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vol. 3, p. 22
from Adyar archives of the International Theosophical Society
vol. 3 (1875-1878)


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Is it Mind Reading of Spirit Manifestation?

In his account of “The Modern Egyptians,” E. W. Lane, gives the following experiences with mediumistic boys and ink mirrors, as he found them used in Cairo, in 1841-3 and 4. They read very much like reports of phenomena known in America and Europe as “mind reading,”—so often confounded with independent clairvoyance and spirit control The phenomenon, however, should have its own classification, if the verification of facts will justify it To this end the experiences of Mr. Lane are highly suggestive. He says, “He [the magician] now addressed himself to me, and asked me if I wished the boy to see any person who was absent or dead. I named Lord Nelson, of whom the boy had evidently never heard; for it was with much difficulty that he pronounced the name, after several trials. The magician desired the boy to say to the Sultan, ‘My master salutes thee, and desires thee to bring Lord Nelson; bring him before my eyes, that I may see him, speedily.’ The boy then said so, and almost immediately added, a messenger is gone, and has returned, and brought a man dressed in a black suit of European clothes; the man has lost his left arm. He then paused for a moment or two; and looking more intently and more closely into the ink, said, ‘No, he has not lost bis left arm, but it is placed to his breast’ This correction made his description more striking than it had been without it; since Lord Nelson generally had his empty sleeve attached to the breast of his coat; but it was the right arm that he had lost. Without saying that I suspected the boy had made a mistake, I asked the magician whether the object appeared in the ink as if actually before the eyes, or as if in glass, which makes the right appear the left He answered that they appeared as in a mirror. This rendered the boy’s description faultless.

“The next person I called for was a native of Egypt, who had been for many years resident in England, where he had adopted our dress, and who had been long confined to his bed by illness before I embarked for this country: I thought that his name, one not very common; though another boy, on a former visit of the magician, had described this same person as wearing a European dress, like that in which I last saw him. In the present case, the boy said, ‘There is a man brought on a kind of a bier and wrapped up in a sheet’ This description would suit, supposing the person in question to be still confined to his bed, or if he be dead. The boy described his face as covered; and was told to order that it should be uncovered. This he did; and then said, ‘His face is pale; and he has mustaches, but no beard,’ which is correct . . .

“On one of these occasions (when not so successful), an Englishman present ridiculed the performance, and said that nothing would satisfy him but a correct description of the appearance of his own father, of whom he was sure no one in the company had any knowledge. The boy accordingly, having called by name for the person alluded to, described a man in a Frank dress, with his hand placed to his head, wearing spectacles, and with one foot on the ground, and the other raised behind him, as if he were stepping down from a seat. The description was exactly true in every respect; the peculiar position of the hand was occasioned by an almost constant headache; and that of the foot or leg, by a stiff knee, caused by a fall from a horse in hunting. I am assured that on this occasion the boy accurately described each person and thing that was called for. On another occasion, Shakespeare eras described with the most minute correctness, both as to person and dress; and I might add several other cases in which the same magician has excited astonishment in the sober minds of Englishmen of my acquaintance.

“I have stated these facts partly from my own experience and partly as they came to my knowledge on the authority of respectable persons. The reader may be tempted to think that in each instance the boy saw images produced by some redaction in the ink, but this was evidently not the case; or that he was a confederate or guided by leading questions. That there was no collusion, I satisfactorily ascertained by selecting the boy who performed the port above described in my presence from a number of others passing by in the street, and by his rejecting a present which I afterwards offered him with the view of inducing him to confess that he did not really see what he had professed to have seen. I tried the veracity of another boy on a subsequent occasion in the same manner, and the result was the same. The experiment often entirely fails; but when the boy employed is tight in one case, be generally is so in all; when he gives at first an account altogether wrong, the magician usually dismisses him at once, saying he is too old. The performer, or excited imagination, or fear, may be supposed to affect the vision of the boy, who describes objects as appearing to him in the ink; but if so. why does he see exactly what is required, and objects of which he can have had no previous particular notion? Neither I nor others have been able to discover any clue by which to penetrate the mystery.’’

The Human Soul – Its Origin and Immortality


Editor's notes

  1. Is it Mind Reading of Spirit Manifestation? by unknown author, Spiritual Scientist, v. 1, No. 3, September 24, 1874, p. 28. In section: Historical and Philosophical
  2. The Human Soul – Its Origin and Immortality by unknown author