Spirit Photography

For over thirty years photographs have been taken in London, on which,

when they were developed, figures appeared for the presence of which

there seemed to be no physical cause. They appeared both with

professional photographers and in private studios. Two or three

professional photographers laid themselves out to encourage such

appearances. Others were annoyed by them. One in particular, whom I knew

personally, was gr
atly annoyed in this way, fearing it might injure his

business. Naturally, but unfortunately, the term "spirit photographs"

was invented. Unfortunately, because, granting the reality and

genuineness of some of the results, it by no means follows that a

"spirit" stood or sat for its portrait, as a human sitter does.

Naturally also, various explanations were soon alleged, two being,

either that the plates had been used before, and had been imperfectly

cleaned, or that the results were produced by deliberate artifice and

fraud on the part of the photographer. There is no doubt that artificial

results can be obtained in a variety of ways, which are extremely

difficult, if not impossible to distinguish from the professed genuine

article. It may therefore be said that no examination of a professed

"spirit photograph," or as we should prefer to call it, a "psychic

photograph," is sufficient to determine its nature and origin. The true

test must be sought for in the conditions under which the photograph was

taken. Very few of those who have had to do with "spirit photography"

have possessed the necessary technical knowledge, and also been

sufficiently careful, in the various stages of the process. The result

is that scarcely any of the photographs shown as "spirit photographs"

possess any evidential value. In common with several other alleged

phenomena, but little attention has been given to the subject by

scientific men, or by trained experimenters.

The most notable exception to this which I am able to quote is that of

the late Mr. J. Traill Taylor, who was for a considerable time the

editor of the British Journal of Photography. The following quotations

are from a paper on "Spirit Photography" by Mr. Taylor. It was

originally read before the London and Provincial Photographic

Association in March 1893, and was reprinted in the British Journal of

Photography for 26th May 1904, shortly after Mr. Taylor's death.

"Spirit photography, so called, has of late been asserting its existence

in such a manner and to such an extent as to warrant competent men in

making an investigation, conducted under stringent test conditions, into

the circumstances under which such photographs are produced, and

exposing the fraud should it prove to be such, instead of pooh-poohing

it as insensate because we do not understand how it can be otherwise--a

position that scarcely commends itself as intelligent or philosophical.

If, in what follows, I call it 'spirit photography' instead of psychic

photography, it is only in deference to a nomenclature that extensively

prevails.... I approach the subject merely as a photographer."

Mr. Traill Taylor then gives a history of the earlier manifestations of

"Spirit Photography," and goes on to explain how striking phenomena in

photographing what is invisible to the eye may be produced by the agency

of fluorescence. He quotes the demonstration by Dr. Gladstone, F.R.S.,

at the Bradford Meeting of the British Association in 1873, showing that

invisible drawings on white cards have produced bold and clear

photographs when no eye could see the drawings themselves. Hence, as Mr.

Taylor says, the photographing of an invisible image is not

scientifically impossible.

Mr. Taylor then proceeds to describe some personal experiments. He says:

"For several years I have experienced a strong desire to ascertain by

personal investigation the amount of truth in the ever-recurring

allegation that figures other than those visually present in the room

appeared on a sensitive plate.... Mr. D., of Glasgow, in whose presence

psychic photographs have long been alleged to be obtained, was lately in

London on a visit, and a mutual friend got him to consent to extend his

stay in order that I might try to get a psychic photograph under test

conditions. To this he willingly agreed. My conditions were exceedingly

simple, were courteously expressed to the host, and entirely acquiesced

in. They were, that I for the nonce would assume them all to be

tricksters, and to guard against fraud, should use my own camera and

unopened packages of dry plates purchased from dealers of repute, and

that I should be excused from allowing a plate to go out of my own hand

till after development unless I felt otherwise disposed; but that as I

was to treat them as under suspicion, so must they treat me, and that

every act I performed must be in the presence of two witnesses; nay,

that I would set a watch upon my own camera in the guise of a duplicate

one of the same focus--in other words, I would use a binocular

stereoscopic camera and dictate all the conditions of operation....

"Dr. G. was the first sitter, and for a reason known to myself, I used a

monocular camera. I myself took the plate out of a packet just

previously ripped up under the surveillance of my two detectives. I

placed the slide in my pocket, and exposed it by magnesium ribbon which

I held in my own hand, keeping one eye, as it were, on the sitter, and

the other on the camera. There was no background. I myself took the

plate from the dark slide, and, under the eyes of the two detectives,

placed it in the developing dish. Between the camera and the sitter a

female figure was developed, rather in a more pronounced form than that

of the sitter.... I submit this picture.... I do not recognise her or

any of the other figures I obtained, as like any one I know....

"Many experiments of like nature followed; on some plates were abnormal

appearances, on others none. All this time, Mr. D. the medium, during

the exposure of the plates, was quite inactive....

"The psychic figures behaved badly. Some were in focus. Others not so.

Some were lighted from the right, while the sitter was so from the left;

some were comely, ... others not so. Some monopolised the major portion

of the plate, quite obliterating the material sitters. Others were as if

an atrociously-badly vignetted portrait ... were held up behind the

sitter. But here is the point:--Not one of these figures which came out

so strongly in the negative, was visible in any form or shape to me

during the time of exposure in the camera, and I vouch in the strongest

manner for the fact that no one whatever had an opportunity of tampering

with any plate anterior to its being placed in the dark slide or

immediately preceding development. Pictorially they are vile, but how

came they there?

"Now all this time, I imagine you are wondering how the stereoscopic

camera was behaving itself as such. It is due to the psychic entities to

say that whatever was produced on one half of the stereoscopic plates

was produced on the other, alike good or bad in definition. But on a

careful examination of one which was rather better than the other, ... I

deduce this fact, that the impressing of the spirit form was not

consentaneous with that of the sitter. This I consider an important

discovery. I carefully examined one in the stereoscope, and found that,

while the two sitters were stereoscopic per se, the psychic figure was

absolutely flat. I also found that the psychic figure was at least a

millimetre higher up in one than the other. Now, as both had been

simultaneously exposed, it follows to demonstration that, although both

were correctly placed vertically in relation to the particular sitter

behind whom the figure appeared, and not so horizontally, this figure

had not only not been impressed on the plate simultaneously with the two

gentlemen forming the group, but had not been formed by the lens at all,

and that therefore the psychic image might be produced without a camera.

I think this is a fair deduction. But still the question obtrudes: How

came these figures there? I again assert that the plates were not

tampered with by either myself or any one present. Are they

crystallisations of thought? Have lens and light really nothing to do

with their formation? The whole subject was mysterious enough on the

hypothesis of an invisible spirit, whether a thought projection or an

actual spirit, being really there in the vicinity of the sitter, but it

is now a thousand times more so....

"In the foregoing I have confined myself as closely as possible to

narrating how I conducted a photographic experiment open to every one to

make, avoiding stating any hypothesis or belief of my own on the


Two years later, in May 1895, the spiritualists held a General

Conference in London, the proceedings of which extended over several

days. At one of the meetings Mr. Traill Taylor read a paper under the

title--"Are Spirit Photographs necessarily the Photographs of Spirits?"

An abstract of this paper appears in Light (18th May 1895), and it is

printed in full in Borderland (July 1895). At the commencement of the

paper, Mr. Taylor explained that light is the agent in the production of

an ordinary photograph; but he says: "I have ascertained, to my own

satisfaction at any rate, that light so called, so far as concerns the

experiments I have made, has nothing to do with the production of a

psychic picture, and that the lens and camera of the photographer are

consequently useless incumbrances." Following this up, Mr. Taylor says:

"It was the realisation of this that enabled me at a certain seance

recently held, at which many cameras were in requisition, to obtain

certain abnormal figures on my plates when all others failed to do so.

After withdrawing the slide from the camera, I wrapped it up in the

velvet focussing cloth and requested the medium to hold it in his hand,

giving him no clue as to my reason for doing so. A general conversation

favoured the delay in proceeding to the developing room for about five

or more minutes, during which the medium still held the wrapped-up

slide. I then relieved him of it, and in the presence of others applied

the developer, which brought to view figures in addition to that of the


In making a categorical reply to the question which forms the title of

his paper, Mr. Taylor replies--"No"--and gives various "surmises" to

account for recognisable likenesses having been obtained. At the end of

his paper Mr. Taylor says:--

"The influence of the mind of the medium in the obtaining of

psychographs might be deduced from the fact of pictures having been

obtained of angels with wings, a still popular belief of some, as

ridiculous in its conception as it is false in its anatomy, but still no

less true in its photo-pictorial outcome. This does not in the slightest

degree impair the genuineness and honesty of the medium, but it inspires

me, a disbeliever in the wing notion, with the belief that

spirit-photographs are not necessarily photographs of spirits.

"A concluding word: A medium may, on passing through a picture gallery,

become impressed by some picture which, although forgotten soon after,

may yet make a persistent appearance on his negative on subsequent

occasions. My caution is that if such be published as a spirit

photograph, care must be taken that no copyright of such picture is

infringed. I have cases of this nature in my mind's eye, but time does

not permit of this being enlarged upon, else I could have recited

several instances."

It would be extremely interesting if we could have had these "several

instances" recited. At all events, what Mr. Traill Taylor says is

suggestive, and is well worth being borne in mind by any one

investigating the subject. Some careful experiments have been made of

late years, mostly, so far as I have heard, with inconclusive, or

discouraging results. But I am not aware of any serious sustained study

of the question by any English photographer since Mr. Traill Taylor's




In the preceding chapters the chief endeavour has been to present the

scientific evidence in favour of the reality of a mass of alleged

phenomena, so far unrecognised by science as facts. The chief object is

to arouse interest, and to excite inquiry and investigation. It is

difficult to imagine a more attractive undiscovered country than that

which lies just outside the realm of recognised science, in the

direction of such phenomena as have been under consideration. It is a

country teeming with wonders, and with miraculous occurrences of endless

variety. Miraculous to us, inasmuch as they are not subject to any "Laws

of Nature" which we have discovered. The marvel is that there is not a

rush of explorers into fields incomparably more fascinating than North

or South Pole can present, and containing more treasure than gold-fields

or diamond mines can ever yield.

The two chapters devoted to phenomena occurring in the presence of D. D.

Home and W. Stainton Moses demand special reference. It is difficult to

imagine two men differing more widely in almost every respect. Mr. Myers

describes the even tenour of Mr. Stainton Moses' "straightforward and

reputable life" as "inwoven with a chain of mysteries, which ... make

that life one of the most extraordinary which our century has seen."[66]

He was a scholar, a literary man, and a clergyman of the Church of

England. He had no worldly ambition or fondness for what is called

"Society." Mr. D. D. Home, on the contrary, does not appear to have been

a man who could have been termed a religious character, or

spiritually-minded, nor did he give evidence of intellectual talent. But

he had gained access to some of the highest society in Europe. And yet

both men were "mediums" for these curious phenomena, to a wonderful

extent, both as regards the amount and the variety of the

manifestations. Although the two men were so different, there is a

parallelism in the phenomena in so many respects, that a similar origin

or source seems inevitably suggested. There were peculiarities special

to each, but untouched movements of heavy articles, "levitations,"

lights, and sounds, were phenomena common to both. From whence does this

"chain of mysteries" come? Is the source to be sought for in

undiscovered powers and faculties of the men themselves, or in the

action of other intelligences? That is a problem which must be left. It

is outside the scope of this inquiry, which deals solely with the

establishment of physical facts. But where can any other field be found

of equal interest? Difficulties and perplexities meet the explorer in

abundance. But they exist in order to be overcome by the same steady

persistence which has attained its reward in many another direction.

With regard to two other chapters I desire also to make a special

remark--those on "Materialisations" and "Spirit Photography." Both are

physical phenomena. But I desire to make it plain that no claim is made

of being able to present evidence with regard to either of these

subjects which should satisfy the reasonable demands of science. It may

be asked--Why then introduce them at all? For two reasons: (1) Because

the evidence in favour of both is only just outside the boundary of

scientific demonstration. (2) Because of the extreme interest of the

phenomena themselves.

As to "Materialisations." Out of an immense mass of testimony, most of

it of no evidential value, one case has been selected where more than

ordinary care seems to have been taken. But the phenomenon is so

marvellous, especially in its more perfect alleged phases, when the

"materialised" form is scarcely distinguishable from a living breathing

human being, that the inquirer is bound to hold his judgment in suspense

until the last possible moment.

Again as to "Spirit Photography." The term "Psychic Photography" would

be far preferable, as implying no theory. The experiences of Mr. J.

Traill Taylor, which I have selected as the sole illustration, appear to

leave no moral doubt but that under certain circumstances photographs

are produced which known laws are unable to explain. Definite and

recognisable human figures and faces are thus obtained. But this is a

very long way from proving that "spirits" sit or stand before the camera

for their photographs to be taken!

If some trained experimenter in scientific research, who possesses an

unbiassed mind, would devote himself for two or three years to the study

of either of these classes of phenomena, it is almost a certainty that

he would be richly rewarded. Is there no one who will enter upon the


There is one large group of evidence, embracing most of the phenomena

which have been under consideration, from which I had hoped to make

copious selections, with pleasure to myself, and with interest to the

reader. No living scientist has bestowed so large an amount of study on

"certain phenomena usually termed spiritualistic" as Sir William

Crookes. As long ago as the year 1874, Sir William Crookes gave

permission for the reprint of a limited number of copies of various

articles which he had contributed to the periodical literature of the

day. These, with some other original matter, were published under the

title of "Researches in the Phenomena of Spiritualism." That volume has

long been out of print. In 1890, an article by Sir William Crookes,

under the title of "Notes of Seances with D. D. Home," was published in

volume vi. of the Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research.

He also referred to his experiences with D. D. Home, in two addresses

delivered at meetings of the Society in 1894 and in 1899. These are

reported in the Journal of the Society. Sir William Crookes also

devoted a portion of his address, as President of the British

Association in 1898, to a reference to the part he took many years

before in psychical research. This portion of the address was reprinted

in volume xiv. of the Proceedings of the Society.

Considerations, which cannot be entered into here, compel me, however,

to be content with referring the reader to the publications mentioned,

a study of which will, I think, bring conviction that the scientific

evidence they contain would, even if it stood alone, be amply sufficient

to prove the reality of the alleged phenomena.[67]

* * * * *

We are now warranted in the assertion that we have arrived at this

position: That the careful reader is compelled to admit that the

evidence in favour of a variety of alleged physical phenomena being

undoubted facts, is too strong to be resisted. We are accustomed to say

in ordinary life, the proof of this or that is complete. The man of

science is accustomed to say in his own sphere of inquiry, the proof of

this or that is complete. Applying the same rules of evidence to

physical phenomena generally called spiritualistic, we are bound to

admit that in regard to many of them the proof of their reality is

complete. Yet these facts are not recognised by the world of science,

and are scarcely deemed worthy of any serious attention by the majority

of intelligent people.

It may be worth while to consider for a few moments the mode in which

new knowledge enters the mind. By new knowledge is meant not extension

of existing knowledge, but facts of a new order, such, for instance, as

the rising of a heavy dining table into the air without any recognised

physical cause being apparent. The difficulty of admitting new facts of

this kind to the mind is not confined to any one class of people.

Indeed the difficulty appears to be greater in the case of highly

educated people than among the comparatively uninformed. Sir Oliver

Lodge has recently said: "What does a 'proof' mean? A proof means

destroying the isolation of an observed fact or experience by linking it

on with all pre-existent knowledge; it means the bringing it into its

place in the system of knowledge; and it affords the same sort of

gratification as finding the right place for a queer-shaped piece in a

puzzle-map. Do not let these puzzle-maps go out of fashion; they afford

a most useful psychological illustration; the foundation of every

organised system of truth is bound up with them.... It is because a

number of phenomena, such as clairvoyance, physical movement without

contact, and other apparent abnormalities and unusualnesses, cannot at

present be linked on with the rest of knowledge in a coherent stream--it

is for that reason that they are not, as yet, generally recognised as

true; they stand at present outside the realms of science; they will be

presently incorporated into that kingdom, and annexed by the progress of


Mr. F. C. S. Schiller, in an article in the Proceedings of the Society

for Psychical Research, expresses a similar thought in a different

manner. He says:--

"A mind unwilling to believe, or even undesirous to be instructed, our

weightiest evidence must ever fail to impress. It will insist on taking

that evidence in bits, and rejecting it item by item. The man therefore

who announces his intention of waiting until a single absolutely

conclusive bit of evidence turns up, is really a man not open to

conviction, and if he is a logician, he knows it. For modern logic has

made it plain that single facts can never be 'proved,' except by their

coherence in a system. But as all the facts come singly, any one who

dismisses them one by one, is destroying the conditions under which the

conviction of new truth could arise in his mind."[69]

Mr. Myers, in summing up the evidence in the case of Mr. Stainton Moses,

dwells on the importance of simple repetition. This, though practically

effective, is scarcely a scientific consideration. A fact is none the

less a fact on account of the rarity of its occurrence, any more than

the existence of a rare animal or plant is rendered questionable by the

fewness of the number of specimens which have been found.

An interesting chapter might be written under the title of "The

History of the Growth in the Belief in Hypnotism during the last

Twenty-five Years." One episode that would be included in such a

history may be worth quoting here as illustrating the present subject.

As recently as 1891, the British Medical Association appointed a

Committee, consisting of eleven of its number, "to investigate the

nature of the phenomena of hypnotism, its value as a therapeutic

agent, and the propriety of using it." This Committee presented a

Report at the Annual Meeting in the following year. In the first

paragraph they solemnly stated that they "have satisfied themselves of

the genuineness of the hypnotic state" (!). They also expressed the

"opinion that as a therapeutic agent hypnotism is frequently effective

in relieving pain, procuring sleep, and alleviating many functional

ailments" (!). They are also of opinion that its "employment for

therapeutic purposes should be confined to qualified medical men."

The Association referred this unanimous Report of its Committee back for

further consideration. In 1893 the Committee presented it again, with

the addition of an important Appendix, consisting of "some documentary

evidence upon which the Report was based." On this occasion it was moved

and seconded, that the Report should lie on the table. It was suggested

that the amendment to this effect be so altered as to read that the

Report be received only, and the Committee thanked for their services.

Finally, a resolution to this effect was carried. The most strongly

worded recommendation of the Report was that some legal restriction

should be placed on public exhibitions of hypnotic phenomena. This was

only twelve years ago, and was five or six years subsequent to the

publication of some of Mr. Edmund Gurney's most important series of

experiments in hypnotism in the Proceedings of the Society for

Psychical Research. The "reception only" of the Report was also two or

three years subsequent to a demonstration of hypnotic anaesthesia which

Dr. J. Milne Bramwell gave at Leeds to a large gathering of medical men.

One result of that gathering was that Dr. Bramwell decided to abandon

general practice and devote himself to hypnotic work. Dr. Bramwell


"As I was well aware of the fate that had awaited earlier pioneers in

the same movement, I naturally expected to meet with opposition and

misrepresentation. These have been encountered, it is true; but the

friendly help and encouragement received have been immeasurably greater.

I have also had many opportunities of placing my views before my

professional brethren, both by writing and speaking;" to which Dr.

Bramwell somewhat naively adds--"opportunities all the more valued,

because almost always unsolicited."[70]

An incident which occurred in connection with the most sensational case

of "levitation" recorded of D. D. Home, is very instructive as

illustrating the great care that is needful in estimating the value of

testimony regarding spiritualistic phenomena, even of statements made by

persons of established reputation and position.

The Joint Report of Professor Barrett and Mr. Myers, from which extracts

were made in Chapter V., says:--

"Lords Lindsay and Adare had printed a statement that Home floated out

of the window, and in at another, in Ashley Place, S.W., 16th December

1868. A third person, Captain Wynne, was present at the time, but had

written no separate account. Dr. Carpenter, in an article in the

Contemporary Review for January 1876, thus commented on the


"'The most diverse accounts of the facts of a seance will be given by

a believer and a sceptic. A whole party of believers will affirm that

they saw Mr. Home float out of one window, and in at another, while a

single honest sceptic declares that Mr. Home was sitting in his chair

all the time. And in this last case we have an example of a fact, of

which there is ample illustration, that during the prevalence of an

epidemic delusion, the honest testimony of any number of individuals on

one side, if given under a prepossession, is of no more weight than that

of a single adverse witness--if so much.'

"This passage was of course quoted as implying that Captain Wynne had

somewhere made a statement contradicting Lords Lindsay and Adare. Home

wrote to him to inquire; and he replied ... in the following terms:--

"'I remember that Dr. Carpenter wrote some nonsense about that trip of

yours along the side of the house in Ashley Place. I wrote to the

Medium to say that I was present as a witness. Now I don't think that

any one who knows me would for one moment say that I was a victim to

hallucination or any other humbug of the kind. The fact of your having

gone out of the window and in at the other I can swear to.'"

"It seems, therefore, that the instance selected by Dr. Carpenter to

prove the existence of a hallucination--by the exemption of one person

present from the illusion--was of a very unfortunate kind; suggesting,

indeed, that a controversialist thus driven to draw on his imagination

for his facts must have been conscious of a weak case."[71]

It may be interesting, in concluding this brief examination into one

branch of the great subject of "Spiritualism," to bring together a few

of the impressions produced on the minds of some of the leading

investigators. It should not be forgotten that the branch of the subject

which we have been studying may be looked upon as representing the

lowest steps only of a great staircase which ascends, until, to our

gaze, it is lost in unknown infinite heights. It is only the foot of a

ladder, to use another simile, resting on the material earth, which we

have been considering; at most the two or three lowest rungs. But to the

eyes of some, even now and here, glimpses of angels ascending and

descending are visible.

Five names stand out prominently before all others among the earlier

investigators of the last thirty years--Sir William Crookes and

Professor W. F. Barrett, who are still with us; and Professor Henry

Sidgwick, Edmund Gurney, and F. W. H. Myers, who have gone. Sir William

Crookes' work in other directions has been all-absorbing, so that all he

has been able to tell us during the last few years, in relation to our

present subject, is that he had nothing to add to, and nothing to

retract from what he has said in the past. In his address as President

of the British Association in 1898, Sir William Crookes said, after

referring to his work of thirty years ago:--

"I think I see a little further now. I have glimpses of something like

coherence among the strange elusive phenomena, of something like

continuity between those unexplained forces, and laws already known....

Were I now introducing for the first time these inquiries to the world

of science, I should choose a starting-point different from that of old.

It would be well to begin with Telepathy; with the fundamental law, as I

believe it to be, that thoughts and images may be transferred from one

mind to another without the agency of the recognised organs of

sense--that knowledge may enter the human mind without being

communicated in any hitherto known or recognised ways."[72]

For Professor Barrett's present views the reader is referred to his

address as President of the Society for Psychical Research delivered in

January 1904.[73] It is full of interest, but is not easy to quote from.

Speaking of "spiritualistic phenomena," he says: "We must all agree that

indiscriminate condemnation on the one hand, and ignorant credulity on

the other, are the two most mischievous elements with which we are

confronted in connection with this subject. It is because we, as a

Society, feel that in the fearless pursuit of truth, it is the paramount

duty of science to lead the way, that the scornful attitude of the

scientific world towards even the investigation of these phenomena is so

much to be deprecated.... I suppose we are all apt to fancy our own

power of discernment and of sound judgment to be somewhat better than

our neighbours. But after all, is it not the common-sense, the care, the

patience, and the amount of uninterrupted attention we bestow upon any

psychical phenomena we are investigating, that gives value to the

opinion at which we arrive, and not the particular cleverness or

scepticism of the observer? The lesson we all need to learn is, that

what even the humblest of men affirm, from their own experience, is

always worth listening to, but what even the cleverest of men, in their

ignorance, deny, is never worth a moment's attention."[74]

As regards Professor Sidgwick, the experimental work of the Society for

Psychical Research soon convinced him that Thought-Transference, or

Telepathy, was a fact. In an address in 1889, after speaking of the

probabilities of testimony given being false, he says:--

"It is for this reason that I feel that a part of my grounds for

believing in Telepathy, depending as it does on personal knowledge,

cannot be communicated except in a weakened form to the ordinary reader

of the printed statements which represent the evidence that has

convinced me. Indeed I feel this so strongly that I have always made it

my highest ambition as a psychical researcher to produce evidence which

will drive my opponents to doubt my honesty or veracity; I think there

are a very small minority who will not doubt them, and that if I can

convince them I have done all that I can do: as regards the majority of

my own acquaintances I should claim no more than an admission that they

were considerably surprised to find me in the trick."[75]

I am not aware that Professor Sidgwick ever expressed any opinion as to

the reality of the ordinary physical spiritualistic manifestations. It

is clear that he believed a large proportion to have been fraudulently

produced. As to some psychical phenomena, his convictions were very

strong. For instance, in the final paragraph of the "Report on

Hallucinations," which occupies the whole of the tenth volume of the

Proceedings of the Society, and to which he appended his name, these

two sentences occur: "Between deaths and apparitions of the dying person

a connection exists which is not due to chance alone. This we hold as a

proved fact."[76] And Professor Sidgwick speaks of this as corroborating

the conclusion already drawn by Mr. Gurney nearly ten years earlier.

Mr. Edmund Gurney's name stands next. His earthly work came to a sudden

termination in 1888. "Phantasms of the Living" is his enduring memorial.

Although two other names are associated with his on the title-page, the

greater part of the two volumes was written by him alone. For most of

the views expressed Mr. Gurney is solely responsible. In a chapter

devoted to "The Theory of Chance-Coincidence" as an explanation of the

order of natural phenomena to which "Phantasms of the Living" belong,

Mr. Gurney says:--

"Figures, one is sometimes told, can be made to prove anything; but I

confess I should be curious to see the figures by which the theory of

chance-coincidence could here be proved adequate to the facts. Whatever

group of phenomena be selected, and whatever method of reckoning be

adopted, probabilities are hopelessly and even ludicrously


This is the conclusion referred to above by Professor Sidgwick. With

exclusively physical phenomena Mr. Gurney did not much concern himself.

The last of the five names mentioned is that of Mr F. W. H. Myers. The

written testimony he has left behind enables us to obtain a much clearer

view of his conclusions as a whole, than is attainable in the case of

Professor Sidgwick and Mr. Gurney. The convictions which he came to in

regard to the two most notable "mediums" in the history of modern

spiritualism--D. D. Home and W. Stainton Moses--are evidence that he

believed in most of the alleged phenomena being proved realities. These

convictions are so important from such a careful and competent student

of the subject that it is best to quote them in his own words. Of D. D.

Home he said: "If our readers ask us--'Do you desire us to go on

experimenting in these matters, as though Home's phenomena were

genuine?'--we answer 'Yes.'"[78] Of the phenomena which occurred in the

presence of W. Stainton Moses, Mr. Myers said: "That they were not

produced fraudulently by Dr. Speer or other sitters I regard as proved

both by moral considerations and by the fact that they are constantly

reported as occurring when Mr. Moses was alone. That Mr. Moses should

have himself fraudulently produced them, I regard as both morally and

physically incredible. That he should have prepared and produced them in

a state of trance, I regard both as physically incredible, and also as

entirely inconsistent with the tenour both of his own reports and of

those of his friends. I therefore regard the reported phenomena as

having actually occurred in a genuinely supernormal manner."[79]

At the same time Mr. Myers believed in the existence of a large amount

of conscious and wilful fraud, especially in professional mediumship.

* * * * *

There will be no fitter conclusion to this volume than a few passages

from the last chapter, entitled "Epilogue," of "Human Personality," by

Mr. F. W. H. Myers. To a large extent they are appropriate to the

evidence presented in the preceding pages.

"The task which I proposed to myself at the beginning of this work, is

now, after a fashion, accomplished. Following the successive steps of my

programme, I have presented--not indeed all the evidence I possess, and

which I would willingly present--but enough at least to illustrate a

continuous exposition.... Such wider generalisations as I may now add,

must needs be dangerously speculative; they must run the risk of

alienating still further from this research many of the scientific minds

which I am most anxious to influence....

"The inquiry falls between the two stools of religion and science; it

cannot claim support either from the 'religious world' or from the Royal

Society. Yet even apart from the instinct of pure scientific curiosity

(which surely has seldom seen such a field opening before it), the

mighty issues depending on these phenomena ought, I think, to constitute

in themselves a strong, an exceptional appeal. I desire in this book to

emphasise that appeal; not only to produce conviction, but also to

attract co-operation. And actual converse with many persons has led me

to believe that in order to attract such help, even from scientific men,

some general view of the moral upshot of all the phenomena is needed....

The time is ripe for a study of unseen things as strenuous and sincere

as that which Science has made familiar for the problems of earth."

Coming now to more definite considerations, Mr. Myers writes thus of

Telepathy, lifting it on to an altogether higher plane: "In the

infinite Universe man may now feel, for the first time, at home. The

worst fear is over; the true security is won. The worst fear was the

fear of spiritual extinction or spiritual solitude. The true security

is in the telepathic law. Let me draw out my meaning at somewhat

greater length. As we have dwelt successively on various aspects of

Telepathy we have gradually felt the conception enlarge and deepen

under our study. It began as a quasi-mechanical transference of ideas

and images from one to another brain." This is illustrated by the

series of Thought-Transference Drawings; almost the only telepathic

manifestation which strictly comes within the scope of our inquiry

into physical phenomena. "Presently we find it assuming a more varied

and potent form, as though it were the veritable influence or invasion

of a distant mind. Again, its action was traced across a gulf greater

than any space of earth or ocean, and it bridged the interval between

spirits incarnate and discarnate, between the visible and the

invisible world. There seemed no limit to the distance of its

operation, or to the intimacy of its appeal....

"Love ... is no matter of carnal impulse or of emotional caprice....

Love is a kind of exalted but unspecialised Telepathy;--the simplest and

most universal expression of that mutual gravitation or kinship of

spirits which is the foundation of the telepathic law. This is the

answer to the ancient fear; the fear lest man's fellowships be the

outward, and his solitude the inward thing.... Such fears vanish when we

learn that it is the soul in man which links him with other souls; the

body which dissevers even while it seems to unite.... Like atoms, like

suns, like galaxies, our spirits are systems of forces which vibrate

continually to each other's attractive power."

For the further working out of these thoughts the reader must be

referred to Mr. Myers' book itself. After a few pages Mr. Myers


"Our duty [the duty of Psychical Researchers] is not the founding of a

new sect, nor even the establishment of a new science, but is rather the

expansion of Science herself until she can satisfy those questions,

which the human heart will rightly ask, but to which Religion alone has

thus far attempted an answer.... I see our original programme completely

justified.... I see all things coming to pass as we foresaw. What I do

not see, alas! is an energy and capacity of our own, sufficient for

our widening duty.... We invite workers from each department of

science, from every school of thought. With equal confidence we appeal

for co-operation to savant and to saint.

"To the savant we point out that we are not trying to pick holes in

the order of Nature, but rather by the scrutiny of residual phenomena,

to get nearer to the origin and operation of Nature's central mystery of

Life. Men who realise that the ethereal environment was discovered

yesterday, need not deem it impossible that a metethereal

environment--yet another omnipresent system of cosmic law--should be

discovered to-morrow. The only valid a priori presumption in the

matter, is the presumption that the Universe is infinite in an infinite

number of ways.

"To the Christian we can speak with a still more direct appeal. You

believe--I would say--that a spiritual world exists, and that it acted

on the material world two thousand years ago. Surely it is so acting

still. Nay, you believe that it is so acting still, for you believe that

prayer is heard and answered. To believe that prayer is heard is to

believe in Telepathy--in the direct influence of mind on mind. To

believe that prayer is answered is to believe that unembodied spirit

does actually modify (even if not storm-cloud or plague-germ) at least

the minds, and therefore the brains, of living men. From that belief the

most advanced 'psychical' theories are easy corollaries."

A few more lines in conclusion:--

"It may be that for some generations to come the truest faith will lie

in the patient attempt to unravel from confused phenomena some trace of

the supernal world;--to find thus at last 'the substance of things

hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.' I confess, indeed, that I

have often felt as though this present age were even unduly

favoured;--as though no future revelation and calm could equal the joy

of this great struggle from doubt into certainty;--from the materialism

or agnosticism which accompany the first advance of Science into the

deeper scientific conviction that there is a deathless soul in man. I

can imagine no other crisis of such deep delight."