CHAPTER II. PSYCHOMETRY
Now that we have eliminated the gods and the dead, what have we left? Ourselves and all the life around us; and that is perhaps enough. It is, at any rate, much more than we are able to grasp.
Let us now study certain manifestations that are absolutely similar to those which we attribute to the spirits and quite as surprising. As for these manifestations, there is not the least doubt of their origin. They do not come from the other world; they are born and die upon this earth; and they arise solely and incontestably from our own actual living mystery. They are, moreover, of all psychic manifestations, those which are easiest to examine and verify, seeing that they can be repeated almost indefinitely and that a number of excellent and well-known mediums are always ready to reproduce them in the presence of any one interested in the question. It is no longer a case of uncertain and casual observation, but of scientific experiment.
The manifestations in question are so many phenomena of intuition, of clairvoyance or clairaudience, of seeing at a distance and even of seeing the future. These phenomena may either be due to pure, spontaneous intuition on the part of the medium, in an hypnotic or waking state, or else produced or facilitated by one of the various empirical methods which apparently see only to arouse the medium's subconscious faculties and to release in some way his subliminal clairvoyance. Among such methods, those most often employed are, as we all know, cards, coffee-grounds, pins, the lines of the hand, crystal globes, astrology, and so on. They possess no importance in themselves, no intrinsic virtue, and are worth exactly what the medium who uses them is worth. As M. Duchatel well says:
"In reality, there is only one solitary MANCY. The faculty of seeing in TIME, like the faculty of seeing in SPACE, is ONE, whatever its outward form or the process employed."
We will not linger now over those manifestations which, under appearances that are sometimes childish and vulgar, often conceal surprising and incontestable truths, but will devote the present chapter exclusively to a series of phenomena which includes almost all the others and which has been classed under the generic and rather ill-chosen and ill-constructed title of "psychometry." Psychometry, to borrow Dr. Maxwell's excellent definition, is "the faculty possessed by certain persons of placing themselves in relation, either spontaneously or, for the most part, through the intermediary of some object, with unknown and often very distant things and people."
The existence of this faculty is no longer seriously denied; and it is easy for any one who cares to do so to verify it for himself; for the mediums who possess it are not extremely rare, nor are they inaccessible. It has formed the subject of a number of experiments (see, among others, M. Warcollier's report in the Annales des Sciences Psychiques of July, 1911) and of a few treatises, in the front rank of which I would mention M. Duchatel's Enquete sur des Cas de Psychometrie and Dr. Otty's recently published book, Lucidite et Intuition, which is the fullest, most profound and most conscientious work that we possess on the matter up to the present. Nevertheless it may be said that these regions quite lately annexed by metaphysical science are as yet hardly explored and that fruitful surprises are doubtless awaiting earnest seekers.
The faculty in question is one of the strangest faculties of our subconsciousness and beyond a doubt contains the key to most of the manifestations that seem to proceed from another world. Let us begin by seeing, with the aid of a living and typical example, how it is exercised.
Mme. M--, one of the best mediums mentioned by Dr. Osty, is given an object which belonged to or which has been touched and handled by a person about whom it is proposed to question her. Mme. M-- operates in a state of trance; but there are other noted psychometers, such as Mme. F-- and M. Ph. M. de F--, who retain all their normal consciousness, so that hypnotism or the somnambulistic state is in no way indispensable to the awakening of this extraordinary faculty of clairvoyance.
When the object, which is usually a letter, has been handed to Mme. M--, she is asked to place herself in communication with the writer of the letter or the owner of the object. Forthwith, Mme. M-- not only sees the person in question, his physical appearance, his character, his habits, his interests, his state of health, but also, in a series of rapid and changing visions that follow upon one another like cinematograph pictures, perceives and describes exactly his immediate surroundings, the scenery outside his window, the rooms in which he lives, the people who live with him and who wish him well or ill, the psychology and the most secret and unexpected intentions of all those who figure in his existence. If, by means of your questions, you direct her towards the past, she traces the whole course of the subject's history. If you turn her towards the future, she seems often to discover it as clearly as the past. But we will for the moment reserve this latter point, to which we shall return later in a chapter devoted to the knowledge of the future.
In the presence of these phenomena, the first thought that naturally occurs to the mind is that we are once more concerned with that astonishing and involuntary communication between one subconsciousness and another which has been invested with the name of telepathy. And there is no denying that telepathy plays a great part in these intuitions. However, to explain their working, nothing is equal to an example based upon a personal experience. Here is one which is in no way remarkable, but which plainly shows the normal course of the operation. In September, 1913, while I was at Elberfeld, visiting Krall's horses, my wife went to consult Mme. M--, gave her a scrap of writing in my hand--a note dispatched previous to my journey and containing no allusion to it--and asked her where I was and what I was doing. Without a second's hesitation, Mme. M-- declared that I was very far away, in a foreign country where they spoke a language which she did not understand. She saw first a paved yard, shaded by a big tree, with a building on the left and a garden at the back: a rough but not inapt description of Krall's stables, which my wife did not know and which I myself had not seen at the time when I wrote the note. She next perceived me in the midst of the horses, examining them, studying them with an absorbed, anxious and tired air. This was true, for I found those visits, which overwhelmed me with a sense of the marvelous and kept my attention on the rack, singularly exhausting and bewildering. My wife asked her if I intended to buy the horses. She replied:
"Not at all; he is not thinking of it."
And, seeking her words as though to express an unaccustomed and obscure thought, she added:
"I don't know why he is so much interested; it is not like him. He has no particular passion for horses. He has some lofty idea which I can't quite discover. . . ."
She made two rather curious mistakes in this experiment. The first was that, at the time when she saw me in Krall's stable-yard, I was no longer there. She had received her vision just in the interval of a few hours between two visits. Experience shows, however, that this is a usual error among psychometers. They do not, properly speaking, see the action at the very moment of its performance, but rather the customary and familiar action, the principal thing that preoccupies either the person about whom they are being consulted or the person consulting them. They frequently go astray in time. There is not, therefore, necessarily any simultaneity between the action and the vision; and it is well never to take their statements in this respect literally.
The other mistake referred to our dress: Krall and I were in ordinary town clothes, whereas she saw us in those long coats which stable-lads wear when grooming their horses.
Let us now make every allowance for my wife's unconscious suggestions: she knew that I was at Elberfeld and that I should be in the midst of the horses, and she knew or could easily conjecture my state of mind. The transmission of thought is remarkable; but this is a recognized phenomenon and one of frequent occurrence and we need not therefore linger over it.
The real mystery begins with the description of a place which my wife had never seen and which I had not seen either at the time of writing the note which established the psychometrical communication. Are we to believe that the appearance of what I was one day to see was already inscribed on that prophetic sheet of paper, or more simply and more probably that the paper which represented myself was enough to transmit either to my wife's subconsciousness or to Mme. M--, whom at that time I had never met, an exact picture of what my eyes beheld three or four hundred miles away? But, although this description is exceedingly accurate--paved yard, big tree, building on the left, garden at the back--is it not too general for all idea of chance coincidence to be eliminated? Perhaps, by insisting further, greater precision might have been obtained; but this is not certain, for as a role the pictures follow upon one another so swiftly in the medium's vision that he has no time to perceive the details. When all is said, experiences of this kind do not enable us to go beyond the telepathic explanation. But here is a different one, in which subconscious suggestion cannot play any part whatever.
Some days after the experiment which I have related, I received from England a request for my autograph. Unlike most of those which assail an author of any celebrity, it was charming and unaffected; but it told me nothing about its writer. Without even noticing from what town it was sent to me, after showing it to my wife, I replaced it in its envelope and took it to Mme. M--. She began by describing us, my wife and myself, who both of us had touched the paper and consequently impregnated it with our respective "fluids."
I asked her to pass beyond us and come to the writer of the note. She then saw a girl of fifteen or sixteen, almost a child, who had been in rather indifferent health, but who was now very well indeed. The girl was in a beautiful garden, in front of a large and luxurious house standing in the midst of rather hilly country. She was playing with a big, curly-haired, long-eared dog. Through the branches of the trees one caught a glimpse of the sea.
On inquiry, all the details were found to be astonishingly accurate; but, as usual, there was a mistake in the time, that is to say, the girl and her dog were not in the garden at the instant when the medium saw them there. Here again an habitual action had obscured a casual movement; for, as I have already said, the vision very rarely corresponds with the momentary reality.
There is nothing exceptional in the above example; I selected it from among many others because it is simple and clear. Besides, this kind of experience is already, so to speak, classical, or at least should be so, were it not that everything relating to the manifestations of our subconsciousness is always received with extraordinary suspicion. In any case, I cannot too often repeat that the experiment is within everybody's reach; and it rarely fails to achieve absolute success with capable psychometers, who are pretty well known and whom it is open to any one to consult.
Let us add that it can be extended much further. If, for instance, I had acted as I did in similar cases and asked the medium questions about the young girl's home-circle, about the character of her father, the health of her mother, the tastes and habits of her brothers and sisters, she would have answered with the same certainty, the same precision as one might do who was not only a close acquaintance of the girl's, but endowed with much more penetrating faculties of intuition than a normal observer. In short, she would have felt and expressed all that this girl's subconsciousness would have felt with regard to the persons mentioned. But it must be admitted that, as we are here no longer speaking of facts that are easily verified, confirmation becomes infinitely more difficult.
There could be no question, in the circumstances, of transmission of thought, since both the medium and I were ignorant of everything. Besides, other experiments, easily devised and repeated and more rigourously controlled, do away with that theory entirely. For instance, I took three letters written by intimate friends, put each of them in a double envelope and gave them to a messenger unacquainted with the contents of the envelopes and also with the persons in question to take to Mme. M--. On arriving at the house, the messenger handed the clairvoyant one of the letters, selected at random, and did nothing further beyond putting the indispensable questions, likewise at random, and taking down the medium's replies in shorthand. Mme. M-- began by giving a very striking physical portrait of the lady who had written the letter; followed this up with an absolutely faithful description of her character, her habits, her tastes, her intellectual and moral qualities; and ended by adding a few details concerning her private life, of which I myself was entirely unaware and of which I obtained the confirmation shortly afterwards. The experiment yielded just as remarkable results when continued with the two other letters.
In the face of this mystery, two explanations may be offered, both equally perplexing. On the one hand, we shall have to admit that the sheet of paper handed to the psychometer and impregnated with human "fluid" contains, after the manner of some prodigiously compressed gas, all the incessantly renewed, incessantly recurring images that surround a person, all his past and perhaps his future, his psychology, his state of health, his wishes, his intentions, often unknown to himself, his most secret instincts, his likes and dislikes, all that is bathed in light and all that is plunged in darkness, his whole life, in short, and more than his personal and conscious life, besides all the lives and all the influences, good or bad, latent or manifest, of all who approach him. We should have here a mystery as unfathomable and at least as vast as that of generation, which transmits, in an infinitesimal particle, the mind and matter, with all the qualities and all the faults, all the acquirements and all the history, of a series of lives of which none can tell the number.
On the other hand, if we do not admit that so much energy can lie concealed in a sheet of paper, continuing to exist and develop indefinitely there, we must necessarily suppose that an inconceivable network of nameless forces is perpetually radiating from this same paper, forces which, cleaving time and space, detect instantaneously, anywhere and at any distance, the life that gave them life and place themselves in complete communication, body and soul, senses and thoughts, past and future, consciousness and subconsciousness, with an existence lost amid the innumerous host of men who people this earth. It is, indeed, exactly what happens in the experiments with mediums in automatic speech or writing, who believe themselves to be inspired by the dead. Yet, here it is no longer a discarnate spirit, but an object of any kind imbued with a living "fluid" that works the miracle; and this, we may remark in passing, deals a severe blow to the spiritualistic theory.
Nevertheless, there are two rather curious objections to this second explanation. Granting that the object really places the medium in communication with an unknown entity discovered in space, how comes it that the image or the spectacle created by that communication hardly ever corresponds with the reality at the actual moment? On the other hand, it is indisputable that the psychometer's clairvoyance, his gift of seeing at a distance the pictures and scenes surrounding an unknown being, is exercised with the same certainty and the same power when the object that sets his strange faculty at work has been touched by a person who has been dead for years. Are we, then, to admit that there is an actual, living communication with a human being who is no more, who sometimes--, for instance, in a case of incineration--has left no trace of himself on earth, in short, with a dead man who continues to live at the place and at the moment at which he impregnated the object with his "fluid" and who seems to be unaware that he is dead?
But these objections are perhaps less serious than one might believe. To begin with, there are seers, so-called "telepsychics," who are not psychometers, that is to say, they are able to communicate with an unknown and distant person without the intermediary of an object; and in these seers, as in the psychometers, the vision very rarely corresponds with the actual facts of the moment: they too perceive above all the general impression, the usual and characteristic actions. Next, as regards communications with a person long since dead, we are confronted with one of two things: either confirmation will be almost impossible when it concerns revelations on the subject of the dead man's private deeds and actions, which are unknown to any living person or else communication will be established not with the deceased, but with the living person, who necessarily knows the facts which he is called upon to confirm. As Dr. Osty very rightly says:
"The conditions are then those of perception by the intermediary of the thoughts of a living person; and the deceased is perceived through a mental representation. The experiment, for this reason, is valueless as evidence of the reality of retrospective psychometry and consequently of the recording part played by the object.
"The only class of experiment that could be of value from this point of view, would be that in which confirmation would come subsequently from documents whose contents remained unknown to any living person until after the clairvoyance sitting. It might then be proved that the object can latently register the human personalities which have touched it and that it is sufficient in itself to allow of a mental reconstruction of those personalities through the interpretation of the register by a clairvoyant or psychometer."
It may be imagined that experiments of this sort, in which there is no crack, no leak on the side of the living, are anything but easy to carry through. In the case of a murder, for instance, it can always be maintained that the medium discovers the body and the circumstances of the tragedy through the involuntary and unconscious intermediary of the murderer, even when the latter escapes prosecution and suspicion altogether. But a recent incident, related by Dr. Osty with the utmost precision of detail and the most scrupulous verification in the Annales des Sciences Psychiques of April, 1914, perhaps supplies us with one of those experiments which we have not been able to achieve until this day. I give the facts in a few words.
On the 2nd of March of this year, M. Etienne Lerasle, an old man of eighty-two, left his son's house at Cours-les-Barres (Cher) for his daily walk and was not seen again. The house stands in the middle of a forest on Baron Jaubert's estate. Vain searches were made in every direction for the missing man's traces; the ponds and pools were dragged to no purpose; and on the 8th of March a careful and systematical exploration of the wood, in which no fewer than twenty-four people took part, led to no result. At last, on the 18th of March, M. Louis Mirault, Baron Jaubert's agent, thought of applying to Dr. Osty, and supplied him with a scarf which the old man had worn. Dr. Osty went to his favourite medium, Mme. M--. He knew only one thing, that the matter concerned an old man of eighty-two, who walked with a slight stoop; and that was all.
As soon as Mme. M-- had taken the scarf in her hands, she saw the dead body of an old man lying on the damp ground, in a wood, in the middle of a coppice, beside a horse-shoe pond, near a sort of rock. She traced the road taken by the victim, depicted the buildings which he had passed, his mental condition impaired by age, his fixed intention of dying, his physical appearance, his habitual and characteristic way of carrying his stick, his soft striped shirt, and so on.
The accuracy of the description caused the greatest astonishment among the missing man's friends. There was one detail that puzzled them a little: the mention of a rock in a part of the country that possessed none. The search was resumed on the strength of the data supplied by the clairvoyant. But all the rocks in a forest are more or less alike; the indications were not enough; and nothing was found.
It so happened that the second and third interviews with Mme. M-- had to be postponed until the 30th of March and the 6th of April following. At each of these sittings, the details of the vision and of the road taken became clearer and clearer and were given with startling precision, so much so that, by pursuing step by step the indications of the medium, the man's friends ended by discovering the body, dressed as stated, lying in the middle of a coppice, just as described, close to a huge stump of a tree all covered with moss, which might easily be mistaken for a rock, and on the edge of a crescent-shaped piece of water. I may add that these particular indications applied to no other part of the wood.
I refer the reader to Dr. Osty's conscientious and exhaustive article for the numerous details which I have been obliged to omit; but those which I have given are enough to show the character of this extraordinary case. To begin with, we have one certainty which appears almost unassailable, namely, that there can be no question of a crime. No one had the least interest in procuring the old man's death. The body bore no marks of violence; besides, the minds of those concerned did not for a moment entertain the thought of an assault. The poor man, whose mental derangement was known to all those about him, obsessed by the desire and thought of death, had gone quietly and obstinately to seek it in the nearest coppice. There was therefore no criminal in the case, in other words, there was no possible or imaginable communication between the medium's subconsciousness, and that of any living person. Hence we are compelled to admit that the communication was established with the dead man or with his subconsciousness, which continued to live for nearly a month after his death and to wander around the same places; or else we must agree that all this coming tragedy, all that the old man was about to see, do and suffer was already irrevocably contained and inscribed in the scarf at the moment when he last wore it.
In this particular case, considering that all relations with the living were definitely and undeniably severed, I can see no other explanations beyond these two. They are both equally astounding and land us suddenly in a world of fable and enchantment which we thought that we had left for good and all. If we do not adopt the theory of the tell-tale scarf, we must accept that of the spiritualists, who maintain that the spirits communicate with us freely. It is possible that they may find a serious argument in this case. But a solitary fact is not enough to support a theory, all the more so as the one in question will never be absolutely safe from the objection that could be raised if the case were one of murder, which is possible, after all, and cannot be actually disproved. We must, therefore, while awaiting other similar and more decisive facts, if any such are conceivable, return to those which are, so to speak, laboratory facts, facts which are only denied by those who will not take the trouble to verify them; and to interpret these facts there are only the two theories which we mentioned above, before this digression; for, in these cases, which are unlike those of automatic speech or writing, we have not as a rule to consider the possibility of any intervention of the dead. As a matter of fact, the best-known psychometers are very rarely spiritualists and claim no connection with the spirits. They care but little, as a rule, about the source of their intuitions and seem very little interested in their exact working and origin. Now it would be exceedingly surprising if, acting and speaking in the name of the departed, they should be so consistently ignorant of the existence of those who inspire them; and more surprising still if the dead, whom in other circumstances we see so jealously vindicating their identity, should not here, when the occasion is so propitious, seek to declare themselves, to manifest themselves and to make themselves known.
Dismissing for the time being the intervention of the dead, I believe then that, in most of the cases which I will call laboratory cases, because they can be reproduced at will, we are not necessarily reduced to the theory of the vitalized object representing wholly, indefinitely and inexhaustibly, through all the vicissitudes of time and spice, every one of those who have held it in their hands for a little while. For we must not forget that, according to this theory, the object in question will conceal and, through the intermediary of the medium, will reveal as many distinct and complete personalities as it has undergone contacts. It will never confuse or mix those different personalities. They will remain there in definite strata, distinct one from another; and, as Dr. Osty puts it, "the medium can interpret each of them from beginning to end, as though he were in communication with the far-off entity."
All this makes the theory somewhat incredible, even though it be not much more so than the many other phenomena in which the shock of the miraculous has been softened by familiarity. We can find more or less everywhere in nature that prodigious faculty of storing away inexhaustible energies and ineffaceable tram, memories and impressions in space. There is not a thing in this world that is lost, that disappears, that ceases to be, to retain and to propagate life. Need we recall, in this connection, the incessant mission of pictures perceived by the sensitized plate, the vibrations of sound that accumulate in the disks of the gramophone, the Hertzian waves that lose none of their strength in space, the mysteries of reproduction and, in a word, the incomprehensibility of everything around us?
Personally, if I had to choose, I should, in most of these laboratory cases, frankly adopt the theory that the object touched serves simply to detect, among the prodigious crowd of human beings, the one who impregnated it with his "fluid."
"This object," says Dr. Osty, "has no other function than to allow the medium's sensitiveness to distinguish a definite force from among the innumerable forces that assail it."
It seem more and more certain that, as the cells of an immense organism, we are connected with everything that exists by an inextricable network of vibrations, waves, influences, of nameless, numberless and uninterrupted fluids. Nearly always, in nearly all men, everything carried along by these invisible wires falls into the depths of the unconsciousness and passes unperceived, which does not mean that it remains inactive. But sometimes an exceptional circumstance--in the present case, the marvellous sensibility of a first-class medium--suddenly reveals to us, by the vibrations and the undeniable action of one of those wires, the existence of the infinite network. I will not speak here of trails discovered and followed in an almost mediumistic manner, after an object of some sort has been sniffed at. Such stories, though highly probable, as yet lack adequate support. But, within a similar order of ideas, and in a humbler world and one with more modest limits, the dog, for instance, is incessantly surrounded by different scents and smells to which he appears indifferent until his attention is aroused by one or other of these vagrant effluvia, when he extricates it from the hopeless tangle. It would seem as though the trail took life, vibrating like a chord in unison with the animal's wishes, becoming irresistible, and taking it to its goal after innumerable winds and turns.
We see the mysterious network revealed also in "cross-correspondence." Two or three mediums who do not know one another, who are often separated by seas; or continents, who are ignorant of the whereabouts of the one who is to complete their thought, each write a part of a sentence which, as it stands, conveys no meaning whatever. On piecing the fragments together, we perceive that they fit to perfection and acquire an intelligible and obviously premeditated sense. We here find once more the same faculty that permits the medium to detect, among thousands of others, a definite force which was wandering in space. It is true that, in these cases, the spiritualists maintain that the whole experiment is organized and directed by a discarnate intelligence, independent of the mediums, which means to prove its existence and its identity in this manner. Without incontinently rejecting this theory, which is not necessarily indefensible, we will merely remark that, since the faculty is manifested in psychometry without the intervention of the spirits, there can be no sufficient reason for attributing it to them in cross-correspondence.
But in whom does it reside? Is it hidden in ourselves or in the medium? According to Dr. Osty, the clairvoyants are mirrors reflecting the intuitive thought that is latent in each of us. In other words--it is we ourselves who are clairvoyant, and they but reveal to us nor own clairvoyance. Their mission is to stir, to awaken, to galvanize, to illumine the secrets of our subconsciousness and to bring them to the surface of our normal lives. They act upon our inner darkness exactly as, in the photographic dark-room, the developing-bath acts upon the sensitized plate, I am convinced that the theory is accurate as regards intuition and clairvoyance proper, that is to say, in all cases where we are in the medium's presence and more or less directly in touch with him. But is it so in psychometry? Is it we who, unknown to ourselves, know all that the object contains, or is it the medium alone who discovers it in the object itself, independently of the person who produces the object? When, for instance, we receive a letter from a stranger, does this letter, which has absorbed like a sponge the whole life and by choice the subconscious life of the writer, disgorge all that it contained into our subconsciousness? Do we instantly learn all that concerns its author, absolutely as though he were standing before us in the flesh and, above all, with his soul laid bare, though we remain profoundly ignorant of the fact that we have learnt it until the medium's intervention tells us so?
This, if you like, is simply shifting the question. Let it be the medium or myself that discovers the unknown personality in the object or tracks it across time and space: all that we do is to widen the scope of our riddle, while leaving it no less obscure. Nevertheless, there is some interest in knowing whether we have to do with a general faculty latent in all men or an inexplicable privilege reserved to rare individuals. The exceptional should always be eliminated, if possible, and not left to hang over the abyss like an unfinished bridge leading to nothing. I am well aware that the compulsory intervention of the medium implies that, in spite of all, we recognize his possession of abnormal faculties; but at any rate we reduce their power and their extent appreciably and we return sooner and more easily to the ordinary laws of the great human mystery. And it is of importance that we should be ever coming back to that mystery and ever bringing all things back to it. But, unfortunately, actual experience does not admit of this generalization. It is clearly a case of a special faculty, one peculiar to the medium, one which is wholly unknown to our latent intuition. We can easily assure ourselves of this by causing the medium to receive through a third party and enclosed in a series of three envelopes, as in the experiment described above, a letter of which we know the writer, but of which both the source and the contents are absolutely unknown to the messenger. These unusual circumstances, in which all subconscious communications between consultant and consulted are strictly cut off, will in no way hamper the medium's clairvoyance; and we may fairly conclude that it is actually the medium himself who discovers directly, without any intermediary, without "relays," to use M. Duchatel's expression, all that the object holds concealed. It, therefore, seems certain that there is, at least in psychometry, something more than the mere mirror of which Dr. Osty speaks.
I consider it necessary to declare for the last time that these psychometric phenomena, astonishing though they appear at first, are known, proved and certain and are no longer denied or doubted by any of those who have studied them seriously. I could have given full particulars of a large number of conclusive experiments; but this seemed to me as superfluous and tedious as would be, for instance, a string of names of the recognized chemical reactions that can be obtained in a laboratory. Any one who pleases is at liberty to convince himself of the reality of the facts, provided that he applies to genuine mediums and keeps aloof from the inferior "seers" and especially the shams and imposters who swarm in this region more than in any other. Even with the best of them, he will have to be careful of the involuntary, unconscious and almost inevitable interference of telepathy, which is also very interesting, though it is a phenomenon of a different class, much less surprising and debatable than pure psychometry. He must also learn the art of interrogating the medium and refrain from asking incoherent and random questions about casual or future events. He will not forget that "clairvoyance is strictly limited to the perception of human personality," according to the role so well formulated by Dr. Osty. Experiments have been made in which a psychometer, on touching the tooth of a prehistoric animal, saw the landscapes and the cataclysms of the earth's earliest ages displayed before his eyes; in which another medium, on handling a jewel, conjured up, it would seem with marvellous exactness, the games and processions of ancient Greece, as though the objects permanently retained the recollection or rediscovered the "astral negatives" of all the events which they once witnessed. But it will be understood that, in such cases, any effective control is, so to speak, impossible and that the part played by telepathy cannot be decided. It is important, therefore, to keep strictly to that which can be verified.
Even when thus limiting his scope, the experimenter will meet with many surprises. For instance, though the revelations of two psychometers to whom the same letter is handed in succession most often agree remarkably in their main outlines, it can also happen that one of them perceives only what concerns the writer of the letter, whereas the other will be interested only in the person to whom the letter was addressed or to a third person who was in the room where the letter was written. It is well to be forearmed against these first mistakes, which, for that matter, in the frequent cases where strict control is possible, but confirm the existence and the independence of the astounding faculty.
As for the theories that attempt to explain it, I am quite willing to grant that they are still somewhat confused. The important thing for the moment is the accumulation of claims and experiments that go feeling their way farther and farther along all the paths of the unknown. Meanwhile, that one unexpected door which sheds at the back of our old convictions more than one unexpected door, which sheds upon the life and habits of our secret being sufficient light to puzzle us for many a long day. This brings us back once more to the omniscience and perhaps the omnipotence of our hidden guest, to the brink of the mysterious reservoir of every manner of knowledge which we shall meet with again when we come to speak of the future, of the talking horses, of the divining-rod, of materializations and miracles, in short, in every circumstance where we pass beyond the horizon of our little daily life. As we thus advance, with slow and cautious footsteps, in them as yet deserted and very nebulous regions of metapsychics, we are compelled to recognize that there must exist somewhere, in this world or in others, a spot in which everything is known, in which everything is possible, to which everything goes, from which everything comes, which belongs to all, to which all have access, but of which the long-forgotten roads must be learnt again by our stumbling feet. We shall often meet those difficult roads in the course of our present quest and we shall have more than one occasion to refer again to those depths into which all the supernatural facts of our existence flow, unless indeed they take their source there. For the moment, that which most above all engage our attention in these psychometric phenomena is their purely and exclusively human character. They occur between the living and the living, on this solid earth of ours, in the world that lies before our eyes; and the spirits, the dead, the gods and the interplanetary intelligences know them not. Hardly anywhere else, except in the equally perplexing manifestations of the divining-rod and in certain materializations, shall we find with the same clearness this same specific character, if we may call it so. This is a valuable lesson. It tells us that our every-day life provides phenomena as disturbing and of exactly the same kind and nature as those which, in other circumstances, we attribute to other forces than ours. It teaches us also that we must first direct and exhaust our enquiries here below, among ourselves, before passing to the other side; for our first care should be to simplify the interpretations and explanations and not to seek elsewhere, in opposition, what probably lies hidden within us in reality. Afterwards, if the unknown overwhelm us utterly, if the darkness engulf us beyond all hope, there will still be time to go, none can tell where, to question the deities or the dead.