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The Unknown Guest

by Maurice Maeterlinck

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Chapter V. The Unknown Guest

1

We have now studied certain manifestations of that which we have called in turn and more or less indiscriminately the subconscious mind, the subliminal consciousness and the unknown guest, names to which we might add that of the superior subconsciousness or superior psychism invented by Dr. Geley. Granting that these manifestations are really proved, it is no longer possible to explain them or rather to classify them without having recourse to fresh theories. Now we can entertain doubts on many points, we can cavil and argue; but I defy anyone approaching these facts in a serious and honest spirit to reject them all. It is permissible to neglect the most extraordinary; but there are a multitude of others which have become or, to speak more accurately, are acknowledged to be as frequent and habitual as any fact whatever in normal, everyday life. It is not difficult to reproduce them at will, provided we place ourselves in the condition demanded by their very nature; and, this being so, there remains no valid reason for excluding them from the domain of science in the strict sense of the word.

Hitherto, all that we have learnt regarding these occurrences is that their origin is unknown. It will be said that this is not much and that the discovery is nothing to boast of. I quite agree: to imagine that one can explain a phenomena by saying that it is produced by an unknown agency would indeed be childish. But it is already something to have marked its source; not to be still lingering in the thick of a fog, trying any and every direction in order to find a way out, but to be concentrating our attention on a single spot which is the starting-point of all these wonders, so that at each instant we recognize in each phenomenon the characteristic customs, methods or features of the same unknown agency. It is very nearly all that we can do for the moment; but this first effort is not wholly to be despised.

2

It has seemed to us then that it was our unknown guest that expressed itself in the name of the dead in table-turning and in automatic writing and speaking. This unknown guest has appeared to us to take within us the place of those who are no more, to unite itself perhaps with forces that do not die, to visit the grave with the object of bringing thence inexplicable phantoms which rise up in front of us fruitlessly or haunt our houses without telling us why. We have seen it, in experiments in clairvoyance and intuition, suppressing all the obstacles that banish or conceal thought and, through bodies that have become transparent, reading in our very souls forgotten secrets of the past, sentiments that have not yet taken shape, intentions as yet unborn. We have discovered that some object once handled by a person now far away is enough to make it take part in the innermost life of that person, to go deeper and rise higher than he does, to see what he sees and even what he does not see: the landscape that surrounds him, the house which he inhabits and also the dangers that threaten him and the secret passions by which he is stirred. We have surprised it wandering hither and thither, at haphazard, in the future, confounding it with the present and the past, not conscious of where it is but seeing far and wide, knowing perhaps everything but unaware of the importance of what it knows, or as yet incapable of turning it to account or of making itself understood, at once neglectful and overscrupulous, prolix and reticent, useless and indispensable. We have seen it, lastly, although we had hitherto looked upon it as indissolubly and unchangeably human, suddenly emerge from other creatures and there reveal faculties akin to ours, which commune with them deep down in the deepest mysteries and which equal them and sometimes surpass them in a region that wrongly appeared to us the only really unassailable province of mankind, I mean the obscure and abstruse province of numbers.

It has many other no less strange and perhaps more important manifestations, which we propose to examine in a later volume, notably its surprising therapeutic virtues and its phenomena of materialization. But, without expressing a premature judgment on what we do not yet know, perhaps we have sketched it with sufficient clearness in the foregoing pages to enable us henceforward to disentangle certain general and characteristic features from a confusion of often contradictory lines.

3

But, in the first place, does it really exist, this tragic and comical, evasive and unavoidable figure which we make no claim to portray, but at most to divest of some of its shadows? It were rash to affirm it too loudly; but meanwhile, in the realms where we suppose it to reign, everything happens as though it did exist. Do away with it and you are obliged to people the world and burden your life with a host of hypothetical and imaginary beings: gods, demigods, angels, demons, saints, spirits, shells, elementals, etherial entities, interplanetary intelligences and so on; except it and all those phantoms, without disappearing, for they may very well continue to live in its shadow, become superfluous or accessory. It is not intolerant and does not definitely eliminate any of the hypotheses by the aid of which man has hitherto striven to explain what he did not understand, hypotheses which, in regard to some matters, are not inadmissible, although not one of them is confirmed; but it brings him back to itself, absorbs them and rules them without annihilating them. If, for instance, to select the most defensible theory, one which it is sometimes difficult to dismiss absolutely, if you insist that the discarnate spirits take part in your actions, haunt your house, inspire your thoughts, reveal your future, it will answer:

"That is true, but it is still I; I am discarnate, or rather I am not wholly incarnate: it is only a small part of my being that is embodied in your flesh; and the rest, which is nearly all of me, comes and goes freely both among those who once were and among those who are yet to be; and, when they seem to speak to you, it is my own speech that borrows their customs and their voice in order to make you listen and to amuse your often slumbering attention. If you prefer to deal with superior entities of unknown origin, with interplanetary or supernatural intelligences, once more it is I; for, since I am not entirely in your body, I must needs be elsewhere; and to be elsewhere when one is not held back by the weight of the flesh is to be everywhere if one so pleases."

We see, it has a reply to everything, it takes every name that we wish and there is nothing to limit it, because it lives in a world wherein bounds are as illusory as the useless words which we employ on earth.

4

While it has a reply to everything, certain manifestations which it deliberately ascribes to the spirits have brought upon it a not undeserved reproach. To begin with, as Dr. Maxwell observes, it has no absolutely fixed doctrine. In nearly every country in the world, when it speaks in the name of the spirits, it declares that they undergo reincarnation and readily relates their past existences. In England, on the contrary, it usually asserts that they do not become reincarnated. What does this mean? Surely this ignorance or this inconsistency on the part of that which appears to know everything is very strange! And worse, sometimes it attributes to the spirits, sometimes to itself or any one or anything the revelations which it makes to us. When exactly is it speaking the truth? At least on two occasions out of three, it deludes itself or deludes us. If it deceive itself, if it is mistaken about a matter in which it should be easy for it to know the truth, what can it teach us on the subject of a world of whose most elementary laws it is ignorant, since it does not even know whether it is itself or another that speaks to us in the name of that world? Are we to believe that it was in the same darkness as our poor superficial ego, which it pretends so often to enlighten and which it does in fact inspire in most of the great events of life? If it deceives us, why does it do so? We can see no object: it asks for nothing, not for alms, nor prayers, nor thoughts, on behalf of those whose mantle it assumes for the sole purpose of leading us astray. What is the use of those mischievous and puerile pranks, of those ghastly graveyard pleasantries? It must lie then for the mere pleasure of lying; and our unknown guest, that infinite and doubtless immortal subconsciousness in which we have placed out last hopes, is after all but an imbecile, a buffoon or a rank swindler!

5

I do not believe that the truth is as hideous as this. Our unknown guest does not deceive itself any more than it deceives us; but it is we who deceive ourselves. It has not the stage to itself; and its voice is not the voice that sounds in our ears, which were never made to catch the echoes of a world that is not like ours. If it could speak to us itself and tell us what it knows, we should probably at that instant cease to be on this earth. But we are immersed in our bodies, entombed prisoners with whom it cannot communicate at will. It roams around the walls, it utters warning cries. It knocks at every door, but all that reaches us is a vague disquiet, an indistinct murmur that is sometimes translated to us by a half-awakened gaoler who, like ourselves, is a lifelong captive. The gaoler does his best; he has his own way of speaking, his familiar expressions; he knows, and, with the aid of the words which he possesses and those which he hears repeated, he tries to make us understand what he hardly understands himself. He does not know exactly whence the sounds come which he hears; and, according as tempests, wars or riots happen to be uppermost at the moment, he attributes them to the winds, to tramping soldiers or to frenzied crowds. In other words and speaking without metaphor, it is the medium who draws from his habitual language and from that suggested to him by his audience the wherewithal to clothe and identify the strange presentiments, the unfamiliar visions that come from some unknown region. If he believes that the dead survive, he will naturally imagine that it is the dead who speak to him. If he has a favourite spirit, angel, demon or god, he will express himself in its name; if he has no preconceived opinion, he will not even allude to the origin of the revelations which he is making. The inarticulate language of the subconsciousness necessarily borrows that of the normal consciousness; and the two become confused into a sort of shifting and multiform jargon. And our unknown guest, which is not thinking of delivering a course of lectures upon its entity, but simply giving us as best it can a more or less warning or mark of its existence, seems to care but little as to the garments in which it is rigged out, having indeed no choice in the matter, for, either because it is unable to manifest itself or because we are incapable of understanding it, it has to be content with whatever comes to hand.

Besides, if we attribute too exclusively to the spirits that which comes from another quarter, the mistake is doubtless no great one in its eyes; for it is not madness to believe that it lives with that which does not die in the dead even as with that which does not die in ourselves, with that which does not descend into the grave even as with that which does not take flesh at the hour of birth.

6

There is no reason therefore to condemn the other theories entirely. Most of them doubtless contain something more than a particle of truth; in particular, the great quarrel between the subconscious school and the spiritualists is based on the whole upon a misunderstanding. It is quite possible and even very probable that the dead are all around us, since it is impossible that the dead do not live. Our subconsciousness must mingle with all that does not die in them; and that which dies in them or rather disperses and loses all its importance is but the little consciousness accumulated on this earth and kept up until the last hour by the frail bonds of memory. In all those manifestations of our unknown guest, it is our posthumous ego that already lives in us while we are still in the flesh and at moments joins that which does not die in those who have quitted their body. Then does the existence of our unknown guest presume the immortality of a part of ourselves? Can one possibly doubt it? Have you ever imagined that you would perish entirely? As for me, what I cannot picture is the manner in which you would picture that total annihilation. But, if you cannot perish entirely, it is no less certain that those who came before you have not perished either; and hence it is not altogether improbable that we may be able to discover them and to communicate with them. In this wider sense, the spiritualistic theory is perfectly admissible; but what is not at all admissible is the narrow and pitiful interpretation which its proponents too often give it. They see the dead crowding around us like wretched puppets indissolubly attached to the insignificant scene of their death by the thousand little threads of insipid memories and infantile hobbies. They are supposed to be here, blocking up our homes, more abjectly human than if they were still alive, vague, inconsistent, garrulous, derelict, futile and idle, tossing hither and thither their desolate shadows, which are being slowly swallowed up by silence and oblivion, busying themselves incessantly with what no longer concerns them, but almost incapable of doing us a real service, so much so that, in short, they would end by persuading us that death serves no purpose, that it neither purifies nor exalts, that it brings no deliverance and that it is indeed a thing of terror and despair.

7

No, it is not the dead who thus speak and act. Besides, why bring them into the matter unnecessarily? I could understand that we should be obliged to do so if there were no similar phenomena outside them; but in the intuition and clairvoyance of nonspiritualistic mediums and particularly in psychometry we obtain communications between one subconsciousness and another and revelations of unknown, forgotten or future incidents which are equally striking, though stripped of the vapid gossip and tedium reminiscences with which we are overwhelmed by defunct persons who are all the more jealous to prove their identity inasmuch as they know that they do not exist.

It is infinitely more likely that there is strange medley of heterogeneous forces in the uncertain regions into which we are venturing. The whole of this ambiguous drama, with its incoherent crowds, is probably enacted round about the dim estuary where our normal consciousness flows into our subconsciousness. The consciousness of the medium--for we must not forget that there is necessarily always a medium at the sources of these phenomena--the consciousness of the medium, obscured by the condition of trance but yet the only one that possesses our human speech and can make itself heard, takes in first and almost exclusively what it best understands and what most interests it in the stifled and mutilated revelations of our unknown guest, which for its part communicates with the dead and the living and everything that exists. The rest, which is the only thing that matters, but which is less clear and less vivid because it comes from afar, only very rarely makes its difficult way through a forest of insignificant talk. We may add that our subconsciousness, as Dr. Geley very rightly observes, is formed of superposed elements, beginning with the unconsciousness that governs the instinctive movements of the organic life of both the species and the individual and passing by imperceptible degrees till it rises to the superior psychism whose power and extent appear to have no bounds. The voice of the medium, or that which we hear within ourselves when, at certain moments of excitement or crisis in our lives, we become our own medium, has therefore to traverse three worlds or three provinces: that of the atavistic instincts which connect us with the animal; that of human or empirical consciousness; and lastly that of our unknown guest or our superior subconsciousness which links us to immense invisible realities and which we may, if we wish, call divine or superhuman. Hence it is not surprising that the intermediary, be he spiritualist, autonomist, palingenesist or what he will, should lose himself in those wild and troubled eddies and that the truth or message which he brings us, tossed and tumbled in every direction, should reach us broken, shattered and pulverized beyond recognition.

For the rest, I repeat, were it not for the absurd prominence given to our dead in the spiritualistic interpretation, this question of origin would have little importance, since both life and death are incessantly joining and uniting in all things. There are assuredly dead people in all these manifestations, seeing that we are full of dead people and that the greater part of ourselves is at this moment steeped in death, that is to say, is already living the boundless life that awaits us on the farther side of the grave.

8

We should be wrong, however, to fix all our attention on these extraordinary phenomena, either those with which we unduly connect the deceased or those no less striking ones in which we do not believe that they take part. They are evidently precious points of emergence that enable us approximately to mark the extent, the forms and the habits of our mystery. But it is within ourselves, in the silence of the darkness of our being, where it is ever in motion, guiding our destiny, that we should strive to surprise that mystery and to discover it. And I am not speaking only of the dreams, the presumptions, the vague intuitions, the room or less brilliant inspirations which are so many more manifestations, specific as it were and analogous with those that have occupied us. There is another, a more secret and much more active existence which we have scarcely begun to study and which is, if we descend to the bed-rock of truth, our only real existence. From the darkest corners of our ego it directs our veritable life, the one that is not to die, and pays no heed to our thought or to anything emanating from our reason, which believes that it guides nor steps. It alone knows the long past that preceded our birth and the endless future that will follow our departure from this earth. It is itself that future and that past, all those from whom we have sprung and all those who will spring from us. It represents the individual not only the species but that which preceded it and that which will follow it; and it has neither beginning nor end: that is why nothing touches it, nothing moves it which does not concern that which it represents. When a misfortune or a joy befall us, it knows their value instantly, knows if they are going to open or to dose the wells of life. It is the one thing that is never wrong. In vain does reason demonstrate to it, by irresistible arguments, that it is hopelessly at fault: silent under its immovable mask, whose expression we have not yet been able to react it pursues its way. It treats us as insignificant children, void of understanding, never answers our objections, refuses what we ask and lavishes upon us that which we refuse. If we go to the right, it reconducts us to the left. If we cultivate this or that faculty which we think that we possess or which we would like to possess, it hides it under some other which we did not expect and did not wish for. It saves us from a danger by imparting to our limbs unforeseen and unerring movements and actions which they had never made before and which are contrary to those which they had been taught to make: it knows that the hour has not yet come when it will be useless to defend ourselves. It chooses our love in spite of the revolt of our intelligence or of our poor, ephemeral heart. It smiles when we are frightened and sometimes it is frightened when we smile. And it is always the winner, humiliating our reason, crushing our wisdom and silencing arguments and passions alike with the contemptuous hand of destiny. The greatest doctors surround our sick-bed and deceive themselves and us in foretelling our death or our recovery: it alone whispers in our car the truth that will not be denied. A thousand apparently mortal blows fall upon our head and not a lash of its eyelids quivers; but suddenly a tiny shock, which our senses had not even transmitted to our brain, wakes it with a start. It sits up, looks around and understands. It has seen the crack in the vault that separates the two lives. It gives the signal for departure. Forthwith panic spreads from cell to cell; and the innumerous city that we are utters yells of horror and distress and hustles around the gates of death.

9

That great figure, that new being has been there, in our darkness, from all time, though its awkward and extravagant actions, until recently attributed to the gods, the demons or the dead, am only now asking for our serious attention. It has been likened to an immense block of which our personality is but a diminutive facet; to an iceberg of which we see a few glistening prisms that represent our life, while nine-tenths of the enormous mass remain buried in the shadows of the sea. According to Sir Oliver Lodge, it is that part of our being that has not become carnate; according to Gustave Le Bon, it is the "condensed" soul of our ancestors, which is true, beyond a doubt, but only a part of the truth, for we find in it also the soul of the future and probably of many other forces which are not necessarily human. William James saw in it a diffuse cosmic consciousness and the chance intrusion into our scientifically organized world of remnants and bestiges of the primordial chaos. Here are a number of images striving to give us an idea of a reality so vast that we are unable to grasp it. It is certain that what we see from our terrestrial life is nothing compared with what we do not see. Besides, if we think of it, it would be monstrous and inexplicable that we should be only what we appear to be, nothing but ourselves, whole and complete in ourselves, separated, isolated, circumscribed by our body, our mind, our consciousness, our birth and our death. We become possible and probable only on the conditions that we project beyond ourselves on every side and that we stretch in every direction throughout time and space.

10

But how shall we explain the incredible contrast between the immeasurable grandeur of our unknown guest, the assurance, the calmness, the gravity of the inner life which it leads in us and the puerile and sometimes grotesque incongruities of what one might call its public existence? Inside us, it is the sovereign judge, the supreme arbiter, the prophet, almost the god omnipotent; outside us, from the moment that it quits its shelter and manifests itself in external actions, it is nothing more than a fortune-teller, a bone-setter, a sort of facetious conjuror or telephone-operator, I was on the verge of saying a mountebank or clown. At what particular instant is it really itself? Is it seized with giddiness when it leaves its lair? Is it we who no longer hear it, who no longer understand it, as soon as it ceases to speak in a whisper and to act in the dark recesses of our life? Are we in regard to it the terrified hive invaded by a huge and inexplicable hand, the maddened ant-hill trampled by a colossal and incomprehensible foot? Let us not venture yet to solve the strange riddle with the aid of the little that we know. Let us confine ourselves, for the moment, to noting on the way some other, rather easier questions which we can at least try to answer.

First of all, are the facts at issue really new? Was it only yesterday that the existence of our unknown guest and its external manifestations were revealed to us? Is it our attention that makes them appear more numerous, or is it the increase in their number that at last attracts out attention?

It does indeed seem that, however far we go back in history, we everywhere find the same extraordinary phenomena, under other names and often in a more glamorous setting. Oracles, prophecies, incantations, haruspication, "possession," evocation of the dead, apparitions, ghosts, miraculous cures, levitation, transmission of thought, apparent resurrections and the rest are the exact equivalent, though magnified by the aid of plentiful and obvious frauds of our latter-day supernaturalism. Turning in another direction, we are able to see that psychical phenomena are very evenly distributed over the whole surface of the globe. At all events, there does not appear to be any race that is absolutely or peculiarly refractory to them. One would be inclined to say, however, that they manifest themselves by preference among the most civilized nations--perhaps because that is where they are most carefully sought after--and among the most primitive. In short, it cannot be denied that we are in the presence of faculties or senses, more or less latent but at the same time universally distributed, which form part of the general and unvarying inheritance of mankind. But have these faculties or senses undergone evolution, like most of the others? And, if they have not done so on our earth, do they show traces of an extraplanetary evolution? Is there progress or reaction? Are they withered and useless branches, or buds swollen with sap and promise? Are they retreating before the march of intelligence or invading its domain?

11

M. Ernest Bozzano, one of the most learned, most daring and most subtle exponents of the new science that is in process of formation, in the course of a remarkable essay in the Annales des sciences psychiques,1 gives it as his opinion that they have remained stationary and unchanged. He considers that they have become in no way diffused, generalized and refined, like so many others that are much less important and useful from the point of view of the struggle for life, such as the musical faculty, for instance. It does not even seem, says M. Bozzano, that it is possible to cultivate or develop them systematically. The Hindu race in particular, who for thousands of years have been devoting themselves to the study of these manifestations, have arrived at nothing but a better knowledge of the empirical methods calculated to produce them in individuals already endowed with these supernormal faculties. I do not know to what extent M. Bozzano's assertions are beyond dispute. They concern historical or remote facts which it is very difficult to verify. In any case, it is something to have perfected , as has been done in India, the empirical methods favourable to the production of supernormal phenomena. One might even say that it is about all that we have the right to expect, seeing that, by the author's own admission, these faculties are latent in every man and that, as has frequently been seen, it needs but an illness, a lesion, or sometimes even the slightest emotion or a mere passing faintness to make them suddenly reveal themselves in an individual who seemed most hopelessly devoid of them. It is therefore quite possible that, by improving the methods, by attacking the mystery from other quarters, we might obtain more decisive results than the Hindus. We must remember that our western science has but lately interested itself in these problems and that it has means of investigating and experimenting which the Asiatics never possessed. It may even be declared that at no time in the existence of our world has the scientific mind been better-equipped, better-suited to cope with every task, or more exact, more skilful and more penetrating than it is today. Because the oriental empirics have failed, there is no reason to believe that it will not succeed in awakening and cultivating in every man those faculties which would often be of greater use to him than those of the intellect itself. It is not overbold to suggest that, from certain points of view, the true history of mankind has hardly begun.

1 September, 1906.

 

12

Nevertheless, in so far as concerns the natural evolution of those faculties, M. Bozzano's assertion seem fairly well- justified. We do not, in fact, observe a startling or even appreciable difference between what they were and what they are. And this anomaly is the more surprising in as much as it is almost universally accepted that a sense or a faculty becomes developed in proportion to its usefulness; and there are few, I think, that would have been not only more useful but even more necessary to man. He has always had a keen and primitive interest in knowing without delay the most secret thoughts of his fellow-man, who is often his adversary and sometimes his mortal enemy. He has always had an interest no less great in immediately transmitting those thoughts through space, in seeing beyond the continents and seas, in going back into the past, in advancing into the future, in being able to find in his memory at will not only all the acquirements of his personal experience but also those of his ancestors, in communicating with the dead and perhaps with the sovereign intelligence diffused over the universe, in discovering hidden springs and treasures, in escaping the harsh and depressing laws of matter and gravity, in relieving pain, in curing the greater number of his disorders and even in restoring his limbs, not to mention many other miracles which he could work if he knew all the mighty forces that doubtless slumber in the dark recesses of his life.

Is this once more an unexpected character of the eccentric physiology of our unknown guest? Here are faculties more precious than the most precious faculties that have made us what we are, faculties whose magic buds sprout on every side underneath our intelligence but have never burst into flower, as though a wind from another sphere had killed them with its icy breath. Is it because it occupies itself first and foremost with the species that it thus neglects the individual? But, after all, the species is only an aggregate of successive individuals; and its evolution consequently depends upon their evolution. There would therefore have been an evident advantage to the species in developing faculties that would perhaps have carried it much farther and much higher than has been done by its brain-power, which alone has progressed. If there is no evolution for them here, do they develop elsewhere? What are those powers which exist outside and independent of the laws of this earth? Do they then belong to other worlds? But, if so, what are they doing in ours? One would sometimes think, at the sight of so much neglectfulness, uncertainty and inconsistency, that man's evolution had been intentionally retarded by a superior will, as though that will feared that he was going too fast, that he was anticipating some pre established order and moving prematurely out of his appointed plane.

13

And the riddles accumulate which we cannot hope to solve. It has been said that these abnormal faculties are communications or infiltrations, themselves abnormal, which have found their way through the partitions that separate our consciousness from our subconsciousness. This is very likely, but it is only a minor side of the question. It would be important before all to know what that subconsciousness represents, whither it tends and with what it itself is communicating. Is the impersonal form of knowledge a necessary or an accidental stage? Is the impersonal form which it takes in the subconsciousness the only true one? Is there really, as everything seems to prove, a hopeless incompatibility between our intellectual faculties and those families of uncertain origin, to such an extent that the latter are unable to manifest themselves except when the former are weakened or temporarily suspended? It has, at any rate, been observed that they are hardly ever exercised simultaneously. Are we to believe that, at a given moment, mankind or the genius that presides over its destinies had to make an exclusive and awful choice between cerebral energy and the mysterious forces of the subconsciousness and that we still find traces of its hesitations in our organism? What would have become of a race of man in which the subconsciousness had triumphed over the brain? Is not this the case with animals; and would not the race have remained purely animal? Or else would not this preponderance of a subconscious more powerful than that of the animals and almost independent of our body have resulted in the disappearance of life as we know it; and should we not even now be trading the life which we shall probably lead when we are dead? Here are a number of questions to which there are no answers and which are nevertheless perhaps not so idle as one might at first believe.

14

Amidst this antagonism, whose triumph are we to hope for? Is any alliance between the two opposing forces for ever impossible so long as we are in the flesh? What are we to do meanwhile? If a choice be inevitable, which way will our choice incline; and which victim shall we sacrifice? Shall we listen to those who tell us that there is nothing more to be gained or learnt in those inhospitable regions where all our bewildering phenomena have been known since man first was man? Is it true that occultism--as it is very improperly called, for the knowledge which it seeks is no more occult than any other--is it true that occultism is marking time, that it is becoming hopelessly entangled in the same doubtful facts and that it has not taken a single step forward since its renaissance more than fifty years ago? One must be entirely ignorant of the wonderful efforts of those fruitful years to venture upon such an assertion. This is not the place to discuss the question, which would require full and careful treatment; but we may safely say that until now there is no science which in so short a time has brought order out of such a chaos, ascertained, checked and classified such a quantity of facts, or more rapidly awakened, cultivated and trained in man certain faculties which he had never seriously been believed to possess; and furthermore none which has caused to be recognized as incontestable and thus introduced into the circle of the realities whereon we base our lives a number of unlikely phenomena which had hitherto been contemptuously passed over. We are still, it is true, waiting for the domestication of the new force, its practical application to daily use. We are waiting for the all-revealing, decisive manifestation which will remove our last doubts and throw light upon the problem down to its very source. But let us admit that we are likewise waiting for this manifestation in the great majority of sciences. In my case, we are already in the presence of an astonishing mass of well-weighed and verified materials which, until now, had been taken for the refuse of dreams, fragments of wild legends, meaningless and unimportant. For more than three centuries, the science of electricity remained at very much the same point at which our psychical sciences stand to-day. Men were recording, accumulating, trying to interpret a host of odd and futile phenomena, toying with Ramsden's machine, with Leyden jars, with Volta's rough battery. They thought that they had discovered an agreeable pastime, an ingenious plaything for the laboratory or study; and they had not the slightest suspicion that they were touching the sources of an universal, irresistible, inexhaustible power, invisibly present and active in all things, that would soon invade the surface of our globe. Nothing tells us that the psychic forces of which we are beginning to catch a glimpse have not similar surprises in store for us, with this difference, that we are here concerned with energies and mysteries which are loftier, grander and doubtless fraught with graver consequences, since they affect our eternal destinies, traverse alike our life and our death and extend beyond our planet.

15

It is not true therefore that the psychical sciences have said their last word and that we have nothing more to expect from them. They have but just awakened or reawakened; and, to postdate Guyau's prediction by a hundred years, we might say, with them in our minds, that the twentieth century "will end with discoveries as ill-formulated but perhaps as important in the moral world as those of Newton and Laplace in the astronomical world." But, though we have much to hope from them, that is no reason why we should look to them for everything and abandon in their favour that which has brought us where we are. The choice of which we spoke, between the brain and the subconsciousness, has been made long ago; and it is not our part to make it over again. We are carried along by a force acquired in the course of two or three thousand years; and our methods, like our intellectual habits, have of themselves become transformed into sort of minor subconsciousness superposed upon the major subconsciousness and sometimes mingling with it. Henri Bergson, in his very fine presidential address to the Society for Psychical Research on the 28th of May, 1913, said that he had sometimes wondered what would have happened if modern science, instead of setting out from mathematics, instead of bringing all its forces to converge on the study of matter, had begun by the consideration of mind; if Kepler, Galileo and Newton, for instance, had been psychologists:

"We should certainly," said he, "have had a psychology of which to-day we can form no idea, any more than before Galileo we could have imagined what our physics would be; a psychology that probably would have been to our present psychology what our physics is to Aristotle's. Foreign to every mechanistic idea, not even conceiving the possibility of an explanation, science would have enquired into, instead of dismissing a priori facts, such as those which you study; perhaps 'psychical research' would have stood out as its principal preoccupation. The most general laws of mental activity once discovered (as, in fact, the fundamental laws of mechanics were discovered), we should have passed from mind, properly so-called, to life; biology would have been constituted, but a vitalist biology, quite different from ours, which would have sought behind the sensible forms of living beings the inward, invisible force of which the sensible forms are the manifestations."

It would therefore in the very first days of its activity have encountered all these strange problems: telepathy, materializations, clairvoyance, miraculous cures, knowledge of the future, the possibility of survival, interplanetary intelligence and many others, which it has neglected hitherto and which, thanks to its neglect, are still in their infancy. But, as the human mind is not able to follow two diametrically opposite directions at the same time, it would necessarily have rejected the mathematical sciences. A steamship coming from another hemisphere, one in which men's minds had taken, unknown to ourselves, the road which our own has actually taken, would have seemed to us as wonderful, as incredible as the phenomena of our subconsciousness seem to us to-day. We should have gone very far in what at present we call the unknown or the occult; but we should have known hardly anything of physics, chemistry or mechanics, unless, which is very probable, we had come upon them by another road as we travelled round the occult. It is true that certain nations, the Hindus particularly, the Egyptians and perhaps the Incas, as well as others, in all probability, who have not left sufficient traces, thus went to work the other way and obtained nothing decisive. Is this again a consequence of the hopeless incompatibility between the faculties of the brain and those of the subconsciousness? Possibly; but we must not forget that we are speaking of nations which never possessed our intellectual habits, our passion for precision, for verification, for experimental certainty; indeed, this passion has only been fully developed in ourselves within the last two or three centuries. It is to be presumed therefore that the European would have gone much farther in the other direction than the Oriental. Where would he have arrived? Endowed with a different brain, naturally clearer, more exacting, more logical, less credulous, more practical, closer to realities, more attentive to details, but with the scientific side of his intelligence uncultivated, would he have gone astray or would he have met the truths which we are still seeking and which may well be more important than all our material conquests. Ill-prepared, ill-equipped, ill-balanced, lacking the necessary ballast of experiments and proofs, would he have been exposed to the dangers familiar to all the too-mystical nations? It is very difficult to imagine so. But the hour has now perhaps come to try without risk what he could not have done without grave peril. While abandoning no whit of his understanding, which is small compared with the boundless scope of the subconsciousness, but which is sure, tried and docile, he can now embark upon the great adventure and try to do that which has not been done before. It is a matter of discovering the connecting link between the two forces. We are still ignorant of the means of aiding, encouraging, developing and taming the greater of the two and of bringing it closer to us; the quest will be the most difficult, the most mysterious and, in certain respects, the most dangerous that mankind has ever undertaken. But we can say to ourselves, without fear of being very far wrong, that it is the best task at the moment. In any case, this is the first time since man has existed that he will be fronting the unknown with such good weapons, even as it is also the first time since its awakening that his intelligence, which has reached a summit from which it can understand almost everything, will at last receive help from outside and hear a voice that is something more than the echo of its own.

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