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The existence of an unseen world

Thus the first ten years of the society’s existence were marked by few positive results, the most important being the statement of the case for telepathy and of its possible relationships to apparitions and hauntings, as well as to the purely metaphysical (paranormal) phenomena of spiritualism.

Indeed, the society formally expressed its acquiescence in the telepathic hypothesis as early as 1884, in the words, “Our society claims to have proved the reality of thought transference of the transmission of thoughts, feelings, and images from one mind to another by no recognized channel of sense.”

But to no other dictum did it commit itself until ten years more had passed when, following the so-called census of hallucinations, it gave voice to its belief that between deaths and apparitions of the dying person a connection existed that was not due to chance.

And since then the society has contented itself with steadily accumulating evidence designed to throw light on the causal connection between deaths and ghosts, and to illumine the central problem of demonstrating scientifically the existence of an unseen world and the immortality of the soul.

Individuals, of course, have been free to express their views, and from the pens of several have come striking and suggestive analyses of the evidence assembled in the course of the society’s twenty-five years. In this respect, beyond any question, primacy must be given the writings of Myers. Even before the organization of the society, his personal researches had led him to suspect that, whatever the truth about the life beyond the grave, there was reason for radical changes of belief regarding the nature of human personality itself.

Prof James H. Hyslop
Prof James H. Hyslop
Society for Psychical Research Early Poster
Society for Psychical Research Early Poster

In the light of the phenomena of the hypnotic trance, clairvoyance, hallucinations, and even of natural sleep, it seemed to him that, instead of being a stable, indivisible unity, human personality was essentially unstable and divisible.

And as the years passed and he was enabled to coordinate the results of the investigations carried on by the different committees, he gradually became convinced that over and beyond the self of which man is normally conscious there existed in every man a secondary self-endowed with faculties transcending those of the normal wake-a-day self.

To this he gave the name of the “subliminal self,” and, in the words of Professor James, “endowed psychology with a new problem, the exploration of the subliminal region being destined to figure thereafter in that branch of learning as Myers’s problem.”

Not content with this, he gave himself, with all the earnestness that had originally drawn him into activity with Sidgwick, to the formulation of a cosmic philosophy based on the hypothesis of the subliminal self and its operations in that unseen world of whose existence he no longer doubted. Here he laid himself open to the charge of extravagance and transcendentalism, and undoubtedly exceeded the logical limit.

But for all of that his labours cut short by death six years ago, and only a few months after the death of his beloved master, Sidgwick have been little short of epoch marking, and amply suffice to vindicate the existence of the once despised, and still by no means venerated, Society for Metaphysical (paranormal) Research.

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