From India to the Planet Mars, by Théodore Flournoy; tr. Daniel B. Vermilye, , at sacred-texts.com
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. Smithwho 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
supernormaltelepathy, 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 onlyvisual, auditive, typtomotor hallucinationscompatible 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 entrancedLeopold 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-rappingthe 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.