These experiments were as simple as could well be devised, and to the unreflecting mind may seem trifling. But I shall endeavor to show that they possess unmeasured significance.
Before proceeding to do so, it may be well to state that visions resulting from telepathic communion are as varied as is the character of the communicants or the subjects of the messages. They are often seen by the percipient as plainly as the objective reality could be seen; and events are depicted by means of visions that re-enact the scenes, with all the characters and actors represented, as perfectly as the reality itself.1
It now remains to show how this faculty of reading the minds of others is unconsciously employed by spirit mediums to impart to their clients information regarding persons and events of which the medium has no previous knowledge.
We will consider, for this purpose, the case of a medium who develops no physical phenomena, but who simply receives his visitor, tells him of the events of his past life, describes his spirit-friends, conveys oral communications from them, and occasionally drops into prophecy. The visitor may or may not be a professed believer in spiritism; but the fact that he is there to consult a medium shows a faith sufficient for the purpose in view, and propinquity places his subjective mind en rapport with that of the medium. We will suppose that this is the first time that the two have met, and that the medium is entirely unacquainted with the character, the antecedents, or the deceased friends of the sitter. The first thing that the medium does is to become wholly or partially self-hypnotized. He may go into the state only partially, and appear to the visitor to be in his normal condition. He may, and probably does, believe that his "control" takes possession of his body and talks through him; he has, as we have already seen, every reason for this belief. He is taken possession of by some unseen force, is guided by some unseen intelligence which possesses powers and attributes of which he is not conscious in his normal condition.
He has no other hypothesis to account for the extraordinary manifestations of which that intelligence is the source. To make assurance doubly sure, the intelligence tells him that it is the spirit of some deceased person, and gives him a detailed and very plausible account of itself. He is forced to believe the statements of his subjective entity, for he knows no reason for believing otherwise, and it, in turn, is compelled by the laws of its being to believe itself to be what it represents; for the suggestion has been made to it that it is the spirit of a deceased person. That suggestion having been made in a general way, to begin with, his subjective mind will proceed to fill in the details in some way with marvellous acumen, and with such logical circumstantiality of detail as to deceive "the very elect." It is just as it is in the case of a hypnotized person, who, in pur-suance of a post-hypnotic suggestion, having done some absurd act, when questioned as to why he did it, will, on the instant, invent some reason so plausible that the act will seem perfectly natural to one who does not know its origin.
1 See "Phantasms of the Living," and the Proceedings of the London Society for Psychical Research, for full confirmation of this statement.
Again, the subjective mind of the sitter is also controlled by a suggestion, more or less strong, that spirits of the dead are about to be invoked; and it is also ready with its logical deductions from the premises suggested, and will perform its part in the seance with the same alacrity and acumen. Here, then, we have two subjective minds en rapport, and the telepathic conditions for a successful seance are established. The shrewd and successful medium usually begins by making some very complimentary remarks concerning the character and mental attributes of the sitter. This puts the latter at his ease, and gives him an exalted opinion of the good sense and judgment of the medium. Some incidents of the sitter's life may then be related, and his occupation indicated. It will generally be done in terms such as indicate the fact that the medium obtains his impressions by means of visions. For instance, the writer once heard a medium in New York city describe the occupation of an examiner in the United States Patent Office. The two had never met before, and did not know of each other's existence ten minutes before the seance.