The Difficulty of Proof


Of course, it may be replied: Very true, provided the reality of your astral body once be established! After once having swallowed the camel, it is useless straining at the gnat. But the evidence for the existence of some such entity as an astral or etheric body has been constantly accumulating – quite apart from these cases of conscious or voluntary projection. The very first thing which struck the early investigators of the Society for Psychical Research, when they began their investigations, was the great number of apparitions coinciding with the death of the person thus represented; and the result of the first Census, published in Phantasms of the Living, and of the second and far more extensive one, published in Vol. X of the S.P.R. Proceedings, confirmed the belief that such syncs were more than chance would account for; that there was some causal connection between the apparition and the death of the person whose double thus appeared. Quite logically, the attempt was made to explain the majority of these experiences as “telepathic hallucinations.” But all of them could not be so readily explained, and even as the result of the first Census, Mr. Myers felt qualms as to the sufficiency of this explanation, as his “Note on a Suggested Mode of Psychical Interaction” clearly shows. The evidence for the objectivity of certain astral bodys appeared, indeed, so strong that Mr. Andrew Lang was forced to write, in his Cock Lane and Common Sense (p. 206): “Some apparitions are ‘ghosts’ – real objective entities, filling space.” And it may be said that the evidence for this has considerably increased of late years – quite aside from materializations and similar manifestations.

Into this evidence we have not, unfortunately, the time to enter now. It may be asserted, therefore, with considerable confidence, that the evidence for the existence of some sort of an astral body has been constantly accumulating as the result of our psychical investigations, and that this evidence is now very strong. It need hardly be pointed out that, if this were once definitely accepted, it would enable us to account for a large number of otherwise baffling phenomena very readily haunted houses, apparitions seen by several persons at the same time, psychic photographs, clairvoyance, etc.; and (assuming that such a body might occasionally move or affect matter) raps, telekinesis, poltergeists and other physical phenomena. In fact, once the objective existence of an astral body be postulated, a flood of light would be thrown upon psychic manifestations, both physical and mental. Now, quite apart from such collateral evidence, there have always been individuals who have asserted that they could leave the physical body at will, and travel about in some astral body for a longer or shorter period of time – retaining consciousness throughout. The difficulty has always consisted in furnishing proofs of such claims. Indeed, this is a most difficult thing to do, in view of the fact that the experience must of necessity be subjective; and it is an open question whether such proofs have been furnished even in the present book. However, the attempt has been made to do so; and the specific instructions which have been given will perhaps enable others to project themselves – thereby affording them the best possible means of verifying the accuracy of the statements made. Should a number of (otherwise sensible) persons come forward and assert that they too have succeeded in voluntarily projecting their astral bodies, this question would at once assume a very different status. In the present book, Mr. Muldoon has discussed both falling and flying dreams, and has advanced the ingenious theory that many of these may be due to actual movements of the astral body.

Of course, Mr. Muldoon would be the first to admit that the majority of such dreams are due to ordinary psychological – even physiological – causes, and, as examples of illusions of levitation produced. It need hardly be said that alleged spirit communications have invariably asserted this to be a fact.

Thus, in Dr. Hodgson’s Second “Report on the Trance Phenomena of Mrs. Piper,” we read: The statements of the communicators as to what occurs on the physical side may be put in brief general terms as follows. We all have bodies composed of luminiferous ether enclosed in our flesh and blood bodies. The relation of Mrs. Piper’s etherial body to the etherial world, in which the communicators claim to dwell, is such that a special store of peculiar energy is accumulated in connection with her organism, and this appears to them as a light produced – even without sleep! He induced a number of experimental subjects to lie upon a bed or couch, and relax completely. Upon the degree of relaxation thus attained depends the success of the experiment. If the patient can induce this complete relaxation of the muscular system without falling asleep, he will often experience an illusion of levitation. Out of the thirty subjects who relaxed completely, and of the twenty or so who retained consciousness after they had completely relaxed, eight of them reported illusions of levitation. The following are typical experiences of this nature: One of them jumped out of the chair and was afraid to continue the experiment, so realistic was his apperception of a soaring motion. Another, this time a woman, gripped the chair in the momentary belief that she was floating away; two others reported that they felt ‘caught up’ by a wave, but that their reason reassured them at the time. One other enjoyed the sensation so much that he took it as a matter of course, and supposed it was part of the treatment. One other said that if his head had been as light as his body he would surely have floated away. He reported himself just floating away, the sensation being overwhelmingly real.

Mr. Horton attempts to account for all such cases as follows:

“The mechanism underlying the flying dream and the levitation illusion is attributed, mainly, to the functions of the adrenal-sympathetic nervous system. The genesis of the illusion of levitation does not come from the diminution of tactile sensations. Whether due entirely to an inhibition in the course of the pressure sense tracts (deep sensibility, I mean), or merely to lessening of actual muscle pressure, is a question. I think the latter is a great factor, but that the sensory inhibition is real too. This of itself does not become the adequate or efficient basis of the illusion of levitation till the vasomotor relaxation supervenes. Out of the combination there arises the bodily ‘stimulus’ (negative in this case) which becomes the foundation of the illusion of soaring. This attempted explanation, it will be observed, differs essentially from that offered by Horace G. Hutchinson (in his Dreams and their Meanings) and also that of Havelock Ellis (in his World of Dreams) which is that flying dreams are best explained by a combination of respiratory sensations together with cutaneous anaesthesia. It is quite possible that some such explanation may ultimately be found for, and will adequately explain, many ordinary flying dreams; but it must be emphasized emphatically that such dreams are quite different from clean-cut instances of “projection,” and that any explanation of the latter by such principles is absolutely unjustified – just as unjustified as, e.g. the attempt to explain the super-normal knowledge displayed in Mrs. Piper’s trance by postulating some physiological causation of that trance.

The essential problem would remain untouched. In all cases of astral projection, it must be emphasized that clear consciousness of Self is maintained by the subject, while he is outside his body; he can look back and see his body; he can view his present surroundings; he can observe people, and note distant scenes and events just as they are – or are occurring – which he could not possibly have seen and known, but which he was afterwards enabled to verify and check off as correct. This is the distinctly supernormal factor involved, which is the crux of the whole matter; and for this no purely physiological explanation in any way accounts.

In his experiments, Dr. Horton succeeded only in producing the illusion of levitation, which is not even a flying dream; and a flying dream is, according to Mr. Muldoon, again an entirely different matter from a conscious projection!