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Mor, MOR, Latin for sleep," and "CYX” with an indication that something came between the first two letters. In the sitting of March 30th, 1908, among other matter, Mr. Myers said "No poppies ever grew on Elysian shores.”
Mr. Dorr could make no sense of all this, further than thinking that the reference to the Cave of Sleep was probably due to association of ideas between the oblivion of sleep and the oblivion produced by the waters of Lethe. But later, the untiring industry of Mr. J. G. Piddington (of the London S.P.R.) discovered that the details made up a perfectly clear allusion to the story of Ceyx and Alcyone in Book II. of Ovid's "Metamorphoses,” which has striking references to Iris and the Cave of Sleep, before the entrance to which grew poppies, on the banks of the Cimmerian river Lethe.
Neither Mrs. Piper nor Mr. Dorr had read any Ovid, and Mr. Piddington makes out a very strong case for disbelieving that the knowledge allusively shown could have been derived from books quoting Ovidian stories. Of course in such cases everything depends on the details, and these cannot be quoted in full here; students must consult the volume referred to. And it must be remembered that this incident, here briefly and inadequately sketched, is only one of several similar ones, all difficult or impossible to explain normally, for Mrs. Piper has no acquaintance with the classics. Mr. Myers, who in most of these cases purports to be the communicator or supervisor, was of course a classical scholar of the first rank, and the communications are
1 "Proceedings,” S.P.R., vol. xxiv., pp. 87 and following.
entirely in keeping with the claim made, if we allow for presumable difficulties which interfere with fluent and coherent communication, introducing a certain amount of disjointedness and fragmentariness.
As to the manner of the trance, in the Phinuit days Mrs. Piper sat upright in her chair, though with head somewhat bowed, and eyes closed. In the G. P. and “Imperator" régime the medium's head rested on a cushion, face turned away, and all activity was centred in the writing hand, which could also gesticulate in very meaningful fashion, Sir Oliver Lodge remarking that "it was full of intelligence, and could be described as more like an intelligent person than a hand.” 1 The duration of a Phinuit sitting was about an hour, and Mrs. Piper would often give two sittings a day; but it was thought wise to reduce the frequency to two or three sittings a week, though they sometimes lasted two hours, the writing seeming to be less of a drain on the medium's strength than the talking had been. In the later days the trance came on more easily, and practically at will, when conditions were made right. After the trance there was usually half an hour or so of a slightly dazed state before complete normality was reached, and Mrs. Piper would often utter ejaculations about the bright and happy state she had left, and about the dark and dingy world she had come back to even on a bright sunny day. Sometimes during this period of recovery she could pick out of a number of photographs a person, unknown to her in life, who had been purporting to communicate; but this was possible only for a half-hour or so after the trance, for
1 «Proceedings," S.P.R., vol. xxiii., p. 131.
memory was only dimly brought over, and faded rapidly.
Mrs. Piper's trances have now ceased, and practically the only supernormal feature of her life is an occasional piece of automatic writing, usually from Mr. Myers or other member of the S.P.R. group on the other side, and generally evidential in some more or less important way. It seems customary for mediumship to tail off in this way after middle age is reached, the supernormal power being at its best when the physical health and strength is at its maximum in early or early middle life.
It may reasonably be objected by the sceptic that Mrs. Piper was a professional medium and that her phenomena are therefore suspect. It is true that elaborate precautions were taken, as described, in introducing sitters anonymously, and that other measures were taken, such as having Mr. and Mrs. Piper shadowed by detectives in order to ascertain whether they went about making inquiries, with the result that nothing in the least suspicious was ever discovered, and that the investigators were completely satisfied that the explanation, whatever it was, was certainly not to be found in normally acquired knowledge. But it is inevitable that a certain doubt should linger in the mind when the financial element enters at all; and it is therefore very desirable that this element should be eliminated as far as possible. Fortunately a number of people in England developed psychic powers-people against whom the accusation of fraud for money's sake could not be brought—and were willing to exercise their power for the benefit of science. We owe much to these people, who have had to bear the cheap sneers of ignorant dogmatists and the pain of having their names and results fought over like Patroclus' body, among the upholders of this or that theory. They are among
They are among the martyrs of science, and one hopes they will have their reward.
One of the most important English non-professional sensitives was Mrs. Thompson. This lady, born in 1868, the daughter of a Birmingham architect, and married in 1886 to a business man in London, was well known to Mr. Myers, and was not, and never had been, a professional medium. She was "an active, vigorous, practical person; interested in her household and her children, and in the ordinary amusements of young English ladies, as bicycling, the theatre. She is not of morbid, nor even of specially reflective or religious temperament. No one would think of her as the possessor of supernormal gifts.” 1
Mrs. Thompson frequently saw spirits, also pictures symbolising things happening at a distance (usually seen in a crystal) or even premonitory of something in the future. She also got automatic writing. But the most important feature was trance speech, somewhat in the manner of Mrs. Piper's early days. Entry into and emergence from the trance was swift and easy, very much as in natural sleep. After a successful sitting there was a feeling of rest and refreshment, sometimes developing into unusual peace and joy; and the trances seemed to have a markedly beneficial effect on Mrs. Thompson's health. The chief control was "Nelly," purporting to be a child of Mrs. Thompson's who had died when a baby, and “Mrs. Cartwright,” a former
1 "Proceedings," S.P.R., vol. xvii. p. 70. (Myers's account.)
schoolmistress of Mrs. Thompson's. Mr. Myers introduced many people who were unknown to the medium and about whose affairs he himself knew little or nothing; and in many cases they received convincing evidence of the agency of their deceased friends or relatives. A few illustrative incidents may be described.
Dr. Frederick van Eeden, of Bussum, Holland, introduced without name or address, took a piece of clothing that had belonged to a young man who had lived and died (committing suicide) at Utrecht. The medium, or rather the control, gave an exact description of him and the manner of his death, and even his Christian name “Utrecht.” Further, the medium's voice became hoarse, and a peculiar little cough appeared, both of which represented facts, for the young man had suffered from these as the result of an attempt at suicide by cutting his throat, from which he had recovered. Some correct Dutch words were spoken (Mrs. Thompson did not know Dutch), Dr. van Eeden's full name was given, with "Bussum" and "Netherlands,” and statements were made which were unknown to Dr. van Eeden but which were found to be correct on inquiry in Holland-telepathy from the sitter's mind thus being excluded. A few things said were wrong, but these were so few and unimportant, and the correct things were so striking and numerous, that coincidence was an unacceptable explanation. Dr. van Eeden said, eight months after his last sitting and when he had had time to study the notes thoroughly: "It is impossible for me to abstain from the conviction that I have really been a witness, were it only for a