«Time of Experiment – About an hour from opening of séance, with psychic energy at a maximum.
«Preliminary Arrangement – Sitters unclasped hands and sat with hands on knees. Medium seated upright on chair on weighing-machine, with her feet close together on drawing-board (which was tied to platform of machine) and a hand, palm downwards, flat on each knee. Medium and machine completely isolated from other members of the circle. My instructions to her were to remain perfectly still. Having placed her in position, I carefully took the combined weight of medium, chair, and drawing-board. It was 9 st. 10 lb. 12 oz. The steelyard was just on the quiver. I placed the stool in the centre of the circle on the floor and came back and stood by the medium.
«Instructions to Operators – To levitate the stool as high as possible and to keep it levitated until I desired it to be lowered.
«The Phenomenon – The stool immediately rose vertically into the air, until its height, at a conservative estimate, was 4 ft. above the floor. It obligingly rose just opposite the light, so that I could see plainly over it, beyond it on each side, and under it. I placed my head close to that of my medium, and saw that the legs of the stool were just about on a level with the top of her head.
«Effect on the Weighing-Machine – Immediately the stool levitated the lever of the weighing-machine rose with a click, plainly audible, against the top stop of the machine, indicating that the medium's weight had been increased. I adjusted the rider so that the lever again just balanced.
«Control of Medium – I placed my hand on the medium's right arm near the shoulder, passed it down her arm to her wrist, felt both wrists on her knees, and her knees and lower limbs perfectly still, as I had placed them. (The only difference was that her arms during the levitation were rigidly stiff – a characteristic of all levitations). This I did two or three times. I could also, of course, see the medium, as, the stool being so small and so high in the air, practically no shadows were cast. While I was doing this I kept looking at the stool, which remained nearly immovable about 4 ft. up in the air. While my hand was controlling her arm and knees, I carefully looked round every member of the circle and saw that all hands were accounted for, each on the owner's knees. The nearest edge of the levitated stool was at least 3.5 ft. from the medium's knees. It is to be remembered that the stool was floating on a level with the heads of the sitters.
«Instructions to Operators – When the stool had been thus up for about one and a half minutes, and everybody had examined it, I asked the operators to move it gently up and down in the air.
«Effect on Weighing-Machine – The lever went gently up and down against the stop in synchronism with the up-and-down movement of the stool. Everybody saw the up-and-down motion of the stool in the air quite plainly. Everybody could plainly see over, under, and all round the stool. The stool became steady in the air again. Finally, when I had examined it to my heart's content, and also the members of the circle and the medium, I asked the operators to lower the stool gently to the floor. This they immediately did, the stool slowly descending and softly touching the floor. Lever immediately fell against bottom stop, indicating decreased weight of medium.
«Weighing-machine readings – Weight of medium + chair + board before levitation = 9 st. 10 lb. 12 oz.
Weight of medium + chair + board during steady levitation = 9 st. 13 lb. 10 oz.
Increased weight of medium = 2 lb. 14 oz.
Weight of stool = 2 lb. 12 oz.
«General – The space between the medium and the levitated stool was not dark. I have been careful to understate rather than to overstate. I invite anyone to say where the fraud was in this particular case. If letters be kindly sent to me, care of Editor, I will go into any of the points raised. I would warn amateurs, however, that their explanations must cover at least 50% of the facts, including the results on the weighing-machine. I wish to add finally that I fully satisfied myself, during each of the experiments described in this book, there was absolutely no fraud, and that the phenomena were due to the action of psychic force alone».
Through this experiment and others alike, Crawford came to the conclusion that, in case of levitation of light objects, a kind of cantilever of invisible ectoplasmic matter emerged from the body of the medium which, brought under the object, adhered to it and lifted it in the air after stiffening. This also happened with objects of greater weight (as in the case of a table weighing 10 lb. 6 oz.): the increase in weight of the medium coincided almost exactly with the weight of the levitated object. Crawford was very careful about the accuracy of the measurements: he checked the weighing several times during the levitations, which lasted, at his request, from two to three minutes, and had to be static – that is, with the object almost perfectly stationary in the air – because in case of oscillations also the values weighed by the scale began to fluctuate.
|In another series of experiments Crawford placed a table weighing 10 lb. 6 oz. on the weighing-machine, always making it rest on the same drawing-board previously used under the medium's chair. After measuring the overall weight of the table and the wooden board, Crawford asked the operators to levitate the table: after a few attempts, during which the table rose only on two legs, complete levitations were obtained. When the table stood still in the air, the weight measured by the machine did not change. It was therefore possible to hypothesize the presence of an invisible vertical support which continued to transfer the weight of the table onto the weighing-machine. Repeating the experiments with lighter tables, static levitations lasting a few minutes were obtained, during which the tables remained suspended in an inclined position with respect to the base plane, as if invisible arms held them inclined grasping them by one or two legs: in these cases the force on the weighing-machine increased significantly, as if the effort to keep the table inclined implied the presence of an additional force. In any case, getting levitations from the plane of the weighing-machine, higher than the floor, was more difficult than when the table was resting on the floor. Crawford also noted that, during the levitations, the only position in which the levitation was disturbed and interrupted was when he passed in the space between the medium's legs and the table suspended in the air, while instead he could move within the circle and around the levitated table without affecting the phenomenon.|
|Fig. 2 - Weighing-machine used by Crawford|
Crawford's theory and its validations
Crawford carried out many other measurements of the forces that caused the tables to levitate, and which effectively resisted the efforts made by himself or other observers to lower or move them from their position. Often his experiments – for the details of which it is adivisable to read what he wrote in his books – show a remarkable intelligence in the use of the most suitable equipment to record data and in the adoption of precautionary measures against any fraud. Based on the various data obtained, Crawford developed an interesting theory about the transformation of the matter used by the operators to obtain the desired results, then devising other experiments, reported above all in the third of his books, The Psychic Structures at the Goligher Circle (PSGC), to verify the reliability of his theory. So let's see what this theory has to say, and what implications Crawford's discoveries may have, also in relation to our current knowledge of physics.
When Crawford asked the operators to externalize from the medium's body that particular form of matter (called plasma by himself and defined ectoplasm by Richet) by which the forces necessary to levitate the tables could be transmitted, without however structuring it in order to apply any force, he obtained a decrease in the medium's weight by several pounds: in one case it reached up to 52 lb. Crawford had already observed that when the table suspended in the air was pushed downwards by himself or someone else, it offered strong resistance and it was not possible to lower it: in these circumstances the weight of the medium, instead of increasing considerably, was lowered. For what reason? According to him, when the forces to be exerted reached a certain limit, the plasma structure, instead of building a cantilever beam that transmitted the weight of the object and the forces exerted on it directly on the medium's body (and therefore on the weighing-machine), produced a more or less vertical rigid structure which, resting on the floor, supported the object from below, also resisting the downward pressure exerted by external agents on the object itself.
In this hypothesis, the decrease in the medium's weight measured by the weighing-machine was due in part to the transformation of the medium's body matter into the plasma substance that formed the structure – which emanated from the medium's body, always remaining linked to it – and in part to a lever action exerted by the horizontal section of the plasma beam at the point where it connected with the rigid vertical structure, which – pushing downwards – lowered the medium's weight (as when a person, standing on a scale, sees a weight decrease if places his/her hand on a nearby table). In any case, at the end of the séance the plasma matter was completely reabsorbed into the medium's body, which returned to the weight measured before the séance. Sometimes the table was turned upside down, with its top resting on the floor and its legs in the air: in this position the operators could exert a strong downward pressure on the table, so that no person, however robust, could lift it by taking it by the legs. Under these conditions the medium's weight decreased by a considerably higher amount than the weight of the table itself. For the details of these experiments, and for an evaluation of Crawford's deductions, it is worth carefully reading his second book, Experiments in Psychical Science (EPS).
In another series of experiments Crawford measured the weight variations of the medium, sitting on a chair placed on the wooden board linked to the weighing platform of the machine – which, as you can see in fig. 2, was equipped with four little wheels – when a person exerted, grasping the table's legs, a pulling force away from the medium. At first the table resisted movement, and the weight of the medium increased by about 5 lb.: when, with a stronger jerk, the table was moved, the weighing-machine with the medium sitting on it moved about 4 inches in the direction of the table. To verify the opposite effect, Crawford's wife – who was pulling the table – began to push it in the opposite direction: the table first resisted – while the weight of the medium on the scale decreased by a few kg – then, when with a stronger push she was able to move it, even the weighing-machine moved backwards by several inches. It should be noted that in these experiments the medium's feet did not reach the floor, but were resting on the wooden board attached to the weighing platform.
Crawford also built a kind of wheelchair with four bicycle wheels, equipped with a wooden board on which the medium could sit, with her feet hardly touching the floor or raised without touching it. The wheelchair, with the medium seated on it, could move forward or backward with little force, and the experimenter was thus able to verify the effects of the applied forces when the table was levitated, when it was kept heavily constrained to the floor, or when it was pushed forward (towards the medium) or pulled backwards: for the results see Experiment 13 on page 56 of EPS. On some occasions, both Crawford and other investigators who collaborated with him managed to touch the ectoplasmic matter, which presented itself to the touch in two forms: as a slimy, cold and soft substance, or – in the terminal part of the cylindrical rods – as rigid, hard and consistent. In relation to the sensation of the soft matter, Crawford so wrote: «the only thing felt is a kind of disagreeable, cold, spore-like sensation, and the placing of the hand in its line generally breaks out the structure» (EPS, page 119). Also, always according to Crawford: «this whitish, translucent, nebulous matter is the basis of all psychical phenomena of the physical order» (PSGC, page 22).
Regarding the tangibility of what Crafword called psychic rods, here are some interesting observations from another participant in the séances (PSGC, page 24): «As an example of a rod in what I consider its simplest form, i.e. without its end encumbered with design or modified in any of the several ways in which it can be modified, I append the following notes from Mr. Arthur Hunter of Ballycastle, Co. Antrim. He describes what such a rod appears like from the sense of touch:
Date: Friday, 5th December 1917.
Room: The floor and table were examined by two friends who accompanied me. They also tested the strength of levitations and resistances offered.
Experiment: Towards the end of the seance I asked the operators (having first obtained the permission of the leader of the circle) if they could place the end of the structure in one of my hands. On the reply "Yes", I went inside the circle, lay down on my right side on the floor alongside the table, and placed my gloved right hand between the two nearest legs of the table. Almost immediately I felt the impact of a nearly circular rod-like body about 2 in. in diameter on the palm of my hand, which was held palm upwards. (The back of my hand was towards the floor and at a distance of about 5 in. from it). This circular rod-like body was flat at the end, i.e. as if the rod were sawn across. It maintained a steady pressure evenly distributed over the area of impact, and was soft but firm to the sense of touch. I estimate the magnitude of pressure at from 4 to 6 oz. Without being requested to do so, the operators moved this rod-like structure until I felt the clearly defined edges of the circular blunt end. This was accompanied by a sensation of roughness, as though the edge were serrated, such a feeling, I believe, as would be given by a substance similar to very fine emery paper...
I could clearly see my hand and the space around and beyond the table legs, but I could not see the psychic rapping rod. The impacts were upon the more sensitive side of my hand. When my fingers were being touched or pressed it seemed as if another finger were causing the sensation – a finger of very great strength. During this experiment of pressure on the fingers there was no sensation of roughness, such as occurred and is described with the larger rod when I felt the edge of the circular end. My sight is very keen».
In the séances of 1920 Crawford was able to see and then also to photograph the ectoplasmic matter that came out of the medium's body. At first he used cardboards on which luminous (fluorescent) dye had been stained, which were placed horizontally on the floor and vertically against the walls or some object: this type of brightness had a much lesser impact on the phenomena, and allowed to see – against the luminous background of the cardboards – the forms of the rods that advanced from the feet of the medium and settled under the table, before its levitation, to then withdraw and be reabsorbed by the medium's body at the end of the phenomena. With the active collaboration of the operators, in the end Crawford also managed to obtain a series of clear photographs using a magnesium flash: the medium's body, however, reacted with violent spasms to the sudden and intense light produced by the flash, so much so that after each photo a few minutes of total darkness were needed before the crysis subsided. Over twenty of these photos are published in the final pages of PSGC.
The plasma matter
Crawford's experiments led him to elaborate some theoretical hypotheses on plasma matter and its origin, summarized in the chapter entitled Analysis of Results on page 106 of EPS. All the results obtained in the first series of experiments were in agreement with the theory that a rigid beam or cantilever issued from the lower part of the medium's body, which could lift objects whose weight did not exceed a certain limit. In this case, the increase in the weight of the raised object and the length of the cantilever necessary to support it would have had to produce an angular moment that had to be contrasted by the medium's body, which – when certain limits were exceeded – would no longer be able to support the effort. The experiments confirmed this fact, and led Crawford to hypothesize a second system of contrasting gravity and the intense pushing forces exerted by people on the tables, both levitated or resting on the floor. According to this hypothesis, confirmed by the operators, the plasma matter emanating from the medium's body was first fixed to an area of the floor, adhering to it, and from there it rose with a vertical – or slightly inclined – structure, sticking itself below the table, and stiffening so to be able to counteract the forces applied on it.
Sometimes the operators transformed a cantilever beam – simpler to make and suitable for lifting not very heavy tables – into a structure of the second type, more complex and needed to counteract forces of a certain entity: these transformations were not immediate, but a few minutes were needed to get them. Crawford also tried to understand if the plasma matter emanating from the medium had its own weight or not: the problem was not easy to solve, because the medium's weight decrease (which in some cases reached almost half of her body weight) – although measured with precision and consistent with the weight of the levitated objects, the pressures exerted and the contrasted forces – could be attributed to the dynamic effects of the active forces, and not necessarily to a transfer of body weight from the medium to the emanated matter. Even without reaching definitive conclusions, Crawford believed that a part of the weight loss of the medium was due to the transformation of the physical substances of her body into plasma matter, endowed with some weight: this hypothesis was also confirmed by the operators.
At this point, Crawford asked himself the fundamental question: «What sort of matter is this that is seemingly removed from the medium's body, is used to build up psychic structures, and possesses weight? Here we have the great problem connected to psychic phenomena... Certainly this matter – if it be matter and a great number of experiments tend to show this is the case – is not in any form with which we are acquainted in the scientific sense. Although, of course, the number of experiments I have carried out is quite insufficient to enable me to lay down any absolute law... yet I think I am justified in mentioning some of the points which have struck me as important in connection with the case, and the one thing above all others that has astonished me is that this matter seems to have practically no palpability. It is a matter without palpability, but it seems to possess weight. The method by which it is expelled from the medium's body is a mystery. Only this is certain – that it is usually expelled in fluxes, not steadily, and that the difficulty in expelling it increases with the quantity expelled... It seems to be present in a form with which science is not acquainted».
This was what Crawford wrote over a century ago. Today, however, astrophysics hypothesizes the existence of a form of matter with mass (and therefore subject to gravitational law) but without tangibility and visibility: it is the so-called dark matter, which would make up almost 27% of the universe, against only 5% of the known physical matter that falls under our senses (the remaining 68% being made up by dark energy). With this, I do not want to argue that the dark matter hypothesized by astrophysicists and the plasma matter experienced by Crawford (who in his last months also managed to touch and photograph it) are the same thing. I limit myself to highlighting how – through the observations performed, the experiments carried out and the theories advanced in two completely different research fields, such as astrophysics and the physical phenomena of mediumship – we get to recognize the existence of a form of matter able to interact with the ordinary physical matter in terms of both gravitational attraction and transmission of physical forces, but which our senses are unable to perceive.
Crawford also faced the issue of the effects that these enigmatic matter transformations could have on the medium's body: «It is now necessary to consider the fact that the medium never feels anything in the nature of mechanical pressure on any part of her body. Even in the case when she and the chair on which she was sitting toppled over during heavy levitation, she felt nothing. She told me that the feelin was exactly similar to what one gets when sitting on a seesaw... All one could say definitely was, that in a simple case of levitation the whole reaction appeared to be upon the medium's body, although it might possibly be upon some part of the apparatus in her immediate neighbourhood which was resting on the platform of the weighing machine or upon the machine itself. Experiment 24 seems to show, however, that the whole of the reaction really falls somehow directly upon the body of the medium. How can it be that a rigid structure some two or three feet long can issue from the medium's and support 30 or 40 lb. weight at its end and the medium experience no inconvenience? If a rigid bar of this nature entered some soft part of her body, say the region of the stomach, the flesh would be lacerated by such a leverage as that mentioned above. How then is it that the medium is never injured by these mechanical reactions and never even feels them?».
However, it must be remembered that the author had also stated that, during the levitations, the whole body of the medium stiffened into a strong muscular tension. In fact, in Reality of Psychic Phenomena, he had written (Experiment 62, p. 141): «During many of the levitations mentioned in the previous experiments I examined the medium. Her arms, whether held by the sitters on either side of her, or resting on her knees, were always stiff, i.e. the muscles seemed to be under great stress, making the arms even sometimes iron-like in their rigidity. Especially was this rigidity noticeable at the bend of the arm, though right from shoulder to wrist the amount of the muscular tension was surprising. While the stool was steadily levitated at the abnormal height of 4 feet, her arms were excessively stiff, even stiffer than when the séance-table, nearly four times as heavy, was suspended. The medium herself says that high levitations affect her muscular system most. She says the muscular rigidity is not confined to her arms but occurs all over her body, although not to the same extent».
In the following years this muscular stiffness seemed to ease, at least in part (PSGC, page 171): «I had often noticed the upright stiffness of the medium's body while phenomena were occurring, but I now made particular notes. Just before a levitation occurs she may be leaning comfortably back on her chair, but a minute or so before the actual phenomena takes place she sits vertically upright, her trunk even sometimes rises an inch or two, and her feet and legs go close together immediately below the chair. Sometimes during high levitations the upper part of her trunk swings forward towards the circle space. Needless to say, it is perfectly impossible for anyone sitting vertically upright in a chair to levitate a table normally. This can only be done (in a stilted kind of way) by leaning back on the chair, and taking a purchase on the sides with hands or elbows».
Anyway, to account for the fact that, by stiffening, the medium's body was able to sustain without bending even remarkable forces, increased by possible leverage effects, Crawford elaborated the following hypothesis regarding the transformations of plasma matter (EPS, page 124): «The psychic structure where it enters the body of the medium is composed of a kind of matter which is unknown. Let us call it X-matter. This X-matter can transmit through itself ordinary direct and shear stresses, but it cannot transmit such stresses from itself to ordinary matter. In order to accomplish this it has first to be converted into another form of matter which we may term Y-matter (really the kind of matter visible to the eye at a materialisation séance; in other words Y-matter is what is known to psychic research students as "materialised" matter). We have then X-matter which can only be converted into Y-matter (in a manner analogous to water being converted into ice), and stresses transmitted to the former can be sent on through it to the latter. The Y-matter can act on physical objects in the séance room.
«The rough outline of a psychic structure is then as follows: (a) Free end (which we will suppose is gripping the séance table): Y-matter. (b) Body of structure: X-matter. The structure as it enters the physical body of the medium is entirely composed of X-matter. (c) Within the body of the medium the X-matter composing the structure is again converted into Y-matter. The sequence of mechanical action is as follows: The Y-matter at the free end of, say, the psychic cantilever, grips the wood of the under-surface of the table which is then levitated. Weight of table is transmitted to this Y-matter and from the latter to the X-matter of the body of structure. The mechanical stress is transmitted along the X-matter right into the body of the medium. At the place where the structure enters the body of the medium, no stress of any kind is transmitted to her flesh, because, at this particular place we have X-matter and ordinary physical matter in juxtaposition, and stress cannot be directly transmitted from the former to the latter. Withi the interstices of the medium's body the X-matter of the psychic structure probably ramifies out and each ramification at its extremity becomes Y-matter and this Y-matter is attached to various interior portions of the medium's body, which thus finally, and indirectly takes the weight of the table».
I do not know to what extent this explanation may seem convincing: Crawford himself called it «a very imperfect little sketch», elaborated to give an idea of the complexity of the problems related to the interpretation of physical phenomena. In any case, it can only be applied to those phenomena in which all the weight of the levitated object was transferred to the medium's body (cantilever beam theory), and not to those phenomena in which one or more robust men tried (without success) to lower or lift the table, or move it on the floor by pushing or pulling it with all their strength. In these cases the only possible explanation, as Crawford acknowledged, is that of a rigid structure, formed by Y-matter, which adhered tenaciously at one end to the table and at the other end to the floor, discharging onto the floor the forces applied on the table. The connection of this structure with the medium's body, from which the same structure emanated, could occur through a non-rigid beam of X-matter, capable of also transferring a minimal fraction of the forces applied on the table into the medium's body.
Crawford also carried out various experiments with other mediums, the results of which are reported in Chapters VI and VII of EPS (page 160 and following). In 1919 and in the early months of 1920 he experimented intensely on Kathleen Goligher in order to verify the ways in which the plasma matter was emanated from the medium's body. The conclusions he reached are exposed in his third volume, PSGC. I advice anyone interested in this kind of investigation – and in general in paranormal physical phenomena – to carefully read Crawford's books, because it is difficult to find such a complete and accurate series of experimental data in specialized literature. In the next post I will verify the reliability of these data, and the validity of the charges of fraud that – as always happens in these cases – were made against the Goligher Circle and its medium.
|Psyche, Space, Time|
|A book to be read|
|Good and Evil|
|Control of the Psyche|
|The path of the Ego|
|Brain and Psyche|
|Universe and Nature|
|The two sides of life|
|Avatar and the Gamer|
|Credibility of a report|
|The alien matter|
|The creative Mind|