From India to the Planet Mars, by Théodore Flournoy; tr. Daniel B. Vermilye, , at sacred-texts.com
ALL things become wearisome at last, and the planet Mars is no exception to the rule. The subliminal imagination of Mlle. Smith, however, will probably never tire of its lofty flights in the society of Astané, Esenale, and their associates. I myself, I am ashamed to acknowledge, began, in 1898, to have enough of the Martian romance.
Once having satisfied myself as to the essential nature of the Martian language, I did not desire to make a profound study of it, and since the texts had made their appearance so slowly, for two years, as to threaten to continue during the remainder of my natural existence, as well as that of the medium, without coming to an end; finding, on the other hand, that the texts, considered as simple psychological curiosities, varied but little and were at length likely to become burdensome, I decided to try some experiment which, without drying up their source, might at least break through this monotony. Up to that time, without giving a positive opinion as to the Martian, I had always manifested a very real interest in these communications, as well as in Mlle.
[paragraph continues] Smith in her waking state, and in Leopold in his incarnations. Both of these showed themselves fully persuaded of the objective verity of this language, and of the visions which accompanied it. Leopold had not ceased, from the first day, to affirm its strictly Martian authenticity. Hélène, without maintaining absolutely that it came from Mars rather than from any other planet, shared the same faith in the extra-terrestrial origin of these messages; and, as appeared from many details of her conversations and conduct, she saw in it a revelation of the loftiest import, which might some day cause "all the discoveries of M. Flammarion" to sink into insignificance. What would happen if I made up my mind to strike this strange conviction a telling blow, and demonstrate that the pretended Martian was only a chimera, a product, pure and simple, of somnambulistic autosuggestion?
My first tentative experiment, addressed to Leopold, had no appreciable influence on the course of the Martian cycle. It was at the seance of February 13, 1898. Hélène was profoundly asleep, and Leopold was conversing with us by gestures of the arm and spelling on the fingers. I categorically informed him of my certainty that the Martian was of terrestrial fabrication, and that a comparison with the French proved it so to be. As Leopold responded by emphatic gestures of dissent, I detailed to him some evidences, among others the accord of the two languages as to their pronunciation of ch, as to the homonym of the pronoun and article le. He listened to me, and seemed to understand my arguments,
but he refused to admit the force of these characteristic coincidences, and said: "There are some things more extraordinary," and was unwilling to give up the authenticity of the Martian. We stood by our respective opinions, and the later texts do not show any trace of our interview. It seemed, therefore, that it was not through the intervention of Leopold that a modification of the Martian romance was to be suggested.
I allowed some months to pass, then tried a discussion with Hélène while she was awake. On two occasions, in October, 1898, I expressed to her my utter skepticism as to the Martian. The first time, on the 6th of October, in a visit which I made to her outside of any seance, I confined myself to certain general objections to it, to which she replied, in substance, as follows: First, that this unknown language, by reason of its intimate union with the visions, and in spite of its possible resemblances to the French, must necessarily be Martian, if the visions are. Then nothing seriously opposes that actual origin of the visions, and, consequently, of the language itself; since there are two methods of explaining this knowledge of a far-off worldnamely, communications properly spiritistic (i.e., from spirits to spirits, without material intermediary) the reality of which cannot be held to be doubtful; and clairvoyance, that faculty, or undeniable sixth sense, of mediums which permits them both to see and hear at any distance. Finally, that she did not hold tenaciously to the distinctly Martian origin of that strange dream, provided it is conceded that it comes
from somewhere outside herself, it being inadmissible to regard it as the work of her subconsciousness, since she had not, during her ordinary life, absolutely any perception whatever, any sentiment, not the shadow of a hint of that alleged interior work of elaboration to which I persisted in attributing it against all the evidence and all common-sense.
Some days later (October 16th), as Mlle. Smith, perfectly awake after an afternoon seance, passed the evening at my house, and seemed to be in the fulness of her normal state, I returned to the charge with more of insistence.
I had until then always avoided showing her the full translation of the Martian texts, as well as the alphabet, and she only knew by sight, so to speak, the Martian handwriting, and was ignorant of the value of the letters.
This time I explained to her in detail the secrets of the language, its superficial originalities and fundamental resemblances to French: the frequent occurrence of i and e, its puerile construction, identical with French, even to the slipping in of a superfluous euphonic m between the words bérmier and hed in order to imitate the expression reviendra-t-il? its numerous caprices of phonetics and homonyms, evident reflexes of those to which we are accustomed, etc. I added that the visions seemed to me to be also suspicious through their improbable analogies with that which we see on our globe. Supposing that the houses, the vegetation, and the people of Mars were constructed on the same fundamental plan as those here below, it was nevertheless very doubtful whether
they had the same proportions and typical aspect; in short, astronomy teaches us that on Mars the physical conditionsthe length of the year, the intensity of weight, etc.are all other than with us: the last point, in particular, should act on all the products, natural and artificial, in such a way as to alter greatly the dimensions as well as the proportions of height and size which are familiar to us. I observed, again, that there are doubtless on Mars, as on the earth, a great variety of idioms, and the singular chance which made Esenale speak a language so similar to French was very astonishing. I concluded, finally, by remarking that all this was easily explicable, as well as the Oriental aspect of the Martian landscapes and the generally infantile character of that romance, if it were regarded as a work of pure imagination, due to a secondary personality or to a dream state of Mlle. Smith herself, who recognized having always had "great taste for that which is original and connected with the Orient."
For more than an hour Hélène followed my demonstration with a lively interest. But to each new reason, after having appeared at first a little disconcerted by it, she did not hesitate to repeat, like a triumphal refrain and as an unanswerable argument, that science is not infallible; that no scientist has yet been on Mars; and that consequently it is impossible to affirm with any certainty that affairs there are not conformable to her visions. To my conclusion she replied that, as far as concerns Mars or anything else, her revelations did not, in any case, spring from sources within herself, and that she did not understand
why I was so implacable against that which is the most simple supposition, that of their authenticity, or why I should prefer to it this silly and absurd hypothesis of an underlying self plotting in her, unknown to her, this strange mystification.
Maintaining all the while that my deductions appeared to me strictly correct, I felt bound to admit that science is not infallible, and that a voyage to Mars could alone solve all our doubts as to what takes place there. We parted good friends, but that conversation left me with a very clear impression of the complete uselessness of my efforts to make Mlle. Smith share my conceptions of the subliminal consciousness. But this, however, neither surprises nor grieves me, since from her point of view it is perhaps better that she thus believes.
The following shows, however, that my reasonings on that evening, sterile in appearance, were not without effect. If they have not modified Mlle. Smith's conscious manner of seeing, and, above all, the opinion of Leopold, they have nevertheless penetrated to the profound strata where the Martian visions are elaborated, and, acting there as a leaven, have been the source of new and unexpected developments. This result brilliantly corroborates the idea that the whole Martian cycle is only a product of suggestion and autosuggestion. Just as formerly the regret of M. Lemaître at not knowing that which passes on other planets had furnished the first germ of that lucubration, so now my criticisms and remarks on the language and peoples of that upper world served as a point of departure for new circuits of Hélène's subliminal
imagination. If, in fact, the content of our discussion of the 16th of October, which I have above briefly summed up, is compared with the visions of the following months (see beginning with text 30), it is clear that these latter contain an evident beginning of an answer, and are an attempt to satisfy the questions which I raised. A very curious attempt is there made, naïve and infantine, like the whole Martian romance, to escape the defects of which I complained on that occasion, not by modifying and correcting itthat would have been to reverse and to contradict herselfbut by going beyond it in some sort, and by superposing upon it a new construction, an ultra-Martian cycle, if I may be permitted that expression, hinting at the same time that it unfolds itself on some undetermined planet still farther away than Mars, and that it does not constitute an absolutely independent narrative, but that it is grafted on the primitive Martian romance.
The suggestive effect of my objections of the 16th of October was not immediate, but became a work of incubation. Text 30, coming the following week, differed but slightly from the preceding, save for the absence of a euphonic letter, which, however, had been better in place between the words bindié idé, trouve-t-on, than in the bèrimir m hed of text 15, to which I had attracted Hélène's attention; possibly it is allowable to regard this little detail as a first result of my criticisms. The apparition, a little later, of a new Martian personage, Ramié, who promised Hélène some near revelations as to a planet not otherwise specified (text 31), proves that
the ultra-Martian dream was in process of subconscious ripening, but it did not burst forth until the 2d of November (seventeen days after the suggestion with which I connect it), in that curious scene in which Ramié reveals to Mlle. Smith an unsuspected and grotesque world, the language of which singularly differs from the usual Martian. The detailed description of that strange vision, which Hélène sent me, is worth the trouble of citing (see also texts 32 to 35):
"I was awakened, and arose about twenty minutes ago. It was about a quarter-past six in the morning, and I was getting ready to sew. Then, for an instant, I noticed that my lamp was going out, and I ended by not seeing anything more. At the same moment I felt my waist clasped, strongly held by an invisible arm. I then saw myself surrounded by a rose-colored light, which generally shows itself when a Martian vision is coming. I quickly took paper and pencil, which are always within reach on my toilet-table, and placed these two things on my knees, in case some words should come to be noted.
"Hardly were these preparations concluded when I saw at my side a man of Martian visage and costume. It was, in fact, the personage [Ramié] who had clasped my waist with his left arm, showing me with his right hand a tableau, at first indistinct, but which finally outlined itself quite clearly. He spoke also some sentences, which I can note very well, it seems to me [text 32, where Ramié attracts the attention of Hélène to one of the worlds which surround him and makes her see strange beings.]
"I saw then a section of country peopled by men altogether different from those which inhabit our globe. The tallest of all were three feet high, and the majority were an inch or two shorter. Their hands were immense, about ten inches long by eight broad; they were ornamented with very long black nails. Their feet also were of great size.
"I did not see any tree, any bit of verdure. I saw a medley of houses, or rather cabins, of the most simple style, all low, long, without windows or doors; and each house had a little tunnel, about ten feet long [see Fig. 33] running from it into the earth.
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Fig. 33. Ultra-Martian houses. Drawn by Mlle. Smith after her vision of November 2, 1898.
"The roofs were flat, supplied with chimneys, or tubes. The men, with arms and bodies bare, had for all clothing only a sort of skirt reaching to the waist and supported by a kind of suspenders thrown over the shoulders, which were apparently very strong. Their heads were very short, being about three inches high by six inches broad, and were close shaven. They had very small eyes, immense mouths, noses like beans. Everything was so different from what we are accustomed to in our world that I should have almost believed it to be an animal rather than a man I saw there, had there not suddenly issued
from the lips of one of them some words, which, fortunatelyI hardly know howI was able to note down. This vision lasted a quarter of an hour. Then I found my waist liberated, but my right hand was still firmly held, in order to trace strange characters on the paper" (text 34, adieux of Ramié to Hélène).
A little later there was a continuation, or an abortive repetition, of the same vision; the table did not appear distinctly, and Ramié (text 35) contented himself with teaching Hélène things concerning a world beyond, a near neighbor to Mars, and a coarser language, of which Astané alone could furnish a translation. This is, in effect, what took place two weeks later: Astané incarnated himself with gestures and peculiar spasmodic movements, and repeated (in Hélène's ordinary voice) the barbaric text, followed word by word by its Martian equivalents, which Esenale, in turn, succeeding Astané, interpreted in French, in his customary manner. Leopold also informed us, in reply to a question of one of the sitters, that this uncouth and primitive world was one of the smaller planets; but it is to be presumed that he would also have answered in the affirmative if he had been asked if it were called Phobos or Deimos; and, in short, one of the satellites of Mars would answer better than the asteroids to the globe "very near to ours," of which Ramié spoke.
Up to this point the ultra-Martian messages were confined to the preceding. The last texts obtained (37 to 40) seem to announce that the end has not been reached on that side, and cause us to hope for new
revelations, when the astronomer Ramié, as the result of his having studied under the skilful direction of his master Astané, shall be in a position to make further discoveries in the Martian sky. Psychologically speaking, this amounts to saying that the process of latent incubation continues; a new ultra-Martian language is in a state of development in the subliminal depths. If it bursts forth some day, I shall hasten to bring it to the knowledge of the scientific worldin another edition of this book. For the present I limit myself to remarking how much the little ultra-Martian we possess already indicates the wish to answer my questions of the 16th of October.
I had accused the Martian dream of being a mere imitation, varnished with brilliant Oriental colors, of the civilized environment which surrounds usand here is a world of terrifying grotesqueness, with black soil, from which all vegetation is banished, and the coarser people of which are more like beasts than human beings. I had insinuated that the people and things of that upper world ought really to have other dimensions and proportions than with usand here are the inhabitants of that farther world veritable dwarfs, with heads twice as broad as they are high, and houses to match. I had made allusion to the probable existence of other languages, referred to the superabundance in Martian of i and e, impeached its syntax and its ch, borrowed from the French, etc.and here is a language absolutely new, of a very peculiar rhythm, extremely rich in a, without any ch at all up to the present moment,
and of which the construction is so different from the French that there is no method of discovering it.
This latter point, above all, seems to me to present in its apogee the character of childishness and puerility which clearly shows itself in that unexpected appendix to the Martian cycle, as in the entire cycle itself. Evidently the naïve subliminal philologist of Mlle. Smith has been struck by my criticisms on the identical order of the words in Martian and in French, and has endeavored to avoid that defect in her new effort at an unknown language.
But not knowing in just what syntax and construction consist, she has found nothing better to suit her purpose than the substitution of chaos for the natural arrangement of the terms in her thought, and the fabrication of an idiom which had decidedly nothing in common with the French in this respect. Here is where the most beautiful disorder is practically a work of art. It has, moreover, succeeded, since, even with the double translation, Martian and French, of text 33, it is impossible to know exactly what is meant.
It is possibly the little girl Etip who is sad, and who weeps because the man Top has done harm to the sacred animal Vanem (which had hidden, sick, under some green branches), wishing to enter in to a blue basket. At least it could not have been the branch, the man, or the basket which was sacred, the child sick, etc.
The green branch is out of harmony with a world in which, according to Hélène's vision, there were
neither trees nor verdure; but Esenale has not specified whether it means vert or ver, vers, etc., nor whether caché and entré are participles or infinitives. I leave this rebus to the reader and come to my conclusion, which will be brief, since it accords with the considerations already given at the end of the two preceding chapters.
The whole Martian cycle, with its special language and its ultra-Martian appendix, is only, at bottom, a vast product of occasional suggestions on the part of the environment, and of autosuggestions which have germinated, sprouted, and borne abundant fruit, under the influence of incitement from the outside, but without coming to amount to anything but a shapeless and confused mass, which imposes on one by its extent much more than its intrinsic worth, since it is supremely childish, puerile, insignificant in all aspects, save as a psychological curiosity. The author of this lucubration is not the real adult and normal personality of Mlle. Smith, who has very different characteristics, and who feels herself, in the face of these automatic messages, as though in the presence of something foreign, independent, exterior, and finds herself constrained to believe in their objective reality and in their authenticity. It seems, indeed, rather a former, infantine, less evolved state of Hélène's individuality, which has again come to light, renewed its life, and once more become active in her Martian somnambulisms.
It is hardly necessary to add, in conclusion, that the whole spiritistic or occult hypothesis seems to me to be absolutely superfluous and unjustified in
the case of the Martian of Mlle. Smith. Autosuggestibility set in motion by certain stimulating influences of the environment, as we come to see through the history of the ultra-Martian, amply suffices to account for this entire cycle.