Mental Radio, by Upton Sinclair, , at sacred-texts.com
So much for the art of voluntary mind-reading. In conclusion I attempt to say a few words about what these phenomena mean, and how they come about.
This attempt involves me in a verbal duel with my wife, which lasts into the small hours of morning. It involves the everlasting debate between the vitalists and the mechanists, which had best be left to Dr. Watson and Professor McDougall, and the others who are no more able than I am to look at the neurons of the brain in action, to see what happens. But I insist that until Craig and Dr. Watson, Professor Eddington and Mrs. Eddy have found out positively whether the universe is all mind or all matter, I must go on speaking in the old-fashioned way, as if there were two worlds, the physical and the mental, two sets of phenomena which interact one upon the other continuously, even though the manner of this happening is beyond comprehension.
With this much apology, I obtain permission
to put forth my humble guess as to the part played by mental concentration in the causing of telepathy, clairvoyance, and trance phenomena. It seems to me that the process of intense concentration may cause the nervous energy, or brain energy, whatever it is, to be withdrawn from some of the brain centers and transferred to others; and it may be this displacement and disturbance of balance which accounts for such phenomena as catalepsy, automatism, and somnambulism. Portions of the mind which are ordinarily below the level of consciousness are raised to more intense forms of activity. New levels of mind are tapped, new "personalities" or faculties are brought into action, and persons under hypnotism develop mental powers they do not consciously possess.
That it is intense concentration upon one suggestionthe narrowing of the attention to one focuswhich produces the cataleptic trance is something which my wife set out to prove, and by going close to the border-line she feels that she did prove it. The rigidity began at the extremities and crept rapidly over the body. In spite of my protests, Craig insisted that she was going the whole way, and asked me to stand by and make some tests. I was to wait three minutes,
and then lift her up by the feet. I did so, and found an extraordinary thingthe body was perfectly rigid, like a log of wood, except at the neck! When I lifted her by her feet, the neck bent, so that the head remained on the pillow, while the feet were raised at least a yard in the air. Later, when Craig had relaxed, she told me that she had known what was happening; there had been one point of consciousness left, and she had the belief that she could let that go in another moment, but was afraid to do so, because she might not come out again. For an instant, she had felt that strange terror one feels at the moment he ceases to struggle against the fumes of gas or ether, and plunges into oblivion. The difference is that, in the case of gas or ether, one cannot hold on to consciousness; but in the case of the cataleptic state, he can recall his receding consciousness. Craig, of course, had not concentrated with complete attention to one idea; one portion of her mind was concentrated upon achieving rigidity, while another was watching and protesting against oblivion.
Dr. Morton Prince wrote to Craig: "You are playing with powerful and dangerous forces." And so she dropped this form of experiment. But more should be known about these trances,
which often occur spontaneously, and can be caused by fearthat is to say, an intense concentration on the idea of escape from danger, which produces a tension amounting to paralysis. In such cases there are a number of new dangers; one being that some doctor will try to restore you with drugs and wrong suggestions. Every suggestion of fear on the part of the onlookers must be avoided in case of trances, for the subconscious mind of the victim hears every word, and believes it; also telepathy has to be remembered. One must not only speak quietly and firmly, repeating that everything is all right, and that the person will come out safely; one must also think this. The trance may last a long time, but keep calm and sure of success, and keep the doctor and the undertaker away. The condition of catalepsy is more common than is realized, and it is unpleasant to think how many persons are embalmed while in this condition.
All this sounds disturbing, but it has nothing to do with our telepathy experiments, in which the state of concentration is not one of tension accompanied by the suggestion of rigidity, or of fear, but on the contrary is a state of relaxation, accompanied by the suggestion of control, or supervision. This matter of supervision has been
carefully set forth by Craig in her statement. It is one of the mind's great mysteries: how, while thinking about nothing, you can not only remember to give a suggestion, but can also act upon it. Craig insists that we have three minds.; and she has in this the backing of William McDougall, who is probably the "dean" of American psychologists, now that Morton Prince is dead. Professor McDougall talks about the various "monads" of the mind; so let us say that one "monad" gives an order to a second "monad" to become blank, after it has given an order to a third to present to the first a picture.
The psychic Jan gives such "autosuggestions" to himself when he goes into a trance, and tells his trance mind to bring him out at a certain moment. How that trance mind can measure time as exactly as a clock is another of the mysteries; but that it happens is beyond doubt. My wife took Jan to a group of scientists in Boston, and several of them held watches and expressed their surprise at what Jan was able to do. It is obvious that when the psychic lets himself be buried six feet under the ground in an ordinary pine-wood coffin, he is staking his life upon his certainty that he will not come out of the state of lethargy until after he has been dug up.
He also stakes it upon the hope that the physicians who have the test in charge will have sufficient sense to realize the importance of having him dug out at the time agreed. In one case they were several minutes late, and Jan nearly suffocated. I never saw one of these burials, because Craig obtained his promise not to do them after she knew him; but I have talked with several physicians who watched and directed all the details, and I have a moving-picture film of one.