It was shortly after the time in my boyhood when I revolted against the schoolroom and turned to nature instead for my lessons. I would play truant and go off alone in a storm, talking back at the thunder as if it were God speaking.
I would say, "If I call upon you, and still fail to find the truth and the true religion, it will not be my fault, because we have been told, ‘Ask and ye shall receive; seek and ye shall find; knock and it shall be opened unto you.'"
I would say to myself, "If there is such a thing as a Holy Spirit, let me feel it. I don't want anyone to tell me about it any more. All I ask is let me feel it myself, and then I will know."
I said this, not doubting, not asking for "proof," but as a hungry child demanding food, not words about food and pictures of good things to eat.
When I thought this way, a tingle would start in my spine that chilled me from head to foot, and then a feeling would go out to the end of every nerve in my body as if my heart were pumping warm wine instead of blood. I would feel a glow all over.
I would say, "Thank you, God!" And then the tears would come to my eyes because I was happy. I never told anyone about this. People wondered why I was always happy, and always whistling and singing; and this was why.
That was in the spring, and when summer came I was sent to a farm to work for a man who was kind to me.
I tended the cows every day, taking them a long way out on a road where I staked them to graze. This was the school for me. I learned more doing this than I had learned all year in school.
When it was time to go back to school again I became so nervous and restless that I was allowed to leave school and work in a spring shop for a dollar and twenty-five cents per week, to help my parents.
Thus I left school at the age of thirteen, and have never been inside of one since, except later in life as moderator and director of local school boards.
* * * * *
As for religion, I was absent from churches as well as schoolrooms, and for the same reason: I had found outside in nature, and within myself, what they did not or could not give me.
I have in the course of my life investigated every religion known to man on earth, past or present. I have enjoyed close friendships with leaders and laymen in all faiths; with priests, rabbis, and ministers of many denominations; and I must say that when I dug beneath the words and the various intellectual representations of doctrines and concepts, I found the same fundamental, universal faith by which man sustains a relation to his Creator and the spirit of truth in a function of neutral activity or consciousness other than "intellect."
And when as a scientist I convinced myself of the irrelevance of truth with respect to the physiological and psychological consequences of the operations of the intellect, a conclusion immediately follows that dispenses with all argument. It does not make any difference whether or not the doctrines, the concepts, and the verbal representations are true, so long as the physiological and psychological consequences are favorable to man's spiritual progress: i.e., if they lead the various types of intellect (to which the various doctrines are helpful) to the establishment of a relation with truth in a function of faith that is more fundamental than belief: i.e., an operative, not a speculative relation with the creative reality of God, or truth.
I have therefore devoted my life to the experimental investigation and study of the scientific foundations of the spiritual verities that are of necessity and by virtue of the essential unity of mankind in common with all religions as the essence of a universal Christianity.
Because I have found these spiritual verities to be operative and not speculative; and because in my own experience I have found that they operate in mankind through a physiological function of faith and not an intellectual function of speculative belief, I urge the support of all religions with emphasis on the faith they have in common, rather than the doctrinal beliefs by which they differ, and which a study of the history of religion and the history of mankind will reveal to have been the necessary expressions of intellectual variations to insure the perpetuation of the more essential elements of man's physiological relation with truth through the nonintellectual operations of a living, universal faith.
* * * * *
At the age of fourteen I went to Chicago with my father. My mother and sister followed later. This was during the World's Fair, and my father was employed in connection with one of the exhibits. Later, my parent had a bakery and a milk depot in the city. I got up early every morning when it was still dark to deliver milk.
By this time my father was a citizen of the United States, and was employed at the government appraisal store.
Not going to school, I always had some time for myself outside of work. I used it experimenting; and my mechanical, electrical, and chemical "inventions" were a source of great bother and worry to my mother, who was afraid of fires and explosions.
From time to time I secured work in various trades, in search of different kinds of experience. When I was fifteen I worked for a company that made window screens. Here I invented and constructed a machine for stapling the screening onto the frames.
I used to dream of having a wonderful shop, fitted out with every tool imaginable, so I could make things. I wanted also a chemical and electrical research laboratory and workshop. All of these daydreams materialized, though some of them many years later.
During this time I began to have experiences with regard to which space here permits the inclusion of only a few examples.
One time while working for the Hall Safe & Lock Company, I was sent out to dismantle the lock of a safe that had been blown open by safecrackers. I placed a drift in position and raised my hammer to strike it.
Now came the first experience in my life in which something happened in my arm that I could not account for as an act of will or reflex to my own thoughts. With hammer in mid-air, something held my hand so that I could not hit the drift. The feeling was not as if some outside force held my arm, but something inside the muscles. They refused to make the motion I had instructed them to do by the impulse of my brain and the reflex of habit. So I examined the lock to see if perhaps I was hitting it in the wrong place to accomplish what I had to do.
Satisfied that I was hitting it in the right place, I raised my hammer again but could not bring myself to strike the drift. Then down my arm came the "feeling" that there was something there I shouldn't hit. So I pulled the drift out again; and behind it I found a dynamite cartridge that had been placed there by the safecrackers, and that had not yet been exploded.
This was the first of many similar experiences. Again and again throughout my life, I would have lost fingers, hands, arms, legs, and life itself were it not for an independent action of my muscles in making a movement I did not direct, or in refusing to make a movement that I did direct.
What was it, within myself or in the universe, that had the power to move my muscles without my own will, or to prevent them from carrying out what I had every reason to believe to be my will? I did not know. All I could swear to was that it happened not once or twice but again and again; and at the age of seventy it still happens - but always as a last extremity. In later years, I learned to look for a feeling and to obey it in time to direct my own course of prevention. But failing this, "something else" took over; and as a result of it, in a long life of activity, of travel, of driving various kinds of vehicles, operating all kinds of machinery, I have never had a serious accident, but innumerable narrow escapes, all owing to some kind of purposive or automatic reflex of self-preservation.
Problem: What is it? I have friends, bless them, who seem to think that such questions are answered by muttering a name.
I demonstrate to them the fact that I can attract and repel a piece of steel "at a distance" by means of another piece of steel concealed in my hand.
I say, "There you behold an invisible force. You can't see it, smell it, taste it, hear it, or touch it. Yet I can cause that piece of steel to roll away from me or roll toward me at will. What is it?"
Secure behind their wall of words, such people say, "Why, any school boy knows what that is! It's magnetism."
"Do you know what magnetism is?"
"It's what you're using to make that piece of steel move."
"But do you know what it is."
"Well, no. Does anybody?"
"That's what I'm trying to find out. Very few admit they don't know until I drive them to it. They solve all the problems of the universe by means of magic names."
As long as things have names people are satisfied. As long as they can mutter a sound or draw signs on a blackboard, or stir the sign and the sound up out of their memory, that is all that is necessary. Look around the world and hear the torrent of mutterings like a perpetual hailstorm. See the rivers of ink flowing onto tons and tons of paper. Man has built ships for himself out of paper, and sails out into the universe on a river of ink blown by the breath of empty words. Then when the ship of his illusions collapses, he finds himself in total ignorance. For now, without words he knows nothing; but had he not deceived himself, he might now, without words, have known all.
Some of my friends do not like this line of thought. "You can't do without words," they argue, "You yourself speak and write every day of your life. You have written a newspaper column for years, using perhaps four or five million words. You can't convey your thoughts without naming words."
To this I answer, "But I don't think in words, and I don't think with the part of my brain that remembers words. I'm trying to break down the wall of words that holds you prisoner, and unbar the gates of your mind that words have sealed shut. I'm trying to show you that your fingers, your muscles, your spine, and every organ and cell in your body knows more that you do; and that here is nothing more ignorant in the human anatomy than an educated brain that has barred every gate of the mind except that associated with verbal reflex.
"A man with such a brain is nothing more than a piece of machinery; his voice but a phonograph record. It is beyond his comprehension (because he has no comprehension; only fixed ideas, concepts anchored to words): he cannot believe because he cannot personally experience what it means to stretch out a quivering antenna of nerves that pick up feelings and transform them from electric currents, which stir up visual and verbal memories and reactions, into the echoes of a past, a living, or a future voice or scene."
* * * * *
It is not the knowledge of the brain that holds the hand from hitting a dynamite cartridge that can't be seen, or that causes one to hesitate and miss the plane or train that is going to crash. What is it? Are we going to "fix" it with a name?"
A name is nothing without a meaning; a meaning is impossible without understanding; and an understanding is impossible merely on the basis of a chain-reaction on our verbal memory. An understanding is possible only on the basis of neural activity in direct response to the object or subject of that understanding; not merely a twitch in a brain cell that awakens the memory of a few words, but the coordination of the entire physiological and neurological organization.
How glibly the vocabularies of philosophies and ideologies, of sciences and theologies flow from the tongue! And how many know anything? How many really understand anything? Very few can define the words they use; and when they do, the words are dead.
We speak of hunches, intuition, presentiments, precognition, extrasensory perception, inspiration, psychometry, spiritualism, clairvoyance, telepathy, divination, superstition, faith, the Holy Spirit, God. All these words are used to talk "about" something. None of the words, as defined and understood by anyone I have ever talked with, adequately represent what they are talking about, because the words have not been coined by men who know or understand adequately what they are trying to name.
Public conception of the terms has been deformed by the operation of "psychic racketeers" who have capitalized on the crudity and the hunger of people for truth, by deceiving them with tricks. I have investigated these things and I know all these tricks. One of the purposes of this commentary is to attempt to rescue the truth, and to restore understanding and faith in man's God-given spiritual gifts, so that "each may prophesy, that each may be comforted" for himself without being deceived by charlatans and false prophets; and without being dependent upon the self-assumed authority of others for what he may seek and find and feel and know himself.
* * * * *
One day when I was walking down the street I felt very blue and discouraged without knowing why. This was unusual for me, because I was ordinarily contented and cheerful, if not happy, in those days. This was a new feeling and I could see no reason for it. I did not know of anything that would make me blue. I felt that way all day, and I could not identify or interpret the feeling. My imagination was no help to me now.
That night my father asked me what ailed me. I said I did not know. He insisted that if I was unhappy there must be a reason for it, and he wanted to know what it was.
The moment he asked the question the answer was there. It was something about my father that made me feel unhappy. Now my imagination had something to work on, but I didn't want to tell him about it, because now in his presence I felt and imagined that he was going to die, and that was what made me feel so upset and unhappy.
However, he forced me to tell him that I was afraid he was going to die suddenly, within two weeks. And then he punished me for dabbling with such nonsense, and said he thought I had gotten over that sort of thing long ago.
For the moment my father convinced me that I was wrong, because I hoped I was wrong. So for the next few days I tried to put it out of my mind. At least I never spoke of it. But early in the second week my father came down suddenly with a fever that developed into typhoid pneumonia. At the end of two weeks he was gone.
Overnight my boyhood was over. I was now the only man of the family. I went to work to help support my mother and sister.
* * * * *
Shortly after my father's death my mother met friends who attended "spiritualist" meetings. She accompanied them one time, and told us at home of what she had heard and seen. I could not believe her, and was curious to find out how much of it was true.
So I went to see this medium of whom my mother and her friends were speaking so enthusiastically. I was sorely disappointed. Before the séance was over I had detected and knew how all of the tricks were done by which the public was being deceived.
Here I do not wish to be misunderstood. The fact that I found one medium fraudulent was not grounds enough to form a judgment that all mediums were fraudulent. But the fact that the first medium I ever met was fraudulent is sufficient to explain why I avoided all séances on general principles until I made up my mind to investigate and expose the tricks for the sake of the truth that did exist, and that I felt needed no "stage trimmings."
Later on I met a number of very sincere mediums whom I judged to be honest but to some extent self-deceived. Also I met a few who confessed their tricks, and justified them by saying, "We use a trick to make people believe a truth, because the people cannot understand and will not believe the truth without the trick."
I cannot here include details of my later investigations along these lines, but I must say that while my own personal experience convinced me absolutely of the truth of immortality, the reality of survival, the fact that death does not end all, in the reality of a type of communication based on "feeling" such as might take place also between two living persons who are attuned by bonds of love and affection, I have yet to be convinced of any form of "materialism," trumpet blowing, slate-writing, spirit-photography, and so on. And at the time I am speaking of it, in the city of Chicago, this is just about all that spiritism consisted of; and in every instance where I was a witness I privately exposed the trick and revealed how it was done. And I can assure you it was not done by a "spirit".
Yet at the same time I frequently "felt" the presence of my father; the feeling revived a memory, and I could imagine him walking along beside me. I could "talk" with him by saying something and "imagining" what he might say in return.
If I had been willing to deceive myself as some mediums were, I could have said, "I see my father, and he tells me so and so." But I did not see my father. What I "saw" was a memory of my father. He did not speak to me at all. The words were out of my own verbal memory, and I put them into the mouth of the memory of my father in my imagination. Then how could I explain it when the memory of my father in my imagination told me things I did not myself know, and that only my mother knew?
It all comes back to the "feeling" again. So far as I could see, the only link between the living and the dead, the seen and the unseen, was a "feeling," just as the only link between two telegraph operators is the current in the wires. The click that the receiver hears is not the click that the sender hears. It is a different" click." You do not hear the voice of your friend over the telephone; what you hear is a vibration in your receiver that sounds like your friend's voice.
* * * * *
Perhaps there do exist people who think that the voices they hear in their radio are the voices of the broadcasters a thousand miles away; but of course that is not true. What we hear is the vibration of a diaphragm in the Magnavox and not the vibration of the larynx of the person who is speaking.
And perhaps people who watch the images on a television screen are really under the illusion that they are seeing the faces, forms, and movements of the players in the broadcasting studio; if so they are deceiving themselves like the mediums who think they "see" spirits and "hear" voices.
You see nothing on a television screen but the variations of intensity of a spot of light, which is moving with such great rapidity that it creates the illusion of sustained vision; and the distribution of light intensity throughout the field, being determined by the reflection of light from the players and scene in the studio, deceives your optic nerves into believing you "see" the players. But how is this done from a distance, "without any wires" and "through the air"?
Answer that and you will have an adequate explanation of all so-called mental phenomena; with the sympathetic nervous system as antennae, the imagination as amplifier and television screen; and what you see in your mind's eye of imagination is nothing but the flickering composite of one's own memory element.
Whether or not this "means" anything more than your memory depends entirely on whether you can turn the switch in your nervous system that reverses the current, so that the nervous system is acting on the memory and not the memory on the nervous system.
If the nervous system is acting on the memory, then your "feeling" manifests in imagination by selective stimulation of memory elements to form an "image" or a succession of remembered sounds. Then just as a seed manifests what it contains by selective absorption of chemical elements for the soil and air, so does a thought or "truth" or a "spirit," or whatever you prefer to call it, manifest in a "feeling" that translates itself by selective stimulation of memory elements or motor elements, into imagination or action.
At least this was my early understanding of the matter. At no time have I ever had evidence that a "thought" or "spirit" could move anything other than a human organism and nervous system. At no time have I ever had evidence that either a thought or a spirit could be "seen" or photographed. At no time have I ever "heard" a thought or a spirit. All I can state from personal experience is that whenever a feeling originates in my nervous system without internal cause, whenever I succeed at the same time in eliminating all other influence, suspending all other sensory reactions; i.e., when I stop thinking independently and allow my thought to be "shaped" by the feeling, then what takes place in my imagination (though it remain only imagination, composited of my own memories) nevertheless corresponds with some external reality or event, past, present or future, without any limitation in space or time save the decided and very troublesome and insurmountable limitation of what my memory contains to contribute to the visualized representation that is the foundation of my understanding.
* * * * *
If this view disappoints any follower of fraudulent spiritism, let him then take comfort in the conclusion that though a "spirit message" may not be a direct contact of a loved one, neither is the voice over the radio. But you recognize the voice and understand its intimacy. Why not the thought of a comforting mother in the "beyond"?
Of course it's nothing but your "imagination." But your imagination will tell you the truth if you seek with a prayer (tuning in), and if you will stop thinking with your brain and offer up every nerve from the top of your head to the tips of your fingers and toes, for inspiration. What is inspiration? First it's a "feeling," and then the feeling paints a picture, sings a song, writes a book, or solves a problem that changes the course of history.
One medium said to me, "I realize all that, but if I tell my people that I only imagine what their deceased loved ones are saying, will they believe me? No, I have to work a trick, and pretend that the spirit writes it on a slate directly. I can't admit that my finger does the writing."
But to this view I could not agree. The search for truth is far more thrilling, more comforting and more profitable here and forever than any imagined thrill or advantage to be gained by deception or self-deception.
Nor could I feel that this was something to "dabble" with, like a plaything. My friends would talk about books on the subject, and tell me that I ought to read this one or that one. But every time I was tempted to do so, a "feeling" would stop me. Just as I was stopped from hitting the drift with my hammer when there was a dynamite cartridge behind it and I didn't know it.
The only book I was able to open without this feeling was the Bible, and there I found the whole subject covered in the 12th chapter of the first epistle of the Corinthians, "Concerning spiritual gifts"' and the fourth chapter of John: "Beloved, believe not every spirit but try them whether they are of God, for many false prophets have gone forth into the world."
* * * * *
So when my mother and her friends became interested in "table-tipping" and kindred phenomena, I didn't want any part of it. Later, I investigated various forms of "automatic writing" and the phenomena of hypnosis and self-hypnosis to an extent that does not permit inclusion in this record; and for reasons given in the connection I did not feel it advisable to experiment along those lines.
All hypnosis is fundamentally self-hypnosis. No man has the power to hypnotize another against his will, if one exerts that will. All that a "hypnotist" is able to do is to contrive by psychological tricks to secure the willingness and cooperation of the subject. The "power" is in the subject, not in the operator; and the success of the operator depends largely upon securing the confidence complete trust, or fear of the subject.
Ninety per cent of the people in the world today have spent the largest portion of their lives in various stages of self-hypnosis. The production of these states of mind in the people has been the objective of organized efforts on an incredible scale throughout the world. I have witnessed two World Wars that were directly due to states of self-hypnosis induced in masses of people by the organized efforts and propaganda of small groups of men. We have lived to witness the greatest psychological crime of all history. War would be impossible if we could break the spell of self-hypnosis that holds the people of the world in subjection to false ideas, ideologies, personalities and words, in a state of hypnosis produced by psychological tricks. We must expose these psychological tricks. But that is another story.
* * * * *
So many experiences I had when a young man made me realize that the ready response in my make-up was due to my harp of experience, such as it was; and that whatever confusion and error came into the picture was due to what I lacked in this respect. So I made deliberate efforts to enlarge and perfect this instrument of understanding. Each tool or instrument mastered added so many more strings, enabling me to give an opinion based upon absolute knowledge. And as I continued to add to this supply of strings, I found a readier response within myself when seeking knowledge by intuition, or endeavoring to interpret knowledge acquired only through the transference of "feelings" from others, or from sources unknown.
I would meet a stranger, for example, and as an experiment attempt to describe his father, who would be totally unknown to me; or some other person he might be thinking of. The correct description, of course, is recorded in his mind; and if I have registered one thousand faces in my own memory, there will be one among these that will now be recalled from my memory by the " feeling" I get from the stranger. This provides me with an imaginative description as nearly as possible like the one in his mind, but which I can sense only in terms of facial characteristics recorded in my own memory in connection with faces I have seen.
These things were thus all clear to me early in life, and I could demonstrate them. But there was one thing that long remained a question mark in my mind, and that was the anatomy of prophetic intuition. For in my own experience the difference between past and future was that I appeared to get the information of the past as an inductive activity of my mind, while the case of prophetic intuition it seemed as if I were in the future coming back (deductive), and with it a sort of reverential awe, a kind of ecstasy as if just returning from a grand concert, or a beautiful garden filled with music, color, and perfume, and peculiar feeling akin to what I would imagine is caused by opium or morphine, as nearly as I could understand it. Once felt, it is always craved. But whereas drugs destroy in reaction, this seemed to strengthen, giving greater endurance, greater power, greater precision and command to all activity, both of body and mind. This is the "Feeling" (with a capital F).
* * * * *
There is a less pronounced sensation involved in so-called thought transference. I say "so-called" since in reality no thought, as we ordinarily consider thought, is transferred at all. Any thought that I experience originates in my own anatomy and not that of anyone else. I can, however, be caused to think a thought similar to the one that someone else has thought, is thinking, or will think; and in the same manner whole masses of people can be caused to think similar or parallel thoughts.
There is only one way I know of to describe it to another who has not felt it; the feeling that distinguishes a thought thus induced (i.e., thought induction rather than thought transference), and that is to take him in a car along a street he has never seen before. I cause him to lose his sense of direction, and then ask him to check up on his sense of orientation. I ask him to make himself believe that he is going north, say, toward his home. Then I ask him to change the direction mentally, and imagine himself going south. He feels himself denying a supposed fact, and acquires the new viewpoint only after he has wiped his mental slate clean by an effort to eliminate his previous thought or belief In so doing he experiences a mental "sensation" that is akin to that experienced when a thought is induced by the transfer of a feeling, (not of a "thought").
The acceptance and recognition of mental activity thus not self-originated requires the voluntary or involuntary elimination of previous or present self-originated mental activity. In other terms, you must stop thinking in order to allow thought to be "induced" from external influences. But whether your mental activity is the result of current direct from your own batteries, or current induced by the activity of your sympathetic nervous system in response to external influences, it is nevertheless still your own memory elements that are stimulated to constitute your "thought." Therefore the term thought transference is a misleading one, involving a conception that is not in accordance with human experience and experiment.