INTRODUCTION (Part 1)
This book, the third and last of the
Living Dead Man series, was written between February, 1917, and February,
1918. Then I lost the ability—or perhaps I should say the inclination to do
As this third manuscript was shorter than the other two, I had
supposed it to be a fragment which would probably never be finished; and it
was not until my publisher urged me to issue it as a fragment that I
read it all over for the first time and discovered that it was really a
complete thing, an organic whole.
“Perhaps,” I told myself, surprised and
still half-incredulous, “there is a divinity that shapes our ends.”
For had the book been published when it was written, it would have seemed
premature; now the greater part of it is timely as yesterday’s editorials.
For the benefit of those who have not read the earlier books of
the series, “Letters From a Living Dead Man,” 1914, and “War Letters From
the Living Dead Man,” 1915, I will quote from the introductions of those
books. In the first introduction I said:
“One night last year in Paris I was
strongly impelled to take up a pencil and write, though what I was to
write about I had no idea. Yielding to the impulse, my hand was seized as
if from the outside, and a remarkable message of a personal nature came,
followed by the signature ‘X.’
“The purport of the message was clear, but
the signature puzzled me.
“The following day I showed this writing to a friend, asking her
if she had any idea who ‘X’ was.
“ ‘Why,’ she replied, ‘don’t you know that that is what we
always call Mr.——?’
“I did not know.
“Now Mr.—— was six thousand miles from Paris, and, as we
supposed, in the land of the living. But a day or two later a letter came to
me from America, stating that Mr.—— had died in the western part of the
United States, a few days before I received in Paris the automatic message
“So far as I know, I was the first person in Europe to be
informed of his death, and I immediately called on my friend to tell her
that ‘X’ had passed out. She did not seem surprised, and told me that she
had felt certain of it some days before, when I had shown her the ‘X’
letter, though she had not said so at the time.
“Naturally I was impressed by this extraordinary incident….
“But to the whole subject of communication
between the two worlds I felt an unusual degree of indifference.
Spiritualism had always left me quite cold, and I had not even read the
ordinary standard works on the subject….
“Several letters signed ‘X’ were automatically written during
the next few weeks; but, instead of becoming enthusiastic, I developed a
strong disinclination for this manner of writing, and was only persuaded to
continue it through the arguments of my friend that if ‘X’ really wished to
communicate with the world, I was highly privileged in being able to help
“Gradually, as I conquered my strong prejudice against automatic
writing, I became interested in the things which ‘X’ told me about the life
beyond the grave….
“When it was first suggested that these
letters should be published with an introduction by me, I did not take very
enthusiastically to the idea. Being the author of several books, more or
less well known, I had my little vanity as to the stability of my literary
reputation. I did not wish to be known as eccentric, a ‘freak.’ But I
consented to write an introduction stating that the letters were
automatically written in my presence, which would have been the truth,
though not all the truth. This satisfied my friend; but as time went on, it
did not satisfy me. It seemed not quite sincere.
“I argued the matter out with myself…. The letters were probably
two-thirds written before this question was finally settled; and I decided
that if I published the letters at all, I should publish them with a frank
introduction, stating the exact circumstances of their reception by me.
The interest aroused by “Letters From a Living Dead Man,” which
had been published simultaneously in London and New York, astonished me.
Requests for translation rights began to come in, and I was flooded with
letters from all parts of the world. I answered as many as I could, but to
answer all was quite impossible.
Now I will quote again, briefly, from the
Introduction to the second volume, “War Letters From the Living Dead Man,”
“In that first book of ‘X’ I did not state
who the writer was, not feeling at liberty to do so without the consent of
his family; but in the summer of 1914, while I was still living in Europe, a
long interview with Mr. Bruce Hatch appeared in the ‘New York Sunday World,’
in which he expressed the conviction that the ‘Letters’ were genuine
communications from his father, the late Judge David P. Hatch, of Los
“After the Letters were finished in 1913, during a period of
about two years I was conscious of the presence of ‘X’ only on two or three
occasions, when he wrote some brief advice in regard to my personal affairs.
On the fourth of February, 1915, in New
York, I was suddenly made aware one day that ‘X’ stood in the room and
wished to write; but as always before, with one or two exceptions, I had not
the remotest idea of what he was going to say. He wrote as follows:
“‘When I come back and tell you the story of this war, as seen
from the other side, you will know more than all the Chancelleries of the
Then I went on to describe the process of my automatic writing,
“No person who had had even a minute fraction of my occult experience could
be more coldly critical of that experience than I am. I freely welcome every
logical argument against the belief that these letters are what they purport
to be; but placing those arguments in opposition to the evidence which I
have of the genuineness of them, the affirmations outweigh the denials, and
I accept them. This evidence is too complex and much of it too personal to
be even outlined here.”
The second volume, which dealt with the war
from the hidden side of things, and predicted the victory of the Allies,
aroused even more interest than the first one. The flood of letters
In 1916, at the kind insistence of Joyce Kilmer, I published
another and different little book of automatic writings, “Songs of a Vagrom
Angel,” the angel being the Beautiful Being described by ‘X’ in the Living
Dead Man books. The “Songs” were charmingly received by the critics. The
whole book, with the exception of three of the songs, had been “written
down” in twenty-two hours.
In the summer of 1916 I went to California, and it was there, in
February, 1917, that the writing of this third book began.
But I was growing more and more restive at the swamping of my
literary career by automatic writings, and my mountainous correspondence
left me less and less time for original work. Finally, in February, 1918,
the “inner conflict” culminated in a complete cessation of automatic
The artist in me had become exasperated. If
the reader will permit the exaggeration of the simile, I felt as a man might
feel who was caught between the jaws of a lion that was carrying him away
into a trackless jungle. Before March, 1914, I had been known as a poet and
a novelist; since 1914 my name had become known in more countries than I
have counted as a “psychic,” a medium of communication between the visible
and the invisible worlds. I was not sorry that I had published the books,
because so many people had written me that I had saved them from despair and
even suicide; but I shrank from the publicity they brought me. I have been
nearly devoured by these books and the readers of these books. I felt, in
February, 1918, that I had a right to say that the incident was closed.
But that did not mean a cessation of
correspondence. Suffering souls to whose letters the limitations of time and
uncertain health (for I had not been well since 1915) made it impossible to
respond by return of post, would write again reproaching me with
indifference to their sufferings. The situation had become inconceivable.
And if I went out somewhere for an hour or two of social “rest,” I was
surrounded by people who wanted me to talk to them about the ‘X’ books,
about their own dead friends, and the possibilities of communication.
I was torn by pity for those who were
suffering, and after years of war nearly everyone was suffering; but I
wanted to be at the front with the Red Cross, and my health would not permit
me to go. I could help various war committees, but I could not go to my
tortured and beloved France—to be perhaps an added burden, should I break
The only escape from this conflict was in abstruse studies,
studies where pure mind can work. So I seriously took up Analytical
Psychology, in which I had been mildly interested since 1915. Some fourteen
hours a day for a year I studied, some of the time with a teacher, some of
the time alone. I burrowed under the theories of the three great schools,
and synthesized them, after my fashion. I had rather an active mind to
experiment upon—my own. The “resistances,” so-called, had been broken down
by the teacher.
One of the things which appealed most to my
reason was Jung’s insistence upon the psychological (and therefore
practical) value of the irrational. He says:
“There is no human foresight nor philosophy
which can enable us to give our lives a prescribed direction, except for
quite a short distance. Destiny lies before us, perplexing us, and teeming
with possibilities, and yet only one of these many possibilities is our own
particular right way…. Much can certainly be attained by will-power. But…
our will is a function that is directed by our powers of reflection…. Has it
ever been proved, or can it ever be proved, that life and destiny harmonize
with our human reason, that is, that they are exclusively rational? On the
contrary, we have ground for supposing that they are also irrational, that
is to say, that in the last resort they too are based in regions beyond the
human reason. The irrationality of the great process is shown by its
so-called accidentalness…. The rich store of life both is, and is
not, determined by law; it is at the same time rational and irrational.
Therefore, the reason and the will founded upon it are only valid for a
short distance. The further we extend this rationally chosen direction, the
surer we may be that we are thereby excluding the irrational possibilities
of life, which have, however, just as good a right to be lived. Aye, we may
injure ourselves, since we cut off the wealth of accidental eventualities by
a too rigid and conscious direction…. The present fearful catastrophic
world-war has tremendously upset the most optimistic upholder of rationalism
Now my rationally chosen “line of life” had
been that of writing books of poetry, fiction and essays. But
“accidentalness” cut in, and I wrote automatically and published what I had
written. That destiny, that second line of life, may also have been, for all
we can prove to the contrary, based “in regions beyond the human reason.”
I should not like to say that having led
the way, in the spring of 1914, for writers of dignified reputation to
publish their automatic writings might have been casually directed by the
coming great need of the world for spiritual consolation during the most
awful holocaust in history. That would be pressing irrationality too far.
But that second line of life, as Jung would call it, came to its
inevitable end with the last of this manuscript in February, 1918. The cause
of that was also seemingly accidental. But as this Introduction is only an
introduction, it is impossible to follow the course of all the drops of
water in the broad river that has flowed under my mental bridges during the
last fourteen months.
My present line of life (and through the
analysis of my dreams I have means of knowing what it is) points to the
resumption of my original literary work, poetry, fiction and essays, and to
the exclusion, so far as possible, of everything that would deflect me from
that course. “Accidentality” will cut in from time to time, change of place
and therefore change of outlook, studies of all sorts, and legitimate
demands by that society of which I form a part; but I have done enough
automatic writing. Others will do it, if it must be done; and probably it
must—because it is an outlet which it might be unsafe to stop up in the
present state of the race consciousness.
Of course if I should feel strongly impelled to do automatic
writing, I should do it, trusting to that destiny which is another name for
causes beyond our comprehension; but it was the strength of my “inner
protest” that made me realize that I had gone far enough along that line.
As in the forewords to the former books, I
state the psychological situation of the moment, saying, “so and so
happened.” The reader, as before, will interpret in his own way. This
introduction indicates my point of view in the month of April, 1919. Before
the month of May, 2019, I shall have solved the problem of survival, or
demonstrated (without knowing it) that it is insoluble.
The more we know about all these things, the less likely we are
to assume that we have the sum of all knowledge. We are like children,
groping among psychological lights and shadows.
My own belief in immortality seems
ineradicable. I did not know that until it was tested out. But we must
always remember that our personal belief is not absolute evidence of the
truth of what we believe—at least until we shall have examined all the
psychological roots of the belief, and in the present state of our knowledge
that is well-nigh impossible. Our rational belief, if we have formed one for
ourselves and have not merely accepted uncritically the beliefs of our
predecessors and associates, is merely our individual synthesis. But we must
not give an exaggerated value even to our own hard-won synthesis. That also
is a moving, an ever-changing, thing. Otherwise we should not grow. When a
man becomes fixed he begins to disintegrate.
In the first book of this series I stated
in fact that I had never been interested in spiritualism. Consciously, I
never had. Now, Dr. Alfred Adler, the head of what we may call the Ego
School of analysis, says: “Often the negation is the assertion of an old
interest that has become conscious.” Yes…. My father was deeply interested
in spiritualism, and I was born in an old house where ghosts were supposed
to walk. My mother was afraid of the subject. My father died when I was
thirteen. I was always a little afraid of my father. The first time I met
Judge Hatch I told him that perhaps he had been my father in a “former
incarnation.” He smiled, and said, “Maybe.”
No microscopist had ever a greater interest in facts than I
have. My scientific friends say, “A scientist was lost in you.” Other
friends say, “You are a great psychic.” So there I found myself. In studying
with the scientific half the phenomena of the psychic half, I am able to
The authority of the Church has been
knocked from under us. We are adrift, we thinking humans of the early
twentieth century, upon a sea of mind, storm-tossed by winds of feeling. We
were just beginning to believe in universal brotherhood—when universal war
broke out. Our steersman seemed to have been washed overboard. Everybody
wants to take the helm, distrusting his neighbor’s judgment. Is it any
wonder that bewildered souls by thousands turned to automatic writing,
seeking for guidance, for something authoritative? In childhood our
parents guided us. Later the Church guided us—or tried to. Then science
guided us—a little too far. And in the reaction we turned inward, to find
(sometimes) the unconscious more troubled than the conscious. But in the
Letters which follow there is no despair, only light and courage and hope.
There seem to be two main streams in us,
the mental and the instinctive. Bergson says, in his “Creative Evolution,”
“There are things which intelligence alone is able to seek, but which, by
itself, it will never find. These things instinct alone could find; but it
will never seek them.”
It was inevitable that modern psychology, with its constructive
curiosity, should turn its attention to the religious beliefs of the past
and present. There was no other way of understanding what really goes on in
the minds of people. Some of these old beliefs proved, on examination, to be
scientifically tenable. For instance, the Theosophists (who got the idea
from the Hindoos) tell us there are two streams of information, the
elemental and the human. Dr. C. J. Jung, the head of the Swiss School of
Analytical Psychology, divides the stream of “energy” into two currents, one
going forward and one going backward. And this duality of will Bleuler calls
“ambitendency.” The difference is chiefly a difference of phraseology and
“Always a pull of the opposites,” I quote
from the Letters which follow. The present psychic wave which is sweeping
over the world is accompanied by modern analytical psychology. Truth may lie
in the synthesis.
Between the credulity of those who believe everything purporting
to come from the other side of the veil, who accept every suggestion from
anybody claiming to be “psychic” who half-closes the eyes and says dreamily,
“You will do so and so,”—between this thirst for delusion and the
materialists’ denial that there is anything but matter and the functions of
matter, there is also a middle ground.
The great pioneer of analytical psychology
himself said, in a recent little volume on “War and Death,” translated by
Dr. A. A. Brill: “In the unconscious every one of us is convinced of his own
immortality.” Suppose the unconscious should be right?
And, by the way, between the statement of Christian Scientists,
“All is love,” and the statement of the parent school of psychoanalysis,
“All is libido,” there is striking similarity.
Jung would say, “All is energy.” Judge Hatch wrote, in a little
book published in 1905, “We postulate immortal Units of Force, each having
the power to generate a constant but limited amount of energy, and no two
alike in quantity. Upon this force generation in the unit, necessitated by
law, do we base life. Life results from the inter-dealing and inter-playing
of these units among themselves eternally, sometimes potential, again
kinetic, each limited in the amount of force generated, but unlimited in
variety of motion, manifestation or specialization.”
Truth may indeed be one, though the roads
to it are many.
Fechner’s assertion, that the dead live in us and so influence
us, does not require much stretching to fit the hypothesis that the entire
past of the human race is contained in the deeper levels of the unconscious.
If we go deep enough in analysis that hypothesis is illustrated by strange
It is unwise, at the present time more than any other, even to
try to take away man’s belief in immortality. The world is too sad, too near
the ragged edge where personal uncertainty drifts into social
irresponsibility. The psychic wave that is sweeping over the world, though
it is being carried to excess, as all over-compensations are, answers
nevertheless to a tremendous need. Credulity is the other end of doubt.