Science and Fairies

[Note: This is taken from W.Y. Evans Wentz's The Fairy Faith in Celtic Countries.]

Puzzling and weird occurrences have been vouched for among all nations and in every age. It is possible to relegate a good many asserted occurrences to the domain of superstition, but it is not possible thus to eliminate all.’

Method of Examination: Exoteric and Esoteric Aspects - The X-quantity - Scientific Attitudes toward the Animistic Hypothesis: Materialistic Theory; Pathological Theory; Delusion and Imposture Theory - Problems of Consciousness: Dreams; Supernormal Lapse of Time - Psychical Research and Fairies: Myers’s Researches - Present Position of Psychical Research - Psychical Research and Anthropology in relation to Fairy-Faith, according to a special contribution from Mr. Andrew Lang - Final Testing of the X-quantity - Conclusion: the Celtic belief in Fairies and in Fairyland is scientific.


THE promise made in the Introduction to examine the Why of the belief in fairies must now be fulfilled by calling in the aid of modern science. To adduce parallels when studying a religion or a mythology is worth doing, in order to show the fundamental bond which unites all systems of belief in things called spiritual; but it is more important to try to understand why there should be such parallels and such a unifying principle behind them. Perhaps there has been too much of a tendency among students of folk-lore, and of anthropology as a whole, to be content to do no more than to discover that the Eskimos in Greenland hold a belief in spirits parallel to a belief in spirits held in Central Africa, or that the Greek Pantheon (and possibly the Celtic one as well) consists of goddesses which are apparently pre-Aryan and of gods which are apparently Aryan. We, too, have drawn many parallels between the Celtic Fairy-Faith and the various fairy-faiths throughout the world; but now we should attempt to find out why there are animistic beliefs at all.

This chapter, then, will confine itself to a scientific exanimation of the more popular or, as it may be called, the exoteric aspect of the Fairy-Faith, which has come to us directly from the masses of the Celtic peoples. The following chapter, which is corollary to the present one, will deal especially with the mystical aspect or, as this may be called by contrast, the esoteric aspect of the same belief, which, in turn, has come to us from learned mystics and seers, who form, in proportion, but a very small minority of the modern Celts. Each of these complementary aspects of the Celtic religion undoubtedly has its origin in the remotest antiquity. This is probably more readily seen with respect to the former than to the latter. The latter has been esoteric always, and in our opinion shows an unbroken tradition (if only a very incomplete one) from druidic times; and it depends less upon written records, because the Druids had none, than upon oral transmission from age to age. Both aspects of the Fairy-Faith have in modern times absorbed many ideas from non-Celtic systems of religion and mystical thought. As Mr. Jenner has suggested in his Introduction for Cornwall, and as certain details in chapter ii clearly indicate, systems of modem theosophy have had a marked influence in this respect; but it is impossible for us to-day to say what parts of the Fairy-Faith are purely Celtic and what are not so, because comparative studies prove that mysticism is fundamentally the same in all ages and among all peoples. It is psychologically true, also, that there must always exist some sort of affinity between two sets of thought in order for them to coalesce. Hence, if modern mysticism (derived from Oriental or other sources) has, as we believe, affected Celtic mysticism as handed down from the dim druidic ages, it is merely because the two occupy a common psychical territory. We must therefore be content to examine scientifically the Fairy-Faith as it now presents itself.

The analysis of evidence in chapter iii indicates clearly that there is in the exoteric part of the modem Celtic belief in fairies considerable degeneration from what must have been in pagan times a widespread and highly developed animistic creed. In the esoteric part of it there will be observed, instead of such degeneracy, a surprisingly elaborate system of the most subtle speculation, which parallels that of East Indian systems of metaphysics. If the belief be looked at in this comprehensive manner, it seems to be clear that to some extent at least, as has been pointed out already (pp. 99, 257), the Fairy-Faith in its purest form originated amongst the most highly educated and scientific Celts of ancient times rather than among their unlearned fellows. The two aspects of the belief form an harmonious whole as they will be presented in this Section IV. Chapter xi depends mostly upon the evidence set forth in chapter ii. Chapter xii depends mostly upon the evidence set forth in chapter vii.

In chapter iii we examined anthropologically the modern; and (both there and in parts of chapters following) the historical and ancient belief in fairies in Celtic countries, and found it to be in essence animistic. Folk-imagination, social psychology, anthropomorphism generally, adequately explained by far the greater mass of the evidence presented; but the animistic background of the belief in question presented problems which the strictly anthropological sciences are unable to solve. The point has now been reached when these problems must be presented to physiology and to psychology for solution. If they can be completely solved by purely rational and physical data, then the Fairy-Faith as a whole will have to be cast aside as worthless in the eyes of science.

In our generation, however, such a casting aside is not to be the fate of the folk-religion of the Celts: the following phenomena recorded in chapter ii and elsewhere throughout our study, and designated as the x- or unknown quantity of the Fairy-Faith, cannot at the present time be satisfactorily explained by science:  Collective hallucinations and veridical hallucinations;  objects moving without contact;  raps and noises called’ supernatural’;  telepathy;  seership and visions;  dream and trance states manifesting supernormal knowledge;  ‘medium-ship’ or ‘spirit-possession’. Independently of our own Celtic data in their support, the first class of phenomena are supported by an enormous mass of good data scientifically collected; the second and third class are less well supported; telepathy is almost generally accepted as now being established; the last three classes are hypothetically accepted by many authorities in pathology, psychology, and psychical research.


Assertions similar to ours, that phenomena like these are incapable of being explained away by any known laws of orthodox science, have helped to bring about a marked division in the ranks of scientific workers. On one hand there are those scientists who deny the existence of anything not capable of being mathematically tested, weighed, dissected, or otherwise analysed in laboratories; on the other hand, there are their colleagues who, often in spite of previous bias toward materialism, have arrived at a personal conviction that an animistic view of man is more in harmony with their scientific experience than any other. Both schools include men eminent in all branches of biological sciences.

Midway between these contending schools are the psychophysicists who maintain that man is a twofold being composed of a psychical and physical part. Some of them are inclined to favour animism, others are unwilling to regard the psychical part of man as separable from the physical part. So the world of science is divided.

Under such chaotic conditions of science it is our right to accept one view or another, or to reject all views and use scientific data independently. There can be no final court of appeal in matters where opinion is thus divided, save the experience of coming generations. We are therefore content to state our own position and leave it to the future for rejection or acceptance, as the case may be. To attempt a critical examination of the thousand and one theories occupying the modern arena of scientific controversy about the essential nature of man is altogether beyond the scope of this work. We must, nevertheless, blaze a rough footpath through the jungle of scientific theories, and, at the outset, put on record our opposition to that school of scientific workers who deny to man a supersensuous constitution. Their theory, if carried out to its logical conclusion, is now essentially no different from Feuerbach’s theory at a time when science was far less developed than it is to-day. He held that ‘the object of sense, or the sensuous, alone is really true, and therefore truth, reality, and the sensible are one’.  To say that we know reality through sensual perception is an error, as all schools of scientists must nowadays admit. Nature is for ever illuding the senses; she masquerades in disguise until science tears away her mask. We must always adjust the senses to the world itself: where there are only vibrations in ether, man sees light; and in atmospheric vibrations he hears sound. We only. know things through the way in which our senses react upon them. We sum up the world-problem by saying: ‘consciousness does not exhaust its object, the world.” Perceptibility and reality thus not being coincident, man and the universe remain an unsolved problem, despite the noisy shoutings of the materialist in his hermetically sealed and light-excluding case called sensual perceptions. Science admits that all her explanations of the universe are mere products of human understanding and perceptions by the physical senses: the universe of science is wholly a universe of phenomena, and behind phenomena, as no scientist would dare deny, there must be the noumena, the ultimate causes of all things, as to which science as yet offers no comprehensive hypothesis, much less an answer. To consider the materialistic hypothesis as adequate to account for the residuum or x-quantity of the Fairy-Faith would not even be reasonable, and, incontestably, would not be scientific.

When scientists holding to the non-animistic view of life are driven from their now for the most part abandoned fortress built by German scientists of the last century, of whom Feuerbach was a type, they, in opposing the animists, occupy a more modernly equipped fortress called the Pathological Theory. This theory is that’ mediumship’, telepathy, hallucinations, or the voluntary and involuntary exercise of any so-called ‘psychical’ faculties on the part. of men and women, with the resulting phenomena, can be explained as due to abnormal and hence - according to its point of view - diseased states of the human organism, or to some derangement of bodily functions, leading to delusions resembling those of insanity, which by a sort of hypnosis telepathically induced may even affect researchers and lead them into erroneous conclusions. All scientists are in agreement with the Pathological Theory in so far as it rejects as unworthy of serious consideration all apparitions and abnormal phenomena save those observed by sane and healthy percipients under ordinary conditions. And, accordingly, whenever there can be shown in our percipients a diseased mental or psychical state, we must eliminate their testimony without argument. But since we have endeavoured to present no testimony from Celtic percipients who are not physically and psychically normal, the Pathological Theory at best can affect the x-quantity merely hypothetically.

The following admission in regard to visual and auditory hallucinations is here worth noting as coming from so thorough an exponent of materialistic psychology as M. Theodule Ribot :- ‘ There must exist anatomical and physiological causes which would solve the problem, but unfortunately they are hidden from us.’ Of these hidden causes, which he thinks create all psychical states of mind or consciousness called by him ‘disease of personality’, M. Ribot says :- ‘ Our ignorance of the causes stops us short. The psychologist is here like the physician who has to deal with a disease in which he can make out only the symptoms. What physiological influences are they which thus alter the general tone of the organism, consequently of the coenaesthesis, consequently too of the memory? Is it some condition of the vascular system? Or some inhibitory action, some arrest of function? We cannot say.’  And after six years of most careful experimentation, M. Charles Richet, Professor of Physiology in the Faculty of Medicine in Paris, reached this conclusion :- ‘ There exists in certain persons at certain moments a faculty of acquiring knowledge which has no rapport with our normal faculties of that kind.’  We seem to have here the last words of science touching the Pathological Theory.

When driven from their pathological stronghold, and they maintain that they have not been driven from it, the nonanimists always find a safe way to cover their retreat by setting up the charge that all psychical phenomena are fraudulent or else due to delusion on the part of observers. In reply, psychical researchers readily admit that there is a large percentage of mere trickery, delusion, and imposture in observed’ spirit’ phenomena; some of which is deliberate on the part of the’ medium ‘and some of which is apparently not consciously induced. Nevertheless, such investigators are not at all willing to say that there is nothing more than this. The Delusion and Imposture Theory will account for a very respectable proportion of these phenomena, but not for all of them, and theoretically we shall admit its application to the parallel phenomena attributed to fairies; though it must be acknowledged that ‘fairy’ phenomena are for the most part spontaneously exhibited rather than as in’ Spiritualism’ set up through holding seances. Further, there are comparatively few ‘charmers’ or ‘wise men ‘ - the fairy ‘mediums’ among the Celts - who ever make money out of their ability to deal with the ‘good people’, or Tylwyth Teg; whence the margin of encouragement for fraudulent production of ‘fairy’ phenomena is extremely limited when compared with ‘ Spiritualism’.

After twenty-five years of experimentation, more or less continuous, with’ mediums ‘,during which every conceivable test for the detection of fraud on their part was applied, William James put his conclusions on record in these words : - ‘When imposture has been checked off as far as possible, when chance coincidence has been allowed for, when opportunities for normal knowledge on the part of the subject have been noted, and skill in “fishing” and following clues unwittingly furnished by the voice or face of bystanders have been counted in, those who have the fullest acquaintance with the phenomena admit that in good mediums there is a residuum of knowledge displayed [italics are James’s own] that can only be called supernormal: the medium taps some source of information not open to ordinary people.” Mr. Andrew Lang, one of the bravest of psychical researchers in England, not only would agree with William James in this, but, having carefully examined the Delusion and Imposture Theory from the more commanding point of view of an anthropologist, would go further and include classical spiritualistic phenomena as well as those existing among contemporary uncultured races. He says :- ‘ Meanwhile, the extraordinary similarity of savage and classical spiritualistic rites, with the corresponding similarity of alleged modern phenomena, raises problems which it is more easy to state than to solve. For example, such occurrences as “rappings “, as the movement of untouched objects, as the lights of the seance room, are all easily feigned. But that ignorant modern knaves should feign precisely the same raps, lights, and movements as the most remote and unsophisticated barbarians, and as the educated Platonists of the fourth century after Christ, and that many of the other phenomena should be identical in each case, is certainly noteworthy.’  Evidently, then, there is a large proportion of psychical and ‘fairy’ phenomena which remain unexplained even after the Delusion and Imposture Theory has been applied to such phenomena, and in all such cases we must look further for a scientific explanation.


Our chief investigations will at first be directed more especially to the problems common both to psychology and to psychical research, namely, dream and trance states, hallucinations, and possessions, in order to show what bearings, if any, they have in the eyes of science upon parallel phenomena said to be due to fairies.


The popular opinion that dreams are nonsense is quite overthrown by definite psychological facts. When during sleep our sensory organs are exposed to external irritants the impressions physically produced are transmitted to the brain by the nervous system and react in dreams as they would in the waking state, except that the reactions in the two states of consciousness - the dream state and the waking state - differ in proportion as the two states differ; but in both the Ego is the real percipient.  Such stimuli as arise from after-theatre dinners, wine-parties, and so forth, produce a well-known type of dreams; and the same stimuli at the same period of time would produce an equal effect, though an altered one, to suit the altered psycho-physical conditions, if the waking state were active rather than the dream state, just as would all dreams which arise from pathological disturbances in disease, or abnormal physiological functions. This is evident from dreams of a morbid and sensual type, which directly affect the physical organism and its functions as parallel waking-states would. In all such dreams of the lower order, animal and purely physical tendencies, which are directly due to the state of the body, act very freely: an imperfectly balanced, temporarily deranged, or diseased organism must correspondingly respond to its driving forces. And it is clear from comparative study of phenomena that these lower kinds of dream states express only the lower or animal consciousness, which in most individuals is the predominant or only consciousness even in the waking life; and not the higher consciousness of the Ego or subconsciousness which may be expressed in somnambulism, for ‘in somnambulism there awakes an inner, second Ego ‘, which is the Subliminal Self of Myers. Dr. G. F. Stout urges against Myers’s theory of the Subliminal Self that ‘the usual incoherence of dreams is an objection to regarding them as manifestations of a stream of thought equal or superior in systematic complexity and continuity to that of the waking self ‘,  which objection Myers also observed. But if we regard all dreams which are of the lower order as being due to the imperfect response of the body to its driving forces because of various bad physical conditions in the body; and recognize that these driving forces depend ultimately on the subconsciousness, the difficulty seems to be met by observing that under such conditions there is no real mergence of the normal consciousness into the subconsciousness. Hence ordinary dreams are within the ordinary spectrum of consciousness; but extra-ordinary dreams pass beyond the ordinary spectrum into the truly supernormal state of consciousness. 

As all this indicates, dreams are of many classes: those of the lowest type, which we have explained as due to bad physiological conditions in the animal-man; those which are readily explainable as distorted reflections of waking actions, often based on some stray thought or suggestion of the day and then comparable to post-hypnotic suggestions. Other dreams are demonstrably entirely outside the range of ordinary mental or physical disturbances, actions, reflections, or suggestions of the waking life, and seem thus ‘to have a wider purview, and to indicate that the record of external events which is kept within us is far fuller than we know ‘.  In some dreams there is reasoning as well as memory, and mathematicians have been known to solve problems in sleep: an American inventor known to the writer’s mother asserted that he had dreamt out the details of a certain ice-manufacturing process which proved successful when tested; through self-suggestion set up in the waking state, R. L. Stevenson, upon entering the dream state, secured details for his imaginary romances.  Dr. Stout himself, in criticizing Myers’s ‘Subliminal Self’, admits that ‘in some very rare instances, a man has achieved, while dreaming, intellectual performances equalling or perhaps surpassing the best of which he was capable in waking life ‘;  and there are many authentic cases of dream experiences which cannot possibly be explained as revivals of facts fallen out of the range of the ordinary memory or consciousness. We seem to be led to some hypothesis like this: in dreaming there is mental activity which in the waking state is either functionless or else below the psycho-physical threshold of sensibility; because much that is subconscious in the non-dream state is in the dream state fully conscious. And we probably do not remember one quarter of our dreams! they belong to a mainly different order of consciousness. Professor Freud’s view of dreams coincides pretty generally with this view. He holds that the subconsciousness is the storehouse out of which dream contents are drawn and acted upon by the dream mind. Very much distortion of the subconscious material takes place in the process, due to what he calls the ‘endopsychic censor’. In the waking state this censor is always on the alert to keep out of consciousness all subconscious processes or~ deposits, but in sleep the censor is less alert, and allows some subconscious content to escape over into the ordinary consciousness. The result is a dream distorted out of all recognition of its origin. Such a dream seems to occupy a position midway between what we have classed as the lowest or animal-mind dream and the highest or subliminal dream. It possibly shows an harmonious psycho-physical condition of the dream life, whereas the lowest type of dream shows the preponderance of the physical or animal, and the highest type of dream shows the preponderance of the psychical elements in man. Further, it may be designated as the normal dream, and the other two types respectively as the physically abnormal and the psychically abnormal.

Professor Freud detects other marked processes in the dream state, all of which help to illustrate the part of the Fairy-Faith dependent upon dreaming experiences.  There is condensation of details frequently in a proportion so great as one for ten and one for twenty;  displacement of details, or ‘a transvaluation of all values’;  much dramatization;  regression, a retrograde movement of abstract mental processes toward their primary conceptions; and  secondary elaboration, an attempt to rationalize all dream-material.  Also, Professor Freud discovered from his analysis of thousands of dreams that the subconsciousness makes use of a sort of symbolism :- ‘ This symbolism in part varies with the individual, but in part is of a typical nature, and seems to be identical with the symbolism which we suppose to lie behind our myths and legends. It is not impossible that these latter creations of the people may find their explanation from the study of dreams.” Such processes, taken as a whole, show that man possesses a twofold consciousness, the ordinary consciousness and the subconsciousness. And we have every reason to believe that subconscious activities go on continually, in waking and in sleeping.

By experiments on his own perfectly healthy children, Wienholt proved that there are natural forces existing whose stimulations are never perceived in waking life: he made passes over the face and neck of his son with an iron key at the distance of half an inch without touching him, whereupon the boy began to rub those parts and manifested uneasiness. Wienholt likewise experimented on his other children with lead, zinc, gold, and other metals, and in most cases the children ‘averted the parts so treated, rubbed them, or drew the clothes over them ‘.  Therefore, in sleep the consciousness perceives objects without physical contact; and this not inconceivably might suggest, inversely, that in sleep the human consciousness can affect objects without physical contact, as it is said fairies and the dead can, and in the way psychical researchers know that objects can be affected.

We have on record an account of a most remarkable dream quite the same in character as dreams wherein certain Celts believe they have met the dead or fairies. Professor Hilprecht had a broken Assyrian cylinder in cuneiform which he could not decipher; but in a dream an Assyrian priest in ancient garb appeared to him and deciphered the inscription. Of this dream Myers observed :-‘ We seem to have reached the utmost intensity of sleep faculty within the limits of our ordinary spectrum.’

We may sum up the results of our examination of dreams by saying that scientific analysis of the dream life in its higher ranges proves that our Ego is not wholly embraced in self-consciousness, that the Ego exceeds the self-consciousness.

Instead of a continuity of consciousness which constitutes self-consciousness we have parallel states of consciousness for the one subject, the Ego. Our study of the Celtic theory of re-birth, in the following chapter, will further explain this subtle aspect of the dream psychology.

When such a conclusion is applied to the Fairy-Faith, the various dream-like or trance-like states during which ancient and contemporary Celts testify to having been in Fairyland are seen to be scientifically plausible. In this aspect then, Fairyland, stripped of all its literary and imaginative glamour and of its social psychology, in the eyes of science resolves itself into a reality, because it is one of the states of consciousness co-ordinate with the ordinary consciousness. This statement will be confirmed by a brief examination of what is called ‘supernatural lapse of time’, and which is invariably connected with Fairyland.

‘Supernatural’ Lapse of Time

It has already been made clear that in the dream or somnambulic state there are invariably modifications of time and space relations; and these give rise to what has been termed the ‘supernatural lapse of time’. Two conditions are possible: either a few minutes of waking-state time equal long periods in the non-waking state; or else, as is usually the case in the Fairy-Faith, the reverse is true.

The first condition, which we shall examine first, occasionally appears in the Fairy-Faith through such a statement as this :- ‘ Sometimes one may thus go to Faerie for an hour or two ‘ (p. 39). Similarly, as physicians well know, patients under narcotics will experience events extending over long periods of time within a few minutes of normal time. De Quincey, the famous opium-eater, records dreams of ten to sixty years’ supernatural duration, and some quite beyond all limits of the waking experience. Fechner records a case of a woman who was nearly drowned and then resuscitated after two minutes of unconsciousness, and who in that time lived over again all her past life.’ Another even more remarkable case than this last concerns Admiral Beaufort, who, having fallen into the water, was unconscious also for two minutes, and yet he says that not only during that short space of time did he travel over every incident of his life with the details of’ every minute and collateral feature ‘, but that there crowded into his imagination’ many trifling events which had long been forgotten ‘.

We shall now present examples to illustrate the second condition. Hehne was in an unbroken magnetic sleep from the first of January to the tenth of May, and when he came out of it he was overcome with surprise to see that spring had arrived, he having lain down - as he believed - only the day before.  Had Hehne been an Irishman, he might very reasonably have explained the situation by saying that he had been with the fairies for what seemed only a night. The Seeress of Prevorst, in a similar sleep, passed through a period of six years and five months, and then awoke as from a one-night sleep with no memory of what she did during that time; but some time afterwards memory of the period came to her so completely that she recalled all its details.  Old people, and some young people too, among the Celts, who go to Fairyland for varying periods of time, sometimes extending over weeks (as in a case I knew in West Ireland), have just such dreams or trance-states as this. Another example follows :- Chardel, in fleeing from the Revolution, took ship from Brittany and was obliged to induce somnambulism on his wife in order to overcome her horror of the sea. When the couple landed in America and Chardel awakened his wife, she had no recollection whatever of the Atlantic voyage, and believed herself still in Brittany.

Both Helinholtz and Fechner show  that the functions of the nervous system are associated with a definite time-measure, so it follows that consciousness in an organic body like man’s depends upon the nervous system; but, as these examples and similar ones in the Fairy-Faith show, certain conscious states exist independently of the human nerves, and they therefore set up a strong presumption that complete consciousness can exist independently of the physical nerve-apparatus. And in proceeding to submit this presumption of a supersensuous consciousness to the further test of science we shall at the same time be testing the statements made by wholly reliable seer-witnesses, like the Irish mystic and seer (p. 65), that not only can men and women enter Fairyland during trance-states for a brief period, but that at death they can enter it for an unlimited period. Further, what is for our study the most important of all statements will likewise be tested, namely, that in Fairyland there are conscious non-human entities like the Sidhe races.


Our present task, then, is to extend the examination beyond incarnate consciousness into the realm of the new psychology or physical research, where, as a working hypothesis, it is assumed that there is discarnate consciousness, which by the Celtic peoples is believed to exist and to exhibit itself in various individual aspects as fairies.

As to what science demands as proof of the survival of human consciousness after death, there has been no clear consensus of opinion. To prove merely the existence of ‘ghosts’ would not do; it is necessary to show by a series of proofs  that discarnate intelligences exist,  that they possess complete and persistent personal energy wholly within themselves,  that they are the actual unit of consciousness and memory known to have manifested itself on this plane of existence through particular incarnate personalities now deceased. Various psychical researchers assert that they have already reached these proofs and are convinced, often in spite of their initial scientific attitude of antagonism toward all psychic phenomena, of the survival of the human consciousness after the death of the human body; and we shall proceed to present the testimony of some of them.

In chapter vii, concerning Phantasms of the Dead, forming part of Frederick W. H. Myers’s Human Personality and its Survival of Bodily Death, and in the two chapters which follow, on Motor Automatism, and on Trance, Possession, and Ecstasy, all the necessary proofs above noted have been adduced; and the author was thereby one of the very first psychical researchers to have recorded before the world his conversion from the non-animistic hypothesis to the ancient belief that Man is immortal; for he admits his conviction that the human consciousness does incontestably survive the decay of the physical body. Types of some of these well-attested and proved cases offered as evidence by Myers may be briefly summarized as follows :- Repeated apparitions indicating intimate acquaintance with some post-mortem fact like the place of burial; single apparitions with knowledge of the affairs of surviving friends, or of the impending death of a survivor, or of spirits of persons dead after the apparition’s decease; cases where professed spirits manifest knowledge of their earth-life, as of some secret compact made with survivors; cases of apparitional appearances near a corpse or a grave; occasional cases of the appearance of the dead to several persons collectively.  Under motor automatism, some of the most striking phenomena tending toward proof are cases where automatic writing has announced a death unknown to the persons present; knowledge communicated in a seance, not known to any person present, but afterwards proved to have been possessed by the deceased; automatic writing by a child in language unknown to her.

In chapter ix trance or possession is defined by Myers, in the same list of proofs, as ‘a development of Motor Automatism resulting at last in a substitution of personality’; and this harmonizes with the theory of the control of a living organism by discarnate spirits, and is supported by an overwhelming mass of scientific experiment. Telepathy suggests the possibility of communication between the living and the living and between the living and the dead, and, we may add, between the dead and the dead - as in Fairyland - without the consideration of space or time as known in the lower ranges of mental action; and that the communication does not depend upon vibrations from a material brain-mass. Telepathy in these first two aspects has been likewise accepted as a scientific fact by workers in psychical research like Sir William Crookes, Sir Oliver Lodge, William James, and by many others. All such phenomena as these, now being so carefully investigated and weighed by men thoroughly trained in science, are, so to speak, the protoplasmic background of all religions, philosophies, or systems of mystical thought yet evolved on this planet; and in all essentials they confirm the x-quantity presented in the evidence of the Fairy-Faith.

Dr. G. F. Stout, an able representative of the school of non-converts to the theories in psychology propounded by Myers and by psychical research, states his position thus :- ‘But, at least, my doubt is not dogmatic denial, and I agree with Mr. Myers that there is no sufficient reason for being peculiarly sceptical concerning communications from departed spirits. I also agree with him that the alleged cases of such communication cannot be with any approach to probability explained away as mere instances of telepathy.’  In addition, Dr. Stout says :- ‘ The conception which has been really useful to him is that of telepathy. Given that communication takes place between individual minds unmediated by ordinary physical conditions, we may regard intercourse with departed spirits as a special case of the same kind of process. And clairvoyance, precognition, &c., may perhaps be referred to telepathic communication either with departed spirits or with other intelligences superior to the human.’  In this last phrase, ‘intelligences superior to the human’, Dr. Stout assumes our own position, that hypothetically there is good reason for thinking that discarnate non-human intelligences-such as the Irish call the Sidhe - may exist and communicate with, or influence in some unknown way, the living, as during’ mediumship’ and in ‘ seership’.

Mr. Andrew Lang points out, in his reply to Dr. Stout’s criticism, that the only legitimate scientific resource for overthrowing Myers’s position, since the evidence is ‘ mathematically incapable of explanation by chance coincidence’, is to say that several people are deliberate forgers and liars. And he adds :- ‘ To myself (but only to myself and a small circle) the evidence is irrefragable, from our lifetime knowledge of the percipient.’  But the animistic position does not by any means depend upon the evidence presented by Myers, no matter how incontestably reliable it is. We have only to examine the voluminous publications of the Society for Psychical Research (London) to realize this, and especially the Report on the Census of Hallucinations of Modern Spiritualism, by Professor Sidgwick’s Committee (P. S. P. R., London).


According to a special contribution from Mr. Andrew Lang.

Mr. Andrew Lang, who has done a special service to science by showing that psychical research is inseparably related to anthropology, has favoured us with a statement of his own position toward this relationship and has made it directly applicable to the Fairy-Faith. In a general way, but not in some important details (as indicated in our annotations) we agree with Mr. Lang’s position, which he states as follows :-

Mr. Evans Wentz has asked me to define my position towards psychical research in relation to anthropology. I have done so in my book, The Making of Religion. The alleged abnormal or supernormal occurrences which psychical research examines are, for the most part, ‘universally human,’ and, whether they happen or do not happen, whether they are the results of malobservation, or of fraud, or are merely mythical, as human they cannot be wisely neglected by anthropology.

The fairy-folk, under many names, in many tongues, are everywhere objects of human belief, in Central Australia, in New Zealand, in the isles of the Pacific, as in the British Isles, Lowland or Highland, Celtic in the main, or English in the main, I conceive the various beings, fairies, brownies, Iruntarinia, Djinns, or what you will, to be purely mythical. I am incapable of believing that they are actual entities, who carry off men and women; steal and hide objects (especially as the Iruntarinia do); love or hate, persecute or kiss human beings; practise music, vocal and instrumental; and in short ‘play the pliskies’ with which they are universally credited by the identical workings of the human fancy. They tend to shade away, on one side, into the denizens of the House of Hades - phantasms of the dead. The belief in such phantasms may be partially based on experience, whether hallucinatory or otherwise and inexplicably produced.’

As far as psychical research studies report of these phantasms it approaches the realm of ‘the Fairy Queen Proserpine’. As far as such research examines the historical or contemporary stories of the Poltergeist, it touches on fairies:

 The peculiar and often unique characteristics of the fairy-folk of any given fairy-faith are to be regarded as being merely anthropomorphically coloured reflections of the social life or environment of the particular ethnic group who hold the particular fairy-faith; and, as Mr. Lang here suggests, when they are stripped of these superficial characteristics, which are due to such social psychology, they become ghosts of the dead or other spiritual beings.

Our own researches lead us to the conviction that behind the purely mythical aspect of these fairy-faiths there exists a substantial substratum of real phenomena not yet satisfactorily explained by science; that such phenomena have been in the past and are at the present time the chief source of the belief in fairies, that they are the foundation underlying all fairy mythologies. We need only refer to the following phenomena observed among Celtic and other peoples, and attributed by them to ‘fairy’ or ‘spirit’ agency:  music which competent percipients believe to be of non-human origin, and hence by the Celts called ‘fairy’ music, whether this be vocal or instrumental in sound;  the movement of objects without known cause;  rappings and other noises called ‘supernatural’ because the Irish, for example, attribute to the agency of fairies the modern Poltergeist phenomena, whether these, in each case, be fraudulent or, up to now, be unexplained.

There are not more than two or three alleged visions of the traditional fairies in the annals of psychical research; and I have met with but few sane and educated persons who profess to have seen phantoms at all resembling the traditional fairy; while phantasms supposed to be of the dead, the dying, and the absent are frequently reported. On the whole, psychical research has very little concern with the fairy-belief in its typical forms, and if the researcher did find modern cases of fairy visions alleged by sane and educated percipients, he would be apt to explain them by suggestion acting on the subconscious self.

 It is our hope that this book will help to lessen the marked deficiency of recorded testimony concerning ‘fairy’ beings and ‘fairy’ phenomena observed by reliable percipients. We have endeavoured to demonstrate that genuine ‘fairy’ phenomena and genuine ‘spirit’ phenomena are in most cases identical. Hence we believe that if ‘spirit’ phenomena are worthy of the attention of science, equally so are ‘fairy’ phenomena. The fairy-belief in its typical or conventional aspects (apart from the animism which we discovered at the base of the belief) is, as was pointed out in our anthropological examination of the evidence (pp. 281 - 2), due to a very complex social psychology. In this chapter we have eliminated all social psychology, as not being the essential factor in the Fairy-Faith. Therefore, from our point of view, Mr. Lang’s implied explanation of the typical fairy-visions, that they are due to’ suggestion acting on the subconscious self’, does not apply to the rarer kind of fairy visions which form part of our x-quantity (see pp. 60 - 6, 83 - 4, &c.). If it does, then it also applies to all non-Celtic visions of spirits, in ancient and in modern times; and the animistic hypothesis now accepted by most psychical researchers, namely, that discarnate intelligences exist independent of the percipient, must be set aside in favour of the non-animistic hypothesis. If, on the other hand, it be admitted that ‘fairy’ phenomena are, as we maintain, essentially the same as ‘spirit’ phenomena, then the belief in fairies ceases to be purely mythical, and ‘fairy’ visions by a Celtic seer who is physically and psychically sound do not seem to arise from that seer’s suggestion acting on his own subconsciousness; but certain types of ‘fairy’ visions undoubtedly do arise from suggestion, coming from a ‘fairy’ or other intelligence, acting on the conscious or subconscious content of the percipient’s mind.

Concerning phantasms of the dead into which, as above pointed out, the fairy-folk tend to shade away, Mr. Lang has elsewhere said :- ‘On the whole, if the evidence is worth anything, there are real objective ghosts, and there are also telepathic hallucinations: so that the scientific attitude is to believe in both, if in either.” And he shows that while anthropologists have explained all animistic beliefs as the results of primitive men’s philosophizing ‘on life, death, sleep, dreams, trances, shadows, the phenomena of epilepsy, and the illusions of starvation’,’ normal phenomena, psychological and psychical, might suggest most of the animistic beliefs.’  In The Making of Religion, Mr. Lang has expanded this anthropological argument so as to make it even more fully embrace psychical research.

If we apply the brilliant results of Mr. Lang’s investigations to our own, it is apparent that the background of the Fairy-Faith, like that of all religions, is animistic, as we have argued in chapter iii; that it must have grown up in ancient times into its traditionalð form out of a pre-Celtic followed by a pre-Christian Celtic religion; these latter due, in turn; to actual psychical experiences, such as hallucinations, visions of different sorts, clairvoyance, ‘mediumship’, and magical knowledge on the part of Druid priests and, probably, to some extent, on the part of the common people as well; and, finally, that the living Fairy-Faith depends not so much upon ancient traditions, oral and recorded, as upon recent and contemporary psychical experiences, vouched for by many ‘seers’ and other percipients among our witnesses, and now placed on record by us in chapter ii and elsewhere throughout this study.


Sir William Crookes, the well-known English authority in physical science, was almost the first scientist to become seriously interested in psychics, and in Part III of Notes of an Enquiry into the Phenomena called Spiritual, during the Years 1870 - 1873 (London), boldly affirms :- ‘ It will be seen that the facts are of the most astounding character, and seem utterly irreconcilable with all known theories of modern science. Having satisfied myself of their truth, it would be moral cowardice to withhold my testimony because my previous publications were ridiculed by critics and others.’ And this conclusion reached forty years ago has not been reversed, but has been confirmed by one after another of learned scientists on both sides of the Atlantic.

In 1908, Sir Oliver Lodge, Principal of the University of Birmingham, and at present one of the best known of scientists concerned with the study of spiritual phenomena, stated his position thus :- ‘ On the whole, I am of those who, though they would like to see further and still stronger and more continued proofs, are of opinion that a good case has been made out, and that as the best working hypothesis at the present time it is legitimate to grant that lucid moments of intercourse with deceased persons may in the best cases supervene. . . . The boundary between the two states - the known and the unknown - is still substantial, but it is wearing thin in places; and like excavators engaged in boring a tunnel from opposite ends, amid the roar of water and other noises, we are beginning to hear now and again the strokes of the pickaxes of our comrades on the other side.” In 1909, Sir Oliver Lodge published The Survival of Man, in which, after a careful exposition, covering over three hundred pages, of the definite results. of much scientific experimentation by the best scientists of Europe and America, in such psychical phenomena as Telepathy or Thought Transference, Telepathy and Clairvoyance, Automatism and Lucidity, the following tentative conclusion is reached :- ‘ The first thing we learn, perhaps the only thing we clearly learn in the first instance, is continuity. There is no such sudden break in the conditions of existence as may have been anticipated; and no break at all in the continuous and conscious identity of genuine character and personality.’  And his personal conviction is that ‘Intelligent co-operation between other than embodied human minds than our own · has become possible ‘.

William James, who was one of the chief psychical researchers in the United States, published his conclusions in October 1909; and of psychical phenomena he wrote ‘As to there being such real natural types of phenomena ignored by orthodox science, I am not baffled at all, for I am fully convinced of it.’ Of mediumship’, he postulated the very interesting theory of a universally diffused’ soul-stuff’, which elsewhere (p. 254) we have referred to as the scientific equivalent to the Polynesian Mana: ‘My own dramatic sense tends instinctively to picture the situation as an interaction between slumbering faculties in the automatist’s mind and a cosmic environment of other consciousness of some sort-which is able to work upon them. If there were in the universe a lot of diffuse soul-stuff, unable of itself to get into consistent personal form, or to take permanent possession of an organism, yet always craving to do so, it might get its bead into the air, parasitically, so to speak, by profiting, by weak spots in the armour of human minds, and slipping in and stirring up there the sleeping tendencies to personate.’ Expanding this theory into a ‘pan-psychic’ view of the universe and assuming a ‘mother-sea’ of consciousness, a bank upon which we all draw, James asked these questions about it, which educated Celtic seers ask themselves about the Sidhe or Fairy-World and its also collective consciousness or life: ‘ What is its own structure? ‘What is its inner topography? . . . What are the conditions of individuation or insulation in this mother-sea? To what tracts, to what active systems functioning separately in it, do personalities correspond? Are individual “spirits” constituted there? How numerous, and of how many hierarchic orders may these then be? How permanent? How transient? And how confluent with one another may they become? ‘  We should ask the reader to compare this scientific attitude with the almost identical attitude taken up with respect to the Sidhe Races and the constitution of their world and life by the Irish mystic and seer.

M. Camille Flammarion, the well-known French astronomer, is another of the pioneer psychical researchers; and in his psychic studies, entitled, as translated in an English edition, The Unknown, recently announced these definite conclusions :- ‘  The soul exists as a veal entity independent of the body.  It is endowed with faculties still unknown to science.  It is able to act at a distance, without the intervention of the senses.’ And in his Mysterious Psychic Forces (Boston, 1907, pp. 452 - 3), he says :- ‘ The conclusions of the present work concord with those of the former (The Unknown). . . . I may sum up the whole matter with the single statement that there exists in nature, in myriad activity, a psychic element the essential nature of which is still hidden from us.’


This chapter can now be brought to its logical conclusion by directly applying the results so far attained to our still vigorous x-quantity or residuum gathered out of the Fairy-Faith. We have, although hurriedly, blazed a rough pathway through the necessary parts of the jungle of scientific theories, and have arrived at a very considerable clearing made by the pioneers, the psychical researchers. We seem, in fact, to have arrived at a point in our long investigations where we can postulate scientifically, on the showing of the data of psychical research, the existence of such invisible intelligences as gods, genii, daemons, all kinds of true fairies, and disembodied men. It is not necessary to produce here, in addition to what already has been set forth, the very voluminous detailed evidence of psychical research as to the existence of such intelligences. The general statement may be made that there are hundreds of carefully proven cases of phenomena or apparitions precisely like many of those which the Celtic peoples attribute to fairies.

 Readers are referred to such authoritative works as the Phantasms of the Living (London, 1886), by Gurney, Myers, and Podmore; to the Report on the Census of Hallucinations of Modern Spiritualism, by Professor Sidgwick’s Committee; to the Naturalisation of the Supernatural (New York and London, 1908), by F. Podmore; to the Survival of the Human Personality, by F. W. H. Myers; and other like works, all of which originate from the Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research (London).

Various explanations or theories are offered by our men of science as to what these invisible intelligences are, for none of our scientists would say that the dead alone are responsible, even in a majority of cases, for the observed phenomena and apparitions, but rather such beings as we call daemons, fairies, and elementals. M. Camille Flammarion says :- ‘ The greater part of the phenomena observed - noises, movement of tables, confusions, disturbances, raps, replies to questions asked - are really childish, puerile, vulgar, often ridiculous, and rather resemble the pranks of mischievous boys than serious bona-fide actions. It is impossible not to notice this. Why should the souls of the dead amuse themselves in this way? The supposition seems almost absurd.’  There could be no better description of the pranks which house-haunting fairies like brownies and Robin Goodfellows and elementals enjoy than this; and to suppose that the dead perform such mischievous and playful acts is, in truth, absurd. M. Flammarion also says :- ‘Two inescapable hypotheses present themselves. Either it is we who produce these phenomena’ (and this is not reasonable) ‘or it is spirits. But mark this well: these spirits are not necessarily the souls of the dead; for other kinds of spiritual beings may exist, and space may be full of them without our ever knowing anything about it, except under unusual circumstances. Do we not find in the different ancient literatures, demons, angels, gnomes, goblins, sprites, spectres, elementals, &c.? Perhaps these legends are not without some foundation in fact.’

On ‘the phenomena of percussive and allied sound ‘ - such as fairies and the dead are said to produce - Sir William Crookes made this report :- ‘ The intelligence governing the phenomena is sometimes manifestly below that of the medium. It is frequently in direct opposition to the wishes of the medium · The intelligence is sometimes of such a character as to lead to the belief that it does not emanate from any person present.’  In the case of the ‘medium’ Mr. Home, Sir William Crookes used mechanical tests and proved to his own satisfaction that physical objects moved without Mr. Home or any other person being in contact with them,  In the way that fairies are believed to move objects. These phenomena parallel remarkable ancient and modern examples of the same nature: e. g. in the affair at Cideville, France, brought before a magistrate, there is sworn evidence by reputable witnesses that pillows and coverlets floated away from a bed in which two children were asleep, and that furniture in the house moved without contact.  Mrs. Margaret Quinn, originally of Mullingar, but now of Howth, gave this remarkable testimony :- ‘ When I was a little girl, I lived with my mother in West Meath, near Mullingar. A fort was at the back of our house, and mother used to hear music playing round our house all night, and she has seen them (the good people). It often happened there at home that we would have clothes out on the line and they would float off like a balloon at a time when there would not be a bit of wind and in daylight. My mother would come out and say, “God bless them (the good people). They will bring them back.” And then the clothes would slowly come floating back to the line.’ And in our chapter ii there is other testimony concerning objects moved without contact with human beings, either through the agency of fairies or of the dead. After due investigation of such and various other phenomena, Sir William Crookes, among other theories to explain them, gives this theory :- ‘ The actions of a separate order of beings, living on this earth, but invisible and immaterial to us. Able, however, occasionally to manifest their presence.

Known in almost all countries and ages as demons (not necessarily bad), gnomes, fairies, kobolds, elves, goblins, Puck, &c.’

 Here we seem to have what ought to be, by this stage of our study, proof of the Psychological Theory of the nature and origin of the Fairy-Faith.

Let us now draw a few of the direct parallels thus suggested. Consider first how a fairy is said to appear, how it is described, and how it vanishes, and then compare the facts stated in the following case of a phantom reported by Sir William Crookes  :- ‘ In the dusk of the evening’ (just the time when fairies are most easily seen) during a seance with Mr. Home at my house, the curtains of a window about eight feet from Mr. Home were seen to move. A dark, shadowy, semi-transparent form, like that of a man, was then seen by all present standing near the window, waving the curtain with his hand. As we looked, the form faded away and the curtain ceased to move.’ The following - Mr. Home as in the former case being the ‘medium ‘ - is a still more striking instance :- ‘ A phantom form came from a corner of the room, took an accordion in its hand, and then glided about the room playing the instrument. The form was visible to all present for many minutes, Mr. Home also being seen at the same time. On its coming rather close to a lady who was sitting apart from the rest of the company, she gave a slight cry, upon which it vanished.’ Compare the following types of observed phenomena by the same authority with what our Welsh witness from the Pentre Evan country said about death-candles (p. 155) :- ‘ I have seen a luminous cloud floating upwards to a picture.’ Or, ‘I have more than once had a solid self-luminous body placed in my hand by a hand which did not belong to any person in the room. In the light I have seen a luminous cloud hover over a heliotrope on a side-table, break a sprig off, and carry the sprig to a lady; and on some occasions I have seen a similar luminous cloud visibly condense to the form of a hand and carry small objects about.’ Similar lights, parallel to the death lights or death tokens observed by Celtic percipients

in Wales and in Brittany, and to what in Ireland are called the ‘lights’ of the ‘good people’ or’ gentry ‘ - all of which phenomena are traceable to no material causes as yet discovered - are reported by Iamblichus and others of his school.  And such lights are among phenomena best attested by modern psychical researchers. Supernormally produced music, said to have been produced by daemons, which is parallel to that called by several of our own percipients ‘fairy’ music, was also known to the Neo-Platonists ;  and in the scientific investigations to which Mr. Home was subjected, musical sounds were heard which could not be attributed to any known agency. In haunted houses, as psychical research discovers, the rustling of dresses, movements of objects, and sounds, often occur spontaneously without and with the occurrence of apparitions ;  and these phenomena are parallel to certain ones which we have had cited by Celtic percipients as due to fairies. Mr. Lang, too, has set forth clearly the probability of real ‘haunts’ or spirits possessing particular places - just as fairies are said to possess particular localities or buildings in Celtic lands.

The Report on the Census of Hallucination by Professor Sidgwick’s Committee has furnished data sufficiently good to convince many scientists that phantoms (comparable in a way with Irish banshees and the Breton Ankou) do appear to the living directly before a death as though announcing it.

According to other equally reliable data, sometimes a phantasmal voice - like certain ‘fairy’ voices - has given news of a death.’ Myers and others have studied and recorded many cases of the dead appearing, as the Celtic dead appear when they have been taken to Fairyland.

In Phantasms of the Living, by Gurney, Myers, and Pod-more, the explanation of apparitions which are coincident with a death as being generated by a telepathic influence exerted upon the percipient by the dying friend, suggests the most rational interpretation of certain parallel kinds of apparitions, of the dead or of fairies, who, as in these last examples, appear dressed in garments. It is that all such apparitional appearances, coincident with a death or not, are equally due to a telepathic force exerted by an agency independent of the percipient. This outside force acts as a stimulus upon the nervous apparatus of the person to whom it is thus transmitted, and causes him to project out of some part of his own consciousness (which part may have passed over into the subconsciousness) a visualized image already impressed there. The image has natural affinity or correspondence with the outside stimulus which arouses it.

Such an hypothesis curiously agrees in part with the one put forth by our seer-witness, the Irish mystic (p. 60 ff.). He would probably agree as to the visualization process in most types of ordinary apparitions. In addition, he holds that Nature herself has a memory: there is some indefinable psychic element in the earth’s atmosphere upon which all human and physical actions or phenomena are photographed or impressed. These records in Nature’s mind correspond to mental impressions in us. Under certain inexplicable conditions, normal persons who are not seers may observe Nature’s mental records like pictures cast upon a screen- often like moving pictures. Seers can always see them if they wish; and uncritical seers frequently mistake these phantom records or pictures existing on the psychical envelope of the planet for actual events now occurring, and for actual beings - fairies of various kinds and the dead. A recent book entitled An Adventure, by Elizabeth Morison and Frances Lamont (pseudonyms), adequately illustrates what we mean by such phantom pictures. During the year 1901 these two cultured ladies saw at le petit Trianon of Marie Antoinette records in the mind of Nature of past historical events dating from about 1789. Of this there seems not to be the slightest doubt. The fairy boat-race on Lough Gur, as described by Count John de Salis (p. 80), and the procession seen on Tara Hill of fairies ‘ like soldiers of ancient Ireland in review’ (p. 33), probably illustrate the same kind of phenomena.

But in visions by natural seers, following again the theory of our Irish seer-witness, there is present not only an outside force (as seems to be the case when ordinary apparitions are seen) but also a veridical being with a form and life of its own in a world of its own. Such a real entity is as distinct from a picture in the memory of Nature as a living person is distinct from the mental picture which his friend holds and projects as a visualized image when responding to a telepathic stimulus sent by him. The natural seer, not being obliged to see with his normal sense of vision, need not use the normal method (namely, visualization) of responding to the outside telepathic stimulus, and so does not see the ordinary apparitional ghost or fairy. He exercises ‘second-sight’ or ecstatic vision, and while so doing is in the same plane of consciousness and under the same conditions of perception as the intelligence which projects upon him the stimulus inducing automatically such ‘second-sight’ or ecstatic vision. Therefore, if the intelligence has a form and nature of its own, the seer and not the non-seer will perceive them in their own world while his consciousness is temporarily functioning there and out of the normal plane of mental action. In other words, in the normal plane the non-seer reacts normally upon the same stimulus upon which the seer reacts abnormally. The former percipient sees a nonreal apparition, a visualized image out of his own experience; the latter claims to see a real being. The real being exists normally under conditions which are abnormal to the non-seer, but which to the seer become normal. The visualization of the non-seer is a makeshift, a psycho-physical reaction to a purely psychical stimulus.

It is mathematically possible to conceive fourth-dimensional beings, and if they exist it would be impossible in a third-dimensional plane to see them as they really are. Hence the ordinary apparition is non-real as a form, whereas the beings, which wholly sane and reliable seers claim to see when exercising seership of the highest kind, may be as real to themselves and to the seers as human beings are to us here in this third-dimensional world when we exercise normal vision.

Concerning actual demon-possession, which among spiritualists and psychical researchers would be called spirit phenomena through ‘mediums’, and which, as we have elsewhere pointed out (pp .249 ff.), offers the most rational explanation for the changeling belief and related Celtic beliefs about fairies, Dr. J. L. Nevius, in his Demon Possession, offers very important scientific data relating to China. Dr. F. F. Elmwood, who like that authority studied strange psychical phenomena in the interior districts of the Shantung Province (China) for many years, says in an introductory note to that work :- ‘ Antecedently to any knowledge of the New Testament’ (so full of cases of demon-possession) ‘the people of North China believed fully in the possession of the minds and bodies of men by evil spirits · It has always been understood that the personality of the evil spirit usurped, or for the time being supplanted, that of the unwilling, victim, and acted through his organs and faculties. Physical suffering and sometimes violent paroxysms attended the presence and active influence of the spirit.’ In the face of so many cases of such phenomena observed in China by the same authorities, Dr. Ellinwood adds, as Dr. Nevius’s conclusion, that ‘no theory has been advanced which so well accords with the facts as the simple and unquestioning conclusion so universally held by the Christians of Shantung, viz, that evil spirits do in many instances possess or control the mind and will of human beings’. Hypnotism shows how one strong and magnetic human will can control the mind and will of its subject; the scientific results attained by the Society for Psychical Research in its study of spiritualism show a disembodied will or intelligence controlling and using the body of a living human being; and Dr. Nevius writes :- ‘ Now may not demon-possession be only a different, a more advanced form of hypnotism?’ Criminal records of Europe and America show many examples of condemned criminals who confessed in all sincerity that some invisible or outside influence led them against their better judgement to commit crime; and very often in such examples the past lives of the condemned are so good as to set up a strong probability in favour of their belief in possession. And altogether in accord with the evidence of modern medium-ship, as well as that of mediumship among the ancients, Dr. Nevius says of Chinese demon-possession:- ‘ When normal consciousness is restored after one of these attacks, the subject is entirely ignorant of everything which has passed during that state. The most striking characteristic of those cases is that the subject evidences another personality, and the normal personality for the time being is partially or wholly dormant. The new personality presents traits of character utterly different from those which really belong to the subject in his normal state, and this change of character is, with rare exceptions, in the direction of moral obliquity and impurity. Many persons while “demon-possessed” give evidence of knowledge which cannot be accounted for in ordinary ways. · They sometimes converse in foreign languages of which in their normal states they are entirely ignorant. There are often heard, in connexion with “demon possessions”, rappings and noises in places where no physical cause for them can be found; and tables, chairs, crockery, and the like are moved about without, so far as can be discerned, any application of physical force, exactly as we are told is the case among spiritualists.’

 Nevius, Demon Possession, Introduction, pp. iv, vii; pp. 240 - 2, 144 - 5. In accordance with all such phenomena, psychical researchers have logically called spirits manifesting themselves through the body of a living person possessing spirits. And as in the case of Chinese demon-possession, the phenomena of mediumship often result in the moral derangement, insanity, or even suicide on the part of ‘mediums’ who so unwisely exhibit it without special preparation or no preparation at all, and too often in complete ignorance of a possible gradual undermining of their psychic life, will-power, and even physical health. All of this seems to offer direct and certain evidence to sustain Christians and non-Christians in their condemnation of all forms of necromancy or calling up of spirits. The following statement will make our position towards mediumship of the most common kind clear:

In Druidism, for one example, disciples for training in magical sciences are said to have spent twenty years in severe study and special psychical training before deemed fit to be called Druids and thus to control daemons, ghosts, or all invisible entities capable of possessing living men and women. And even now in India and elsewhere there is reported to be still the same ancient course of severe disciplinary training for candidates seeking magical powers. But in modern Spiritualism conditions are altogether different in most cases, and ‘mediums’ instead of controlling with an iron will, as a magician does, spirits which become manifest in seances, surrender entirely their will-power and whole personality to them.


Our investigations (and far more exhaustive ones than ours touching similar psychical phenomena) show, when applied to the residuum or x-quantity, these chief results:  The Materialistic and the Delusion and Imposture Theories can be dismissed as not affecting it.  Authorities do not agree in their opinions as to the pathological and psychological processes with which we are directly concerned; they are quite uncertain how to explain the human brain in all its more subtle functions, or the sympathetic nervous system and nervous states generally, in relation especially to human consciousness under various abnormal but not diseased conditions of the organism; and they do not propose any conclusions as final, but only as very weakly tentative, though some of these are in favour of a psycho-physical view of man in which there is a close approach to the present more advanced position of psychical research.  Psychical research has furnished proof sufficient to convince such first-class scientists as Sir William Crookes, Sir Oliver Lodge, William James, M. Camille Flammarion, and others, that states of consciousness exist in nature outside of, though probably connected with, the consciousness of incarnate human beings, and that these intelligences can produce effects on matter and on the psychical constitution of man; and some of these scientists consider certain of such intelligences to be discarnate men and women.  Scientific proof has been adduced that there are genuine hallucinations - like those relating to fairies - of human-like forms, seen by single percipients, or collectively; and such collective hallucinations are incapable of being explained away, which is equally true of apparitions seen by a single percipient to move physical objects.  Many of the foremost psychical researchers, including those named above, accept ‘mediumship’ or spirit-possession as the best working hypothesis to explain automatism.  In the accepted theory of telepathy we have support for assuming that, like hypnosis, it is a psychical process, and can be carried on either by two embodied spirits or human beings; Or by a disembodied spirit and one still incarnate. Myers’s theories, including that of the Subliminal Self, embody all the preceding ones and agree in details with them.  The results taken together harmonize with those attained in our study of psychical phenomena attributed by the Celtic peoples to fairies; and, if they be accepted, older psychological and pathological theories must be thoroughly revised in many cases, or else cast aside as worthless. Finally, since we have demonstrated that the background of the Fairy-Faith, and hence the residuum or x-quantity of it, is like the background of all religious and mystical beliefs, being animistic, and like them has grown up in ancient times out of definite psychical phenomena identical in character with those now studied by science, and is kept alive by an unbroken succession of “ and percipients, we have a clear right to set up under scientific authority these tentative conclusions:  Fairyland exists as a supernormal state of consciousness into which men and women may enter temporarily in dreams, trances, or in various ecstatic conditions; or for an indefinite period at death.  Fairies exist, because in all essentials they appear to be the same as the intelligent forces now recognized by psychical researchers, be they thus collective units of consciousness like what William James has called ‘soul-stuff’, or more individual units, like veridical apparitions.  Our examination of living children said to have been changed by fairies shows (a) that many changelings are so called merely because of some bodily deformity or because of some abnormal mental or pathological characteristics capable of an ordinary rational explanation, (b) but that other changelings who exhibit a change of personality, such as is recognized by psychologists, are in many cases best explained on the Demon-Possession Theory, which is a well-established scientific hypothesis.

Therefore, since the residuum or x-quantity of the Fairy-Faith, the folk-religion of the Celtic peoples, cannot be explained away by any known scientific laws, it must for the present stand, and the Psychological Theory of the Nature and Origin of the Belief in Fairies in Celtic Countries is to be considered as hypothetically established in the eyes of Science. Hence we must cease to look upon the term fairy as being always a synonym for something fanciful, non-real, absurd. We must also cease to think of the Fairy-Faith as being no more than a fabric of groundless beliefs. In short, the ordinary non-Celtic mind must readjust itself to a new set of phenomena which through ignorance on its part it has been content to disregard, and to treat with ridicule and contempt as so much outworn ‘superstition’.





Copyright © World Spirituality · All Rights Reserved