Concordant automatism, a scheme allegedly originated by
the spirit of F. W. H. Myers to eliminate the hypothesis of telepathy
from psychic communications.
Alice Johnson, research officer of the Society for Psychical
Research (SPR), London, first discovered that such an idea was
in operation when messages were received through various mediums
at about the same times in places as far apart as India,
New York, and London. In the scripts of Rosina Thompson,
Mrs. Forbes, Margaret Verrall, Winifred Willett (pseudonym
of Winifred Coombe-Tennant), Leonora Piper, and others, she
found fragmentary utterances that had no point or meaning
but supplemented one and other when put together, forming
coherent ideas.
Reflecting on her find, she noted
‘‘Thus, in one case, Mrs. Forbes’ script, purporting to come
from her son, Talbot, stated that he must now leave her, since
he was looking for a sensitive who wrote automatically, in order
that he might obtain corroboration of her own writing. Mrs.
Verrall, on the same day, wrote of a fir-tree planted in a garden,
and the script was signed with a sword and a suspended bugle.
The latter was part of the badge of the regiment to which Talbot
Forbes had belonged, and Mrs. Forbes had in her garden
some fir-trees, grown from seed sent to her by her son. These
facts were unknown to Mrs. Verrall.’’
She concluded
‘‘We have reason to believe that the idea of making a statement
in one script complementary of a statement in another
had not occurred to Mr. Myers in his lifetime—for there is no
reference to it in any of his written utterances on the subject
that I have been able to discover. Neither did those who have
been investigating automatic script since his death invent this
plan, if plan it be. It was not the automatists themselves that detected
it, but a student of their scripts; it has every appearance
of being an element imported from outside; it suggests an independent
invention, an active intelligence constantly at work in
the present, not a mere echo or remnant of individualities of
the past.’’
After the death of A. W. Verrall, the eminent Greek scholar
and psychical researcher, an intricate Greek mosaic and literary
puzzle called the ‘‘Ear of Dionysius’’ was transmitted as
cross-correspondence. In the opinion of Gerald Balfour, and
other competent judges, this was one of the most striking evidences
of survival yet obtained. In the Proceedings of the Society
of Psychical Research, hundreds of pages are devoted to crosscorrespondences.
They are so ingenious and subtle that their
disentanglement requires considerable literary skill.
The subject was thoroughly studied by the Verrall family,
‘‘Mrs. Holland’’ (pseudonym of Alice Fleming), J. G. Piddington,
and Eleanor Sidgwick. Frederik Van Eeden obtained
cross-correspondences between his own dreams and the trance
utterances of ‘‘Nelly,’’ Rosina Thompson’s control. James H.
Hyslop used it for research in cases of obsession.
Many experiments were made to establish crosscorrespondence
in thought-transference—to find out another’s
thoughts over distance.
Among the more baffling cases of cross-correspondences
came from the mediumship of Margery (i.e., Mina Crandon).
They were instigated by her control ‘‘Walter,’’ and given simultaneously
through Margery in Boston, George Valiantine in
New York, Henry Hardwicke at Niagara Falls, and Sarah Litzelmann
in Maine. Drawings, geometrical figures, and sentences
were given in part through each medium, in some cases in Chinese
characters. Their reception was immediately verified by
telephone or telegraph and the message deciphered by joining
the pieces into a whole.
The ingenuity of these cross-correspondences was illustrated
by a single instance A cardboard box was brought into the
séance room. It contained slips of paper with certain symbols,
and a calendar, the sheets of which could be torn off a sheet at
a time, which show a desired number. Walter declared that he
had torn off a sheet and added ‘‘Margery will make up a problem
and Valiantine and Hardwicke will each make half the answer.’’
He then closed the box.
The sitter placed in charge of the box after the séance did
not open it. Margery and the company moved into the library.
There Margery passed into a light trance and wrote automatically
‘‘11 x 2—to kick a dead.’’ The box was now opened; they
found in it at the left the calendar, the top sheet of which
showed the date of the 11th, and next to it an X from the enclosed
symbols and last the torn-off sheet which bore the numCrosland,
Camilla Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology • 5th Ed.
ber 2. The internal arrangements of the box, therefore, completely
agreed with the part of the cross-correspondence
Margery wrote.
In New York, Judge Cannon, who was in charge of the Valiantine
circle, reported by telephone that they received from
Walter the following message ‘‘2—no one stops.’’ The next
morning a telegram from Hardwicke from Niagara Falls announced
this fragment ‘‘2 horse.’’ The fragments put together
show that the problem Walter worked out was this ‘‘11 x 2 =
22. No one stops to kick a dead horse.’’
While many psychical researchers have been impressed by
the cross-correspondence evidence, Eric J. Dingwall, for one,
scoffed at the evidence presented since researchers not connected
with the project were not allowed to examine the original
Dingwall, E. J. ‘‘The Need for Responsibility in Parapsychology.’’
In A Skeptic’s Handbook of Parapsychology, edited by Paul
Kurtz. Buffalo, N.Y. Prometheus Books, 1985.
Douglas, Alfred. Extra Sensory Powers A Century of Psychical
Research. Woodstock, N.Y. Overlook Press, 1977.
Hall, Elizabeth. Possible Impossibilities A Look at Parapsychology.
Boston Houghton Mifflin, 1977.
Haynes, Renée. The Society for Psychical Research, 1882–1982
A History. London MacDonald, 1982.
Heywood, Rosalind. Beyond the Reach of Sense An Inquiry into
Extra-Sensory Perception. New York E. P. Dutton, 1961.
Saltmarsh, H. F. Evidence of Personal Survival from Cross Correspondences.
London G. Bell & Sons, 1938.
Tietze, Thomas R. Margery. New York Harper & Row,