Mental Radio, by Upton Sinclair, , at sacred-texts.com
Two years ago Craig and I heard of a "psychic," a young foreigner who was astounding physicians of Southern California, performing feats so completely beyond their understanding that they were content to watch without trying to understand. We went to see this young man, and befriended him; he came to our home every day, and his strange demonstrations became familiar to us. He had the ability to produce anæsthesia in many parts of his body, and stick hatpins through his tongue and cheeks without pain; he could go into a deep trance in which his body became rigid and cold; and I put his head on one chair and his heels on another, and stood in the middle, as if he were a two-inch plank. We have a motion picture film, showing a 150-pound rock being broken with a sledge-hammer on his abdomen while he lay in this trance. The vital faculties were so far suspended in this trance that he could be shut up in an airtight coffin and buried underground for several hours; nor was there any hocus-pocus
about thisI know physicians who got the coffins and arranged for the tests and watched every detail; in Ventura, California, it was done in a ball park, and a game was played over the grave.
In our home he gave what appeared to be a demonstration of levitation without contact. I do not say that it really was levitation; I merely say that our friends who witnessed itphysicians, scientists, writers and their wives, fourteen persons in allwere unable even to suggest a normal method by which the event could have happened. There was no one present who could have been a confederate, and the psychic had been searched for apparatus; it was in our home, where he had no opportunity whatever for preparation. His wrists and ankles were firmly held by persons whom I know well; and there was sufficient light in the room so that I could see the outline of his figure, slumped in a chair. Under these circumstances a 34-pound table rose four feet into the air and moved slowly a distance of eight feet over my head.
We saw this; our friends saw it; yet, in my mind, and likewise in theirs, the worm of doubt would always creep in. There are so many ways to fool people; so many conjuring tricksthink of Houdini, for example! I was unwilling to
publish what I had seen; yet, also, I was unwilling not to publish itfor think of the possible importance of faculties such as this, locked up in our minds! Here was my wife, ill, suffering pain; and these faculties might perhaps be used in healing. If by concentration and autosuggestion it was possible for the mind to control the body, and put a veto upon even a few of its disorders, certainly it was worth while for us to prove the fact. I could not escape the moral obligation to probe these matters.
This "psychic" claimed also to possess and demonstrate the power of telepathy, or mind-reading. He would go out of the room while one of as selected mentally some object in the room, not revealing the choice to any one else. The "psychic" would then come back, and tell us to stand behind him and concentrate our thoughts upon that object, and follow close behind him, thinking of it. He would wander about the room for a while, and in the end pick up the object, and do with it whatever we mentally "willed" him to do.
We saw him make this test not less than a hundred times, in California, New York, and Boston; he succeeded with it more than half the time. There was no contact, no word spoken,
nothing that we could imagine as giving him a clue. Did we unconsciously make in our throats some faint pronunciation of words, and did the young man have a super-acuity of hearing? Again, you see, the worm of doubt, and we never could quite decide what we really believed about this performance. After puzzling over it for a year or more, my wife said: "There is only one way to be certain. I am going to learn to do these things myself!"
This young man, whom I will call Jan, was a peculiar person. Sometimes he would be open and frank, and again he would be mysterious and secretive. At one time he would agree to teach us all he knew, and again he would hold on to his arts, which he had had to go all the way to India to get. Was it that he considered these forces too dangerous for amateurs to play with? Or was it merely that he was considering his means of livelihood?
Jan was a hypnotist; and my wife had come to realize that all illness is more or less amenable to suggestion. She had had the idea of being hypnotized and given curative suggestions; but she did not know enough about this stranger, and was unwilling to trust him. After she got to know him better, her purposes changed. Here was a fund of knowledge which she craved, and
she put her woman's wits to work to get it. She told him to go ahead and hypnotize herand explained to me her purpose of trying to turn the tables on him. Jan fixed his eyes upon hers in the hypnotic stare, and made his magnetic passes; at the same time his patient stared back, and I sat and watched the strange duel of personalities.
An essential part of Jan's technique, as he had explained it, was in outstaring the patient and never blinking his eyes. Now suddenly he blinked; then he closed his eyes and kept them closed. "Do your eyes hurt?" asked his patient, in pretended innocence. "No," he replied. "Are you tired?" she asked. "No, thank you," said he. "What was I thinking?" she asked. "To hypnotize me," he replied, sleepily. But Craig wanted further proof, so she closed her eyes and willed that Jan should get up and go to the telephone. "Shall I go on treating you?" he asked. "Yes," said she. He hesitated a moment, then said, "Excuse me, I have to telephone to a friend!"
I am telling about these matters in the order of time, as they came to us. I am sorry that these stories of Jan come first, because they are the strangest, and the least capable of proof. In the hope of taking part of the onus from our
shoulders, let me quote from a book by Charles Richet, a member of the Institute of Medicine in France, and a leading scientist; he is citing Pierre Janet, whose name is known wherever in the world the human mind is studied. The statement reads:
"P. Janet, a most eminent French psychiatrist, and one of the founders of the famous Salpetriere school of psychology in Paris, and a careful and sceptical observer, has verified that a patient of his, Leonie B., being put into hypnotic sleep by himself, or his brother (from whom Leonie in her hypnotic sleep was unable to distinguish him), could recognize exactly the substance that he placed in his mouthsugar, salt, pepper. One day his brother, J. Janet, in an adjoining room, scorched his right arm above the wrist. Leonie, who could have known nothing about it normally, gave signs of real pain, and showed to P. Janet (who knew nothing of the occurrence), the exact place of the burn."
Or let me cite the late Professor Quackenbos, of Columbia University, who wrote many books on hypnotism as a therapeutic agency, and tells of numerous cases of the same kind. He himself would sometimes go involuntarily into hypnotic sleep with his patient, and so, sometimes, would the nurse. Frequently between the hypnotist
and the subject comes what is called rapport, whereby each knows what is in the other's mind, and suggestions are taken without their being spoken. You may believe this, or refuse to believe itthat is your privilege. All I want to do is to make clear that my wife is claiming no special achievement, but merely repeating the standard experiences of the textbooks on this subject.
This rapport between Craig and her protégé was developed to such an extent that she could tell him what was in his mind, and what he had been doing; she told him many stories about himself, where he had been and what he had done at a certain hour. This was embarrassing to a young man who perhaps did not care to have his life so closely overseen; also, possibly, he was wounded in his amour propre, that a mere amateurand a woman at thatshould be coming into possession of his secret arts.
The trick depends upon a process of intense concentration, which will later be described in detail. After this concentration, Craig would give to her subconscious mind the suggestion, or command, that it should bring to her consciousness a vision of what Jan was doing. This giving an order to the subconscious mind is much the same sort of thing that you do when you seek
to remember a name; whether you realize it or not, you order your subconscious mind to get that bit of information and bring it to you. Whatever came to Craig, she would write it out, and when next she met Jan, she would use her woman's wits to verify it without Jan's knowing what was happening. At times it would be very amusingwhen he would find himself accused of some youthful misdemeanor which his preceptress was not supposed to know about. In his efforts to defend himself, he would fail entirely to realize the telepathic aspects of the matter.