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Phineas Parkhurst Quimby: His Complete Writings and Beyond

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Healing Hypotheses  

APPENDIX F

DRESSER'S LETTER TO MRS. BROWNE
ON EXTRASENSORY PERCEPTION

The book referred to below appears to be Eileen J. Garrett's Telepathy (New York: Creative Age Press, Inc., 1941).

South Hadley, Mass.
February 8, 1943       

Dear Mrs. Browne:

The book on "Telepathy" raises a highly important question as to the validity of experiences purporting to originate, as causes are concerned, from the "other world." Such a doubt as the book itself suggests would naturally arise after a time, since alleged messages might be generated from within or alleged presences conjured up as if such presences were more than merely psychological.

I am perhaps in a position to resolve the doubt to a large extent. So you may be interested to know how I acquired the attitude that has borne the test of time.

Back in the 80's when there was marked interest in psychical research in Boston, with Mr. Richard Hodgson present as secretary, over from England for a while in connection with investigations, I was selected by a very influential person affiliated with the Society for Psychical Research to be given a college education at Harvard with a view to preparing me later as a so-called "scientific medium." Evidentially speaking I was supposed to have the requisite sensitivity for such a function. The question whether a man, so trained, could or would yield his organism for mediumistic activities was apparently not raised. I was not informed by my patroness concerning the

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reason for supplying the money for four years at Harvard. This of course was not an honest procedure. I was to be told in due time. I was prompted to accept the meager amount granted me--meager because my patroness, a queen without a kingdom outside of her estates in Boston, Lenox and Bar Harbor, went over to the university and ascertained the least possible amount on which a young man could squeeze through college, and then granted me just that sum--because I wanted a Harvard University education in order to develop my interests in philosophy. I continued on my way during a year of preparation with a tutor, and two years at Harvard before the concealed plan was exposed. Then my patroness invited me to visit in her luxurious home, Bar Harbor, I was taken out to ride one afternoon, and the plan was disclosed. A firm believer in individuality and its preservation, I declined to be shaped by such a pattern., I dropped that queen in due time and when I could do so secured money enough to complete my education, as the saying is, in accordance with my own convictions.

To go back a bit. We as a family, father, mother and I, declined all ouvertures [sic] for experimentation in psychical matters, howbeit at that time Hodgson hadn't even accepted telepathy as an established fact, and we were known as having proved it long before. The reason was this: there is a superior value in psychical experiences coming unsought amidst natural circumstances in contrast with prearranged conditions for purposes of proof. For prearrangements imply the possibility of projections or anticipations which might mar the whole proceding.

In line with this view of the matter, I adopted an attitude when I was about 18 which I have maintained ever since. The implications are these:

1.   What appertains to me spiritually is likely to be bestowed or given. If it comes, it brings its own evidence. Not having sought it, never having tried to repeat it, I have good reason to believe it was real--real as a "gift."

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2.   With a few rare exceptions, it is better not even to experiment with telepathy, but rather to take it as a matter of course. So with clairvoyance or clairaudience. If it comes, well and good. If it does not come, why still well and good.

3. Mediumistic experiences were to be excluded from the word "go" because I was already too sensitive to "mental atmospheres" and needed to avoid increased psychical receptivity.

4.   It is possible to retain the attitude of a mere observer, listening, thinking, noting what comes, without making the least effort even to hold onto any intimation given from outside or beyond, however full of grace from heaven it seemed to be.

5.   It is desirable to attribute a high place in one's makeup to intuition, psychic impressions, and so on, as valid on their own level in terms of abilities on our part for participating in such experiences as an uninvited guidance, a clairvoyant awareness of a person's condition at a distance, or any clairaudient item, like a communicating word from a "voice" not reasoned away (as do psychologists) on the hypothesis of hallucination.

With the evidences of more than a half-century since I adopted the above outlined attitude, I can now look back over cherished experiences which I believe have disclosed most of the types of psychical experience. The telepathic experiences have been most numerous, and I believe the book is sound in its teachings in connecting telepathy with emotions. I have had comparitively [sic] few experiences of clairvoyance that are outstanding, but a sufficient number to discriminate the type in contrast with telepathy. I have heard words from a distance as if uttered in my car when there was no clairvoyance and no telepathy otherwise than that of this limited experience. I was near enough to mediumship for two years, 20 to 22, to fear that I might succumb to it. I see no reason to doubt that a few experiences affiliated with people who have passed on were real, but I have my own factual basis for

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belief, namely, the brevity of any such communication--a brevity that was not marred by an effort on my part to enlarge upon a message by keeping it going. The fact that but few messages of any sort have come during the last quarter century leads to no doubt on my part concerning the validity of experiences occurring years ago. For my interpretation is that communications are vouchsafed when needed. So if years pass without any outstanding event, why, once more, well and good. If I need guidance, it will come. If I never reach out to a person who has passed on, I shall have more evidence when and if communicating experiences come. I have never closed the inner door save in a case of an officious correspondent whom I will call Mrs. Psychic who took it upon herself to travel to Brooklyn psychically to discover when I arrived and otherwise to follow me at a distance until I had to tell her I had shut her out and that was that. That same mortal is now trying to induce me to promise to come back to her from the beyond if I go first or to be ready for her presence if she departs first. Once more I have written 'Nothing doing.'

It seems to me that if I had yielded to mediumistic experiences, I would eventually come to doubt the validity of the communications, for I would know that I had acquired the habit and that habit often keeps us "going through the motions."

Mrs. Piper's organism obviously acquired the habit so that messages purporting to come from the beyond during the years of experimentation with this famous medium regularly began with the same words, so a friend who copied many of the messages on the typewriter told me.

The experiences which some people have had with automatic writing as the basis may have conveyed actual messages from the beyond at first. But the recipient's mind, accustomed to the experience after a time, may have picked up the thread and may have done a lot of elaborating.

"Telepathy" surely gives the right clue in rejecting

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the view that the whole content of psychical experiences is supplied by the subconscious. I can readily identify the reference to the superconscious as something other than the subconscious. I believe it normal to be in touch with other modes of reality on the higher level. The subconscious does not generate those modes, although the subconscious might later follow some of the deliverances reproductively.

A symbol as described in this book might derive its initial reality from above, but might assimilate some of its content from below. I once had a symbolical experience so profoundly real for me that it has been to a considerable extent a basis of faith ever since. Yet by a reminder only it was partly affiliated with the subconscious. I could not dissolve the experience into a mere by-product of the subconscious because it was so plainly a deliverance or gift from above.

Why do I believe so heartily in my own experiences while to a large extent doubting those of other people? Because, for one thing, I have not gone out in quest of them but have let them come and have never practised or sought mediumship. Whereas personal experience is so often rejected because it is personal, I am convinced that the personal tone establishes the evidence, as in a telepathic communication from my mother years ago, identifiable by its personal quality in contrast with the remoteness that might enter in case of a mere experiment with a stranger. The scholars have been inclined to reject experiences between friends. But it is friends who know, notably in my relationship with my parents in the early years, my nearness to a young woman cousin, and, in later years, telepathy in case of a patient who was especially in affinity.

I believe we possess powers of communication, clairvoyance, and the rest, that are in abeyance, remaining potential in this life with most of us, as absorbed as we are in externalities. But with a few these powers are awake. We who know them by experience did not try to awaken in

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this respect. The awakening came naturally, in my case in connection with therapeutic interests in helping people from the time I was about 17.

There was a great advantage, you will notice, in beginning one's adventures in this realm with an other than personal or experimental motive in mind, namely a desire to help people out of their troubles through silent spiritual healing. As a matter of course one put faith in the Divine Presence as source of guiding wisdom. In the same way one had faith in intuition as a higher mode of knowing. The teaching that we are "members one of another" and that mental atmospheres tend to mingle came as readily. No less easily came the observation that telepathy alone could not explain silent healing. Some people insisted that it did. For some patients got the "thought" which seemed to them decisive. But those of us who carried on the practice knew that the words were subordinate to the realizational experience as a whole. So we refused to select out the telepathy and experiment with that to convince critics like Dr. Hodgson. I refused to succumb to the plans of my queen-patroness because I knew that mediumship would be a minor part of my psychical life. I deliberately trained my mind to the limit inphilosophy at Harvard to be as critical as the best of them, the doctor's degree being the sign that I had passed muster.

The experience is perhaps unusual: to have in one's own person the whole range of abilities from almost mediumship (when I was 22 or so, as above stated) to a critically analytical power sufficient to dissipate into thin air many psychical experiences which others have found convincing.

The author of "Telepathy" is the only person I have known about who could pass through mediumship and out into the clear light of doubts as to the validity of communications received through her. Ordinarily, some have the experiences, others the critical acumen with the requisite training.

I believe it is possible to have the experiences and

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keep them intact while also giving oneself the training that would seemingly make possible the complete undermining of anything allegedly psychical. Much depends on being sufficiently grounded in inner experiences before taking the critical training.

One can, for example, retain intuitional abilities to the full as if "uneducated," while on the other hand receive the analytically critical training which enables psychologists to reason away intuition as non-existent.

In other connections I have given some of the reasons, in my book, "The Open Vision," for example.

In most people the inner "degree," as Swedenborg explained, is closed. Hence they are natural-minded and nothing more, while in this the natural world. In the few this degree is open. So they have what Swedenborg calls spiritual perception (I use the term intuition to cover this kind of perception). Hence these people discern by spiritual-mindedness. St. Paul also contrasts the two.

On the lower level, as I call it, of natural-mindedness one may well push doubt to the limit, explaining away right and left if one can.

Thus, when my queen-like patroness tried to get a psychical message when I was visiting her in Bar Harbor by putting her hand on mine while I held the pencil for automatic writing and she asked a question into the air, the pencil wrote plainly only so far as her mind and mine agreed, the rest being a blur. So the content of the writing was plainly attributable to her mind and mine, and nothing more.

When I sat one night with a table-tipping group the table-stuff ran into chaos because, the strongest mind present, was sceptical of any validity. That mind being mine, the experiment was ruined.

The only occasions when I have been present during a medium's trance the whole content of the experience was explicable by reference to what the medium delivered by aid of her clairvoyance plus what she derived from the subconscious mind of people present.

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As an exhibit of clairvoyance in one instance the evidence in favor of clairvoyance was excellent, for I could give the requisite verification. But as alleged evidence of a spirit-presence the result was nil.

I state these matters without egotistic presumption because the abilities by which I judge were given: I did not acquire them or think them out.

You see, I put in first rank the upper-level experiences signalized as superconscious, together with the spiritual capacities which such experiences imply. This then is the real primacy of the inner life. Hence the insistence in all my writings on the discernment from within-outward which I believe to be the real clue to the original Christianity. Mentation is subordinate to spiritual perception. Body follows mind as an instrument. Natural-mindedness is and remains external. Only by internality can we see things in adequate light.

I cannot then see that doubts imported from externality apply to what we cognize as real by internality. By spiritual perception we already know what is real, for it was given from within or above. What is given is what generates conviction.

Share this letter with the author of "Telepathy," if you like (I forget her name, and the book is in Brooklyn), but ask her to send it back to me as it is a sort of first draft only.

Sincerely,                   
H. W. Dresser [signed]

Continued, February 23.

While in general I agree with the author of "Telepathy," there is one point on which I radically disagree. Naturally, as one who has had mediumistic experience, she puts much stress on the organism. So, as naturally, she bases telepathy on physical experiences with special reference to the glands.

Here she mistakes the organic accompaniment for the process taking place in connection with it, as one might uncritically assume that because a cerebral activity

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takes place in connection with thoughts, therefore it is the brain that thinks. This would involve a fallacy.

If telepathy were as dependent on the organism as this writer believes, in the other life we would be at a loss for means of communication. Swedenborg has made plain the fact that thought interchange is the usual mode of communication in the spiritual world, where all our thoughts are "open" for others to discern.

We have, then, spiritual, not organic, powers, such that in this life some of these powers are awake and are active in case of telepathy while others are quiescent. The primary ability is in the spirit. Thus we can on occasion think with the spirit, as Swedenborg puts it. Some people are so immersed in natural or external-mindedness that the only thinking they supposedly do is with the brain. But the brain is the organic basis for this life only. Telepathy at its best is direct communication from spirit to spirit, as if space did not exist. That is why, when I was in Switzerland in 1888, I communicated with mother, then in Vermont, as if I were actually present with her. She recognized me by my quality, as she had become accustomed to such discernment through her experiences in spiritual healing. Whatever the status of the brain or the glands, such matters were incidental. The bodily organism could be shuffled off and the interchange could take place just as well.

There might indeed be a sort of low-level interchange here in this life, chiefly dependent on the condition of mind-body. Witness the mixture of atmospheres occurring in case of infatuation, the two young people involved in it being mostly active on the biological plane. So telepathy would seem to be psychophysical and nothing more, the emotions with their bodily basis being predominant. But it is not the low-level experiences what disclose the principle in question. In higher-level experiences the psychophysical condition is a minor matter. These approximate the activity which, as Swedenborg describes it, is customary in the "other" life.

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Swedenborg was sufficiently awake to these differences to give an adequate account of them. Mediumistic experiences occur on such a low level, amidst so much confusion, that Swedenborg warned people to have nothing to do with them at all. They would lack the requisite psychology. They could not discriminate a fallacy from a truth.

The advantage gained in keeping clear of mediumship is this: there is a probability that if one follows the successive deliverances of psychical experiences through the years the way will be disclosed for interpreting in and with the spirit by subordinating the psychophysical conditions as incidental.

The author in question has, to be sure, followed the lead of her own experiences, and so has advanced beyond the theoretical level of those who construe in terms of such experiments as those at Duke University. But a greater advance will be possible when she discerns the nature and limitation of psychophysical experience.

If either you or the author is inclined to make comments on this viewpoint, please return my letter with such comments.

[Initialed on original,                    H.W.D.
but not on carbon copy].

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