This section is from the book "Human Personality And Its Survival Of Bodily Death", by Frederic W. H. Myers. Also available from Amazon: Human Personality And Its Survival Of Bodily Death.
663. It is likely enough that, if we could really understand the mechanism involved, some of these questions would be seen to be not indeed merely verbal - but beside the point. If each of us is a system of forces united in innumerable ways to other systems of forces; and if there comes a tug somewhere - a perturbation of one of these linked personalities - then the resultant thrill (whether of ether or beyond ether) may affect those other human systems in ways which our experience cannot help us to imagine.
I will add here two cases which will illustrate two problems which occur as we deal with each class of cases in turn, - the problem of time-relations and the problem of spirit-agency. Can an incident be said to be seen clairvoyantly if it is seen some hours after it occurred? Ought we to say that a scene is clairvoyantly visited, or that it is spiritually shown, if it represents a still chamber of death, where no emotion is any longer stirring; but to which the freed spirit might desire to attract the friend's attention and sympathy? The first of these two cases appeared in a paper by Mrs. Sidgwick, whose comments I reproduce.
From Mrs. Sidgwick's paper "On the Evidence for Clairvoyance," in Proceedings S.P.R., vol. vii. pp. 32-35.
Mrs. Sidgwick writes: -
I shall begin with cases closely parallel to many which have been included in Phantasms of the Living as cases of telepathic clairvoyance, and in which telepathy is primÔ facie the simplest explanation. In these cases the agent is clearly designated, and also his connection with the percipient; and the experience of the supposed agent at the moment is generally of a marked and exceptional character. Moreover, in most of these cases the initiative, or at least the psychical disturbance or impulse which leads to the vision, is, so far as we can see, entirely on the side of the agent, the percipient being in an apparently normal state and not expecting or seeking any vision.
The first case I shall give comes to us through the American Branch of the Society. Mr. A. B. Wood writes to Mr. F. A. Nims, an Associate of the American Branch, as follows: -
Muskegon, April 29th, 1890.
In compliance with your suggestion, supplemented by the request of Mr. Richard Hodgson, I sought an interview with Mrs. Agnes Paquet, and obtained the following information regarding her strange experience on the day of her brother's death. I submit the papers to you feeling that they should go forward with the fullest and clearest information obtainable, and believing that you may suggest other questions, the answers to which may have important bearing on the case. A. B. Wood.
Statement of Accident.
On October 24th, 1889, Edmund Dunn, brother of Mrs. Agnes Paquet, was serving as fireman on the tug Wolf a small steamer engaged in towing vessels in Chicago Harbour. At about 3 o'clock a.m., the tug fastened to a vessel, inside the piers, to tow her up the river. While adjusting the tow-line Mr. Dunn fell or was thrown overboard by the tow-line, and drowned. The body, though sought for, was not found until about three weeks after the accident, when it came to the surface near the place where Mr. Dunn disappeared.
Mrs. Paquefs Statement.
I arose about the usual hour on the morning of the accident, probably about six o'clock. I had slept well throughout the night, had no dreams or sudden awakenings. I awoke feeling gloomy and depressed, which feeling I could not shake off. After breakfast my husband went to his work, and, at the proper time, the children were gotten ready and sent to school, leaving me alone in the house. Soon after this I decided to steep and drink some tea, hoping it would relieve me of the gloomy feelings aforementioned. I went into the pantry, took down the tea canister, and as I turned around my brother Edmund - or his exact image - stood before me and only a few feet away. The apparition stood with back toward me, or, rather, partially so, and was in the act of falling forward - away from me - seemingly impelled by two ropes or a loop of rope drawing against his legs. The vision lasted but a moment, disappearing over a low railing or bulwark, but was very distinct. I dropped the tea, clasped my hands to my face, and exclaimed, " My God! Ed is drowned".
At about half-past ten a.m. my husband received a telegram from Chicago, announcing the drowning of my brother. When he arrived home he said to me, "Ed is sick in hospital at Chicago; I have just received a telegram." To which I replied, "Ed is drowned; I saw him go overboard." I then gave him a minute description of what I had seen. I stated that my brother, as I saw him, was bareheaded, had on a heavy, blue sailor's shirt, no coat, and that he went over the rail or bulwark. I noticed that his pants legs were rolled up enough to show the white lining inside. I also described the appearance of the boat at the point where my brother went overboard.
I am not nervous, and neither before nor since have I had any experience in the least degree similar to that above related.
My brother was not subject to fainting or vertigo. Agnes Paquet.
Mr. Paquet's Statement.
At about 10.30 o'clock a.m., October 24th, 1889, I received a telegram from Chicago, announcing the drowning of my brother-in-law, Edmund Dunn, at 3 o'clock that morning. I went directly home, and, wishing to break the force of the sad news I had to convey to my wife, I said to her: "Ed is sick in hospital at Chicago; I have just received a telegram." To which she replied: "Ed is drowned; I saw him go overboard." She then described to me the appearance and dress of her brother as described in her statement; also the appearance of the boat, etc.
I started at once for Chicago, and when I arrived there I found the appearance of that part of the vessel described by my wife to be exactly as she had described it, though she had never seen the vessel; and the crew verified my wife's description of her brother's dress, etc, except that they thought that he had his hat on at the time of the accident. They said that Mr. Dunn had purchased a pair of pants a few days before the accident occurred, and as they were a trifle long before, wrinkling at the knees, he had worn them rolled up, showing the white lining as seen by my wife.
The captain of the tug, who was at the wheel at the time of the accident, seemed reticent. He thought my brother-in-law was taken with a fainting fit or vertigo and fell over backward; but a sailor (Frank Yemont) told a friend of mine that he (Yemont) stood on the bow of the vessel that was being towed and saw the accident. He stated that my brother-in-law was caught by the tow-line and thrown overboard, as described by my wife. I think that the captain, in his statement, wished to avoid responsibility, as he had no right to order a fireman - my brother-in-law's occupation - to handle the tow-line.
My brother-in-law was never, to my knowledge, subject to fainting or vertigo. Peter Paquet.
Mr. Wood writes again on August 12th, 1890: -
In accordance with request, I have had statements made in first person...
I have made diligent inquiry, but cannot place the sailor Yemont. A letter sent to his last known, or supposed, address has been returned, marked" Not called for:"... A. B. Wood.
Mrs. Sidgwick adds: -
Here Mrs. Paquet not only had a vivid impression of her brother within a few hours of his death - not only knew that he was dead - but saw a more or less accurate representation of the scene of his death.
It will have been noticed that her impression was not contemporaneous with the event to which it related, but occurred some six hours afterwards. It was preceded by a feeling of depression with which she had awoken in the morning, and one is at first tempted to suppose that she had dreamed of the event and forgotten it, and that her subsequent vision was the result of a sudden revivification of the dream in her memory. But we do not know enough to justify us in assuming this, and against such a hypothesis may be urged the experience of Mrs. Storie related in Phantasms of the Living [quoted in 427], which somewhat resembles Mrs. Paquet's. Mrs. Storie tells us that all the evening she felt unusually nervous, and then, when she went to bed, she had a remarkable dream, in which she saw a series of scenes which afterwards turned out to have a clear relation to the death of her brother, who had been killed by a passing train four hours earlier. In her case the nervousness cannot be regarded as telepathic, as it is stated to have begun before the accident, but it seems quite possible that the nervousness and depression may have had to do with some condition in the percipient which rendered the vision possible.
Can we fairly press an idea of any mere latency of the scene in the percipient's mind to account for such an incident as this ? Or must we not feel that there is here a mode of dealing with time which is not ours ? This apparently different mode of conceiving time-relations is also shown in cases of precognition, - already referred to in Chapter IV (Sleep). (425), - and I add in 663 A a case of waking premonition which there seems no reason to ascribe to spirit agency. I recur to the problem of time-relations in Chapter IX (Trance, Possession And Ecstasy).; meanwhile it is well to be reminded at every stage that no category which we can make can be a really distinct category, but that all these supernormal phenomena are somehow linked together beyond our sight.