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REAL GHOST STORIES (Collected and Edited by William T. Stead) online

REAL GHOST STORIES by William T. Stead

Chapter IV. Some Suggested Theories.

Of theories to account for these strange phenomena there are enough and to spare. I do not for a moment venture to claim for the man and wife illustration the slightest scientific value. It is only a figure of speech which brings out very clearly one aspect of the problem of personality. The theory that there are two independent personalities within the human skin is condemned by all orthodox psychologists. There is one personality manifesting itself, usually consciously, but occasionally unconsciously, and the different method of manifestation differs so widely as to give the impression that there could not be the same personality behind both. A man who is ambidextrous will sign his name differently with his right or left hand, but it is the same signature. Mr. Myers thinks that the Secondary Personality of Subliminal Consciousness is merely a phase of the essential Unity of the Ego. Some time ago he expressed himself on this subject as follows:--

"I hold that hypnotism (itself a word covering a vast variety of different states) may be regarded as constituting one special case which falls under a far wider category--the category, namely, of developments of a Secondary Personality. I hold that we each of us contain the potentialities of many different arrangements of the elements of our personality, each arrangement being distinguishable from the rest by differences in the chain of memories which pertain to it. The arrangement with which we habitually identify ourselves--what we call the normal or primary self--consists, in my view, of elements selected for us in the struggle for existence with special reference to the maintenance of ordinary physical needs, and is not necessarily superior in any other respect to the latent personalities which lie alongside of it--the fresh combinations of our personal elements which may be evoked by accident or design, in a variety to which we at present can assign no limit. I consider that dreams, with natural somnambulism, automatic writing, with so-called mediumistic trance, as well as certain intoxications, epilepsies, hysterias, and recurrent insanities, afford examples of the development of what I have called secondary mnemonic chains; fresh personalities, more or less complete, alongside the normal state. And I would add that hypnotism is only the name given to a group of empirical methods of inducing these fresh personalities."

A doctor in philosophy, to whom I submitted these pages, writes me as follows:--"There can be no doubt that every man lives a sub-conscious as well as a conscious life. One side of him is closed against examination by himself (_i.e._ unconscious); the other is conscious of itself. The former carries on processes of separation, combination, and distribution, of the thought-stuff handed over to it, corresponding almost exactly to the processes carried on by the stomach, which, as compared with those of eating, etc., go on in the dark automatically."

Another doctor, not of philosophy but of medicine, who has devoted special attention to the phenomenon of sleep, suggests a new illustration which is graphic and suggestive. He writes:--

"With regard to dual or multiple consciousness, my own feeling has always been that the _individuals_ stand one behind the other in the chambers of the mind, or else, as it were, in concentric circles. You may compare it to the Jewish tabernacle. First, there is the court of the Gentiles, where Ego No. 1 chaffers about trifles with the outer world. While he is so doing Ego No. 2 watches him from the court of the Levites, but does not go forth on small occasions. When we 'open out' to a friend the Levite comes forth, and is in turn watched by the priest from the inner court. Let our emotions be stirred in sincere converse and out strides the priest, and takes precedence of the other two, they falling obediently and submissively behind him. But the priest is still watched by the high priest from the tabernacle itself, and only on great and solemn occasions does he make himself manifest by action. When he does, the other three yield to his authority, and then we say the man 'speaks with his whole soul' and 'from the bottom of his heart.' But even now the Shekinah is upon the mercy-seat within the Holy of holies, and the high priest knows it."

The latest word[4] of the French psychologists is thus stated by M. Foüillée:--

"Contemporary psychology deprives us of the illusion of a definitely limited, impenetrable, and absolutely autonomous I. The conception of individual consciousness must be of an idea rather than of a substance. Though separate _in_ the universe, we are not separate _from_ the universe. Continuity and reciprocity of action exist everywhere. This is the great law and the great mystery. There is no such thing as an isolated and veritably monad being, any more than there is such a thing as an indivisible point, except in the abstractions of geometry."

[4] 1891.

Whatever may be the true theory, it is evident that there is enough mystery about personality to make us very diffident about dogmatising, especially as to what is possible and what is not.

Whether we have one mind or two, let us, at least, keep it (or them) open.

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