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Boris Sidis, Ph.D.

© 1898. New York, D. Appleton and Company.




        TURNING now to the interesting phenomena of crystal-gazing we meet with facts of like nature proving the same truth.

         "I find in the crystal," writes a crystal-gazer,1 "a bit of dark wall covered with jessamine, and I ask myself, Where have I walked to-day? I have no recollection of such a sight―not a common one in the London streets; but to-morrow I repeat my walk of this morning, with a careful regard for the creeper-covered walls. To-morrow solves the mystery. I find the very spot, and the sight brings with it the further recollection that at the moment we passed the spot I was engaged in absorbing conversation with my companion, and my voluntary attention was preoccupied.

         "On March 9 I saw in the crystal a rocky coast, a rough sea, an expanse of sand in the foreground. As I watched, the picture was nearly effaced by that of a mouse. . . .Two days later I was reading a volume of poetry which I remembered having cut open, talking the while, certainly not consciously reading. As I turned over the leaves a couple of lines struck me:

Only the sea intoning,
Only the wainscot mouse."

         The same automatic writer looked in the crystal and saw a newspaper announcement. It reported the death of a lady at one time a very frequent visitor in my circle and very intimate with some of my nearest friends; an announcement, therefore, which, had I consciously seen it, would have interested me considerably. I related my vision at breakfast, quoting name, date, place, and an allusion to 'a long period of suffering' borne by the deceased lady, and added that I was sure that I had not heard any report of her illness, or even for some months any mention of her likely to suggest such an hallucination. I was, however, aware that I had the day before taken the first sheet of the Times, but was interrupted before I had consciously read any announcement of death. Mrs. H. Sidgwick immediately sought for the paper, when we discovered the paragraph almost exactly as I had seen it."

         In his article, Some Experiments in Crystal Vision, Prof. James II. Hyslop, of Columbia College,2 reports the case of Mrs. D., "who used to have a visual hallucination (in the crystal) of a bright-blue sky overhead, a garden with a high-walled fence, and a peculiar chain pump in the garden situated at the back of a house. She attached no significance to it, but took it for one of the many automatisms in her experience which were without assignable meaning to her. But two summers ago she had gone west, to her old home in D., Ohio, and made the acquaintance of a lady whom she had never known before, and by chance was invited to take tea with her one evening. She went, and after tea remarked that she would like to have a drink of water. The lady of the house remarked: 'All right; let us go out into the garden and get a fresh drink from the well.' They went, and, behold, there was the identical blue sky, high fence, and chain pump which she had so often seen in her vision! After going home in the evening Mrs. D. told her mother of her experience, remarking how strange it was. Her mother replied that when Mrs. D. was a little girl about two or three years old she used to visit this house very frequently with her mother."

         Prof. James relates the case of a Cambridge lady who happened to misplace a valuable set of silver knives. She searched everywhere, but could not discover its whereabouts. Having heard of crystal-gazing, the lady thought she might as well try it. She procured a crystal and looked into it for a few minutes. Something appeared at the bottom of the crystal; gradually the image took the shape of a box with straight objects lying in it diagonally. The image had the following shape: 

Presently she found herself taking a chair, mounting it, and reaching out her hand for a top closet. There was the realization of her visual hallucination―here was the box, and inside it the set of knives placed diagonally.

         "I saw in the crystal," writes another crystal-gazer,3 "a young girl, an intimate friend, waving to me from her carriage. I observed that her hair, which had hung down her back when I last saw her, was now put up in young-lady fashion. Most certainly I had not consciously seen even the carriage. Next day I called on my friend, was reproached by her for not observing her as she passed, and perceived that she had altered her hair in the way which the crystal had shown.

         "I was writing at an open window and became aware that an elderly relative inside the room had said something to me; but the noise of the street prevented my asking what had been said. My ink began to run low, and I took up the inkstand to tip it. Looking into the ink I saw a white florist's parcel as though reflected on its surface. Going into another room, I there found the parcel in question, of which I had had no knowledge. I returned carrying it, and was greeted with the remark: 'I told you half an hour ago to attend to those flowers; they will all be dead.'

         "I looked across the room this morning to a distant table, where I expected to see a book I wanted. It was not there, but my eye was caught by another book, which I saw was strange to me. I tried, but could not read the title at that distance (I have since proved that, even now I know it, this is impossible), and turned away to resume my writing. On my blank paper, as in a crystal scene, I read 'The Valley of Lilies,' which I found to be the title of the book. I have no recollection of ever seeing the book before."

         The phenomena of shell-hearing belong to the same class of facts with those of crystal-gazing. The shell often reports to its listener facts and conversations that have escaped the latter's attention. "The shell," writes a shell-hearer, "is more likely after a dinner party to repeat the conversation of my neighbour on the right than that of my lawful interlocutor on the left."4

         Now all these facts of crystal-gazing and shell-hearing clearly reveal the presence of a secondary, submerged, hyperęsthetic consciousness that sees, hears, and perceives what lies outside the range of perception of the primary personal self.



1.  Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, May, 1889.
2.  Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, December, 1896.
3.  Myers, The Subliminal Self, Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, vol. viii.
4.  Myers, The Subliminal Consciousness, Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, vol. viii.


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