Part 2 out of 7
the Three Holy Children. The world-wide savage practice of divining by
hallucinations induced through gazing into a smooth deep (crystal-gazing)
has been studied, I think, by no anthropologist. The veracity of
'messages' uttered by savage seers when (as they suppose) 'possessed' or
'inspired' has not been criticised, and probably cannot be, for lack of
detailed information. The 'physical phenomena' which answer among savages
to the use of the 'divining rod,' and to 'spiritist' marvels in modern
times, have only been glanced at. In short, all the savage parallels
to the so-called 'psychical phenomena' now under discussion in England,
America, Germany, Italy, and France, have escaped critical analysis and
Comparison with their civilised counterparts.
An exception among anthropologists is Mr. Tylor. He has not suppressed the
existence of these barbaric parallels to our modern problems of this kind.
But his interest in them practically ends when he has shown that the
phenomena helped to originate the savage belief in 'spirits,' and when he
has displayed the 'survival' of that belief in later culture. He does not
ask 'Are the phenomena real?' he is concerned only with the savage
philosophy of the phenomena and with its relics in modern spiritism and
religion. My purpose is to do, by way only of _ebauche_, what neither
anthropology nor psychical research nor psychology has done: to put the
savage and modern phenomena side by side. Such evidence as we can give for
the actuality of the modern experiences will, so far as it goes, raise a
presumption that the savage beliefs, however erroneous, however darkened
by fraud and fancy, repose on a basis of real observation of actual
Anthropology is concerned with man and what is in man--_humani nihil
a se alienum putat_. These researches, therefore, are within the
anthropological province, especially as they bear on the prevalent
anthropological theory of the Origin of Religion. By 'religion' we mean,
for the purpose of this argument, the belief in the existence of an
Intelligence, or Intelligences not human, and not dependent on a material
mechanism of brain and nerves, which may, or may not, powerfully control
men's fortunes and the nature of things. We also mean the additional
belief that there is, in man, an element so far kindred to these
Intelligences that it can transcend the knowledge obtained through the
known bodily senses, and may possibly survive the death of the body. These
two beliefs at present (though not necessarily in their origin) appear
chiefly as the faith in God and in the Immortality of the Soul.
It is important, then, to trace, if possible, the origin of these two
beliefs. If they arose in actual communion with Deity (as the first at
least did, in the theory of the Hebrew Scriptures), or if they could be
proved to arise in an unanalysable _sensus numinis_, or even in 'a
perception of the Infinite' (Max Mueller), religion would have a divine, or
at least a necessary source. To the Theist, what is inevitable cannot but
be divinely ordained, therefore religion is divinely preordained,
therefore, in essentials, though not in accidental details, religion is
true. The atheist, or non-theist, of course draws no such inferences.
But if religion, as now understood among men, be the latest evolutionary
form of a series of mistakes, fallacies, and illusions, if its germ be a
blunder, and its present form only the result of progressive but
unessential refinements on that blunder, the inference that religion is
untrue--that nothing actual corresponds to its hypothesis--is very easily
drawn. The inference is not, perhaps, logical, for all our science itself
is the result of progressive refinements upon hypotheses originally
erroneous, fashioned to explain facts misconceived. Yet our science is
true, within its limits, though very far from being exhaustive of the
truth. In the same way, it might be argued, our religion, even granting
that it arose out of primitive fallacies and false hypotheses, may yet
have been refined, as science has been, through a multitude of causes,
into an approximate truth.
Frequently as I am compelled to differ from Mr. Spencer both as to facts
and their interpretation, I am happy to find that he has anticipated me
here. Opponents will urge, he says, that 'if the primitive belief' (in
ghosts) 'was absolutely false, all derived beliefs from it must be
absolutely false?' Mr. Spencer replies: 'A germ of truth was contained in
the primitive conception--the truth, namely, that the power which
manifests itself in consciousness is but a differently conditioned form of
the power which manifests itself beyond consciousness.' In fact, we find
Mr. Spencer, like Faust as described by Marguerite, saying much the same
thing as the priests, but not quite in the same way. Of course, I allow
for a much larger 'germ of truth' in the origin of the ghost theory than
Mr. Spencer does. But we can both say 'the ultimate form of the religious
consciousness is' (will be?) 'the final development of a consciousness
which at the outset contained a germ of truth obscured by multitudinous
'One God, one law, one element,
And one far-off divine event,
To which the whole creation moves.'
Coming at last to Mr. Tylor, we find that he begins by dismissing the idea
that any known race of men is devoid of religious conceptions. He
disproves, out of their own mouths, the allegations of several writers who
have made this exploded assertion about 'godless tribes.' He says:
'The thoughts and principles of modern Christianity are attached to
intellectual clues which run back through far prae-Christian ages to the
very origin of human civilisation, _perhaps even of human existence_.'
So far we abound in Mr. Tylor's sense. 'As a minimum definition of
religion' he gives 'the belief in spiritual beings,' which appears
'among all low races with whom we have attained to thoroughly intimate
relations.' The existence of this belief at present does not prove that no
races were ever, at any time, destitute of all belief. But it prevents us
from positing the existence of such creedless races, in any age, as a
demonstrated fact. We have thus, in short, no opportunity of observing,
_historically_, man's development from blank unbelief into even the
minimum or most rudimentary form of belief. We can only theorise and make
more or less plausible conjectures as to the first rudiments of human
faith in God and in spiritual beings. We find no race whose mind, as to
faith, is a _tabula rasa_.
To the earliest faith Mr. Tylor gives the name of _Animism_, a term not
wholly free from objection, though 'Spiritualism' is still less desirable,
having been usurped by a form of modern superstitiousness. This Animism,
'in its full development, includes the belief in souls and in a future
state, in controlling deities and subordinate spirits.' In Mr. Tylor's
opinion, as in Mr. Huxley's, Animism, in its lower (and earlier) forms,
has scarcely any connection with ethics. Its 'spirits' do not 'make for
righteousness.' This is a side issue to be examined later, but we may
provisionally observe, in passing, that the ethical ideas, such as they
are, even of Australian blacks are reported to be inculcated at the
religious mysteries (_Bora_) of the tribes, which were instituted by and
are performed in honour of the gods of their native belief. But this topic
must be reserved for our closing chapters.
Mr. Tylor, however, is chiefly concerned with Animism as 'an ancient and
world-wide philosophy, of which belief is the theory, and worship is the
practice.' Given Animism, then, or the belief in spiritual beings, as the
earliest form and minimum of religious faith, what is the origin of
Animism? It will be seen that, by Animism, Mr. Tylor does not mean the
alleged early theory, implicitly if not explicitly and consciously held,
that all things whatsoever are animated and are personalities. Judging
from the behaviour of little children, and from the myths of savages,
early man may have half-consciously extended his own sense of personal and
potent and animated existence to the whole of nature as known to him. Not
only animals, but vegetables and inorganic objects, may have been looked
on by him as persons, like what he felt himself to be. The child (perhaps
merely because _taught_ to do so) beats the naughty chair, and all objects
are persons in early mythology. But this _feeling_, rather than theory,
may conceivably have existed among early men, before they developed the
hypothesis of 'spirits,' 'ghosts,' or souls. It is the origin of _that_
hypothesis, 'Animism,' which Mr. Tylor investigates.
What, then, is the origin of Animism? It arose in the earliest traceable
speculations on 'two groups of biological problems:
(1) 'What is it that makes the difference between a living body and a
dead one; what causes waking, sleep, trance, disease, and death?'
(2) 'What are those human shapes which appear in dreams and
Here it should be noted that Mr. Tylor most properly takes a distinction
between sleeping 'dreams' and waking 'visions,' or 'clear vision.' The
distinction is made even by the blacks of Australia. Thus one of the
Kurnai announced that his _Yambo_, or soul, could 'go out' during sleep,
and see the distant and the dead. But 'while any one might be able to
communicate with the ghosts, _during sleep_, it was only the wizards who
were able to do so in waking hours.' A wizard, in fact, is a person
susceptible (or feigning to be susceptible) when awake to hallucinatory
perceptions of phantasms of the dead. 'Among the Kulin of Wimmera River a
man became a wizard who, as a boy, had seen his mother's ghost sitting at
her grave.' These facts prove that a race of savages at the bottom of
the scale of culture do take a formal distinction between normal dreams in
sleep and waking hallucinations--a thing apt to be denied.
Thus Mr. Herbert Spencer offers the massive generalisation that savages do
not possess a language enabling a man to say 'I dreamed that I saw,'
instead of 'I saw' ('Principles of Sociology,' p. 150). This could only be
proved by giving examples of such highly deficient languages, which Mr.
Spencer does not do. In many savage speculations there occur ideas as
subtly metaphysical as those of Hegel. Moreover, even the Australian
languages have the verb 'to see,' and the substantive 'sleep.' Nothing,
then, prevents a man from saying 'I saw in sleep' (_insomnium_,
We have shown too, that the Australians take an essential distinction
between waking hallucinations (ghosts seen by a man when awake) and the
common hallucinations of slumber. Anybody can have these; the man who sees
ghosts when awake is marked out for a wizard.
At the same time the vividness of dreams among certain savages, as
recorded in Mr. Im Thurn's 'Indians of Guiana,' and the consequent
confusion of dreaming and waking experiences, are certain facts. Wilson
says the same of some negroes, and Mr. Spencer illustrates from the
confusion of mind in dreamy children. They, we know, are much more
addicted to somnambulism than grown-up people. I am unaware that
spontaneous somnambulism among savages has been studied as it ought to be.
I have demonstrated, however, that very low savages can and do draw an
essential distinction between sleeping and waking hallucinations.
Again, the crystal-gazer, whose apparently telepathic crystal pictures are
discussed later (chap. v.), was introduced to a crystal just because she
had previously been known to be susceptible to waking and occasionally
It was not only on the dreams of sleep, so easily forgotten as they are,
that the savage pondered, in his early speculations about the life and the
soul. He included in his materials the much more striking and memorable
experiences of waking hours, as we and Mr. Tylor agree in holding.
Reflecting on these things, the earliest savage reasoners would decide:
(1) that man has a 'life' (which leaves him temporarily in sleep, finally
in death); (2) that man also possesses a 'phantom' (which appears to
other people in their visions and dreams). The savage philosopher would
then 'combine his information,' like a celebrated writer on Chinese
metaphysics. He would merely 'combine the life and the phantom,' as
'manifestations of one and the same soul.' The result would be 'an
apparitional soul,' or 'ghost-soul.'
This ghost-soul would be a highly accomplished creature, 'a vapour, film,
or shadow,' yet conscious, capable of leaving the body, mostly invisible
and impalpable, 'yet also manifesting physical power,' existing and
appearing after the death of the body, able to act on the bodies of other
men, beasts, and things.
When the earliest reasoners, in an age and in mental conditions of which
we know nothing historically, had evolved the hypothesis of this
conscious, powerful, separable soul, capable of surviving the death of the
body, it was not difficult for them to develop the rest of Religion, as
Mr. Tylor thinks. A powerful ghost of a dead man might thrive till, its
original owner being long forgotten, it became a God. Again (souls once
given) it would not be a very difficult logical leap, perhaps, to conceive
of souls, or spirits, that had never been human at all. It is, we may say,
only _le premier pas qui coute_, the step to the belief in a surviving
separable soul. Nevertheless, when we remember that Mr. Tylor is
theorising about savages in the dim background of human evolution, savages
whom we know nothing of by experience, savages far behind Australians and
Bushmen (who possess Gods), we must admit that he credits them with great
ingenuity, and strong powers of abstract reasoning. He may be right in his
opinion. In the same way, just as primitive men were keen reasoners, so
early bees, more clever than modern bees, may have evolved the system of
hexagonal cells, and only an early fish of genius could first have hit
on the plan, now hereditary of killing a fly by blowing water at it.
To this theory of metaphysical genius in very low savages I have no
objection to offer. We shall find, later, astonishing examples of savage
abstract speculation, certainly not derived from missionary sources,
because wholly out of the missionary's line of duty and reflection.
As early beasts had genius, so the earliest reasoners appear to have been
as logically gifted as the lowest savages now known to us, or even as some
Biblical critics. By Mr. Tylor's hypothesis, they first conceived the
extremely abstract idea of Life, 'that which makes the difference between
a living body and a dead one.' This highly abstract conception must
have been, however, the more difficult to early man, as, to him, all
things, universally, are 'animated.' Mr. Tylor illustrates this
theory of early man by the little child's idea that 'chairs, sticks, and
wooden horses are actuated by the same sort of personal will as nurses and
children and kittens.... In such matters the savage mind well represents
the childish stage.'
Now, nothing can be more certain than that, if children think sticks are
animated, they don't think so because they have heard, or discovered, that
they possess souls, and then transfer souls to sticks. We may doubt, then,
if primitive man came, in this way, by reasoning on souls, to suppose
that all things, universally, were animated. But if he did think all
things animated--a corpse, to his mind, was just as much animated as
anything else. Did he reason: 'All things are animated. A corpse is not
animated. Therefore a corpse is not a thing (within the meaning of my
How, again, did early man conceive of Life, before he identified Life
(1) with 'that which makes the difference between a living body and a dead
one' (a difference which, _ex hypothesi_, he did not draw, _all_ things
being animated to his mind) and (2) with 'those human shapes which appear
in dreams and visions'? 'The ancient savage philosophers probably reached
the obvious inference that every man had two things belonging to him, a
life and a phantom.' But everything was supposed to have 'a life,' as far
as one makes out, before the idea of separable soul was developed, at
least if savages arrived at the theory of universal animation as children
are said to do.
We are dealing here quite conjecturally with facts beyond our experience.
In any case, early man excogitated (by the hypothesis) the abstract idea
of Life, _before_ he first 'envisaged' it in material terms as 'breath,'
or 'shadow.' He next decided that mere breath or shadow was not only
identical with the more abstract conception of Life, but could also take
on forms as real and full-bodied as, to him, are the hallucinations of
dream or waking vision. His reasoning appears to have proceeded from the
more abstract (the idea of Life) to the more concrete, to the life first
shadowy and vaporous, then clothed in the very aspect of the real man.
Mr. Tylor has thus (whether we follow his logic or not) provided man with
a theory of active, intelligent, separable souls, which can survive the
death of the body. At this theory early man arrived by speculations on the
nature of life, and on the causes of phantasms of the dead or living
beheld in 'dreams and visions.' But our author by no means leaves out of
sight the effects of alleged supernormal phenomena believed in by savages,
with their parallels in modern civilisation. These supernormal phenomena,
whether real or illusory, are, he conceives, facts in that mass of
experiences from which savages constructed their belief in separable,
enduring, intelligent souls or ghosts, the foundation of religion.
While we are, perhaps owing to our own want of capacity, puzzled by what
seem to be two kinds of early philosophy--(1) a sort of instinctive or
unreasoned belief in universal animation, which Mr. Spencer calls
'Animism' and does not believe in, (2) the reasoned belief in separable
and surviving souls of men (and in things), which Mr. Spencer believes in,
and Mr. Tylor calls 'Animism'--we must also note another difficulty. Mr.
Tylor may seem to be taking it for granted that the earliest, remote,
unknown thinkers on life and the soul were existing on the same psychical
plane as we ourselves, or, at least, as modern savages. Between modern
savages and ourselves, in this regard, he takes certain differences, but
takes none between modern savages and the remote founders of religion.
Thus Mr. Tylor observes:
'The condition of the modern ghost-seer, whose imagination passes on
such slight excitement into positive hallucination, is rather the rule
than the exception among uncultured and intensely imaginative tribes,
whose minds may be thrown off their balance by a touch, a word, a
gesture, an unaccustomed noise.'
I find evidence that low contemporary savages are _not_ great ghost-seers,
and, again, I cannot quite accept Mr. Tylor's psychology of the 'modern
ghost-seer.' Most such favoured persons whom I have known were steady,
unimaginative, unexcitable people, with just one odd experience. Lord
Tennyson, too, after sleeping in the bed of his recently lost father on
purpose to see his ghost, decided that ghosts 'are not seen by imaginative
We now examine, at greater length, the psychical conditions in which,
according to Mr. Tylor, contemporary savages differ from civilised men.
Later we shall ask what may be said as to possible or presumable psychical
differences between modern savages and the datelessly distant founders of
the belief in souls. Mr. Tylor attributes to the lower races, and
even to races high above their level, 'morbid ecstasy, brought on by
meditation, fasting, narcotics, excitement, or disease.' Now, we may
still 'meditate'--and how far the result is 'morbid' is a matter for
psychologists and pathologists to determine. Fasting we do not practise
voluntarily, nor would we easily accept evidence from an Englishman as to
the veracity of voluntary fasting visions, like those of Cotton Mather.
The visions of disease we should set aside, as a rule, with those of
'excitement,' produced, for instance, by 'devil-dances.' Narcotic and
alcoholic visions are not in question. For our purpose the _induced_
trances of savages (in whatever way voluntarily brought on) are analogous
to the modern induced hypnotic trance. Any supernormal acquisitions of
knowledge in these induced conditions, among savages, would be on a par
with similar alleged experiences of persons under hypnotism.
We do not differ from known savages in being able to bring on non-normal
psychological conditions, but we produce these, as a rule, by other
methods than theirs, and such experiments are not made on _all_ of us, as
they were on all Red Indian boys and girls in the 'medicine-fast,' at
the age of puberty.
Further, in their normal state, known savages, or some of them, are more
'suggestible' than educated Europeans at least. They can be more
easily hallucinated in their normal waking state by suggestion. Once more,
their intervals of hunger, followed by gorges of food, and their lack of
artificial light, combine to make savages more apt to see what is not
there than are comfortable educated white men. But Mr. Tylor goes too far
when he says 'where the savage could see phantasms, the civilised man has
come to amuse himself with fancies.' The civilised man, beyond all
doubt, is capable of being _enfantosme_.
In all that he says on this point, the point of psychical condition, Mr.
Tylor is writing about known savages as they differ from ourselves. But
the savages who _ex hypothesi_ evolved the doctrine of souls lie beyond
our ken, for behind the modern savages, among whom we find belief not
only in souls and ghosts, but in moral gods. About the psychical condition
of the savages who worked out the theory of souls and founded religion we
necessarily know nothing. If there be such experiences as clairvoyance,
telepathy, and so on, these unknown ancestors of ours may (for all that we
can tell) have been peculiarly open to them, and therefore peculiarly apt
to believe in separable souls. In fact, when we write about these far-off
founders of religion, we guess in the dark, or by the flickering light of
analogy. The lower animals have faculties (as in their power of finding
their way home through new unknown regions, and in the ants' modes of
acquiring and communicating knowledge to each other) which are mysteries
to us. The terror of dogs in 'haunted houses' and of horses in passing
'haunted' scenes has often been reported, and is alluded to briefly by Mr.
Tylor. Balaam's ass, and the dogs which crouched and whined before Athene,
whom Eumaeus could not see, are 'classical' instances.
The weakness of the anthropological argument here is, we must repeat, that
we know little more about the mental condition and experiences of the
early thinkers who developed the doctrine of Souls than we know about
the mental condition and experiences of the lower animals. And the more
firmly a philosopher believes in the Darwinian hypothesis, the less, he
must admit, can he suppose himself to know about the twilight ages,
between the lower animal and the fully evolved man. What kind of creature
was man when he first conceived the germs, or received the light,
of Religion? All is guess-work here! We may just allude to Hegel's
theory that clairvoyance and hypnotic phenomena are produced in a
kind of temporary _atavism_, or 'throwing hack' to a remotely ancient
condition of the 'sensitive soul' (_fueklende Seele_). The 'sensitive'
[unconditioned, clairvoyant] faculty or 'soul' is 'a disease when it
becomes a state of the self-conscious, educated, self-possessed human
being of civilisation.' 'Second sight,' Hegel thinks, was a product
of an earlier day and earlier mental condition than ours.
Approaching this almost untouched subject--the early psychical condition
of man--not from the side of metaphysical speculations like Hegel, but
with the instruments of modern psychology and physiology, Dr. Max Dessoir,
of Berlin, following, indeed, M. Taine, has arrived, as we saw, at
somewhat similar conclusions. 'This fully conscious life of the spirit,'
in which we moderns now live, 'seems to rest upon a substratum of reflex
action of a hallucinatory type.' Our actual modern condition is _not_
'fundamental,' and 'hallucination represents, at least in its nascent
condition, the main trunk of our psychical existence.'
Now, suppose that the remote and unknown ancestors of ours who first
developed the doctrine of souls had not yet spread far from 'the main
trunk of our psychical existence,' far from constant hallucination. In
that case (at least, according to Dr. Dessoir's theory) their psychical
experiences would be such as we cannot estimate, yet cannot leave, as a
possibility influencing religion, out of our calculations.
If early men were ever in a condition in which telepathy and clairvoyance
(granting their possibility) were prevalent, one might expect that
faculties so useful would be developed in the struggle for existence. That
they are deliberately cultivated by modern savages we know. The Indian
foster-mother of John Tanner used, when food was needed, to suggest
herself into an hypnotic condition, so that she became _clairvoyante_ as
to the whereabouts of game. Tanner, an English boy, caught early
by the Indians, was sceptical, but came to practise the same art, not
unsuccessfully, himself. His reminiscences, which he dictated on his
return to civilisation, were certainly not feigned in the interests of any
theories. But the most telepathic human stocks, it may be said, ought,
_ceteris paribus_, to have been the most successful in the struggle
for existence. We may infer that the _cetera_ were not _paria_, the
clairvoyant state not being precisely the best for the practical business
of life. But really we know nothing of the psychical state of the earliest
men. They may have had experiences tending towards a belief in 'spirits,'
of which we can tell nothing. We are obliged to guess, in considerable
ignorance of the actual conditions, and this historical ignorance
inevitably besets all anthropological speculation about the origin of
The knowledge of our nescience as to the psychical condition of our first
thinking ancestors may suggest hesitation as to taking it for granted that
early man was on our own or on the modern savage level in 'psychical'
experience. Even savage races, as Mr. Tylor justly says, attribute
superior psychical knowledge to neighbouring tribes on a yet lower level
of culture than themselves. The Finn esteems the Lapp sorcerers above his
own; the Lapp yields to the superior pretensions of the Samoyeds. There
may be more ways than one of explaining this relative humility: there is
Hegel's way and there is Mr. Tylor's way. We cannot be certain, _a
priori_, that the earliest man knew no more of supernormal or apparently
supernormal experiences than we commonly do, or that these did not
influence his thoughts on animism.
It is an example of the chameleon-like changes of science (even of
'science falsely so called' if you please) that when he wrote his book, in
1871, Mr. Tylor could not possibly have anticipated this line of argument.
'Psychical planes' had not been invented; hypnotism, with its problems,
had not been much noticed in England. But 'Spiritualism' was flourishing.
Mr. Tylor did not ignore this revival of savage philosophy. He saw very
well that the end of the century was beholding the partial rehabilitation
of beliefs which were scouted from 1660 to 1850. Seventy years ago, as Mr.
Tylor says, Dr. Macculloch, in his 'Description of the Western Islands of
Scotland,' wrote of 'the famous Highland second sight' that 'ceasing to be
believed it has ceased to exist.'
Dr. Macculloch was mistaken in his facts. 'Second sight' has never
Ceased to exist (or to be believed to exist), and it has recently been
investigated in the 'Journal' of the Caledonian Medical Society. Mr. Tylor
himself says that it has been 'reinstated in a far larger range of
society, and under far better circumstances of learning and prosperity.'
This fact he ascribes generally to 'a direct revival from the regions of
savage philosophy and peasant folklore,' a revival brought about in great
part by the writings of Swedenborg. To-day things have altered. The
students now interested in this whole class of alleged supernormal
phenomena are seldom believers in the philosophy of Spiritualism in the
American sense of the word.
Mr. Tylor, as we have seen, attributes the revival of interest in this
obscure class of subjects to the influence of Swedenborg. It is true, as
has been shown, that Swedenborg attracted the attention of Kant. But
modern interest has chiefly been aroused and kept alive by the phenomena
of hypnotism. The interest is now, among educated students, really
Thus Mr. William James, Professor of Psychology in the University of
'I was attracted to this subject (Psychical Research) some years ago by
my love of fair play in Science.'
Mr. Tylor is not incapable of appreciating this attitude. Even the
so-called 'spirit manifestations,' he says, 'should be discussed on their
merits,' and the investigation 'would seem apt to throw light on some most
interesting psychological questions.' Nothing can be more remote from the
logic of Hume.
The ideas of Mr. Tylor on the causes of the origin of religion are
Now criticised, not from the point of view of spiritualism, but of
experimental psychology. We hold that very probably there exist human
faculties of unknown scope; that these conceivably were more powerful
and prevalent among our very remote ancestors who founded religion; that
they may still exist in savage as in civilised races, and that they may
have confirmed, if they did not originate, the doctrine of separable
souls. If they _do_ exist, the circumstance is important, in view of the
fact that modern ideas rest on a denial of their existence.
Mr. Tylor next examines the savage and other _names_ for the ghost-soul,
such as shadow (_umbra_), breath (_spiritus_), and he gives cases in
which the _shadow_ of a man is regarded as equivalent to his _life_. Of
course, the shadow in the sunlight does not resemble the phantasm in a
dream. The two, however, were combined and identified by early thinkers,
while _breath_ and _heart_ were used as symbols of 'that in men which
makes them live,' a phrase found among the natives of Nicaragua in 1528.
The confessedly symbolical character of the phrase, 'it is _not_
precisely the heart, but that in them which makes them live,' proves that
to the speaker life was _not_ 'heart' or 'breath,' but that these terms
were known to be material word-counters for the conception of life.
Whether the earliest thinkers identified heart, breath, shadow, with life,
or whether they consciously used words of material origin to denote an
immaterial conception, of course we do not know. But the word in the
latter case would react on the thought, till the Roman inhaled (as his
life?) the last breath of his dying kinsman, he well knowing that the
Manes of the said kinsman were elsewhere, and not to be inhaled.
Subdivisions and distinctions were then recognised, as of the Egyptian
_Ka_, the 'double,' the Karen _kelah_, or 'personal life-phantom'
(_wraith_), on one side, and the Karen _thah_, 'the responsible moral
soul,' on the other. The Roman _umbra_ hovers about the grave, the _manes_
go to Orcus, the _spiritus_ seeks the stars.
We are next presented with a crowd of cases in which sickness or lethargy
is ascribed by savages to the absence of the patient's spirit, or of one
of his spirits. This idea of migratory spirit is next used by savages to
explain certain proceedings of the sorcerer, priest, or seer. His soul,
or one of his souls is thought to go forth to distant places in quest of
information, while the seer, perhaps, remains lethargic. Probably, in the
struggle for existence, he lost more by being lethargic than he gained by
Now, here we touch the first point in Mr. Tylor's theory, where a critic
may ask, Was this belief in the wandering abroad of the seer's spirit a
theory not only false in its form (as probably it is), but also wholly
unbased on experiences which might raise a presumption in favour of the
existence of phenomena really supernormal? By 'supernormal' experiences I
here mean such as the acquisition by a human mind of knowledge which could
not be obtained by it through the recognised channels of sensation. Say,
for the sake of argument, that a person, savage or civilised, obtains in
trance information about distant places or events, to him unknown, and,
through channels of sense, unknowable. The savage will explain this by
saying that the seer's soul, shadow, or spirit, wandered out of the body
to the distant scene. This is, at present, an unverified theory. But
still, for the sake of argument, suppose that the seer did honestly
obtain this information in trance, lethargy, or hypnotic sleep, or any
other condition. If so, the modern savage (or his more gifted ancestors)
would have other grounds for his theory of the wandering soul than any
ground presented by normal occurrences, ordinary dreams, shadows, and so
forth. Again, in human nature there would be (if such things occur) a
potentiality of experiences other and stranger than materialism will admit
as possible. It will (granting the facts) be impossible to aver that there
is _nihil in intellectu quod non prius in sensu_. The soul will be not
_ce qu'un vain peuple pense_ under the new popular tradition, and the
savage's theory of the spirit will be, at least in part, based on other
than normal and every-day facts. That condition in which the seer acquires
information, not otherwise accessible, about events remote in space, is
what the mesmerists of the mid-century called 'travelling clairvoyance.'
If such an experience be _in rerum natura_, it will not, of course,
justify the savage's theory that the soul is a separable entity, capable
of voyaging, and also capable of existing after the death of the body. But
it will give the savage a better excuse for his theory than normal
experiences provide; and will even raise a presumption that reflection on
mere ordinary experiences--death, shadow, trance--is not the sole origin
of his theory. For a savage so acute as Mr. Tylor's hypothetical early
reasoner might decline to believe that his own or a friend's soul had been
absent on an expedition, unless it brought back information not normally
to be acquired. However, we cannot reason, _a priori_, as to how far the
logic of a savage might or might not go on occasion.
In any case, a scientific reasoner might be expected to ask: 'Is this
alleged acquisition of knowledge, _not_ through the ordinary channels of
sense, a thing _in rerum natura_?' Because, if it is, we must obviously
increase our list of the savage's reasons for believing in a soul: we
must make his reasons include 'psychical' experiences, and there must be
an X region to investigate.
These considerations did not fail to present themselves to Mr. Tylor. But
his manner of dealing with them is peculiar. With his unequalled knowledge
of the lower races, it was easy for him to examine travellers' tales about
savage seers who beheld distant events in vision, and to allow them what
weight he thought proper, after discounting possibilities of falsehood and
collusion. He might then have examined modern narratives of similar
performances among the civilised, which are abundant. It is obvious and
undeniable that if the supernormal acquisition of knowledge in trance is a
_vera causa_, a real process, however rare, Mr. Tylor's theory needs
modifications; while the character of the savage's reasoning becomes more
creditable to the savage, and appears as better bottomed than we had been
asked to suppose. But Mr. Tylor does not examine this large body of
evidence at all, or, at least, does not offer us the details of his
examination. He merely writes in this place:
'A typical spiritualistic instance may be quoted from Jung-Stilling, who
says that examples have come to his knowledge of sick persons who,
longing to see absent friends, have fallen into a swoon, during which
they have appeared to the distant objects of their affection.'
Jung-Stilling (though he wrote before modern 'Spiritualism' came in) is
not a very valid authority; there is plenty of better evidence than his,
but Mr. Tylor passes it by, merely remarking that 'modern Europe has kept
closely enough to the lines of early philosophy.' Modern Europe has indeed
done so, if it explains the supernormal acquisition of knowledge, or the
hallucinatory appearance of a distant person to his friend by a theory of
wandering 'spirits.' But facts do not cease to be facts because wrong
interpretations have been put upon them by savages, by Jung-Stilling, or
by anyone else. The real question is, Do such events occur among lower and
higher races, beyond explanation by fraud and fortuitous coincidence? We
gladly grant that the belief in Animism, when it takes the form of a
theory of 'wandering spirits,' is probably untenable, as it is assuredly
of savage origin. But we are not absolutely so sure that in this aspect
the theory is not based on actual experiences, not of a normal and
ordinary kind. If so, the savage philosophy and its supposed survivals in
belief will appear in a new light. And we are inclined to hold that an
examination of the mass of evidence to which Mr. Tylor offers here so
slight an allusion will at least make it wise to suspend our judgment,
not only as to the origins of the savage theory of spirits, but as to the
materialistic hypothesis of the absence of a psychical element in man.
I may seem to have outrun already the limits of permissible hypothesis. It
may appear absurd to surmise that there can exist in man, savage or
civilised, a faculty for acquiring information not accessible by the known
channels of sense, a faculty attributed by savage philosophers to the
wandering soul. But one may be permitted to quote the opinion of
M. Charles Richet, Professor of Physiology in the Faculty of Medicine
In Paris. It is not cited because M. Richet is a professor of physiology,
but because he reached his conclusion after six years of minute
experiment. He says: 'There exists in certain persons, at certain moments,
a faculty of acquiring knowledge which has no _rapport_ with our normal
faculties of that kind.'
Instances tending to raise a presumption in favour of M. Richet's idea may
now be sought in savage and civilised life.
[Footnote 1: _Primitive Culture,_ i. 9, 10.]
[Footnote 2: _Origin of Ranks._]
[Footnote 3: I may be permitted to refer to 'Reply to Objections' in the
appendix to my _Myth, Ritual, and Religion,_ vol. ii.]
[Footnote 4: Spencer, _Ecclesiastical Institutions_, pp. 672, 673.]
[Footnote 5: _Primitive Culture_, i. 417-425. Cf. however _Princip. Of
Sociol._, p. 304.]
[Footnote 6: Op. cit. i. 423, 424.]
[Footnote 7: Published for the Berlin Society of Experimental Psychology,
Guenther, Leipzig, 1890.]
[Footnote 8: _Ecclesiastical Institutions_, 837-839.]
[Footnote 9: _Primitive Culture_, i. 421, chapter xi.]
[Footnote 10: This theory is what Mr. Spencer calls 'Animism,' and does
not believe in. What Mr. Tylor calls 'Animism' Mr. Spencer believes in,
but he calls it the 'Ghost Theory.']
[Footnote 11: _Primitive Culture_, i. 428.]
[Footnote 12: Howitt, _Journal of Anthropological Institute_, xiii.
[Footnote 13: The curious may consult, for savage words for 'dreams,' Mr.
Scott's _Dictionary of the Mang'anja Language_, s.v. 'Lots,' or any
glossary of any savage language.]
[Footnote 14: _Prim. Cult._ i. 429.]
[Footnote 15: _Prim. Cult._ i. 428.]
[Footnote 16: Ibid. i. 285.]
[Footnote 17: Ibid. i. 285, 286.]
[Footnote 18: _Primitive Culture_, i. 446.]
[Footnote 19: See, however, Dr. Von Schrenck-Notzing, _Die Beobachtung
narcolischer Mittel fuer den Hypnotismus_, and S.P.R. _Proceedings_, x.
[Footnote 20: _Primitive Culture_, i 306-316.]
[Footnote 21: i. 315.]
[Footnote 22: _Phil. des Geistes_, pp. 406, 408.]
[Footnote 23: See also Mr. A.J. Balfour's Presidential Address to the
Society for Psychical Research, _Proceedings_, vol. x. See, too, Taine,
_De l'Intelligence_, i. 78, 106, 139.]
[Footnote 24: Tanner's _Narrative_, New York, 1830.]
[Footnote 25: _Primitive Culture_, i. 143.]
[Footnote 26: As 'spiritualism' is often used in opposition to
'materialism,' and with no reference to rapping 'spirits,' the modern
belief in that class of intelligences may here be called spiritism.]
[Footnote 27: _The Will to Believe_, preface, p. xiv.]
[Footnote 28: _Primitive Culture_, i. 432,433. Citing Oviedo, _Hist. De
Nicaragua,_ pp. 21-51.]
[Footnote 29: _Primitive Culture_, i. 440. Citing Stilling after Dale Owen,
and quoting Mr. Alfred Russel Wallace's _Scientific Aspect of the
Supernatural_, p. 43. Mr. Tylor also adds folk-lore practices of
ghost-seeing, as on St. John's Eve. St. Mark's Eve, too, is in point, as
far as folk-lore goes.]
[Footnote 30: _Proceedings_, S.P.R. v. 167.]
'OPENING THE GATES OF DISTANCE'
'To open the Gates of Distance' is the poetical Zulu phrase for what is
called clairvoyance, or _vue a distance_. This, if it exists, is the
result of a faculty of undetermined nature, whereby knowledge of remote
events may be acquired, not through normal channels of sense. As the Zulus
say: '_Isiyezi_ is a state in which a man becomes slightly insensible. He
is awake, but still sees things which he would not see if he were not in a
state of ecstasy (_nasiyesi_).' The Zulu description of _isiyezi_
includes what is technically styled 'dissociation.' No psychologist or
pathologist will deny that visions of an hallucinatory sort may occur in
dissociated states, say in the _petit mal_ of epilepsy. The question,
however, is whether any such visions convey actual information not
otherwise to be acquired, beyond the reach of chance coincidence to
A Scottish example, from the records of a court of law, exactly
illustrates the Zulu theory. At the moment when the husband of Jonka
Dyneis was in danger six miles from her house in his boat, Jonka 'was
found, and seen standing at her own house wall in a trance, and being
taken, she could not give answer, but stood as bereft of her senses, and
when she was asked why she was so moved, she answered, "If our boat be not
lost, she was in great hazard."' (October 2, 1616.)
The belief in opening the Gates of Distance is, of course, very widely
diffused. The gift is attributed to Apollonius of Tyana, to Plotinus, to
many Saints, to Catherine de' Medici, to the Rev. Mr. Peden, and to
Jeanne d'Arc, while the faculty is the stock in trade of savage seers in
The question, however, on which Mr. Tylor does not touch, is, _Are any of
the stories true?_ If so, of course they would confirm in the mind
of the savage his theory of the wandering soul. Now, to find anything
like attested cases of successful clairvoyance among savages is a
difficult task. White men either scout the idea, or are afraid of seeming
superstitious if they give examples, or, if they do give examples, are
accused of having sunk to the degraded level of Zulus or Red Indians. Even
where travellers, like Scheffer, have told about their own experiences,
the narratives are omitted by modern writers on savage divination. We
must therefore make our own researches, and it is to be noted that
the stories of successful savage clairvoyance are given as illustrations
merely, not as evidence to facts, for we cannot cross-examine the
Mr. Tylor dismisses the topic in a manner rather cavalier:
'Without discussing on their merits the accounts of what is called
"second sight," it may be pointed out that they are related among
savage tribes, as when Captain Jonathan Carver obtained from a Cree
medicine-man a true prophecy of the arrival of a canoe with news next
day at noon; or when Mr. J. Mason Brown, travelling with two _voyageurs_
on the Copper Mine River, was met by Indians of the very band he was
seeking, these having been sent by their medicine-man, who, on
enquiry, stated that "he saw them coming, and heard them talk on their
Now, in our opinion, the 'merits' of stories of second sight need
discussion, because they may, if well attested, raise a presumption that
the savage's theory has a better foundation than Mr. Tylor supposes. Oddly
enough, though Mr. Tylor does not say so, Dr. Brinton (from whom he
borrows his two anecdotes) is more or less of our opinion.
'There are,' says Dr. Brinton,' statements supported by unquestionable
testimony, which ought not to be passed over in silence, and yet I cannot
but approach them with hesitation. They are so revolting to the laws of
exact science, so alien, I had almost said, to the experience of our
lives. Yet is this true, or are such experiences only ignored and put
aside without serious consideration?'
That is exactly what we complain of; the alleged facts are 'put aside
without serious consideration.'
We, at least, are not slaves to the idea that 'the laws of exact science'
must be the only laws at work in the world. Science, however exact, does
not pretend to have discovered all 'laws.'
To return to actual examples of the alleged supernormal acquisition of
knowledge by savages: Dr. Brinton gives an example from Charlevoix and
General Mason Brown's anecdote. In General Mason Brown's instance the
medicine-man, at a great distance, bade his emissaries 'seek three whites,
whose horses, arms, attire, and personal appearance he minutely described,
which description was repeated to General Brown by the warriors _before
they saw his two companions.'_ General Brown assured Dr. Brinton of 'the
accuracy of this in every particular.' Mr. Tylor has certainly not
improved the story in his condensed version. Dr. Brinton refers to 'many'
tales such as these, and some will be found in 'Among the Zulus,' by Mr.
David Leslie (1875).
Mr. Leslie was a Scottish sportsman, brought up from boyhood in
familiarity with the Zulus. His knowledge of their language and customs
was minute, and his book, privately printed, contains much interesting
matter. He writes:
'I was obliged to proceed to the Zulu country to meet my Kaffir
elephant-hunters, the time for their return having arrived. They were
hunting in a very unhealthy country, and I had agreed to wait for them
on the North-East border, the nearest point I could go to with safety.
I reached the appointed rendezvous, but could not gain the slightest
intelligence of my people at the kraal.
'After waiting some time, and becoming very uneasy about them, one of
my servants recommended me to go to the doctor, and at last, out of
curiosity and _pour passer le temps_, I did go.
'I stated what I wanted--information about my hunters--and I was met by
a stern refusal. "I cannot tell anything about white men," said he, "and
I know nothing of their ways." However, after some persuasion and
promise of liberal payment, impressing upon him the fact that it was not
white men but Kaffirs I wanted to know about, he at last consented,
saying "he would _open the Gate of Distance_, and would travel through
it, even although his body should lie before me."
'His first proceeding was to ask me the number and names of my hunters.
To this I demurred, telling him that if he obtained that information
from me he might easily substitute some news which he may have heard
from others, instead of the "spiritual telegraphic news" which I
expected him to get from his "familiar."
'To this he answered: "I told you I did not understand white men's ways;
but if I am to do anything for you it must be done in my way-not
yours." On receiving this fillip I felt inclined to give it up, as I
thought I might receive some rambling statement with a considerable
dash of truth, it being easy for anyone who knew anything of hunting to
give a tolerably correct idea of their motions.
'However, I conceded this point also, and otherwise satisfied him.
'The doctor then made eight little fires--that being the number of my
hunters; on each he cast some roots, which emitted a curious sickly
odour and thick smoke; into each he cast a small stone, shouting, as he
did so, the name to which the stone was dedicated; then he ate some
"medicine," and fell over in what appeared to be a trance for about ten
minutes, during all which time his limbs kept moving. Then he seemed to
wake, went to one of the fires, raked the ashes about, looked at the
stone attentively, described the man faithfully, and said: "This man has
died of the fever, and your gun is lost."
'To the next fire as before: "This man" (correctly described) "has
killed four elephants," and then he described the tusks. The next: "This
man" (again describing him) "has been killed by an elephant, but your
gun is coming home," and so on through the whole, the men being minutely
and correctly described; their success or non-success being equally so.
I was told where the survivors were, and what they were doing, and that
In three months they would come out, but as they would not expect to
find me waiting on them there so long after the time appointed, they
would not pass that way.
'I took a particular note of all this information at the time, and to my
utter amazement _it turned out correct in every particular_.
'It was scarcely within the bounds of possibility that this man could
have had ordinary intelligence of the hunters; they were scattered about
in a country two hundred miles away.'
Mr. Leslie could discover no explanation, nor was any suggested by friends
familiar with the country and the natives whom he consulted. He gives
another example, which may be explained by 'suggestion.' A parallel case
from Central Africa will be found in the 'Journal of the Anthropological
Institute,' November 1897, p. 320, where 'private information,' as usual,
would explain the singular facts.
The Zulus themselves lay claim to a kind of clairvoyance which looks like
the result of intense visualising power, combined with the awakening of
the subconscious memory.
'There is among black men a something which is divination within them.
When anything valuable is lost, they look for it at once; when they
cannot find it, each one begins to practise this inner divination,
trying to feel where the thing is; for, not being able to see it, he
feels internally a pointing, which tells him if he will go down to such
a place it is there, and he will find it. At length it says he will find
it; at length he sees it, and himself approaching it; before he begins
to move from where he is, he sees it very clearly indeed, and there is
an end of doubt. That sight is so clear that it is as though it was not
an inner sight, but as if he saw the very thing itself, and the place
where it is; so he quickly arises and goes to the place. If it is a
hidden place he throws himself into it, as though there was something
that impelled him to go as swiftly as the wind; and, in fact, he finds
the thing, if he has not acted by mere head-guessing. If it has been
done by real inner divination, he really sees it. But if it is done by
mere head-guessing and knowledge that he has not gone to such a place
and such a place, and that therefore it must be in such another place,
he generally misses the mark.'
Other Zulu instances will be given under the heads 'Possession' and
To take a Northern people: In his 'History of the Lapps' Scheffer
describes mechanical modes of divination practised by that race, who use a
drum and other objects for the purpose. These modes depend on more
traditional rules for interpreting the accidental combinations of lots.
But a Lapp confessed to Scheffer, with tears, that he could not help
seeing visions, as he proved by giving Scheffer a minute relation 'of
whatever particulars had happened to me in my journey to Lapland. And he
further complained that he know not how to make use of his eyes, since
things altogether distant were presented to them.' This Lapp was anxious
to become a Christian, hence his regret at being a 'rare and valuable'
example of clairvoyance. Torfaeus also was posed by the clairvoyance of a
Samoyed, as was Regnard by a Lapp seer.
The next case is of old date, and, like the other savage examples, is
merely given for purposes of illustration.
'"_Suite des Traditions des Sauvages._"
'Au Fort de la Riviere de St. Joseph, ce 14 Septembre 1721.
'"_Des Jongleurs_"-- ... Vous ayez vu a Paris Madame de Marson, & elle
y est encore; voici ce que M. le Marquis de Vaudreuil son Gendre,
actuellement notre Gouverneur General, me raconta cet Hyver, & qu'il a
scu de cette Dame, qui n'est rien moins qu'un esprit foible. Elle etoit
un jour fort inquiette an sujet de M. de Marson, son Mari, lequel
commandoit dans un Poste, que nous avions en Accadie; et etoit absent, &
le tems qu'il avoit marque pour son retour, etoit passe.
'Une Femme Sauvage, qui vit Madame de Marson en peine, lui en demanda la
cause, & l'ayant apprise, lui dit, apres y avoir un peu reve, de ne plus
se chagriner, que son Epoux reviendroit tel jour et a telle heure,
qu'elle lui marqua, avec un chapeau gris sur la tete. Comme elle
s'appercut que la Dame n'ajoutoit point foi a sa prediction, au jour & a
l'heure, qu'elle avoit assignee, elle rotourna chez elle, lui demanda si
elle ne vouloit pas venir voir arriver son Mari, & la pressa de telle
sorte de la suivre, qu'elle l'entraina au bord de la Riviere.
A peine y etoient-elles arrivees, que M. de Marson parut dans un Canot,
un chapeau gris sur la tete; & ayant appris ce qui s'etoit passe, assura
qu'il ne pouvoit pas comprendre comment la Sauvagesse avoit pu scavoir
l'heure & le jour de son arrivee.'
It is unusual for European travellers and missionaries to give anecdotes
which might seem to 'confirm the delusions of benighted savages.' Such
anecdotes, again, are among the _arcana_ of these wild philosophers, and
are not readily communicated to strangers. When successful cases are
reported, it is natural to assert that they come through Europeans who
have sunk into barbarous superstition, or that they may be explained by
fraud and collusion. It is certain, however, that savage proficients
believe in their own powers, though no less certainly they will eke them
out by imposture. Seers are chosen in Zululand, as among Eskimos and
Samoyeds, from the class which in Europe supplies the persons who used to
be, but are no longer the most favourite hypnotic subjects, 'abnormal
children,' epileptic and hysterical. These are subjected to 'a long and
methodical course of training.' Stoll, speaking of Guatemala, says
that 'certainly most of the induced and spontaneous phenomena with which
we are familiar occur among savages,' and appeals to travellers for
observations. Information is likely to come in, as educated travellers
devote attention to the topic.
Dr. Callaway translates some Zulu communications which indicate the
Amount of belief in this very practical and sceptical people. Amusing
illustrations of their scepticism will be quoted later, under
'Possession,' but they do accept as seers certain hysterical patients.
These are tested by their skill in finding objects which have been
hidden without their knowledge. They then behave much like Mr. Stuart
Cumberland, but have not the advantage of muscular contact with the
person who knows where the hidden objects are concealed. The neighbours
even deny that they have hidden anything at all. 'When they persist in
their denial ... he finds all the things that they have hidden. They see
that he is a great _inyanga_ (seer) when he has found all the things they
have concealed.' No doubt he is guided, perhaps in a super-sensitive
condition, by the unconscious indications of the excited spectators.
The point is that, while the savage conjurer will doubtless use fraud
wherever he can, still the experience of low races is in favour of
employing as seers the class of people who in Europe were, till recently,
supposed to make the best hypnotic subjects. Thus, in West Africa, 'the
presiding elders, during your initiation to the secret society of your
tribe, discover this gift [of Ebumtupism, or second sight], and so select
you as "a witch doctor."' Among the Karens, the 'Wees,' or prophets,
'are nervous excitable men, such as would become mediums,' as mediums
are diagnosed by Mr. Tylor.
In short, not to multiply examples, there is an element of actual
observation and of _bona fides_ entangled in the trickery of savage
practice. Though the subjects may be selected partly because of the
physical phenomena of convulsions which they exhibit, and which
favourably impress their clients, they are also such subjects as
occasionally yield that evidence of supernormal faculty which is
investigated by modern psychologists, like Richet, Janet, and William
The following example, by no means unique, shows the view taken by savages
of their own magic, after they have become Christians. Catherine Wabose, a
converted Red Indian seeress, described her preliminary fast, at the age
of puberty. After six days of abstention from food she was rapt away to an
unknown place, where a radiant being welcomed her. Later a dark round
object promised her the gift of prophecy. She found her natural senses
greatly sharpened by lack of food. She first exercised her powers when her
kinsfolk in large numbers were starving, a medicine-lodge, or 'tabernacle'
as Lufitau calls it, was built for her, and she crawled in. As is well
known, these lodges are violently shaken during the magician's stay within
them, which the early Jesuits at first attributed to muscular efforts by
the seers. In 1637 Pere Lejeune was astonished by the violent motions of a
large lodge, tenanted by a small man. One sorcerer, with an appearance of
candour, vowed that 'a great wind entered boisterously,' and the Father
was assured that, if he went in himself, he would become clairvoyant. He
did not make the experiment. The Methodist convert, Catherine, gave the
same description of her own experience: 'The lodge began shaking violently
by supernatural means. I knew this by the compressed current of air above,
and the noise of motion.' She had been beating a small drum and singing,
now she lay quiet. The radiant 'orbicular' spirit then informed her that
they 'must go westwards for game; how short-sighted you are!' 'The
advice was taken and crowned by instant success.' This established her
reputation. Catherine's conversion was led up to by a dream of her
dying son, who beheld a Sacred Figure, and received from Him white
raiment. Her magical songs tell how unseen hands shake the magic lodge.
They invoke the Great Spirit that
Ah, say what Spirit, or Body, is this Body,
That fills the world around,
Speak, man, ah say
What Spirit, or Body, is this Body?'
It is like a savage hymn to Hegel's _fuehlende Seele_: the all-pervading
Sensitive Soul. We are reminded, too, of 'the doctrine of the Sanscrit
Upanishads: There is no limit to the knowing of the Self that knows.'
Unluckily Catherine was not asked to give other examples of what she
considered her successes.
Acosta, who has not the best possible repute as an authority, informs us
that Peruvian clairvoyants 'tell what hath passed in the furthest parts
before news can come. In the distance of two or three hundred leagues
they would tell what the Spaniards did or suffered in their civil wars.' To
Du Pont, in 1606, a sorcerer 'rendered a true oracle of the coming of
Poutrincourt, saying his Devil had told him so.'
We now give a modern case, from a scientific laboratory, of knowledge
apparently acquired in no normal way, by a person of the sort usually
chosen to be a prophet, or wizard, by savages.
Professor Richet writes:
'On Monday, July 2,1888, after having passed all the day in my
laboratory, I hypnotised Leonie at 8 P.M., and while she tried to make
out a diagram concealed in an envelope I said to her quite suddenly:
"What has happened to M. Langlois?" Leonie knows M. Langlois from
having seen him two or three times some time ago in my physiological
laboratory, where he acts as my assistant.--"He has burnt himself,"
Leonie replied,--"Good," I said, "and where has he burnt himself?"--"On
the left hand. It is not fire: it is--I don't know its name. Why does he
not take care when he pours it out?"--"Of what colour," I asked, "is the
stuff which he pours out?"--"It is not red, it is brown; he has hurt
himself very much--the skin puffed up directly."
'Now, this description is admirably exact. At 4 P.M. that day M.
Langlois had wished to pour some bromine into a bottle. He had done this
clumsily, so that some of the bromine flowed on to his left hand, which
held the funnel, and at once burnt him severely. Although he at once put
his hand into water, wherever the bromine had touched it a blister was
formed in a few seconds--a blister which one could not better describe
than by saying, "the skin puffed up." I need not say that Leonie had not
left my house, nor seen anyone from my laboratory. Of this I am
_absolutely certain,_ and I am certain that I had not mentioned the
incident of the burn to anyone. Moreover, this was the first time for
nearly a year that M. Langlois had handled bromine, and when Leonie saw
him six months before at the laboratory he was engaged in experiments
of quite another kind.'
Here the savage reasoner would infer that Leonie's spirit had visited M.
Langlois. The modern inquirer will probably say that Leonie became aware
of what was passing in the mind of M. Richet. This supranormal way of
acquiring knowledge was observed in the last century by M. de Puysegur in
one of his earliest cases of somnambulism. MM. Binet and Fere say: 'It is
not yet admitted that the subject is able to divine the thoughts of the
magnetiser without any material communication;' while they grant, as a
minimum, that 'research should be continued in this direction.' They
appear to think that Leonie may have read 'involuntary signs' in the
aspect of M. Richet. This is a difficult hypothesis.
Here follows a case recorded in his diary by Mr. Dobbie, of Adelaide,
Australia, who has practised hypnotism for curative purposes. He explains
(June 10, 1884) that he had mesmerised Miss ---- on several occasions to
relieve rheumatic pain and sore throat. He found her to be clairvoyant.
'The following is a verbatim account of the second time I tested her
powers in this respect, April 12, 1884. There were four persons present
during the _seance_. One of the company wrote down the replies as they
'Her father was at the time over fifty miles away, but we did not know
exactly where, so I questioned her as follows: "Can you find your father
at the present moment?" At first she replied that she could not see him,
but in a minute or two she said, "Oh, yes; now I can see him, Mr.
Dobbie." "Where is he?" "Sitting at a large table in a large room, and
there are a lot of people going in and out." "What is he doing?"
"Writing a letter, and there is a book in front of him." "Whom is he
writing to?" "To the newspaper." Here she paused and laughingly said,
"Well, I declare, he is writing to the A B" (naming a newspaper). "You
said there was a book there. Can you tell me what book it is?" "It has
gilt letters on it." "Can you read them, or tell me the name of the
author?" She read, or pronounced slowly, "W.L.W." (giving the full
surname of the author). She answered several minor questions _re_ the
furniture in the room, and I then said to her, "Is it any effort or
trouble to you to travel in this way?" "Yes, a little; I have to think."
'I now stood behind her, holding a half-crown in my hand, and asked her
if she could tell me what I had in my hand, to which she replied, "It is
a shilling." It seemed as though she could see what was happening miles
away easier than she could see what was going on in the room.
'Her father returned home nearly a week afterwards, and was perfectly
astounded when told by his wife and family what he had been doing on
that particular evening; and, although previous to that date he was a
thorough sceptic as to clairvoyance, he frankly admitted that my
clairvoyant was perfectly correct in every particular He also informed
us that the book referred to was a new one, which he had purchased after
he had left his home, so that there was no possibility of his daughter
guessing that he had the book before him. I may add that the letter in
due course appeared in the paper; and I saw and handled the book.'
A number of cases of so-called 'clairvoyance' will be found in the
'Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research.' As the authors of
these essays remark, even after discounting, in each case, fraud,
malobservation, and misreporting, the residue of cases can seldom justify
either the savage theory of the wandering soul (which is not here
seriously proposed) or Hegel's theory that the _fuehlende Seele_ is
unconditioned by space. For, if thought transference be a fact, the
apparent clairvoyant may only be reading the mind of a person at a
distance. The results, however, when successful, would naturally suggest
to the savage thinker the belief in the wandering soul, or corroborate it
if it had already been suggested by the common phenomena of dreaming.
To these instances of knowledge acquired otherwise than by the recognised
channels of sense we might add the Scottish tales of 'second sight.' That
phrase is merely a local term covering examples of what is called
'clairvoyance'--views of things remote in space, hallucinations of sight
that coincide with some notable event, premonitions of things future, and
so on. The belief and hallucinatory experiences are still very common in
the Highlands, where I have myself collected many recent instances. Mr.
Tylor observes that the examples 'prove a little too much; they vouch not
only for human apparitions, but for such phantoms as demon dogs, and for
still more fanciful symbolic omens.' This is perfectly true. I have found
no cases of demon dogs; but wandering lights, probably of meteoric or
miasmatic origin, are certainly regarded as tokens of death. This is
obviously a superstitious hypothesis, the lights being real phenomena
misconstrued. Again, funerals are not uncommonly seen where no funeral is
taking place; it is then alleged that a real funeral, similar and
similarly situated, soon afterwards occurred. On the hypothesis of
believers, the percipients somehow behold
'Such refraction of events
As often rises ere they rise.'
Even the savage cannot account for this experience by the wandering of the
soul in space; nor do I suggest any explanation. I give, however, one or
two instances. They are published in the 'Journal of the Caledonian
Medical Society,' 1897, by Dr. Alastair Macgregor, on the authority of the
MSS. of his father, a minister in the island of Skye.
'He once told me that when he first went to Skye he scoffed at the idea of
such a power as second sight being genuine; but he said that, after having
been there for some years as a clergyman, he had been so often consulted
_beforehand_ by people who said they had seen visions of events which
subsequently occurred, to my father's knowledge, in exact accordance with
the form and details of the vision as foretold, that he was compelled to
confess that some folks had, apparently at least, the unfortunate faculty.
'As my father expressed it, this faculty was "neither voluntary nor
constant, and was considered rather annoying than agreeable to the
possessors of it. The gift was possessed by individuals of both sexes, and
its fits came on within doors and without, sitting and standing, at night
and by day, and at whatever employment the votary might chance to be
Here follows a typical example of the vision of a funeral:
'The session clerk at Dull, a small village in Perthshire, was ill, and
my grandfather, clergyman there at the time, had to do duty for him. One
fine summer evening, about 7 o'clock, a young man and woman came to get
some papers filled up, as they were going to be married. My grandfather
was with the couple in the session clerk's room, no doubt attending to
the papers, when suddenly _all three_ saw through the window a funeral
procession passing along the road. From their dress the bulk of the
mourners seemed to be farm labourers--indeed the young woman recognised
some of them as natives of Dull, who had gone to live and work near
Dunkeld. Remarks were naturally made by my grandfather and the young
couple about the untimely hour for a funeral, and, hastily filling in
the papers, my grandfather went out to get the key of the churchyard,
which was kept in the manse, as, without the key, the procession
could not get into God's acre. Wondering how it was that he had received
no intimation of the funeral, he went to the manse by a short cut, got
the key, and hurried down to the churchyard gate, where, of course, he
expected to find the cortege waiting. _Not a soul was there_ except the
young couple, who were as amazed as my grandfather!
'Well, at the same hour in the evening of the same day in the following
week the funeral, this time in reality, arrived quite unexpectedly. The
facts were that a boy, a native of Dull, had got gored by a bull at
Dunkeld, and was so shockingly mangled that his remains were picked
up and put into a coffin and taken without delay to Dull. A grave was
dug as quickly as possible--the poor lad having no relatives--and the
remains were interred. My grandfather and the young couple recognised
several of the mourners as being among those whom they had seen out of
the session clerk's room, exactly a week previously, in the phantom
cortege. The young woman knew some of them personally, and related to
them what she had seen, but they of course denied all knowledge of the
affair, having been then in Dunkeld.'
I give another example, because the experience was auditory, as well as
visual, and the prediction was announced before the event.
'The parishioners in Skye were evidently largely imbued with the
Romanist-like belief in the powers of intercession vested in their
clergyman; so when they had a "warning" or "vision" they usually consulted
my father as to what they could do to prevent the coming disaster
befalling their relatives or friends. In this way my father had the
opportunity of noting down the minutiae of the "warning" or "vision"
directly it was told him. Having had the advantage of a medical, previous
to his theological, training, he was able to note down sound facts,
unembellished by superadded imagination. Entering into this method of
case-taking with a mind perfectly open, except for a slight touch of
scepticism, he was greatly surprised to discover how very frequently
realisations occurred exactly in conformance with the minutiae of the
vision as detailed in his note-book. Finally, he was compelled to
discard his scepticism, and to admit that some people had undoubtedly
the uncanny gift. Almost the first case he took (Case X.) was that of a
woman who had one day a vision of her son falling over a high rock at Uig,
in Skye, with a sheep or lamb.
'CASE X.--She heard her son exclaim in Gaelic, "This is a fatal lamb for
me." As her son lived several miles from Uig, and was a fisherman,
realisation seemed to my father very unlikely, but one month afterwards
the realisation occurred only too true. Unknown to his mother, who had
warned him against having anything to do with sheep or lambs, the son
one day, instead of going out in his boat, thought he would take a
holiday inland, and went off to Uig, where a farmer enlisted his
services in separating some lambs from the ewes. One of the lambs ran
away, and the fisher lad ran headlong after it, and not looking where he
was going, on catching the lamb was pulled by it to the edge of one of
the very picturesque but exceedingly dangerous rocks at Uig. Too late
realizing his critical position, he exclaimed, "This is a fatal lamb for
me," but going with such an impetus he was unable to bring himself up in
time, and, along with the lamb, fell over into the ravine below, and
was, of course, killed on the spot. The farmer, when he saw the lad's
danger, ran to his assistance, but was only in time to hear him cry out
in Gaelic before disappearing over the brink of the precipice. This was
predicted by the mother a month before. Was this simply a coincidence?'
Dr. Macgregor's remarks on the involuntary and unwelcome nature of the
visions is borne out by what Scheffer, as already quoted, says concerning
In addition to visions which thus come unsought, contributing knowledge of
things remote or even future, we may glance at visions which are provoked
by various methods. Drugs (_impepo_) are used, seers whirl in a wild
dance till they fall senseless, or trance is induced by various kinds of
self-suggestion or 'auto-hypnotism.' Fasting is also practised. In modern
life the self-induced trance is common among 'mediums'--a subject to which
we recur later.
So far, it will he observed, our evidence proves that precisely similar
_beliefs_ as to man's occasional power of opening the gates of distance
have been entertained in a great variety of lands and ages, and by races
in every condition of culture. The alleged experiences are still
said to occur, and have been investigated by physiologists of the eminence
of M. Richet. The question cannot but arise as to the residuum of fact in
these narrations, and it keeps on arising.
In the following chapter we discuss a mode of inducing hallucinations
which has for anthropologists the interest of universal diffusion. The
width of its range in savage races has not, we believe, been previously
observed. We then add facts of modern experience, about the authenticity
of which we, personally, entertain no doubt; and the provisional
conclusion appears to be that savages have observed a psychological
circumstance which has been ignored by professed psychologists, and which,
certainly, does not fit into the ordinary materialistic hypothesis.
[Footnote 1: Callaway, _Religion of the Zulus_, p. 232.]
[Footnote 2: Graham Dalzell, _Darker Superstitions of Scotland_, p. 481.]
[Footnote 3: See good evidence in _Ker of Kersland's Memoirs_.]
[Footnote 4: Autus Gellius, xv. 18, Dio Cassius, lxvii., Crespet, _De la
Haine du Diable, Proces de Jeanne d'Arc_.]
[Footnote 5: See 'Shamanism in Siberia,' _J.A.I._, November 1894,
pp. 147-149, and compare Scheffer. The article is very learned and
[Footnote 6: Williams mentions second sight in Fiji, but gives no
[Footnote 7: _Primitive Culture,_ i. 447. Mr. Tylor cites Dr. Brinton's
_Myths of the New World,_ p. 269. The reference in the recent edition is
p. 289. Carver's case is given under the head 'Possession' later.]
[Footnote 8: _Journal Historique_ p. 362; _Atlantic Monthly_, July 1866.]
[Footnote 9: Probably _impepo_, eaten by seers, according to Callaway.]
[Footnote 10: Callaway's _Religion of the Amazulu_, p. 358.]
[Footnote 11: Oxford, 1674.]
[Footnote 12: _Voyages_.]
[Footnote 13: From Charlevoix, _Journal Historique_, p. 362.]
[Footnote 14: Bastian, _Ueber psych. Beobacht_. p.21.]
[Footnote 14: Op. cit. p.26.]
[Footnote 15: Miss Kingsley, _Travels in West Africa_, p. 460.]
[Footnote 16: _Primitive Culture_, ii, 181; Mason's _Burmah_, p. 107.]
[Footnote 17: Schoolcraft, i. 394.]
[Footnote 18: Brinton's _Religions of Primitive Peoples_, p. 57.]
[Footnote 19: Purchas, p. 629.]
[Footnote 20: S.P.R. _Proceedings_, vol. vi. 69.]
[Footnote 21: Binet and Fere, _Animal Magnetism_, p. 64.]
[Footnote 22: Vol. vii. Mrs. Sidgwick, pp. 30, 356; vol. vi. p. 66,
Professor Richet, p. 407, Drs. Dufay and Azam.]
[Footnote 23: The examples in the Old Testament, and in the _Life of St.
Columba_ by Adamnan, need only be alluded to as too familiar for
CRYSTAL VISIONS, SAVAGE AND CIVILISED
Among savage methods of provoking hallucinations whence knowledge may be
supernormally obtained, various forms of 'crystal-gazing' are the most
curious. We find the habit of looking into water, usually in a vessel,
preferably a glass vessel, among Red Indians (Lejeune), Romans (Varro,
cited in _Civitas Dei_, iii. 457), Africans of Fez (Leo Africanus); while
Maoris use a drop of blood (Taylor), Egyptians use ink (Lane), and
Australian savages employ a ball of polished stone, into which the seer
'puts himself' to descry the results of an expedition.
I have already given, in the Introduction, Ellis's record of the
Polynesian case. A hole being dug in the door of his house, and filled
with water, the priest looks for a vision of the thief who has carried off
stolen goods. The Polynesian theory is that the god carries the spirit of
the thief over the water, in which it is reflected. Lejeune's Red Indians
make their patients gaze into the water, in which they will see the
pictures of the things in the way of food or medicine that will do them
good. In modern language, the instinctive knowledge existing implicitly
in the patient's subconsciousness is thus brought into the range of his
In 1887 the late Captain J. T. Bourke, of the U.S. Cavalry, an original
and careful observer, visited the Apaches in the interests of the
Ethnological Bureau. He learned that one of the chief duties of the
medicine-men was to find out the whereabouts of lost or stolen property.
Na-a-cha, one of these _jossakeeds_, possessed a magic quartz crystal,
which he greatly valued. Captain Bourke presented him with a still finer
crystal. 'He could not give me an explanation of its magical use, except
that by looking into it he could see everything he wanted to see,'
Captain Bourke appears never to have heard of the modern experiments in
crystal-gazing. Captain Bourke also discovered that the Apaches, like the
Greeks, Australians, Africans, Maoris, and many other, races, use the
bull-roarer, turndun, or _rhombos_--a piece of wood which, being whirled
round, causes a strange windy roar--in their mystic ceremonies. The wide
use of the rhombos was known to Captain Bourke; that of the crystal was
For the Iroquois, Mrs. Erminie Smith supplies information about the
crystal. 'Placed in a gourd of water, it could render visible the
apparition of a person who has bewitched another.' She gives a case in
European times of a medicine-man who found the witch's habitat, but
Got only an indistinct view of her face. On a second trial he was
successful. One may add that treasure-seekers among the Huille-che
'look earnestly' for what they want to find 'into a smooth slab of black
stone, which I suppose to be basalt.'
The kindness of Monsieur Lefebure enables me to give another example from
Madagascar. Flacourt, describing the Malagasies, says that they
_squillent_ (a word not in Littre), that is, divine by crystals, which
'full from heaven when it thunders,' Of course the rain reveals the
crystals, as it does the flint instruments called 'thunderbolts' in many
countries. 'Lorsqu'ils squillent, ils ont une de ces pierres au coing de
leurs tablettes, disans qu'elle a la vertu de faire faire operation a leur
figure de geomance.' Probably they used the crystals as do the Apaches. On
July 15 a Malagasy woman viewed, whether in her crystal or otherwise, two
French vessels which, like the Spanish fleet, were 'not in sight,' also
officers, and doctors, and others aboard, whom she had seen, before their
return to France, in Madagascar. The earliest of the ships did not arrive
till August 11.
Dr. Callaway gives the Zulu practice, where the chief 'sees what will
happen by looking into the vessel.' The Shamans of Siberia and Eastern
Russia employ the same method. The case of the Inca, Yupanqui, is very
curious. 'As he came up to a fountain he saw a piece of crystal fall into
it, within which he beheld a figure of an Indian in the following
shape ... The apparition then vanished, while the crystal remained. The
Inca took care of it, and they say that he afterwards saw everything he
wanted in it.'
Here, then, we find the belief that hallucinations can be induced by one
or other form of crystal-gazing, in ancient Peru, on the other side of the
continent among the Huille-che, in Fez, in Madagascar, in Siberia, among
Apaches, Hurons, Iroquois, Australian black fellows, Maoris, and in
Polynesia. This is assuredly a wide range of geographical distribution. We
also find the practice in Greece (Pausanias, VII. xxi. 12), in Rome
(Varro), in Egypt, and in India.
Though anthropologists have paid no attention to the subject, it was of
course familiar to later Europe. 'Miss X' has traced it among early
Christians, in early Councils, in episcopal condemnations of _specularii_,
and so to Dr. Dee, under James VI.; Aubrey; the Regent d'Orleans
in St. Simon's Memoirs; the modern mesmerists (Gregory, Mayo) and the
mid-Victorian spiritualists, who, as usual, explained the phenomena, in
their prehistoric way, by 'spirits.' Till this lady examined the
subject, nobody had thought of remarking that a belief so universal had
probably some basis of facts, or nobody if we except two professors of
chemistry and physiology, Drs. Gregory and Mayo. Miss X made experiments,
beginning by accident, like George Sand, when a child.
The hallucinations which appear to her eyes in ink, or crystal, are:
1. Revived memories 'arising thus, and thus only, from the subconscious
'2. Objectivation of ideas or images--(a) consciously or (b)
unconsciously--in the mind of the percipient;
'3. Visions, possibly telepathic or clairvoyant, implying acquirement of
knowledge by supernormal means.'
The examples given of the last class, the class which would be so useful
to a priest or medicine-man asked to discover things lost, are of very
Since Miss X drew attention to this subject, experiments have proved
beyond doubt that a fair percentage of people, sane and healthy, can see
vivid landscapes, and figures of persons in motion, in glass balls and
other vehicles. This faculty Dr. Parish attributes to 'dissociation,'
practically to drowsiness. But he speaks by conjecture, and without
having witnessed experiments, as will be shown later. I now offer a series
of experiments with a glass ball, coming under my own observation, in
which knowledge was apparently acquired in no ordinary way. Of the absence
of fraud I am personally convinced, not only by the characters of all
concerned, but by the nature of the circumstances. That adaptive memory
did not later alter the narratives, as originally told, I feel certain,
because they were reported to me, when I was not present, within less than
a week, precisely as they are now given, except in cases specially noted.
Early in the present year (1897) I met a young lady who told me of three
or four curious hallucinatory experiences of her own, which were
sufficiently corroborated. She was innocent of psychical studies, and
personally was, and is, in perfect health; the pale cast of thought being
remote from her. I got a glass ball, and was present when she first looked
into it. She saw, I remember, the interior of a house, with a full-length
portrait of a person unknown. There were, I think, one or two other fancy
pictures of the familiar kind. But she presently (living as she was, among
strangers) developed a power of 'seeing' persons and places unknown to
her, but familiar to them. These experiences do seem to me to be good
examples of what is called 'thought transference;' indeed, I never before
could get out of a level balance of doubt on that subject, a balance which
now leans considerably to the affirmative side. There may be abundance of
better evidence, but, knowing the persons and circumstances, and being
present once at what seemed to me a crucial example, I was more inclined
to be convinced. This attitude appears, to myself, illogical, but it is
natural and usual.
We cannot tell what indications may be accidentally given in experiments
in thought transference. But, in these cases of crystal-gazing, the detail
was too copious to be conveyed, by a looker-on, in a wink or a cough. I do
not mean to say that success was invariable. I thought of Dr. W.G. Grace,
and the scryer saw an old man crawling along with a stick. But I doubt if
Dr. Grace is very deeply seated in that mystic entity, my subconscious
self. The 'scries' which came right were sometimes, but not always, those
of which the 'agent' (or person scried for) was consciously thinking. But
the examples will illustrate the various kinds of occurrences.
Here one should first consider the arguments against accepting recognition
of objects merely described by another person. The crystal-gazer may know
the inquirer so intimately as to have a very good guess at the subject of
his meditation. Again, a man is likely to be thinking of a woman, and a
woman of a man, so the field of conjecture is limited. In answer to the
first objection I may say that the crystal-gazer was among strangers, all
of whom, myself included, she now saw for the first time. Nor could she
have studied their histories beforehand, for she could not know (normally)
when she left home, that she was about to be shown a glass ball, or whom
she would meet. The second objection is met by the circumstance that
ladies were _not_ usually picked out for men, nor men for women. Indeed,
these choices were the exceptions, and in each case were marked by
minutely particular details. A third objection is that credulity, or the
love of strange novelties, or desire to oblige, biases the inquirers, and
makes them anxious to recognise something familiar in the scryer's
descriptions. In the same way we know how people recognise faces
in the most blurred and vague of spiritist photographs, or see family
resemblances in the most rudimentary doughfaced babies. Take descriptions
of persons in a passport, or in a proclamation sketching the personal
appearance of a criminal. These fit the men or women intended, but they
also fit a crowd of other people. The description given by the scryer then
may come right by a fortuitous coincidence, or may be too credulously
The complex of coincidences, however, could not be attributed to chance
selection out of the whole possible field of conjecture. We must remember,
too, that a series of such hits increases, at an enormous rate, the odds
against accidental conjecture. Of such mere luck I may give an example. I
was writing a story of which the hero was George Kelly, one of the 'Seven
Men of Moidart.' A year after composing my tale, I found the Government
description of Mr. Kelly (1736). It exactly tallied with my purely
fanciful sketch, down to eyes, and teeth, and face, except that I made my
hero 'about six feet,' whereas the Government gave him five feet ten. But
I knew beforehand that Mr. Kelly was a clergyman; his curious career
proved him to be a person of great activity and geniality--and he was of
Irish birth. Even a dozen such guesses, equally correct, could not
suggest any powers of 'vision,' when so much was known beforehand about
the person guessed at. I now give cases in the experience of Miss Angus,
as one may call the crystal-gazer. The first occurred the day after she
got the glass ball for the first time. She writes:
'I.--A lady one day asked me to scry out a friend of whom she would
think. Almost immediately I exclaimed "Here is an old, old lady looking
at me with a triumphant smile on her face. She has a prominent nose and
nut-cracker chin. Her face is very much wrinkled, especially at the
sides of her eyes, as if she were always smiling. She is wearing a
little white shawl with a black edge. _But!_ ... she _can't_ be old as
her hair is quite brown! although her face looks so very very old." The
picture then vanished, and the lady said that I had accurately described
her friend's _mother_ instead of himself; that it was a family joke that
the mother must dye her hair, it was so brown and she was eighty-two
years old. The lady asked me if the vision were distinct enough for me
to recognise a likeness in the son's photograph; next day she laid
several photographs before me, and in a moment, without the slightest
hesitation I picked him out from his wonderful likeness to my vision!'
The inquirer verbally corroborated all the facts to me, within a week, but
leaned to a theory of 'electricity.' She has read and confirms this
'II.--One afternoon I was sitting beside a young lady whom I had never
seen or heard of before. She asked if she might look into my crystal,
and while she did so I happened to look over her shoulder and saw a ship
tossing on a very heavy choppy sea, although land was still visible in
the dim distance. That vanished, and, as suddenly, a little house
appeared with five or six (I forget now the exact number I then counted)
steps leading up to the door. On the second step stood an old man
reading a newspaper. In front of the house was a field of thick
stubbly grass where some _lambs_, I was going to say, but they were more
like very small sheep.. were grazing.
'When the scene vanished, the young lady told me I had vividly described
a spot in Shetland where she and her mother were soon going to spend a
I heard of this case from Miss Angus within a day or two of its
occurrence, and it was then confirmed to me, verbally, by the other lady.
She again confirms it (December 21, 1897). Both ladies had hitherto been
perfect strangers to each other. The old man was the schoolmaster,
apparently. In her MS., Miss Angus writes 'Skye,' but at the time both she
and the other lady said Shetland (which I have restored). In Shetland the
sheep, like the ponies, are small. Fortuitous coincidence, of course, may
be invoked. The next account is by another lady, say Miss Rose.
'III.--Writes Miss Rose--My first experience of crystal gazing was not
a pleasant one, as will be seen from the following which I now relate as
exactly as I can remember. I asked my friend, Miss Angus, to allow me to
look in her crystal, and, after doing so for a short time, gave up,
saying it was very unsatisfactory, as, although I saw a room with a
bright fire in it and a bed all curtained and people coming and going,
I could not make out who they were, so I returned the crystal to Miss
Angus, with the request that she might look for me. She said at once,
"I see a bed with a man in it looking very ill and a lady in black
beside it." Without saying any more Miss Angus still kept looking, and,
after some time, I asked to have one more look, and on her passing the
ball back to me, I received quite a shock, for there, perfectly clearly
in a bright light, I saw stretched out in bed an old man apparently
dead; for a few minutes I could not look, and on doing so once more
there appeared a lady in black and out of dense darkness a long black
object was being carried and it stopped before a dark opening overhung
with rocks. At the time I saw this I was staying with cousins,
and it was a Friday evening. On Sunday we heard of the death of the
father-in-law of one of my cousins; of course I knew the old gentleman
was very ill, but my thoughts were not in the least about him when
looking in the crystal. I may also say I did not recognise in the
features of the dead man those of the old gentleman whose death I
mention. On looking again on Sunday, I once more saw the curtained bed
and some people.'
I now give Miss Angus's version of this case, as originally received from
her (December 1897). I had previously received an oral version, from a
person present at the scrying. It differed, in one respect, from what Miss
Angus writes. Her version is offered because it is made independently,
without consultation, or attempt to reconcile recollections.
'At a recent experience of gazing, for the first time I was able to make
another see what _I_ saw in the crystal. Miss Rose called one afternoon,
and begged me to look in the ball for her. I did so, and immediately
exclaimed, "Oh! here is a bed, with a man in it looking very ill [I saw
he was dead, but refrained from saying so], and there is a lady dressed
in black sitting beside the bed." I did not recognise the man to be
anyone I knew, so I told her to look. In a very short time she called
out, "Oh! I see the bed too! But, oh! take it away, the man is _dead_!"
She got quite a shock, and said she would never look in it again. Soon,
however, curiosity prompted her to have one more look, and the scene at
once came back again, and slowly, from a misty object at the side of the
bed, the lady in black became quite distinct. Then she described
several people in the room, and said they were carrying something all
draped in black. When she saw this, she put the ball down and would not
look at it again. She called again on Sunday (this had been on Friday)
with her cousin, and we teased her about being _afraid_ of the crystal,
so she said she would just look in it once more. She took the ball, but
immediately laid it down again, saying, "No, I won't look, as the bed
with the awful man in it is there again!"
'When they went home, they heard that the cousin's father-in-law had
died that afternoon, but to show he had never been in our thoughts,
although we _all_ knew he had not been well, _no one_ suggested him; his
name was never mentioned in connection with the vision.'
'Clairvoyance,' of course, is not illustrated here, the corpse being
unrecognised, and the coincidence, doubtless, accidental.
The next case is attested by a civilian, a slight acquaintance of Miss
Angus's, who now saw him for the second time only, but better known to her
'IV.--On Thursday, March --? 1897, I was lunching with my friends the
Anguses, and during luncheon the conversation turned upon crystal balls
and the visions that, by some people, can be seen in them. The subject
arose owing to Miss Angus having just been presented with a crystal ball
by Mr. Andrew Lang. I asked her to let me see it, and then to try and
see if she could conjure up a vision of any person of whom I might
think.... I fixed my mind upon a friend, a young trooper in the
[regiment named], as I thought his would be a striking and peculiar
personality, owing to his uniform, and also because I felt sure that
Miss Angus could not possibly know of his existence. I fixed my mind
steadily upon my friend, and presently Miss Angus, who had already seen
two cloudy visions of faces and people, called out, "Now I see a man on
a horse most distinctly; he is dressed most queerly, and glitters all
over--why, it's a soldier! a soldier in uniform, but it's not an
officer." My excitement on hearing this was so great that I ceased to
concentrate my attention upon the thought of my friend, and the vision
faded away and could not afterwards be recalled.--December 2,1897.'
The witness gives the name of the trooper, whom he had befriended in a
severe illness. Miss Angus's own account follows: she had told me the
story in June 1897.
'Shortly after I became the happy possessor of a "crystal" I managed to
convert several very decided "sceptics," and I will here give a short
account of my experiences with two or three of them.
'One was with a Mr. ----, who was so determined to baffle me, he said he
would think of a friend it would not be _possible_ for me to describe!
'I had only met Mr. ---- the day before, and knew utmost nothing about
him or his personal friends.
'I took up the ball, which immediately became misty, and out of this
mist gradually a crowd of people appeared, but too indistinctly for me
to recognise anyone, until suddenly a man on horseback came galloping
along. I remember saying, "I can't describe what he is like, but he is
dressed in a very queer way--in something so bright that the sun shining
on him quite dazzles me, and I cannot make him out!" As he came nearer I
exclaimed. "Why, it's a _soldier_ in shining armour, but it's not an
_officer_, only a soldier!" Two friends who were in the room said
Mr. ----'s excitement was intense, and my attention was drawn from the
ball by hearing him call out, "It's wonderful! it's perfectly true! I
was thinking of a young boy, a, son of a crofter, in whom I am deeply
interested, and who is a trooper in the ---- in London, which would
account for the crowd of people round him in the street!"'
The next case is given, first in the version of the lady who was
unconsciously scried for, and next in that of Miss Angus. The other lady
'V.--I met Miss A. for the first time in a friend's house in the south
of England, and one evening mention was made of a crystal ball, and our
hostess asked Miss A. to look in it, and, if possible, tell her what was
happening to a friend of hers. Miss A. took the crystal, and our hostess
put her hand on Miss A.'s forehead to "will her." I, not believing in
this, took up a book and went to the other side of the room. I was
suddenly very much startled to hear Miss A., in quite an agitated way,
describe a scene that had most certainly been very often in my thoughts,
but of which I had never mentioned a word, She accurately described a
race-course in Scotland, and an accident which happened to a friend of
mine only a week or two before, and she was evidently going through the
same doubt and anxiety that I did at the time as to whether he was
actually killed or only very much hurt. It really was a most wonderful
revelation to me, as it was the very first time I had seen a crystal.
Our hostess, of course, was very much annoyed that she had not been able
to influence Miss A., while I, who had appeared so very indifferent,
should have affected her.--November 28, 1897.'
Miss Angus herself writes:
'Another case was a rather interesting one, as I somehow got inside the
thoughts of _one_ lady while _another_ was doing her best to influence
'Miss ----, a friend in Brighton, has strange "magnetic" powers, and
felt quite sure of success with me and the ball.
'Another lady, Miss H., who was present, laughed at the whole thing,
especially when Miss ---- insisted on holding my hand and patting her
other hand on my forehead! Miss H. in a scornful manner took up a book,
and, crossing to the other side of the room, left us to our folly.
'In a very short time I felt myself getting excited, which had never
happened before, when I looked in the crystal. I saw a crowd of people,
and in some strange way I felt I was in it, and we all seemed to be
waiting for something. Soon a rider came past, young, dressed for
racing. His horse ambled past, and he smiled and nodded to those he
knew in the crowd, and then was lost to sight.
'In a moment we all seemed to feel as if something had happened, and I
went through great agony of suspense trying to see what seemed _just_
beyond my view. Soon, however, two or three men approached, and carried
him past before my eyes, and again my anxiety was intense to discover if
he were only very badly hurt or if life were really extinct. All this
happened in a few moments, but long enough to have left me so agitated
that I could not realise it had only been a vision in a glass ball.
'By this time Miss H. had laid aside her book, and came forward quite
startled, and told me that I had accurately described a scene on a
race-course in Scotland which she had witnessed just a week or two
before--a scene that had very often been in her thoughts, but, as we
were strangers to each other, she had never mentioned. She also said I
had exactly described her own feelings at the time, and had brought it
all back in a most vivid manner.
'The other lady was rather disappointed that, after she had concentrated
her thoughts so hard, I should have been influenced instead by one who
had jeered at the whole affair.'
[This anecdote was also told to me, within a few days of the occurrence,
by Miss Angus. Her version was that she first saw a gentleman rider going
to the post and nodding to his friends. Then she saw him carried on a
stretcher through the crowd. She seemed, she said, to be actually present,
and felt somewhat agitated. The fact of the accident was, later, mentioned
to me in Scotland by another lady, a stranger to all the persons.--A.L.]
VI.--I may briefly add an experiment of December 21, 1897. A gentleman had
recently come from England to the Scottish town where Miss Angus lives. He
dined with her family, and about 10.15 to 10.30 P.M. she proposed to look
in the glass for a scene or person of whom he was to think. He called up a
mental picture of a ball at which he had recently been, and of a young
lady to whom he had there been introduced. The lady's face, however, he
could not clearly visualise, and Miss Angus reported nothing but a view of
an empty ball-room, with polished floor and many lights. The gentleman
made another effort, and remembered his partner with some distinctness.
Miss Angus then described another room, not a ball-room, comfortably
furnished, in which a girl with brown hair drawn back from her forehead,
and attired in a high-necked white blouse, was reading, or writing
letters, under a bright light in an unshaded glass globe. The description
of the features, figure, and height tallied with Mr. ----'s recollection;
but he had never seen this Geraldine of an hour except in ball dress. He
and Miss Angus noted the time by their watches (it was 10.30), and
Mr. ---- said that on the first opportunity he would ask the young lady
how she had been dressed and how employed at that hour on December 21. On
December 22 he met her at another dance, and her reply corroborated the
crystal picture. She had been writing letters, in a high-necked white
blouse, under an incandescent gas lamp with an unshaded glass globe. She
was entirely unknown to Miss Angus, and had only been seen once by
Mr. ----. Mr. ---- and the lady of the crystal picture corroborated all
this in writing.
I now suggested an experiment to Miss Angus, which, after all, was clearly
not of a nature to establish a 'test' for sceptics. The inquirer was to
write down, and inclose in an envelope, a statement of his thoughts; Miss
Angus was to do the game with her description of the picture seen by her;
and these documents were to be sent to me, without communication between
the inquirer and the crystal-gazer. Of course, this could in no way prove
absence of collusion, as the two parties might arrange privately
beforehand what the vision was to be.
Indeed, nobody is apt to be convinced, or shaken, unless he is himself the
inquirer and a stranger to the seeress, as the people in these experiments
were. Evidence interesting to _them_--and, in a secondary degree, to
others who know them--can thus be procured; but strangers are left to the
same choice of doubts as in all reports of psychological experiences,
'chromatic audition,' views of coloured numerals, and the other topics
illustrated by Mr. Galton's interesting researches.
In this affair of the envelopes the inquirer was a Mr. Pembroke, who had
just made Miss Angus's acquaintance, and was but a sojourner in the land.
He wrote, before knowing what Miss Angus had seen in the ball:
'VII.--On Sunday, January 23, 1898, whilst Miss Angus was looking in the
crystal ball, I was thinking of my brother, who was, I believe, at that
time, somewhere between Sabathu (Punjab, India) and Egypt. I was anxious
to know what stage of his journey he had reached.'
Miss Angus saw, and wrote, before telling Mr. Pembroke:
'A long and very white road, with tall trees at one side; on the other,
a river or lake of greyish water. Blue sky, with a crimson sunset. A
great black ship is anchored near, and on the deck I see a man lying,
apparently very ill. He is a powerful-looking man, fair, and very much
bronzed. Seven or eight Englishmen, in very light clothes, are standing
on the road beside the boat.
'A great black ship,' anchored in 'a river or lake,' naturally suggests
the Suez Canal, where, in fact, Mr. Pembroke's brother was just arriving,
as was proved by a letter received from him eight days after the
experiment was recorded, on January 31. At that date Mr. Pembroke had not
yet been told the nature of Miss Angus's crystal picture, nor had she any
knowledge of his brother's whereabouts.
In February 1898, Miss Angus again came to the place where I was residing.
We visited together the scene of an historical crime, and Miss Angus
looked into the glass ball. It was easy for her to 'visualise' the
incidents of the crime (the murder of Cardinal Beaton), for they are
familiar enough to many people. What she did see in the ball was a tall,
pale lady, 'about forty, but looking thirty-five,' with hair drawn
back from the brows, standing beside a high chair, dressed in a wide
farthingale of stiff grey brocade, without a ruff. The costume corresponds
well (as we found) with that of 1546, and I said, 'I suppose it is
Mariotte Ogilvy'--to whom Miss Angus's historical knowledge (and perhaps
that of the general public) did not extend. Mariotte was the Cardinal's
lady-love, and was in the Castle on the night before the murder,
according to Knox. She had been in my mind, whence (on the theory of
thought transference) she may have passed to Miss Angus's mind; but I had
never speculated on Mariotte's costume. Nothing but conjecture, of course,
comes of these apparently 'retrospective' pictures; though a most singular
and picturesque coincidence occurred, which may be told in a very
The next example was noted at the same town. The lady who furnishes it is
well known to me, and it was verbally corroborated by Miss Angus, to whom
the lady, her absent nephew, and all about her, were entirely strange.
'VIII.--I was very anxious to know whether my nephew would be sent to
India this year, so I told Miss Angus that I had thought of something,
and asked her to look in the glass ball. She did so, but almost
immediately turned round and looked out of the window at the sea, and
said, "I saw a ship so distinctly I thought it must be a reflection."
She looked in the ball again, and said, "It is a large ship, and it is
passing a huge rock with a lighthouse on it. I can't see who are on the
ship, but the sky is very clear and blue. Now I see a large building,
something like a club, and in front there are a great many people
sitting and walking about. I think it must be some place abroad, for the
people are all dressed in very light clothes, and it seems to be very
sunny and warm. I see a young man sitting on a chair, with his feet
straight out before him. He is not talking to anyone, but seems to be
listening to something. He is dark and slight, and not very tall; and
his eyebrows are dark and very distinctly marked."
'I had not had the pleasure of meeting Miss Angus before, and she knew
nothing whatever about my nephew; but the young man described was
exactly like him, both in his appearance and in the way he was sitting.'
In this case thought transference may be appealed to. The lady was
thinking of her nephew in connection with India. It is not maintained, of
course, that the picture was of a prophetic character.
The following examples have some curious and unusual features. On
Wednesday, February 2, 1897, Miss Angus was looking in the crystal,
to amuse six or seven people whose acquaintance she had that day made.
A gentleman, Mr. Bissett, asked her 'what letter was in his pocket,'
She then saw, under a bright sky, and, as it were, a long way off,
a large building, in and out of which many men were coming and going.
Her impression was that the scene must be abroad. In the little company
present, it should be added, was a lady, Mrs. Cockburn, who had
considerable reason to think of her young married daughter, then at a
place about fifty miles away. After Miss Angus had described the large
building and crowds of men, some one asked, 'Is it an exchange?' 'It
might be,' she said. 'Now comes a man in a great hurry. He has a broad
brow, and short, curly hair; hat pressed low down on his eyes. The
face is very serious; but he has a delightful smile.' Mr. and Mrs.
Bissett now both recognised their friend and stockbroker, whose letter was
in Mr. Bissett's pocket.
The vision, which interested Miss Angus, passed away, and was interrupted
by that of a hospital nurse, and of a lady in a _peignoir_, lying on a
sofa, _with bare feet_. Miss Angus mentioned this vision as a bore,
she being more interested in the stockbroker, who seems to have inherited
what was once in the possession of another stockbroker--'the smile of
Charles Lamb.' Mrs. Cockburn, for whom no pictures appeared, was rather
vexed, and privately expressed with freedom a very sceptical opinion
about the whole affair. But, on Saturday, February 5, 1897, Miss Angus was
again with Mr. and Mrs. Bissett. When Mrs. Bissett announced that she had
'thought of something,' Miss Angus saw a walk in a wood or garden, beside
a river, under a brilliant blue sky. Here was a lady, very well dressed,
twirling a white parasol on her shoulder as she walked, in a curious
'stumpy' way, beside a gentleman in light clothes, such as are worn in
India. He was broad-shouldered, had a short neck and a straight nose, and
seemed to listen, laughing, but indifferent, to his obviously vivacious
companion. The lady had a 'drawn' face, indicative of ill health. Then
followed a scene in which the man, without the lady, was looking on at a
number of Orientals busy in the felling of trees. Mrs. Bissett recognised,
in the lady, her sister, Mrs. Clifton, in India--above all, when Miss
Angus gave a realistic imitation of Mrs. Clifton's walk, the peculiarity
of which was caused by an illness some years ago. Mrs. and Mr. Bissett
also recognised their brother-in-law in the gentleman seen in both
pictures. On being shown a portrait of Mrs. Clifton as a girl, Miss Angus
said it was 'like, but too pretty.' A photograph done recently, however,
showed her 'the drawn face' of the crystal picture. 
Next day, Sunday, February 6, Mrs. Bissett received, what was not
usual--a letter from her sister in India, Mrs. Clifton, dated January 20,
Mrs. Clifton described a place in a native State, where she had been at a
great 'function,' in certain gardens beside a river. She added that they
were going to another place for a certain purpose, 'and then we go into
camp till the end of February.' One of Mr. Clifton's duties is to direct
the clearing of wood preparatory to the formation of the camp, as in Miss
Angus's crystal picture. The sceptical Mrs. Cockburn heard of these
coincidences, and an idea occurred to her. She wrote to her daughter, who
has been mentioned, and asked whether, on Wednesday, February 2, she had
been lying on a sofa in her bed-room, with bare feet. The young lady
confessed that it was indeed so; and, when she heard how the fact came
to be known, expressed herself with some warmth on the abuse of glass
balls, which tend to rob life of its privacy.
In this case the _prima facie_ aspect of things is that a thought
of Mr. Bissett's about his stockbroker, _dulce ridentem_, somehow
reflected itself into Miss Angus's mind by way of the glass ball, and
was interrupted by a thought of Mrs. Cockburn's, as to her daughter. But
how these thoughts came to display the unknown facts concerning the
garden by the river, the felling of trees for a camp, and the bare feet,
is a question about which it is vain to theorise.
On the vanishing of the jungle scene there appeared a picture of a man in
a dark undress uniform, beside a great bay, in which were ships of war.
Wooden huts, as in a plague district, were on shore. Mr. Bissett asked,
'What is the man's expression?' 'He looks as if he had been giving a lot
of last orders.' Then appeared 'a place like a hospital, with five or six
beds--no, berths: it is a ship. Here is the man again.' He was minutely
described, one peculiarity being the way in which his hair grew--or,
rather, did not grow--on his temples.
Miss Angus now asked, 'Where is my little lady?'--meaning the lady of the
twirling parasol and _staccato_ walk. 'Oh, I've left off thinking of her,'
said Mrs. Bissett, who had been thinking of, and recognised in the
officer in undress uniform, her brother, the man with the singular hair,
whose face, in fact, had been scarred in that way by an encounter with a
tiger. He was expected to sail from Bombay, but news of his setting
forth has not been received (February 10) at the moment when this is
In these Indian cases, 'thought transference' may account for the
correspondence between the figures seen by Miss Angus and the ideas in the
mind of Mr. and Mrs. Bissett. But the hypothesis of thought transference,
while it would cover the wooden huts at Bombay (Mrs. Bissett knowing that
her brother was about to leave that place), can scarcely explain the scene
in the garden by the river and the scene with the trees. The incident of
the bare feet may be regarded as a fortuitous coincidence, since Miss
Angus saw the young lady foreshortened, and could not describe her face.
In the Introductory Chapter it was observed that the phenomena which
apparently point to some unaccountable supernormal faculty of acquiring
knowledge are 'trivial.' These anecdotes illustrate the triviality; but
the facts certainly left a number of people, wholly unfamiliar with such
experiments, under the impression that Miss Angus's glass ball was like
Prince Ali's magical telescope in the 'Arabian Nights.' These
experiments, however, occasionally touch on intimate personal matters,
and cannot be reported in such instances.
It will be remarked that the faculty is freakish, and does not always
respond to conscious exertion of thought in the mind of the inquirer.
Thus, in Case I. a connection of the person thought of is discerned; in
another the mind of a stranger present seems to be read. In another
case (not given here) the inquirer tried to visualise a card for a
person present to guess, while Miss Angus was asked to describe an object
which the inquirer was acquainted with, but which he banished from his
conscious thought. The double experiment was a double-barrelled success.
It seems hardly necessary to point out that chance coincidence will not
cover this set of cases, where in each 'guess' the field of conjecture
is boundless, and is not even narrowed by the crystal-gazer's knowledge
of the persons for whose diversion she makes the experiment. As
'muscle-reading' is not in question (in the one case of contact between
inquirer and crystal-gazer the results were unexpected), and as no
unconsciously made signs could convey, for example, the idea of a cavalry
soldier in uniform, or an accident on a race-course in two _tableaux_, I
do not at present see any more plausible explanation than that of thought
transference, though how that is to account for some of the cases given I
do not precisely understand.
Any one who can accept the assurance of my personal belief in the
good faith of all concerned will see how very useful this faculty of
crystal-gazing must be to the Apache or Australian medicine-man or
Polynesian priest. Freakish as the faculty is, a few real successes, well
exploited and eked out by fraud, would set up a wizard's reputation. That
a faculty of being thus affected is genuine seems proved, apart from