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CHAPTER IX

SUPERNORMAL PHENOMENA: CLAIRVOYANCE, TELEPATHY, APPARITIONS, PREMONITIONS

Among the extraordinary phenomena, which have still to be taken on trust, is one which was familiar to the mesmerists of the past and vouched for by men of learning and good standing, namely clairvoyance, that is, the seeing of objects that are invisible to the ordinary sight. Anyone examining the voluminous literature on the subject must admit that at all events some of the experimenters took every possible precaution to prevent self-deception or fraud.

Fraud on the part of the clairvoyant in such test-experiments is not easy. Often there is a double process of blindfolding; since, besides the bandage preventing sight, in cases of deep hypnosis the pupil is usually found to be fixed and insensible to light, as we can test by forcing open the eyelids. In a large proportion of cases also, the pupil is not only fixed and insensible, but is also turned upwards, so that it cannot be seen at all, when the eyelids are forcibly opened. In addition to all this, we can hold the object above or behind the head, positions in which the most sensitive and movable eye cannot possibly see anything.

There have been many honourable men amongst the old mesmerists, men like Herbert Mayo (the eminent physiologist and surgeon of Middlesex Hospital) and John Elliotson (one of the most distinguished physicians of his period, lecturer on Medicine at University College, President of the Royal Medical and Chirurgical Society, the first physician to practise auscultation in England and to use the now familiar stethoscope), who sacrificed their position and income in defence of what they considered a fact and a truth, and these stated positively that many mesmerized subjects do distinguish with their eyes closed the objects placed before them. In the state of somnambulism they have told the number and colour of cards without touching them, and the hour marked on a watch; they have perceived the contents of a closed letter, a sealed packet, or a closed box; they have read several lines of books, opened by mere chance, and distinguished through opaque substances many other things invisible to the ordinary methods of sight.

It has already been pointed out that some "sensitive" hypnotic subjects can see luminous emanations from animals and inanimate objects, as if some radiant force were given out. Considering the latest discoveries in chemistry, should we not look for an explanation in the existence of a peculiar emanation in some forms of matter, the action of which is perceived by certain "sensitive" people, especially when in the hypnotic state?

Perhaps the extraordinary faculty of clairvoyance, which is exercised with perfectly closed and apparently useless eyes, is able to make use of some form of etheric vibrations of a nature analogous to extreme ultra-violet or even X-rays, which can pass straight through solid and opaque substances with little loss by reflection or absorption. If so, is it not possible to conceive of a clairvoyant organ of vision acting independently of the physical eyes and the visual nervous mechanism?

There is a variety of radiations known to us, such as Hertz's electro-magnetic waves, which are employed in wireless telegraphy, and are capable of being used for communication over thousands of miles of space; there are also the rays which are given out by various substances, but particularly by nerves and nerve centres. Then we have heat, luminiferous, ultraviolet, Becquerel, and lastly Rontgen or X-rays, which penetrate solid objects.

May it not be that our modern methods are at fault? It is well known that the early mesmerists constantly and habitually developed higher powers in their subjects. Their experiments were often made, under test conditions, by the most careful and conscientious scientists, and the results are recorded in the many volumes on the subject written at the time.

When did the higher phenomena show the first signs of decadence? A moment's reflection will fix it at about the date of the promulgation of the theory of "suggestion" by Bernheim of Nancy (1886). As soon as it was found that the hypnotic sleep could be induced by suggestion, all other methods were practically abandoned. It was a much easier operation than to make passes over a subject for an indefinite length of time, accompanying the passes by fixity of gaze and intense concentration of mind. The law of suggestion is undoubtedly of the highest significance, but let us remember that it is not the whole of psychic science. It seems clear, then, that it is to this change of methods that we must look for an explanation of the change in results.

In the subject put to sleep by the mesmeric method, by passes without contact, and with no verbal suggestion of any kind, and who has never been hypnotized by any other process (for the memory of past hypnosis by the subject is a great factor in determining the condition of the present state), we have an individual with a personality of his own. Here we must agree with the mesmerists. Instead of an uninteresting automaton, we have a subject whose mental faculties have become clearer and more powerful, and who often exhibits an intelligence and capacities far in advance of his normal condition. This, in their opinion, is the individual who will most readily develop into the clairvoyant, so long as we refrain from making suggestions to him.

Some clairvoyant subjects are able to perceive objects in an adjoining room, in one overhead, or in one below. This used to be a frequent phenomenon, without any special preparation, and was usually brought to light by the subject, of his own accord, remarking what took place there. The experiments I have performed in this respect have not been satisfactory. Thus in one case I asked a subject whether she could tell me what her husband, who was at home a hundred miles away, was doing at that time, then about ten in the morning. She replied that she saw him in the garden with the children. On inquiry 1 ascertained that the vision, if such it was, was quite correct, but that her husband was in the habit at that time of the morning of taking the children round the garden. There have always been possibilities of ordinary explanation, so that I can offer no evidence of my own. Possibly I should have succeeded with more patience and perseverance, for many of these supernormal manifestations require a good many trials.

Some clairvoyants possess such an extraordinary power, if we may accept the testimony of the old mesmerists and some men of to-day, that they are often able to feel and describe every pain or ache felt by a patient with whom they are put en rapport, and will even in some cases feel, Or intuitively perceive, the morbid state of certain parts. They will diagnose that the patient has a headache, or a pain in the side, or difficulty in breathing; and will declare that the brain, or lungs, or liver, or stomach, or heart, etc., is deranged in such and such a manner. They seem to have an intuitive perception of health and disease. These subjects seem to be able to give information of the form and situation of various organs, and to describe them with very great precision, though not with anatomical correctness, if the somnambulist be ignorant of anatomy. The human body seems to them as if transparent, and there have been medical practitioners who have availed themselves of this faculty of locality to discover the nature of obscure diseases, using the subject, so to say, as a living stethoscope to assist their own judgment.

Clairvoyance and some of the other phenomena we are about to describe are so unlike any which have been brought within the sphere of recognized science as to subject the mind to two opposite dangers. Wild hypotheses as to how they happen are confronted with equally wild assertions that they cannot happen at all. Of the two, the assumption of an a priori impossibility is, perhaps, in the present state of our knowledge of Nature, the more to be deprecated, though it cannot be considered in any way surprising.

In the physical science, it is easy to demonstrate discoveries and to have them repeated under exactly the same conditions. When we come to the science of mind, however, all the circumstances are changed. True, we have our anatomists and physiologists working with the scalpel and microscope, but even as regards the most elementary mental phenomenon, say, man's reasoning capacity, how much have we learned from them? No one will deny that man does reason, and that to animal intelligence human reason must seem something supernatural.

Is it a wonder, then, that to ordinary men the abnormal capacities of the hypnotized sensitive persons should seem incredible? Why should man in the progress of his evolution not have developed powers, and may we say brain functions, of which we have still only meagre knowledge? I do not know if a "clairvoyant" power really exists, but I differ from those who think it impossible. Some of these sceptics have never tried to find out; others have tried but failed. But would they deny man's reasoning capacity because some men arrive at wrong conclusions? Let us not forget man's reasoning capacity has been trained for thousands of years, and we have received systematic schooling in its use throughout our childhood. If there be such a power as "clairvoyance" it must be admitted that humanity has done nothing to draw it out, and that those in whom we discover it lack the training which is necessary for all the mental powers with which man is endowed. Therefore, let us assume a different attitude towards such abnormal phenomena as we cannot explain at present, and while we have given up the explanation of their being supernatural, let us give up the idea that even spontaneous manifestations (and not only their habitual practice for personal gain) belong to deception, fraud, and imposition, and that only highly credulous persons believe them.

Many persons who are extremely averse from admitting the existence of clairvoyance at all are apt to suppose that they can avoid doing so, when the facts are forced on their attention, so that they can no longer be denied, by ascribing them to thought-reading; as if thought-reading, the power of seeing into another man's mind (and through his body too), were at all less wonderful than the power of seeing through a stone wall or a floor.

To my apprehension, thought-reading is still more wonderful and incomprehensible than that kind of clairvoyance which takes note of material things at a distance. In the latter case, we can imagine some subtle, rare medium, by which the impressions may be conveyed to us, as light or sound is. But how do we perceive thoughts, not yet expressed, in the mind of another? It would appear, then, as William Gregory (1847) has said, that those who would explain all clairvoyance by thought-reading, only fall from the frying-pan into the fire. They account for an apparently unaccountable phenomenon by one still more incomprehensible.

The question whether it is possible for one mind to act on another where the two minds do not communicate by the spoken word, or by signs or symbols of any visible kind, has set a great many people thinking, and caused not a few to make observations of their own and to investigate the experiences of others. As a result, those who have studied the subject have no longer any doubt that communication is possible between mind and mind otherwise than through the known channels of the senses, but that such communication is rare, because its manifestations require exceptional conditions. Primarily there must be a mind willing strongly to impress a thought, and the mind of another in that state of subjectiveness or passivity which makes it possible to receive the impression.

An experiment that is frequently performed is that of thought-transmission without contact. A number of people, seated in a circle, are requested to think of a particular number or article. The subject, who has been previously blindfolded outside the room, is brought in and led to a seat in the centre of the circle by someone unacquainted with the arranged idea. Certain individuals are so gifted that after a few minutes they will have a vision of the number, or the article, on which the minds of those present are concentrated.

However, it is not with such voluntary and arranged thought-transmission by one or more persons concentrating intently on a word that we are here concerned, but with involuntary transference arising more or less spontaneously and having a definite significance.

Such thought-communication between individuals, especially between close relations and persons in sympathy with each other, is indeed not uncommon, but to produce such a phenomenon at will is an activity of a kind different from its accidental occurrence.

We have no notion at present of the process employed in the ordinary communication of subjective minds. The messages that telepathy conveys appear, as a rule, to be not definite thoughts but feelings or impressions which in some cases raise ideas and in others do not.

The degree of clearness of the mental image is largely determined by the intensity of its projection and may be intentional or not. The state of clearness and the measure of activity of the operative functions of the mind that receives the message will also affect the result. This clearness will chiefly be determined by the degree of quietude of the mind which obtains at the time. The impression made upon the recipient brain is transferred outwards. In other words, there is a hallucination produced, and that hallucination will vary according to the general experiences and knowledge of the recipient. That is why the same message or impression reaching a number of persons may produce a different hallucination in each, and be interpreted accordingly.

If we assume that a nerve-force or some still unknown energy can radiate from the brain (as described in the previous chapter), and that such force may travel and strike another brain, which is in tune with it and is also in a passive state, we have perhaps begun to solve the problem.

That an impression striking a passive brain does produce an image which is transferred outward is not uncommon, and is often caused by other stimuli— electrical, chemical, and mechanical—is evidenced in experiments upon animals. Further, various forms of auto-intoxication may supply the stimulus in certain diseases, as, for instance, in migraine, epilepsy, and hysteria, in which subjective visual phenomena are of frequent occurrence, ranging from flashes of light, plays of colours, to actual hallucinations. The same may also be produced by the alkaloids present in certain poisonous drugs introduced into the system, such as opium, etc. Again, it may be due to some subtle stimulus from one part of the brain acting on another during certain states of consciousness, as in dreams. Why not, then, from one brain to another?

If it be granted that whenever any activity of the brain takes place a chemical change of its substance takes place also, or, in other words, an atomic movement occurs—and let it be granted that no brain action can take place without creating a wave of undulation in the all-pervading ether—why might not such undulation, when meeting with or falling upon duly sensitive substances, produce impressions? And such impressions are "felt," not thought of.

Such oblique methods of communicating between brain and brain would probably but rarely take effect. The influence would be too faint and subtle to tell upon any brain already preoccupied by activities of its own, or upon any but brains of extreme, perhaps morbid, susceptibility. But if, indeed, there be radiating from living brains any such streams of vibratory movements, these may well have an effect even without speech, and be, perhaps, the modus operandi of "the little flash, the mystic hint" of the poet—of that dark and strange sphere of half-experiences which the world has neven been without. It is quite permissible to surmise some sort of analogy to the familiar phenomena of the transmission and reception of vibratory energy.

Supposing, then, that all thought is connected with cellular vibrations, we can comprehend by analogy what happens in mental suggestion at a distance. The communicating cerebral zones may be compared with two pianos or two harps which vibrate in unison, or to two tuning-forks which give the same note, and of which the one repeats spontaneously the vibrations given by the other. They may be also compared, as Richet has compared them, with two wireless telegraph stations more or less perfectly attuned. If we suppose two men in whom the cerebral cells vibrate harmoniously, whether in consequence of a bond of kinship or friendship, or because one of them has imposed his rhythm on the other, the thought which causes vibration of the one may be able to make the other vibrate without impressing the various brains which are on the line of the vibrating wave. The brain of the subject impressed plays the role of the resonator. The impression produced will arrive much more easily at the consciousness of the subject as the latter is less disturbed by other impressions. That is why it is important to choose for experiments of this character a time when we believe the subject to be disengaged and quiescent.

Purely experimental proof there is none and such will be difficult to obtain. The recent attempts to get owners of wireless receiving instruments to think of certain words which had been put down in writing at the Central Broadcasting Station was no proper test, for in proper telepathy it is ideas and feelings that are conveyed of a certain incident, weighted with emotion, not exact words. And as regards actual telepathy, most of the evidence consists of sporadic manifestations, which may be accepted or denied, according to the trustworthiness of the witnesses and the scepticism or faith of the investigator. In many cases of telepathy, such a long interval has often elapsed between their occurrence and recital that the imagination has had the leisure to fill up the gaps of memory. Others are second-hand or third-hand recitals. Still, there remains a sufficiently large number of authentic cases worthy of credence to allow us to keep an open mind on the problem.

Thought-transference in the days of mesmeric seances was a common phenomenon; whereas hypnotists, practising by the method of suggestion, that is to say, looking on more or less indifferently while the subject hypnotizes "himself," nowadays can obtain no such results. The old mesmerists used to concentrate their attention and exercise all their will power to magnetize their subject. By their passes, fixed gazing, and mental concentration, they almost, if not entirely, hypnotized themselves by the same act by which they mesmerized their subjects. This absorption of the mesmerizers put their subconscious mind into activity, and so it was possible, without a word being spoken, for the mesmerized subjects to receive the impression of the thoughts of the operators.

The brain, from which the thought is sent out or liberated—whether voluntarily or subconsciously— must act, as I have said, with intense force, such as we can imagine is the case when a strong and healthy man suffers death by violence on the battlefield. His entire life-force is sent vibrating through the air, and his thoughts are concentrated with all the power possible upon his sorrowing wife or his child, whom he may never see again, or his father or mother who is anxiously waiting for news from him. On the other hand, the clearness of the impression will depend on the state and degree of quietude of the person receiving it. If the recipient is actively engaged in some occupation, so that his or her own brain is "energizing," no impression can be made.

The passive condition is essential for the successful transmission of telepathic communications. The more perfectly that condition is attained, the better will be the impression. Hence most messages are received in repose or light sleep, or on just going off to sleep, or while resting in a chair in that relaxed state that is very much akin and often leads to sleep. That is why visions occur most often at night. The brain is then resting, or at least not consciously functioning. During the day we are too busy, or rather our brains are too busy, besides receiving a multitude of subconscious impressions from our active and noisy surroundings, so that a subtle impression coming from a distance is likely to pass unnoticed.

The impression may be so slight that it is merely "felt" by the person and its effect is merely that of "uneasiness." It need not raise any ideas at the moment. Or the impression may be so intense that a vision of the sender and the scene during which the message was sent may be projected from the brain and appear as real. A mother experiences a sudden anguish and sees her husband or child in peril in clearly defined conditions. She is able to bear witness that this presentiment or vision occurred exactly at the time when the person being in peril or in danger of death thought strongly of her and transmitted to her by unconscious mental suggestion the image, or the picture of the perilous circumstances in which he was placed. The vision need not be at all accurate. Friends see, as a rule, the person in the clothes that they are familiar with, owing to his having worn them in their company, or they see him dressed in some more or less undefined garment. The reason for this is that it is some form of brain-energy which strikes the passive recipient, who then interprets the message in accordance with his own recollections. It is the person's spiritual image which is transmitted, and not the image of his clothes, or of his beard—which he may have allowed to grow since they saw him last— or of anything material whatever; only his spiritual image, and possibly an image of the form of danger that threatens him and causes his life energy to vibrate. In all cases, the interpretation of the sensation felt, or of the vision seen, will be in accordance with the experiences and knowledge of the recipient.

Such messages and visions are rare because we are so rarely in a "receptive" state. The noises of civilization, not ceasing even at night; the fatigue caused by the strenuous work of the day blunting the sensibility of the nerve-cells and causing sleep to be either too deep or disturbed by dreams; the attitude of indifference of most people to matters spiritual—all these are factors that make it difficult, if not impossible, for such communications to reach our brain or to make an impression upon it. However, we are so accustomed to see things that are not objective realities, and to hear sounds and even voices that have no foundation—in our healthy, active, waking state, as well as in our dreams—that we dismiss them instantaneously as an error of our senses, whenever they occur, and think no more about them. A telepathic communication has therefore very little chance of being accepted. Some people, again, suffer such fear and anxiety regarding the welfare of those whom they love and know to be exposed to injury that they dismiss the impression as the result of their fancy, and frequently it is proved that their fears were quite groundless. Many people will, of course, say: "What a good thing these ethereal communications are rare, for who wants to be disturbed by uncanny visions?" I agree, but this objection is beside the question, which is not whether such experiences are desirable, but whether they are possible.

Assuming life and mind to be forms of energy, the forces sent out by a dying person will be all the greater the younger he is, and the more violent and unexpected the death. There must be a bond of union and sympathy between the sender and the recipient, that is to say, they must be tuned alike to cause the brain cells of the recipient to vibrate alike and produce the vision, or feeling, that something extraordinary has happened.

The emotions attending a death by violence are necessarily of the most intense character. The desire to acquaint the world with the circumstances attending the tragedy is overwhelming. The message is not for a single individual, but to all whom it may concern. A ghost does not travel from place to place and show itself promiscuously, but confines its operations to the locality, and especially to the room in which the death-scene occurred. In the castles of bygone times the walls were thicker, there were fewer and smaller windows, and hardly any ventilation, hence the energy that was created by such a circumstance would cling to the room. Moreover, the room in which a murder occurred would most likely be shut up and never be used again. If, years after, some new tenant inhabits the death-chamber, he may, when in a passive state, receive an impression, which he translates into a vision of the ghost. Then it becomes known that the room is "haunted." One man, pluckier than the rest, says he will sleep in that room and slay the ghost, should he meet him. He waits and waits, sword in hand, but no ghost appears. Then he tires, and just as he is on the point of falling asleep, his brain, too, receives an impression—and the ghost stands before him, frightening him out of his wits, like the rest. This is an explanation which has the merit of reasonableness, and I know of no better to account for the occurrences which are authenticated. This theory, formulated by T. J. Hudson (The ~Law of Psychic Phenomena, 1894), would also explain another peculiarity of ghosts—that they invariably disappear, never to return, when the building which was the scene of their visitation has been destroyed. Another building may be erected on the same spot, but the ghost never reappears. The powerful emanations at the time of danger may account for the fact that the ghosts which are best authenticated, and which seem to possess the greatest longevity, so to speak, are of those who have died under circumstances of great mental stress or emotion. Another salient characteristic, which seems to be universal, and which possesses the utmost interest and importance in determining the true source of the phantasm, is that it possesses no general intelligence. That is to say, a ghost was never known to have more than one idea or purpose. That one idea or purpose it will follow with the greatest pertinacity, but it utterly ignores everything else. A ghost (according to Hudson) is, therefore, nothing more or less than an intensified telepathic vision; its objectivity, power, persistence, and permanence being in exact proportion to the intensity of the emotion and desire which called it into being.

Another form of spontaneous telepathy has relation to some event in the immediate future—in the form of presentiments, premonitions, and premonitory visions.

Quite a number of people have the gift of "prevision." For example, they may be thinking of a friend, perhaps one whom they have not seen for years, or one who is most unlikely to pass the locality at the time, and meet him soon afterwards coming round a corner or out of a house; in short, under conditions which preclude the possibility of having seen him earlier, even subconsciously. Of course, these previsions may often be mere coincidences, but the frequency with which they are experienced by certain people suggests a deeper reason for them.

History abounds in instances of psychically sensitive individuals who have manifested upon various occasions a peculiar knowledge, not only of present,although distant occurrences—present in time, but distant in space—but also a presentiment of future events, which have been subsequently verified, to the astonishment of their friends, and of all those who happened to be cognizant of the circumstances. 'I'his fact cannot reasonably be denied, whatever difficulty may exist in attempting to account for it.

Possessing some gift in this direction, I have analysed my own sensations in such cases and found that I experienced first of all a "feeling" that I might meet a certain person, or a sensation that I actually see him, but so far away that my eyes could not possibly have seen; then I have reasoned that I was most unlikely to meet that person, and then finally he has stood before me. We have here again something analogous to what takes place in the detectors of the Hertzian waves in the Marconi system of telegraphy. When the known person comes within a certain radius his approach is in a certain way felt, but he is not identified, because this method of feeling is mtside the habitual action of our senses, and therefore passes unperceived, our attention not being yet adapted to receive it.

That these previsions, presentiments, and fore bodings often prove wrong is no evidence against the existence of such a psychic faculty, which may consist merely in an extraordinary capacity of noticing significant details that escape other people's observation, together with a power of quickly associating ideas.

There are other wonderful phenomena connected with the state of hypnosis and self-hypnosis, as, for example, automatic writing. I have not dealt with them in this book, for my knowledge of these subjects is only second-hand. I have never produced them.



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