When my family and I were working with Frank R. Adams in our local dramatic club, helping to put on plays, the venture culminated in building The Playhouse, in Whitehall . This was made to pay for itself in between times by renting it for other purposes; and eventually Frank installed moving-picture equipment. It became a movie theater, and for a long time my boys managed it for Frank. Usually we all went down in the car early enough to open up the theater and stayed through both shows, as one of the boys had to be on hand till the end.
No one but my family and Meredith, who assisted me in the experiment, knew why I spent night after night in the orchestra pit at the drums, adding the pianist (who was sometimes my son Arthur) in providing sound effects during the days of silent films. And no one knew why I doggedly stayed there through two shows each time.
My procedure and the reasons were simple. I watched the picture through the first performance, studying it carefully to provide the right drumming effects, and carefully noted the repertoire of emotions each play induced in the audience. I was there to see the audience, not the picture; and from my vantage point in the orchestra pit I could see without being seen, though I was making a lot of noise in order to be heard all evening.
My little research project took place during the second run of the picture. Throughout the second performance my eyes were closed. I looked neither at the picture nor at the audience. Meredith sat where he could see both the picture and the audience, and near enough to me so that we could converse in whispers when necessary. I made it a practice to try to see the picture through the eyes of the audience instead of my own, during that second performance. Having provided myself first with a memory of the picture, I then allowed the emotions of the audience, amplified by the number of people present, to recall the various scenes at the proper time.
Thus for hours, week after week, I practiced sensing the emotions of a small "mass" of people (varying from one hundred to five hundred people) - emotions that were somewhat unified and coordinated by a common object of interest and concentration. So when the Empress of Ireland sank, for example, I was perhaps better able than another to recognize the combined emotion of a hundred people facing the certainty of death.
But when it is a prevision, what then? I felt the shadow of the Lusitania disaster casting itself long beforehand. I did not sense the name Lusitania, but described it in terms of the shock it would bring to the rest of the world. I predicted it for the first week in May 1915. I felt the emotional reaction of the public several months beforehand.
But how could such a thing possibly be known? People asked me, "How did you know?"
And how many times was I forced to repeat, "I did not know." Knowledge is of the intellect. Prophecy is not knowledge.
I don't know why such things came to me, when it did no good to anyone, and did not serve to prevent disaster.
* * * * *
Of far greater service was the night I had an impulse to get out the car and drive to town and back with Mary Lillian and the boys. When I told them to get on their things, they said, "Swell! We'll take a midnight ride to town and back! But why? Everything is closed in town. Any special reason?"
No. Reason is knowledge. The intellect again. I had not the least knowledge why. But I had to obey "or else" begin to lose the intuition that grows stronger only by exercising itself in the muscles as well as the brain and imagination. One has to carry them out if anywhere within reason - these strange inner urges that I had determined to follow to the end.
So we went. And ahead of us on the road was a pile of leaves such as drift up like snow impelled by the late fall winds. I have driven through dozens of windrows of leaves like that. But this time I stopped the car with the headlights on the pile of leaves and asked my boys to kick through it. Beneath the leaves was a log big enough to have wrecked our car, had we not stopped.
The boys carried it to the side of the road, and as we stood there trying to decide whether to go on to town or not, since my urge had vanished with the removal of the log, a car speeded through, going sixty mile an hour at least. It plowed through the leaves where the log had been, and the group of teen-agers in it, on their way home from a show, yelled a greeting to us as they passed.
A useful if thankless job on our part. The life of half a dozen youngsters could hang on a "hunch" to drive to town and back, in the middle of the night. But to foresee the sinking of an unknown ship, and to sense the shock of public reaction, was of no help whatever to anyone.
* * * * *
But all such experiences are not fruitless. Often a connection came to light later that was wholly unknown to me at the time. A striking example of this occurred later in connection with one of our worst storms on Lake Michigan.
While listening to the wind, I "imagined" and described to several witnesses the plight of a sailing vessel, a schooner, with masks broken, and sails torn to shreds. The crew abandoned hope and were expecting to go down with the hull when it sank.
In order to see if we could sight anything, six of us went over to the lakeshore. The wind and sand cut our faces, and we could hardly stay on our feet. We saw nothing.
One of our party, Jack, who knew ships, said he did not think there was any such schooner as I had described left in the Great Lakes trade. But even if it were true, what could we do about it? Why my apprehension, which persisted for hours, that took me out into the storm when I might have stayed where it was warm and dry?
Other ships were in danger; one of our own boats went over in White Lake, and my sons had been getting it in before joining us at Lake Michigan. A ship to the south of us sank. A hundred ships could go down in this storm, and I would not know it or feel any more than a general concern. It was this one imagined schooner, like a bird with broken wings that fretted me as if I ought to be able to do something about it. But what? There was not a boat within miles that could have survived an attempted rescue, even if I could have proved that the whole matter existed outside my imagination.
But not until Meredith asked me if I thought there was any hope for them did my mind leave the general direction of where I felt the schooner to be, and "scan" the rest of the lake.
Finally, I said, "There is a big freighter ‘way to the north. It looks like a long black cigar. It is the only ship that could save them, but it is heading out of the storm in another direction. There is only one slim chance for that schooner. If the captain of the ship follows the hunch he ought to be feeling right now, he will change his course. Then he might sight them."
It seemed pretty hopeless, even granting it were all true. But we all threw our thoughts at the captain of an imaginary freighter like a long black cigar, hoping to strengthen the "hunch" that he ought to feel, if there were really a sailing vessel out there with only hours left to stay afloat.
But how many follow their hunches? What captain in his right mind would turn back into a storm at the command of a feeble little twitch somewhere in his brain or spine or solar plexus? With a wind so loud that his second officer would have to shout to be heard, could he be expected to hear the unspoken prayer of men facing death, or the thoughts of strangers standing on the shore more than a hundred miles away?
But there was a connection, and I did not know it. The captain of the freighter, that long black cigar, was not only a "reality"; he was my old friend Captain Charles Mohr, to whom I had predicted that he would sail a ship before he ever laid hands on one, whom I taught to follow his hunches, predicting that if he did so he would be honored above all other Great Lakes captains, and go down in history and the annals of navigation on the Great Lakes. He had years before agreed with me to follow his hunches as an experiment, and let me know the results.
One of the results was not only one but five lake rescues, saving twenty-seven lives. But this was the climax of his career. For this he was to be honored as the first Great Lakes captain ever to receive the Congressional Medal. Here was the one man afloat on the lake in that storm who not only could experience a "hunch," but who, by agreement with me, made a practice of obeying it when he did.
Captain Mohr has passed on, but he still lives in the memory of all who knew him as a man who stood alone in the hour of his decision, upon which the lives of seven men depended. He stood alone, not only against the judgment of his men, but against the better judgment of his own intellect. He did respond to the thoughts and needs of other men, not only on one but on many occasions.
* * * * *
I remember the time when a young man told me how he stood, when a boy, on the Michigan Avenue Bridge in Buffalo, watching the then magnificent ship Merida come in, and wishing that someday he could be a captain of a fine ship like that. I told him that he could; that if he sincerely wished it, he was prophesying for himself, and that if he followed his intuition and always obeyed his "hunches" he not only could be the captain of a ship like that, but make a name for himself to be honored with the finest recognition ever to have been received by a Great Lakes navigator.
He became a captain, and his first ship was the Merida. I received a letter from him later:
That afternoon that we had the talk together you said that after I got home there would be a letter for me from Chicago from a heavy thick man by the name of J. - John, you thought, and through him I would get a good job sometime in March. But before that I would have two other offers which I would take but wouldn't keep. Well, it all came to pass within a day or so from the time you had predicted, except that the man's name is Jeremiah, instead of John. You said I was to sail a big boat successfully, which I did, and that I was to have a little girl born. I've got that too.
Offer No. 2, as per your prediction. You said I would have an offer from the East in February, also that it would be from Buffalo. If you remember I said more likely from Cleveland. You said possibly so, but every time you mentioned it you said Buffalo, just as you said it would, and I have accepted it.
When Captain Mohr received the Congressional Medal and his five lake rescues were cited, he sent me a clipping, and wrote, "My reasons for sending this to you is because it is just what you told me would happen over fifteen years ago, and I have not forgotten."
This is but one instance among many in the experience of one man besides myself. He is but one of several thousand witnesses in the files of my own mental experiments. And there are thousands of others in the world today who have had similar experiences, and who, even at the moment that I write this, and again as you read it, know the truth of such things beyond any possible doubt.
In the face of all the evidence that is available in the world today, the opinion of men who doubt because they have had no such experience deserves the same consideration as the skepticism of the Kentucky mountaineer, who refused to believe that radio was true because he did not possess one.
The experience of others will not convince you like an experience of your own. It is not something you can learn from books. I have hoped to show you the way to find out for yourself, but a better understanding of your own experience is in comparing them with mine.
* * * * *
The intuitive life itself has no problems save those that vanish in solving themselves. For it is not really necessary to understand everything, so long as intuition succeeds in translating itself into successful action. Obedience to the promptings of intuition removes by prevention all problems that disobedience would create.
But he who sets out to live the life of intuition in collaboration with the intellect (a modern necessity) finds himself obliged to correlate and harmonize science, philosophy, and religion. He must harness intuition by "logic, reason, and common sense." And in so doing he encounters the critical demands of the intellect to provide adequate explanation and verbal representation. And he must squarely face and answer for himself by experience the questions: "Is man a mere electrical recording machine?" "Is he also a ‘radio'?" And if the second, "What is the source of the broadcasting he receives?" Is it possible to ‘talk without thinking'? (i.e. to by-pass the intellect), and if so, "What ‘puts the words into one's mouth'?"
From childhood I had found it necessary to "stop thinking" in order to "imagine" correctly; but as I grew older I found that, if I stopped thinking while talking, word were actually "put into my mouth" and I would say things that were verified as correct without having the least idea what I was talking about, and without requiring any exercise of imagination or understanding on my part.
A similar phenomenon occurred in writing. I could take a blank piece of paper and write on it something I never knew or thought of before. But it was definitely not so-called automatic writing. I simply said or wrote what popped into my mind at the instant; and it popped out of my verbal memory instead of my memory of scenes and pictures (as in the case of "imagining' things), but I would not know what I was going to say or write next. And I was always astonished on reading it over afterward, or hearing the reaction of my listener, to discover that it not only "made sense" but was something that could be verified.
The trouble with most people is that they shape things to suit themselves, according to past acquirements, whereas we should permit truth to come to us, crystallizing in its own shape. We should then try to figure out what the shape is.
Some "feel" things without seeing any mental "pictures." Some have vague "hunches" that act only at forks in the road, to aid them in determining which direction to take at the moment, but without providing them with any clear vision concerning their goal or the means of attaining it.
Some visualize their ideals in all, then carry them out one by one, prophesying for themselves without realizing it. And some sense things only through symbols, which constitute a universal language of understanding based on memory element of sensory experience in nature. The intuitive dreams and "imaginings" of this type of person will seldom be literally true. The truth is embodied in symbols that must be interpreted.
The history of human experience is filled with cases of all kinds, but in my investigation of these things I have personally experienced all types of mental phenomena without finding it necessary to take the word of anyone else for anything. I have seen thousands of "false pictures" in my "mind's eye" of things that have actually happened, of things happening at the moment, and of future events. But often I see a symbol that I must interpret, and in talking with my friends of the symbols that come to me, it has often been the case that they knew exactly what I was talking about when it was still a mystery to me.
* * * * *
One day, for example, I was talking with a man in connection with whose initials I imagined that I saw the symbol of a silver frog. Two common conceptions of my memory, "silver" and "frog," were thus compounded by my intuition in an apparent but vain effort to communicate something to my intellect. I could not make sense out of it, nor could the man in question at the time of our conversation.
But later he informed me, "You know that silver frog you spoke of? Well, the two middle names that I never use, save for the initials, originally meant a silversmith and a tadpole."
Another case was my first conversation with a Mr. H. of Grand Rapids. I told him that when I shook hands with him I saw mentally many houses in construction, but it puzzled me a great deal because there did not seem to be any evidence of their being occupied at any time.
This didn't make sense to me, but Mr. H. and his friend Mr. W. were very much amused, as one of the projects that Mr. H. was then interested in launching was a new kind of toy, a peculiar kind of building blocks with which children could easily construct substantial houses of several miniature sizes, depending on the number of blocks used.
Another source of confusion in many experiences of mental phenomena is the difficulty of discerning between "thoughts" of people and events that actually take place. The effect of the "mass mind" must always be guarded against by an intuitive person in his relation with public affairs.
In my own experience I found it necessary to attempt to shut out "thoughts" altogether on such occasions, in order to get at the "facts."
Is "impersonal vision" possible? When I was asked if I could "imagine" or describe something that was going on in the world elsewhere, and specifically when I was asked if I could describe the greatest crime being committed in the city of Chicago at the moment (and it turned out that I was correct), to what extent was telepathy involved? Did some human mind or minds have to be seeing or remembering? Was my imagination of the crime an "impersonal vision," or was it induced by the activity of the criminal's mind?
Does human memory survive death, and if so, is it possible for disembodied minds to witness earthly events and to induce a representation of them in the imagination of a living person? Can the imagination of a living person envision distant senses or inanimate objects without the aid of witnessing minds, living or dead?
Are conclusive answers to these questions possible on the basis of the experimental evidence available? I do not think so. One may believe what one will. Only this fact remains: the "vision" is there. Your "human radio" and "mental vision" are working. But you do not know with certainty who or what is broadcasting what you receive; and you do not know where it is coming from.
Consider the following experience to which well-known witnesses are still living and available, though two are dead. We were on "location" during the filming of one of a number of moving pictures in which I was interested. A number of us, including the director, the late James Cruze, were sitting on a bench in a park near Hollywood, while preparations were being made for the nest scene.
There was an old man, an extra hired for the day, tapping the ground idly with the point of his cane. He was out of hearing, and also deaf. On the spur of the moment, I said to the others on the same bench with us and in adjacent chairs, "Do you want to see me make that old man draw a triangle in the sand with his cane, and then make a figure in the center of it?"
Everyone on the bench and within hearing held his breath almost, under the impression that I was concentrating as an experiment in trying to influence the old man telepathically to do what I had said. I was thinking about it, of course, and watching the old man intently. But the thoughts in my mind, far from being an effort to "will" the old man to do as I said, were somewhat as follows: "Now what made me say that? I have put myself on a spot, and without any good reason for doing so."
For a moment or two the old man continued his tapping. Then suddenly taking a new grip on his cane, he began making aimless and disconnected dashes, lines instead of dots. In another moment he dragged the cane back and forth in zigzag line. He ended up by making a clearly defined triangle, and then proceeded to interest himself in drawing something inside it.
Everyone present thought it was a clearly defined case of telepathic influence or "thought transference," without the conscious cooperation or knowledge of the subject. Of more interest to me were the reactions of the individuals who had witnessed the little performance. They ranged from excitement to amazed incredulity. But the entire episode ended in a burst of laughter, because of the tone of voice in which Jimmy Cruze uttered one of his characteristic and good-humored but unprintable curses, when he saw what the old man had done.
He capped a vivid description of what he would be by the exclamation, "By God! You did it!"
I said, "Hold on now, Jimmy. Don't jump to any conclusions. I may have done it, but I'm not convinced of it."
This seemed to astonish him more than the little experiment. He said, "What are you talking about? I don't get it. Didn't I see it?"
"Think it over. Did I really make the old man carry out my whim of the moment, or did I merely predict what he was going to do?"
But the next scene was ready. Jimmy got up and lumbered away, mumbling "Merely!"
He was not in the least impressed by the distinction, but it was a real one. In thousands of similar cases the material evidence provides no direct proof whether the prediction or statement involves mental processes that cause the event, or whether the event, casting its shadow before it, causes the statement.