TESTING OF MEDIUMS, PSYCHICS   page 11 

                                                                     

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From the book "The Vital Message"   Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Doctor Geley's Experiments

Nothing could be imagined more fantastic and grotesque than the results of the recent experiments of Professor Geley, in France. Before such results the brain, even of the trained psychical student, is dazed, while that of the orthodox man of science, who has given no heed to these developments, is absolutely helpless. In the account of the proceedings which he read lately before the Institut General Psychologique in Paris, on January of last year, Dr. Geley says: "I do not merely say that there has been no fraud; I say, `there has been no possibility of fraud.' In nearly every case the materialisations were done under my, eyes, and I have observed their whole genesis and development." He adds that, in the course of the experiments, more than a hundred experts, mostly doctors, checked the results.

 These results may be briefly stated thus. A peculiar whitish matter exuded from the subject, a girl named Eva, coming partly through her skin, partly from her hands, partly from the orifices of her face, especially her mouth. This was photographed repeatedly at every stage of its production, these photographs being appended to the printed treatise. This stuff, solid enough to enable one to touch and to photograph, has been called the ectoplasm. It is a new order of matter, and it is clearly derived from the subject herself, absorbing into her system once more at the end of the experiment. It exudes in such quantities as to entirely, cover her sometimes as with an apron. It is soft and glutinous to the touch, but varies in form and even in colour. Its production causes pain and groans from the subject, and any violence towards it would appear also to affect her. A sudden flash of light, as in a flash-photograph, may or may not cause a retraction of the ectoplasm, but always causes a spasm of the subject. When re-absorbed, it leaves no trace upon the garments through which it has passed. This is wonderful enough, but far more fantastic is what has still to be told.

The most marked property of this ectoplasm, very fully illustrated in the photographs, is that it sets or curdles into the shapes of human members--of fingers, of hands, of faces, which are at first quite sketchy and rudimentary, but rapidly coalesce and develop until they are undistinguishable from those of living beings. Is not this the very strangest and most inexplicable thing that has ever yet been observed by human eyes? These faces or limbs are usually the size of life, but they frequently are quite miniatures. Occasionally they begin by being miniatures, and grow into full size. On their first appearance in the ectoplasm the limb is only on one plane of matter, a mere flat appearance, which rapidly rounds itself off, until it has assumed all three planes and is complete. It may be a mere simulacrum, like a wax hand, or it may be endowed with full power of grasping another hand, with every articulation in perfect working order. The faces which are produced in this amazing way are worthy of study. They do not appear to have represented anyone who has ever been known in life by Doctor Geley.[8]

My impression after examining them is that they are much more likely to be within the knowledge of the subject, being girls of the French lower middle class type, such as Eva was, I should imagine, in the habit of meeting. It should be added that Eva herself appears in the photograph as well as the simulacra of humanity. The faces are, on the whole, both pretty and piquant, though of a rather worldly and unrefined type. The latter adjective would not apply to the larger and most elaborate photograph, which represents a very beautiful young woman of a truly spiritual cast of face. Some of the faces are but partially formed, which gives them a grotesque or repellant appearance.

What are we to make of such phenomena? There is no use deluding ourselves by the idea that there may be some mistake or some deception. There is neither one nor the other. Apart from the elaborate checks upon these particular results, they correspond closely with those got by Lombroso in Italy, by Schrenk-Notzing in Germany, and by other careful observers. One thing we must bear in mind constantly in considering them, and that is their abnormality. At a liberal estimate, it is not one person in a million who possesses such powers--if a thing which is outside our volition can be described as a power. It is the mechanism of the materialisation medium which has been explored by the acute brain and untiring industry of Doctor Geley, and even presuming, as one may fairly presume, that every materialising medium goes through the same process in order to produce results, still such mediums are exceedingly, rare. Dr. Geley mentions, as an analogous phenomenon on the material side, the presence of dermoid cysts, those mysterious formations, which rise as small tumors in any part of the body, particularly above the eyebrow, and which when opened by the surgeon are found to contain hair, teeth or embryonic bones. There is no doubt, as he claims, some rough analogy, but the dermoid cyst is, at least, in the same flesh and blood plane of nature as the foetus inside it, while in the ectoplasm we are dealing with an entirely new and strange development.

[8] Dr. Geley writes to me that they are unknown either to him or to the medium.

It is not possible to define exactly what occurs in the case of the ectoplasm, nor, on account of its vital connection with the medium and its evanescent nature, has it been separated and subjected to even the roughest chemical analysis which might show whether it is composed of those earthly elements with which we are familiar. Is it rather some coagulation of ether which introduces an absolutely new substance into our world? Such a supposition seems most probable, for a comparison with the analogous substance examined at Dr. Crawford's seances at Belfast, which is at the same time hardly visible to the eye and yet capable of handling a weight of 150 pounds, suggests something entirely new in the way of matter. But setting aside, as beyond the present speculation, what the exact origin and nature of the ectoplasm may be, it seems to me that there is room for a very suggestive line of thought if we make Geley's experiments the starting point, and lead it in the direction of other manifestations of psychomaterial activity.

First of all, let us take Crookes' classic experiments with Katie King, a result which for a long time stood alone and isolated but now can be approached by intermittent but definite stages. Thus we can well suppose that during those long periods when Florrie Cook lay in the laboratory in the dark, periods which lasted an hour or more upon some occasions, the ectoplasm was flowing from her as from Eva. Then it was gathering itself into a viscous cloud or pillar close to her frame; then the form of Katie King was evolved from this cloud, in the manner already described, and finally the nexus was broken and the completed body advanced to present itself at the door of communication, showing a person different in every possible attribute save that of sex from the Medium, and yet composed wholly or in part from elements extracted from her senseless body. So far, Geley's experiments throw a strong explanatory light upon those of Crookes. And here the Spiritualist must, as it seems to me, be prepared to meet an objection more formidable than the absurd ones of fraud or optical delusion. It is this. If the body of Katie King the spirit is derived from the body of Florrie Cook the psychic, then what assurance have we that the life therein is not really one of the personalities out of which the complex being named Florrie Cook is constructed? It is a thesis which requires careful handling. It is not enough to say that the nature is manifestly superior, for supposing that Florrie Cook represented the average of a number of conflicting personalities, then a single one of these personalities might be far higher than the total effect. Without going deeply into this problem, one can but say that the spirit's own account of its own personality must count for something, and also that an isolated phenomenon must be taken in conjunction with all other psychic phenomena when we are seeking for a correct explanation. But now let us take this idea of a human being who has the power of emitting a visible substance in which are formed faces which appear to represent distinct individualities, and in extreme cases develop into complete independent human forms. Take this extraordinary fact, and let us see whether, by an extension or modification of this demonstrated process, we may not get some sort of clue as to the modus operandi in other psychic phenomena. It seems to me that we may, at least, obtain indications which amount to a probability, though not to a certainty, as to how some results, hitherto inexplicable, are attained. It is at any rate a provisional speculation, which may suggest a hypothesis for future observers to destroy, modify, or confirm.

The argument which I would advance is this. If a strong materialisation medium can throw out a cloud of stuff which is actually visible, may not a medium of a less pronounced type throw out a similar cloud with analogous properties which is not opaque enough to be seen by the average eye, but can make an impression both on the dry plate in the camera and on the clairvoyant faculty? If that be so--and it would not seem to be a very far-fetched proposition--we have at once an explanation both of psychic photographs and of the visions of the clairvoyant seer. When I say an explanation, I mean of its superficial method of formation, and not of the forces at work behind, which remain no less a mystery even when we accept Dr. Geley's statement that they are "ideoplastic." Here we have, I think, some attempt at a generalisation, which might, perhaps, be useful in evolving some first signs of order out of this chaos. It is conceivable that the thinner emanation of the clairvoyant would extend far further than the thick material ectoplasm, but have the same property of moulding itself into life, though the life forms would only be visible to the clairvoyant eye. Thus, when Mr. Tom Tyrrell, or any other competent exponent, stands upon the platform his emanation fills the hall. Into this emanation, as into the visible ectoplasm in Geley's experiments, break the faces and forms of those from the other side who are attracted to the scene by their sympathy with various members of the audience. They are seen and described by Mr. Tyrrell, who with his finely attuned senses, carefully conserved (he hardly eats or drinks upon a day when he demonstrates), can hear that thinner higher voice that calls their names, their old addresses and their messages. So, too, when Mr. Hope and Mrs. Buxton stand with their hands joined over the cap of the camera, they are really throwing out a misty ectoplasm from which the forms loom up which appear upon the photographic plate. It may be that I mistake an analogy for an explanation, but I put the theory on record for what it is worth.

 

 

From the book "People From The Other World"  Henry Steele Olcott

On the following evening I tried an experiment that I think is unprecedented in the history of scientific inquiry. It occurred to me, that if the assertion of the Spirits that in materializing themselves they accreted matter from the atmosphere by the operation of their own will were true, and that the relative solidity of their materialization is under their control, the thing might be tested by familiar mechanical appliances. I could not conceive of solid matter without weight, and I had had too many proofs of the materiality of the visible spirit-forms to fancy them imponderable and unsubstantial. I had not only heard the shock of Honto's feet upon the floor when she leaped over the railing and when she jumped high from the floor in some of her capering; but, both in the dark and light Circles, had shaken hands with them, and been touched and playfully struck many times. To my sense of touch they appeared as substantial as any human being in the flesh, the only difference being in their temperature, which was invariably lower than my own, and the skin, which was ordinarily covered with a clammy sweat.

To put my theory to the proof, I procured in Rutland one of Howe's Standard platform scales, the capacity and accuracy of which are attested in the following certificate:    

RUTLAND, Vt., October 6th, 1874
Henry S. Olcott, Esq.,
 DEAR SIR:
I hereby certify that the platform scale you procured from me for your weighing experiments, was one of Howe's best "Standards," set true and in perfect order. It will weigh from one ounce to 500 pounds. Its own dead weight is 110 pounds.                                        Respectfully, I. G. KINGSLEY

I caused it to be placed upon the platform, to the right of the cabinet door, and just in front of the chair in which Mr. Pritchard sits. Being denied the privilege of sitting there myself, in consequence, as I am told, of my being of so positive a nature as to affect and repel the spirits (in which particular neither Mr. Pritchard nor Mrs. Cleveland resemble me at all) I had to rely for my experiment upon the gentleman in question. Accordingly, I rehearsed the operation with him thoroughly, until he was able, in the dark, to quickly weigh a person stepping upon the platform and stopping there but a moment. I supplied him with parlor-matches, and after some last instructions waited the auspicious moment.

When Honto came out she saluted us as usual, and then turned and scrutinized the strange machine with Indian-like hesitancy. I told her what was desired, and she then stepped boldly upon the proper spot, and bent forward to look at the movements of Mr. Pritchard, as his hand moved the poise along the beam. The balance being attained, as we could all plainly hear by the sound of the beam against the pad, she stepped off and passed into the cabinet. A match being struck, Mr. Pritchard read the scale at 138 pounds, which caused the audience no surprise, for, as the reader will observe, by reference to the several pictures of Honto that appear in this volume, she looks like a woman who would weigh from 135 to 145 pounds. But the counter-poise at the end of the beam appeared to me too thin for the l00-pound weight, and upon lighting a second match Mr. Pritchard found that it was only the 50-pound weight, and consequently that the squaw had only weighed 88 pounds. Honto now reappeared, and I asked her to make herself lighter. She again mounted the platform, and this time it was found that she weighed but 58 pounds. The experiment was repeated a third time, and her weight stood the same as before--58 pounds. The fourth time the reading of the beam showed 65 pounds. Thus, without any change of clothing, and all within the space of ten minutes, this spirit, who weighed at the beginning at least 50 pounds less than any mortal woman of her size and height should weigh, reduced her materiality to the extent of 30 pounds, and, after holding it there several minutes, increased it 7 pounds.

Of course it would have been infinitely more satisfactory if I could have first peeped into the dark cabinet and then managed the scale myself, for in such case I would not have to report, as to a portion of the facts, upon hearsay testimony; and I leave to Mr. Crookes, Mr. Wallace, and other intelligent observers, more favorably conditioned than I, the task of following up this novel and suggestive inquiry.

Mr. Pritchard is a reputable citizen of Albany, N. Y., retired from business in which he accumulated a competency, and I give his affidavit in corroboration of the facts I have narrated :

 MR. PRITCHARD'S AFFIDAVIT. State of Vermont, County of Rutland, ss.--Edward V. Pritchard, of the City of Albany, State of New York, being duly sworn, deposes and says that on the evening of September 23rd instant, he attended a sťance or circle at the house of the Eddy family, in the town of Chittenden, in the county and State aforesaid : that he was invited to occupy a chair on the platform in a room known as the "circleroom," where certain mysterious phenomena known as spirit materializations occurred ; that among other forms presenting themselves and identified by persons in the audience as the shapes of deceased friends and relatives, there appeared the figure of an Indian woman known as " Honto," who approached so close to deponent that he distinctly saw every feature of her countenance, and her entire body ; that he is well acquainted with William H. Eddy, and avers that the said " Honto " bore no resemblance whatever to him in any particular. And deponent further says, that a pair of platform scales being previously placed convenient to his reach, the said " Honto" stood thereupon four separate times for deponent to weigh her, and that, without having apparently changed her bulk:, or divested herself of any portion of her dress, she weighed respectively 88 pounds, 58 pounds, 58 pounds, and 65 pounds at the several weighings. And deponent further says that, having weighed the said William H. Eddy upon the same scales, he finds his weight to be 179 pounds.

E. V. PRITCHARD. [Subscribed and sworn to before me, this 30th clay of September, A. D. 1875 -- H. F. Baird, Justice of the Peace.]

In his famous first article in the Quarterly Journal of Science for July, 1870, Mr. Crookes, in enumerating the results that he shall expect the Spiritualists to help him to attain, before he can ask his scientific brethren to investigate the phenomena, says :

"The Spiritualist tells of bodies weighing 50 or 100 pounds being lifted up into the air without the intervention of any known force; but the scientific chemist is accustomed to use a balance which will render sensible a weight so small that it would take 10,000 of them to weigh one grain ; he is, therefore, justified in asking that a power, professing to be guided by intelligence, which will toss a heavy body up to the ceiling, shall also cause his delicately poised balance to move under test conditions."

Again, he says in the same article : "The first requisite is to be sure of facts; then to ascertain conditions ; next, laws. Accuracy and knowledge of detail stand foremost among the great aims of modern scientific men. No observations are of much use to the student of science unless they are truthful and made under test conditions ; and here I find the great mass of spiritualistic evidence to fail. In a subject which, perhaps, more than any other, lends itself to trickery and deception, the precautions against fraud appear to have been, in most cases, totally insufficient, owing, it would seem, to an erroneous idea that to ask for such safe- guards was to imply a suspicion of the honesty of some one present." I quote these sensible words, not to help me in my investigations at this place, for my researches are completed, but to call the attention of other investigators in various other portions of the country who may happen to read these lines, to the true method which should guide their researches. The absolute ponderosity of a materialized spirit has at least been suggested by the weighing experiments at Chittenden, and it remains only for those who have access, say, to such compliant and intelligent spirits as Mr. Crookes' "Katie King," or Miss Showers' " Florence " and " Lenore," to make careful supplemental experiments, under test conditions, and thus solve one of the most important problems ever broached to the scientific world.

I saw Honto, on one evening (October 15th), melt away as far up as her waist, just as she was ready to pass into the cabinet; once I saw a long lance, with a tapering steel head and a tuft of drooping ostrich plumes below it, suddenly materialized, in the hand of a male spirit; once, one of Honto's knitted shawls instantly formed, in a pile, on the floor, before she even stretched her hand towards the place to pick it up ; and once a little animal, like a squirrel or a large rat, suddenly appeared, walked about, and disappeared on the platform, almost frightening poor old Mrs. Cleveland out of her wits. If I ask Mr. Crookes to tell me by what law these things happen, he would undoubtedly answer: "Show me fifty such cases, happening under test conditions, and then we will weigh these things on our scales and try to discover the law."  

"George Dix," the sailor-spirit, tried to enlighten me upon the subject, one evening. He said that man, in his earth-life, is nothing but a materialized spirit, a living entity encased in a covering of flesh. To keep himself and this case together, he must consume and assimilate tons of the material portions of animal and vegetable food. If he stops the process he becomes dematerialized, or uncased, in a very brief time. On the other hand, spirits can do in a moment what before death it took them years to accomplish--materialize a body to cover them. In the atmosphere they find ready for use, an inexhaustible supply of the same matter as that which exists in the animal and vegetable, only in a diffused and sublimated form; and by a supreme creative effort of the will they instantly collect the scattered particles into such shapes as they choose.  

What shall we say to all this? That it is silly, useless even if true, impossible, unscientific? Lord Bacon sets it down as a law unto himself, never to "reject upon improbabilities until there hath passed a due examination;"  

 

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