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Mrs. Piper & the Society for Psychical Research by Michael Sage

XIX The medium's return to normal life--Speeches made while the medium seems to hover between the two worlds.

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In Mrs Piper's case, the moments which precede the actual quitting of the trance offer, at least at present, a special interest. I think it well therefore to dwell on this point a little. To avoid endless circumlocutions, I shall speak as if the spiritualistic hypothesis were proved. Indeed, whatever the future fate of this hypothesis may be, and in spite of the serious objection spoken of in the last chapter, it is, I believe, the only one that can be reasonably adopted for the moment.

When the sitting is over and the automatic writing has ceased, Mrs Piper begins to return gradually to her normal state. She then utters with more or less distinctness some apparently disconnected phrases which it is sometimes difficult to catch. She is like a person talking in sleep. Dr Hodgson and Professor Hyslop have collected as many of these broken sentences as they could, keeping them separately under a different heading from the record of the rest of the sitting proper. At the end, Mrs Piper often asks this odd question, "Did you hear my head snap?" And after her head is supposed to have snapped she looks round her in apparent astonishment and alarm, and then all is over, she no longer remembers what she has said or written during the trance.

We shall see that these scraps of phrase are less incoherent than they seem, and that it is worth while to collect them. Very often when numerous unsuccessful efforts have been made to recall a proper name during the sitting, Mrs Piper pronounces it when coming out of the trance; when she is re-entering her body, the communicator or communicators repeat the name to her insistently, and make great efforts to cause her to remember and pronounce it as she comes out of the trance. I have already quoted an example of this. M. Paul Bourget asked the name of the town in which the artist he was communicating with had killed herself. The name did not come, but Mrs Piper pronounced it as she was leaving the trance--_Venice_. Mr Robert Hyslop's name was given in the same way the first time, but accompanied by very significant scraps of speech as follows. Mrs Piper first tried to pronounce the name, then she said _Hyslop_, and went on,--

"I am he.[86] Tell him I am his father. I--Good-bye, sir. I shouldn't take him away that way. Oh, dear. Do you see the man with the cross[87] shut out everybody? Did you see the light? What made the man's hair all fall off?"

Dr Hodgson asks, "What man?"

Mrs Piper.--"That elderly gentleman that was trying to tell me something, but it wouldn't come."

At a first glance this passage seems mere incoherence, but all the portions of sentences have a very clear meaning when they are examined together with the events of the sitting. They are, as it seems, commissions with which the medium is charged as she is returning into her organism, or they are observations made among themselves by the spirits present, which the medium automatically repeats, or they are the observations and questions of the medium herself. All that Mrs Piper says on coming out of the trance belongs to one of these three categories.

In the passage quoted, the words, "I am he. Tell him that I am his father," are a commission with which the medium is charged by Mr Robert Hyslop. Mrs Piper takes leave of Robert Hyslop with the formula, "Good-bye, sir." The phrases which follow, "Oh, dear. I shouldn't take him away that way. Do you see the man with the cross shut out everybody?" are the remarks of spirits repeated automatically, or Mrs Piper's own remarks on Imperator, who, seeing the light exhausted, imperiously sends off everybody, including Mr Robert Hyslop himself, in spite of his desire to remain with his son. Imperator must even have used some force, to justify the observation, "I should not take him away that way." The final phrases are always Mrs Piper's own questions and remarks: When she says, "Did you see the light?" she alludes without doubt to the light of the other world, invisible to us. The other sentences are clear enough, when we remember that Mr Robert Hyslop was entirely bald. There are utterances like these, only apparently incoherent on coming out of all the trances; but they vary in length. The last words, if I am not mistaken, always come from Mrs Piper herself, which is logically to be expected, since she gradually loses the memory of the world she has just quitted, up to the definite moment of waking, marked by the so-called snap in her head.