PRESIDENT G. STANLEY HALL'S AND DR. AMY E. TANNER'S STUDIES IN SPIRITISM.
By James H. Hyslop.
It was perhaps a year ago or thereabouts that I heard from a friend that President G. Stanley Hall, of Clark University, Worcester, Mass., had had some sittings with Mrs. Piper and I wrote him to express my desire to see the detailed record, but it seems not to have been copied at the time, according to the statement of his reply to me. Again I wrote a week ago and received from him the following reply:
Clark University, October 11th, 1910. My dear Professor Hyslop :
Every single scrap of the record of our sittings with Mrs. Piper has just appeared in the work of Dr. Amy E. Tanner from the Press of Appleton two or three weeks ago under the title " Studies in Spiritism." I have myself in one chapter in the book and also in the introduction given my views full vent and I need not say that I shall await with very great interest your reactions which I hope very much for the benefit of the cause will be as frank as our work has been. With cordial greetings, I am, Very sincerely yours,
G. STANLEY HALL.
President Hall is responsible for the first Introduction in the book and for Chapter XVI entitled " Current Notes by Dr. Hall." The remainder of the book, except interspersed comments, is avowedly by Dr. Tanner who has been his as¬sistant in Clark University work. The review of it will have to be divided, on this account, into two distinct parts, one dealing with the statements of President Hall and the other dealing with those of Dr. Tanner, tho I may have occasion to interfuse the references and discussions with each other.
I shall not enter into a critical defense of the spiritistic hy¬pothesis which the book rejects. That theory is quite ca¬pable of taking care of itself before honest and intelligent people. I do not regard argumentative or controversial de¬fence of that hypothesis as important in comparison with the truthful treatment of facts, and any attempt to change the issue by defending it before one has ascertained the exact facts is to expose oneself to refutation. I am not interested in any view of a subject which does not consist with facts and more than this I freely accord any man complete difference of opinion in regard to them. But woe unto him if he does not state the exact truth and shows either ignorance or prej¬udice about them. Then if there be any constructive lying about the facts I am going to avail myself of every advantage which an act of that kind offers.
Hence as I am not concerned with the views of the book, I shall confine my review of it to the correction of errors of fact and remarks on the character of them. Some of these errors are found in statements by President Hall, but, as Dr. Tanner is responsible for nearly all the statements of the book affecting the alleged facts of other records and students of the problem, it is she that will come in for the largest con¬sideration, and the errors are so astounding in this respect that I shall spare no feelings and indulge no chivalry what¬ever in the exposure of them. President Hall has asked me, as the letter quoted above indicates, to express myself frankly and I shall accept the invitation, taking an adaptation of Ma-caulay's language in his review of Barere's Memoirs as the promise of what I shall do.
" This book has more than one title to our serious attention. It is an appeal, solemnly made to contemporaries by one who plays a conspicuous part in academic respectability and authority and who represents herself or himself as ag¬grieved by the prejudices of those who believe in the existence of spirits on scientific evidence while she or he boldly pro¬claims belief without evidence and yet makes science the only criterion of truth in the treatment of the very creed they criticize. To such an appeal I shall always give ready au¬dience. I can perform no duty more useful to society, or more agreeable to my own feelings, than that of making, as far as my power extends, reparation to the slandered and persecuted devotees of academic science. I have therefore promptly taken into consideration this copious apology for scepticism.
" I was not conscious when I opened this book that I was under the influence of any feeling likely to pervert my judg¬ment. Undoubtedly I had long entertained a most unfavor¬able opinion of certain critics of psychic research and the spiritistic hypothesis; but to this opinion I was not tied by any passion or by any interest. My dislike was a reasonable dislike and might easily have been removed by reason and the truthful statement of fact. Indeed my expectation was that this book, now that academic reserve and authority had come into the arena, would amply vindicate the intelligence, the honesty and the fairness of respectable scepticism. That the author could vindicate herself or himself from all the suspicions and charges that had been made against the scientific priesthood I had hoped would be effected, tho fear¬ing it would be impossible. I thought it highly probable that some grave accusations against the type of minds under review would have been refuted and that many offences to which the class would have been forced to plead guilty would be greatly extenuated. I was not disposed to be severe. I was fully aware that temptations to which endowed respecta¬bility and scientific dogmatism were exposed must try se¬verely the strength of the firmest virtue. Indeed my in¬clination has always been to regard with an indulgence, which to some rigid students of the subject seems excessive, those faults into which those obsequious souls are sometimes
hurried by the necessity of pacifying the people who supply them bread and fame, or admiration and authority.
" With such feelings I read the book and compared it with other accounts of the same phenomena. It is now my duty to express the opinion to which the reading has led me. I have made up my mind and now I propose to do the authors, by the blessing of God, full and signal justice." The re¬mainder of Macaulay's observations may be taken as repre-, senting the manner in which it shall be done.
I shall largely confine my examination of the book to the statements made about my own records, statements and views. I may have occasion to diverge somewhat from this course. The first part of the book to come under this notice will be the statements of Dr. Tanner which I shall follow in their order. I shall not omit any important reference to myself in my review. I am referred to and quoted combined on 34 pages of the book. I shall leave the English group to take care of itself in most cases and lay the stress of this re¬view upon the questions affecting myself and statements. What I wish to do is to point out the absolute errors of fact and to show the documentary evidence of it so far as that is possible. I take up first the chapter on early trances.*
* In all references to Dr. Tanner's book I shall simply refer to the page and when not otherwise indicated other references will be to the English Proceedings with mention of volume and page.
Describing my experiments over a telegraph line to illustrate certain aspects of incidents given in proof of personal identity between the living, the author says (p. 38):
" At the same time the real question is not touched at all in such experiments. Hyslop assumes to begin with that communication with discarnate spirits is possible and that the investigator's problem is only to find out how it is established, whereas in fact the investigator has no right to assume the presence of any discarnate personality at all until he has exhausted all possible explanations by means of incarnate personalities."
Who said that my experiments " touched the real question"? What is the real question? Dr. Tanner does not tell us, tho elsewhere it is assumed that it is personal identity
with which I should agree. But here it is assumed that I did not know what the real question was. I carefully defined it in the very volume to which her animadversion refers (Vol. XVI, pp. 158, 289-296). Cf. also Science and a Future Life, Chapter III. This was personal identity of the deceased as conceivably provable by supernormal information bearing upon the past life of the deceased. Now as to these experi¬ments for testing incidents between the living for their influence on the receiver's judgment I was actually careful to tell the reader that they did not bear upon the proper question, and enumerated four objects which I had in view and these excluded the one implied by Dr. Tanner's remark. She is careful not to tell the reader this fact. The statement is an insinuation that I was trying to " touch the real question " when I distinctly denied this. Cf. Vol. XVI, pp. 537-540 and especially 543.
Again Dr. Tanner says I assume the possibility of com¬munication with discarnate spirits, apparently or evidently referring to these experiments in identification of personality. This is not true. I did not assume anything of the kind. The statements made in those experiments flatly deny any such assertion by Dr. Tanner and I do not see how any person having the slightest claim to intelligence could fail to see this, especially when it is actually stated. Besides I have in all I have ever written on this subject emphasized the fact that I do not even assume the existence of spirits. I assume the truth of the materialistic theory and shall not grant the ex¬istence of spirits until I obtain supernormal evidence of personal identity. That I have stated over and over again. Cf. above references, especially page 1, and also Chap. X in Sci¬ence and a Future Life, Journal Am. S. P. R., Vol. I, especially pp. 200-202. I have perhaps stated it in twenty-five other places. Moreover I actually stated in the volume Dr. Tanner quotes that we could not assume discarnate personalities until we had exhausted normal and incarnate explanations. You would think from Dr. Tanner's statement that I had not done so. That I had done so was indicated in many passages and statements on my Report and it was distinctly stated in certain places. Cf. Vol. XVI, pp. 16, 124. Chapter V of that Report is saturated with the idea. Cf. Science and a Future Life, p. 246.
Again Dr. Tanner says, referring to the character of " test messages," representing what is unknown to the sitter. " Since even Hyslop admits that these alone are strictly evidential; in any scientific sense, etc." This is not true. I have never said anything of the kind and I have never believed anything of the kind. I have often recognized that such messages were necessary to overthrow a certain form of al¬leged telepathy in which I do not believe and which I have vigorously attacked ever since I began discussing the problem of spirit communication. What I have always contended for is that anything which is not due to chance or to previous normal knowlege by the medium is evidence. It may not be evidence of spirits, but this was not at any time the primary object or point of view in my estimation of the facts. I was content to have evidence of the supernormal, and if the collective or synthetic unity of the phenomena consisted with a spiritistic hypothesis it was not the individual test that had the primary value but the selective and collective unity of the mass, I have stated this ad nauseam in my discussions of the subject and in the very Report quoted by Dr. Tanner. Cf.
Vol. XVI, pp. 132-133, and 158-176.
Again says Dr. Tanner, referring to the manner of making the records:
" Notes were taken in long hand, but, as far as can be judged, until Hyslop's sittings no attempt was made to take down everything that was said, especially remarks considered foreign to the matter in hand, or remarks of one sitter to the other, when two or more were present." (p, 45.)
There is not one word of truth in these statements, except that at some sittings used in the earlier Reports long hand notes were taken. The rest of it is pure fiction. It is the less excusable because the book pretends to show a knowledge of the various volumes published by the Society. (1) Stenographic records were made by Dr. Hodgson long before I had any sittings and in fact before I became interested in psychic research. Cf. Vol. XIII, pp. 288 and 413. (2) Besides the explicit statement of Dr. Hodgson the evidence stands printed on the page in which the statements of the sitter were recorded and Dr. Tanner herself has actually adopted in her own treatment of records exactly the same style of reporting them, without any acknowledgment where she learned it. (3) Whatever merit attaches to the manner of making my own record belongs entirely to Dr. Hodgson, and he was the one who made the notes under my eyes in all but the few times he was out of the room a few minutes and the fact was stated right in my Report. He had been prac¬ticing this care for years with exactly the same desire to en¬able readers and students to ascertain for themselves whether information had been imparted directly or indirectly by sitters, and all the borrowed wisdom displayed by the present authors on that point had been acted on for years by Dr. Hodgson. You would suppose from the authors of this book that they had discovered it and that psychic researchers were especially delinquent in this matter. (4) In his first report Dr. Hodgson remarked his habit of making stenographic records. (Vol. VIII, pp. 2 and 88.) (5) Professor James had made them before Dr. Hodgson came to this country. (Vol. XIII, p. 2 and American Proceedings, p. 103.)
Again Dr. Tanner (p. 48) says: " Hyslop says that in some of his sittings he spoke not a word from beginning to end." This also is pure fiction. There is not one iota of evidence for it. On this point the author contradicts this view of the case on page 72 where it is indicated truthfully that I did speak "in an assumed voice" and actually on the previous page (p. 45) refers to my inflections as if they oc¬curred in all the sittings. Besides the records every one of them have in the parentheses the indication of my speaking and when Dr. Hodgson spoke. The letter " S " stands for myself and precedes the record of my statements.
Immediately following the fictitious statement mentioned the author says: "Usually Dr. Hodgson betrayed through his voice his estimate of the accuracy of the control's statements, this estimate being in part determined through his receiving suggestions from Hyslop's appearance, manner, etc." Where is the evidence for this broad statement "usually"? Has it been applied to the details of the record? Not for a moment. It is pure fiction. If the author had said that at times he may have done so through suggestion from me there would be no quarrel. The incidents which at least appeared significant came usually before I had even had the chance to suggest anything regarding the subject of the com¬munication and recognition is not suggestion. Even a psy¬chologist ought to know that.
These are the less important errors of fact in the state¬ments of Dr. Tanner. They show sufficient carelessness of as¬sertion and want of respect for evidence on essential issues involved in the case to make one cautious about accepting any statement whatever that she would make. But the next group of facts representing the most important aspect of the whole problem are far worse in their falsification of the rec¬ord. The chapter is entitled " Test Messages." This means that the author intends to illustrate and discuss the " test messages" of the various records and Reports made of psychic phenomena. By a " test message " is meant one that is supposed to be evidence of the supernormal. The earlier Reports are drawn upon for instances and as I am at present concerned only with the references to my own state¬ments I shall not notice them farther than to remark that Dr. Hodgson's second Report is little more than mentioned. There is no attempt whatever to examine and criticize the facts to which Dr. Hodgson attached value. I may come to this again. The summary of my own record follows and I shall take up the incidents in their order. Dr. Tanner claims to select them as "test messages." The general conduct of the author in this respect will be noticed later. I take the summarized statements regarding my record as the author's representation of what I said and believed. When I am through with the subject the reader may decide for himself the amount of truth in Dr. Tanner's statements.
Dr. Tanner (p. 44) says that, " admit that these incidents alone are strictly evidential in a scientific sense, whose truth is unknown to the sitter." This is not true. I merely regarded such incidents as fatal to a limited telepathy and treated all incidents as evidential of the supernormal provided they were not due to guessing or chance coincidence. (Cf. Vol. XVI, pp. 131-134.)
A very important defect to remark is that the author gives no page references to the original documents which she pre¬tends to quote, and hence no one but the authors has any reasonable chance of examining the correctness of her statements. Readers are expected to take her ipse dixit about them, or at least that is all they can do with any reasonable ease. But I think all will agree, after the exposure of her misstatements, omissions, and misrepresentations, that it would have been a dangerous course to have given the references.
I propose to make it clear that I cannot be accused of garbling Dr. Tanner's statement and hence I shall quote every word of her summary of the incidents taken from my report. I shall neither abbreviate them nor represent the contents in terms of my own opinion. The reader shall have the full statements of Dr. Tanner and in reply I shall give the documentary evidence of the record which she claims to represent.
Miscellaneous musings of meager merit
2 days ago