In My Mind's Eye

Chapter One

In which the B.B.C. ensures that I have Nothing up my Sleeve

THE IDEA of the television demonstration was this.

A.G. Street, writer and broadcaster on agricultural affairs, gave a little party in the studio. His guests were five in number: Helen Kirkpatrick, American war correspondent; Kingsley Martin, editor of the New Statesman and Nation; Dr. Leaky, African explorer; Professor Vacadlo, of the Charles University, Prague; and the late Mr. Harry Price, psychic investigator and exposer of may fake mediums.

The whole programme was spontaneous. With the opening of the party, A.G. Street explained to his guests that he wanted them to enjoy themselves and had arranged for some entertainment. A conjurer named Fogel would give them a demonstration of mind-reading, getting his results by straight forward conjuring skill. Then a chap called Marion would try to demonstrate some form of psychic phenomena.

Fogel and I – ostensibly on our way to join the gathering – were standing amid a web of power cables, outside the range of the cameras, watching these preliminaries being enacted.

Let us be quite clear as to the meaning of the word “psychic” and not imagine that all sorts of spirits and hobgoblins were prevailed upon to perform for the viewers. When I claim the ability to demonstrate psychic powers, I mean that I have extra-physical powers; that I am gifted with certain uncanny faculties and have trained myself in the use of them. They are beyond the realm of present scientific understanding and cannot be explained by rule-of-thumb calculations.

They can be explained, but for this we must delve into secrets and sciences which are as old as mankind and which have become hidden beneath the welter of factual and material scientific discoveries of our era. But all in good time. Let me try to paint the picture first, and we can study the composition of the oils later.

For a few minutes the television guests discussed the idea put before them, some contending that they were complete sceptics, others that they were open-minded and prepared to be convinced. Harry Price, whose word in such matters carried great weight, volunteered the information that he had known me for many years in the course of his experience as a psychic investigator and that I had certainly been able to perform some extraordinary stunts which could not be explained by trickery.

The effects-man produced the sound of a car – muffled, as it was supposed to be drawing up outside the house – and Fogel and I arrived upon the scene. A.G. Street introduced us and remarked that after his guests had seen both demonstrations they would able to discuss the matter more thoroughly and decide if there was any difference in results obtained by conjuring skill and those obtained by the application of psychic, or extra-physical powers.

Fogel began his performance. It was a skilful and well-executed presentation of what is known to the magical fraternity as the Telephone Number Trick. In this the conjurer discovers a telephone number written down upon a slip of paper by one of the guests and sealed in an envelope. Harry Price no doubt knew how this was performed – in fact, he probably knew several methods of getting the result; but I do not doubt that the other guests were mystified.

When Fogel had concluded the trick, I began my demonstration. The first experiment was of the order I have to call “clairvoyant”, at this stage, for lack of a better term.

For this, six small wooden boxes were used. They were all identical. Everybody with the exception of Professor Vacadlo went out of the room. The room, of course, was a three-sided structure, the fourth side opening towards the cameras. We made our exits through a door in the centre wall, and so were effectively cut off from any view of Professor Vacadlo’s actions. Having mentally numbered the boxes from one to six, he threw dice in order to select one of them. The box was therefore chosen by the hazard of tumbling dice, and into this box the professor placed his handkerchief, closing the lid upon it.

We all re-entered, and Professor Vacadlo retired. Thus the only person who knew where the handkerchief had been hidden was absent when I began my search. I walked round, touching each box lightly in turn, and after a few moments I announced to the guests that the handkerchief was in a certain box. This proved to be correct. Twice more the experiment was repeated and each time it was completely successful.

Now I do not pretend that this is sensational. As a trick, it would be rather dull. It only becomes significant with the full realization that the result is gained by the employment of faculties beyond the realms of empirical science. A first-class conjurer could suggest half a dozen methods by which this might be performed as a trick. But this was not a trick. I do not intend to indulge in a detailed and elaborate description of ways in which every possible form of trickery can be eliminated in this experiment. That can come later, when I relate how I have performed similar experiments hundreds upon hundreds of times under the severest test conditions before panels of experts who wanted to track down and analyze the nature of this strange faculty.

I do not think, however, that even the most ingenious conjurer could devise any way of performing by trickery the second experiment I carried out in the television studio.

A.G. Street suggested that I might show his guests something of a different type. I asked if anyone would provide me with a letter or a piece of handwriting of somebody not present in the room, and Helen Kirkpatrick obligingly offered me a letter. The envelope had been slit open, naturally, but the letter was folded inside and I made no attempt to read it. Holding the envelope in my hand, I immediately began to receive mental impressions from what we will call for the moment the “emanations” of the handwriting.

These impressions I translated into words: 'The letter was written by a man. He was in America, in New York in fact, when he wrote it. He is tall, with a long face, tanned complexion and exceptionally bushy eyebrows. He has thick lips, a hooked nose and long artistic hands. He is occupied in some form of mechanical trade… an inventor, I believe. The letter was written in New York five minutes before a hasty departure. The writer had been commissioned to carry out some task. He was unwilling, and tried to avoid it, but he was unable to do so. The letter was written in nervous haste because five minutes later the writer had to leave on a long journey….'

I went on to describe the room in which the letter had been written and one or two further characteristics of the man. The guests were very attentive as I recounted my impressions, and when I concluded Helen Kirkpatrick was asked:

'Is Marion correct in saying that the writer of the letter was a man ?'
She confirmed this.
'And was the letter written in New York?'

Again she assented, and forestalled further questioning by saying that if she had been asked to describe the writer she could not have done it more accurately than I had. The letter itself, she added, would serve to confirm some of my other impressions. She took it from the envelope and showed that part of the text was taken up in apologizing for the haste in which the letter had been written, as the writer had to hurry away 'in five minutes time'.

As arranged, a short debate followed. I took no part in it, but all the guests concurred in the opinion that there was a vast difference between the results obtained by the greatest conjuring skill and those obtained by psychic means.

I have deliberately avoided dramatizing this account of the television demonstration. I know that the instinctive reaction is to look for the trick in it: but there is no trick. The truth is that the faculties I have described – as yet briefly and with no elaboration – do exist and have enormous significance. If this is accepted, then the sensational aspect is inherent in the simple telling of any story concerned with these abilities, and there is no need for purple passages and exclamation points.

If we wish to understand the working of these little-known powers, we have to deal in words and must set down some form of terminology. Words are our practical means of communicating ideas; but words, as Humpty Dumpty so truly remarked, mean practically anything you wish them to mean. I therefore ask the alert reader to forgive me if I occasionally discuss the exact meaning of certain words which may be well known to him.

My work is often called 'supernatural'. This is human vanity. What is beyond our present understanding we term supernatural, inferring that it is also beyond Nature. As soon as the onward march of Science has dissected and explained a certain matter, we calmly gather it into the realm of natural happenings.

The whole of our existence and perception takes place in a realm governed by Nature. In consequence all is natural. Man '...proud man, dressed in his little brief authority...' has much to learn. When he has laid bare the soul of Nature, has charted and tabulated her most mystic secrets, has drawn for himself the ground-plan of the universe – then, and only then, will it be time to employ the term “supernatural”. And then, of course, there will be nothing to which it could apply.

So let us eschew the word and employ other more accurate ones.

Nearly everybody is intrigued by mystic powers such as hypnotism, mesmerism, telepathy and so on. All will be dealt with in the course of this book, for they are matters of normal human curiosity. The trouble is that as soon as a few long, scientific words are bandied about, many people duck smartly out of sight and creep back to the comfort of a detective novel or a swing programme with the idea that the whole thing is getting beyond them. There is no need for this. Let us keep out feet planted firmly upon the ground and examine the television experiment, allotting certain satisfactory words to the phenomena demonstrated.

A sound scientific word covering all forms of clairvoyance, precognition (knowledge of future events), and past-cognition or retrocognition (knowledge of past events), is 'extra-sensory perception'. It is more of a phrase than a word, and it explains itself as being the power to gather knowledge and impressions by means other than those common to the normal five senses.

The experiment with Helen Kirkpatrick’s letter concerned only one branch of extra-sensory perception. Handwriting is not the only medium that I use for this type of phenomena; what I need is an object that is entirely personal to the owner and has not been complicated by absorbing various emanations from the handling of other people. The word to describe this ability is 'cryptaesthesia'. It is a long word, but it grows less frightening with use. To make a firm definition: cryptaesthesia is the art of using some object as the medium for obtaining extra-sensory perceptions of a person who has been closely associated with that object. That is the theory.

By taking a hair of your head, a wedding-ring, a scrap of your handwriting – any object really personal to you – and holding it in my hand, I am able to give an accurate description of your physical appearance, character and mental attitude; to reconstruct incidents from your past, and even to probe the future. That is the practical application, in its simplest form, of the theory.

But the method of using handwriting as the personal object is a sub-division of cryptaesthesia, and we call this metagraphology. Familiarity with these two rather cumbersome words will make it much easier to talk about other cases in which such faculties have been employed – for practical purposes, that is, not merely for demonstration.

The television programme I have described was not the first occasion that I went on the air. It was on 23 May, 1946, that for the first time in the august history of the B.B.C. there was broadcast an experiment in psychic phenomena. It was not one hundred percent successful, as with the television demonstration, but the reasons for this will be made clear.

Vaughan Thomas was the producer, and I remember that he was rather anxious concerning my ability to switch on “the ‘fluence”, as he put it, at the right moment, particularly as the broadcast programme had been fixed for the peak listening hour.

One Thursday evening I sat in a B.B.C. studio together with an announcer. We were quite alone. In another studio sat two men and a woman, the subjects of the experiment. With them was another announcer who was busy explaining to the listening public the nature of the demonstration that I was about to give. Each of the three subjects was given a slip of paper and asked to write upon it a few words about some well-remembered incident in his life. The papers were folded and sealed in envelopes. Each subject revealed to nobody the words written. The envelopes were brought to me by a messenger. Taking one envelope at a time, I held it in my hand and contrived to describe the incident that was briefly indicated within. This, of course, was metagrphology. I received impressions from the emanations of the individual handwriting of each subject.

In all instances, only a word or two had been written. The envelopes remained sealed throughout, and the announcer seated with me was charged with ensuring that I did not attempt to read what was written within. My task was to describe the incidents as fully and completely as possible. Often when performing this experiment I am able to describe certain aspects of the incident which have been forgotten by the writer until I recall them to his memory.

The B.B.C. allowed me two minutes per envelope. The subjects in their studio could hear everything I said, but I was cut off from them in every way. For me, this type of experiment is so straightforward that I find little interest in going into any particular case unless it has some unusual feature to recommend it. Throughout this book many examples of such experiments will be touched upon – examples of far more interest than the B.B.B. ones, which, apart form one extraordinary feature, were a little dull and did not satisfy me. I had not expected them to.

When I was first approached by the B.B.C. I knew quite well that the producers were mainly concerned with the entertainment value of my powers (the Third Programme had not then started), and this meant that they would take all steps to avoid any possibility of trickery. I am not against this, for charlatans abound everywhere, but I guessed that in making sure there would be no trickery they might impose conditions that would not favour the success of such a sensitive thing as a metagraphological experiment. I never impose my own conditions, however, but I always do my best under the most adverse circumstances. I reasoned that if, by attaining a certain measure of success under unyielding conditions, I could convince the B.B.C. that my demonstration was a genuine one, then in future broadcasts they might be a little more lenient and thus allow my faculties more scope.

Before describing the one feature of particular interest in this broadcast, I must explain two points which were detrimental to success. Once the subjects had written their few words and sealed them up, the envelopes were brought to me by messenger. That person was obviously conscious of the “importance” of the envelopes he carried. If he was of a powerful personality, then it is quite possible that certain of his own characteristics, emotions and impressions were intermingled with those of the subjects, and that the emanations I received were thereby distorted.

In my experience with Helen Kirkpatrick’s letter during the subsequent television programme there was no intermediary. The fact that she herself had the letter in her possession did not in any way distort the emanations from it, for the letter had been written to her and was emotionally concerned with her; thus she imposed no alien influence upon it and there was no disturbance of the cryptaesthesic emanations.

The second weak point in the radio demonstration was this; instructions were given to the subjects by the announcer in their studio. This worthy person would obviously be a man of good intelligence, but he was not a student of occult science, nor was he an expert in matters of a psychic nature. I feel that a much greater degree of success would have been attained if I had been allowed to instruct the subjects in my own way as to what they should do.

Still, I abided by the conditions imposed and, as I hoped, managed to impress the powers-that-be of my genuineness.

The first subject had written a word or two about an accident suffered while jumping; subject number three referred to a memory of some experiment he had witnessed when in a science laboratory at school. My cryptaesthesic readings of these two incidents, though oblique, were found adequate. The impressions I received from the second envelope, however, seemed an almost complete failure at the time, but in the light of subsequent events proved extraordinarily successful.

With cryptaesthesia, any difference between the impressions I receive and those that the subject has in his memory is not due to failure on my part. It may be because some distortion takes place when I try to put my impressions into words, or it may be because when, as it were, I project my mind into the past, I see the particular incident from a different angle to that of the subject himself.

This was made clear from the sequel which followed my dealings with the second envelope. The woman subject had written a word or two regarding an experience on board a ship going to Ireland. In the discussion which took place after I had completed my readings she revealed that during the crossing fog had descended, there was considerable danger for a time, them the fog cleared and all was well again.

Now when I held that envelope in my hand, I received certain impressions and began to speak of 'a house…completely isolated in every way. There seems to be some element of danger hovering all around. Inside is a man. He is hurrying about with a green-covered book tucked beneath his arm. The danger disperses and all is well.'

Comparing this account, which I have summerized here, with her own memory of the incident, the lady was not very impressed with my reconstruction. In view of the similarity between a ship and a 'completely isolated house', and because I had touched upon the danger element, she found that there was something more than guesswork in my transcription, but considered the result meagre. As far as the man with the green-covered book was concerned, she simply did not know what I was talking about.

The sequel to this occurred later that same night when I returned to my London apartment. At about half past eleven I was called to the telephone. A British naval officer – one whose name is not unknown to the public – wished to speak with me. I cannot recall his exact words, but he spoke along these lines:

'I listened to your programme this evening, Mr. Marion, and let me say right away that I know nothing of occultism or psychic phenomena. Neither am I a scientist. But I was utterly amazed that nobody in the studio recognized during your second experiment something that is the A.B.C. of British naval lore. Every blasted sailor knows that when a ship is in danger the first thing the captain does is to possess himself of the log-book, probably tucking it under his arm. There it stays until the ship either comes out of danger or goes down. I don’t think I’m revealing any official secrets when I say that such a log-book would be in green covers.'

These facts were quite unknown to me, and evidently the woman subject had not seen the captain of the ship during the occurrence; yet, in recapturing the impression of the incident, I had viewed the whole thing from a slightly different angle and thus brought up an aspect of the situation which had in no way emanated telepathically from the consciousness of the subject herself.

Her emotional impressions had been strong enough for me to locate and identify that incident in what we call the Past. And this really brings up a significant question. Is anything really 'in the Past'? Or does every action make a firm impression on that mysterious dimension we call Time … an impression that can be recaptured by the hypersensitive mind and played back like a gramophone recording?

We can return to such questions later, for as yet I have simply given a brief description of two very unexceptional demonstrations, and this is quite insufficient data upon which to base conclusions. Not that there is any lack of data to draw upon. For forty-five years I have employed my extra-sensory powers – as a freak child, as a music-hall artist in half the countries in the world, as the subject of scientific investigators, and as a private consultant. In these pages I may at times indicate the direction of my own theories, but in the main I shall content myself with relating the facts which emerge from a life which is rather different from most and not uninteresting, and allow the theorist to draw his own conclusions.

So far, then, I have described two demonstrations of psychic phenomena carried out in the year of grace 1946 and broadcast to an audience of millions.

What is all this about, and where does it lead to?

Well, surely such things are added proof that, with all our mighty scientific progress, the mind of man has reaches as yet undreamt of. Anybody with a scrap of intelligence must surely wish to know more about the mysteries of Life as it concerns him. If he is not continually striving to attain a higher degree of understanding of himself and the world in which he manifests himself, then he must lack that divine spark which raises humanity above the level of the beasts in the fields.

As I have said, the powers that I possess (and that we all possess in some degree, as I shall show later) are within the realm of nature, and it must therefore be possible for us to investigate them with some measure of success. So far I have only touched upon one aspect of these faculties, but we shall speak of many others in later chapters. The power of thought is a tremendous force which can be manifested in a physical way if only we can attain sufficient strength and development of our minds to harness it.

There are scores of fascinating experiments and occurrences which demonstrate this matter. To take one small example: I have carried out many times an experiment in which I contrive to shatter a thin wine-glass by projecting thought-waves upon it. Incredible? Not at all. Paganini did a similar thing by playing a sustained note upon his violin. We know that everything vibrates at a certain frequency, and by playing a note of a frequency resonant with that of a particular wine-glass, Paganini managed to shatter it. Thought is also a matter of vibration. I am able to tune in my mind to project the frequency required to shatter a particular wine-glass; but that ia another aspect of occult power that we must come to in due course.

All these powers are described as 'occult'. As soon as this word is mentioned there are many people who conjure up visions of gaunt and scabrous wizards boiling up old nails and frog-spawn in black cauldrons in the style of the true black magician of the Middle Ages. This is quite wrong. Occult means hidden. He who studies the occult, studies all the deepest mysteries of existence and nature. Throughout my lifetime I have endeavoured to probe these mysteries. I am fortunate in being gifted with certain faculties which enable me to demonstrate to myself and others the existence of powers as yet beyond our thorough understanding.

I have learned by continual experiment and research, coming eventually to many definite conclusions about the nature of our existence. But a dry, scientific tabulation of facts and theories is a somewhat indigestible lump to swallow. In following my calling I have found, during a varied life, much that is interesting, amusing, fascinating and profound. So it is that I feel the best way of approaching my task is to tell the story of my own development, stressing the part played in it by the powers with which I am gifted, and offering practical facts for the reader to consider. Every individual can accept only that which it lies within him to accept; and I repeat, therefore, that I intend merely to indicate my own theories and so allow the reader to draw such conclusions as are acceptable to him.

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