceived by the consciousness. This use
accounts for prophetic dreams, which are, like intuitions, the result of
unconscious processes. In my own experience I have known but two
circumstantial accounts of dream prophecies which were claimed to be
fulfilled: One concerned a railway accident, and the other the
destruction by fire of a distant house. Both the dreamers, who were of
the male sex, had suffered from gross hysterical manifestations, or, in
other words, had been woefully led astray by the unconscious concerning
something other than prophecy. Accounts of prophetic dreams must always
be suspect because of their origin in the unconscious and the inability
of the dreamer either to interpret them or trace their origin. It is to
be noted that psychologists who work at dream analysis make no mention
of dream prophecies, although the fact that 'the wish is father to the
thought' explains why a dream sometimes expresses an unconscious desire
that later attains fulfilment in reality.

The Biblical account of Nebuchadnezzar's dream of the idol with feet of
clay bears the stamp of genuine history. The king, like the neurotic
sufferer of to-day, 'dreamed dreams, wherewith his spirit was troubled,
and his sleep brake from him.' The magicians, called upon to interpret,
asked that the king should first tell his dream; but the king answered,
'The thing is gone from me; if ye will not make known unto me the dream,
with the interpretation thereof, ye shall be cut in pieces and your
houses shall be made a dunghill.' The magicians and astrologers, the
sorcerers and the Chaldeans, failed, but the prophet Daniel took up the
task and told the king his forgotten dream. We can only imagine his
method, but it is possible to revive a dream by using the emotion felt
on waking, and such a method, or even direct hypnosis, may have been
available to Daniel; and if we regard the interpretation, not as
prophetic, but as revealing to the king his forebodings of future
disaster, then the chapter accords with modern conceptions of dream
analysis. Nebuchadnezzar was already a psycho-neurotic on the borderline
of insanity, as his subsequent history shows, and would easily come to
rely upon and reward a psychologist like Daniel, who convincingly laid
bare to him the working of his unconscious. By tradition the old
civilisations of the East were the sources of occult knowledge, and this
view of a scrap of Old Testament history gives a hint how the tradition
arose. If there existed an esoteric knowledge of psychological technique
such as I ascribe to Daniel, then its possessors would easily obtain
reputations for more than worldly wisdom.



The word 'hysteria', like 'lunacy', is evidence of a belief now
discarded. When the theory of demoniacal possession ceased to satisfy
the desire for reasons, and material explanations were sought for
certain conditions, it was supposed that the uterus (Greek, _hystera_)
came adrift from its position and wandered about the body, producing the
condition thenceforward known as hysteria. Advancing knowledge killed
this theory, but the influence of the word remained and the disease was
attributed to some derangement or irritation of the uterus and its
associated organs. Charcot, of Paris, showed the mental origin of
hysteria, but, becoming lost in a maze of hypnotism and suggestion, he
described as symptoms of the disease various manifestations which were
really called up by himself or his assistants. There are medical men who
still insist on a bodily cause, but such causes serve merely as pegs on
which to hang the symptoms.

As usual, I shrink from a definition, but in this case I have good
reason. Every writer who describes hysteria expresses his own ideas
about it, and as the ideas of no two writers are alike some definitions
scarcely seem to refer to the same subject.

Here is a definition by Babinski, a French writer of international

     'Hysteria is a peculiar psychical state capable of giving rise to
     certain conditions which have features of their own. It manifests
     itself in primary and secondary symptoms. The former can be exactly
     reproduced by suggestion in certain subjects and can be made to
     disappear under the sole influence of suggestion.'

And here is one by Pierre Janet, a man of equal eminence:--

     'Hysteria is a form of mental depression characterised by
     retraction of the field of personal consciousness, and a tendency
     to complete division of the personality, and subconscious mental
     conditions grow and form a kind of second personality.'

And here are a few words from Ernest Jones, the chief exponent of
Freud's views in this country:--

     'It is in the excessive tendency to displace affects by means of
     superficial associations that the final key to the explanation of
     abnormal suggestion is to be sought. Even if it were true, which it
     certainly is not, that most hysterical symptoms are the product of
     verbal suggestion, the observation would be of hardly any practical
     or theoretical interest.'

When the reader has finished this chapter he will perhaps return to
these definitions, and see how each represents one aspect, and how the
best understanding is reached by a consideration of all of them.

The Great War has provided plenty of material for the study of hysteria,
and French and German writers have dealt extensively with it. The
paucity of English writings on the subject may indicate a smaller amount
of material, but there has been sufficient considerably to increase our
knowledge. The common form of hysteria is a mimicry of bodily disease;
pains, paralyses, contractions and joint affections most often occur,
though fits and trances are typical and there are few diseases which are
not imitated. Hysteria therefore has a superficial resemblance to
malingering, or the conscious simulation of disease for a definite end,
and many people find it hard to conceive any difference between the two.
Various criteria have been given to distinguish them, but, in my
opinion, when the question arises the distinction can rarely be made
upon physical grounds and is chiefly a matter of judgement concerning
the honesty of the patient; that is to say, the hysteric believes in his
disease as a reality, but the malingerer knows that it is fictitious. I
believe there is no definite line between the groups, though some
authorities assert that they are quite distinct. Practical experience
proves that in many cases there is an intense desire for cure which
cannot be reconciled with any consciousness of simulation, and the
apparently heartfelt gratitude often shown by the patient on recovery is
further proof of the reality of this desire.

It is a matter for regret that we have no word to take the place of
'hysteria', which is a mark of superstition; the only excuse for its
use being that every one knows that it does not mean what it says.
Popular and even professional ideas concerning hysteria are so far from
the truth that it is a pity a new word is not employed. If a man has
fought bravely for years and at last succumbed in his effort to forget
the horrors he has seen, it sounds an insult to say he is suffering from
hysteria. Yet the newer term of 'shell-shock' was worse, for it conveyed
a totally false idea of causation and treatment: to regard as due to the
concussion of a shell symptoms which are of purely mental origin led to
muddled thinking.

A common history in these cases was that the man became 'unconscious'
after a shell explosion, and on returning to consciousness found himself
mute, shaky, or paralysed. These facts led to the belief that the
condition was actually due to the physical effect of an explosion,
'shell-shock' and 'concussion' being regarded as almost synonymous. But
the same symptoms occurred when there was no question of concussion,
whilst the recoveries, often sensationally reported in the press, after
accidental or deliberate stimuli of various kinds were on all fours with
the cures wrought by Christian Science or the pilgrimage to Lourdes.
Hence the hysterical nature of the symptoms became evident and the
concussion theory faded away.

When one of these patients is encouraged to talk he often tells how he
had felt himself overpowered by the horrors of his surroundings and
forced to make increased efforts to keep going and avoid showing his
condition to his fellows--in other words, to repress his emotions. The
strain continuing, the shell-burst proved the last straw, and his
repressed feelings broke into consciousness and took possession of it;
this is what the man called being 'unconscious', but the condition is
really an abrupt dissociation. In course of time--hours, days, or even
weeks--he comes to himself again, and once more his feelings are buried;
but now he is a hysteric, and his buried feelings--his dissociated
stream--produce and maintain his symptoms.

In whatever way the hysteria arises the developed symptoms are the
result of a mental activity which is powerful enough to overcome for a
long time the desire for recovery. There are two streams of thought--the
one desirous of cure and the other engaged in keeping up the
symptoms--and we recognise an extreme example of continuous
dissociation, in which the main stream is not only unaware of the
existence of the other and unable to control it, but in which the
results produced by the dissociated stream are antagonistic to the
desires of the main personality.

This conception accords fairly well with Janet's definition as given
above, but though it gives us a description of the disease and indicates
its relation to other phenomena we have yet to understand why the
dissociation occurs. This is a difficult problem, and one to which
several answers can be given. I have suggested one above, and Freud
supplies another, which he applies not only to hysteria but to allied
nervous conditions. What follows is not an exposition of his ideas, but
rather my interpretation of such as are acceptable and useful to me. A
complex, which according to Freud usually centres around an infantile
sexual desire, is repugnant to the consciousness and becomes repressed
as a result of conflict in just the same way as a memory is repressed.
The complex is kept thrust down in the unconscious, but always tends to
produce effects; it may do so in dreams or may obtain symbolic
representation in the form of a neurosis, especially in times of stress.
Besides the primary aim of expressing repression by a symbolic
representation, Freud admits a 'secondary function' of the neurosis by
which the patient may derive some advantage from the disease.

Here is a case capable of explanation by the Freudian hypothesis: A man
said he had fallen on to the blade of an aeroplane propeller and bruised
his neck; he complained of severe pain in one side of his neck, with
twitching of the arm on the same side, which continued for months. It
was found that the patient, who was apprenticed to engineering, had such
a deep-seated fear of making mistakes that he had sometimes stayed at
the workshop for hours after the day's work was over in order to
familiarise himself with the use of tools; but in spite of this his fear
increased, until the handling of a file or spanner produced feelings of
anxiety. Then he joined the army. Being put to work at aeroplanes he
tried to do his duty and succeeded so far as to be made a corporal,
saying never a word about his fears and banishing them as far as
possible from his thoughts. At last the repression broke forth and took
symbolic form in pain, the expression of his fear of the machinery which
was blamed as its material cause. No account can picture the emotion
produced by the recall of this complex, and it was evident that his
feelings were intense and of more importance to him than one unfamiliar
with such cases would suppose. His pains ceased when the cause had been
revealed, and, what is very important, when he was told that he could
not be expected to work at machinery. It must be added that the
out-and-out Freudian would not be satisfied with this explanation; he
would trace the cause of the original fear of making mistakes, and would
expect to find it in some repression of infantile desires or fears.
Certainly I have a feeling that the case had only been half
investigated, but it will serve as a simple example of symbolic

The 'secondary function' of this neurosis is plain: the patient
succeeded in keeping away from machinery all the time the pain lasted,
and his anxiety symptoms were powerful enough to lead to his removal to
another kind of work.

This leads on to Adler's theory,[15] which, like Freud's, is based upon
conflict and repression, but regards the hysteria as derived from the
'Will to Power'. The potential neurotic has a feeling of inferiority
combined with a desire to be master of his own fate, and, since direct
attainment of this desire is impossible, the end is striven for by a
fantasy or fiction produced by the unconscious. This view, thus baldly
put, shows a relation between hysteria and malingering, and, returning
to the case of the prentice engineer, we can see his work in the shop
becoming more and more distasteful whilst his anxiety tended to become a
means of escape; then in the army the neurosis took a more determined
form which might be confounded with malingering by an observer who
assumed that all actions were the result of conscious motives.

[Footnote 15: _The Neurotic Constitution._ Kegan Paul.]

My present opinion is that the theory of repression offers the only
explanation of many cases of hysteria. This applies particularly to
those cases where the symptoms represent a permanent state of
embarrassment or fear, such as stammers and tremors, and to the
unreasonable fears and impulses, the phobias and obsessions, of the
war-strained soldier. As an example I will quote a case of a soldier who
had an impulse to attack any single companion, which was cured by
bringing into consciousness the repressed memory of a gruesome
hand-to-hand fight in which he killed his opponent. The repression was
so complete that after its first revival under hypnosis it was
'forgotten' again and again at subsequent interviews in the waking
state. This example illustrates Freud's 'tendency to displace affects.'
The repressed complex contained within itself the impulse to fight;
this 'affect' reached consciousness and an object had to be found for
it, the object being the single companion of the patient.

As regards those hysterias in which the secondary function is
conspicuous, I incline to the 'Will to Power' theory, and add to it the
'repression of the consciousness of deceit.' To illustrate this, let us
trace the growth of a case of hysteria. Imagine a girl who is
'misunderstood', who has her round of daily tasks and feels that she was
meant for higher things, that she ought to be loved and obeyed instead
of being subject to the will of others. To no one can she tell her
thoughts and troubles, sympathy is denied her, and she sees no hope of
satisfying her desires or changing her position in the world.

Or imagine another type, the pampered girl who has never had to face a
trouble or unpleasant task and has come to regard her own wishes as the
supreme law, until at last the time comes when some desire, some wish
that she cannot or will not face and conquer, remains ungratified. She
feels the need to express her feelings, to obtain that sympathy that she
thinks she deserves.

In either case there comes the hysterical manifestation, and here I will
quote from Jung[16]:--

     'But, the astonished reader asks, what is supposed to be the use of
     the neurosis? What does it effect? Whoever has had a pronounced
     case of neurosis in his immediate environment knows all that can
     be "effected" by a neurosis. In fact there is altogether no better
     means of tyrannising over a whole household than by a striking
     neurosis. Heart attacks, choking fits, convulsions of all kinds
     achieve enormous effects, that can hardly be surpassed. Picture the
     fountains of pity let loose, the sublime anxiety of the dear kind
     parents, the hurried running to and fro of the servants, the
     incessant sounding of the call of the telephone, the hasty arrival
     of the physicians, the delicacy of the diagnosis, the detailed
     examinations, the lengthy courses of treatment, the considerable
     expense: and there in the midst of all the uproar, lies the
     innocent sufferer to whom the household is even overflowingly
     grateful, when he has recovered from the "spasms".'

[Footnote 16: Loc. cit., p. 389.]

But the end is not always thus. There are victims of hysteria whose
symptoms continue for months or years, till cure seems impossible,
although, as I have said before in this chapter, there is present in the
consciousness a strong desire for recovery. Let us imagine the patient
complaining of severe pain in one foot: the sympathising friends tend
her with care and affection, the doctor suspects the early stage of some
bone disease, and, as is the fate of so many practitioners, he is urged
by the friends to say 'what is the matter.' Then the supposed disease
receives a name, muscular action pulls the foot into an abnormal
position, deformity appears, and if the true nature of the disease is
now discovered not only the patient but the friends and family need the
most careful treatment.

What has been happening all this time in the mind of the patient? We
will assume that she knew at the beginning that her pains were
fictitious; what course is now open to her if she wishes to end the
deceit when her friends, by their pardonable credulity, have allowed
themselves to be deceived and her troubles have been accepted by the
doctor as real? Her pride or self-respect prevents open confession, and
in her ignorance of the course of the supposed disease she thinks an
unexpected recovery will reveal the fraud. Here are the materials for
another mental conflict, and her alternatives are:--

1. To solve the conflict by confession or recovery, and I have shown the
difficulties of this course.

2. To build a logic-tight compartment; to say, for example, 'They have
never given me a chance, and now I am quite right in imposing upon them
as long as I can.' But her feelings concerning right and wrong are
probably too strong to maintain this attitude indefinitely.

3. To repress the consciousness of deceit and maintain her symptoms as
the price of her peace of mind.

This last course is followed, and the patient is now a Dissociate. In
the dissociated stream are:--

1. The original desires which led to the manifestation of disease--the
desire for sympathy, the desire to have her own way, the 'Will to

2. The knowledge of deceit.

3. The mechanism for maintaining the symptoms--the pains, the paralysis
or contracture.

This stream is now independent of the main personality and out of its
control; as far as the patient knows her pains are real, her deformity
is a disease, and whoever doubts it is not only ignorant but cruel. We
can now understand the capriciousness of the hysteric, her moods and
contrary ways. On the one side is a mind with ordinary motives, and on
the other is the split-off portion containing the complexes catalogued
above. If the reader thinks this conception brings us back to the old
one of demoniacal possession I will admit that the only difference lies
in the definition of the demon.

The description of this imagined case will perhaps be acceptable to
those who believe in the connection between hysteria and malingering.
This connection I at one time emphasised, and I still believe that in
some cases the repression of a knowledge of deceit plays an important
part in the development of the disease. But motives are derived more or
less from the unconscious, and when the unconscious elements predominate
we approach the condition in which there has never existed any
consciousness of deceit. The case of the soldier with an obsession to
attack his companion does not admit of the hypothesis of a stage in
which the symptom was due to a conscious desire to any end: but his
repression might have shown itself, let us suppose, in a paralysis of
his legs as a symbol of exhaustion or terror. Then we should have a
hysteria in which there had never been any deceit complex, though in the
absence of knowledge of the workings of the patient's mind a firm
believer in the 'Will to Power' theory might attribute the origin of the
condition to a definite desire to escape the strain of war.

I can now state that some of the results of conflict between desire and
reality form a graduated series, beginning at cases of conscious
simulation, then passing on to those of hysteria with repression of the
knowledge of deceit, and ending with cases where deceit has never
existed; but no one theory explains satisfactorily the origin of all
cases of hysteria.

It is difficult to understand those cases in which the hysteric inflicts
injuries upon him or herself; the individual who thrusts needles into
his body and comes to hospital again and again to have them removed is a
curious but not very uncommon object. An ophthalmic surgeon of my
acquaintance had a patient who placed irritants under the lid of one eye
till the sight was lost and the organ was removed, and the process was
begun on the remaining eye before the trick was discovered. Such things
occur in the history of malingering, and what the consciousness can do
the dissociated stream is equally capable of doing: the only difficulty
is the very practical one of believing that the patient can carry out
the necessary action without being fully aware of what is happening,
unless we assume an abrupt dissociation with the main personality
temporarily abolished.

Certain hypnotic experiments throw light upon this difficulty, which
also occurs in connection with some spiritualist phenomena. It has for
long been disputed whether mental processes can produce bleeding into
the skin or blisters upon it. Such bleedings were the 'stigmata'
representing the marks of the Crucifixion, that have been described as
appearing upon the bodies of religious devotees, and they have been
thought to be real and due in some way to auto-suggestion.

Hysterical subjects often show the production of raised wheals if the
skin is lightly stroked with the finger-nail or the head of a needle;
one can write a word upon the skin and watch it become visible. This is
purely a circulatory phenomenon, but experiments have been made under
hypnosis in which the skin is touched with a pencil and the subject is
told that he is being burnt and that a blister will follow. Success has
been claimed for this experiment, but one source of error is hard to
exclude. If a blister appears the next day, and the subject is known to
be an honest man with no end to gain by cooking the experiment, an
observer might be inclined to accept the result as due to the direct
influence of suggestion; but the subject is, by the terms of the
experiment, in a state of dissociation, and in the dissociated
personality exists the suggestion that a blister should appear. In
addition there exists the desire to carry out the wishes of the
hypnotist, and since this is out of the control of the main personality
whose honesty is accepted as sufficient guarantee against fraud he must
nevertheless be regarded as willing and eager to produce a blister.

Milne Bramwell[17] quotes a case in which suggestion, under stringent
conditions, apparently produced blistering: the subject's arm was then
enveloped in bandages in which sheets of paper were incorporated, and
after further suggestion and a night's rest it was found that, although
the subject had been watched continually, she had succeeded in
penetrating the bandages with a hair-pin. A further experiment, in which
the arm was enveloped in plaster of Paris bandage, gave a negative
result. This experiment is very valuable; it does not disprove the
possibility of producing blisters by suggestion, but it does prove that
if we judge the Dissociate by ordinary standards we expose ourselves to
victimisation. If I were the subject of such an experiment I should
certainly require that every precaution should be taken to prevent me
from producing a blister by mechanical means.

[Footnote 17: _Hypnotism_, 3rd ed., 1913. Wm. Rider & Son.]

Now let us consider the signs of the disease. In the chapter on
suggestion I showed that in a limb paralysed by hysteria the loss of
sensitiveness, the so-called hysterical anæsthesia, resulted from a
desire on the part of the patient that the doctor should find what he
was looking for, and this desire I called receptivity. The receptivity
is at first necessary to keep up the deception, for the patient does not
know the symptoms of the simulated disease, and must always be on the
alert to pick up hints. When dissociation occurs, the receptivity finds
its place in the split-off stream, forming part of the mechanism for
keeping up the symptoms; but having passed out of the control of the
main personality it tends to become exaggerated and misdirected.

Hence the hysteric becomes very suggestible and all kinds of fantastic
symptoms may be produced. If the resistance to recovery is not great
then suggestion may even remove symptoms, just as it created them; and
if we now turn back to Babinski's definition we shall find that it fits
into our theories, although it concerns itself with only a restricted
view of the subject.

Since one object of the dissociated stream is to maintain the symptoms,
it follows that any method that will remove them may abolish the
dissociation, though still leaving the patient with those desires and
conflicts, conscious or unconscious, which preceded their appearance and
which form the so-called 'hysterical predisposition'. This explains the
success which has followed the employment of exorcism, Christian
Science, nasty drugs, cold water, electric shocks, persuasion, or rest
cures; and to this list, I hasten to admit, some people would add
treatment according to the method of bringing repressions into the light
of consciousness.

I have tried to make clear the subject of hysteria for the following
reasons: There is at the present day no school of believers desirous of
attributing supernatural causes to the disease, and therefore I am
spared the task of attacking a mass of credulity; and, further, the
mental processes are identical with those shown in other phenomena
concerning which credulity is still powerful. I can now proceed to show
how the theory of dissociation explains the production of the spuriously
supernatural by the apparently honest.



There are certain parlour tricks which have an attractive flavour of the
occult and sometimes form an introduction to it. Most of us have seen
children mystified by a thought-reading performance depending upon a
more or less obvious code, but sometimes we are treated to one which is
more genuine.

The procedure is something like this: One person goes out of the room
and the others decide that on his return he shall perform an action such
as unlacing a shoe or pushing on the hands of a clock to a certain hour.
Then he returns and, according to arrangement, may be blindfolded or
not, and one of the party may or may not place a hand upon his shoulder;
the audience next 'concentrate their minds' upon what the performer is
to do, whilst he 'makes his mind a blank'.

Sometimes success follows, and the result is taken as proof of

Now let us examine the process in the light of what we have assumed in
previous chapters. To make the mind a blank, if it means anything, means
to cut off the stream of consciousness, and we straightway have our old
friend a dissociation. The performer is then in a state resembling
hypnosis, and, as we have seen before, in hypnosis the senses may be
abnormally sharpened. This sharpness, together with the receptivity of
the subject, makes him ready to pick up the faintest signs, and in the
case where the hand of a second person, also concentrating his mind on
the desired action and therefore to a certain extent dissociated, is
placed upon his shoulder, there are easily conveyed enough
pressure-signs to indicate when he is going right or wrong.

When there is no actual contact other indications than touch are not
lacking. The passing expressions of pleasure or disappointment on the
faces of the audience, the sigh of relief when a wrong step is retraced,
the glances at the object to be handled, are all picked up by the
dissociated stream whilst the main personality of the subject is for the
time almost obliterated. We must bear in mind that all the audience are
concentrating their minds, that concentration of mind upon an action is
likely to be followed by movements corresponding to the action, and that
no one is watching his neighbour or suspects any such unconscious

The thought-reading is not performed without prolonged pauses, the
subject making several halting steps before the right one is taken. It
reminds one of the manner in which the medium feels his way to the
thoughts of his victims.

Domestic blindfolding is not very efficient, and may be of use to the
subject by allowing him to look without the direction of his glances
being noticed.

So this thought-reading is reduced to the children's game of 'Hot and
Cold', but instead of fully conscious people producing and receiving
sounds we have a group of 'concentrated' (that is, partly dissociated)
streams sending out indications to be picked up by a hypersensitive
dissociated stream.

The subject is often exhausted by his efforts, and the performance is
not likely to be of benefit to any one who misinterprets it. The human
mind contains enough errors without producing a voluntary dissociation
further to deceive its owner.

There is one well-known experiment the significance of which is
generally missed. If the reader is not familiar with it let him follow
these directions and he will probably find that he is possessed of some
amount of so-called hypnotic power. Having procured a weight fastened to
a short cord (a heavy watch with its chain will serve), direct a friend
to sit in a chair and, resting his elbows upon his knees, to hold the
cord by the fingers of both hands so that the weight is suspended
between his separated knees. Let him keep his eyes upon the weight and
assure him that it will begin to swing from knee to knee. The weight, at
first indecisively wobbling, will soon take on the swing you describe,
which will gradually increase in amplitude. I have heard people ascribe
this motion to 'magnetic power'--blessed words that mean nothing, but
serve to give an appearance of reason to an explanation that should
satisfy no one.

The real cause of the motion is shown if you experiment with a fresh
subject, who must know nothing of the first trial. Ask him to hold the
weight in the same manner but, standing in front of him, tell him the
weight will swing towards you (that is, at right angles to its swing in
the first experiment). If you show sufficient assurance you will
probably succeed in both experiments, but your chance of success is less
than that of the man who has seen the trick and accepts the 'magnetic'
explanation, for his belief in the physical cause of the phenomenon will
give him a natural assurance which is lacking in one who realises that
the weight swings in a certain direction because the agent is made to
believe that it will.

It is plain that your friend swings the weight himself, but he is
unaware of two factors: He knows nothing of his own muscular action and
nothing of his own mental processes which have produced that action;
hence this experiment must be placed among the automatisms like
table-turning and water-divining. One is prepared to find that the trick
has its place among the mechanical adjuncts of spiritualism: it was used
in ancient times as a means of divination, and is used by mediums of
to-day when they tap out spirit revelations with a gold ring suspended
in a glass tumbler.

If intelligent people like your friends can be made to believe that the
weight is moved by some extraneous force, it can be understood that the
trained medium, full of a belief in the supernatural, finds it an easy
task to let the unconscious have possession of his or her muscular
actions and spell out memories and fantasies which one is asked to
accept as evidence of spirit control.

Planchette (described in Chapter IV) finds a place in the family circle,
sometimes with the result that a single hit becomes a tradition after
all the other stuff has faded from memory. A friend, who told me that he
saw Planchette predict truly the month in which the Boer War ended,
admitted that his family had toyed with the instrument night after
night, but he failed to remember any other results. I must add that he
never believed in the thing, but, nevertheless, the one lucky shot was

Table-turning is another half-way house between the parlour trick and
the full-blown occult. Several people sit round a light table with their
hands placed upon it, and, after due 'concentration of mind', aided
often by a dim light, the table begins to move and the spirits are at
work. Then a sort of Morse code is invented to communicate with the
spirit entities, and the revelations begin.

Here I will quote from page 219 of _Raymond_, that widely-circulated
book by Sir Oliver Lodge:--

'During the half-hour ... I had felt every now and then a curious
tingling in my hands and fingers, and then a much stronger drawing sort
of feeling through my hands and arms, which caused the table to have a
strange intermittent trembling sort of feeling, though it was not a
movement of the _whole_ table.... Nearly every time I felt these queer
movements Lady Lodge asked, "Did you move, Woodie?" ... Lady Lodge said
it must be due to nerves or muscles, or something of the sort.'

Compare this with the feelings of the water-diviner (Chapter V):--

'The muscles of the arm become contracted when the bodily magnetism is
affected by the presence of water.... I suppose it must have something
to do with the composition of the blood and nerve cells.'

Or with those of a hysteric who, previously relieved from mutism, was
again struck dumb during a thunderstorm: ... 'I felt the electricity
passing all over my body; it made all my muscles quiver and then went
out at my finger-tips.'

No one can deny the reality of these feelings, as feelings, but in the
first instance they are due to spirits, and in the next to water, and
only in the case of the man known to be sick in mind is the real
explanation likely to be accepted by the subject. They are all products
of imagination, suggestion, self-deceit, or dissociation--call it what
you please if you understand that the feelings have their origin in the
mind of the subject and are not due to any external cause.

But in the first two examples they are associated with muscular
movements which, we must believe, are carried out unknown to the doers
and hence have their source in a dissociated stream. As usual, once the
dissociation is established, there is no limit to its manifestations.
Picture three or four Dissociates at work at a table, all bent upon
producing signs of the marvellous, all blind to the mechanism at work,
and with the hypersensitiveness of the dissociated stream ready to draw
on the memories of the unconscious.

Mixed with this is the possibility of more elaborate deceit: when the
hands of all are raised from the table their knees may still be under
it; and if the knees are clear of it a blackened lath concealed up a
sleeve can still work miracles.

This is taking us beyond the purely domestic, but there is no difference
between the after-dinner tilting of the table for amusement and the same
thing done at a séance--the mechanism is the same, but one is treated as
a jest whilst the other is something worse. We see again the typical
series with simple trickery at one end and reason-destroying
dissociation at the other.

Palmistry seems too absurd to be discussed, but it is another half-way
house. That the lines of Life, or Love, or what-not, are to be found on
the palms of dead-born babies and of monkeys should be enough to stop
the cult; but handbooks of palmistry seem to profit their publishers,
and the palmists and clairvoyants flourish. The girl who buys a handbook
and amuses her friends by reading their hands is comparatively harmless,
though even she, becoming shrewd to note when she hits the mark, is
likely to develop an unconscious receptivity and drift into fraud.

Crystal-gazing is a form of mediumism admirably fitted to give play
both to trickery and dissociation. Used by the medium to 'see as in a
glass darkly' and gain time for the help of his or her receptivity, it
also allows of the induction of a self-hypnosis, the memories or fancies
from the unconscious showing themselves as visions in the crystal.

Table-turning is easily first among the ways of giving rein to the
unconscious. It has the advantage of allowing several people to play the
same game at once, and further of allowing one Dissociate to work the
miracle, whilst no one, not even the Dissociate himself, knows who is
doing it. This is illustrated in _The New Revelation_, p. 19, where Sir
Arthur says: 'Some one, then, was moving the table; I thought it was
they. They probably thought that I did it.'

_The Gate of Remembrance_[18] gives an illustration of tapping the
unconscious and producing results that seem astonishing.

[Footnote 18: By F. B. Bond; Blackwell, Oxford.]

Two gentlemen, Mr. F. B. Bond and his friend J. A. I., had devoted years
of study to the archæology of Glastonbury, exploring every available
source of information in history or tradition and thinking hard and
often about the Edgar Chapel, a part of the Abbey whose site was
undetermined. After this preparatory storing up of memories and thoughts
in the unconscious, they proceeded to tap them. I quote from page 18:--

'What was clear enough was the need of somehow switching off the mere
logical machinery of the brain which is for ever at work combining the
more superficial and obvious things written on the pages of memory, and
by its dominant activity excluding that which a more contemplative
element in the mind would seek to revive from the half-obliterated
traces below.'

Recognising an old friend, we are not surprised to find that automatic
writing was the means employed to switch off the main stream of
consciousness and produce a dissociation.

I find myself more in accord with the writer than reviews had led me to
expect, for he disclaims 'the action of discarnate intelligences from
the outside upon the physical or nervous organisation of the sitters'
(p. 19).

The automatic writing is apparently controlled by Richard Bere,
Johannes, and other influences which would be welcomed by spiritualists
as 'objective entities'; but the writer gives his opinion regarding
Johannes (p. 50) as follows: 'Whether we are dealing with a singularly
vivid imaginative picture or with the personality of a man no one can
really decide.'

Here I must differ and claim to have decided, for myself at least, that
no personality other than that of the actual writer was concerned. The
record of hysterical phenomena contains so many similar 'personalities'
that I find no reason to call in the supernatural to account for this
one. If a natural explanation is available we must not appeal to the
supernatural; I am sure that F. B. B. is not unacquainted with Occam's
razor--miracles must not be unnecessarily multiplied.

Since the writer does not stress the supernatural, and allows me to
credit to his unconscious the poetical imaginings produced in the script
and the 'veridical passages' concerning the discoveries of the Edgar
Chapel, I have no need to criticise them, especially as he is scrupulous
in giving credit to the conscious predictions of others when they hit
the mark.

The book is a record of an experiment--successful from the psychological
point of view--carried out by two Dissociates who _knew what they were
doing_; the dissociated streams were entirely out of their control, and
although I must, from the psychological standpoint, class the experiment
with the other dissociations described in this book, yet it is far from
my purpose to class the experimenters with 'Feda' and others of her

The earlier chapters of this book were written before I read _The Gate
of Remembrance_, but whoever reads the conclusion in the latter book
will find many opinions in agreement with those in my chapter on the

Table-turning, water-divining, automatic writing, thought-reading, and
the use of the pendulum are examples of a psychological automatism in
which the agent is conscious neither of the muscular movements concerned
nor, what is more important, of the mental processes producing them.

They can be cultivated to provide amazing results in tapping the
memories of the unconscious, and if the agents remain in ignorance of
their true mechanism a systematised delusion is built up and accepted as
proof of the supernatural.



Just as any one believing all actions to be the result of fully
conscious motives may regard the hysteric as a simple fraud, so he may
dismiss the medium and the clairvoyant in the same easy way and consider
the matter settled. But we find men in positions which lend authority
not only vouching for the honesty of the medium but sometimes taking an
active part in the production of the phenomena for which the explanation
of fraud is regarded as sufficient; as a result this explanation fails
to convince and we meet many people who believe there must be 'something
in it'. So there is: there is the same graduated series, from the simple
cheat to the complete Dissociate, that we saw in the consideration of
hysteria, but in addition there is a fervent desire to believe, and the
Dissociate, instead of being regarded as a victim of disease, is treated
as a person gifted with supernatural powers.

Let me describe my first experience of a medium. Friends had told me of
his gifts and had met my incredulity with 'How do you explain this?'
followed by some story of supernatural revelation. I could not explain,
but accepted an invitation to meet the miracle-worker and, perhaps, be
converted. His method of demonstrating communication with the spirit
world was to sit in a meditative attitude with one hand before his eyes,
whilst watching between his slightly separated fingers the assembled
believers so as to note the effect of his revelations, which were
apparently presented to him by the spirits in two forms. Descriptions of
the spirit world came through freely, one might call them fluent but
incoherent, whilst revelations such as my friends had promised came in a
halting and uncertain trickle. The enthusiastic accounts had not
prepared me for such a poor show. I had pictured him saying something
like--'Your grandmother's name was Georgina; she died at the age of
seventy-two, after an illness lasting three days; she was a good
horsewoman and disliked Mr. Gladstone'. Instead of this the procedure
was: 'I hear a name, is it George? (No bite)--Georgina? (a look of
intelligence)--you have a friend named Georgina--a young girl--no, not a
young girl, she was older, a relative, yes, a relative'--and so on.
Finally Georgina is discovered to be a grandmother of one of those
present, and is described sufficiently well to be recognised as the
grandmother on the father's side, though, curiously, Georgina was the
name of the maternal grandmother. What could be more convincing? Of
course spirit communication is difficult and such a mistake only proves
the genuineness of the article; but the description of the grandmother
was built up on certain characteristics of the father, who was present,
and the source was obvious to any one not blinded by the desire to

One incident shows that the medium had received some education in the
superficial signs of disease. An elderly lady with a rather puffy face,
which had raised in me a suspicion of kidney disease, was told by him:
'It is strange, but I _must_ tell you for your own sake. You have
trouble with your kidneys.' He was wrong and so was I, but if events had
proved us right the credit would have been his.

Then my turn came and the spirits told about my own disposition, which I
had unfortunately revealed by a single observation before the real
business began, and the exulting glances of the audience told me the
first score had gone to the medium. Then more intimate stuff came
through; names were presented and I nibbled at one: 'Yes, I know him',
with a stress on the 'I'. More revelations--he was my enemy (here a nod
from me), I had suspected it for a long time, but right would conquer,
and I must not fear. Then a relative came into the play, and a look of
sadness drew forth the surprising news that she was dead but her spirit
was watching over me. Next came the phrase, heard once before in the
séance, 'I see a far-off land', and the believers brightened up again.
Quick came the news, 'You have been abroad,' and I couldn't deny it.

Thus the game went on; when a hint could be picked up it was used at
once or later, to be cast back as a spirit revelation. As the game
developed I gave hints in plenty, whilst my friends showed their joy at
seeing a sceptic receive convincing proofs of the spirit powers.

The séance being ended, my first task was to persuade the believers that
the revelations vouchsafed to me bore little relation to the truth; 'But
you said they were true.' 'Yes, and they were not.' 'Then you were
really telling lies.' 'Yes, and he believed them and so did the
spirits.' 'Well, of course, if you deceive the spirits like that how can
you expect the truth in return?' So the rationalisations went on and the
logic-tight compartments were protected from injury.

In this show we see a fine example of receptivity, like that of the
hysteric who watches the doctor to learn what symptoms he expects to
find; and just as the doctor may suggest absurd symptoms and find them
present, so I was able to suggest falsehoods and have them reflected as
revelations. But the believer would never do that; he is eager to fit
every phrase to some fact within his knowledge, those that cannot be so
fitted being forgotten as soon as the next lucky shot occurs, and in his
eagerness he helps along the medium and provides him with more material.

Lest it may be thought that this experience is not typical, I will use
the light given by it to examine some of the spirit news given in

But we must first understand who are the _dramatis personæ_ of a séance.
Since the time of the Witch of En-dor the expert medium has had a
familiar spirit which speaks through him to this world and at the same
time is in contact with the spirit world. The psychological explanation,
if the medium is a true Dissociate and not a conscious fraud, is that
the results of the dissociated stream are perceived by its owner as
something of external origin. In the same way a lunatic whose
dissociated stream produces voices will project them externally and
believe them to be warnings or commands from an outside source; the
table-turners, water-diviners, and watch-swingers follow the same
reasoning, though their results are purely motor; and when ideas come up
from the cut-off stream the individual cannot recognise them as mental
products of his own, but feels impelled to credit them to another
personality. I am reminded of a charming little girl whose one desire
was to please her parents but who often gave way to the mischievous
tendencies of a healthy child; whenever that happened she produced an
imaginary 'Naughty John' who broke toys and cut off little girls' hair.
That is how the dissociated medium proceeds: unable to rate at their
proper value the ideas which present themselves, he invents a familiar
spirit who serves as their ostensible origin. The familiar thus called
into being can draw upon the unconscious of the medium for the material
to build up fantasies about another world. The spirits of the dead are
part of these fantasies, so that we finally have the medium, the
medium's split-off personality, often with a name of its own, and the
spirit that meets the demand of the moment.

The secondary personalities in Sir Oliver's mediums are Feda and
Moonstone, and in the dialogue Feda tells what Raymond is doing or
saying, occasionally carrying on asides of her own. All this seems very
complicated, but an explanation is necessary in order to understand what

The medium (or, in this case, Feda) tells Sir Oliver Lodge (see pp. 250
_et seq._), 'It's a browny-coloured earth, not nice green, but
sandy-coloured ground. As Feda looks at the land, the ground rises sharp
at the back. Must have been made to rise, it sticks up in the air....
The raised up land is at the back of the tent, well set back. It doesn't
give an even sticking up, but it goes right along, with bits sticking up
and bits lower down.' Of this the scientific Sir Oliver says: 'The
description of the scenery showed plainly that it was Woolacombe sands
that was meant.' The reader will have no difficulty in fitting this
description to any sands he likes, but the believer wants it to be
Woolacombe, and Woolacombe it is.

Then, the medium having discovered that O. J. L.'s family had a tent by
the water, O. J. L. asks: 'Is it all one chamber in the tent?' Answer:
'He didn't say that. He was going to say no, and then he stopped to
think. No, I don't think it was, it was divided off.'

Next a yacht appears out of the spirit world, and O. J. L. asks: 'What
about the yacht with sails, did it run on the water?' The medium needs
time to think, and the answer comes: 'No' (Feda (_sotto voce_): Oh,
Raymond! don't be silly!) he says, 'No. (Feda: It must have done.) He is
showing Feda like a thing on land--yes, a land thing. It's standing up,
like edgeways. A narrow thing. No, it isn't water, but it has got nice
white sails.'

O. J. L. 'Did it go along?'

'He says it _didn't_! He's laughing! When he said "didn't" he shouted
it.' Feda should have said, 'He laid particular emphasis on it.'

The first question is capable of two interpretations and the answer is
ambiguous, though the ambiguity is further 'evidence' to Sir Oliver,
because he remembers that a double-chamber tent had been turned into a
single-chamber one.

The second question may be compared with 'Did you feel that?' in the
production of hysterical anæsthesia (see Chapter VIII). The hysteric
reasons, consciously or unconsciously:--It is natural to feel a pin
prick, but the doctor is looking for signs of disease and he must expect
to find a numbness or he wouldn't ask the question, so the answer is

When Sir Oliver asks concerning a yacht, 'Did it run on the water?' the
reasoning is similar, and the word 'run' helps, for no yacht runs on the
water; if the yacht sailed on the water the question would not be asked,
therefore the answer here was 'no', but the medium maintained a clever
ambiguity whilst feeling her way.

The third answer was a cleaner guess, but wrong.

He says: 'All this about the tent and boat is excellent, though not
outside my knowledge'.... Then he adds, concerning the boat, 'I believe
it went along the sands very fast occasionally, but it still wouldn't
sail at right angles to the wind as they wanted it.... On the whole it
was regarded as a failure, the wheels were too small; and Raymond's
"didn't" is quite accepted.'

And Raymond's 'did' would have been as readily accepted and put in the
same chapter headed 'Two evidential sittings.'

Contrast these halting scraps to the following (p. 249): 'He wants to
tell you that Mr. Myers says that in ten years from now the world will
be a different place. He says that about fifty per cent. of the
civilised portion of the globe will be either spiritualists or coming
into it.'

No hesitation here, but no possible verification either, nor any hint
that a hundred per cent. of the uncivilised people of the globe are
already spiritualists.

Sir Oliver's imagination does not keep pace with his readiness to fit
revelation to fact. After the tent, the water, and the yacht,
comes--'rods and things, long rods. Some have got little round things
shaking on them like that. And he's got strings, some have got strings.
"Strings" isn't the right word, but it will do. Smooth, strong,

Of this Sir Oliver says: 'The rod and rings and strings mentioned after
the "boat", I don't at present understand. So far as I have ascertained
the boys don't understand either at present.' Surely an out-of-door
family like this includes at least one fisherman; why not think out who
he is and score another bull's-eye to the medium?

A delightful example of Sir Oliver's anxiety to help the medium occurs
on page 256:--

O. J. L.: 'Do you remember a bird in our garden?'

(Feda (_sotto voce_): 'Yes, hopping about').

O. J. L.: 'No, Feda, a big bird.'

'Of course not sparrows, he says. Yes he does.' (Feda (_sotto voce_):
Did he hop, Raymond?)

'No, he says you couldn't call it a hop.'

This book of Sir Oliver Lodge's shows an honesty which, together with
the circumstances under which it was written, makes critical examination
difficult; but there are similar circumstances in many a household
to-day, and the honesty of the writer leads many people, who reason that
what an eminent man honestly believes must be true, to turn to a
mind-wrecking belief in mediums instead of finding consolation in a
saner philosophy or religion.

At my first séance it strained my belief in human intelligence to find
respected friends believing the romances and guesses of a trickster to
be spiritual manifestations, and I thought that there must at least be a
more elaborate type of deceit, since believers were to be found among
our scientific aristocracy. My belief is no longer strained, but broken,
for I find in Sir Oliver's medium the same tricks, the receptivity, the
halting search for material, and the same easy flow of unverifiable
revelations that characterised the medium I first met.

Thanks to his honesty, one is able from the material supplied by this
writer to trace the source of many 'revelations', and in the rare
examples where the source is not manifest (as in the 'pedestal'
incident, p. 257) it is scarcely unfair to presume some unintentional
suppression. I say unintentional because Sir Oliver, blind to the
explanations his own book offers, is plainly incapable of wilfully
suppressing facts that tell against himself.

Spiritualism has its fashions, apparitions and materialisations having
now given place to communications with the dead, which is the 'New
Revelation'. Its newness is not so apparent when we read the story of
the Witch of En-dor. Even the occasional deportation of undesirable
mediums is not new, for Saul 'put away those that had familiar spirits,
and the wizards, out of the land' (1 Samuel, chap. xxviii.). When he
disguised himself to visit the witch she recognised him just as the
mediums recognise Sir Oliver; but the modern resemblance is best seen
when we read that Saul, after asking for Samuel, 'said unto her, what
form is he of? and she said, an old man cometh up, and he is covered
with a mantle. And Saul perceived that it was Samuel.'

Here we see the medium giving to the credulous believer just what he
wants, and the believer reaching out to accept the trivial guess as a
spirit revelation. But the remoteness of the event (even at the time the
account was written) allowed of prophecies far more to the point than
any modern medium's, though, as often happens nowadays, their fulfilment
was described by the same writer that reported them.

In one respect we have degenerated since the days of Saul; the Witch of
En-dor was not hailed as an instrument of divine power destined to
provide a new driving force for religion.



One is repeatedly faced with a story of the marvellous and invited to
explain it away or believe in the supernatural. My favourite way of
dealing with such a proposition is to borrow a pack of cards, invite the
story-teller to take a card, and, without letting me see it, to think of
it whilst holding my hand. After a silent pause I name the card and may
be told, 'of course that's a trick', and on assuring my friends that the
spirits have told me the name of the card I am called a scoffer; somehow
a pack of cards is not spiritual enough.

Some stories are hard to explain without full evidence, and here is one
of them: A friend assured me that in _Raymond_ was an account of how one
of Sir Oliver Lodge's family went to London to visit a medium, and how
after she had started some others of the family met in Birmingham, and,
calling up the spirit of Raymond, asked him to say 'Honolulu' at the
London séance. Sure enough at the London séance held on the same day
'Honolulu' came into the spirit talk. This account is substantially
correct (see pp. 271 _et seq._) and the incident is inexplicable so
far; Sir Oliver Lodge says of the episode:--

     '1. It establishes a reality about the home sittings.

     2. It so entirely eliminates anything of the nature of collusion,
     conscious or unconscious.

     3. The whole circumstances of the test make it an exceedingly good

Then, after suggesting Telepathy as an explanation, he writes: 'I
venture to say there is no normal explanation, since in my judgement
chance is out of the question.'

If the information had stopped at this no explanation on natural lines
would be possible, but so painfully honest is Sir Oliver that in the
same book he supplies full material for such an explanation. At a London
séance on December 20th, 1915, with the same medium there occurs the

     (Question): 'What used he to sing?'

     (Answer): 'Hello-Hullolo, sounds like Hullulu-Hullulo, something
     about "Hottentot," but he is going back a long way he thinks.'

On April 11th, 1916, a song of Raymond's is found with the words written
in pencil:--

    'Any little flower from a tulip to a rose
    If you'll be Mrs. John James Brown
    Of Hon-o-lu-la-lu-la town.'

This song is fitted to the medium's revelations as given above, and the
next point of interest is whether the medium is informed of her success.
This we are not told, but we find on page 95 that when another medium
had hit the mark, with a sentence now interpreted as a warning of the
death of Raymond before it took place, Sir Oliver wrote to the daughter
of the medium: 'The reference to the Poet and Faunus in your mother's
last script is quite intelligible, and a good classical allusion; you
might tell the communicator sometime if there is opportunity.'

Plainly he is desirous of letting his mediums know when they succeed and
it is fair to suggest that the Hullulu medium found she had hit the
mark, the interpretation of the gibberish being 'Honolulu', though
Hottentot failed to score. A medium will always follow up a lucky shot
and it needs not even an appeal to chance to explain the repetition of
the word at the next sitting, after the verification, which was on May
26th (the date of the simultaneous test), the following being the words

     (The medium says): 'You could play.'

     (N. M. L. asks): 'Play what?'

     (The medium): 'Not a game, a music.'

     (N. M. L.): 'I'm afraid I can't, Raymond.'

     (Feda (_sotto voce_): 'She can't do that'): 'He wanted to know
     whether you could play Hulu-Honolulu.'

One of the strongest 'evidential' stories in the book being thus
explicable without calling upon the supernatural, any others lose their
value even if no explanation can be based on the available facts; but
apart from this explanation the choice of the test word throws a light
upon the little group tilting the table at Birmingham. With the whole
dictionary and all geography from which to choose, they selected a
sound which had occurred in a former revelation and therefore had a
chance of repetition. If in his laboratory days Sir Oliver examined a
substance for the presence of arsenic, he would first test his reagents
for the presence of that metal lest they might contain a trace of it and
vitiate the experiment. In this test the experimenters did what was
equivalent to selecting an arsenic-contaminated test-tube to use in an
analysis for that substance.

How did the word come to be selected? If the family of this
distinguished man had used ordinary caution in formulating the test,
they would certainly have chosen a word that had not occurred before,
and I think that point must be clear to the reader. But, though they are
probably sensible people in ordinary life, when they turn to the spirit
world they fall a prey to their dissociated streams, in which was the
knowledge that the word or something like it had been used before and
was likely to be used again, especially if, as I suggest, the medium
knew it had scored. Hence these believers were, as far as concerned
their dissociated streams, deliberately introducing a source of error
or, in laboratory language, cooking the experiment.

Among my card tricks is included the elementary one (technically known
as 'forcing a card') described at the beginning of this chapter, but I
may let some one choose a card from the pack on the table whilst my back
is turned; then, the card being placed in the pack which I have now
taken in my hand, I do some other trick. It is common for these tricks
to be confounded, and for one of my audience to assure friends that I
let him or her take a card from the pack on the table when my back was
turned and then named it by 'thought-reading.' Such a performance is
beyond me, but a like garbled account is characteristic of what we hear
concerning séances: the story-tellers are in a state of mental
confusion, they add or subtract in order to make the result emphatic,
any power of criticism they possess is suspended, and we are asked to
swallow the final product and confess ourselves believers.

After considering my own experiences and the evidence produced by Sir
Oliver Lodge, I have reached the conclusion that no one desirous of
believing only the truth can accept anything 'supernormal' without the
strictest investigation on the spot, aided by a knowledge of trickery,
verbal or material, as well as of the results produced by dissociation
and logic-tight compartments in the minds of the would-be honest.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle shows how convincing a twice-told tale becomes. I
borrow from _The New Revelation_ (p. 64):--

     'Or once again, if Raymond can tell us of a photograph no copy of
     which had reached England, and which proved to be exactly as he
     described it, and if he can give us, through the lips of strangers,
     all sorts of details of his home life, which his own relatives had
     to verify before they found them to be true, is it unreasonable to
     suppose that he is fairly accurate in his description of his own
     experiences and state of life at the moment at which he is

The words 'can tell us of a photograph no copy of which had reached
England' would lead us to believe that information that the photograph
existed came from Raymond: fortunately the original account is

Here is the photograph story, taken from _Raymond_ (p. 195). The medium
speaks, saying: 'You have several portraits of this boy. Before he went
away you had got a good portrait of him--two--no three. Two where he is
alone and one where he is in a group of other men. He is particular that
I should tell you of this. In one you see his walking-stick'. (Moonstone
here put an imaginary stick under his arm.)

This is ordinary guess-work, and it would be true of the families of
most officers, even as to the stick; but it was not true in this case,
for we read that though they had 'single photographs of him of course,
and in uniform', they had _not_ one of him in a group of other men; yet
this is the revelation referred to by Sir Arthur--the photograph
incident that has impressed so many.

Let us put the two statements side by side:--

    Before he went away you           ... Raymond can tell us
    had ... one where he is in a      of a photograph no copy of
    group of other men. He is         which had reached England?
    particular that I should tell
    you of this.

Not being able to explain the extraordinary identity of these
photographs, I must leave the problem to the creator of Sherlock Holmes;
we shall gain no help from Sir Oliver, for his ideas of identity, as we
shall see in the next paragraph, are equally curious.

Now for 'exactly as he described it': Sir Oliver Lodge, having been
informed in an ordinary letter that a group photograph containing
Raymond is being sent to him from France, went to another medium and
told her, 'He said something about having a photograph taken with some
other men' (this itself is a garbled statement); leading questions
followed, and the medium fenced with them. Here are the important

     O. J. L.: 'Do you recollect the photograph at all?'

     'He thinks there were several others taken with him, not one or
     two, but several.' (This is not even a guess.)

     O. J. L.: 'Does he remember how he looked in the photograph?'

     'No, he doesn't remember how he looked.'

     O. J. L.: 'No, no. I mean was he standing up?'

     'No, he doesn't seem to think so. Some were raised up round; he was
     sitting down, and some were raised up at the back of him. Some were
     standing, and some were sitting, he thinks.'

(Here is a correct description, anyhow; it is an even chance whether he
is sitting or standing, and, the sitting chance being taken, the rest is
padding. We are told on page 279 that another photograph showed him
standing, so that a hit could have been scored if the other chance had
been taken.)

     O. J. L.: 'Did he have a stick?'

     'He doesn't remember that.'

(Yet the presence of a stick in the picture is hailed on page 110 as one
of the strikingly correct peculiarities mentioned by Raymond. Be it
noted that the stick was spoken of in connection with one of the three
photographs that the family was said to have _before he went away_, and
is used as 'evidence' concerning _the one sent home from France_.)

     O. J. L.: 'Was it out of doors?'

     'Yes, practically.'

     Feda (_sotto voce_): 'What you mean, "yes practically," must have
     been out of doors or not out of doors. You mean yes, don't you?'

     Feda thinks he means 'yes,' because he says 'practically'.

     O. J. L.: 'It may have been a shelter.'

     'It might have been. Try to show Feda. At the back he shows me
     lines going down. It looks like a black background, with lines at
     the back of them. (Feda here kept drawing vertical lines in the

(The shelter is suggested by O. J. L.; Feda takes the hint and
visualises the shelter. Most shelters have vertical lines in their
structure. Such lines occur in the photograph and are strong 'evidence.'
The background is not black except for two open windows.)

The only revelation worthy of attention is this: 'He remembers that some
one wanted to lean on him; but he is not sure if he was taken with some
one leaning on him.... The last what he gave you, what were a B, will be
rather prominent in that photograph. It wasn't taken in a photographer's
place.' (Few out-door groups are.)

In the photograph he has some one's hand resting on his shoulder, and
an ambiguous guess scores a hit. As for B, Sir Oliver writes: 'I have
asked several people which member of the group seemed most prominent;
and except as regards central position a well-lighted standing figure on
the right has usually been pointed to as the most prominent. This one is
"B", as stated, namely, Captain S. T. Boast.'

Some initials are guessed--C, B, R, and K. As there are twenty-one
people in the group, and the alphabet contains only twenty-four letters
(excluding X and Z), it is hardly a mathematical surprise that
seventy-five per cent. are correct.

So much for the photograph that proved to be 'exactly as he described
it' (Sir Arthur) and 'one of the best pieces of evidence that has been
given' (Sir Oliver).

'All sorts of details of his home life' we must suppose refers to the
scenery of Woolacombe, the tent, the boat that went (or didn't) on land,
the song about Hululu and the Hottentot, the fishing rods that are not
understood at present, and so on.

As a test of unintentional garbling I asked a professional man, who had
read _Raymond_ sympathetically, to give me a short account of what the
medium said about the photograph. Here is his version, and it must be
understood that he knew I should criticise it:--

     'Sir Oliver Lodge was told by a medium that Raymond wished to tell
     him about a photograph taken in France. The medium said the
     photograph was of a group of officers including Raymond--a photo
     Sir Oliver had not seen. _There were lines running vertically in
     the background. Raymond is seated._ Some one's knee was
     preventing him from sitting comfortably and annoyed him. He was
     holding a stick. _The photo was out of doors_, but in a sheltered

The only points in which this tallies with the book description of what
the medium (not Sir Oliver) said are those shown by the words in italic.
The rest is garbled, and for the garbling my friend and Sir Oliver are
about equally responsible.

I have since asked other intelligent people to read the chapter and then
write out the story; the result is generally similar to that just given.
The affair is such a to-do about nothing that the sympathetic and
uncritical reader, deceived by the fuss, thinks there must be something
in it and makes additions of his own to account for his belief. Had he
read it critically he would have recognised the emptiness of the story,
but once he is impressed by it he must improve it or become aware of its

Once again I must emphasise the way in which a guess, wide of the truth,
is wrenched into an application to something entirely irrelevant. The
first medium says that before Raymond went away his family had a
photograph which showed him in a group of other men; _because this is
not true_, it is twisted into a reference to a photograph taken in
France and not yet received. The revelations of this medium must be cut
out of the story, and the whole incident is reduced to Sir Oliver Lodge
being told in an ordinary letter that a group photograph is on its way
to him; then he tells another medium about a group photograph, and in
answer to leading questions she makes the halting guesses reproduced

This is the famous photograph story, stripped of exaggeration and
garbling. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle would lead us to believe that the
medium told Sir Oliver about the existence of the photograph, but the
true account shows that, so far from this being the case, _Sir Oliver
told the medium_.

It is a commonplace of spiritualism that a medium may be guilty of
trickery at one time and genuinely gifted at another. We may freely
admit that mediums are peculiar people, but when Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
writes on a subject that needs careful observation and description and
gives this distorted account of the photograph story, he can expect
little credence when he writes in the same book equally convincing
stories of the supernatural and puts them before the public as a
contribution to religious thought. He gives a list of eminent men who
vouch for the genuineness of supernatural phenomena, and says that the
days are past when their opinions can be dismissed with the empty 'All
rot' or 'Nauseating drivel' formula. I agree, and regard their opinions
as interesting objects of psychological study. A little research could
produce a longer list of men, equally eminent in their day, who believed
in witchcraft and were willing to execute people in accordance with that
belief. The belief may yet return with all its horrors if _The New
Revelation_ is taken seriously. On page 168 we read concerning the
Cheriton poltergeist[19]:--

'It is very probable that Mr. Rolfe is, unknown to himself, a physical
medium, and that when he was in the confined space of the cellar he
turned it into a cabinet in which his magnetic powers could accumulate
and be available for use.' (It is hard to believe that he who speaks
like this about 'magnetic powers' once had at least an elementary
knowledge of physics.) On page 170 we read, concerning another
poltergeist, that '... a clergyman, with some knowledge of occult
matters, has succeeded by sympathetic reasoning and prayer in obtaining
a promise from the entity that it will plague the household no more.'

[Footnote 19: A poltergeist is a spirit that throws things about; its
appearance is generally associated with the presence of some young
person, whose tricks may be detected to the discredit of the ghostly
cause. If trickery is not detected the poltergeist is the manifestation
of an evil spirit.]

Poor Mr. Rolfe has had a narrow escape of being mixed up with an
'entity' who, or which, might have led him to the stake in a
thorough-going spiritualist age.

This relation between spiritualism and witchcraft is not a fantasy of my
unconscious; listen to this from another believer:--

     'The dangers of the spiritual world are greater because, bad as a
     man living on our plane may be, he cannot compare in that respect
     with a thoroughly wicked denizen of the fourth-dimensional space,
     whose power is all the greater because his very existence is almost
     universally denied. What little good was ever in him has been
     blotted out in the course, perhaps, of centuries; his cunning
     passes earthly comprehension; his experience of the ways and
     foibles of humanity is profound; his malignity is dreadful. To be
     fully under the influence of such an entity as this is to be at his
     mercy, and, as no such word exists in his vocabulary, the end is a
     foregone conclusion, unless another force of a contrary character
     and at least as powerful is directed against him.'[20]

[Footnote 20: _Problems of the Borderland_, p. 49, by J. Herbert Slater.
Wm. Rider & Sons, 1915.]

It is indeed fortunate that the existence of these entities is almost
universally denied. Hangings and burnings would be soon in fashion again
if any large proportion of us were influenced by such a horrible

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle has given an account to the papers (see _Daily
Telegraph_, February 18th, 1919) of a séance in Wales. Hymns were sung
to produce a suitable emotional state, and 'the lights were turned down
in order to obtain the proper conditions, because ether transmits light,
and is also the source of all psychic phenomena.' Then, the medium being
tied down, a tambourine rattled, and a coat and furniture flew about.
The bearing of this upon life in the hereafter, which Sir Arthur
discusses in connection with the performance, is not clear, but the
effects are identical with those produced by the Davenport Brothers, who
were exposed in 1868.[21]

[Footnote 21: See _The Question_, p. 103.]

The list of witnesses, who numbered about twenty, leads me to remark
that though in a multitude of counsellors there may be wisdom yet in a
crowd of witnesses there is Herd Instinct. With a conspicuous member of
the Herd like Sir Arthur in the lead, the sway of emotion will dull any
criticism, and if a few are unconvinced they will remain silent.[22]

[Footnote 22: In _Spiritualism--the inside Truth_ (chap. vi) Stuart
Cumberland tells how this medium refused to admit him to a séance.
Stringent precautions, however, were followed by a failure to produce
spirit manifestations.]

The statement that ether is the source of all psychic phenomena is
startling, but unsupported. Another believer, Sir William Crookes, says,
concerning exhibitions of what he calls 'Psychic Force', that '...
everything recorded has taken place _in the light_'.[23] So there seems
to be some fundamental error about the observations of one of them. But
Sir William's results were obtained from the famous Daniel Home, whose
years of experience in credulity allowed him to take risks which the
humble beginners in Wales hardly dared.

[Footnote 23: _Phenomena of Modern Spiritualism_, p. 25. 'Two Worlds'
Publishing Co., 1903.]

To examine all the stories of the supernatural is impossible; many are,
I frankly admit, inexplicable _on the evidence_; but it is fair to
assert that when an observer, on a subject which requires the most
careful watching and closest reasoning, shows by his own account that he
is ready to be deceived, then we cannot be convinced by his statements
when they are unverifiable. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is thus ruled out of
court, for his account of the photograph story shows, to put it gently,
a lack of clear writing, and his readiness to thrust upon the public a
repetition of the Davenport tricks, without a warning as to their
history, is not what we should expect from a man who has studied the
subject for thirty years.

Sir William Crookes gives detailed accounts of marvellous happenings,
but two mediums in whom he had implicit trust were detected in
deliberate fraud by other people,[24] so that his critical powers failed

[Footnote 24: Miss Fox and Mrs. Cook; see _The Question_, pp. 84 and

Some of his accounts show curious lapses. In one experiment an accordion
is placed in a cage under the table and Mr. Home puts his hand into the
top of the cage to do psychic things with the instrument. The
temperature of the room is carefully recorded (that doesn't matter, but
imparts a scientific flavour to the observations) although we are not
told why the experiment was done under the table instead of in a more
convenient position on top of it, though 'my assistant went under the
table, and reported that the accordion was expanding and contracting,'
and 'Dr. A. B. now looked under the table and said that Mr. Home's hand
appeared quite still.' Sir William would never have made such an
omission if he had been using the same reasoning powers that he used in
his scientific descriptions.

It is noticeable that the chief 'scientific' supporters of spiritualism
are eminent in physical science; they have been trained in a world where
honesty is assumed to be a quality of all workers. A laboratory
assistant who played a trick upon one of them would find his career at
an end, and ordinary cunning is foreign to them. When they enter upon
the world of Dissociates, where deceit masquerades under the disguise of
transparent honesty, these eminent men are but as babes--country cousins
in the hands of confidence-trick men--and their opinions are of less
value than those of a smart schoolboy.

Spirit photographs are useful to people who desire to show material
evidence for their beliefs, and for more than fifty years the desire has
been met by periodical outbreaks of this particular manifestation, with
occasional exposures of fraud. The spirit effects can be produced by
double exposure of one plate or by printing on one paper from two
negatives, so that the declaration that a photograph is that of a spirit
carries no proof with it and one must examine the circumstances under
which the photograph is obtained.

A friend of mine, with a decided tendency to belief in the reality of
spirit photography, was good enough to show me photographs of himself
with spirit forms beside him, and undertook to repeat his visit to the
photographer--who is accepted as genuine by leading spiritualists and
appears to be the chief exponent in the art of spirit photography in
this country--and take with him plates supplied by myself.

The photographer allows you to bring your own plates, goes with you into
the dark-room, and allows you to initial the plate before it is put in
the frame (whether it is your plate which you mark depends upon the will
and dexterity of the artist, aided by the darkness and a preliminary
hymn and prayer which should remove all doubts from your mind). Then the
plate is put in the camera and, whilst attendant ladies pass into a
trance, an exposure is made with yourself as the sitter. Next the plate
is developed under your eyes and perhaps a spirit form is revealed.

I provided my friend with a packet of four plates, three of which had
been exposed so that on being developed they would show a very
conspicuous cross. At the séance two plates were first exposed and
developed; on one appeared a cross with the portrait of the sitter, on
the other appeared only the portrait.

The photographer now knew that one plate at least was marked, and when
the remaining two plates were exposed and developed the cross appeared
on both of them.[25] There had been no substitution, but no spirit
photographs either. Then the old excuse appeared--'one negative thought
will spoil a whole circle', or, in other words, 'if you are on the
watch for trickery we won't perform'.

[Footnote 25: This is doubtful. My informant reported that he saw no
cross on the last two plates, but when the four prints came to hand the
cross appeared on three of them. Two prints were identical--though each
was supposed to be from its own negative. If the photographer aimed at
puzzling me he has succeeded.]

It must be remembered that even in a 'good' séance only one or two
spirit results may appear in several exposures, so the photographer can
always expose, develop, and examine any or all of your plates, and at
the least suspicion that yours are marked he may refrain from
substituting his own prepared plates and blame the spirits for the lack
of manifestations.

One may ask why a private mark (say a faint file scratch on the edge)
was not put on the plates so that the photographer himself could not
detect, even after development, that they were marked in any way? Such a
course would at once reveal whether substitution had taken place--though
even then the real believer could declare that the spirits had removed
the scratches.

But this test is frustrated by the photographer--simple honest man--who
refuses to part with the plates; he says they are now his property, but
he will let you have some prints!

In this example we find, as in so much 'evidential material', a point
where investigation is blocked and credulity is demanded. Another piece
of evidence is produced in this case, and I am shown a spirit photograph
beside a lady's. The lady claims that the spirit is that of a young man,
now deceased, to whom she was engaged. She was a stranger to the
photographer, so how could he produce the likeness even if he
substituted his own plates? But when I showed this spirit photograph to
a friend, with a query as to sex, she answered, 'But it _is_ a woman,
isn't it? It looks rather like N----.'

Now N---- is a mature maiden lady, so that the sexless features of the
spirit leave plenty of room for the play of fancy.

We are invited to accept or disprove stories of spirit photography
reported from the Continent, but whilst leading spiritualists in this
country accept the productions of the man whose methods I have described
I must refuse attention to anything they vouch for farther afield.

Mr. Crawford, a mathematician and engineer of Belfast, has published
reports of investigations of table-lifting séances, and builds up a
theory of spiritual cantilevers which he believes to explain his
results. The theory is pretty and the diagrams are impressive, but the
facts first call for examination.

Reading his accounts, I find that the experiments are carried out in a
dim red light, for a sudden white light causes the immediate cessation
of the phenomena. In addition there is a sacred line between the medium
and the levitated table which must not be investigated on pain of
dreadful results to the medium. This threat of physical evil to the
medium if the sceptic should investigate at a crucial point is a common
pretext, but though sceptics have often taken the risk, and seized a
spirit to discover a disguised medium, there is no record of such
disastrous results as Mr. Crawford would have us fear.

I suggest that this investigator should use his technical knowledge to
show how a simple but material cantilever, operated by the medium along
the sacred line, can produce levitation of the table.

The complaint is made that scientific men scoff at spiritualism and yet
refuse to investigate it; in the last two examples we see why this is
inevitable. Investigation is prevented in each at the very point where
fraud might be detected; so long as such obstruction is maintained the
spiritualists are likely to continue their complaints, and one must be
content to speculate on the mental state which allows a few men of
scientific training to support their claims.

The reader must not think that my aim is to convert spiritualists from
their belief. It is, as I have tried to show in earlier chapters,
useless to attack rationalisations in an effort to penetrate a
logic-tight compartment; as soon as one defence is broken down another
is built up, and one can only take comfort from the history of other
examples of _Pseudodoxia Epidemica_, as Sir Thomas Browne (he himself
being, strangely enough, an active believer in witchcraft) called them,
and look forward to the fading away of this delusion. Just as the belief
in witchcraft passed away from the educated and intelligent, lingering
only amongst the ignorant, so this delusion will pass and leave our
descendants to wonder how some of us came to be its victims.



After meeting my first medium I came away with the feeling that he was a
rather artful liar; but now, whilst retaining that opinion, I am ready
to admit that perhaps his lying was not a product of his consciousness.
I know nothing of his history, but he was accepted by intelligent people
as honest and respectable; moreover, records of spiritualism contain so
many examples of people whose belief in their own supernatural powers
must be accepted as real in spite of manifest deceit, that we must again
fall back upon dissociation to explain their state of mind.

I shall assume the existence of three groups just as in connection with
hysteria, and classify mediums, clairvoyants, water-diviners and other
producers of the supernatural into--

     1. The deceiver pure and simple.

     2. The deceiver who has repressed the consciousness of deceit and
     become a Dissociate.

     3. The subject who has never been conscious of deceit, but, led
     astray by his unconscious, has deceived himself from the beginning
     and finished as a Dissociate.

To place any performer in the proper group is again a matter of
judgement. Having a small repertory of tricks, including water-divining
and a few manifestations with a pack of cards, I have sometimes put
myself in the first group with temporary success.

The development of a case of the second group is probably not a
phenomenon that has ever been continuously observed, but Robert Browning
has formed such an excellent conception of it in _Mr. Sludge, the
Medium_, that his description bears comparison with my theory of the
development of some hysterics. David Sludge is a house-servant and his
master is pictured discussing high finance with his guests when the boy
breaks in, saying, 'Sir, I've a five-dollar note.' The scorn of the
guests is immediate:--'He stole it, then; shove him out'. And David is
given the swift kick of ignominy.

       *       *       *       *       *

'But,' says the poet,

    'Let the same lad hear you talk as grand
    Of signs and wonders, the invisible world.
    If he break in with "Sir, I saw a ghost!"
    Ah, the ways change!'

Browning leaves us to imagine the boy's motive; perhaps his was just a
boyish trick inspired by a desire for notoriety of which he himself was
scarcely conscious, but, like the unfortunate hysteric who meets
credulity, David is led on to produce more manifestations.

    'And, David, (is not that your Christian name?)
    Of all things, should this happen twice--it may--
    Be sure while fresh in mind, you let us know!'

Then later:--

                          '"... came raps!
    While a light whisked" ... "Shaped somewhat like a star?
    Well, like some sort of stars, ma'am." "So we thought!
    And any voice? Not yet? Try hard, next time,
    If you can't hear a voice; we think you may."

           *       *       *       *       *

    'So David holds the circle, rules the roast,
    Narrates the vision, peeps in the glass ball,
    Sets-to the spirit-writing, hears the raps,
    As the case may be.'

Then begins his conflict; like the patient who successfully feigns
symptoms, he finds withdrawal difficult:--

    'You'd prove firmer in his place?
    You'd find the courage--that first flurry over,
    That mild bit of romancing-work at end, ...
    To interpose with "It gets serious, this;
    Must stop here. Sir, I saw no ghost at all.
    Inform your friends I made--well, fools of them,
    And found you ready-made. I've lived in clover
    These three weeks: take it out in kicks of me!"
    I doubt it. Ask your conscience!'

Says poor David:--

    'There's something in real truth (explain who can)
    One casts a wistful eye at.'

Now he faces the same dilemma that the developing hysteric has to meet,
and as the hysteric reaches a false salvation by the repression of the
knowledge of deceit so does David:--

    'Why, when I cheat,
    Mean to cheat, do cheat, and am caught in the act,
    Are you, or, rather, am I sure o' the fact?
    Well then I'm not sure! I may be, perhaps,
    Free as a babe from cheating: how it began,
    My gift ... no matter; what 'tis got to be
    In the end now, that's the question; answer that!
    Had I seen, perhaps, what hand was holding mine,
    Leading me whither, I had died of fright.'

Nor does the poet omit the development of Receptivity:--

    'I'm eyes, ears, mouth of me, one gaze and gape,
    Nothing eludes me, everything's a hint,
    Handle and help.'

At the last the youth, once an innocent jester, pours a stream of
half-believed lies upon the man who, having caught him in his fraud,
lets him go with a chance to start life afresh.

Browning does not carry the idea of repression as far as I do, Sludge
producing clouds of rationalisations to cover his inconsistencies. The
idea of dissociation does not present itself, but the whole picture can
be taken to represent the evolution of many mediums with their mixture
of belief and deception.

Just as in the hysteric we meet with mechanical ways of deceit, shown by
self-inflicted injuries, so in the medium we meet with mechanical tricks
for the production of spurious phenomena. In both cases fully-conscious
deceit, reconciled to the moral complexes by rationalisations, is the
easiest explanation, but sometimes fully-conscious deceit is unlikely.

There is a disappointing lack of originality in spiritualist literature,
for the same stories of the marvellous are repeated in one book and
another. The Fox Sisters, Slade, Eglington, Eusapia Palladino and others
appear according to the fancy of the writer, and their fraudulent tricks
may or may not be acknowledged. It is a peculiarity of spiritualist
reasoning that if a medium is caught cheating it only proves that he was
cheating when he was caught; if he is not caught next time, we must
accept as genuine the phenomena then produced.

But no spiritualist writer can avoid the names of Home, Stainton Moses
and Mrs. Piper, for _they were never caught cheating_; nevertheless, we
apparently need testimonials at great length to their honesty. Mr. J.
Arthur Hill gives two pages of testimonials to Stainton Moses, and
repeats a story telling how the Reverend medium made an automatic
drawing of a horse and truck and gave a spirit message concerning a man
who had been killed that day under a steamroller in Baker Street. Mr.
Hill says: 'Mr. Moses had passed through Baker Street in the afternoon,
but had heard nothing of any such incident.'[26]

[Footnote 26: _Spiritualism_, p. 64. Cassell & Co., 1918.]

If Mr. Hill knew anything about dissociation he would not give us this
oft-quoted but flimsy story. Whence does he obtain his evidence that
the medium had heard nothing of the incident? Of course, from the honest
personality of Mr. Stainton Moses himself.

But a story of some terrifying episode is often, by psychological
technique, extracted from a war-strained soldier only to be repressed
and honestly denied by the man a little while later. If the dissociated
sufferer can deny the truth of an incident which, when recalled again,
fills him with horror, then the denial by another Dissociate that he has
heard of a street accident does not carry weight, even if we read a
bookful of testimony to his honesty.

The accounts of this famous medium, who is still held in awe by
believers, are full of such happenings. On another occasion the spirit
in possession of him gave the names of members of a family who had died
in India and were unknown to him or any one present. The names were
verified by reference to the obituary column of _The Times_ of a few
days before. We can assume that the honest Stainton Moses did not read
_The Times_, but that the dissociated Stainton Moses read and

With this dissociation well established and having for its object the
production of occult phenomena, we can understand the rest of the
manifestations that he produced for his circle of friends. He received
numerous communications from the dead, produced spirit lights,
transferred objects from one room to another through closed doors,
floated about, and, in short, went through all the spiritualist

The ball is kept rolling by all sorts of people. The late Archdeacon
Wilberforce, who believed in 'objective entities that seem able to
manipulate or influence nerve currents, or magnetic ether, or whatever
it is, of persons in the flesh',[27] wrote approvingly of him: 'The most
remarkable medium I ever knew was the Reverend Stainton Moses, a
clergyman in my father's diocese of Oxford'.[28]

[Footnote 27: _There is no Death_, p. 14.]

[Footnote 28: _Ibid._, p. 62.]

Of the same medium Mr. Podmore says: 'Apart from the moral difficulties
involved, there is little or nothing to forbid the supposition that the
whole of these messages were deliberately concocted by Mr. Moses himself
and palmed off upon his unsuspecting friends.'[29]

[Footnote 29: _Studies in Psychical Research_, p. 133.]

The moral difficulties disappear when we consider the case as one of
dissociation. His spirit communications were psychologically identical
with the automatic writings of the Glastonbury archæologists (see
Chapter IX); he read obituary notices, studied out-of-the-way stories of
men and women, and from the stores of his unconscious he produced this
information as news from the spirit world. But, knowing nothing of the
ways of the unconscious and becoming a prey to his own dissociated
stream, he fed this stream and drifted with it into something a little
removed from sanity.

I know not how the manifestations began, and whether he belonged to my
second or third group I do not attempt to discuss; I am satisfied if I
have made it clear that the work of this wonderful medium can be
explained otherwise than by one of the two alternatives of spiritualism
or conscious deceit.

We meet with the same rush to testify to the honesty of Mrs. Piper. Sir
Oliver Lodge of course guarantees her, and the late Professor William
James, the Harvard psychologist, wrote of her: 'Practically I should be
willing now to stake as much money on Mrs. Piper's honesty as on that of
any one I know, and am quite satisfied to leave my reputation for wisdom
or folly so far as human nature is concerned to stand or fall by this

[Footnote 30: Re-quoted from _Spiritualism_, p. 75.]

This honesty of the main personality of the Dissociate leads astray
professors of physics or of the old psychology.[31] It is the honest but
mistaken man who misleads his fellows. We are on our guard against the
rogue, and the conscious deceiver must needs be a good actor if he would
succeed. The best actor knows he is acting, but the Reverend Moses
needed no effort to preserve for years the appearance of
straightforwardness and honesty. As far as he knew, he _was_
straightforward and honest, though beneath his consciousness lay
fathomless possibilities of deceit, ever ready to take advantage of the
externals of an honest man.

[Footnote 31: I may owe an apology here to the memory of Professor
James, for the original quotation is given without its context.]

As I said in Chapter VI, an authoritative and confident manner makes
easy the acceptance of suggestion. What can be more authoritative and
confident than the manner of a man who believes what he says and knows
that his hearers are willing to believe? If what he says are lies and
delusions, that makes no difference in his manner, and his unsuspicious
hearers are still ready to stake their reputations upon his honesty.
That readiness only makes them the more suggestible and renders
valueless their opinion as to the truth of what he says.

Spiritualist writers are glib concerning 'subliminal consciousness',
and, knowing not what they mean, attribute to it powers of communication
with the spirit world. The only one worthy of study is the late F. H.
Myers, and though his stories of the marvellous are largely repetitions
of old material yet his treatment of the psychology of double
personality is illuminating. His work on _Human Personality_, if free
from the spiritualist complex, would probably rank well in advance of
its period. He has a good grasp of the subject of hysterical double
personality, giving some excellent examples, but postulates a transition
from the imaginings of the hysteric to the revelations of the spirit
world. That the mind should pass through disease on its way to divine
revelation, the boundary between the two being only a matter of
judgement, is a necessary part of his explanation of mediumism. Just as
spiritualists will maintain their belief in a medium after fraud has
been detected, placing upon unbelievers the onus of proving fraud in
every case, so Myers, knowing the workings of hysterical double
personality, claims the right to exclude hysteria whenever he pleases
and to attribute a divine origin to the material then produced. This
demand appeals neither to the religious man nor to the sceptic.

I take the liberty of borrowing a story from Mr. Hereward Carrington, a
spiritualist of some critical power.[32]

[Footnote 32: _Personal Experiences in Spiritualism_, pp. 59-61. T.
Werner Laurie, Ltd.]

     'One of the most interesting cases that I have ever encountered is
     the following, which I consider of remarkable psychological
     interest from various points of view.

     During the early summer of 1911, a gentleman called upon me,
     stating that he knew a wonderful physical medium, of the same type
     as Palladino. He himself was a lawyer; his friend, the medium, was
     also a lawyer, and had "a scientific interest in these things," and
     in "having the remarkable manifestations which occurred in his
     presence solved," etc. For three years and a half, I was told, this
     case had been under private observation, and the manifestations had
     grown more and more numerous and bewildering as time went on. This,
     and much more of like nature, I heard by way of preliminary to the
     investigation of what appeared to be a very promising case.

     An evening having been arranged, the two gentlemen called at my
     house, and, after a chat, the demonstrations were undertaken.

     A broom was placed on the floor, and then, the medium kneeling over
     the object (or, rather, squatting on the ground), he placed his
     fingers on either side of the broom-handle, and then gradually
     took them away. As he did so the broom was seen to rise into the
     air. It remained suspended in space for a few seconds, then fell to
     the floor. The effect was most striking, while the phenomenon was
     of that simple order which one would naturally expect to discover
     in a simple undeveloped medium.

     The first two or three experiments interested me immensely, I must
     confess. But I noted one particular thing about the movements of
     the medium, which was that every time he placed an object on the
     floor, he placed it very close to his knees; this caused me to look
     between his knees intently instead of at the object during the next
     few trials. The result was that I distinctly saw _a fine black
     thread_ stretched from leg to leg, forming a loop, into which the
     various objects were slipped in the act of placing them on the
     floor. The rest was only a matter of balance.

     In spite of the fact that I had discovered the _modus operandi_, I
     did not wish to act hastily, having been accused so often in the
     past of condemning too hastily upon discovering the fraud.
     Accordingly I asked the medium to meet me a few evenings later at
     the office of my friend, Dr. Gustave Sayer, and here we witnessed a
     second demonstration. It would be useless to repeat the details of
     this performance, which was simply a repetition of the first.
     Suffice it to say that not only was the medium seen using the loop
     of thread throughout, but this loop broke twice during the
     evening--once in the middle of the experiment--the thread being
     heard to break, and the object at once falling to the ground.

     On the first occasion the medium made an excuse, retired upstairs,
     and evidently arranged the thread, for he came down again in a few
     minutes and proceeded to give us a further test. Upon the thread
     (audibly) breaking a second time, however, he said that he "did not
     think he could do any more for us that evening," and sat down,
     apparently exhausted.

     It was the most flagrant and bare-faced swindle I ever came across,
     and in this Dr. Sayer agrees with me.

     And yet here was a young lawyer practising these tricks,
     apparently for no motive, and constantly lying about them in a most
     astonishing manner; and this was a case from which much was to be
     hoped, apparently.'

This story hardly needs comment; but the writer's attitude towards
another and more famous medium, Eusapia Palladino, is very different.

Until I read the book from which these passages are quoted I thought no
one regarded this lady as anything but an exposed fraud; even Sir Oliver
Lodge has written concerning her, 'my only regret is that I allowed
myself to make a report, although only a private report, to the Society
for Psychical Research, on the strength of a few exceptionally good
sittings, instead of waiting until I had likewise experienced some of
the bad or tricky sittings to which all the Continental observers had
borne frequent witness.'[33]

[Footnote 33: Quoted from _The Question_, p. 118.]

Mr. Carrington says of this lady[34]:--

     'In any event, it appears to me obvious that, even assuming that
     fraud was intended on this occasion, it proves nothing more than
     the fact that Eusapia will resort to clever trickery whenever the
     occasion is given her to do so--a fact which all students of her
     phenomena know full well already; and it does not in the least
     prove that the whole séance was fraudulent--which is what is
     implied in Professor Munsterberg's article. Every one knows well
     enough that scores of phenomena have been observed in the past
     which could not possibly have been accounted for, even assuming
     that the medium had both her feet free--a fact I have previously
     pointed out. The difference between Eusapia and the other mediums
     spoken of in this volume is this, that in their case they
     invariably fail whenever "test conditions" are imposed, whereas
     Eusapia generally succeeds; further, the whole tenor and setting of
     the séance, so to speak, is entirely different. Lastly, we have the
     unanimity of opinion amongst scientific men as to Eusapia's powers,
     whereas we have nothing of the sort in the case of any other
     medium. On the contrary, whenever they are investigated along these
     lines, they either fail altogether or are detected in fraud.'

[Footnote 34: _Personal Experiences_, p. 174.]

This gentleman has reason for pride in his powers of observation, but
his spiritualist complexes are so firmly enclosed in their logic-tight
compartment that his own critical powers beat in vain against the door.
It was unfortunate for the young lawyer, but at the same time
inexplicable, that Mr. Carrington pitted his observations, made at two
sittings only, against those of the people who had had the case under
private observation for three and a half years. Surely this respectable
young man deserved the laurels of mediumism as much as did Eusapia. What
are two failures against three and a half years' manifestations that
'had grown more and more numerous and bewildering as time went on'? I am
sure that, if Mr. Hereward Carrington had given his blessing, this young
man might have become a famous medium instead of being blighted after
his years of successful effort.

But Mr. Carrington cannot conceive an alternative between a bare-faced
swindle and a spirit manifestation, and in this he is harsher than I. It
is plain that this young lawyer had the respect of his friends and was
believed to be honest, just like Mrs. Piper and Stainton Moses, and Mr.
Carrington missed a chance of useful psychological investigation when he
dismissed the case so curtly. The chance cannot be recalled, but a talk
with this medium might have helped in the understanding of his
distinctly disordered mind. I once had the chance of a frank talk with
the accomplice of a professional medium, but, though he had some belief
in the occult, he was so fully conscious of his roguery that I learned
no more psychology than I have picked up from a three-card trickster.
Anyhow, Mr. Carrington gives us an example of a medium in the making who
we can only guess was a man whose disappointed ambitions and neurotic
'Will to Power' had led him astray.

I wonder how Mr. Carrington explains the failure of previous observers
to detect the trickery? The man's apparent honesty of course helped, but
the Herd Instinct was also at work and converts would be unlikely to
criticise when a few reputable people had expressed their belief.
Certain card-tricks are safer from detection by a large audience than by
a small one. If three people are present and one thinks he detects the
trick he may speak, for he is only in a minority of one to two; but if
five out of fifteen detect it, each one, feeling he is in a minority of
one to fourteen, is over-ruled by his sense of insignificance and
remains silent accordingly. It is easier to sway a crowd than to
persuade an individual.

Let me make it clear that I do not merely compare the medium with the
hysteric, I regard them as identical except in those cases where the
medium is a conscious deceiver. The attitude of the believers in the
honesty of the medium is the same as that of the sympathising friends of
the hysteric patient, and it is often as difficult and thankless a task
to explain the patient's condition to his or her friends as it is to
save the credulous from falling a prey to the fortune-teller. But such
difference as there may be is in favour of the unfortunate hysteric, who
is the victim of forces that are too powerful to be resisted without
help and who often anxiously desires recovery.

I have seen in a man suffering from war-strain the spontaneous
development of what would be accepted as clairvoyance; the identity of
his performance with that of the medium is of great importance. The
patient was in that condition of dissociation or partial hypnosis into
which these men easily pass, and was apparently 'seeing' some of the
horrors he had experienced. As a rule such revivals of war episodes can
be relied upon as a true reproduction of actual events, but in this case
there were inconsistencies in the story. For example, describing how
Uhlans drove their lances into Belgian babies, he said: 'If I had my
revolver I'd let them have it,' but gave no indication of what he, a
British soldier, was doing unarmed and under such circumstances.
Moreover, though the account was given with due emphasis, there was a
lack of the emotion characteristic of the revival of actual horrors.

Then a break came in the story, and he went on to describe a tragedy
which had recently roused public interest. He saw the murderer walking
with his victim, described how she handed over certain articles to him,
and then how the man shot her and hurried off.

All this was graphically related as if he were actually witnessing the
tragedy, and as I listened I realised how any one ignorant of the
workings of a disordered mind would feel compelled to believe in the
reality of clairvoyance and might be impelled to act upon the belief,
for the description of the murder, if true, could only have been derived
from something like second-sight.

The cause at work in producing these fantasies was fairly clear. The man
had seen three years of fighting, and had resolutely tried to forget all
that he had passed through; he had the usual symptoms of 'shell-shock',
and in addition complained bitterly of being haunted by dreams of
murder. I know not what particular happening had so impressed him, but
in his unconscious were the memories of many horrors which, refused
admission to his consciousness, insisted on manifesting themselves by
dreams and waking fears.

Every horrible thing he read or heard was joined on to his dissociated
stream of memories and emotions, to be reproduced in dreams and

In his imaginings there was a mixture of truth and fancy; the figure of
the murderer, for example, proved to be associated in his mind with the
figure of an officer who was present at a time of great emotional
strain, and the articles handed over by the victim were identical with
articles familiar to the patient and of emotional importance to him. The
other reproductions proved to be of incidents which had been related to
him and to which he had given an intimate personal interest whilst
elaborating them; his own experiences were more deeply repressed.

His condition was identical with that of the honest medium--whether
Stainton Moses or more recently advertised seers--but fortunately his
friends recognised the true nature of his disorder and, instead of
cultivating it as a 'gift', took steps to have it treated as a disease.

In the description of mediums we often find hints of hysterical
symptoms. Sir Oliver Lodge tells of the sighings and writhings of one of
his performers, but it is not often that a definite diagnosis is made as
in the following extract[35]:--

     'I do not think that any one who has seen the effects of a _good_
     séance upon Eusapia could doubt its reality. She has been known to
     suffer from partial paralysis, from hysteria, nausea, amnesia, loss
     of vision, as well as great weakness, prostration, etc., after the
     séance. I have seen her actively nauseated--excessively ill--after
     a good séance of this character, a symptom which is unlikely to be
     simulated, even if it could be. It is only after a _good_ séance
     that such things occur, however. After a poor séance at which,
     perhaps, much fraud has occurred ... I think that Eusapia often
     simulates exhaustion when, as a matter of fact, there is little or
     none, but this would not deceive one who has carefully watched her
     for weeks and months together, and has observed the effects of a
     genuine séance upon her.'

[Footnote 35: _Personal Experiences_, p. 242.]

The behaviour described by Mr. Carrington is precisely that of the
hysteric, but it is not clear what he means when he says that her being
actively nauseated is a symptom unlikely to be simulated, even if it
could be. Hysterical vomiting--resulting from mental processes, and not
from any physical cause--is very common, and is a simulation of bodily
disease, though I do not imply that the patient is aware of the
simulation. Perhaps being nauseated was, in this case, a symbol of the
disgust which one personality felt towards the frauds and lies of the
other. Eusapia, having reached a condition of hysterical dissociation,
presents the material symptoms of such a condition, for the nausea,
paralysis, amnesia, loss of vision, prostration, etc., are classical
symptoms of hysteria. The spiritualist actually holds them forth as
proofs of the reality of spirit communication! Let the reader bear in
mind that they show Eusapia to have been not merely a cheat, but
mentally diseased.

There is a sad list of books purporting to instruct beginners how to
communicate with the dead, and the instructions are such as to induce
dissociation--a mental condition with possibilities of self-deception
and hysterical manifestations like those shown by Eusapia Palladino.

Bad enough it is to believe the fantasies of a diseased mind to be
revelations from beyond the grave, but how can one sufficiently condemn
men of learning and position who would lead along the pathway of disease
those who mourn their lost ones?

A few extracts from _How to Speak with the Dead_[36] will illustrate
these pernicious attempts.

[Footnote 36: By Sciens: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trübner & Co.]

     (Page 88) 'By sitting in some place quite alone and free from
     interruption, and by adopting a mental attitude of passive
     receptivity and expectancy, the soul becomes ready to perceive and
     be affected by any spirits that may be in its vicinity and that may
     attempt to open up communications.... The manifestations ... may
     vary from thought-suggestion to positive physical phenomena ...
     such as the hearing of a voice or even the visual appearance of
     some supernormal object. All depends upon whether the sitter is or
     is not susceptible to psychical influence, and also upon whether
     the locality or the sitter personally is or is not haunted.'

Then (page 91) when the Dissociation has developed:--

'In cases where the sitter is markedly "psychic" it frequently happens
that normal control over the body is lost. A condition of trance
supervenes, and while this continues the spirit--which may be either a
"second personality" or a soul from the outside--that has gained the
upper hand makes use to a greater or less extent of the brain and other
organs subject to its mastery. The hand may write: the mouth may speak:
the whole body may be engaged in some impersonation; and all this may
take place beyond the scope of the sitter's normal consciousness.'

Lest the hysterical dissociation is not yet enough developed, the victim
receives, on page 98, another thrust along the road to disease:--

     'If it be found on trial that psychic powers exist to an
     appreciable extent it may be taken for granted that they are
     capable of very great increase by persevering effort and systematic

A warning is both given and stultified on page 107:--

     'Self-deception and the imaginations bred of wishes and emotions
     are to be guarded against;' ... 'in solitary Expectancy fraud and
     trickery are completely absent, and all manifestations are matters
     of the most simple personal observation, the accuracy of which can
     be confirmed--as in an ordinary scientific laboratory--by the test
     of repetition.'

These directions are sufficient to start victims along the path taken by
Eusapia, and, though we do not know how this woman reached the condition
described by Mr. Carrington, yet the men who fostered her deception
certainly helped the unfortunate creature in her development of a second
personality compounded of delusion and fraud. The description of the
other case of Mr. Carrington's contains a significant phrase: 'the
phenomenon was of that simple order which one would naturally expect to
discover in a simple undeveloped medium.' Just so: the game was only
beginning, but, if the medium had developed, the split-off personality
would have taken charge and limitless cheating and fraud could have been
carried on by a medium who was to all seeming an honest man.

But as I showed that the causes of hysteria are to be found in conflict
and repression, only taking the 'Will to Power' and 'repression of the
knowledge of deceit' as particular forms applying to a few cases, so I
must allow that the medium may not always be influenced by the last two
factors. The hysteric is the prey of emotions and experiences which
cannot be faced unaided, and the strivings and desires that arise from
the unconscious, which in one individual may find expression in social
work, may find vent by a neurosis in another, or by mysticism in a

The desires may be of the noblest kind, and, failing to find legitimate
expression, may show themselves in fantasies. I am not the first to draw
attention to the psychology of Joan of Arc, and we can picture her urged
by the noblest emotions to seek in a dissociated stream powers beyond
the reach of consciousness; her visions were real to her, and tradition
may be believed when it relates the story of her detection of King
Charles disguised as one of his own courtiers. 'Be not amazed, nothing
is hid from me', are the words attributed to her, and the incident well
exemplifies the hypersensitivity of a dissociated stream.

I cannot picture a modern medium actuated by high motives, but am ready
to admit that even in our days there may be mystics whose dissociations
arose from commendable origins. Theosophy is bound up with the story of
two women, Madame Blavatsky and Mrs. Besant; the former was a
self-confessed deceiver, but the latter is a very different kind of
woman. Brought up in strict religious surroundings, she found herself
compelled to cast aside her religious beliefs and, at great personal
sacrifice, take up a public attitude directly opposite to them; but her
old beliefs still lay in the unconscious, and when the opportunity
arose she found relief from her conflict in a fantastic creed of the
supernatural. No one who has studied her life can deny her honesty, but
honesty does not make her beliefs easier of acceptance.

Before leaving the subject of mediums I must allude again to witchcraft.
To those who believe in spirits, good or evil, which can take possession
of us and make us do their will, and can throw about bricks and sand and
furniture in our material world, there is nothing remarkable in
epidemics of bewitchery, especially as the witch-finders were more
fortunate than our spiritualists in having the unanimous support of the
most eminent authorities of their day.

To explain the psychology of witchcraft is beyond the scope of this
book, but it is not hard to conceive that when the belief in witchcraft
was strong certain unfortunate people who set out to play tricks, maybe
for notoriety or temporary gain, became ensnared by credulity and
finding escape difficult came to believe in their own powers. Thus
dissociation would be set up and on the side of the witch-finders Herd
Instinct (or suggestion) and logic-tight compartments did the rest.

The fact that confessions of witchcraft were apparently common makes
this explanation more probable.

For a career ending at the stake to have such a trivial origin as a
desire for notoriety is in agreement with the history of Sludge, whose
downfall began with a desire to draw attention to himself. Call them
ambitions and the desires seem less trivial, nor do I shrink from
suggesting that the 'gifts' of the water-diviner and the most
financially disinterested medium, even of Mr. Stainton Moses himself,
have origin in a desire to shine before one's fellows--a neurotic 'Will
to Power'.


Although I have emphasised the part that dissociation plays in the
production of beliefs and actions, yet dissociation is only a particular
manifestation of the unconscious and it is the latter which is becoming
the field of research as to the causes of human action.

From the evolutionary standpoint consciousness is a late development.
Man sacrificed many advantages when he rose above the beast; in every
mere bodily endowment he has superiors in the animal world, and as the
influence of consciousness has become more and more important so the
sphere of his unconscious actions has diminished.

The bird needs no foresight for the building of her nest: the impulse to
build comes and must be obeyed. When migration time arrives there is no
reasoned plan of going to a distant land, no scheming of routes or
destinations: she just goes.

So it is with the intricate instincts of other creatures, of the wasp
that builds her brood-cell, fills it with living victims, and places
there an egg of whose future she can know nothing.

Seeing these things we marvel at the intelligence of the agent, but the
child who ties a rag round a stick and gives it a name uses more
initiative than any other animal possesses.

Here, rather late, I will introduce McDougall's definition of an

     'Instinct is an innate psycho-physical tendency to pay attention to
     objects of a certain class, to experience emotional excitement of
     peculiar quality on such perceptions, and to act or have an impulse
     to act in a particular way with regard to that object.'

We can see that instinct suffices for the bird or insect, living almost
entirely in the unconscious, to carry on the important affairs of life.
Even in regard to what looks like the exercise of reason or memory we
can find a parallel in the human unconscious.

The unreasonable fears and obsessions of the 'shell-shocked' soldier
rest upon causes of which he is unaware, and the burnt child dreads the
fire even if he were too young to remember the burning. The chicken that
has once tasted a nauseous caterpillar will ever after avoid its like,
but we only know that a certain emotion is called up by the sight of the
caterpillar which causes the chicken to abstain; it is an unnecessary
assumption that memory, as we know it, is concerned. The obsession of
the soldier who felt that he must attack his companion (see Chapter
VIII) arose from the unconscious, and those animal actions which we
attribute to memory can similarly have their origins apart from

McDougall's definition of instinct applies very well to obsessions,
except that the latter are not innate but acquired; that one definition
should apply to both groups is due to them all having their origin in
the unconscious.

Man, though urged by the instincts and memories of his unconscious, yet
lives in his stream of consciousness and tends to believe that there is
no other mind-work involved in his thoughts and actions; but as the
latest evolved function is the most variable and unstable so man's
consciousness is his most uncertain function, its chief variability
being in the extent to which it controls or is controlled by the

The ideal human mind would be perfectly integrated, there would be no
logic-tight compartments, all its complexes would be apparent to the
consciousness, all memories available when needed, all emotions assigned
to their proper cause and all instincts recognised and well-directed;
and the owner of it would find life in our world intolerable.

Remote from this ideal is the mind whose unconscious has taken the
place, wholly or in part, of the stream of consciousness. Perhaps the
consciousness has not developed--then we find idiocy or imbecility;
perhaps some distorted emotion from the unconscious has been the source
of a dissociated stream of ideas which becomes predominant and brings
its owner within the legal definition of a lunatic.

Between the extremes are the rest of mankind, the matter-of-fact man who
reconciles himself to his world by a few serviceable logic-tight
compartments, the man of temperament--artist, poet, or tramp--who counts
the emotions arising from the unconscious as among the real things of
life, and the other people of temperament who, finding their emotions
and desires in discord with their surroundings, misdirect them and join
the sufferers whom we call neurotic.

Then there are those who build up from the unconscious a fantastic world
of imaginings, and, knowing nothing of the source, attribute them to
outside intelligences or beings like themselves. To these belong the
seers and mystics and their present-day representatives, the mediums,
clairvoyants, and other believers in their own fantasies.

The counterpart of the medium is the ready believer, and each is
reciprocally the victim of the other.

The medium has his dissociated stream with its hyperæsthesia and
receptivity--alert to pick up the slightest hint and cast it back as a
spirit revelation, and ready, moreover, to use more material trickery if
needful. On the side of the believer is a logic-tight compartment
containing his readiness to seize upon the feeblest evidence of the
supernatural. How far he progresses into a dissociation one cannot tell,
but when two Dissociates apparently bearing the stamp of honesty--one
the medium and one the believer--work into each other's hands results
may well be such as to defy explanation.

The study of the unconscious is legitimate, and if one chooses knowingly
to tap its stores by a method of dissociation some increase of
knowledge (not about the supernatural, but about the ways of the human
mind) may be expected.

But whoever hands himself over to a belief that the products of a
dissociation--whether of his own consciousness or of another's--are
manifestations of the Spirit World, may come to say--

    'Had I seen, perhaps, what hand was holding mine,
    Leading me whither, I had died of fright.'

_Printed in Great Britain by_



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