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Supernatural Communications In War-Time
by [?]

In a volume entitled The Unknown Guest, published not long ago, among other essays I devoted one in particular[1] to certain phenomena of intuition, clairvoyance or clairaudience, vision at great distance and even vision of the future. These phenomena were grouped together under the somewhat unsuitable and none too well-constructed title of “psychometry,” which, to borrow Dr. Maxwell’s excellent definition, is “the faculty possessed by certain persons of placing themselves in relation, either spontaneously or, for the most part, through the intermediary of some object, with unknown and often very distant things and people.”

The existence of this faculty is no longer seriously denied by any one who has given some little attention to metapsychics; and it is easily verified by those who will take the necessary trouble, for its possessors, though few in number, are not inaccessible. It has been the subject of many experiments and of a few treatises, among which I will name one by M. Duchatel, Enquete sur des cas de psychometrie, and Dr. Osty’s recent book, Lucidite et intuition, which is the most complete and searching work that we have had upon this question until now.

Psychometry is one of the most curious faculties of our subconsciousness and doubtless contains the clue to many of those manifestations which appear to proceed from another world. Let us see, with the aid of a living example, how it is employed.

One of the best mediums of this class is a lady to whom I referred in The Unknown Guest as Mme. M. Her visitor gives her an object of some kind that has belonged to or been touched or handled by the person about whom he proposes to question her. Mme. M. operates in a state of trance; but there are other celebrated psychometers who retain all their normal consciousness, so that the hypnotic or somnambulistic state is not, generally speaking, by any means indispensable when we wish to arouse this extraordinary clairvoyance.

After placing the object, usually a letter, in the medium’s hands, you say to her:

“I wish you to put yourself in communication with the writer of this letter,” or “the owner of this article,” as the case may be.

Forthwith the medium not only perceives the person in question, his physical appearance, his character, his habits, his interests, his state of health, but also, in a series of swift and changing visions that follow one another like the pictures of a cinematograph, sees and describes exactly that person’s environment, the surrounding country, the rooms in which he lives, the people who live with him and who wish him well or ill, the mentality and the most secret and unexpected intentions of all the various characters that figure in his existence. If by means of your questions you direct her towards the past, she traces the whole course of the subject’s history. If you turn her towards the future, she seems often to discover it as clearly as the past.

But here we must make certain reservations. We are entering upon forbidden tracts; errors are almost the rule and proper supervision is all but impossible. It is better therefore not to venture into those dangerous regions. Pending fuller investigation of the question, we may say that the foretelling of the future, when it claims to cover a definite space of time, is nearly always illusory. There is scarcely any accuracy of vision, except when the events concerned are very near at hand, already developing or actually being consummated; and it then becomes difficult to distinguish it from presentiments, which in their turn are rarely true except where the immediate future is concerned. To sum up, in the present state of our experience, we observe that what the psychometers and clairvoyants foretell us possesses a certain value and some chance of proving correct only in so far as they put into words our own forebodings, forebodings which again may be quite unknown to us and which they discover deep down in our subconsciousness. They confine themselves–I speak of the genuine mediums–to bringing to light and revealing to us our unconscious and personal intuition of an event that is hanging over us. But, when they venture to predict a general event, such as the result of a war, an epidemic, an earthquake, which does not interest ourselves exclusively or which is too remote to come within the somewhat limited scope of our intuition, they almost invariably deceive themselves and us.