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tails of his murder by Pygmalion. This reminds us of the Pot of Basil story, which Keats versified from Boccaccio's prose. Lorenzo, being enamoured of Isabella, was murdered by her brothers and buried in a wood; but he appeared to her in a dream and correctly told where to find his body.
Isabel, my sweet!
Around me beeches and high chestnuts shed
Comes from beyond the river to my bed.
A similar case is described by Pliny the Younger, an acute and learned lawyer of the first century of our era. It did not come within his own experience, but the evidence impressed him, and we may assume that he had the story from people whom he considered trustworthy. It concerned an apparition which led the percipient to a certain part of a courtyard and then vanished. The place was marked, and afterwards dug up, when a human body was found. This being properly buried, the haunting (for it was a case of persistent appear. ance) ceased."
There is a curious and rather humorous similar story in an Egyptian Papyrus at Leyden, in which the writer of a letter "complains bitterly of the persistent annoyance caused to him by his deceased wife.” (“L'époux
1 For many references to classical phantoms, see "Greek and Roman Ghost Stories," by L. Collison Morley (London: Simpkin, Marshall and Company, Limited, 1912).
se plaint des mauvais procédés de l'épouse défunte dont à ce qu'il paraît la mort ne l'a pas suffisamment débarassé”: M. Chabas, Introduction to the Papyri of Leyden, p. 71.)? Perhaps she had a legitimate grievance, as had Dido, who threatened to haunt Æneas :
"My shade shall be with you wherever you are.” 2
And it is clear that something almost startlingly like modern spiritualism was in existence in the first centuries of our era. Porphyry describes spirits as manifesting in many ways, often through an entranced "recipient”; and he says that if conditions were not good the spirit would himself warn his auditors that he would make incorrect statements. A small confined space was essential to good results, in order "that the influence should not be too widely diffused.” There was singing and sometimes darkness, as in sittings nowadays for materialisation and the direct voice. In trance speech the spirit alludes to the medium in the third person, as "the mortal” or “the recipient”; and at some sittings the medium was bound with withes and enveloped in fine linen; perhaps in order to eliminate fraud. Certainly the spirits were believed to appear sometimes in visible and tangible form; and their precise nature had been in dispute since the days of Pythagoras, “who conjectured that the apparition was an emanation from the spirit, but not, strictly speaking, the spirit itself,” a conjecture supported by modern research. Unfortunately a good deal of our information concerning NeoPlatonic spiritualism comes through hostile Church Fathers such as Eusebius; but it is clear that they were unable to dismiss the phenomena as unreal.?
1 “Lectures on the Origin and Growth of Religion as Illustrated by the Religion of Ancient Egypt.” (Hibbert Lectures), by P. Le Page Renouf, p. 154 (London: Williams and Norgate, 1884).
""Æneid,” bk. iv.
Similarly in Egyptian literature there is ample proof of belief in survival, and very full and curious accounts are given of the wanderings of the spirit after death. In China there is evidence of the same belief, with ancestor-worship and communication, for it was customary to tell the departed any news that might be interesting to them. There is less evidence of communication from the other side, but this has probably also been much practised, for trance addresses and the use of a sort of planchette are common among the Taoists; and a missionary friend of the present writer has attended Taoist services by favour of his acquaintance with a Taoist priest for whom he has a high regard—and believes that the trance addresses do often control supernormally-acquired knowledge. Whether the control purports to be a human being or some non-human intelligence, is not always clear.
A sort of ouija-system was in vogue in early Greece, for Ammianus Marcellinus tells of "some Greek cultivators of theurgy" who ascertained the future by suspending a ring by a fine linen thread, held apparently by the officiating person after due purification, over the characters of the alphabet set in a circle. The ring darted out to the letters required, and words were spelt out. The people concerned were prosecuted, no doubt as a heretical sect or from motives of fear, as in our own witchcraft persecutions of two or three hundred years ago. Similarly with some important personages in Rome who seem to have had séances for materialisation. They were subjected to police supervision. The majority naturally tend to tyrannise over the minority, and true discovery is often thus suppressed for the time; for each discoverer has a whole conservative world against him, which thinks it knows already that such things cannot be, or, if they can, that they ought not. This trait of human nature is probably a sufficient explanation of the smallness of the literary evidence for induced psychical phenomena. One cannot be blamed for seeing a ghost; it simply cannot be helped if the ghost thinks fit to appear; but it is different with séances. So the spiritualist of those early days would for the most part keep silence about his doings, as many find it best to do even now.
*Myers on Greek Oracles in “Classical Essays," pp. 83 and following.
With reference to the point that the early communications in China, Greece, etc., seem to be from gods (e.g. in the oracles) rather than from human beings, it is to be noted that the terminology is not very exact. The Neo-Platonists believed in a graduated hierarchy of beings. Even Plutarch held this notion of many grades between God and man-it being absurd to suppose no mean between two such extremes—and he seems uncertain what to call these communicating spirits. He names them Genii or Daimons, but at the same time he speaks of them as “having first been men"; so it is possible enough that, in old accounts, communi
*Howitt's "History of the Supernatural," vol. i., p. 366.
cation from a "god" may mean communication from a human being who has passed on to the higher state. In old Jewish days the teraphim were ancestral images though regarded as images of Yahwe later —and they were consulted as oracles (2 Kings xxiii. 24; Exod. xxi. 2–6). Often where "god" is written, the spirit of an ancestor is meant, for the dead, when invoked, were termed elohim (1 Sam. xxviii. 13). Or, as in oracles giving clairvoyance rather than communications—e.g. the famous case of Croesus,—the supernormal faculty may have been exerted by the priestess's own subliminal self.
In these earlier cases, it is impossible to make out exactly what happened. For example, there was an epidemic of trance-speaking, convulsions, ecstasy, etc., among the Ursuline nuns of Loudun, in 1632-4, and the Mother Superior herself was affected, which indicates that it was not merely a case of a few hysterical girls. The controlling agencies confessed themselves to be devils, and a certain curé was burnt alive, as the bewitcher, in April, 1634. But the accounts are anonymous, and the writers were under the influence of theological bias, as were the sufferers.?
Similarly with the outbreak of inspirational phenomena among the peasantry of the Cevennes in 1707, the devotees of St. Médard in 1730 and onwards, and the automatic utterances of the Irvingites. In all these
1“Critical History of the Doctrine of a Future Life," by R. H. Charles, D.D. (A. and C. Black, 1899), p. 23.
* “La Véritable Histoire des Diables de Loudun," translated and edited by Edmund Goldsmid, London, 1887. "Histoire des Diables de Loudun,” Amsterdam, 1693.