From India to the Planet Mars (01-03)
IN the month of December, 1894, I was invited by M. Aug. Lemaître, Professor of the College of Geneva, to attend some seances of a non-professional medium, receiving no compensation for her services, and of whose extraordinary gifts and apparently supernormal faculties I had frequently heard.
Having gladly accepted the invitation of my worthy colleague, I found the medium in question, whom I shall call Mlle. Hélène Smith, to be a beautiful woman about thirty years of age, tall, vigorous, of a fresh, healthy complexion, with hair and eyes almost black, of an open and intelligent countenance, which at once invoked sympathy. She evinced nothing of the emaciated or tragic aspect which one habitually ascribes to the sibyls of tradition, but wore an air of health, of physical and mental
vigor, very pleasant to behold, and which, by-the-way, is not often encountered in those who are good mediums.
The number of those invited to take part in the seance being complete, we seated ourselves in a circle, with our hands resting upon the traditional round table of spiritistic circles. Mlle. Smith—who possesses a triple mediumship: visual, auditive, and typtological *—began, in the most natural manner, to describe the various apparitions which passed before her eyes in the partially darkened room. Suddenly she stops and listens; she hears a name spoken in her ear, which she repeats to us with astonishment; then brief sentences, the words of which are spelled out by raps on the table, explain the meaning of the vision. Speaking for myself alone (there were three of us to divide the honor of the seance), I was greatly surprised to recognize in scenes which passed before my eyes events which had transpired in my own family prior to my birth. Whence could the medium, whom I had never met before, have derived the knowledge of events belonging to a remote past, of a private nature, and utterly unknown to any living person?
The astounding powers of Mrs. Piper, the famous Boston medium, whose wonderful intuition reads the latent memories of her visitors like an open book, recurred to my mind, and I went out from that seance with renewed hope of finding myself some day face to face with the "supernormal"—a true and genuine
supernormal—telepathy, clairvoyance, spiritistic manifestations, it matters not by what name it be called, provided only that it be wholly out of the ordinary, and that it succeed in utterly demolishing the entire framework of established present-day science.
I was able at this time to obtain general information only concerning the past of Mlle. Smith, but it was all of a character favorable to her, and has since been fully confirmed.
Of modest bearing and an irreproachable moral character, she has for years earned an honorable living as an employée of a commercial house, in which her industry, her perseverance, and her high character have combined to secure her a very responsible and important position.
Some three years prior to the date of my introduction to her she had been initiated into a spiritistic group, where her remarkable psychic powers almost immediately manifested themselves; and she then became a member of various other spiritistic circles. From its commencement her mediumship manifested the complex type to which I have already alluded, and from which it has never deviated. Visions in a waking state, accompanied by typtological dictation and auditive hallucinations, alternately appeared. From the point of view of their content these messages had generally a bearing on past events usually unknown to the persons present, but which were always verified by referring to biographical dictionaries or to the traditions of the families interested. To these phenomena of retrocognition
or of hypermnesia were joined occasionally, according to the environment, moral exhortations, communicated through the table, more frequently in poetry than in prose, addressed to the sitters; medical consultations, accompanied by prescriptions generally appropriate; communications from parents or friends recently deceased; or, finally, revelations as piquant as they were unverifiable concerning the antériorités (that is, the previous existences) of the sitters, almost all of whom, being profound believers in spiritism, would not have been at all surprised to learn that they were the reincarnations respectively of Coligny, of Vergniaud, of the Princess Lamballe, or of other notable personages. It is necessary, finally, to add that all these messages seemed to be more or less bound up with the mysterious presence of a "spirit" answering to the name of Leopold, who assumed to be the guide and protector of the medium.
I at once undertook to improve my acquaintance with Hélène Smith. She freely consented to give seances for my benefit, alternating with a series which she was giving M. Lemaître, and another for the benefit of Prof. Cuendet, vice-president of the Geneva Society (spiritistic) for Psychic Studies, all of which I was permitted to attend. In this way I have been able to be present at the greater part of Hélène's seances during the past five years. The personal observations that I have thus been able to make, reinforced by notes on sittings which I was unable to attend, kindly furnished me by MM. Lemaître and Cuendet, form the basis of the study
which follows; to which must be added, however, certain letters of Mlle. Smith, as well as the numerous and very interesting conversations I have held with her either immediately preceding or following her seances, or at her home, where I also have had the advantage of being able to talk with her mother. Finally, various documents and accessory information, which will be cited in their respective time and place, have also been of assistance in enabling me partially to elucidate certain obscure points. Notwithstanding all these sources of information, however, I am still very far from being able to disentangle and satisfactory explain the complex phenomena which constitute Hélène's mediumship.
Dating from the period at which I made the acquaintance of Mlle. Smith (i.e., from the winter of 1894-95), while most of her spiritistic communications have continued to present he same character as to form and content as before, a double and very important modification in her mediumship has been observed.
1. As to their psychological form.—While up to that time Hélène had experienced partial and limited automatisms only—visual, auditive, typtomotor hallucinations—compatible with the preservation to a certain extent of the waking state, and not involving noticeable loss of memory, from that time and with increasing frequency she has been subject to an entire loss of consciousness and a failure to retain, on returning to her normal state, any recollection of what has transpired during the seance. In physiological terms, the hemisomnambulism without amnesia,
which had been her stopping-point up to that time, and which the sitters mistook for the ordinary waking state, was now transformed into total somnambulism with consecutive amnesia.
In spiritistic parlance, Mlle. Smith now became completely entranced, and having formerly been an ordinary visual and auditive medium, she now advanced to the higher plane of an "incarnating medium."
I fear that this change must in a great measure be attributed to my influence, since it followed almost immediately upon my introduction to Hélène's seances. Or, even if the total somnambulism would have inevitably been eventually developed by virtue of an organic predisposition and of a tendency favorable to hypnoid states, it is nevertheless probable that I aided in hastening its appearance by my presence as well as by a few experiments which I permitted myself to make upon Hélène.
As is well known, mediums are usually surrounded by a halo of veneration, which prevents any one from touching them during their trances The idea would never occur to any ordinary frequenter of spiritistic circles to endeavor to ascertain the condition of the medium's sensory and motor functions by feeling her hands, pinching the flesh, or pricking the skin with a pin. Silence and immobility are the strict rule, in order not to hinder the spontaneous production of the phenomena, and a few questions or brief observations on the receipt of a message is all that is permissible by way of conversation, and no one therefore would, under ordinary circumstances, dare
to attempt any manipulation of the medium Mlle. Smith had always been surrounded by this respectful consideration, and during the first three seances I conformed myself strictly to the passive and purely contemplative attitude of the other sitters. But at the fourth sitting my discretion vanished. I could not resist a strong desire to ascertain the physiological condition of the charming seeress, and I made some vigorous elementary experiments upon her hands, which lay temptingly spread out opposite me on the table. These experiments, which I renewed and followed up at the succeeding seance (February 3, 1895), demonstrated that there is present in Mlle. Smith, during her visions, a large and varied assortment of sensory and motor disturbances which had hitherto escaped the notice of the sitters, and which are thoroughly identical with those that may be observed in cases of hysteria (where they are more permanent), and those that may be momentarily produced in hypnotic subjects by suggestion. This was not at all astonishing, and was to have been expected. But one consequence, which I had not foreseen, did occur when, four days after my second experimental seance, Mlle. Smith fell completely asleep for the first time at a sitting with M. Cuendet (February 7th), at which I was not present. The sitters were somewhat frightened, and, in trying to awaken her, discovered the rigidity of her arms, which were considerably contractured. Leopold however, communicating by means of the table upon which she was leaning, fully reassured them, and gave them to understand that such sleep was not at
all prejudicial to the medium. After assuming various attitudes and indulging in some amusing mimicry, Mlle. Smith awoke in excellent spirits, retaining as a last recollection of her dream that of a kiss which Leopold had imprinted upon her forehead.
From that day on somnambulisms were the rule with Hélène, and the seances at which she did not fall completely asleep for at least a few moments formed rare exceptions to the course of events during the next four years. It is a great deprivation for Mlle. Smith that these slumbers ordinarily leave her no memory upon her awakening of what has transpired in her trance, and she longs for the seances of former times when the visions unfolded themselves before her eyes, furnishing her with a pleasing spectacle which was always unexpected, and which, continually being renewed, caused the seances to be to her a source of great delight. For the sitters, on the other hand, these scenes of somnambulism and incarnation, together with the various physiological phenomena of catalepsy, lethargy, contractures, etc., which accompanied them, added great variety and additional interest to Hélène Smith's remarkable and instructive triple mediumship.
The greater sometimes implies the less: simultaneously with the access of complete somnambulism came new forms and innumerable shades of hemisomnambulism. The triple form of automatism which distinguished the first years of Mlle. Smith's spiritistic experiences has been wonderfully developed since 1895, and it would now be difficult to name any principal forms of psychic mediumship of which
she has not furnished curious specimens. I shall have occasion to cite several of them in the course of this work. Hélène constitutes the most remarkable medium I have ever met, and very nearly approaches the ideal of what might be called the polymorphous, or multiform, medium, in contradistinction to the uniform mediums, whose faculties only concern themselves with one kind of automatism.
2. A modification analogous to that which took place in the psychologic form of the messages consisting of a marked improvement in their depth and importance, was noticeable simultaneously in their content.
Alongside of the unimportant communications, complete at one sitting and independent one of another, which filled up a large part of each of Hélène's seances and in no wise differentiated her faculties from those of the majority of mediums, she manifested from the beginning a marked tendency. to a superior systematization and a more lofty chain of visions; communications were often continued through several seances, and reached their conclusion only at the end of several weeks. But from the period at which I made the acquaintance of Mlle. Smith this tendency towards unity began to assert itself still more strongly. Several long somnambulistic dreams began to appear and to develop, the events of which continued to be unfolded through months, even years, and indeed still continue; a species of romance of the subliminal imagination analogous to those "continued stories" which so many of our race tell themselves in their moments of far niente, or at times when their routine
occupations offer only slight obstacles to day-dreaming, and of which they themselves are generally the heroes.
Mlle. Smith has no fewer than three distinct somnambulistic romances, and if to these is added the existence of that secondary personality to which I have already alluded, and which reveals itself under the name of Leopold, we find ourselves in the presence of four subconscious creations of vast extent, which have been evolved on parallel lines for several years, and which manifest themselves in irregular alternation during the course of different seances, or often even in the same seance.
All of these have undoubtedly a common origin in Hélène's subliminal consciousness; but in practice, at least, and to all appearance, these imaginative constructions present a relative independence and a diversity of content sufficiently great to render it necessary to study them separately. I shall confine myself at present to a general view of them.
Two of these romances are connected with the spiritistic idea of previous existences. It has, indeed, been revealed that Hélène Smith has already lived twice before on this globe. Five hundred years ago she was the daughter of an Arab sheik, and became, under the name of Simandini, the favorite wife of a Hindoo prince named Sivrouka Nayaka, who reigned over Kanara, and built in the year 1401 the fortress of Tchandraguiri. In the last century she reappeared in the person of the illustrious and unfortunate Marie Antoinette. Again reincarnated, as a punishment for her sins and the perfecting of her character, in
the humble circumstances of Hélène Smith, she in certain somnambulistic states recovers the memory of her glorious avatars of old, and becomes again for the moment Hindoo princess or queen of France.
I will designate under the names of "Hindoo" or "Oriental" cycle and "Royal" cycle the whole of the automatic manifestations relative to these two previous existences. I shall call the third romance the " Martian" cycle, in which Mlle. Smith, by virtue of the mediumistic faculties, which are the appanage and the consolation of her present life, has been able to enter into relation with the people and affairs of the planet Mars, and to unveil their mysteries to us. It is in this astronomical somnambulism that the phenomenon of glossolalia, * appears, which consists of the fabrication and the use of an unknown language, and which is one of the principal objects of this study; we shall see, however, that analogous facts are likewise presented in the Hindoo cycle.
The personality of Leopold maintains very complex relations with the preceding creations. On the one hand, it is very closely connected with the Royal cycle, owing to the fact that the name of Leopold is only a pseudonym under which is concealed the illustrious Cagliostro, who, it appears, was madly infatuated with Queen Marie Antoinette, and who now, discarnate and floating in space, has constituted himself the guardian angel in some respects of Mile. Smith, in whom after a long search he has again
found the august object of his unhappy passion of a century ago.
On the other hand, this rôle of protector and spiritual guide which he assumes towards Hélène confers upon him a privileged place in her somnambulisms. He is more or less mixed up in the greater part of them; assists at them, watches over them, and perhaps in a measure directs them. He also occasionally appears in the midst of a Hindoo or a Martian scene, delivering his message by certain characteristic movements of the hand.
To sum up: sometimes revealing himself by raps upon the table, the taps of a finger, or by automatic writing; sometimes incarnating himself completely and speaking by the mouth of Mlle. Smith while entranced—Leopold fulfils in these seances the multiple and varied functions of spirit-guide, giving good advice relative to the manner of acting towards the medium; of stage-manager hidden behind the scenes watching the performance and ready at any time to intervene; of benevolently disposed interpreter willing to furnish explanations of all that is obscure; of censor of morals sharply reprimanding the sitters when he deems it necessary; of sympathetic physician prompt at diagnosis and well versed in the pharmacopoeia, etc. He also appears under his own name of Cagliostro to the somnambulistic gaze of the resuscitated Marie Antoinette and answers her questions by means of auditive hallucinations. Nor is this all: to make our summary complete, it is necessary also to investigate the personal connection of Mlle. Smith with her invisible protector. She
often invokes and questions Leopold at her own convenience, and while he remains sometimes for weeks without giving any sign of life, he at other times readily responds to her by means of voices or visions which surprise her while fully awake in the course of her daily duties, and in which he lavishes upon her in turn material or moral advice, useful information, or the encouragement and consolation of which she has need.
Although I have accused myself of perhaps having had much to do with the transformation of Hélène's hemisomnambulism into complete trances, I believe myself, however, altogether innocent of the origin, and therefore of the subsequent development, of the great subliminal creations of which I have spoken. The first, that of Leopold, is of very early date, even going back probably, as we shall see, prior to Mlle. Smith's initiation into spiritism. As to the three cycles, they did not, it is true, commence to display their full amplitude until after I had made Hélène's acquaintance; and since they start from the time when she first became subject to veritable trances, it would seem as though that supreme form of automatism is the only one capable of allowing the full expansion of productions so complex, and the only psychological container appropriate and adequate to such a content. But the first appearance of all three was clearly prior to my presence at the seances. The Hindoo dream, where I shall be found playing a rôle which I did not seek, evidently began (October 16, 1894) eight weeks before my admission to Mlle. Smith's seances. The Martian romance, which dates
from the same period, is closely connected, as I shall also show, with an involuntary suggestion of M. Lemaître, who made the acquaintance of Hélène in the spring of 1894, nine months before my introduction to her. The Royal cycle, finally, had been roughly outlined at seances held at the home of M. Cuendet, in December, 1893. Nevertheless, I repeat, only since 1895 have the exuberant growth and magnificent flowering of that subliminal vegetation taken place under the stimulating and provocative influence, albeit wholly unintentional and altogether unsuspected at the time, of the varied environments of Mlle. Smith's seances.
As far as the indiscreet revelations in regard to my own family, which so much astonished me at my first meeting with Mlle. Smith, are concerned, as well as the innumerable extraordinary facts of the same kind with which her mediumship abounds, and to which she owes her immense reputation in spiritistic circles, it will suffice to return in the closing chapters of this book.
2:* I.e., Spirit-rapping—the faculty of obtaining responses by means of raps upon a table.
11:* Glossolalia signifies the "gift of tongues," or the ability to speak foreign languages without having consciously acquired them.
CHILDHOOD AND YOUTH OF MLLE. SMITH
THE psychological history of Mlle. Smith and her automatisms is naturally divided into two separate periods by the important fact of her initiation into spiritism at the beginning of 1892. Before that time, not suspecting the possibility of voluntary communication with the world of disincarnate spirits, she naturally manifested nothing more than a few spontaneous phenomena, the first flutterings of her mediumistic faculties which still lay dormant, the exact nature and progress of which it would be interesting to know in detail; unfortunately, in the absence of written documents concerning that pre-spiritistic period, we are confined to the statements of Hélène and her parents in regard to it, and the untrustworthiness of the memory in connection with events of a remote past is only too well known.
The spiritistic period, on the contrary, extending over the last seven years, and infinitely more fertile in artificially promoted (e.g., the seances) as well as in spontaneous manifestations, is much better known to us; but in order to comprehend it intelligently, it is necessary first to pass in review the few facts
which we have been able to gather relating to the pre-spiritistic period—that is to say, the childhood and youth of Mlle. Smith. That will be the subject of this chapter.
Mlle. Smith has lived in Geneva since her infancy. After attending school, she entered as an apprentice, at the age of fifteen, a large commercial house, where, as I have already stated, she still remains, and where, little by little, she has risen to a very responsible position. Her father, a merchant, was a Hungarian, and possessed a remarkable facility for languages, which is of interest to us in presence of the phenomena of glossolalia, a subject which will be discussed hereafter. Her mother is a Genevese. Both enjoyed excellent health and attained a venerable old age. Hélène had a younger sister who died in early childhood, and two brothers older than herself, who are now fathers of families and established abroad, where they have had successful business careers.
I am not aware that M. Smith, who was a man of positive character, ever displayed any phenomena of automatisms. Mme. Smith, however, as well as her grandmother, has experienced several thoroughly characteristic phenomena of that kind, and one, at least, of Hélène's brothers, it appears, could easily have become a good medium. This is another instance of the distinctly hereditary tendency of mediumistic faculties.
M. Smith, a man of active and enterprising character, died quite suddenly, probably of an embolism, at the age of seventy-five years. He had left Hungary
in his youth, and finally established himself at Geneva, after having travelled extensively in Italy and Algiers, where he remained for several years. He spoke fluently Hungarian, German, French, Italian, and Spanish, understood English fairly well, and also knew Latin and a little Greek. It would seem that his daughter has inherited these linguistic aptitudes, but only in a latent and subliminal manner, for she has always detested the study of languages, and rebelled against learning German, in which she took lessons for three years.
Mme. Smith, who is a kind-hearted woman, with much good, practical sense, is sixty-seven years of age. Neither she nor her husband was ever a nervous or psychopathic subject, but both showed a marked tendency to broncho-pulmonary affections of a somewhat alarming type. Mme. Smith has, besides, suffered frequently from rheumatism. Hélène does not appear to have inherited these tendencies; she has always enjoyed robust health, and has not even had the slight diseases usually incidental to childhood.
Although both M. and Mme. Smith were Protestants, through a chain of peculiar circumstances their daughter was baptized a Catholic shortly after her birth, her name being inscribed some months later on the register of the Protestant church of Geneva. The memory of this unusual baptism has certainly not been lost by Hélène's subliminal imagination, and has duly contributed to the hypothesis of a mysterious origin. Of the years of childhood I know nothing specially interesting. At the intermediate
school, at which she passed only a year, and where I have consulted the records of her class, she was not distinguished either for good or ill from the point of view of deportment, but she certainly did not reveal the full measure of her intelligence, since she failed to pass the examinations at the end of the year, a fact which decided her entrance upon an apprenticeship. On the other hand, the worthy pastor who gave her religious instruction somewhat later, and who has never lost sight of her since, has furnished me with most eulogistic testimonials as to her character; he remembers her as a young girl of serious disposition, intelligent, thoughtful, faithful in the discharge of her duties, and devoted to her family.
M. Smith never showed the least trace of mediumistic phenomena; from having been very indifferent, or even hostile, to spiritism until his daughter began to interest herself in it, he finally succumbed to her influence and became a believer in that doctrine towards the close of his life. Mme. Smith, on the contrary, has always been predisposed to it, and has experienced several phenomena of that nature in the course of her life. At the period of the epidemic of "table-tipping" which raged in our country about the middle of this century, she too experimented quite successfully for a while upon the table with her friends and acquaintances. Later, she had some sporadic visions. The following is one of the most typical. While her little daughter three years old was ill, Mme. Smith awoke in the middle of the night and saw an angel, of dazzling brightness, standing by the side of the
little bed with its hands stretched out above the child; after some moments the apparition gradually dissolved. Mme. Smith awakened her husband and told him of the fatal significance which she attached to the vision, but he, unable to see anything, ridiculed her superstitious fears. As a matter of fact, the child died on the following day, to the great surprise of the physician attending her. This is a fine example of true maternal presentiment, subconsciously felt and transferring itself into the normal consciousness by a visual hallucination which borrowed for its symbolic content an appropriate popular image.
Mme. Smith never knew her mother, who died shortly after her birth; but she recalls and has related to me some characteristic visions of her grandmother, who brought her up; various phenomena connected with one of Hélène's brothers (hearing of steps in the night, etc.) have proved to her that one of her sons, at least, is a medium.
Hélène Smith was certainly predisposed, both by heredity and temperament, to become a medium, as soon as the outward opportunity—that is, the suggestions of spiritism—should present itself.
It is evident, indeed, from her recital of events, that she was more or less visionary from her infancy. It does not appear, however, that she ever manifested phenomena capable in themselves of attracting the attention of her family. I have not been able to discover any indication whatever of crises or attacks of an abnormal nature, not even of sleep-walking. Her automatisms have been always almost entirely con fined to the sensory or mental sphere, and it is only
from her own narratives that other people have any knowledge of them. They assume the double form of reveries more or less conscious, and of hallucinations properly so called.
1. Reveries.—The habit of falling into reverie, of building castles in the air, of transporting one's self into other conditions of existence, or of telling one's self stories in which one plays the chief rôle, is more frequent among women than among men, and in childhood and youth than in mature years. This propensity seems to have always been extremely marked in the case of Mlle. Smith, since from her school-girl days she has shown herself to be of a sedentary and domestic temperament, preferring the quiet companionship of her mother to the games of her comrades, and her needle-work to out-door recreations. The fragments which have survived in Hélène's conscious memory are all that is known to us of the content of these reveries, but it suffices, nevertheless, to reveal to us the general tone of her fictions, and to show us that the images suddenly surging up before her mental vision had a peculiar, often very fantastic, character, and which enables us to see in them the beginnings of her later great somnambulistic romances. It is to be noticed also that the designs, embroideries, varied artistic works, which were always the favorite occupations of her moments of leisure and in which she excels, were almost always, from her infancy, not copies of exterior models, but the products of her own invention, marked with the bizarre and original stamp of her internal images. Moreover, these pieces of work grew under her fingers with an ease and
rapidity that astonished herself. They made themselves, as it were.
She was always fond of indulging in day-dreams, and recalls many a half-hour passed motionless in an easy-chair, on which occasions she was accustomed to see all kinds of strange things, but, being of a very reticent nature, she seldom mentioned them to her parents for fear of not being understood. She used to see highly colored landscapes, a lion of stone with a mutilated head, fanciful objects on pedestals, etc. She does not remember the details, but does clearly recollect that they all bore a close resemblance to her Hindoo and Martian visions of later years.
These phantasmagoria also appeared to her in the night. She remembers, among other things, to have seen, when about fourteen or fifteen years old, a bright light thrown against the wall of her room, which then seemed to be filled with strange and unknown beings. She had the impression of being fully awake, but it suddenly occurred to her that she must have been dreaming, and it was only then that she comprehended that it was really a "vision" which she had experienced.
2. Hallucinations.—In the foregoing examples it would be difficult to say to exactly which category the psychologic facts belong, especially the nocturnal phenomena, and one may hesitate whether to regard them as simple dreams of a very vivid character, hypnagogic or hypnopompic * visions, or as veritable
hallucinations. On the other hand, we undoubtedly have the right to give the latter designation to the numerous apparitions which Mlle. Smith has when in full possession of her senses in the daytime.
One day, for example, as she was playing out-of-doors with a friend, she saw some one following her, and mentioned the fact to her companion, who could not see any one. The imaginary individual, after having followed her around a tree for a moment, disappeared, and she was unable to find him again.
Of an entirely different order are the strange characters which she remembers having sometimes involuntarily substituted for French letters when writing to her friends, which must be regarded as graphomotor hallucinations. These were undoubtedly the same characters which at other times appeared to her in visual images.
This was the prelude to the phenomenon so frequently experienced by her in the last few years, and of which we shall hereafter see many examples—namely, automatic writing, mingling with her ordinary chirography in her waking state.
Alongside of hallucinations like these, which do not show any intentional or useful character and are only a capricious and fortuitous irruption into the normal consciousness, mere dreams or fancies filling up the sub-conscious strata, there are also manifested in Hélène's case some hallucinations of a manifest utility, which have in consequence the sense of messages
addressed by the subliminal consciousness of the subject to her normal consciousness, by way of warning and protection. It is to be noted that these hallucinations, which might be called teleological, have lately been claimed by Leopold, although he has no recollection of, and does not assert himself to be the author of, the earlier ones.
The following is a curious example: At about the age of seventeen or eighteen, Hélène was returning from the country one evening, carrying a fine bouquet of flowers. During the last minutes of the journey she heard behind her a peculiar cry of a bird, which seemed to her to warn her against some danger, and she hastened her steps without looking behind. On her arrival at home the cry followed her into her room without her having been able to see the creature from which it emanated. She went tired to bed, and in the middle of the night awoke in great pain, but was unable to cry out. At that moment she felt herself gently lifted, together with the pillow on which she lay, as if by two friendly hands, which enabled her to recover her voice and call her mother, who hastened to comfort her, and carried the flowers, which were too odorous, out of the room. Leopold, on being interrogated recently during a somnambulism of Hélène as to this incident, coming up again after so many years, has a very clear recollection of it and gives the following explanation.
It was not really the cry of a bird, but it was he, Leopold, who caused Hélène to hear a sort of whistle, hoping thereby to attract her attention to the danger lurking in the bouquet of flowers, in which was
a great deal of garden-mint of powerful odor. Unfortunately Hélène did not understand, and retained the bouquet in her room. He adds that his failure to give a more clear and intelligible warning was due to the fact that it was at that time impossible for him to do so. The whistle which Hélène took for the cry of a bird was all that it was in his power to utter. It was again he who intervened at the moment of her nocturnal illness by raising her head in order to enable her to call for help.
I have no reason to doubt the substantial accuracy either of the account given by Hélène and her mother, or of the explanation recently furnished by Leopold. The incident belongs to the category of well-known cases where a danger of some sort not suspected by the normal personality, but which is subconsciously known or recognized, is warded off by a preservative hallucination, either sensory (as here—the cry of the bird) or motor (as in the lifting of the body). The subliminal consciousness is not always able to give a clear message; in the present case, the auditive automatism remained in a state of elementary hallucination, a simple whistle, without being able to elevate it to a distinct verbal hallucination. Its general warning sense, however, was understood by Hélène, thanks to the confused feeling of danger that she felt at the same time. Moreover, this confused feeling, which caused her to quicken her steps, it seems to me, ought not to be considered as the consequence of the whistle she heard, but rather as a parallel phenomenon; the appearance or the odor of the mint she was carrying, while not attracting her conscious
attention, nevertheless dimly roused in her an idea of the danger lurking in the flowers, and that idea in turn affected her clear consciousness under the double form of a vague emotion of danger and a verbo-auditive translation which did not go so far as to formulate itself explicitly.
Under circumstances of a nature calculated to cause a strong emotional shock, and especially when the psychic sphere which involves the sentiment of modesty is strongly acted upon, Hélène has a visual hallucination of a man clothed in a long, brown robe, with a white cross on his breast, like a monk, who comes to her aid, and accompanies her in silence as long as the necessity for his presence continues. This unknown protector, always silent, each time appearing and disappearing in a sudden and mysterious manner, is no other than Leopold himself, according to the recent affirmations of the latter.
We should naturally expect that Hélène would have had in her youth many striking experiences of prevision, marvellous intuition, divination, etc., which are among the most diffuse forms of teleological automatism. Such, however, does not seem to have been the fact; neither she nor her mother has recounted to me anything remarkable of this nature, and they confine themselves to a general affirmation of frequent presentiments, which were subsequently justified as to the persons and events with which they were connected.
All the examples which I have above cited concur in bringing to light the strong penchant of Mlle. Smith towards automatism. But from the point of
view of their meaning there is a notable difference between the teleological phenomena, presentiments or hallucinations of a manifest utility, and those which have none—mere reveries and other perturbations, which are altogether superfluous, if not actually detrimental, to Hélène's normal personality.
There are dreams and other automatisms absolutely useless which have insinuated themselves without rhyme or reason into Hélène's normal life. One does not know how or in what manner to interpret these phenomena, capricious and fortuitous as they seem to be, and they remain isolated, inconsiderable facts, without bearing and without interest, since they cannot be attached to any central principle, to one mother-idea or fundamental emotion.
We are, therefore, reduced to certain conjectures, the most reasonable of which is that these diverse fragments make part of some vast subconscious creation, in which all the being of Mlle. Smith, crushed and bruised by the conditions which the realities of life have imposed upon her, as is more or less the case with each one of us, gave free wing to the deep aspirations of its nature and expanded into the fiction of an existence more brilliant than her own. All that we know of Hélène's character, both as a child and as a young girl, shows us that her dominant emotional note was a sort of instinctive inward revolt against the modest environment in which it was her lot to be born, a profound feeling of dread and opposition, of inexplicable malaise, of bitter antagonism against the whole of her material and intellectual environment. While showing herself always very devoted to her parents
and brothers, she had only feeble natural affinities for them. She felt like a stranger in her family and as one away from home. She had a feeling of isolation, of abandonment, of exile, which created a sort of gulf between her and her family. So strong were these feelings that she actually one day seriously asked her parents if it was absolutely certain that she was their daughter, or whether it was not possible that the nurse might some day by mistake have brought home another child from the daily walk.
This want of adaptation to her environment, this sort of mysterious homesickness for an unknown country, shows itself in a characteristic manner in the following fragment of narrative, in which Hélène, who has always attributed great importance to dreams, tells of one in which an isolated house figured. "To me this retired mansion, in which I lived alone, isolated, represents my life, which from my infancy has been neither happy nor gay. Even while very young I do not remember to have shared any of the tastes or any of the ideas of the members of my family. Thus during the whole of my childhood I was left in what I call a profound isolation of heart And in spite of all, in spite of this complete want of sympathy, I could not make up my mind to marry, although I had several opportunities. A voice was always saying, 'Do not hurry: the time has not arrived; this is not the destiny for which you are reserved.' And I have listened to that voice, which has absolutely nothing to do with conscience, and I do not regret it, for since I have engaged in spiritism I have found myself so surrounded with sympathy
and friendships that I have somewhat forgotten my sad lot."
This quotation speaks volumes in regard to the turn of mind and the emotional disposition which ruled Hélène as a little girl. It is surely, so to speak, the vulgar story and the common lot of all; many a child, many a youth, many an unrecognized genius, feel themselves suffocating in their too narrow environment when the latent energies of life begin to ferment. But there are differences in kind and in degree. With Mlle. Hélène Smith the sentiment of not having been made for her environment, and of belonging by nature to a higher sphere, was intense and lasting. Her mother always had the impression that Hélène was not happy, and wondered that she was so serious, so absorbed, so wanting in the exuberance of spirits natural to her age. Her father and her brothers, not comprehending the real reasons for this absence of gayety, taxed her very unjustly with pride and hauteur, and accused her sometimes of despising her humble surroundings. There are shades of feeling which can only be understood when they have been experienced. Hélène well knew that she really had no contempt for her material and social environment, which, on the contrary, inspired her with respect, but which simply was not congenial to her nature and temperament.
To this fundamental feeling of imprisonment in a too paltry sphere was joined, in Hélène's case, a timid disposition. Darkness, the least noise, the creaking of the furniture, made her tremble; by day, a person walking behind her, an unexpected movement,
the ringing of the door-bell, gave her the impression that some one wishing to harm her had come to seize her and carry her off. On the whole, Hélène's tendency to be startled by everything and nothing constituted with her a grievous panophobia, a state of fear and insecurity which greatly strengthened her impression of want of union—of mésalliance—with an environment to which she was decidedly superior.
It is easy now to see the connection between that depressing emotionalism which was the attribute of Hélène's childhood and the slightly megalomaniac tone of her later subliminal romances. The idea intrudes itself that, in spite of—or by reason of—their apparent contrast, these two traits are not independent of each other, but bound by the tie of cause and effect. But this causal connection is in great danger of being interpreted in a precisely inverse sense by the empirical psychologist and the metaphysical occultist. The latter will explain Mlle. Smith's curious impression of strangeness and superiority to the base conditions of her actual existence, by her illustrious previous incarnations; the psychologist, on the contrary, will see in that sane impression the wholly natural origin of her grandiose somnambulistic personifications. In default of a complete understanding, always dubious, between these so different points of view, of which we shall speak later, it will be advisable to adopt at least a provisional modus vivendi, based on the party-wall of the native constitution or individual character of Mlle. Smith. On the farther side of that wall, in eternity,
so to speak, a parte ante which precedes the arrival of Hélène into this life, the occultist will have full latitude to imagine such a succession of existences as it shall please him in order to explain the character she has had from her infancy. But on this side of the wall—that is to say, within the limits of her present life—the psychologist will have the right to ignore all these prenatal metempsychoses, and taking for his point of departure the innate constitution of Hélène, without troubling himself about anything she may have received by the accidents of heredity or preserved from her royal pre-existences, he will endeavor to explain by that same constitution, as it reveals itself in her daily life, the genesis of her subliminal creations under the action of occasional exterior influences. The occultist, then, can have the pleasure of regarding Mlle. Smith's characteristic trait as a child, that impression of solitude and wandering about in a world for which she was not made, as the effect of her real past greatnesses, while the psychologist will be permitted to see in it the cause of her future dreams of grandeur.
The emotional disposition which I have depicted, and which is one of the forms under which the mal-adaptation of the organism, physical and mental, to the hard conditions of the environment, betrays itself, seems therefore to me to have been the source and starting-point for all the dreamings of Hélène in her childhood. Thence came these visions, always warm, luminous, highly colored, exotic, bizarre; and these brilliant apparitions, superbly dressed, in which her antipathy for her insipid and
unpleasant surroundings betrays itself, her weariness of ordinary, commonplace people, her disgust for prosaic occupations, for vulgar and disagreeable things, for the narrow house, the dirty streets, the cold winters, and the gray sky. Whether these images, very diverse, but of the same brilliant quality, were already existent in Hélène's subconscious thought while still a child or a young girl, we are unable to say. It is, however, probable that their systematization was far from attaining to such a degree of perfection as they have presented during the past few years under the influence of spiritism.
All the facts of automatism to which Hélène can assign a vaguely approximate date group themselves around her fifteenth year, and are all included between the limits of her ninth and twentieth years.
This evident connection with a phase of development of major importance has been confirmed to me by Leopold on various occasions, who says that he appeared to Hélène for the first time in her tenth year, on an exceptional occasion of extreme fright, but after that, not until about four years later, because the "physiological conditions" necessary to his apparition were not yet realized. The moment they were realized, he says, he began to manifest himself, and it is at the same period, according to him, that Hélène commenced to recover memories of her Hindoo existence, under the form of strange visions of which she comprehended neither the nature nor the origin.
After the age of about twenty years, without affirming or believing that her visions and apparitions
ceased altogether, Mlle. Smith has no striking recollections of any, and she has not told me of any psychic phenomenon experienced by her in the series of years immediately preceding her entrance into spiritism. We may infer from this, with some reason, that the ebullitions of the imaginative subconscious life gradually became calm after the explosion of the period we have mentioned. They had been appeased. The conflict between Hélène's inner nature and the environment in which she was forced to live became less fierce. A certain equilibrium was established between the necessities of practical life and her inward aspirations. On the one hand, she resigned herself to the necessities of reality; and if her native pride could not yield to the point of condescending to a marriage, honorable undoubtedly, but for which she felt she was not intended, we must nevertheless pay homage to the perseverance, the fidelity, the devotion which she always brought to the fulfilment of her family and business duties. On the other hand, she did not permit the flame of the ideal to be extinguished in her, and it reacted upon her environment as strongly as possible, making its imprint upon her personality well marked.
She introduced a certain stamp of elegance into the modest home of her parents. She arranged for herself a small salon, coquettish and comfortable in its simplicity. She took lessons in music, and bought herself a piano. She hung some old engravings on her walls, secured some Japanese vases, a jardinière filled with plants, cut flowers in pretty vases, a hanging lamp with a beautiful shade of her
own make, a table-cover which she had put together and embroidered herself, some photographs curiously framed according to her own design; and out of this harmonious whole, always beautifully kept, she evolved something original, bizarre, and delightful, conforming well to the general character of her fantastic subconsciousness.
At the same time that Mlle. Smith succeeded in accommodating herself to the conditions of her existence, the state of latent timidity in which she lived gradually diminished. She is still occasionally overcome by fear, but much less frequently than formerly, and never without a legitimate exterior cause.
Indeed, judging her by these latter years, I do not recognize in her the child or young girl of former days, always timid, trembling, and frightened, taciturn and morose, who has been depicted to me by herself and her mother.
It seems to me, then, that the wildness of the dreams and automatisms, which were symptoms of a tendency to mental disintegration, which marked the years of puberty, was succeeded by a progressive diminution of these troubles and a gradual gaining of wisdom on the part of the subliminal strata. We may presume that this harmonization, this reciprocal adaptation of the internal to the external, would in time have perfected itself, and that the whole personality of Mlle. Smith would have continued to consolidate and unify itself, if spiritism had not come all of a sudden to rekindle the fire which still slumbered under the ashes and to give a new start to the
subliminal mechanism which was beginning to grow rusty.
The suppressed fictions aroused themselves, the reveries of former years resumed their sway, and the images of subliminal phantasy began to be more prolific than ever under the fertile suggestions of occult philosophy, rallying-points or centres of crystallization—such as the idea of former existences and reincarnations—around which they had only to group and organize themselves in order to give birth to the vast somnambulistic constructions the development of which we shall be obliged to follow.
21:* This term is used to designate the visions which manifest themselves at the moment of awakening from sleep immediately p. 22 prior to complete awakening, and which form a pendant to the well-known, much more frequent hypnagogic hallucinations, arising in the intermediate state between sleep and waking.
MLLE. SMITH SINCE HER INITIATION INTO SPIRITISM
HAVING endeavored in the preceding chapter to reconstruct in its chief characteristics the history of Mlle. Smith up to the time when spiritism begins to be mixed up with it, I would have preferred in the present chapter to make a detailed study of her psychological life during these last years, without however, as yet, touching upon the content, properly so called, of her automatisms. Not having been able to accomplish this design to my satisfaction, for want of time and patience, I shall endeavor at least to systematize my notes somewhat by grouping them under four heads. I shall trace the birth of Hélène's mediumship as far as it is possible for me to do so from the meagre accounts I have been able to procure concerning a time at which I was not acquainted with her. Then, passing to facts with which I am more familiar, I will describe rapidly her normal state as I have been able to see it for the last five years. This would have been the place for a study of individual psychology, but I have been compelled to abandon the idea on account of multiple difficulties. Finally, I will offer a few remarks on
the abnormal side of her existence, which it is convenient to divide into two groups, namely, the spontaneous—that is to say, springing up of themselves in the course of her ordinary life; or those provoked by the voluntary seeking for favorable circumstances, and which constitute the seances properly so called.
I. THE MEDIUMISTIC BEGINNINGS OF MLLE. SMITH
In the winter of 1891-92 Mlle. Smith heard spiritism spoken of by one of her acquaintances, Mme. Y., who lent her Denis's book, Après la Mort. The perusal of this work having vividly excited Hélène's curiosity, Mme. Y. agreed to accompany her to her friend, Mlle. Z., who was interested in the same questions, and who produced automatic writing. They then decided to form a circle for regular experimentation. I take from the notes which Mlle. Z. has had the kindness to furnish me, the account, unfortunately very brief, of the seances at which Hélène's mediumistic faculties first made their appearance.
"It was on the 10th of February, 1892, that I made the acquaintance of Mlle. Smith. She was introduced to me by Mme. Y., for the purpose of endeavoring to form a spiritistic group. She was then altogether a novice in spiritism, never having attempted anything, and did not suspect the faculties that have since developed themselves in her.
"February 20.—First reunion: We seat ourselves at the table; we succeed in making it oscillate. We regard Mme. Y. as the medium upon whom we can
reckon. We try for writing. We receive through me encouragements to proceed.
"February 26.—Progress; the table moves itself considerably, salutes one by one all the members of the group, and gives us certain names, of which only one is recognized . . . Writing: Mlle. Smith, who tries for the first time, writes mechanically, her eyes closed, some phrases, of which we can decipher some words.
"March 11.—Nothing at this seance, except a communication written by myself.
"March 18.—Progress; clear communication by the table. Attempt to experiment in the darkness (which was not absolute, the hall outside having some incandescent lights which diffused a feeble light; we could distinguish each other with difficulty). Mlle. Smith sees a balloon, now luminous, now becoming dark: she has seen nothing up to this time. Writing: Mlle. Smith writes mechanically a quite long communication from the father of M. K. [a Bulgarian student present at the seance]; advice to him."
At this point the sitters became so numerous that they broke up into two groups, of which the one continuing to meet with Mlle. Z. does not concern us. Mlle. Smith became a member of the other, which met at the house of a lady named N., where weekly seances were held for a year and a half (up to the end of June, 1893). The records of these meetings, kept by Mme. N., are unfortunately very brief and obscure on many points of interest to the psychologist. Those of the first months are in the handwriting of Mlle. Smith, who acted as secretary of the group for
thirty seances. As she only took down at the time the headings of the communications of the spirits and wrote out the remainder on the following day, we cannot rely very strongly on the objective accuracy of these accounts, which, however, have the advantage of presenting to us the mediumship of Hélène, as related by herself. She speaks of herself in the third person.
The following is a summary of the two first seances held in this new environment:
"March 25, 1892.—Eleven persons around a large and heavy dining-table of oak with two leaves. The table is set in motion, and several spirits come and give their names (by raps), and testify to the pleasure it gives them to find themselves among us. It is at this seance that Mlle. Smith begins to distinguish vague gleams with long white streamers moving from the floor to the ceiling, and then a magnificent star, which in the darkness appears to her alone throughout the whole of the seance. We augur from this that she will end by seeing things more distinctly and will possess the gift of clairvoyance.
"April 1.—Violent movements of the table, due to a spirit who calls himself David and announces himself as the spiritual guide of the group. Then he gives way to another spirit who says he is Victor Hugo, and the guide and protector of Mlle. Smith, who is very much surprised to be assisted by a person of such importance. He soon disappears. Mlle. Smith is very much agitated; she has fits of shivering, is very cold. She is very restless, and sees suddenly, balancing itself above the table, a grinning,
very ill-favored face, with long red hair. She is so frightened that she demands that the lights be lit. She is calmed and reassured. The figure disappears. Afterwards she sees a magnificent bouquet of roses of different hues being placed on the table before one of the sitters, M. P. All at once she sees a small snake come out from underneath the bouquet, which, crawling quickly, perceives the flowers, looks at them, tries to reach the hand of M. P., withdraws for an instant, comes back slowly, and disappears in the interior of the bouquet. Then all is dissolved and three raps are given on the table, terminating the seance. [M. P. interprets the meaning of the vision of the bouquet and the serpent as a symbolic translation of an emotional impression experienced by Mlle. Smith]."
Such was the birth of Hélène's mediumship. Scarcely anything happened on the 10th of February, when the movements of the table were not attributed to her (although in all probability she caused them); in the following seances she appeared in two attempts at automatic writing (unfortunately lost) in imitation of the writing medium with whom she was sitting. The outcome of this second attempt leads us to suppose that Hélène's faculties would have developed rapidly in that direction if she had not abandoned it and changed her environment.
Her visual faculty, suggested by the experiments at obscure seances, shows itself on the 18th and 25th of March in the form of elementary hallucinations or vague figures having their point of departure probably in the simple entoptical phenomena, the
retina's own light, consecutive images, etc. Then, encouraged by the predictions of the sitters, she attained on the 1st of April to visions properly so called, having a varied content and a real or symbolic signification. At the same time her typtological automatism was perfecting itself. We recognize it in the name of Victor Hugo, coming especially for Mlle. Smith, and suspect it to have been a name already given at the second seance.
Auditive hallucinations follow closely upon the visual, but it is impossible to know at just what date, as the records do not clearly indicate whether the messages recorded had that origin or were rapped out on the table. To these known forms of automatism must be added the frequent phenomena of emotion, shiverings, sadness, restlessness, fear, etc., which are experienced by Hélène without knowing why, and are afterwards found to be in perfect conformity to, and in evident connection with, the content of those emotional phenomena which they generally precede by a few moments.
Thus, in a half-dozen weekly seances, the mediumship of Mlle. Smith was invested with a complex psychological aspect, which from that time it preserved intact for three years, and of which I was a witness after I made her acquaintance. This rapidity of development is not at all unusual; but there is this peculiarity about Hélène, that her mediumistic faculties, after their first appearance, remained for a long time stationary, and then underwent all at once, in the spring of 1895, the enormous
transformation and tremendous expansion which I have described in the first chapter, and to which I will not again refer.
II. MLLE. SMITH IN HER NORMAL STATE
I was about to say that in her normal state Mlle. Smith is normal. Certain scruples restrain me, and I correct myself by saying that in her ordinary state she seems just like anybody else. By this I mean that outside of the gaps which the seances and the spontaneous eruptions of automatism make in her life, no one would suspect, observing her performance of her various duties, or in talking with her on all sorts of subjects, all that she is capable of in her abnormal states, or the curious treasures which are concealed in her subliminal strata.
With a healthy and ruddy complexion, of good height, well proportioned, of regular and harmonious features, she breathes health in everything. She presents no visible stigmata of degeneration. As to psychic defects or anomalies, with the exception of her mediumship itself, I know of none, the timidity of her youth having entirely disappeared. Her physical strength is marvellous, as shown by the fact that she bears up under the strain of a business which demands nearly eleven hours of her time each day, nearly all of which she is compelled to stand on her feet, and from which she takes only one week's vacation in summer. Besides this confining work away from home, she assists her mother about the house morning and evening, in the housekeeping duties,
and finds time besides to read a little, to practise at her piano, and to make the lovely handiwork, which she designs and executes herself with remarkable originality and good taste. To a life so full must be added, besides, the spiritistic seances which she is generally willing to give on Sunday, and sometimes on a weekday evening, very disinterestedly, to persons who are interested in psychic questions or who desire to consult Leopold on important subjects.
While hesitating to affirm that a person presenting phenomena so extraordinary as those of mediumship is perfectly normal in other respects, I am pleased to discover that as far as Mlle. Smith is concerned, through my conversations with her and as the result of my investigations concerning her, she does not present a single abnormality, physical, intellectual, or moral, between the periods of the irruptions of her automatisms. Her field of vision, which she has permitted me to measure with a Landolt perimeter, is normal for white as well as for colors, for which latter she has a very delicate perception. There is no trace of tactile anæsthesia in her hands. There is no known motor trouble. The tremor of the index-finger gives a line, of four oscillations per second on an average, differing not at all from the lines obtained from persons perfectly normal (see Fig. 2).
It cannot be expected that I should paint a full moral and intellectual portrait of Mlle. Smith, as I should be in danger of hurting her feelings in case my attempt should come to her notice. I can only touch on a few points. One of the most striking is her great
native dignity; her bearing, her manners, her language are always perfect, and have a certain quality of noblesse and pride which accords well with her somnambulistic rôles. On occasion she shows a stately and regal hauteur. She is very impressionable, and feels little things very keenly. Her antipathies as well as her sympathies are quick, lively, and tenacious. She is energetic and persevering. She knows very well what she wants, and nothing passes her by unperceived, nor does she forget anything in the conduct of others towards her. "I see everything, nothing escapes me, and I forgive but never forget," she has often said to me. Perhaps a severe moralist would find in her a certain exaggeration of personal sensibility, but that sort of self-love is a very common characteristic of human nature, and is very natural in mediums who are continually exposed to public criticism.
She is very intelligent and highly gifted. In conversation she shows herself vivacious, sprightly, and sometimes sarcastic. Psychic problems, and all questions connected with mediumistic phenomena, of which she is herself so striking an example, occupy her mind a great deal and form the principal subject of her private thoughts and of her conversations with people in whom she is interested.
Her philosophical views are not wanting in originality or breadth. She does not believe in spiritism, in the generally accepted sense of the term, and has never consented, in spite of the advances which have been made to her, to become a member of the Geneva Society (spiritistic) for Psychic Studies, because, as
she says, she has no fixed ideas on subjects so obscure, does not care for theories, and "does not work in the interest of any party." She investigates, she observes, she reflects and discusses, having adopted for her motto, "The truth in all things, for all things, and always."
There are two points in regard to which she is uncompromising—namely, the objective reality of Leopold, and the supernormal content of her automatisms. No one dares tell her that her great invisible protector is only an illusory apparition, another part of herself, a product of her subconscious imagination; nor that the strange peculiarities of her mediumistic communications—the Sanscrit, the recognizable signatures of deceased persons, the thousand correct revelations of facts unknown to her—are but old forgotten memories of things which she saw or heard in her childhood. Such suppositions being contrary to her inmost beliefs, and seemingly false in fact, easily irritate her, as being in defiance of good sense and an outrage on truth. But outside of these two subjects she will examine and discuss coolly any hypothesis one chooses. The idea that she should be the reincarnation of a Hindoo princess or of Marie Antoinette, that Leopold is really Cagliostro, that the visions called Martian are really from the planet Mars, etc., all seem to her to conform fully to the facts; but these beliefs are not indispensable to her, and she is ready, should they prove to be false, to change to other theories—as, for example, telepathy, a mixture of occult influences, a mysterious meeting in her of intuitions coming from some higher sphere, etc.
Undoubtedly the supposition of her pre-existences in India and on the throne of France seems to her to explain in a plausible manner the feeling, which has followed her from childhood, of belonging to a world higher than that in which the chance of birth has imprisoned her for this life; but she does not affirm a positive belief in that brilliant past, is not wholly convinced of it, and remains in a sensible state of expectancy of the true explanation of these ultimate mysteries of her life.
There is another subject, also, which is close to her heart. She has heard it said that in the eyes of scientists and physicians mediums are considered to be fools, hysterical subjects, or insane, or, in any event, abnormal, in the bad sense of the word. But, in the light of the experience of every day of her life, she protests vigorously against this odious insinuation. She declares emphatically that she is "perfectly sane in body and mind, not in the least unbalanced," and repels with indignation the idea there can be any serious abnormality or the least danger in mediumship such as she practises. "I am far from being abnormal," she wrote me recently, "and I have never been so clear of vision, so lucid, and so apt to judge correctly as since I have begun to develop as a medium."
Leopold, too, speaking through her voice during her trances, has more than once solemnly testified as to her perfect health. He has also returned to the subject by letter; we shall find farther on a very interesting certificate of mental equilibrium dictated by him and written by him with her hand, as if to
It is incontestable that Hélène has a very well-organized brain, as is evidenced by the admirable manner in which she manages the important and complicated department which is under her direction in the commercial establishment in which she is employed. To accuse her of being insane, simply because she is a medium, as some charitable souls (the world is full of them) do not hesitate to do sometimes, is, to say the least, a most inadmissible petitio principii.
The opinion which Mlle. Smith holds in her normal state concerning her automatic faculties is altogether optimistic; and there is nothing to prove her in the wrong. She regards her mediumship as a rare and precious privilege, with which nothing in the world would induce her to part. True, she also sees in it the reason for the malevolent and unjust judgments, the jealousies, the base suspicions, to which the ignorant multitude have in all ages subjected those who have succeeded in elevating themselves above it through the possession of faculties of this kind. But, on the whole, the disadvantages are more than counterbalanced by gains of a high order, and the inward satisfaction attached to such a gift. And here I desire to emphasize the statement, once for all, that Hélène does not belong to the class of professional mediums, nor to those who use their mediumship for the purpose of coining money. Mlle. Smith, who earns her living in the position which her intelligence and fitness have secured for her, and through which her family enjoys a modest ease,
never accepts any pecuniary compensation for her seances or consultations. Such a traffic in faculties which have a sort of religious signification in her eyes would be absolutely repugnant to her feelings.
Hélène's spontaneous automatisms have often aided her in, without ever having interfered with, her daily occupations. There is, happily for her, a great difference in intensity between the phenomena of her seances and those which break in upon her habitual existence, the latter never having caused such disturbance of her personality as the former.
In her daily life she has only passing hallucinations limited to one or two of the senses, superficial hemisomnambulisms, compatible with a certain amount of self-possession—in short, ephemeral perturbations of no importance from a practical point of view. Taken as a whole, the interventions of the subliminal in her ordinary existence are more beneficial to her than otherwise, since they often bear the stamp of utility and appropriateness, which make them very serviceable.
Phenomena of hypermnesia, divination, lost objects mysteriously recovered, happy inspirations, true presentiments, correct intuitions—in a word, teleological automatisms of every sort—she possesses in so high a degree that this small coin of genius is more than sufficient to compensate for the inconveniences resulting from the distraction and momentary absence of mind with which the vision is accompanied.
In the seances, on the contrary, she presents the most grave functional alterations that one can imagine, and passes through accesses of lethargy,
catalepsy, somnambulism, total change of personality, etc., the least of which would be a very disagreeable adventure for her if it should happen to occur in the street or at her office.
But here I am obliged to leave Hélène's ordinary state to enter upon the study of her automatisms.
III. SPONTANEOUS AUTOMATIC PHENOMENA
The automatisms which occur outside the seances in Mlle. Smith's every-day life, those, at least, which she is able to recall and narrate, are of a frequency very variable and utterly independent of any known circumstances; sometimes presenting themselves two or three times in the same day; at others, two or three weeks will elapse without a single one. Extremely diverse in their form and content, these phenomena may be divided into three categories, based upon their origin. The first proceed from impressions received by Hélène in moments of special suggestibility; the second are the fortuitous apparitions above the ordinary level of her consciousness, the romances in process of elaboration to which we are coming; the last, which differ from the two preceding species (which are always useless, if not detrimental) by their beneficial character and their adaptation to the needs of the moment, are roused by those teleological automatisms to which I have already called attention as having occurred in her childhood, and which have shared in the general recrudescence of her subconscious life under the lash of the spiritistic experiences.
Let us pass these different cases rapidly in review.
I. Permanence of exterior suggestions.—The spiritistic reunions are naturally their principal source. I do not mean that she has there been subjected to experiments in post-hypnotic suggestion. Justice to all those who have attended the seances compels the statement that they have never abused the suggestibility which she shows on such occasions, by suggesting ideas of such a nature as to cause her annoyance on the following days. The most that has been attempted has been the suggestion of some small matters by way of harmless experiment, to be executed by her a few moments after awaking from her trance. There is no need of intentional suggestions to influence her in a lasting manner; therefore we have avoided as far as possible everything that might leave disagreeable traces behind, and have suggested to her before the end of the seance that she have on the morrow no headache, fatigue, etc.; but it sometimes happens that certain incidents, often absolutely insignificant, are engraved on her memory in a most unlooked-for manner and assail her as inexplicable obsessions during the ensuing week. The following are some specimens of involuntary suggestion, which generally linger for three or four days, but may occasionally continue for twelve or fifteen.
Hélène told me one Sunday that she had been possessed several times during the day by the hallucinatory image of a straw hat, the inside of which was turned towards her, and-which remained vertically in the air about three or four feet in front of
her, without being held by any one. She had the feeling that this hat belonged to me, and I happened finally to recollect that at the seance of the preceding Sunday I happened to fan myself with this very hat during her final trance, the image of which had been engraved on her mind in one of the flashes in which she opened her eyes and closed them again instantly before her final awaking. This obsession, said she, was very strong on Monday and the following day or two, but lessened somewhat towards the end of the week.
At another time she preserved during a whole week the sensation of the pressure of my thumb on her left eyebrow. (Compression of the external frontal and suborbital nerves is a means I often employ to hasten her awaking, after a hint given by Leopold.)
There happened to her also twice in the same day an auditive and visual hallucination of an aged person whom she did not recognize, but the extremely characteristic description of whom corresponds so well with that of a gentleman of Geneva who had been mentioned to her a few days previously, immediately before the commencement of a seance (when she was probably already in her state of suggestibility), that there is scarcely any doubt but that these apparitions were the consequence of that conversation.
'Following another seance where she had, at the beginning of a Hindoo scene, made vain efforts to detach a bracelet from her left wrist, she preserved for three days the feeling of something grasping that wrist, without understanding what it could be.
In the same way, various feelings of sadness, anger,
a desire to laugh or to weep, etc., the cause of which she was unable to explain, have often followed her for a considerable length of time after the seances of which these feelings were the manifest emotional echo. This is often the effect of our dreams on our waking state: we forget the dreams, but their influence remains, and is often more marked in the dreams of a hypnotized person or a somnambulist than in those of ordinary sleep.
The seances are not the exclusive source of the involuntary suggestions which trouble Mlle. Smith in her daily life without any benefit to herself. It is evident that on every occasion when she finds herself in that particular condition of least resistance which we, in our ignorance of its intrinsic nature, designate by the convenient name of " suggestibility," she is exposed to impressions capable of returning to assail her in the course of her daily occupations. Fortunately this condition of suggestibility does not seem to develop itself readily in her outside of the spiritistic reunions.
2. Irruptions of subliminal reveries.—I shall have too many occasions to cite concrete examples of visions, voices, and other spontaneous outpourings of the work of imagination, which are continually going on under the ordinary consciousness of Mlle. Smith, to dwell long on this point. Some general remarks will suffice.
The connection which the unforeseen phenomena maintain with those of the seances themselves is very varied. Sometimes we are able to recognize them as reproductions, more or less incomplete, of episodes
which occurred at the preceding seances, and consider them simple echoes or post-hypnotic repetitions of these last. Sometimes, on the contrary, it appears that we have to deal with preparatory rehearsals of scenes which will unfold themselves at length and will be continued at some later seance. Finally, sometimes it is a question of tableaux, having no connection with those which fill up the seances; they are like leaves, flying away never to return, romances which are continually being fabricated in the deep subliminal strata of Mlle. Smith's consciousness.
Hélène, in fact, does not long remember, nor in much detail, with a few exceptions, those visions which take place in her ordinary state, and which occur most frequently early in the morning, while she is still in bed, or just after she has arisen and while working by the light of her lamp; sometimes in the evening, or during the brief moments of rest in the middle of the day, and, much more rarely, while in the full activity of waking hours she is at her desk. If she had not long since, at my request, and with great good will, acquired the habit of noting in pencil the essential content of these apparitions, either during the apparition itself (which she is not always able to do) or else immediately afterwards, we should have still more deficiencies in the plot of her romances to deplore. Hélène's psychological state, during her spontaneous visions, is known to me only by her own descriptions. She is fortunately a very intelligent observer and a good psychologist.
Her narratives show that her visions are accompanied by a certain degree of obnubilation. For a
few moments, for instance, the room, the light of the lamp, disappear from before her eyes; the noise of the wheels in the street ceases to be heard; she feels herself becoming inert and passive, while a feeling of bliss and ecstatic well-being permeates her entire individuality in the presence of the spectacle which appears to her; then the vision, to her great regret, slowly fades from her view, the lamp and the furniture reappear, the outside noises again make themselves heard, and she is astonished that the idea did not occur to her to put down in pencil the strange words she has heard, or that she did not touch or caress, for example, the beautiful birds of many-colored plumage flying and singing around her. Sometimes she has maintained sufficient presence of mind to scribble from dictation the words striking her ear; but the wretched handwriting proves that her attention, all absorbed by the apparition, could not follow the pencil, and that the hand directed it badly. At other times the reverse is the fact. It appears in the course of the vision as though some one took hold of her arm and guided it in spite of herself; the result is splendid calligraphies, wholly different from her own handwriting, executed without her knowledge, and during the execution of which her mind was wholly absent, if we can judge from the surprise she shows on awaking when she finds before her these strange writings, and from analogous scenes which transpire at the seances.
The preceding is applicable especially to the more frequent cases—that is, to the morning or evening visions which happen to her at home, in that intermediate
condition between sleep and waking, always so favorable, as we know, to the development of unconscious cerebration. But there are innumerable shades and gradations between this middle type, so to speak, and its opposite extremes; on the one hand is the fortunately very exceptional case where she is seized with ecstasy while at her place of business; and, on the other hand, that in which the automatism limits itself to inscribing some unknown characters or words in another hand than her own in her correspondence and writings—peculiar lapsus calami, which she is not slow to perceive on coming to herself.
The following is an example of a case of ecstasy:
Having ascended one day to an upper story, to look for something in a dark store-room, she had an apparition of a man in a turban and large white cloak, whom she had the impression of recognizing, * and whose presence filled her with a delightful calm and profound happiness. She could not recall the conversation which passed between them, which, though in an unknown language, she nevertheless had the feeling of having perfectly comprehended. On the departure of the mysterious visitor she was astonished to find herself brought back to sombre reality, and stupefied on noting by her watch that the interview had lasted much longer than it had seemed to do. She preserved all that day a delicious feeling of wellbeing as the effect of the strange apparition.
The phenomenon of mingling strange writing with her own is of relatively frequent occurrence, and we shall see divers specimens of it in the following chapters, apropos of the romances to which it especially belongs. I will give here only one complex example, which will serve at the same time as an illustration of a special kind of automatism, very harmless, to which Hélène is also subject, and which consists in making verses, not without knowing, but at least without intending to do so, and in connection with the most trifling matters.
There are times when, in spite of herself, she feels compelled to speak in distinct rhymes of eight feet, which she does not prepare, and does not perceive until the moment she has finished uttering them. * In this particular case it is by a quatrain (a very unusual occurrence) that she replies to some one who had consulted her in regard to some blue
ribbon. But this quatrain, by its style, by the vision of the blond head of a child which accompanies it, and by the manner also in which she writes it, causes us to hazard the conjecture that it is an inspiration depending on the underlying Royal cycle; while in the following letter, in which she narrates the affair to M. Lemaître, her pen inscribes, all unknown to her, strange characters evidently due to the cropping out of the Martian cycle, of which she speaks in the letter (see Fig. 1, a passage of that letter making a Martian M and V in the words vers and rimait):
Click to enlarge
Fig. 1. Fragment of a letter (normal handwriting) of Mlle. Smith, containing two Martian letters. (Collection of M. Lemaître.)
"I have heard some Martian words this afternoon, but have not been able to retain them in my mind. I send you those heard a few days ago, when I had the vision of which I am about to make you the design (Martian lamp). Yesterday morning I for the first time spoke in verse, without being aware of it; it was only on finishing the sentence that I perceived that it rhymed, and I reconstructed it to assure myself of the fact. A little later, on examining some ribbons, I began anew to speak in verse, and I send those also:
they will amuse you. It is a curious thing that I had at that same moment the vision of the blond curly head of a child bound with a blue ribbon. The vision lasted more than a minute. What is still more curious, I do not at all recollect having worn ribbons of that shade as a child: I remember some rose-colored, some red, but I have no recollection whatever of any blue ribbons. I really do not know why I spoke these words; it is the more amusing. I was obliged to speak them, I assure you, in spite of myself. I was eager to put them on paper, and I noticed in writing them down that, for a moment, the handwriting was not regular, that is, it was slightly different from mine."
Here is the quatrain, the pencil impression of which is too faint to enable a fac-simile to be reproduced here, and in it I have indicated by italics the words and syllables the calligraphy or orthography of which differs from that of Hélène and becomes the style of automatic handwriting called that of Marie Antoinette:
Me rappelent mes jeunes ans;
Ce bleu verdi, je m’en souvien,
Sans mes cheveux alloit si bien!"
The head of curly blond hair, ornamented with blue ribbons, also figures in the visions of the Royal cycle, and appears to belong, as is here the case, sometimes to Marie Antoinette herself, sometimes to one or other of her children, especially the Dauphin.
While it is generally easy to connect these eruptions of the subliminal volcano with the various dreams
from which they emanate, such is not always the case, and there are visions the origin of which is doubtful and ambiguous. We must not forget that, alongside of the grand cycles of Hélène which are better known, there also float in her latent imagination innumerable small accessory systems, more or less independent, which supply a large part of the seances, such as revelations of former events connected with the families of the sitters, etc.; it is not always possible to identify the fragments coining from these isolated dreams.
3. Teleological automatisms.—The spontaneous phenomena of this category, possessing as a common characteristic a practical utility for Hélène more or less marked, can be subdivided into two classes, according to their direct attachment to the personality of Leopold, or their not belonging to any distinct personality, and which only express in a vivid manner the result of the normal working, although more or less unconscious, of the faculties of memory and of reason. I confine myself now to citing one case of each of these classes, of which we shall see other examples in the chapters relating to Leopold and to supernormal appearances.
One day Mlle. Smith, wishing to take down a large and heavy object from a high shelf, was prevented from so doing by the fact that her uplifted arms seemed as though petrified and incapable of being moved for some seconds; she saw in this a warning and gave up her intention. In a later seance Leopold said that it was he himself who had caused Hélène's arms to become rigid, in order to prevent her from
attempting to lift the object which was too heavy for her and would have caused some accident to befall her.
On another occasion a clerk who sought vainly for a certain pattern asked Hélène if she knew what had become of it. Hélène replied mechanically and without reflection, "Yes, it was sent to Mr. J." (a customer of the firm); at the same time there appeared before her in large black figures about eight or ten inches in height the number 18, and she added, instinctively, "It was eighteen days ago." This statement caused the clerk to smile, because of its improbability, the rule of the house being that customers to whom patterns were lent for examination must return them inside of three days or a messenger would be sent for them. Hélène, struck by this objection, and having no conscious recollection of the affair, replied, "Really, perhaps I am wrong." Meanwhile, an investigation of the date indicated in the records of the house showed that she was perfectly correct. It was through various negligences, with which she had nothing at all to do, that the pattern had not been sent for or recovered. Leopold, on being asked, has no recollection of this circumstance, and does not appear to have been the author of this automatism of cryptomnesia, nor of many other analogous phenomena through which Hélène's subconscious memory renders her signal services and has gained for her a well-merited and highly valued reputation.
Thus we see that if the spontaneous automatisms of Mlle. Smith are often the vexatious result of her moments of suggestibility, or the tempestuous irruption
of her subliminal reveries, they also often assume the form of useful messages. Such compensation is not to be despised.
IV. THE SEANCES
Mlle. Smith has never been hypnotized. In her instinctive aversion, which she shares with the majority of mediums, to anything that seems like an attempt to experiment upon her, she has always refused to allow herself to be put to sleep. She does not realize that in avoiding the idea she has actually accepted the reality, since her spiritistic experiences in reality constitute for her an auto-hypnotization, which inevitably degenerates into a hetero-hypnotization, as she is brought under the influence of one or other of the persons present at the seance.
All her seances have somewhat of the same psychologic form, the same method of development running through their immense diversity of content. She places herself at the table with the idea and the intention of bringing into play her mediumistic faculties. After an interval, varying from a few seconds to a quarter of an hour, generally in a shorter time if the room is well darkened and the sitters are perfectly silent, she begins to have visions, preceded and accompanied by very varied sensory and motor disturbances, after which she passes into a complete trance. In that state, it rarely happens, and then only for a few moments, that she is entirely unconscious of the persons present, and, as it were, shut up within her personal dream and plunged into profound
lethargy (hypnotic syncope) . Ordinarily she remains in communication, more or less close, with one of the sitters, who thus finds himself in the same relation towards her as a hypnotizer towards his subject, and able to take advantage of that rapport, by giving her any immediate or future suggestions that he may desire. When the seance consists only of waking visions, it lasts generally only a short time—an hour to an hour and a half—and is ended quickly by three sharp raps upon the table, after which Mlle. Smith returns to her normal state, which she scarcely seems to have left. If the somnambulism has been complete, the seance is prolonged to double that length of time, and often longer, and the return to the normal state comes slowly through phases of deep sleep, alternating with relapses into somnambulistic gestures and attitudes, moments of catalepsy, etc. The final awakening is always preceded by several brief awakenings, followed by relapses into sleep.
Each of these preliminary awakenings, as well as the final one, is accompanied by the same characteristic movements of the features. The eyes, which have been for a long time closed, open wide, stupidly staring into vacancy, or fix themselves slowly on the objects and the sitters within their range of vision, the dilated pupils do not react, the face is an impassive and rigid mask, devoid of expression. Hélène seems altogether absent. All at once, with a slight heaving of the breast and raising of the head, and a quick breath, a gleam of intelligence illumines her countenance, the mouth is gracefully
opened, the eyes become brilliant, the entire countenance lights up with a pleasant smile and gives evidence of her recognition of the world and of her return to herself. But with the same suddenness with which it appeared, that appearance of life lasts but a second or two, the physiognomy resumes its lifeless mask, the eyes becoming haggard and fixed close again, and the head falls on the back of the chair. This return of sleep will be followed by another sudden awaking, then perhaps by several more, until the final awaking, always distinguished, after the smile at the beginning, by the stereotyped question, "What time is it?" and by a movement of surprise on learning that it is so late. There is no memory of what has transpired during the seance.
A complete description of the psychological and physiological phenomena which present themselves, or which might be obtained in the course of the seances, would detain me too long, since there is absolutely nothing constant either in the nature or in the succession of the phenomena, and no two seances are evolved exactly in the same manner. I must confine myself to some striking characteristics.
Three principal symptoms, almost contemporaneous generally, announce that Mlle. Smith is beginning to enter into her trance.
There are on the one side emotional or cœnæsthetic modifications, the cause of which is revealed a little later in the subsequent messages. Hélène is, for instance, seized by an invincible desire to laugh, which she cannot or will not explain; or she complains
of sadness, fear, of different unpleasant sensations, of heat or of cold, of nausea, etc., according to the nature of the communications which are approaching and of which these emotional states are the forerunners.
There are, on the other hand, phenomena of systematic anæsthesia (negative hallucinations), limited to those sitters whom the coming messages concern. Hélène ceases to see them, while continuing to hear their voices and feel their touch; or, on the contrary, she is astonished to no longer hear them, though she sees their lips moving, etc.; or, finally, she does not perceive them in any manner, and demands to know why they are leaving when the seance is hardly begun. In its details this systematic anæsthesia varies infinitely, and extends sometimes to but one part of the person concerned, to his hand, to a portion of his face, etc., without it always being possible to explain these capricious details by the content of the following visions; it would seem that the incoherence of the dream presides over this preliminary work of disintegration, and that the normal perceptions are absorbed by the subconscious personality eager for material for the building up of the hallucinations which it is preparing.
Systematic anæsthesia is often complicated with positive hallucinations, and Hélène will manifest her surprise at seeing, for example, a strange costume or an unusual coiffure. This, in reality, is the vision which is already being installed.
The third symptom, which does not manifest itself clearly in her, but the presence of which can be often
established before all the others by investigation, is a complete allochiria, * ordinarily accompanied by various other sensory and motor disturbances. If, at the beginning of the seance, Hélène is asked, for example, to raise her right hand, to move the left index-finger, or to close one eye, she begins straightway to carry into effect these different acts; then all at once, without knowing why and without hesitation, she deceives herself in regard to the side, and raises her left hand, moves her right index-finger, closes the other eye, etc. This indicates that she is no longer in her normal state, though still appearing to retain her ordinary consciousness, and with the liveliness of a normal person discusses the question of her having mistaken her right hand or eye for her left, and vice versa. It is to be noted that Leopold, on such occasions of pronounced allochiria, does not share this error in regard to the side. I have assisted at some curious discussions between him and Hélène, she insisting that such a hand was her right, or that the Isle Rousseau is on the left as one passes the bridge of Mont Blanc or coming from the railway station, and Leopold all the while, by means of raps upon the table, giving her clearly to understand she was wrong. †
A little after the allochiria, and sometimes simultaneously with it, are to be found various other phenomena, extremely variable, of which I here cite only
a few One of her arms is contractured as it rests upon the table, and resists the efforts of the sitters to lift it up, as though it were a bar of iron; the fingers of the hand also participate in this rigidity. Sometimes this contracture does not exist before, but establishes itself at the same instant that some one touches the forearm, and increases in proportion to the efforts which are made to overcome it. There is no regularity in the distribution of the anæsthesia (changing from one instant to another), the contractures, or convulsions which the hands and arms of Hélène exhibit. It all seems due to pure caprice, or to depend only on underlying dreams, of which little is known.
Certain analogous and likewise capricious phenomena of anæsthesia, paralysis, sensations of all sorts, of which Hélène complains, often appear in her face, her eyes, her mouth, etc. In the midst of all these disturbances the visions announce themselves, and the somnambulism is introduced with modifications, equally variable, of other functions, evidenced by tears, sobbings, sighs, repeated hiccoughs, various changing of the rhythm of respiration, etc.
If Hélène is experimented upon and questioned too long, the development of the original visions is obstructed, and she easily reaches a degree of sensibility where she falls into the standard class of public representations of hypnotism—a charmed and fascinated state in which she remains riveted before some brilliant object, as, for example, the ring, trinkets, or cuff-button of one of the sitters; then
precipitates herself in a frenzy upon the object, and tries to secure it; or assumes emotional attitudes and poses under the influence of joyous airs upon the piano; experiences suggested hallucinations of all kinds, sees terrible serpents, which she pursues with a pair of pincers; beautiful flowers, which she smells with deep respirations and distributes to the sitters; or, again, bleeding wounds which have been made on her hand, and which cause her to shed tears. The common-place character of these phenomena causes their long continuance to be deprecated, and the ingenuity of all is exercised in endeavoring by different means, none of which is very efficacious or very rapid, to plunge her into profound and tranquil sleep, from which she is not long in passing of her own accord into complete somnambulism and in taking up the thread of her personal imaginations.
If all these disturbing investigations have been successfully avoided, the spontaneous development of the automatisms is effected with greater rapidity and fulness. It is possible then to behold, in the same seance, a very varied spectacle, and to listen, besides, to certain special communications made in a semi-waking state to one or other of the sitters; then, in complete somnambulism, a Hindoo vision is presented, followed by a Martian dream, with an incarnation of Leopold in the middle, and a scene of Marie Antoinette to wind up with. Ordinarily two of these last creations will suffice to fill up a seance. One such representation is not performed without the loss of considerable strength by the medium, which shows itself by the final sleep being prolonged sometimes
for an hour, interrupted, as I have said, by repetitions of the preceding somnambulistic scenes, easily recognizable by certain gestures or the murmuring of characteristic words. Passing through these diverse oscillations and the ephemeral awaking, of which I have spoken above, Hélène finishes by returning to her normal state; but the seances which have been too long continued or too full of movement leave her very much fatigued for the rest of the day. It has also sometimes happened to her to re-enter the somnambulism (from which she had probably not completely emerged) during the course of the evening or on returning home, and only to succeed in recovering her perfectly normal state through the assistance of a night's sleep.
As to the real nature of Hélène's slumbers at the end of the seances, and her states of consciousness when she awakes, it is difficult for me to pronounce, having only been able to observe them under unfavorable conditions—that is, in the presence of sitters more or less numerous and restless. The greater part certainly consist of somnambulisms, in which she hears all that passes around her, since although she seems profoundly asleep and absent, the suggestions then given her to be carried out after awaking are registered and performed wonderfully—at least when Leopold, who is almost always on hand and answers by movements of one finger or another to questions put to him, does not make any opposition or declare that the suggestion shall not be carried out I There are also brief moments when Hélène seems to be in a profound state of coma and kind of syncope
without trace of psychic life; her pulse and respiration continue to be regular, but she does not react to any excitation, her arms, if raised, fall heavily, no sign of Leopold can be obtained, and suggestions made at that instant will not be acted upon.
These lethargic phases, during which all consciousness seems to be abolished, are generally followed by cataleptic phases in which the hands and arms preserve every position in which they may be placed, and continue the movements of rotation or of oscillation which may be forced upon them, but never for more than one or two minutes.
In default of more complete experiments, I submit the following comparison of Hélène's muscular force and of her sensibility to pain before and after a seance lasting nearly three hours, the second half being in full somnambulism. At 4.50 o'clock, on sitting down at the table three dynamometric tests with her right hand gave kilos. 27.5, 27, 25—average, 26.5. The sensibility to pain measured on the back of the median phalanx of the index-finger with the algesiometer of Griesbach, gave for the right, grs. 35, 40, 20, 20—average, 29; for the left, 35, 20, 20, 15—average, 22.5 grs. (Sensibility slightly more delicate than that of another lady present at the seance, not a medium and in perfect health.)
At 7.45 o'clock, some minutes after the final awaking: dynamometer, right hand, 8, 4.5, 4.5—average, 5.7; algesiometer, complete analgesia both as to right and left, on the whole of the back of the index as well as the rest of the hand and wrist, the maximum of the instrument (100 grs.) was attained
and passed without arousing any painful sensation but only an impression of contact.
One hour later, after dinner: dynamometer 22, 22, 19—average, 21; algesiometer, 20, 18 for the right: 15, 20 for the left. It is possible, then, to say that her muscular force and sensibility to pain, both normal immediately before her entrance upon the seance, are still abolished in the first fifteen minutes after awaking, but are found to be restored in about an hour. Perception of colors, on the contrary, appeared to be as perfect immediately after awaking as before the seance. The tremor of the index-finger; normal before the seance, is very much exaggerated in its amplitude for a certain time after awaking and reflects sometimes the respiratory movements, as can be seen by the curves of Fig. 2. This denotes a great diminution of kinesthetic sensibility and of voluntary control over the immobility of the hand.
The state in which Mlle. Smith carries out the post-hypnotic suggestions made to her in the course of her somnambulisms, when they do not come into collision with either the pronounced opposition of Leopold or the states of lethargy of which I have spoken, is interesting on account of its varied character, which seems to depend upon the greater or less ease with which the hallucination or the act suggested can be reconciled with Hélène's normal personality. Their execution in the full waking state seems to be confined to suggestions of simple acts, free from absurdity, the idea of which would be easily accepted and carried out by the normal self when the desired moment arrived. If, on the contrary, it is a
question of more complicated and difficult things, compatible, however, with the rational points of view of the normal waking state, Hélène falls momentarily into somnambulism for the execution of the order given, unless she has permanently remained in that state, in spite of her apparent awaking, in order not
Fig. 2. Tremor of right index-finger. A, B, C, fragments of curves taken in the normal state before the seance (A and C with closed eyes; B, with open eyes looking at the index-finger); D, E, F, fragments of curves received in succession a quarter of an hour after the seance. The curve F reflects the respiratory oscillations. The curves go from right to left, and the interval between the two vertical lines is ten seconds.
to re-enter definitely and completely upon her ordinary state until after the execution of the order, of which there then remains to her no recollection whatever.
From the foregoing facts we may conclude that little or nothing of that which goes on around her escapes her subconscious intelligence, and it is from this source that her somnambulistic romances are nourished afresh.
A word more as to the preparation for the seances. I do not refer to a conscious preparation, but to a subliminal incubation or elaboration, unknown by her, showing itself on the level of her ordinary personality in the form of fugitive gleams and fragmentary images during her sleep at night or the moments of awaking in the morning. Mlle. Smith, in reality, has no hold, possesses no influence, upon the nature of her visions and somnambulisms. She is able, undoubtedly, up to a certain point, to aid their appearance in a general way, by cultivating tranquillity of mind, securing darkness and silence in the room, and by abandoning herself to a passive attitude of mind; or to hinder it, on the other hand, by movement, or distraction of attention; but with the fixed and concrete content itself of her automatisms she has nothing to do and no share in the responsibility for it. So far as her great cycles or her detached messages are concerned, they are fabricated in her in spite of herself, and without her having a word to say about their production, any more than one has in the formation of his dreams. When it is recollected, on the other hand, that the phenomena of incubation, of subliminal preparation,
or unconscious cerebration, are universal facts, playing their rôle in the psychology of every human being, we can rely upon finding them also among the mediums, and upon their holding a place with them much more important than with others, owing to the fact that their subconscious life is so much more fully developed.
With each one of us the expectation or the simple perspective of any event—a departure, a visit, an errand, or undertaking to do anything, a letter to write, in short, all the more insignificant incidents of daily existence, when they are not absolutely unforeseen—promote a psychological adaptation more or less extended and profound.
Alongside of and underneath the conscious expectancy, certain physical or mental attitudes, voluntarily assumed in view of the event, always effect an underlying preparation of an inward kind, a change which we may regard, according to the side from which we consider the individual, as a peculiar psychical orientation or cerebral adjustment, a modification in the association of ideas or in the dynamics of the cortical nerves. But everything points to the fact that in persons gifted with mediumship this underlying preparation is capable of assuming on occasion a greater importance than is the case with ordinary mortals, a much more complete independence of the ordinary consciousness
To return to Mlle. Smith, when she knows some time in advance who will be present at her next seance, and what people she will almost surely meet there, it would be altogether natural that such previous
knowledge of the environment and of the sitters would influence her subliminal thoughts and in some degree direct the course of the latent incubation. It may well be asked, therefore, whether the varied spectacle which the seances furnish is really always impromptu and has its birth on the spur of the moment like ordinary dreams, or whether it has been subconsciously thought out, the seance being only the performance of an arrested programme, the representation coram populo of scenes already ripened in the deep subliminal strata of the medium.
Neither of these two hypotheses, held to exclude the other, answers to the facts, but there is some truth in both of them.
The menu of the seances—if the expression is permissible—is always composed of one or two plats de résistance, carefully prepared in advance in the subliminal laboratories, and of various hors d’oeuvres left to the inspiration of the moment. To speak more exactly, the general plot, the chief lines and more striking points of the scenes which unfold themselves are fixed according to a previous arrangement, but the details of execution and accessory embellishments are entirely dependent upon chance circumstances. The proof of this is found, on the one hand, in the suppleness, the perfect ease, the appropriateness with which Hélène's automatisms—if we can still apply the word automatism to those cases in which spontaneity, self-possession, free use of all the faculties constitute the dominant characteristics—often adapt themselves to unexpected situations in the environment or capricious interruptions on
the part of the sitters; on the other hand, in the fact that Leopold, interrogated at the beginning of the seance, ordinarily knows very well and announces the principal vision or incarnations which are about to make their appearance, provided, at least, the spectators do not hinder their unfolding by their tempestuous clamor for something else.
The animated conversations, sometimes full of spirited repartee, between Leopold or Marie Antoinette and the sitters, could not have been prepared in advance, and are altogether opposed to the stereotyped repetition which is generally expected of automatic phenomena. But, on the other hand, such repetition, almost entirely mechanical and devoid of sense, presents itself on frequent occasions. I have, for instance, seen somnambulistic scenes presented which were entirely misplaced, and constituted at the time veritable anachronisms, which would have perfectly fitted the situation eight days previously in another environment, and for which the aforesaid scenes had been evidently intended; but, having been withheld until the last moment by unforeseen circumstances, the following seance gets the benefit of these postponed messages.
Here is proof that Hélène's subliminal imagination prepares up to a certain point her principal productions, in view of the conditions and surroundings under which the seance will probably take place, and also that these products, once elaborated, must be eliminated and poured forth with a sort of blind necessity, at the right or the wrong time, whenever the entrance of Hélène into a favorable hypnoid state furnishes
them an opportunity so to do. It follows also that her normal personality has nothing whatever to do with the preparation of the seances, since she can neither suppress nor change scenes badly adapted to the actual environment, the appearance of which sometimes greatly annoys Mlle. Smith when they are recounted to her after the seance; nor can she provoke the messages, the production of which she desires and vainly hopes for—as, for example, a medical consultation with Leopold, the incarnation of a deceased parent, or a scene from one cycle rather than from the others, for the benefit of a sitter who particularly desires it, and whom she is very desirous to please.
Much more could be said concerning the psychological side of the seances of Mlle. Smith, but I must limit myself. It will be possible to gain a more complete idea of this subject by studying the illustrations in the following chapters on the chief cycles of her brilliant subliminal fantasy.
54:* Vision relating to the Oriental cycle; the man was the Arab sheik, the father of Simandini.
55:* The following are some of these impromptu rhymes, surely up to the level of the circumstances which inspired them, but by which we ought not to judge the conscious poetic faculties of Mile. Smith:
To a little girl proud of her new shoes:
Elle a ses petits souliers noirs."
In a "culinary" discussion:
Autant que moi les côtelettes."
To a person slightly vain:
Ne me font point du tout envie!"
64:* The confusion of sensations in the two sides of the body, as when a person locates in the right leg a touch upon the left leg.
64:† See, on allochiria, P. Janet, Stigmates mentaux des hysteriques, pp. 66-71; and Nevroses et ideés fixes, vol. i. p. 234.