The Future of
Psychical Research

W.H. Sutherland, in October Light, has an article on this subject, begins by saying that orthodox Christianity contains lofty ideals but is powerless to put them into effect; its weakness is the failure of its priests to lay proper emphasis on the reality of survival... Our only hope lies in an alliance between faith and the knowledge of modern science. Science must do what the Church has refused to do - take the lead in psychical research. And here are some special suggestions.

(a) Geley has shown that the nerve shock to the medium from a flash of white light on extruded ectoplasm is proportional to its duration and not to its intensity. If this is true, we can develop seance photography by intense flashes of infinitesimal duration, by condenser discharges thru a fluorescent tube, as in recent photography technique.

(b) A recently developed German system gives good vision by infra-red light; this invisible light comes out as a black and white image on a cathode ray screen - which might be coupled to a cine-camera.

(c) Music is of great assistance in seance work, but seems to depend simply on raising the sound level of the room. A supersonic sound instrument (inaudible to sitters) should be developed quite easily.

(d) It should be possible to trace the course of the ectoplasm beneath the surface of the body, by use of the electrocardiograph.

The objective of all these is to get better control over the conditions for physical manifestations, so that the latter may be facilitated and improved - which would lead to an improvement in various forms of communication also.

The SPR sums
up results.

After 64 years of research, the (English) Society for Psychical Research has at last issued a short, semi-popular summary of its findings; and the Editor of Prediction, in his November issue, has summed up the summary. This last will now be summarized, in part at least, by Round Robin, so that all you get is a triple distilled quintessence of the 33rd trituration, so to speak, or pinch of dust from a dry bone that was only one-tenth alive in the first place.

Telepathy: The accumulation of literature, records, and painstaking experiment on this subject is appalling. The word was invented by Myers, by the way (and for heaven's sake, let's all drop the word mental from in front of it; there isn't any other kind of telepathy!) The Summary refers particularly to the work of Rhine, Tyrrell, Carington, and Soal, and says: (a) the spontaneous evidence for T is strong; no one has ever shown that any combination of normal hypotheses provides a reasonable explanation. (b) Concerning evidence for T from mediumistic trance and automatic writing, "Mediums do acquire knowledge which they have no normal means of possessing." And concerning experimental evidence, (c) "Telepathy has now been completely demonstrated by direct experiment," - in addition to 50 years of observations. O brave new world!

Clairvoyance: This word has now gotten so hopelessly involved with telepathy and precognition, that the Society will admit nothing whatever - except that the phenomena commonly called clairvoyance indubitably exist - which is all we really want to know, anyhow, and which nine-tenths of humanity believe in, even if [11] the SPR should try to tut-tut it to death.

Concerning foreknowledge (precognition), the Society is certain that this phenomenon occurs, tho its nature remains unknown. So say we all of us!

As to survival, the SPR says "most probable" - or, that's the way we read the following verbal footwork: "If this view (of a surviving consciousness) be rejected, we are compelled to make the most astonishing assumptions about the scope of telepathy between the living, and to credit the subliminal self with almost incredible powers of dramatization... Either telepathy on an uncontemplated scale, along with something that can create pseudo-personalities with a breath-taking subtlety; or else the dead can communicate with the living."

Exactly! Precisely! Neatly! Unequivocally! This, dear reader, is the dilemma with only one horn, with which spiritism and spiritualism confronts and confounds every honest adversary. The alleged argument which T.J. Hudson jeered at, with much show of good reason ("If it isn't a spirit, what is it? We don't know, therefore it must be a spirit.") has at length become invincible. There are thousands of private circles, every night in the week, year in and year out, at which phenomena occur, and reoccur a thousand times, for which there is no alternative explanation than the spiritistic one. Delusion, fanaticism, hocus-pocus? Of course, and in plenty, out in the vernacular, So What? What else would you expect of your fellow man? But that doesn't touch the main issue at all. The only way in which the spiritistic hypothesis can now be undermined is by a workable alternative, and human ingenuity has been exhausted trying to discover one. This is not propaganda for spiritualism as a cult; it is a plain statement of facts, and these facts take a deal of knowing, reading, observation. Whether you and I like the situation, matters not one whit. The Key to the future of our culture, our civilization, lies in the doctrine (and fact) of survival and communication, and it happens that the spiritualists, along with many esotericists, have gotten a good grip on this Key and are desperately trying to open the door for the rest of us. They deserve intelligent cooperation, far less ignorant opposition and abuse.

With regard to physical phenomena, the SPR, curiously enough, refuses to do more than "ask for the retention of an open mind." That's because some naughty-naughty "mediums" nick table legs and tie strings to trumpets... and because half their customers are eager to be gulled. But it's remarkable, to say the least, that 64 years of research and (say) a hundred thousand pages of testimony has gotten no forwarder than this. A single good daylight seance ought to settle the matter.

Well, there are grants, studentships and the line at Cambridge and Oxford, and Duke and Harvard, and Stanford and California, and a half dozen universities on the European continent. And the SPR presidents include men like Rayleigh, Broad, Lodge, Prince, Han Driesch, W. McDougall, L.P. Jacks, Gilbert Murray, Schiller, Bergson, Andrew Lang, Balfour, Richet, Barrett, Crookes, William James, Sidgwick, and Stewart. We leave out all the degrees and titles of these gentlemen or we would never get their names on this page. And it would be quite easy to fill this page and several others with equally distinguished names.