If we are to consider, as M. d'Assier evidently does, the shade of a deceased person to be the soul of such person, we must arrive at the same conclusion that he has reached; namely, that posthumous existence is a burden, and that it is but a brief one at most. According to his view, the evidence of the phantom negatives the idea of a continued existence after the death of the body. According to our view, it neither proves nor disproves immortality; it leaves that question just where it found it. Like all so-called spiritual manifestations, it adds nothing to our stock of knowledge of what is in store for us beyond the grave. We must still look for immortality with the eye of faith alone, relying on the promises of the Master.
There is another alleged phenomenon connected with this general subject which deserves a passing notice. I refer to the popular belief that certain houses are pervaded by a mental atmosphere, so to speak, which corresponds to the mental condition of those who have inhabited it. There are many sensitive persons who, upon moving into a strange house or room, are influenced apparently by the mental attitude of those who previously occupied the premises. This is especially true if the former inhabitants were the victims of any great sorrow or strong emotion of any kind whatever. The influence is felt sometimes for years, and is frequently of such a character and force as to compel the victim to vacate the premises. No ghost is seen or heard, but the influence is felt, and cannot be thrown off. Doubtless many such experiences may be attributed to suggestion, - the person having been informed of some tragic event which once happened on the premises. But many cases are recorded which cannot be thus explained.
Cases are numerous where the percipient knew nothing whatever of the history of the house or of its former inhabitants.
The phenomenon is explained by spiritists by referring it to the agency of spirits of the dead. Others explain it on the theory of psychometry. That the latter explanation is not the true one is evidenced by the fact that psychometry itself is explicable on the well-known principles of telepathy. That the spirit hypothesis is not the true one is evidenced by the fact that the influence is felt when there has been no death on the premises, - when all the former inhabitants of the house are still alive. Nor is the influence necessarily a bad one. Thus, a lady of my acquaintance, who is peculiarly sensitive to psychic impressions, informs me that in one house, which she occupied some years ago, she was seized with an intense longing to study art. She had passed the age at which people usually take up a new profession, and she had never been particularly interested in art. She had no acquaintances who were artists, and there was nothing in her environment specially to attract her attention to the subject. Nevertheless, her desire to become an artist grew stronger and stronger, until she felt forced to yield. She finally employed a teacher, and eventually became very proficient.
It was afterwards ascertained that the tenant who occupied the house before she took possession was an enthusiastic devotee of art. He was not a particularly good artist, but his whole soul was bound up in his profession.
The same lady occupied a house some years later which she felt obliged to leave, on account of the evil influence which it seemed to exert upon her. It was an almost ideal house in its appointments and in the arrangement of its rooms; and when she first entered it she was enthusiastic in her admiration of it. But she never spent a comfortable day in that house. Naturally of a cheerful and happy disposition, she became gloomy and despondent, without any apparent cause, and was at last forced to yield to her feelings and vacate the premises. An inquiry into the history of the house revealed the fact that it had formerly been occupied by a lady whose husband had ill-treated her, and had finally deserted her, under circumstances of peculiar atrocity, to live with a mistress. The history of that house from the time when the afflicted lady left it has been one of constant change of tenants. Other houses in the same row, built upon the same plan and owned by the same person, have no such history. No death has ever occurred in the house, either tragic or otherwise, and consequently it cannot be said to be haunted in the ordinary acceptation of the term; that is, by spirits of the dead.
But is it not haunted, nevertheless? Is it not haunted by the thoughts engendered from the mental agony of that poor woman whose life was blasted by the perfidy of an unfaithful husband, - a man whose subsequent career was one of disgrace and infamy?
I make these suggestions tentatively, and for the purpose of directing the attention of those interested to a line of investigation which should not be ignored by students of the new psychology. It is cognate with the phenomenon of haunted houses, and may yet be found to be governed by the same laws. If it is true that a visible ghost is but an embodied thought of a dying man, may it not be true that any great emotion can leave its impress upon the locality in which it is experienced? It may not be visible to the objective senses, but it may have the power to impress the subjective minds of those who are brought within its environment, and to create in them the same emotions as those experienced by the former occupants of the premises. It seems to be another form of telepathy, cognate with the phantom of the dead, differing only in the strength and character of its manifestation. It may not be visible, for the reason that the thought cannot be pictured by a vision. It may be an abstract thought, idea, or emotion, which can be transmitted to others by impression only; or the emotion which created it may not have been strong enough to project a visible phantom.
Telepathy, therefore, appears to be divisible into three generic classes, differing principally in the methods or means of percipience, - the processes of projection being the same in all.
The first is a thought sent from one living person to another for the purpose of communicating information to that one individual. It is perceived by that person only, - usually by means of visions, - and it instantly fades away when its mission is accomplished.
The second is a thought sent from a dying person to the world at large to communicate some fact of portentous import. It is sometimes made visible to the objective senses, and is always confined to one locality, which it haunts till its object is accomplished.
The third partakes of the characteristics of the first and second. It is created by a living person, and is confined to one locality. It is not sent to any particular individual, but impresses whoever inhabits the house or room it haunts.
It will be understood by the intelligent reader that these three classes are not separated by any distinct lines of demarcation, but that each possesses characteristics common to the others.
In concluding this branch of the subject we have but one further remark to make concerning those hypothetical spirits which are popularly believed to be able to make themselves visible to mortal eyes. If it is true that the power exists in mankind to create phantoms, to project visions which may become visible to others, objectively or subjectively, we have the logical right to infer that all so-called spirits, such as elementals, elementaries, et id genus omne, are creations of the subjective minds of those who believe in their existence.
As remarked in beginning this chapter, it is written tentatively, hoping to suggest an enlargement of the field of investigation of the subject of telepathy. That power has been found to afford an explanation of so much of psychic phenomena which had before been referred to extramun-dane origin that it seems probable that it may be capable of still further service in that direction. The phenomena of ghosts and haunted houses seem to be the only demonstrated phenomena of which telepathy has not been shown to be at least a partial explanation; and if it can be shown that ghosts are also the creations of subjective power, there will be nothing left for superstition to fright the world withal.