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THE paper by Mr. Taylor Innes entitled 'Where are the Letters?'in the August number of this Review, was a severe though courteously expressed criticism of the case lately put forward for the reality of a certain class of 'telepathic' occurrences-those, namely, in which an abnormal affection of the mind or senses of one person has so markedly corresponded with the death or some other abnormal condition of another person at a distance as to suggest that there is a causal connection, and that the one mind has acted on the other notwithstanding the absence of any known physical mode of communication. I am limited to a very short reply; but even if I were to occupy as many pages as Mr. Innes did, I could hardly hope to seem as effective in defence as he in attack. There is an immense advantage, for controversial purposes, in picking out special points to criticise in a large cumulative argument, which few even of those who in some measure consider it will find leisure and inclination to master; and Mr. Innes's treatment of these points contains many a word and phrase to which the only satisfactory antidote would be some hours of (I fear) tedious study.

One preliminary matter cannot be quite passed over. Mr. Innes refers to the connection which is made between our experimental evidence of thought-transference (oddly described by him as 'mesmeric or hypnotic' in character, whereas in most cases the persons concerned were in a completely normal state) and the evidence for the spontaneous telepathic occurrences known as 'phantasms of the living.' I have said that we are unable to determine how far the impression on our own minds of the evidence for the latter class of cases has been dependent on our conviction of the genuineness of the former. To this Mr. Innes objects that, though the experimental facts might very well dispose those who witness them to admit evidence for the spontaneous facts, they cannot legitimately affect the judgment of that evidence as presented in each particular case. I should quite agree that the existence of the experimental results ought not to diminish the stringency with which each alleged case

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of the other class is examined. But Mr. Innes would hardly deny that a less improbable thing may reasonably be accepted as proved by evidence inferior in cogency to that requisite for the proof of a more improbable thing. I should reasonably believe that a sparrow had flown over my house on slighter evidence than would be needed to convince me that a stork had flown over it. So far, then, as the à priori improbability of the spontaneous phenomena is diminished by the assurance, experimentally produced, that one human mind can act on another otherwise than through the recognised organs of sense, the evidence actually adduced for those phenomena will count for more-will go further in the direction of proof.

To pass now to the more direct attack. Its general force depends in large measure on three assumptions, on each of which I must join issue. The first is that, of persons having experiences which can afterwards be plausibly represented as telepathic in origin, a large number would at once sit down and indite a letter on the subject. The second is that it is improbable that letters or notes, which students interested in a particular research would wish to be carefully preserved, should be destroyed or lost. The third is that the existence of a flaw or mistake in a record in respect of a detail at once proves the substantial falsity of the whole record.

First, as to the letters. A person who has been affected by a hallucination of the senses, or a dream or some other sort of vivid impression, representing some friend or relative, may no doubt at once set forth his experience in a letter-after despatching which he may receive the news that the friend or relative represented was dying, or in some other very abnormal condition, at the time when he himself was affected. In Mr. Innes's view he is extremely likely to despatch such a letter: the case where this happens, he says, 'must be a very common one.' But has he taken any pains to justify this view? To say nothing of the deterrent fear of being thought superstitious, has he carefully considered what proportion of the inhabitants of the country have friends at a distance to whom they instantly send a report of anything unusual that has befallen them? Persons. living in families, or in daily association with friends and neighbours, may naturally make verbal mention of any striking personal experience; but immediately to sit down and write a letter about it would only normally be done by some one who (1) had some intimate confidant at a distance, and (2) had the habit of writing a letter to this confidant within a few hours, or at most days, of the occurrence of anything that much impressed him. (The letter, it must be remembered, is supposed to be written before the news of the death or other event reaches the writer, and the time within which this could. be done is usually very short.) Most of my readers, I think, would say at a guess that the proportion of the population who realise these conditions is a very small one; and, as it happens, I have special

grounds for supporting that opinion. I have made a very large collection of accounts of sensory hallucinations occurring to sane and for the most part healthy persons; and in a large number of cases I have asked the person affected whether he or she at once mentioned the experience to some one else. The answer has frequently been that the experience was at once described to some one living in the same house or place; but there has hardly ever been a mention of at once writing an account of it to some one at a distance. And if it is not usual to adopt this course, even in respect of so striking an experience as a hallucination of the waking senses, à fortiori may we suppose that it is not usual in respect of vivid dreams or emotional impressions of other sorts. After considering the matter in this light, the reader will, I think, be somewhat surprised to find Mr. Innes confidently fixing the proportion of persons who will write a letter about their experience within the required time as 1 in 7; for among the 700 numbered cases in Phantasms of the Living he says that there are a hundred where precisely such corroboration could reasonably be demanded.' Indeed, since this demand might be frustrated by a failure to preserve the letter, no less than by a failure to write it, the proportion of punctual and exemplary letter-writers must, according to Mr. Innes, be considerably larger than 1 person in 7. I suspect that 1 in 700 would be nearer the mark; but, as it happens, I can point to more than one (see cases 21 and 685, and the remarks below on case 197).

But now, supposing the letter to be written, what is the chance that it will be preserved as a κтñμa toaɛí? Again Mr. Innes thinks the chance a good one; and this view has perhaps more plausibility than the one just considered-but only because it is so difficult for us now not to antedate the sense of the importance of letters of this sort. I cannot feel altogether certain that Mr. Innes himself, if a year ago he had received a letter containing such a sentence as 'Last night I dreamed that X was dead,' or 'This morning I seemed for some seconds to see Y in my room, though he is abroad,' would have religiously preserved the document. But even if he would have done so, the average man would not. After it turns out that the death of X or Y coincided with the vision, it is easy enough to say that the letter would deserve a glass case in the British Museum.' But to a person who has never considered the subject of telepathy, or of the evidence bearing on it, such epistolary announcements as I have supposed would not seem to have any importance or significance; while only in exceptional cases (be it remembered) would they actually prove to have any, since the large majority of sensory hallucinations and of dreams of death are purely subjective and not telepathic in origin.

The case is different where the percipient makes and himself retains a note of his experience, with an idea that it may possibly


prove to be of consequence. That a note of this sort should be afterwards destroyed or lost is of course, from our point of view, a matter of the deepest regret; but the question is not what we should wish to happen, but what is likely to happen. We must take the world as we find it; and the fact is that, even of persons who describe personal experiences which may be regarded as not improbably telepathic, only a very small percentage have any adequate idea, or even any idea at all, of the scientific interest of what they recount. Now that this particular branch of psychical research has been marked off from the posse of marvels which uncritical credulity has been willing vaguely to accept as supernatural '—now that the hypothesis of telepathy has been distinctly formulated and discussed in a painstaking way—the view may perhaps be gaining ground that evidence on the subject has more than a private interest. But this view is not strongly or universally held (as my colleagues and I know to our cost) even by those who profess sympathy with our work; and five years ago it was so little prevalent that we were covered with ridicule (which is far from having ceased) for expressing it. The normal attitude of mind on the part of a telepathic percipient is the one described in some words which Mr. Innes quotes and italicises as if they were strange or suspicious-‘I destroyed the note of the date as soon as I had verified it, not thinking it could interest or concern anyone else.' And what ground can be named for expecting anyone to treasure up a note of this sort after its purpose as regards himself is accomplished? The only ground surely would be that it might help him to convince some one else in the future. But that is just what most of the persons concerned have no desire or thought of doing. Their interest is wholly in their own isolated case, as a mere event, not as material for scientific deductions. They do not trouble their heads about a class of phenomena to which that case belongs, and which can only be established by the juxtaposition of a number of similar cases; and the opportunity for such juxtaposition which now exists could not possibly be foreseen by them. In fact, most of them have had about as much idea of making science' as had the first batch of infants on whom were proved the virtues of vaccination.


Fortunately, however, the note has sometimes been made in a diary or some other book which has been preserved, and which has

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2 In a passing remark on this case, Mr. Innes has committed a blunder which I am sure that he will the more regret as by its means he has been able to make what looks like a damaging point against me. Ignoring my correct estimate of the difference of time made by the inexorable longitude,' he has himself reckoned the difference the wrong way, as though the earth revolved from east to west. If his calculation were correct, the case could not have been given, as the telepathic explanation would have been excluded. This is one specimen of the misrepresentations and unfairnesses-unintentional, but in cumulation important-which are thickly scattered over his pages.

VOL. XXII.-No. 128.


been inspected by us. Mr. Innes describes these cases as 'unsatisfactory if not suspicious.' I must altogether demur to the latter word; and some, at any rate, of the cases I can only admit to be 'unsatisfactory' in the sense that no single case can form a conclusive proof. They might be unsatisfactory if presented as irrefragable demonstration, but as evidence they can hardly be impugned except on the hypothesis of deliberate fraud. I will go through the list in order.

Case 23. The percipient, Mr. F. W., resident in France, immediately after his experience, wrote in a note-book the words: 'Appearance-Thursday night, 25th of March, 1880. R. B. W. B. God forbid!' The initials R. B. stood for the name of his brother, who, it proved, had died in England a few hours before from the effects of a hunting accident. Mr. F. W. explains the addition of the other initials by the fact that, though he distinctly recognised his brother's features, the figure bore some slight resemblance to a friend, Colonel B., and in his anxious state of mind he worried himself into the belief that possibly it might have represented that friend. On which Mr. Innes remarks: There can, I suppose, be no doubt that Mr. W.'s assertion that he had seen his brother's wraith is weakened rather than supported by his documentary evidence.' Now Mr. W. never made any assertion that he had seen his brother's wraith; he describes his vision in one place as a 'dream,' in another as an 'apparition,' the extreme vividness of the experience being shown by the fact that, as soon as he was completely awake, he went and searched for his brother in the sitting-room. If we correct this error of language, Mr. Innes's position will be that the probability that Mr. W. is mistaken in telling us that he saw an appearance which he associated with his brother is increased by the fact that, before hearing of the death, he made a note in which the word 'appearance' is associated with his brother's initials! It should be observed that, even supposing that the appearance had suggested R. B. and W. B. in an exactly equal degree, the coincidence would remain a most striking one; the odds against the death of either of them happening to fall on that night being just half the enormous odds against the death of the particular one, R. B., happening so to fall.

Case 153.-The Rev. A. J. says that before he left his bedroom he wrote down certain words (on which the case depends) on a scrap of an old newspaperhaving no other paper at hand-from which, long before the news which confirmed them arrived, he copied them into his diary. Mr. Innes adds: The newspaper is lost.' This is not quite correct; the scrap was simply not preserved after its contents were transcribed in a more permanent form. I have inspected and copied the record in the diary, and I say with regard to it, 'I had hoped to be able to incorporate this verbatim in the account; but he [Mr. J.] has private reasons, quite unconnected with the present case, for desiring that this should not be done.' As Mr. Innes quotes these words, I suppose that it is in them that he finds the 'unsatisfactory if not suspicious' feature of the case. But he has not quoted them accurately. He makes me say that I had hoped to be able to incorporate it,' where the it refers to the sentence copied from the newspaper scrap. But this is incorporated verbatim in Mr. J.'s own narrative. The 'record' which is what I said I had hoped to incorporate was the whole contemporary account the entries in extenso. They were actually in type, when Mr. J. wrote to me to say that, as the diary was in other parts of a very private nature, he would prefer that even these parts should not be published. Most readers, I think, will be able to rely on my assertion that the account printed is an absolutely unadorned re-statement of what the diary contains. The quotations would have looked well; but the evidential value of the case need not suffer in the eyes of anyone who believes my statement that the quotable entries exist.

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