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The Unknown Guest by Maurice Maeterlinck


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Now that we have eliminated the gods and the dead, what have we left? Ourselves and all the life around us; and that is perhaps enough. It is, at any rate, much more than we are able to grasp.

Let us now study certain manifestations that are absolutely similar to those which we attribute to the spirits and quite as surprising. As for these manifestations, there is not the least doubt of their origin. They do not come from the other world; they are born and die upon this earth; and they arise solely and incontestably from our own actual living mystery. They are, moreover, of all psychic manifestations, those which are easiest to examine and verify, seeing that they can be repeated almost indefinitely and that a number of excellent and well-known mediums are always ready to reproduce them in the presence of any one interested in the question. It is no longer a case of uncertain and casual observation, but of scientific experiment.

The manifestations in question are so many phenomena of intuition, of clairvoyance or clairaudience, of seeing at a distance and even of seeing the future. These phenomena may either be due to pure, spontaneous intuition on the part of the medium, in an hypnotic or waking state, or else produced or facilitated by one of the various empirical methods which apparently see only to arouse the medium's subconscious faculties and to release in some way his subliminal clairvoyance. Among such methods, those most often employed are, as we all know, cards, coffee-grounds, pins, the lines of the hand, crystal globes, astrology, and so on. They possess no importance in themselves, no intrinsic virtue, and are worth exactly what the medium who uses them is worth. As M. Duchatel well says:

"In reality, there is only one solitary MANCY. The faculty of seeing in TIME, like the faculty of seeing in SPACE, is ONE, whatever its outward form or the process employed."

We will not linger now over those manifestations which, under appearances that are sometimes childish and vulgar, often conceal surprising and incontestable truths, but will devote the present chapter exclusively to a series of phenomena which includes almost all the others and which has been classed under the generic and rather ill-chosen and ill-constructed title of "psychometry." Psychometry, to borrow Dr. Maxwell's excellent definition, is "the faculty possessed by certain persons of placing themselves in relation, either spontaneously or, for the most part, through the intermediary of some object, with unknown and often very distant things and people."

The existence of this faculty is no longer seriously denied; and it is easy for any one who cares to do so to verify it for himself; for the mediums who possess it are not extremely rare, nor are they inaccessible. It has formed the subject of a number of experiments (see, among others, M. Warcollier's report in the Annales des Sciences Psychiques of July, 1911) and of a few treatises, in the front rank of which I would mention M. Duchatel's Enquete sur des Cas de Psychometrie and Dr. Otty's recently published book, Lucidite et Intuition, which is the fullest, most profound and most conscientious work that we possess on the matter up to the present. Nevertheless it may be said that these regions quite lately annexed by metaphysical science are as yet hardly explored and that fruitful surprises are doubtless awaiting earnest seekers.

The faculty in question is one of the strangest faculties of our subconsciousness and beyond a doubt contains the key to most of the manifestations that seem to proceed from another world. Let us begin by seeing, with the aid of a living and typical example, how it is exercised.