The Planchette. - Modifications. - Easily operated. - Automatic Writing. - Governed by the Universal Law. - The Planchette without Spirits - The Planchette and Telepathy. - Trance. - Ancient and Modern Superstitions relating to Trance. - Religious Systems founded on Trance. - Visions. - Swedenborg. - Oriental Philosophy. - Its Slow Growth and Stupendous Proportions. - Spiritistic Philosophy. - Its Evolution. - All founded on Trance Visions in Ignorance of the Law of Suggestion. - Cahagnet's Mesmeric Seers. - Their Revelations. - Objective and Subjective Visions. - Orthodoxy and Heterodoxy. - Visions of the Holy Virgin. - The Physical and Mental Attitude of Prayer. - The Prayer of Faith. - Obsession. - Possession. - Casting out Devils. - Devils out of Fashion. - The Influence of Suggestion. - The Element of Telepathy. - Dual Personality. - Loss of Identity. - Characteristics. - The Case of Ansel Bourne. - Possible Explanation. - A Proof of the Dual Hypothesis. - Multiple Personality.
ANOTHER method of bringing the operations of the subjective mind above the threshold of consciousness is by means of an instrument called the planchette. It consists of a thin board about six inches square, resting upon two castors, the third leg consisting of a pencil, which passes through a hole in the board, its point resting upon the paper upon which the instrument is designed to write. The mode of operation consists in resting the hand lightly upon the board and allowing it to move over the paper without consciously aiding its progress. In the hands of a medium it will soon begin to write, apparently propelled by an unseen power. A modification of this apparatus is now on the market, which consists of a similar piece of thin board, approximately triangular in shape, with a plain wooden leg at each apex. Its feet, like the feet of the gods, are " shod with wool." Accompanying it is a board, say two feet square, on which the letters of the alphabet and the arabic numerals are painted. Its mode of operation is similar to that of the planchette, except that, instead of a pencil being used, one of the legs serves as a pointer, and the words are spelled out, letter by letter, as indicated by the pointer, which moves over the board in the same mysterious way as the planchette.
Its advantage over the planchette consists in the fact that a greater number of persons can operate it satisfactorily. Otherwise, the planchette is preferable, inasmuch as it writes continuously, instead of spelling the words letter by letter. In almost every family some one will be found who can, with a little practice, obtain communications by this means from his own subjective mind; This is the simplest way by which so-called spirit communications can be obtained.
Automatic writing is a cognate method, and consists in holding a pencil in the hand and letting it write. The subjective mind assumes control of the muscles and nerves of the arm and hand, and propels the pencil, the objective mind meantime being perfectly quiescent, and often totally oblivious of what is being written. A smaller number of persons can acquire this faculty than either of the others.
We assume, of course, that it is the subjective mind of the medium that directs the pencil. The same laws govern the manifestations, and the intelligence is hedged about by the same limitations. Suggestion plays the same subtle role, and the knowledge of the subjects of the communications are limited by that of the medium and those with whom he is in telepathic rapport. The entity that guides the pencil almost invariably assumes to be a spirit, and its communications necessarily conform to the character assumed. The reason of this is obvious when we consider the fact that automatic writing has always been associated with the idea of spirit communion. The universality of this idea constitutes an all-potent suggestion which cannot easily be overcome. Even though the medium may profess to be a sceptic on the subject of spirit intercourse, nevertheless he is dominated by that suggestion, in the absence of any definite counter-suggestion. Obviously, a counter-suggestion which could overcome the hypothesis of spirit intercourse must be in the form of a theory which appeals more strongly to the reason of the medium than the suggestion of spirit intercourse.
In the present state of popular opinion on the subject of spiritism it would be difficult to find a medium whose subjective mind would not be dominated by the popular hypothesis. Nevertheless, instances have been known where the popular idea did not prevail. One case that is now recalled is reported in the "Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research," April, 1891 (page 23). The medium, or, more properly speaking, the automatist, was a young lady, aged fifteen. "She had not previously heard of planchette," says the author, "and spiritualism was to her a mere name." This was a very desirable condition of mind for the purpose, and as rare as desirable. "She never knew what she had written till it was looked at," continues the author, "and there was often some slight difficulty in deciphering it. Thus, the first question, 'Who are you that write ?' produced what at first I took to be mere scrawling, and C (the automatist) shortly after left the room. After she had done so, I took another look at this scrawl, and then at once perceived that it was legible, and that the name written in answer to the question was 'Henry Morton.' I at once followed C upstairs, and asked her if she had ever heard the name; and she replied that it was that of a character in a Christmas play she had acted in, more than a year previously".
This is a most remarkable case in more ways than one. It shows, first, that when the automatist knows nothing of spiritism, and there is consequently no suggestion of the spirits having any part in the performance, the subjective mind will not assume that it is a spirit that writes; secondly, that the bare fact that the question, "Who are you that write?" is asked, amounts to a suggestion that some third person is writing, and that the auto-matist is dominated by the inference drawn, just the same as if the suggestion had been a positive statement. The most remarkable part of it, however, is the persistency with which her subjective mind clung to the suggestion that she was " Henry Morton." She had assumed that character more than a year before, in a Christmas play, and her subjective mind still identified itself with the imaginary personage, and believed the truth of the suggestion as firmly as it would have believed the suggestion that it was a disembodied spirit, had that suggestion been made.
The author shows an intelligent appreciation of this fact when he adds: "Had the name been, as it easily might have been, that of some deceased friend, it is obvious what inference would have been drawn." It is also obvious that it would have been that of some deceased person, had the young lady been acquainted with the planchette and the spiritistic hypothesis.
Another instance of automatic writing where the spiritistic hypothesis was ignored, is reported in the "Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research," vol. iii. pages 8-23. Space can be given to a brief extract only. The experiments were tried by the Rev. P. H. Newnham and his wife, the latter acting as the automatist. The primary object of these experiments was to test the power of thought-transference. This was very successfully done, as the answers, though not always correct, referred to the questions. It appears, incidentally, that they entertained a different hypothesis from the usual one, as will appear from the answers which we quote. The questions were written down by Mr. Newnham, and no hint was given to the operator as to their character or subject. The following are fair samples: -
"Q. Is it the operator's brain, or some external force, that moves the planchette? Answer 'brain,' or 'force.' A. Will.
Q. Is it the will of a living person, or of an immaterial spirit distinct from that person? Answer ' person' or ' spirit.'
Q. Give first the wife's Christian name; then my favorite name for her.
A. (This was accurately done).
Q. What is your own name?
A. Only you.
Q. We are not quite sure of the meaning of the answer. Explain.
At a subsequent sitting the following questions and answers were given: -
" Q. Who are you that write?
Q. But does no one tell wife what to write? If so, who?
Q. Whose spirit?
A. Wife's brain.
Q. But how does wife's brain know (certain) secrets?
A. Wife's spirit unconsciously guides".
At a subsequent seance the following dialogue occurred:
"Q. By what means are (unknown) secrets conveyed to wife's brain?
A. What you call mesmeric influence.
Q. What do you mean by 'What you call'? What do you call it?
Q. By whom, or by what, is the electro-biologic force set in motion?
A I told you you could not know more than you did.
Q. Can wife answer a question the reply to which I do not know?
A. Why do you try to make me say what I won't?
Q. Simply because I desire knowledge. Why will you not tell?
A. Wife could tell if some one else, with a very strong will, in the room knew".
These two cases clearly demonstrate the proposition that where an operator can be found who is not dominated by the suggestion embraced in the spiritistic hypothesis, he will not assume to be a spirit. If he does entertain the spirit hypothesis, he will assume that he is a spirit, and answer accordingly. The mental and physical phenomena are the same in the one case as in the other. The logical conclusion is this: the fact that the intelligence which operates the pencil in the one case claims that it is a disembodied spirit does not constitute valid evidence that it is a spirit. We must look, therefore, to other sources for evidence of spirit origin of the phenomena. Obviously the only test by which that question can be settled is by the character of the communications. When that test is applied, it is found that all that is mysterious about them can be explained on the hypothesis of telepathy or clairvoyance. In the mean time, the fact that the power that writes is always amenable to control by suggestion, constitutes the strongest presumptive evidence that it is the subjective mind of the operator. This is the explanation which is afforded by a knowledge of some of the laws governing the action of the subjective mind.
The onus probandi rests with those who claim a supernatural origin for the phenomenon.