Arthur Thomas Myers — In be became an Inspector of schools. He also wrote books of literary criticism, in particular Wordsworth and Essays, Classical and Modern in two volumes, , which included an essay on Virgil. These would seem to have been mainly homosexual in his youth, but in later life he was said to be wholly heterosexual. They had two sons, the elder the novelist Leopold Hamilton Myers — , and a daughter. Hall argued that Myers had an affair with the medium Ada Goodrich Freer.
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By the time Myers was twenty-two he had achieved two first class degrees, in classics and moral science, as well as a glittering array of university prizes and a fellowship at his college. He was obliged to return one of the prizes, the Camden medal, following accusations of plagiarism, although it has since been argued that these were based on a misinterpretation of his motives. A seminal event was his passionate, though platonic, relationship with Annie Marshall, who was married to a cousin of his, and who committed suicide in In Myers married Eveleen Tennant, a much admired beauty and the daughter of the society hostess Gertrude Tennant.
Myers possessed a strong social conscience in certain matters. He was an early campaigner for votes for women and for their higher education. He became a permanent inspector of schools in , holding the post until shortly before his death. Myers was an athletic man of drive and energy: he swam beneath the falls of Niagara and across the Hellespont, for example.
While wintering abroad to gain respite and medical attention he died in Rome on Jan 17 Second, his childhood and adolescent religious faith could not withstand the impact of Darwinism and his own critical reading.
I asked him almost trembling, whether he thought that when tradition, intuition, metaphysics had failed to resolve the riddle of the universe there was still a chance that from any actual observable phenomena —ghosts, spirits, whatsoever there might be — some valid knowledge might be drawn as to a world unseen. He threw himself into investigating mediumship and related abilities and was particularly heartened by his meeting with William Stainton Moses , a cleric and schoolmaster who possessed outstanding mediumistic gifts.
Along with Dawson Rogers, a leading Spiritualist, Barrett urged that a concerted effort be made to examine these matters in a consistent, scientific and balanced way. He provided her with moral support as she struggled to cope with her mentally-ill husband while at the same time bringing up their five children.
Myers was particularly helpful to her in when Walter Marshall had finally to be confined to a psychiatric hospital because of his manic behaviour and reckless financial dealings. In July of that year, Myers left for a tour of the Norwegian fjords with his brother Arthur. While he was away, Annie became increasingly guilt-stricken over her part in the confinement of her husband: she committed suicide on August 29, cutting her jugular with scissors and then throwing herself into the lake.
Myers was shattered. There is no evidence that the relationship was at any time a physical one: indeed his poetry and prose suggest the reverse. Myers contributed to most of the early committees set up by the SPR to investigate mediumship, hauntings and apparitions, and suchlike.
Some years after they had started taking part in experiments two of the Creery girls were caught cheating. He had observed them closely in his home in Cambridge over a period of ten days: on a number of occasions the children were tested individually, a solid door dividing them from the researcher, and no member of the family knew the identity of the target object. He was cautious about invoking the fifth option, of discarnate intelligence, stating that he would only consider it in exceptional circumstances.
He insisted on the need to beware of vague impressive language and of claims to expert knowledge. In one case which he described, the Reverend PH Newnham attempted to transmit thoughts in the form of questions to his wife to which she would respond by automatic writing using a planchette. It was while examining automatic writing that Myers fleshed out the general concept of automatisms that later formed a central aspect of his theory of the subconscious.
He defined an automatism as follows: 25 [S]uch images as arise, as well as such movements as are made, without the initiation, and generally without the concurrence , of conscious thought and will.
He stressed that these automatisms were independent, purposive structures and were not necessarily symptomatic of organic disease. Moreover, though such automatisms occurred only sporadically, or were induced artificially, there was an additional method of exploring the subliminal that was easily available to all: namely sleep and dream.
Years before Freud, Myers stressed their importance as a method of accessing the unconscious, as a source of creativity, of personal insight, and of telepathic content. He argued that dreams should be subjected to a far more intense analysis of their language and actual and symbolic content than they had had been in the past. For this purpose he made four visits to France between and , the last on his own, the other three accompanied by his brother Arthur, a physician Gurney was present on two of these visits.
Both his direct experience and his wide reading confirmed his growing belief in the multiplex and plastic nature of consciousness. The first was from the medical community and the developing world of clinical and experimental psychology.
This occurred especially where the individual was under the influence of a dominant idea or prejudice. They argued that automatic writing and susceptibility to hypnosis were not in themselves symptoms of a pre-existing pathology: healthy, intelligent and balanced individuals might also possess these capacities and characteristics.
But on the other hand, as early as he could state: My own conviction is that we possess — and can very nearly prove it — some kind of soul, or spirit, transcendental self He wrote the introduction and a general paper on telepathic processes.
This was somewhat limited, however. He never managed to sit with DD Home or with Stainton Moses in his physical circle though in both cases, the former with William Barrett, he did write detailed assessments of them based on the documentary evidence at his disposal.
The most famous early example, the Cheltenham Ghost , was celebrated within psychical research circles - impressive for the detail of the record, the character of the main witness, and the number of individuals who witnessed the phantom. Too many individuals were involved, and it emerged that the house had been rented under false pretences. Freer herself became antagonistic, implying that Myers believed privately that the house was haunted but was scared to admit it in public.
He constantly reiterated its dispassionate and scientific approach to the issues, disassociating it from both Theosophy and Spiritualism. His aim was to map and compare such cases empirically, in order to discover whether any over-arching concepts and theories might be generated that would provide insights into their fundamental nature and the conditions under which they might occur. If this could be done, he reasoned, it would encourage others to engage in more precise scientific experimentation.
Building on his work from the s, Myers proposed the existence of a range of intelligences, or selves — of varying duration and permanence, each possessing its own memories and associations — that lay beneath the daily consciousness of everyday life. He further suggested that these had the power sometimes to impact on the daily consciousness and behaviour of the individual, either for good evolutive or ill dissolutive effect. Under certain circumstances this barrier could be penetrated by the psychological automatisms outlined above, either because of unusual permeability in the individual, or through the use of automatic writing, hypnosis, self-induced trance, crystal vision, or the impact of traumatic events, or a combination of these.
As James stated: Meanwhile, descending to detail, one cannot help admiring the great originality with which Myers wove such an extraordinarily detached and discontinuous series of phenomena together. Unconscious cerebration, dreams, hypnotism, hysteria, inspirations of genius, the willing-game, planchette, crystal-gazing, hallucinatory voices, apparitions of the dying, medium-trances, demoniacal possession, clairvoyance, thought-transference — even ghosts and other facts more doubtful Yet Myers has actually made a system of them, stringing them continuously upon a perfectly legitimate objective hypothesis, verified in some cases and extended to others by analogy.
First, Myers was not always consistent in his use of terminology. Also, there was confusion as to whether he viewed the personality as being in essence a single entity or dual and possibly multiple ones. He argued that in special circumstances, where the psychic membrane was unusually permeable — as occurred with trance mediums such as Leonora Piper — telepathic communication could occur that enabled not merely the type of fleeting, spontaneous contact typical of a sensory or auditory hallucination, but a sustained two-way conversation offering evidential proofs of survival.
He was an outstanding and fluent lecturer, requiring little preparation thanks to an excellent memory and superlative powers of organisation and expression. He attended all but one of the international congresses on psychology between and and made valuable contributions to them. In this field he cannot be dismissed as a mere dilettante. The sheer intellectual and physical effort he put into his work made a considerable impact in sympathetic psychological circles, and the degree to which he had reinvented himself in order to achieve this was recognized.
William James wrote: Myers had as it were to re-create his personality before he became the wary critic of evidence, the skilful handler of hypothesis, the learned neurologist and omnivorous reader of biological and cosmological matter, with whom in later years we were acquainted. Myers bequeathed to all subsequent researchers a conception of unconscious mental functioning that was almost equal in scope to that developed more elaborately by Sigmund Freud The importance of his model of unconscious functioning for understanding psi processes has been re-examined recently in the light of current thinking in psychology and neurology, as well as century of new observations of paranormal processes, and is revealed as fresh and heuristically vital.
The interest shown by William James and some others in his thought was not shared by psychologists within the more strongly physiological tradition. It was not until late in the twentieth century that his work was recognized as offering substantial value to the discipline of transpersonal psychology. There has been no serious attempt to assess the richly detailed examples of automatism that, for many people, have provided persuasive evidence of the independence of consciousness from its neurophysiogical substrate, and even for some form of post-mortem survival.
Nor has his conceptual framework been operationalized for testing in a controlled environment. Some historians have argued, with varying degrees of subtlety, that he allowed his existential angst to distort his findings.
Another approach — one commonly used against psychical researchers — is to seek to discredit him on the basis of human failings. As a young man he could be arrogant, snobbish and opinionated. He liked the company of beautiful and intelligent young men and women, and he certainly had intense male friendships, though there is no significant evidence that these were physical.
As his reputation grew, he enjoyed week-ending in stately houses. However, he was a diligent and devoted husband and father though in some ways, his son Leopold later said, a rather overbearing one.
The book assembles in scholarly detail an impressive body of evidence that has accumulated in the areas that Myers put forward to substantiate his model of the Subliminal Self, such as genius, mystical experience and telepathy, and also in new areas that have subsequently developed notably out-of-body and near-death experiences.
Of particular value in this context is a chapter by Emily Williams Kelly 88 which assembles abundant empirical evidence appearing to show the mind influencing physiological processes — placebo effects, removal of warts, stigmata, etc — and thus indicating some degree of independence from the body. In addition, the revival of research into mental mediumship in recent years by Gary Schwartz, Emily Williams Kelly, and Julie Beischel appears to provide further support for the survival hypothesis.
Just as telescopes, microscopes and spectroscopes had developed to deal with the physical world, these new techniques were necessary to explore the world of the psyche. On the contrary, he fully accepted the principles and methodology of science, along with its accumulated body of knowledge: he merely argued for its extension into a difficult and not easily quantifiable area.
He believed, as did William James, that the sustained study of the broad range of mental behaviours of a gifted psychic subject would yield more meaningful results than more narrowly-focused physiological measurements; as would the careful direct observation, recording and comparison of spontaneous naturally-occurring incidents. Indeed, Edward F. Kelly has stressed the validity of this approach and its expansion in the twenty-first century.
According to this model, in the transcendental or metetherial state the Subliminal Self can access supernormal faculties beyond our current stage of evolution. But evolution does not stop there. He set his face against the pessimistic degeneration philosophies that gained some popularity in cultural and scientific life in the late nineteenth century.
In short, the book has indeed convinced many people that there is some faculty in the human personality that exists independently of the body and that this might survive bodily death. Some might have thought, given this, that Myers would have returned to the established church.
But his relationship with Christianity was complex and, at times, rather fraught. In her work he saw an exemplar of a more effective style of communications that might be possible in the future, the result of combined terrestrial and transcendental evolutionary forces. And when Mrs Thompson came to herself [she said] I seem to have been taken to heaven by an angel. Myers had told her about it at the time of their courtship and marriage.
The statements of Blum and Berger on this subject are incorrect. It has been fairly said of him that he was the Coleridge of psychical research. His claims for himself were modest but his vision for the human race was cosmic.
This may be supplemented with the more detailed bibliographies in Kelly et al. Two reviews of Kelly et al. Trevor Hamilton References 1. Myers, F. The subliminal consciousness. Chapter 6: The mechanism of hysteria.
Frederic WH Myers
Psychical researcher , writer Frederic William Henry Myers 6 February — 17 January was a poet, classicist, philologist , and a founder of the Society for Psychical Research. Arthur Thomas Myers — His maternal grandfather was the wealthy industrialist John Marshall — In be became an Inspector of schools. He also wrote books of literary criticism, in particular Wordsworth and Essays, Classical and Modern in two volumes, , which included an essay on Virgil. These would seem to have been mainly homosexual in his youth, but in later life he was said to be wholly heterosexual.
F. W. H. Myers
By the time Myers was twenty-two he had achieved two first class degrees, in classics and moral science, as well as a glittering array of university prizes and a fellowship at his college. He was obliged to return one of the prizes, the Camden medal, following accusations of plagiarism, although it has since been argued that these were based on a misinterpretation of his motives. A seminal event was his passionate, though platonic, relationship with Annie Marshall, who was married to a cousin of his, and who committed suicide in In Myers married Eveleen Tennant, a much admired beauty and the daughter of the society hostess Gertrude Tennant. Myers possessed a strong social conscience in certain matters. He was an early campaigner for votes for women and for their higher education. He became a permanent inspector of schools in , holding the post until shortly before his death.