A NUT FOR PSYCHOLOGISTS
By PEARL LENORE CURRAN [channel for Patience Worth]
From: The Unpartizan Review, March-April 1920, pp. 357-72.
Let any man announce himself a psychic if he would feel the firm ground of his respectability slip from beneath his feet. He may have attained through rigorous living an enviable reputation, but if he once admits himself an instrument differing in any manner from the masses, he will find himself a suspected character. Science with side glances will talk secretly of dire and devious matters, connecting with his name such doubtful associates as dis-associations, obsessions, secret deviltries of all manner and kind. They humor the subject and listen tolerantly to his effort to prove himself sane, while they cast wise eyes and smile.
He will find that the mere act of honestly trying to give the world the truth, has opened the door of his soul to ridicule and abuse. It is my honest belief that the humiliation the world has offered to the psychic has kept many splendid examples of God's mysteries hidden and that there are many true and wonderful phenomena that are not disclosed or announced, for this reason only.
Because one produces a superusual phenomenon, is he to be immediately classified as a monstrosity, and mentally and physically placed upon the dissecting table? Is there no gentle means by which we may have the confidence of the "subject" and get the full result from him, without cramping him or putting him upon the defensive?
In my own case, at my first encounter with science I developed a sensitiveness which caused, on both sides, a deep distrust, and it has only been through frequent meeting with broad men of that cloth that I have at last become enough interested in their attitude to try to present whatever I may have that may interest them.
A long conversation with Dr. James Hyslop with whom I had had a misunderstanding, brought this thing clearly to me, and I realized that such men as he and Sir Oliver Lodge and Sir Conan Doyle, with an ever widening circle of others, were pursuing their investigations in the manner I have suggested, with the confidence of the subject retained. This has stimulated me with the desire to aid them with all my power.
When I let my modest name be coupled with that of, Puritan spinster of some hundreds of years ago, I never for one instant realized that Patience Worth and I would be cast out upon the stormy sea of distrust. There is no come-back for the psychic. Being suspected, his word is worth less than his goods. Science labors to disprove them without even looking at them. So in presenting certain interesting facts regarding my own "case" I do it with no desire to offer proof or to try to convince anyone of anything whatever, but merely to jot down some of the incidents which might be interesting to interested.
During the six years I have written for Patience Worth I have had as witnesses, with me at the board, thousands of people. I have never attempted any preparation either for the meetings or, when writing, for any of the results; all have been impromptu. My own opinions even after all this long experience, are worth nothing to the most ordinary scientist. I am giving these facts that he may classify or not a's he pleases.
My physical being might be considered an important factor. I was never ill in all my life from any disease other than a cold or some minor complaint, and never spent a continuous week in bed. I never have been robust, have weighed from 110 to 120 pounds, and am five feet six inches high. I sleep normally, have no queer obsession or wakefulness, or urge to write; have no queer appetites, either mentally or physically. I do my own housework with the aid of one maid, and cook for six people most of the time. Patience Worth never obsesses me and I feel as normally about her as I do about any other friend who has gone into the great beyond.
Whatever may be the association which I describe as the presence of Patience Worth, it is one of the most beautiful that it can be the privilege of a human being experience. Through this contact I have been educated to a deeper spiritual understanding and appreciation than I might have acquired in any study I can conceive of. Six years ago I could not have understood the literare of Patience Worth, had it been shown to me. And I doubt if it would have attracted me sufficiently to give me the desire to study it.
The pictorial visions which accompany the coming of the words have acted as a sort of primer, and gradually developed within me a height of appreciation by persistently tempting my curiosity with representations of incidents and symbols. I am like a child with a magic picture book. Once I look upon it, all I have to do is to watch its pages open before me, and revel in their beauty and variety and novelty.
Probably this is the most persistent phase of the phenomena, this series of panoramic and symbolic pictures which never fail to show with each expression of Patience where there is any possibility of giving an ocular illustration an expression.
When the poems come, there also appear before my eyes images of each successive symbol, as the words are given me. If the stars are mentioned, I see them in the sky. If heights or deeps or wide spaces are mentioned, I get positively frightening sweeps of space. So it is with smaller things of Nature, the fields, the flowers and trees, with the field animals, whether they are mentioned in the poem or not.
When the stories come, the scenes become panoramic, with the characters moving and acting their parts, even speaking in converse. The picture is not confined to the point narrated, but takes in everything else within the circle of vision at the time. For instance, if two people are seen talking on the street, I see not only them, but the neighboring part of the street, with the buildings, stones, dogs, people and all, just as they would be in a real scene. (Or are these scenes actual reproductions?) If the people talk a foreign language, as in The Sorry Tale, I hear the talk, but over and above is the voice of Patience, either interpreting or giving me the part she wishes to use as story.
What a wonderful privilege this is can only be imagined by one who cannot see the actuality. Since this was found out by my associates, we have been spending much time after writing on a story, in my describing the scenes which accompanied it but did not appear in it. While we were writing The Sorry Tale, many a queer scene was, described; the dogs in the streets, certain odd carts with wheels made of crossed reeds and cut in a circle, the peculiar harness of the oxen, the quarrelling of the long-bearded market men, and the wailing of the women as they bartered for edibles, the dress of the priests, the holy of holies, and the ark as it was at that time, restored, the scenes at Bethlehem and Nazareth in which the Savior walked among men. This was also true of England during the transcription of Hope Trueblood, though the scenes were more familiar and therefore of less interest, but just: as vivid.
One of the most wonderful symbols created to illustrate a poem came during September, 1918. On this particular evening I had a feeling of uplift, a sort of ecstasy which in some degree always accompanies the coming of the greater poems, and I had unusual mental flashes of white, radiant white, with a feeling of infinite distances. I mentioned it to the family. It was our evening to write, and when we sat with Patience, she showed this scene with startling definiteness, preliminary to a wonderful poem which we named: "The White River."
First was shown a vast sky with a limitless sense of stupendous distance and grandeur, flanked by clouds of iridescent white purity, through and on the edges of which quivered an electric radiance. Thunder rolled majestically along the vasts, and tongues of lightning played through the clouds, while above their edges, quivering threads of electricity danced against the deep blue in myriad flashes of silver and gold. But through all and over all was this indescribable white purity, purer than dew, whiter than young lilies, not dazzling, but soothing like a smile. Through the foreground and stretching beyond to infinite distances, flowed a river of forms all in white, coming, coming ever on between the cloud-banks -- hosts following hosts with their faces eager and an urge of gladness in their movements, their eyes lighted with a wondrous light, and each glance fixed upon their leader who walked before them with outstretched arms, Jesus of Nazareth. At this point the poem came.
Sometimes Patience shows me pictures without ever saying anything about them. Once she showed me a beautiful yellow bird sitting in a hedge, a bird I had never seen, although I love birds and know nearly all I have seen in this country. This was a rather large bird, about seven inches from beak to tail. Patience finally said:
"He who knoweth the hedgerows knoweth the yellowhammer."
I protested that it was not the yellowhammer I knew, but she passed the subject without farther comment. Later we got out an old encyclopedia and found a picture this bird, the English yellowhammer. No one in the house knew anything about this bird.
I have received several premonitory flashes of pictures, which I have come to recognize as the beginning of a new story. As usual, I told the members of the family when I received in June, 1918, a flash picture of what I sensed was a squalid charity place of a very mean sort; a large and very grimy room, a rude basket containing a newborn babe, and standing over it, making ribald remarks, two low class women. About a week after this I had a feeling while I was writing that the story was about to start, but it passed off without result. Then within a few days it happened. I have before me the record prepared at the time by Mr. Curran from the matter which I told to him when he came home, and I will copy the important parts of it.
"Comes now, June 22, 1917. 11 A.M. with Mrs. Curran and her mother on the way to market three blocks away.
"All at once, without any preliminary warning, as in a single flash, she was overwhelmed with the entire framework of the story which she felt had been on the way. In the twinkling of an eye, like the bursting of an inner veil or the sudden drawing of a great curtain, she found herself immediately in possession of practically the entire mechanism of a wonderful story, the plot, the characters, that subtle spirit essence of the central idea, the purpose, and with it came a great exaltation. Even the name of the story came, which was The Madrigal.
"It took Mrs. Curran two hours to tell me what she had received in a flash, and what follows of the tale is from, memory:
"The babe within the charity place was the central figure. The tale is of the first years of this babe's life. She is a child born out of wedlock within this squalid place, while her mother is, a little while later, seen within the light of, the Thames hookman as he pulls her out of the river, dead. This mother was a woman of the fields, reared among lower classes, but with flights of soul which did not fit her station. She was scoffed at and discouraged by her associates until at last, out of her meeting with the future father of her child, grew a bitterness and rebellion which ended in her yielding to his evil influences.
"The father was a young poet and writer of great promise and high family. His mother was a doting parent who blinds herself to his evil acts, attributing them to temperament. His sister is equally ambitious for him, but is not so tolerant of his escapades.
"Just how the child was born and left, does not appear. The place is reached by a long narrow stairway showing grease and grime from countless evil hands that have traversed it. The child has red hair and green eyes with peculiar lines within them. The old women of the place jokingly refer to the child as the 'Madrigal' and one old hag with a meaningful reference to the poet sneered: 'He sung!' Grim joke! Not a symphony she, merely a simple lay dashed off in an idle moment.
"The name stuck, and one day the child knew that a Madrigal was a beautiful song. So, although not beautiful, she steadfastly expected to be, and sang through the days up and down the grimy Thames shores among the boatmen and fishers, who stopped to listen and say: 'The Madrigal is singing.'
"And he, the father, never did his great thing, and the years left him still empty, until at last through a great tragedy he found his little girl and found her singing, and that she was called the Madrigal. Looking back upon his wasted life he suddenly realizes that in a moment of little thought in his evil hours, and with no good intent, he had created the greatest thing of his life, a beautiful, simple steady soul whose voice was the light in the dark places along the dingy river, even in hunger and pain, singing, singing, a madrigal, his madrigal!"
I will not attempt to give more than this bare outline what came to me in this flash, but the incident still remains upon me as the most startling and wonderful thing that Patience Worth has brought me.
One very odd and interesting phase of the phenomena, is the fact that during the time of transcribing the matter and watching the tiny panorama unfold before me, I have often seen myself, small as one of the characters, standing as an onlooker, or walking among the people in the play. When I became curious to ascertain, for instance, what sort of fruit a market man was selling, or the smell of some flower, or the feel of some texture which was foreign to my experience, this tiny figure of myself would boldly take part in the play, quite naturally, perhaps, walking to the bin-side of a market man and taking up the fruit and tasting it, or smelling the flower within a garden, or feeling the cloth, or in any natural way attending to the problem in hand. And the experience was immediately my property, as though it had been an actual experience: for it was as real to me as any personal experience, becoming physically mine, recorded by my sight, taste and smell as other experiences. Thus I have become familiar with many flowers of strange places which I never saw, but know when I see them again in the pictures. I have shuddered at obnoxious odors, or have been quite exalted by the beauty of some object, or filled with joy at beholding some flower which I had never seen before. It is like traveling in new and unknown regions, and I am filled with an impulse to let myself go, that I may follow out the intricate pattern of the story, and gain new knowledge. I find that I possess an uncanny familiarity with things I have never known--with the kind of jugs and lamps used in far countries in the long ago, and the various methods of cooking, or certain odd and strange customs or dress or jewelry. I know many manners and, customs of early England, or old Jerusalem, and of Spain and France.
Another persistent phase of the phenomena is that ever since the coming of Patience, she has been giving evidence of knowing the inner life of those who come to meet her. So many scores and hundreds of these occurrences have, transpired that it no longer causes any wonder to the' people of her household. We write twice a week, and every time we write, if there are newcomers, Patience shows that she knows them and what they are doing, what their sorrows are, if any, what are their dispositions; in fact she has shown that in a pinch there is nothing about them which is kept from her if she desires to know it.
This has brought us to believe that she actually has another sense, vouchsafed only in small measure to the rest of us, which gives her a clear view of others, so that she may refer, as she often has, to things in their lives that no one else knows, certainly not I, and she often tells people things about themselves in such a way that I cannot understand what is meant, yet the person interested does, and many a time I have had come back to me months afterward things that Patience has told people thus in secret. This happened scores of times in New York on my recent visit.
One most peculiar thing about this work is that while I am writing there seems to be no definite place where my consciousness ceases, and that of Patience comes in. Very early I began to notice that even while I was carefully spelling a poem, I was keenly conscious, even with an added keenness, of everything about me and of anything regarding my person at the same time. I could feel my nose itch and scratch it, note an air of criticism on the face of one of the company, and the worshipful expression of another, think what I was going to have for midnight lunch after they had gone, and write right along on the poem, Understanding it as it came, and wondering at its beauty and strength, calling the letters, then the words, pausing to let Mr. Curran catch up with the writing. There are only two things which seem to jar Patience off temporarily -- a sharp noise, as an impact, or a conversation started by one of the company to which I would have to listen.
There are one or two classes of things which Patience is put to it to give me. One is proper names, especially names of persons. I had this trouble early in the writings, and now whenever I think she is about to give me a proper name, I begin to try to help her get it, which is the very thing which prevents her from giving it to me. My own thoughts intervene. I remember once in writing The Sorry Tale we stuck on a woman's name, Legia. After a long time Patience said:
"Thou hast an eye, thou hast an arm, thou hast a Legia!"
Thus I was circumvented and the name arrived. Another time she tried to give the word sanctuary. Now had had this word before, but this time it was used in a new sense, and I stuck. Finally she showed me a picture: a wide field brown with autumn withering. Suddenly across it sped a red fox running for his life, followed by a hallooing crowd of horsemen and dogs. The fox made for a house at the edge of the field and ran under the porch., A man appeared, ran toward the horsemen, and raising, his hand cried: "Sanctuary!" It was my word.
We have done very little experimenting with the machinery with which Patience gives me her words. The first thing an investigator wants to do is to blindfold me, turn the board over, or make "conditions" other than those under which I have so long written. To me this is amusing as I do that they might as well try to get heavenly temperature by feeling a kite string. Once a certain psychologist asked that I try to write with the board upside down. I did, and nothing came. Then I suggested that if he would let the board stay right side up until I began a poem, it might be I could then write with it inverted. This was done, and so it proved. But when the board was inverted, I still was able to see a board with letters just as it was before, so I could go right on. I am satisfied that Patience showed me the board : for it was just as real as anything she shows me, but had the advantage of looking as if it were under glass. When we again resumed the proper position, Patience asked the learned doctor if he didn't want to try it with the pointer upside down!
It would seem that the memory of Patience Worth is perfect. We have asked her to recall certain things, such as the lines of a poem she had written months before for a scientist by request, but which he and all of us had forgotten so completely that we knew not even what it was about. She gave the first four lines just to show she could.
Once a record was lost. It was the record which came when The Sorry Tale was first begun. Twenty months afterwards, when Mr. Yost prepared to write his preface to the book, we were still unable to locate the record, and in despair asked Patience if she could recall it, and she proceeded to give it to us verbatim. Each time the coming was witnessed by the same five people who could not give it themselves, but recognized it when it was repeated Patience. It was only about 150 words.
Often there comes to me the realization that Patience not only knows what is going on now, but knows the literature of all times and places. When she began her beautiful French story that she is now working on, she mentioned in its pages Villon the great poet of whom we then knew nothing. She went farther and gave a hint of the character of his work. But at the same time came a reference to another poet of the same land, one Basselin, and told of the nature of his writings. I cannot even admit the possibility that I had ever heard the name, though of course he must have slipped into my subconsciousness whole while I was not looking! Sly dog!
Now comes a rather important reference to sacred history. Some weeks ago, Archbishop Glennon of this diocese, following a general policy of the Catholic church, preached a sermon upon the return of spirits, in which he said that good spirits did not return, that they were "in the keeping of God," and that if spirits did return, they were emissaries of the Evil One, tempting with soft words and a robe of piety, the souls of men to their damnation. This not verbatim, but in effect. This was on Sunday; and the papers the next morning contained this synopsis. That evening we wrote with Patience, and the matter was mentioned. At once Patience had this to say:
"I say me, who became apparent before the Maid? Who became a vision before Bernadette? No less than the Mother; yet they have lifted up their voices saying the dead are in His keeping."
This last about the dead gave us the cue to what she referred, though we had no idea of what she meant by the rest. Looking up the matter the next day we found that Bernadette Soubirous was the Maid of Lourdes, the peasant girl before whom appeared the Mother Mary according to the annals of Church history. So notwithstanding the Archbishop, they must come back. It might interest the reader to know the final remark Patience made as to this:
"No man's word," she said, "may be a bolt to heaven's gateway. I shall sing not one lay which shall not contain God. Let any man do this, and he need not fear temptation nor the phantom Satan. If Satan were before thee he would be a mollusk, a boneless thing, the tongue of man!"
One night we were at a neighboring theatre. During an act in which there were a number of Scotch costumes giving instrumental selections, I began to see some of the pictures Patience shows me. I saw a field of grain and a man standing with one spear in his hand. There was something in the music which seemed to aid in the bringing the scene.
I roused and told this to Mr. Curran who was me. We realized at once that the green border of scene with the yellow plaids of the girls formed a similarity to the green and gold board which I use, one specially made to save my eyes, with a green background and gilt letters. When opportunity came, we asked Patience, and she said that with this was also the calling of a pipe in the music which was being played, which was the same sound as the pipe of Panda in The Sorry Tale when he played at night in the lone hills of Bethlehem; "and the notes sobbed and dripped of tears."
Patience's literary stunts -- things she does which no mortal man may do, according to our wise writers, form a large share of the wonderful evidences of superusual power. Here are a few:
Wrote the novel Telka, 70,000 words in blank verse, actual writing time 35 hours. Characters well rounded, plot true and novel, language a high order of poetry, about 80 per cent dialogue. Written in a manufactured English formed of a combination of all English dialects; 98 per cent words of one and two syllables; 95 per cent pure Anglo-Saxon; no word in it that has come into the Ianguage since the sixteenth century; a tapestry closely woven, and revealing a beautiful purpose.
Patience is writing on four novels at once, part of each at a time. She has written a line of one in its dialect, then a line of another in a different dialect, then back to the first for a line, switching from one to the other at top speed and without a break; at times she has assembled two persons in each story, engaged them in conversation, and made the characters of one seem to reply and even argue with the characters in the other. When the stories are stript apart, it is found that they read right along in the proper continuity of text.
She has also written a line of a poem, a line of story, and then alternated them for some time to the completion the poem. When stript, it is invariably found that each is whole and unhurt.
Amongst the poems and stories, even between the lines, she stop stops to converse or make an epigram or give a discourse, parable or prayer, as the mood or the occasion seems to warrant. She has done about every kind of literary form except those that require rhyme. These she seems to dislike, but we have concluded that it is for the reason that whenever she begins to rhyme, and I notice it, I interpose my own thoughts, and in spite of myself try to help her with the rhymes, confusing the whole operation, There are, however, about ten rhymed poems in the entire 2,200 she has given.
Patience appals people in the amount of her labors. Her record for one evening's poems is twenty-two; and to show that they are not mere jumbled words, I will state that Mr. Braithwaite put five out of the twenty-two in his Anthology for 1917, as among the best poems of, the year. One million, six hundred thousand words in five years, all literature, is an output that cannot be, equaled in the annals of history.
Patience puts only one limit to the things she will do by request, and that is that they must have some bearing upon religion, which to her includes all morals and the rules of brotherhood. She bars creeds. So when the State Capitol Commission of Missouri, intent on putting inscriptions by Missouri authors on certain tablets in new state house, asked Patience to furnish one, she gave it willingly.
The requirements for this inscription were that it contain 120 letters only, the spaces and punctuation marks to be counted as letters. Patience gave this as fast as it could be written in longhand:
'Tis the grain of God that be within
thy hands. Cast nay grain awhither.
Even the chaff is His, and the dust
Count the letters, spaces and punctuation. They foot up 120 in all.
I cannot close this article without an appeal for help. I cannot get it from Patience: for she is silent on the subject. When she was dictating her last completed book, The Pot Upon the Wheel, she said that "love rode upon the back of a bird, and carried a rod of sweet cane and a brace of arrows." Somewhere, I firmly believe, there is a legend of this sort, or somewhere there is an account of it, but where, we never have been able to find. Does any reader of the Unpartizan know where such reference may be found? The plot of the story is laid within the wall of a desert town of Arabia, no telling how many years ago, though it might be more modern than we think. This may be a help to the answering.
Lately I have been doing some writing on my own account, -- without the impulse from Patience Worth -- and so far have been very successful. In doing this material, I use a typewriter, and by persistent practice have become quite adept, having reached the point now where I can use the keys unconsciously. Once the trick of using the keys without the conscious effort to find each and every one was learned, -- Presto! there is a perfectly good means of communication, unhampered with conscious effort. Patience seemed to realize it, and delivered a poem to me through the typewriter instead of the Ouija board. As I was writing a letter to a friend, I wrote a line of poetry before I realized that I had done it, then it crowded along and infringed itself into the text of my letter! . . . The keyboard offered the letters in the same way that the Ouija did, and the removal of conscious effort left me free for her dictation. My own writing of short stories without the aid of Patience has been most interesting --to watch the functioning of my own mind and feel the difference between the conscious effort of the ordinary manner of writing, as against the unconscious manner in which the Patience Worth material comes to me.
My own writing fatigues me, while the other (Patience Worth's) exhilarates me. That's a queer mess of a statement, but quite true.
I am rapidly discarding the Ouija board. This has been coming on for a long time. For months I have been almost unconsciously dropping the spelling of the words until I have been able lately to simply recite the poems instead; though if I become conscious of the change, I have to go back to the spelling. Last night I wrote a poem on my typewriter for Patience. Every other condition was the same, her presence, the pictures of the symbols, the pressure on my head, and everything except that I was at the typewriter, and since I can now write on the machine without guiding my fingers, the lines came right along. I expect eventually to discard the board altogether. I hate to do this, for think of the check there will be upon the sale of Ouija boards!