Book 11 — The Law and the Word

by Thomas Troward

2: Some Psychic Experiences

Contents List:

A Psychic "Body"?
Non-physical "Presence" in Edinburgh
Non-physical "Presence" at an Ancient Abbey
Non-physical "Presence" in Norwood
Some Reflections
A Ghost in the Punjab
Further Reflections
Scientific Exploration
Universal Medium and Thought
Night and Day

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Cover of Book 11
Ardue Library
Ardue Site Plan

See also:

The Holy Spirit

A Psychic "Body"?

The preceding chapter has introduced the reader to the general subject of etheric vibrations as one of the natural forces of the Universe, both as the foundation of all matter and as the medium for transmission of energy to immense distances, and also as something continually emanating from human beings. In the present chapter I shall consider it more particularly in this last aspect which, as included in our own personality, very immediately concerns ourselves. I will commence with an instance of the practical application of this fact.

Some years ago I was lunching at the house of Lady X in company of a well-known mental healer whom I will call Mr Y and a well-known London physician whom I will call Dr W. Mr Y mentioned the case of a lady whose leg had been amputated above the knee some years previously to her coming under his care, yet she frequently felt pains in the (amputated) knee and lower part of the leg and foot. Dr W said this was to be attributed to the nerves which convey to the brain the sensation of the extremities, much as a telegraph line might be tapped in the middle, and Mr Y agreed that this was perfectly true on the purely physical side.

But he went on to say that accidentally putting his hand where the amputated foot should have been, he felt it there. Then it occurred to him that since there was no material foot to be touched, it must be through the medium of his own psychic body that the sensation of touch was conveyed to him, and accordingly he asked the lady to imagine that she was making various movements with the amputated limb, all of which he felt, and was able to tell her what each movement was, which she said he did correctly.

Then, to carry the experiment further, he reversed the process and with his hand moved the invisible leg and foot in various ways, all of which the lady felt and described. He then determined to treat the invisible leg as though it were a real one, and joined up the circuit by taking her left foot in his right hand and her right foot (the amputated one) in his left, with the result that she immediately felt relief and, after successive treatments in this way, was entirely cured.

A well-authenticated case like this opens up a good many interesting questions regarding the Psychic Body, but the most important point appears to me to be that we are able to experience sensations by means of it. In this case, however, and those mentioned in the preceding chapter, the physical body was actually present, and if we stopped at this point, we might question whether its presence was not a sine qua non [i.e. indispensable — Ed.] for the action of the etheric vibrations.

Non-physical "Presence" in Edinburgh

I will therefore pass on to a class of examples which show that very curious phenomena can take place without the physical body being on the spot. There are numerous well-verified cases of the kind to be found in the records of the Society for Psychical research and in other books by trustworthy writers; but it may perhaps interest the present reader to hear one or two instances of my personal experience which, though they may not be so striking as some of those recorded by others, still point in the same direction.

My first introduction to Scotland was when I delivered the course of lectures in Edinburgh which led to the publication of my first book, The Edinburgh Lectures on Mental Science. The following year I gave a second course of lectures in Edinburgh, but the friends who had kindly entertained me on the former occasion had in the meanwhile gone to live elsewhere. However, a certain Mr S, whose acquaintance I had made on my previous visit, invited me to stay with him for a day or two while I could look around for other accommodation, though, as it turned out, I remained at his house during the whole month I was in Edinburgh. I had, however, never seen his house, which was on the opposite side of town to where I had stayed before. I arrived there on a Tuesday, and Mr S and his family at once met me with the question:

"What were you thinking of at ten o'clock on Sunday evening?"

I could not immediately recall this, and also wanted to know the reason of their question.

"We have something curious to tell you", they replied, "but first try to remember what you were thinking of at ten o'clock on Sunday evening — were you thinking about us?"

Then I reflected that about that time I was saying my usual prayers before going to bed and had asked that, if I could stay only a day or two with Mr S, I should be directed to a suitable place for the remainder of the time.

"That explains it", they replied; and then they went on to tell me that at the hour in question, Mr S and his son, a young man of about twenty, had entered their dining-room together and seen me standing leaning against the mantel-shelf. They were both hard-headed Scotsmen engaged in business in Edinburgh, and certainly not the sort of people to conjure up fanciful imaginings, nor is it likely that the same fancy should have occurred to both of them; and therefore I can only suppose that they actually saw what they said they did.

Now I myself was in London at the time of this appearance in Edinburgh, of which I had no consciousness whatever; at the same time, the fact of my having been seen in Edinburgh exactly at the time when my Thought, in prayer, was centred upon Mr S's house (which I had not then seen) is a coincidence suggesting that in some way my Thought had made itself visible there in the image of my external personality.

Non-physical "Presence" at an Ancient Abbey

In this case, as I have said, I was not conscious of my psychic visit to Edinburgh, but I will now relate a converse instance which occurred in connection with my first visit there. At that time I had never been in Scotland and, so far as I knew, was never likely to go there. I was wide awake, writing in my study at Norwood, where I then lived, when I suddenly found myself in a place totally unknown to me, where stood the ruins of an ancient abbey, part of which, however, was still roofed over and used as a place of worship. I felt much interested, and among other things I noted a Latin inscription on a tablet in one of the walls. There seemed to be an invisible guide showing me over the place, who then pointed out a long, low house opposite the abbey, and said: "This is the house of the clergyman of the abbey": and I was then taken inside the house and shown a number of antique-looking rooms.

Then I came to myself and found I was sitting at my writing-table in Norwood. I had, however, a clear recollection of the place I had seen, but no idea where it was or, indeed, whether any such place really existed. I also remembered a portion of the Latin inscription, which I at once wrote down in a notebook, as my curiosity was aroused.

As I have said, I had no reason at that time ever to go to Scotland, but some weeks later I was invited to lecture in Edinburgh. Another visitor in the house where I was a guest there was the wife of the County Court Judge of Cumberland, and I showed her and our hostess the part of the Latin inscription I had retained, and suggested that perhaps it might exist somewhere in Edinburgh. However nothing answering to what I had seen was to be found, so we relegated the whole thing to the region of unaccountable fancies and thought no more about it. The Judge's wife took her departure before me, and kindly invited me to spend a few days at their residence near Carlisle on my return journey, which I did.

One day she drove me out to see Lanercost Abbey, one of the show-places of the neighbourhood, and walking round the building I found in one of the walls the Latin inscription in question. I called Mrs J, who was a little way off, and said: "Look at this inscription".

She at once replied, "Why! That is the very inscription we were all puzzling over in Edinburgh!"

It turned out to be an inscription in memory of the founder of the abbey, dating from somewhere in the eleven-hundreds. The whole place answered to what I had seen, and the long, low parsonage was there also.

"I should have liked you to see it inside", said Mrs J, "but I have never met the vicar, though I know his mother-in-law, so we must give it up."

We were just entering our carriage when the garden gate opened, and who should come out but the mother-in-law.

"Oh, Mrs J", she said, addressing the Judge's wife, "I am here on a visit and you must come in and take tea." So we went in and were shown over the house, much as I had been in my vision, and some portions were so old that, among other rooms, we were shown the one occupied by King Edward I on his march against Scotland in the year 1296, when the Scottish regalia was captured, and the celebrated Crowning-Stone was brought to England and placed in Westminster Abbey, where it has ever since remained — a stone having an occult relation to the history of the British and American peoples of the highest interest to both; but as there is already an extensive literature on this subject I will not enter upon it here. [The stone was returned to Scotland in 1996 and now rests in Edinburgh Castle — Ed]

Non-physical "Presence" in Norwood

I will now relate another curious experience. We had only recently taken up our residence at Norwood when one day I was seated in the dining room but suddenly found myself in the hall, and saw two ladies going up the stairs. They passed close to me and, turning round the landing at the top of the stairs, passed out of sight in a perfectly natural manner.

They looked as solid as anyone I have ever seen in my life. One of them was a stout lady with a rather florid complexion, apparently between forty-five and fifty, wearing a silk blouse with thin purple and white stripes. Leaning on her arm was a slightly-built old lady with white ringlets, dressed all in black and wearing a lace mantilla. I noticed their appearance particularly.

The next moment I found I was really sitting in the dining room, and that the ladies I had seen were nothing but visionary figures. I wondered what it could mean but, as we had only recently taken the house, thought it better not to mention it to any of my family for fear of causing them alarm. But a few days later I mentioned it to a Mrs F, who I knew had had some experience in such matters, and she said: "You have seen either someone who has lived in the house or who is going to live there". Then the matter dropped.

About a month later my wife arranged by correspondence for a certain lady to come as governess to our children. When she arrived, there was no mistaking her identity. She was the stout lady I had seen, and the next morning she came down to breakfast dressed in the identical blouse with purple and white stripes.

There was no mistaking her, but I was puzzled as to who the other figure could be whom I had seen along with her. I resolved, however, to say nothing about the matter until we became better acquainted, lest she should think that my mind was not quite balanced. I therefore held my peace for six months, at the end of which time I concluded that we knew enough of each other to allow one another credit for being fairly level-headed.

Then I thought, now if I tell her what I saw, she may perhaps be acted upon by suggestion and imagine a resemblance between the unknown figure and some acquaintance of hers, so I will not begin by telling her of the vision but will first ask if she knows anyone answering to the description, and give her the reason afterwards. I therefore took a suitable opportunity of asking her if she knew any such person, describing the figure to her as accurately as I could.

Her look of surprise grew as I went on, and when I had finished she explained with astonishment: "Why, Mr Troward, where could you have seen my mother? She is an invalid, and I am certain you have never seen her, and yet you have described her most accurately".

Then I told her what I had seen. She asked what I thought was the explanation of the appearance, and the only explanation I could give was that I supposed she was on the lookout for a post and paid us a preliminary visit to see whether ours would suit her, and that, being naturally interested in her welfare, her mother had accompanied her.

Some Reflections

Perhaps you will say: "What came of it?" Well, nothing "came of it", nor did anything "come" of my psychic visits to Edinburgh and Lanercost Abbey. Such occurrences seem to be simple facts in Nature which, though on some occasions connected with premonitions of more or less importance, are by no means necessarily so. They are the functioning of certain faculties which we all possess, but of the nature of which we as yet know very little.

It will be noticed that in the first of these three cases I myself was the person seen, though unaware of the fact. In the last I was the percipient, but the persons seen by me were unconscious of their visit; and in the second case I was conscious of my presence at a place which I had never heard of and which I visited some time after. In two of these cases, therefore, the persons making the psychic visit were not aware of having done so, while in the third, a memory of what had been seen was retained. But all three cases have this in common, that the psychic visit was not the result of an act of conscious volition, and also that the psychic action took place at a long distance from the physical body.

From these personal experiences, as well as from many well-authenticated cases recorded by other writers, I should be inclined to infer that the psychic action is entirely independent of the physical body, and in support of this view I will cite yet another experience.

A Ghost in the Punjab

It was about the year 1875, when I was a young Assistant Commissioner in the Punjab, that I was ordered to the small up-country station of Akalpur [the Author states that the actual names of places and persons in this story have been withheld — Ed.] and took possession of the Assistant Commissioner's bungalow there. On the night of our arrival in the bungalow, my wife and I had our charpoys — light Indian bedsteads — placed side by side in a certain room and went to bed. The last thing I remembered before falling asleep was seeing my wife sitting up in bed reading, with a lamp on a small table beside her. Suddenly I was awakened by the sound of a shot and, starting up, found the room in darkness. I immediately lit a candle which was on a chair by my bedside, and found my wife still sitting up with the book on her knee, but the lamp had gone out.

"Take me away, take me to another room", she exclaimed.

"Why, what is the matter?" I said.

"Did you not see it?" she replied.

"See what?" I asked.

"Don't stop to ask questions", she replied; "get me out of this room at once; I can't stop here another minute."

I saw she was very frightened, so I called up the servants and had our beds moved to a room on the other side of the house, and then she told me what she had seen. She said: "I was sitting reading as you saw me when, looking round, I saw the figure of an Englishman standing close by my bedside, a fine-looking man with a large, fair moustache and dressed in a grey suit. I was so surprised that I could not speak, and we remained looking at each other for about a minute. Then he bent over me and whispered: 'Don't be afraid', and with that there was the sound of a shot, and everything was in darkness".

"My dear girl, you must have fallen asleep over your book and been dreaming", I said.

"No, I was wide awake", she insisted. "You were asleep, but I was awake all the time. But you heard the shot, did you not?"

"Yes", I replied, "that is what woke me — someone must have fired a shot outside."

"But why should anyone be shooting in our garden at nearly midnight?" my wife objected.

It certainly seemed strange, but it was the only explanation that suggested itself; so we had to agree to differ, she being convinced that she had seen a ghost, and that the shot had been inside the room, and I being equally convinced that she had been dreaming, and that the shot had been fired outside the house.

The next morning the owner of the bungalow, an old widow lady, Mrs La Chaire, called to make kindly enquiries as to whether she could be of any service to us on our arrival. After thanking her, my wife said: "I expect you will laugh at me, but I cannot help telling you that there is something strange about the bungalow"; and she then went on to narrate what she had seen.

Instead of laughing, the old lady looked more and more serious as she went on and, when she had done, asked to be shown exactly where the apparition had appeared. My wife took her to the spot and on being shown it, old Mrs La Chaire exclaimed: "This is the most wonderful thing I have ever heard of. Eighteen years ago my bed was on the very spot where yours was last night, and I was lying in it too ill to move, when my husband, whom you have described most accurately, stood where you saw him and shot himself dead".

This statement of the widow convinced me that my wife had really seen what she said she had, and had not dreamed it; and this experience has led me to make further enquiries into the nature of happenings of this kind, with the result that after carefully eliminating all cases which could be accounted for in any other manner, I have found myself compelled to admit a considerable number of instances of what are called "ghosts", on the word of persons whose veracity and soundness of judgment I should not doubt on any other subject.

It is often said that you never meet anyone who has himself seen a ghost, but only those who have heard of somebody else seeing one. This I can entirely contradict, for I have met with many trustworthy persons of both sexes who have given me accounts of such appearances having been actually witnessed by themselves. In conclusion, I may mention that I was telling this story some twenty years later to a Colonel Fox, who had known the unfortunate man who committed suicide, and he said to me: "Do you know what were the last words he said to his wife?"

"No", I replied.

"The very same words he spoke to your wife", said Colonel Fox.

Further Reflections

This is the story I refer to in Chapter 12 of my book Bible Mystery and Bible Meaning as that of "the Ghost that I did not see". I do not attempt to offer any explanation of it but merely give the facts as they occurred, and the reader must form his own theory on the subject; but the reason I bring in this story in the present connection is that in this instance there could be no question of the physical body contributing to the psychic phenomenon, since the person seen had been dead for nearly twenty years; and coupling this fact with the distance from the physical body at which the psychic action took place in the other cases I have mentioned, I think there is a very strong presumption that the psychic powers can, and do, act independently of the physical body; though of course it does not follow from this that they cannot also act in conjunction with it.

On the other hand, a comparison of the present case with those previously mentioned fails to throw any light on the important question whether the deceased feels any consciousness of the action which the percipient sees, or whether what is seen is like a sort of photograph impressed upon the atmosphere of a particular locality and visible only to certain persons who are able to sense etheric wavelengths which are outside the range of a single octave forming the solar spectrum. It throws no light on this question because, in the case of my being seen by Mr S in Edinburgh and that of Miss B and her mother being seen by me at Norwood, none of us were conscious of having been seen at those places; while in the case of my psychic visit to Lanercost Abbey, and other similar experiences I have had, I have been fully aware of seeing the places in question.

The evidence tells both ways, and I can therefore only infer that there are two modes of psychic action, in one of which the person projecting that action, whether voluntarily or involuntarily, experiences corresponding sensations, and the other in which he does not; but I am unable to offer any criterion by which the observer can, with certainty, distinguish between the two.

Scientific Exploration

It appears to me that such instances as those I have mentioned point to ranges of etheric action beyond those ordinarily recognised by physical science; but the principle seems to be the same, and it is for this reason that I have taken the modern scientific theory of etheric vibration as our starting-point. The Universe is one great whole, and the laws of one part cannot contradict those of another; therefore the explanation of such queer happenings is not to be found by denying the well-ascertained laws of Nature on the physical plane, but by considering whether these laws do not extend further.

It is on this account that I would lay stress on the Mathematical side of things and have adduced instances where various discoveries have been made by following up the sequence indicated by the laws already known, and which have thus enabled us to fill up gaps in our knowledge which would otherwise stop, or at least seriously hinder, our further progress. It is in this way that Jachin helps Boaz, and that the undeviating nature of Law, so far from limiting us, becomes our faithful ally if we will only allow it to do so.

I think, then, that the scientific idea of the ether, as a universal medium pervading all space and all substance, will help us to see that many things which are popularly called supernatural are to be attributed to the action of known laws working under as yet unknown conditions; and therefore when we are confronted with strange phenomena, a knowledge of the general principles involved will show us in what direction to look for an explanation.

Now applying this to the present subject, we may reasonably argue that since all physical matter is scientifically proved to consist of the Universal ether in various degrees of condensation, there may be other degrees of condensation, forming other modes of matter, which are beyond the scope of physical vision and of our laboratory apparatus. And similarly, we may argue that just as various effects can be produced on the physical plane by the action of etheric waves of various lengths, so other effects might be produced on these finer modes of matter by etheric waves of other lengths. And in this connection we must not forget that a gap occurs between the "dark heat" groups and the Hertzian group, consisting of five octaves of waves, the lengths of which have been theoretically calculated but whose action has not yet been discovered.

Here we admittedly have a wide field for the working of known laws under as yet unknown conditions; and again, how can we say that there are not ranges of unknown waves yet smaller than the minute ultraviolet ones, which commence the present known scale, or transcending those largest ones which bear our messages across the Atlantic? Mathematically, there is no limit to the scale in either direction; and so, taking our stand on the demonstrated facts of science, we find that that the known laws of Nature point to their continuation in modes of matter and of force of which we have as yet no conception. It is therefore not at all necessary to spurn the ground of established science to spread the wings of our fancy; rather it affords us the requisite basis from which to start, just as the aeronaut cannot rise without a solid surface from which to spring.

Universal Medium and Thought

Now if we realise that the ether is an infinitely subtle fluid, pervading all space, we see that it must constitute a connecting link between all modes of substance, whether visible or invisible, in all worlds, and may therefore be called the Universal Medium; and following up our conception of the Continuity of Law, we may suppose that trains of waves, inconceivably smaller or greater than any known to modern science, are set up in this medium in the same way as the electromagnetic waves with which we are acquainted; that is, by an impulse which generates them from some particular point.

In the region of finer forces we are now prospecting, this impulse might well be the Desire or Will of the spiritual entity which we ourselves are — that thinking, feeling, inmost essence of ourself, which is the "noumenon" of our individuality, and which, for the sake of brevity, we call our Ego, a Latin word which simply means "I myself". This idea of spiritual impulse is quite familiar to us in our everyday talk. We speak of an impulsive person, meaning one who acts on a sudden thought without giving due heed to consequences; so in our ordinary speech we look upon thought as the initial impulse, only we restrict this to the case of unregulated thought. But if unregulated thought acts as a centre of impulse, why should not regulated thought do the same?

Therefore we may accept the idea of Thought as the initial impulse which starts trains of waves in the Universal Medium, whether with or without due consideration: and having thus recognised its dynamic power, we must learn to make the impulses we thus transmit intelligent, well-defined, and directed to some useful purpose. The operator at some wireless station does not use his instruments to send out a lot of jumbled up waves into the ether, but controls the impulses into a definite and intelligible order, and we must do the same.

On some such lines as these, then, we may picture the desire of the Ego as starting a train of waves in the Universal Medium, which are reproduced in corresponding form or reaching their destination. As with the electromagnetic waves, they may spread all around, just as ripples do if we throw a stone into a pond, but they will only take form when there is a correspondence able to receive them. This is what in the language of electrical engineers is called Syntony, which means being tuned to the same rate of vibration, and no doubt it is from some such cause that we sometimes experience what seem inexplicable feelings of attraction or repulsion towards different persons. This also appears to furnish a key to thought transference, hypnotism, and other allied phenomena.

If the reader questions whether thought is capable of generating impulses in the etheric medium, I would refer him to the experiment mentioned in Chapter 14 of my Edinburgh Lectures on Mental Science, where I describe how, when operating with Dr Baraduc's biometer, I found that the needle revolved through a smaller or larger arc of the circle in response to my mental intention of concentrating a smaller or larger degree of force upon it. Perhaps you will say that the difference in the movement of the needle depended on the quantity of magnetism that was flowing from me, to say nothing of other known forces, such as heat, light, electricity, etc. Well, that is precisely the proposition I am putting forward. What caused the difference in the intensity of the magnetic flow was my intention of varying it, so that we come back to mental action as the centre of impulsion from which the etheric waves were generated.

If, then, such a demonstration can be obtained on the plane of purely physical matter, why need we doubt that the same Law will work in the same way in respect of these finer modes of substance and wider ranges of etheric vibrations which, starting from the basis of recognised physical science, the Law of Continuity would lead to by an orderly sequence, and which the occurrence of what for want of a better name we call occult phenomena requires for their explanation?

Night and Day

Before passing on to the more practical generalisations to be drawn from the suggestions contained in this chapter, I may advert to an objection sometimes brought by the sceptical in this matter. They say: "How is it that apparitions are always seen in the dark?" and then they answer their own question by saying it is because superstitious people are nervous in the dark and imagine all sorts of things. Then they laugh and think they have disposed of the whole subject. But it is not disposed of quite so easily, for not only are there many well-attested cases of such appearances in broad daylight, but there are also scientific facts, showing that if we are right in explaining such happenings by etheric action, such action is more readily produced at night than in the presence of sunlight.

In the early part of 1902, Marconi made some experiments on board the American liner Philadelphia which brought out the remarkable fact that, while it was possible to transmit signals to a distance of fifteen hundred miles during the night, they could not be transmitted further than seven hundred miles during the day. The same was found to be the case by Lieutenant Solari of the Italian Navy, at whose disposal the ship Carlo Alberto was placed by the King of Italy in 1902 for the purpose of making investigations into wireless telegraphy; and summing up the points which he considered to have been fully established by his experiments on board that ship, he mentions among them the fact that sunlight has the effect of reducing the power of electromagnetic waves, and that consequently a greater force is required to produce a given result by day than by night. Here, then, is a reason why we might expect to see more supernatural appearances, as we call them, at night than in the day — they require a smaller amount of force to produce them.

At the same time, it is found that the great magnetic waves which cover immense distances work even more powerfully in the light than in the dark. May it not be that these things show that there is more than a merely metaphorical use of words when the Bible tells us of the power of Light to dissipate and bring to naught the powers of Darkness, while the Light itself is the Great Power, using the forces of the Universe on the widest scale? Perhaps it is none other than the continuity of unchanging universal principles extending into the mysterious realms of the spiritual world.