We meet with the same rush to testify to the honesty of Mrs. Piper. Sir Oliver Lodge of course guarantees her, and the late Professor William James, the Harvard psychologist, wrote of her: ‘Practically I should be willing now to stake as much money on Mrs. Piper’s honesty as on that of any one I know, and am quite satisfied to leave my reputation for wisdom or folly so far as human nature is concerned to stand or fall by this declaration.'
[Footnote 30: Re-quoted from _Spiritualism_, p. 75.]
This honesty of the main personality of the Dissociate leads astray professors of physics or of the old psychology. It is the honest but mistaken man who misleads his fellows. We are on our guard against the rogue, and the conscious deceiver must needs be a good actor if he would succeed. The best actor knows he is acting, but the Reverend Moses needed no effort to preserve for years the appearance of straightforwardness and honesty. As far as he knew, he _was_ straightforward and honest, though beneath his consciousness lay fathomless possibilities of deceit, ever ready to take advantage of the externals of an honest man.
[Footnote 31: I may owe an apology here to the memory of Professor James, for the original quotation is given without its context.]
As I said in Chapter VI, an authoritative and confident manner makes easy the acceptance of suggestion. What can be more authoritative and confident than the manner of a man who believes what he says and knows that his hearers are willing to believe? If what he says are lies and delusions, that makes no difference in his manner, and his unsuspicious hearers are still ready to stake their reputations upon his honesty. That readiness only makes them the more suggestible and renders valueless their opinion as to the truth of what he says.
Spiritualist writers are glib concerning ‘subliminal consciousness’, and, knowing not what they mean, attribute to it powers of communication with the spirit world. The only one worthy of study is the late F. H. Myers, and though his stories of the marvellous are largely repetitions of old material yet his treatment of the psychology of double personality is illuminating. His work on _Human Personality_, if free from the spiritualist complex, would probably rank well in advance of its period. He has a good grasp of the subject of hysterical double personality, giving some excellent examples, but postulates a transition from the imaginings of the hysteric to the revelations of the spirit world. That the mind should pass through disease on its way to divine revelation, the boundary between the two being only a matter of judgement, is a necessary part of his explanation of mediumism. Just as spiritualists will maintain their belief in a medium after fraud has been detected, placing upon unbelievers the onus of proving fraud in every case, so Myers, knowing the workings of hysterical double personality, claims the right to exclude hysteria whenever he pleases and to attribute a divine origin to the material then produced. This demand appeals neither to the religious man nor to the sceptic.
I take the liberty of borrowing a story from Mr. Hereward Carrington, a spiritualist of some critical power.
[Footnote 32: _Personal Experiences in Spiritualism_, pp. 59-61. T. Werner Laurie, Ltd.]
‘One of the most interesting cases that I have ever encountered is the following, which I consider of remarkable psychological interest from various points of view.
During the early summer of 1911, a gentleman called upon me, stating that he knew a wonderful physical medium, of the same type as Palladino. He himself was a lawyer; his friend, the medium, was also a lawyer, and had “a scientific interest in these things,” and in “having the remarkable manifestations which occurred in his presence solved,” etc. For three years and a half, I was told, this case had been under private observation, and the manifestations had grown more and more numerous and bewildering as time went on. This, and much more of like nature, I heard by way of preliminary to the investigation of what appeared to be a very promising case.
An evening having been arranged, the two gentlemen called at my house, and, after a chat, the demonstrations were undertaken.
A broom was placed on the floor, and then, the medium kneeling over the object (or, rather, squatting on the ground), he placed his fingers on either side of the broom-handle, and then gradually took them away. As he did so the broom was seen to rise into the air. It remained suspended in space for a few seconds, then fell to the floor. The effect was most striking, while the phenomenon was of that simple order which one would naturally expect to discover in a simple undeveloped medium.
The first two or three experiments interested me immensely, I must confess. But I noted one particular thing about the movements of the medium, which was that every time he placed an object on the floor, he placed it very close to his knees; this caused me to look between his knees intently instead of at the object during the next few trials. The result was that I distinctly saw _a fine black thread_ stretched from leg to leg, forming a loop, into which the various objects were slipped in the act of placing them on the floor. The rest was only a matter of balance.