Psychometry. - "The Souls of Things." - Professor Denton's Experiments. - Wonderful Visions of the Ancient Environment of Geological Specimens. - A Piece of Mortar from Cicero's House. - Supposed Scientific Tests. - Explanation on Telepathic Principles. - Experiments in Hypnotism compared. - Clairvoyance and Telepathy. - Their Boundary Lines in Transit. - Clairaudience. - Definitions of the Term. - Socrates and his Daemon. - Modern Instances. - Mental Impressions. - Premonitions. - Their Unreliability. - Remarkable Examples of Clairaudience. - A Lawyer's Experience. - Subject to the Law of Suggestion. - Insanity sometimes results from Ignorance of the Cause. - Practical Suggestions.
THERE is another class of phenomena which has attracted a great deal of public attention, and which demands a passing notice in this connection. It is that class which has received an exhaustive treatment in the work of the late Professor Denton, entitled "The Souls of Things." It has been denominated "psychometry," which may be defined as the supposed power of the human mind to discern the history of inanimate objects by clairvoyance. Many wonderful stories are related of the exercise of this supposed faculty, under the strictest test conditions, as test conditions were then understood. Professor Denton made a long series of experiments with his sister, his wife, and some others who were supposed to possess that power in a remarkable degree. The powers of his wife and sister were indeed wonderful; but, as we shall see, not in the line in which the experiments were directed. It must be premised that the professor was a very learned man, not only in his specialty, which was geology, but in all branches of human knowledge. His wife and sister were also highly cultivated women, and were specially interested in those branches of learning in which the gifted professor excelled.
Thus the conditions were extremely favorable for the production of extraordinary results in whatever branch of occult science they might jointly engage.
It was the habit of the professor to select some geological specimen, or a fragment of some historical structure, and submit it to his percipient for her version of its history. She would readily enter a partially subjective condition, place the relic on her head, and at once give a very plausible, and oftentimes a most wonderfully accurate, history of the scenes which had been enacted within its former environment. Thus, if the object happened to be a geological specimen, she would launch out into a glowing description of its surroundings when found, and going back into its history before the earth's crust was formed, trace it down through the different geological changes until she landed it in the professor's cabinet. Again, a piece of mortar from the dwelling of Cicero would be handed to her, and she would give a vivid description of the domestic life of those who had occupied the mansion, and describe historic events which "might have been seen" from the ancient habitat of the piece of mortar. It is easy to see how all this might be accomplished, and all the known facts stated with accuracy, regarding the geological environment of the piece of stone in her hands, when her own geological learning was taken into consideration.
But the professor was not unmindful of so obvious an explanation of her power. To eliminate that element was his first care. To that end he would wrap the specimen in a piece of paper, and carefully conceal its character from her objective knowledge. The result was always the same. She would read the history of the specimen with the same apparent accuracy as before. The professor, however, did not forget the possibility that telepathy was an element necessary to be eliminated. The possibility that she might read what was in his own mind must, therefore, be provided against. To that end he wrapped a large number of specimens in packages as nearly alike as possible, and mixed them together so that it was impossible for him to know them apart. One specimen after another would then be handed her, and each one would be described with the same accuracy as before. This was considered the supreme test, and the doctrine that "things," in common with men, have "souls," was thought to be demonstrated. The Orientalists would say that he had demonstrated that the history of all things is "recorded in the astral light," whatever that may be.
The spiritist would say that the spirits of dead men had given her the information.
The true explanation is obvious to those who are acquainted with the facts of telepathy. The professor was an eminent geologist and a classical scholar. In his subjective mind was the history of every geological specimen in his possession, pictured clearly and vividly, according to the theories of the best geologists of his generation. His imagination carried him back to the time when chaos reigned supreme. He followed the fragment of rock down through all the changes which took place in the earth's structure, until it became a part of the solid mass of rock from which it was taken. In the ever-changing environment of that fragment, since the time when it was a part of a vast mass of molten matter, there was material for pictures of the sub-limest scenes incident to the formation of a world. Those pictures, to the imagination of every geologist worthy of the title, are ever present and intensely vivid. A fragment of rock to him is an open book, in which are recorded the history of the sublimest works of Omnipotence, and his imagination supplies the panoramic illustrations.
In experiments such as have been described, these pictures are necessarily presented to the subjective mind of the percipient in a form so clear and vivid that she would be insensate indeed if she failed to describe them in appropriate terms. And when we consider the fact that the percipients employed in these experiments were exceptionally cultivated women, especially interested in the subjects of the professor's research, it will be seen that successful telepathic experiments were to them exceptionally easy.
The successful reading of the history of the specimens submitted to the percipients is therefore easily accounted for where the professor had conscious knowledge of the contents of the packages. It remains only to explain the reason of success when he sought to eliminate that element by submitting a large number of similar packages, not consciously knowing one from the other. This also is easy to understand when the extraordinary acumen of the subjective mind is considered. It is a common hypnotic experiment to draw a blank card from a package, hand it to a subject, and suggest that it contains a picture of some person. The card is then marked on the back and shuffled with fifty or more others. A good subject will, in nine cases out of ten, indicate the marked card as the one containing the suggested picture, and that without the possibility of seeing the mark on the other side. It is obviously a much easier feat to remember the differences in packages than in blank cards. Of the former, no two could possibly be alike. Of the latter, no two would ordinarily be sufficiently unlike to enable one to determine the difference by the unaided senses.
But to the subjective mind the feat of remembering each package and its contents would be very easy, compared with thousands of recorded instances to be found in the literature of psychic phenomena.
It will be observed that we have refrained from invoking the aid of clairvoyance to account for the phenomena of psychometry. It would be a much simpler solution of the problem to assume that the power of independent clairvoyance exists, and that the percipients simply saw the contents of the packages. But inasmuch as the known facts of telepathy afford a perfect solution, we are not logically justified in entering a domain which is in the slightest degree overshadowed by doubt. By this remark it is not meant to imply that there is any doubt of the existence of a power which is generally known as clairvoyance, but that its limitations are as yet undecided. That is to say, the boundary line between clairvoyance and telepathy is not at present clearly drawn. The field of clairvoyance is constantly narrowing its boundaries. Thus, a few years ago every perception of a fact not cognizable by the senses was attributed either to clairvoyance or to spirits. Sceptics on the latter subject were wont to explain certain phenomena by attributing them to the former. The phenomena which could not thus be explained were relegated to the domain of fraud and legerdemain.
When the phenomena of telepathy became better understood, the field of clairvoyance was greatly narrowed, as it was found that most of the phenomena before explained by clairvoyance were really due to telepathic communion. But the powers and limitations of telepathy are not yet clearly marked; and it is found that every step in advance in the knowledge of its principles by just so much narrows the field of clairvoyance. No better illustration of this fact could be given than the phenomena of psychometry, which we have just been considering. The power to read the history of a geological specimen with a plausible show of accuracy was first attributed to clairvoyance. As telepathic powers began to be understood, it was thought that possibly the percipient simply related what was read in the mind of the agent. Many experiments were made throughout the country which demonstrated that fact, and the recognized field of clairvoyance was thereby curtailed. But Professor Denton determined to eliminate the element of telepathy by so disposing of his relics as to divest himself of all knowledge of the particular one under examination.
When the percipient exhibited the same powers of discernment under those circumstances it was thought that the element of telepathy was eliminated, and that the power of clairvoyance was demonstrated. But as the knowledge of telepathy is increased, and when it is understood that telepathy is the communion of subjective minds, and that the subjective mind is endowed with transcendent powers in certain directions, while it is hedged about with limitations in others, it is seen that the professor did not succeed, as he had supposed, in eliminating the element of telepathy. Thus the field of clairvoyance is again curtailed, and that of telepathy correspondingly enlarged. It may be assumed, therefore, that the boundary lines between the two supposed powers are still unmarked. In the mean time it is unsafe to assume any one point as the boundary, or even to assume that there is, in fact, any line at all. Judgment must be suspended until telepathy is better understood. All that can be safely said is that there are facts which cannot as yet be explained on any other hypothesis than that of independent clairvoyance.
When we come across such a fact we may provisionally assume the power to exist, and await the slow progress of experimental knowledge to enable us to classify the fact in accordance with its legitimate relations. It is logically safe to do this as long as we thus avoid the necessity of wholesale denials of demonstrated facts on the one hand, and on the other refrain from entering the domain of the supernatural in search of a hypothesis.
It is thought that enough has now been said to explain the part which telepathy plays in the phenomena which have been considered, and also to enable the intelligent reader to apply the principles to all other classes of phenomena in which telepathy constitutes a possible factor. It is constantly reappearing in every phase of psychic phenomena, and constitutes a factor in every manifestation of intelligent power involving the perception of that which is beyond the reach of the senses.