Tuesday, March 19, 2019

The man who invented telepathy



Frederic Myers, poet, classical scholar and psychic researcher of the Victorian era, knew the power of naming things. He valued words so highly that he chose to start, rather than merely end, his magnum opus Human Personality and its Survival of Bodily Death with a glossary, which is studded with his own coinages. This essential work sits on a shelf at my right hand, its home for many years.
    Every time I open these pages, another word jumps out that was invented by Myers. Some are part of our common vocabulary, like telepathy. Myers defined telepathy as the communication of impressions of any kind from one mind to another, independently of the recognized channels of sense.” The term literally means “feeling at a distance”; he chose to emphasize the emotional tone, the importance of feelings in telling you that a message is coming through. This takes us to the wisdom of the body and the emotional charge between people who are connected and/or in crisis.
     Many of Myers’coinages have not entered common English or even the technical lexicons of parapsychology; many will almost certainly never do so. Yet there is inspiration here for whole books:


            Psychorragy – a bursting through of psychic phenomena. 

Cosmopathic – Open to the access of supernormal knowledge or emotion, apparently from the transcendental world, but whose precise source we have no way of knowing.

Methectic – of communications between one stratum of a man’s intelligence and another; as when he writes message whose origin is in his own subliminal self.

Sometimes his verbal brilliance consists in repointing or combining more familiar words to give us a way to discuss things we could not easily express before.

Subliminal – Of thoughts, feelings, &c, lying beneath the ordinary threshold (limen) of consciousness, as opposed to supraliminal, lying above the threshold.
Supernormal – Of a faculty or phenomenon which goes beyond the level of ordinary experience, in the direction of evolution, or as pertaining to a transcendental world.

Myers goes on to explain that the word “supernatural” is often misapplied to phenomena which are part of nature though beyond the norms of common observation or experience:

The word supernatural is subject to grave objections; it assumes that there is something outside nature, and it has become associated with arbitrary interference with law. Now there is no reason to suppose that the psychical phenomena with which we deal are less a part of nature, or less subject to fixed and definite law, than any other phenomena. Some of them appear to indicate a higher evolutionary level than the mass of men have yet attained, and some of them appear to be governed by laws of such a kind that they may hold good in a transcendental world as fully as in the world of sense. In either case they are above the norm of man rather than outside his nature.


I confess to a great sense of affinity with Frederic William Henry Myers (1843-1901) and his lifelong quest to demonstrate that human consciousness can operate outside the body and survives it. In his privately printed Fragments of Inner Life (1893) he declared that “It has been my lot to be concerned in a work more important and more successful than anything in my own capacity or character could have led me to expect. I have been one of the central group concerned in a great endeavor; the endeavor to pierce, by scientific methods, the world-old, never-penetrated veil.” He is referring to his work with the Society for Psychical Research, of his he was a founder and remained a moving spirit throughout his life.
    His quest to find evidence that consciousness survives the body deepened after the suicide of a woman he loved but could never have. He carried it with him to the Other Side. Before his death he promised that he would seek ways to send back reports of his experiences in the afterlife. He appears to have kept that promise in remarkable narratives recorded in sessions with the remarkable medium Geraldine Cummins.
     I dreamed in March 2012 that I discovered a rich trove of materials from Myers. The materials were both manuscripts and recordings. Some of the transcriptions were faulty and needed to be revised; some of the recordings sounded as if the speaker had a cleft palate. But there were riches here quite unknown to the public. Walking and talking with a friend about how I would honor the dream, I played with the idea that I could reenter the dream space, bring back materials and produce corrected and finished versions. I sensed a stir of supernormal activity around me as I talked, of spirits fluttering like birds or bats. There was nothing sinister about these lively shades; their presence added to my enthusiasm for my project. However, this is one of many ventures that are still in my pending box.
     I do honor Myers by trying to come up with new words to describe interesting supernormal phenomena One of my recent coinages is kairomancy, the art of divination by special moments, or navigating by synchronicity.

1 comment:

Patricia said...

Wonderful post for me Robert. I was listening to a fellow active dreamer talk about his life and how he finally found a soul love. Reading this I am reminded how I finally discovered a love for language. Translating layers of gnosis or memory, of what ifs, why's or where or when's into fresh words brings such delight into my life. I no longer have a sense of sadness with this long arched curve toward becoming an artist of language, both written and spoken, that I has been dealt to me in this life time. It is never too late to fall in love. I am grateful for your match making skills:)