Psychography, A Treatise of Psychic or Spiritual Phenomena 1840 - 1892




BEFORE commencing the special work which I have set myself to do, I wish to make clear what I propose and what I do not propose to attempt in its execution


I propose, then, to set forth certain facts within my own knowledge respecting one class of Psychic Phenomena—viz., Psychography, or Abnormal Writing. These facts (respecting a subject which obtained much publicity during the past year) I set forth on my own authority, and as part of my own experience in the investigation of Psychic Phenomena.


I propose, further, to record, in a convenient form for reference, certain other facts of a similar nature testified to by others. In doing so, I shall rigidly adhere to the special fact under notice, and shall eliminate all evidence that will not bear rigid scrutiny. Confining myself to this one class of phenomena, I shall avoid repetition and the needless multiplication of records. Fully conscious that evidence of this nature is cumulative, I also believe that there is a point beyond which the cumulative power ceases, and I judge it best to narrow down the issue as far as possible.


Respecting these facts, I do not propose to maintain any theory, though I shall briefly enumerate


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some hypotheses which are put forward. I shall not vex myself and perplex my readers by the discussion of any a priori grounds of rejection with which some investigators bewilder themselves. I have nothing to do with the allegation that such and such things are ex rerum natura, [the nature of the case] and so are to be rejected without the formality of a trial. This is an ancient method—more antique than venerable—of disposing of new facts. There was a time, somewhere in the world's history, when it was employed to burke almost every manifestation of truth which was new and unwelcome, just as there comes a time in the history of each new discovery when the old method is abandoned, and those who have employed it endeavour, with a shamefaced smile, to show that they were only joking after all, and were, though we might not have observed it, truth's best and truest friends.


I do not propose to anticipate that time in the history of these Psychic Phenomena by any premature argument. Convinced that the time is near at hand when Science will recognise her duty in this respect, I will patiently wait for the time when some of its prominent representatives will abandon a false position with such grace as they may.


As to the facts, I shall not attempt to maintain anything more than that they furnish evidence of the existence of a Force, and of a governing Intelligence external to a human body. That Force is conveniently called Psychic, and is the Odic, or Od Force, of Reichenbach; the Nerve Force, or Aura, of other writers; the Ectenic Force of Thury; the Akasa


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of the Hindu; or, comprehensively, Vital Force. The name matters little; but the term Psychic and its compounds, as applied to the Force, to the channel through which it flows, and to its various forms of manifestation, seems most simple and free from objection.*


I do not propose to burden my record with any arguments as to the source and character of the Intelligence, except where such are plain deductions from my narrative.


I will not enter into any disquisition on the use of the terms Soul and Spirit. I do not care which is used, though, for myself, I employ the term Spirit as equivalent to what St. Paul called the Spiritual Body as opposed to the Physical Body. Soul I consider to be the Divine Principle by virtue of possession of which man is an heir of Immortality. Others use the terms differently, making the Soul to be the Astral or Spiritual Body, and the Spirit the equivalent of what I call Soul. This is not the place for argument on this point. By the use of either term I intend to indicate the Spiritual Principle in man—the Self, the Ego, the Inner Being—which, acting through the material frame, is, as I believe, independent in its existence, and will survive the death of the body.


Respecting this Intelligence which is displayed in the messages written out by these abnormal means, I


* It is usual among many who record these phenomena to employ the term Medium for the Psychic, and from it to fabricate such philologically barbarous words as mediumistic. The terms will be found in use in many of the published records; but I have employed the term Psychic and its compounds, as, in my judgment, preferable.


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will not maintain that it is or is not worthy of attention on account of the matter of its communications. I could say something on the just lines of criticism in this respect, but my purpose is served without any opening of side issues. What is written may be as foolish as my critic pleases. If it be never so silly, it will serve for my argument. Is it written at all? Then let us leave its nonsense alone, and account for its presence as a fact.


Nor will I maintain that the messages always, or even generally, proceed from the source pretended. No more fruitful source of controversy has arisen than this. Taste and sense of decorum and propriety are outraged by the claim that is made for these frequently silly and ludicrous writings, that they proceed from the source alleged, which, as often as not, is some relative of the experimenter's or some great and illustrious name in history. The shock to good taste and feeling so administered puts the investigator into an attitude of indignant opposition. He refuses to credit what is to him so monstrous, and jumps, in anger, to the conclusion that what is improbable in the explanation extends also to the fact. I trust that any who do me the honour to read what I write will allow me to pin their attention to the bare fact, and to ask them to leave the matter of the writing to another time, just now, I will say nothing whatever about the contents. It is sufficient that they are in evidence as an objective fact.


I will not maintain that the Intelligence is always independent of that of the Psychic in whose presence


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these phenomena occur, or of some or all of the persons present. This is not the place in which to discuss the powers of the human spirit, or the limits of its trans-corporeal action.


I will not even maintain that the Intelligence is intelligent. Sometimes it is not; but always, so far as I know, there is evidence of plan, of design, of purpose. I will not go so far, either, as to discuss the question whether, in given cases, the Intelligence is human or sub-human. These are all points which merit grave discussion, and on each of which I could say much, were it not for the fear of diverting attention from my one point—the fact of Psychography.


In this connexion I may, however, quote the conclusion arrived at by Mr. Crookes, F.R.S., after a long series of scientific experiments and observations, recorded in the Quarterly Journal of Science, January, 1874. Speaking of the Phenomena of Percussive Sounds, he says:—


An important question here forces itself upon the attention. Are the movements and sounds governed by intelligence? At a very early stage of the inquiry, it was seen that the power producing the phenomena was not merely a blind force, but was associated with or governed by intelligence…. The intelligence governing the phenomena is sometimes manifestly below that of the medium. It is frequently in direct opposition to the wishes of the medium. When a determination has been expressed to do something which might not be considered quite right, I have known urgent messages given to induce a reconsideration. The intelligence is sometimes of such a character as to lead to the belief that it does not emanate from any person present.


To this I may add, that in a number of recorded


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cases—e.g., in that of Miss Laura Edmunds, the daughter of judge Edmunds of New York—and in several that have come under my own notice, the Intelligence is not only distinct from that of the Psychic, but uses a language unknown to the Psychic, and conveys elaborate information, precise in detail, of which he or she had no previous knowledge; and not only that, but of which no person present had any previous knowledge.