The Law of Psychic Phenomena

A Systematic Study of Hypnotism, Spiritism, and Mental Therapeutics

Thomson Jay Hudson, Ph.D., LL.D.

The Law of Psychic Phenomena  is a classic work in the field of psychic manifestations of the human intellect.

The author, Dr. Thomson Jay Hudson, Ph.D., LL.D., was the acknowledged autority in the field of metaphysics when he wrote this book in the late years of the 19th century.

This book explores all areas of the metaphysical world from early philosophies to hypnotism and mesmerism, clairvoyance, visions, right through an overview of the psycho-therapeutic practices of that time.

The Law of Psychic Phenomena  remains as fascinating and informative today as it was when it was first published.

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Book Description

1893. This book contains the foundation of New Thought teaching and practice and was very widely read in the first quarter of the 20th Century, having reached 47 editions by 1925. These writings of Thomson Jay Hudson undoubtedly had a great impact on the later writers in the New Thought field such as Thomas Troward and Christian D. Larson. This is the book that inspired H. Spencer Lewis, the founder of the modern day Rosicrucian Order, AMORC, to begin his early studies into mysticism. Dr. Lewis treasured this book because it convinced him of a vast world to explore within himself. It was the first book dealing with mysticism and the psychic side of life that he ever read. Contents: Duality and suggestion; Reasoning powers of the two minds differentiated; Perfect memory of the subjective mind; Subjective memory; Perception of the fixed laws of nature; Effects of adverse suggestion; Hypnotism and mesmerism; Hypnotism and crime; Psycho-therapeutics; A new system of mental therapeutics; Practical conclusions and suggestions.


I DO not expect this book to stand upon its literary merits; for if it is unsound in principle, felicity of diction cannot save it, and if sound, homeliness of expression cannot destroy it. My primary object in offering it to the public is to assist in bringing Psychology within the domain of the exact sciences. That this has never been accomplished is owing to the fact that no successful attempt has been made to formulate a working hypothesis sufficiently comprehensive to embrace all psychic phenomena. It has, however, long been felt by the ablest thinkers of our time that all psychic manifestations of the human intellect, normal or abnormal, whether designated by the name of mesmerism, hypnotism, somnambulism, trance, spiritism, demonology, miracle, mental therapeutics, genius, or insanity, are in some way related; and consequently, that they are to be referred to some general principle or law, which, once understood, will simplify and correlate the whole subject-matter, and possibly remove it from the domain of the supernatural.

The London Society for Psychical Research, whose ramifications extend all over the civilized world, was organized for the purpose of making a systematic search for that law. The Society numbers among its membership many of the ablest scientists now living. Its methods of investigation are purely scientific, and painstaking to the last degree, and its field embraces all psychic phenomena. It has already accumulated and verified a vast array of facts of the most transcendent interest and importance. In the mean time a large number of the ablest scientists of Europe and America have been pursuing independent investigations in the phenomena of hypnotism. They too have accumulated facts and discovered principles of vast importance, especially in the field of mental therapeutics, — principles which also throw a flood of light upon the general subject of Psychology.

This vast array of facts, thus accumulated and verified, and awaiting scientific classification and analysis, would seem to justify at least a tentative effort to apply to them the processes of induction, to the end that the fundamental law of psychic phenomena may be discovered.

In the following pages I have attempted such a classification of verified phenomena, accounts of which I find in the literature current on the subject; and I have tentatively formulated a working hypothesis for the systematic study of all classes of psychic phenomena. It will be observed that I have availed myself largely of the labors of others, instead of confining myself to experimental researches of my own. I have done this for two reasons: first, that I might avoid the accusation of having conducted a series of experiments for the purpose of sustaining a pet theory of my own; and second, because I hold that substantial progress cannot be made in science until one is ready to accord due credit to human integrity, and to give due weight to human testimony.

In conclusion, I desire to say that I claim no credit for this work, save that which is due to an honest desire to promote the truth for its own sake. Sincerely believing in the correctness of my hypothesis, I have not hesitated to follow it to its legitimate conclusion in every field which I have entered. If at the close of the book I have seemed to trespass upon the forbidden field of theological discussion, it was not for the purpose of sustaining any preconceived opinions of my own; far from it. It was because I was irresistibly led to my conclusions by the terms of my hypothesis and the inflexible logic of its application. I cannot but be aware that my conclusions sometimes oppose the preconceived opinions of others. But no one who accepts my hypothesis as the true one will be compelled more frequently than I have been to renounce his former convictions.

T. J. H.
October 21, 1892.



Necessity of a Working Hypothesis. — The Newtonian Hypothesis. — The Atomic Theory. — A Psychological Hypothesis necessary. — Theories of Hypnotism and Mesmerism. — Spiritism.— Mental Therapeutics. — Liébault's Law of Suggestion. — Duality of Mind. — A Working Hypothesis for Psychology formulated. — Its Three Terms.

SUBSTANTIAL progress in any science is impossible in the absence of a working hypothesis which is universal in its application to the phenomena pertaining to the subject-matter. Indeed, until such an hypothesis is discovered and formulated, no subject of human investigation can properly be said to be within the domain of the exact sciences. Thus, astronomy, previous to the promulgation of Kepler's Laws and the formulation of the Newtonian hypothesis of gravitation, was in a state of chaos, and its votaries were hopelessly divided by conflicting theories. But the moment Newton promulgated his theorem a revolution began which eventually involved the whole scientific world. Astronomy was rescued from the domain of empiricism, and became an exact science. What the Newtonian hypothesis did for astronomy, the atomic theory has done for chemistry. It enables one skilled in that science to practice it with a certainty of results in exact proportion to his knowledge of its principles and his skill in applying them to the work in hand. He knows that if he can combine hydrogen and oxygen, in the proportion of two atoms of the former to one of the latter, water will be the result. He knows that one atom, or part, of oxygen and one of carbon combined under heat will produce carbonic oxide,—a poisonous gas; that the addition of another atom, or part, of oxygen will produce carbonic anhydride (dioxide), — a harmless gas; and soon throughout the vast realm of chemical combinations.

The fact that the literal correctness of a given hypothesis is not demonstrable except by results, in no wise militates against its value in the domain to which it belongs. Indeed, it would cease to be a hypothesis the moment it were demonstrated. Newton's theorem is undemonstrable except from its results. Its correspondence, however, with every known fact, the facility with which astronomical calculations can be made, and the precision with which every result can be predicted, constitute a sufficient demonstration of its substantial correctness to inspire the absolute confidence of the scientific world. No one would hesitate to act in the most important concerns of life — nay, to stake his very existence — upon calculations based upon Newton's hypothesis. Yet there are not found wanting men who deny or doubt its abstract correctness. Volumes have been written to disprove it. But as no one has yet discovered a fact or witnessed a phenomenon outside of its domain, the world refuses to surrender its convictions. When such a fact is discovered, then, and not till then, will there arise a necessity for revising the "Principia." It is a trite and true saying that one antagonistic fact will destroy the value of the finest theory ever evolved.

It is equally impossible to demonstrate the abstract correctness of the atomic theory. An appeal to the evidence found in uniform results is all that is possible to one who would give a reason for the faith that is in him. No one ever saw, felt, tasted, or smelled an atom. It is beyond the reach of the senses; nor is it at all probable that science or skill will ever be able to furnish instrumental aids capable of enabling man to take cognizance of the ultimate unit of matter. It exists for man only in hypothesis. Nevertheless, the fact remains, that in all the wide range of human investigation there is not a more magnificent generalization, nor one more useful to mankind in its practical results, than the atomic theory. Yet there are those who doubt its abstract correctness, and labor to disprove the existence of the atom. If the ultimate object of chemical science were to demonstrate the existence of the atom, or to seize it and harness it to the uses of mankind, it might be worthwhile to set the chemical fraternity right by demonstrating its non-existence. If the practice of chemistry on the basis of the theory were defective in its practical results, or failed in universal application, it would then be the duty of scientists to discard it entirely, and to seek a better working hypothesis.

The most that can be said of any scientific hypothesis is, that whether true in the abstract or not, everything happens just as though it were true. When this test of universality is applied, when no known fact remains that is unexplained by it, the world is justified in assuming it to be true, and in deducing from it even the most momentous conclusions. If, on the contrary, there is one fact pertaining to the subject-matter under investigation which remains outside the domain of the hypothesis, or which is unexplained by it, it is indubitable evidence that the hypothesis is unsafe, untrue, and consequently worthless for all practical purposes of sound reasoning. Thus, Sir Isaac Newton, after having formulated his theorem, threw it aside as worthless, for a time, upon making the discovery that the moon, in its relations with the earth, apparently did not come within the terms of his hypothesis. His calculations were based upon the then accepted estimate of the length of a degree of latitude. This estimate having been corrected by the careful measurements of Picard, Newton revised his figures, and found that the supposed discrepancy did not exist. The last doubt in his mind having been thus set at rest, he gave to the world a theorem which rendered possible substantial progress in astronomical science.

In the field of psychological investigation a satisfactory working hypothesis has never been formulated. That is to say, no theory has been advanced which embraces all psychological phenomena. Many theories have been advanced, it is true, to account for the various classes of phenomena which have been observed. Some of them are very plausible and satisfactory — to their authors — when applied to a particular class of facts, but utterly fail when confronted with another class.

Thus, the students of the science of hypnotism are, and since the days of Mesmer have been, hopelessly divided into schools which wage war upon each other's theories, and dispute the correctness of each other's observations of facts. Mesmer's theory of fluidic emanations, which he termed "animal magnetism," seemed to account for the facts which he observed, and is still held to be substantially true by many votaries of this science. John Bovee Dods' electrical theory — positive lungs and negative blood — was sufficiently plausible in its day to attract many followers, as it afforded a satisfactory explanation of many phenomena which came under his observation. Braid's physiological explanation of certain classes of the phenomena afforded, in his time, much comfort to those who believe that there is nothing in man which cannot be weighed in a balance or carved with a scalpel. In our own day we find the school of the Salpetriere, which holds that hypnotism is a disease of the nervous system, that its phenomena are explicable on physiological principles, that the suggestions of the operator play but a secondary rule in their production, and that they can be produced, or successfully studied, only in diseased persons. On the other hand, the Nancy school of hypnotists holds that the science can be studied with profit only in perfectly healthy persons, and from a purely psychological standpoint, and that suggestion is the all-potent factor in the production of all hypnotic phenomena. All three of the last-mentioned schools agree in ignoring the possibility of producing the higher phenomena of hypnotism, known as clairvoyance and thought-transference, or mind-reading; whilst the earlier hypnotists demonstrated both beyond the possibility of a reasonable doubt. Indeed, a committee of the ablest scientists of the Royal Academy of Medicine of France, after an investigation extending over a period of six years, reported that it had demonstrated the existence of such powers in the human mind.

Another large class of psychological phenomena, which has been productive of more conflicting theories than any other, and which from time immemorial has puzzled and appalled mankind, is by a large class of persons referred to the direct agency of the spirits of the dead. It would require a volume to catalogue the various theories which have been advanced to account for this class of phenomena, and when done it would serve no useful purpose. It is safe to say, however, that no two individuals, whether believers or unbelievers in the generic doctrine of spiritism, exactly agree as to the ultimate cause of the phenomena. The obvious reason is that no two persons have had exactly the same experience, or have observed exactly the same phenomena. In the absence of a working hypothesis applicable to all the infinite variety of facts observed, it follows that each investigator must draw his own conclusions from the limited field of his own experience. And when we take into consideration the important role which passion and prejudice ever play in the minds of men when the solution of an undemonstrable problem is attempted, it is easy to see that a bewildering hodge-podge of heterogeneous opinions is inevitable.

Another class of phenomena, about which an infinite variety of opinions prevails, may be mentioned under the general head of mental therapeutics. Under this generic title may be grouped the invocations of the gods by the Egyptian priests; the magic formulas of the disciples of Esculaplus; the sympathetic powder of Paracelsus; the king's touch for the cure of goitre; the wonderful cures at the tomb of Deacon Paris and at Lourdes; the miraculous power supposed to reside in the relics of the saints; the equally miraculous cures of such men as Greatrakes, of Gassner, and of the Abbot Prince of Hohenlohe; and the no less wonderful healing power displayed by the modern systems known as mind cure, faith cure, Christian science, animal magnetism, and suggestive therapeutics.

One fact, pregnant with importance, pertains to all these systems; and that is that marvelous cures are constantly effected through their agencies. To the casual observer it would seem to be almost self-evident that, underlying all, there must be some one principle which, once understood, would show them to be identical as to cause and mode of operation. Yet we find as many conflicting theories as there are systems, and as many private opinions as there are individuals who accept the facts. Some of the hypotheses gravely put forth in books are so bizarre as to excite only the pity or the ridicule of the judicious. One notable example is found in that system, the basic theory of which is that matter has no existence, that nothing is real but mind, and that, consequently, disease and pain, suffering and death, are mere hallucinations of morbid intellects. Other theories there are, which, if not equally absurd, are probably equally remote from the truth; and each treats the persons as well as the opinions of the others with that virulent contumely which is the ever-present resort of him who would force upon his neighbor the acceptance of his own undemonstrable article of faith. Nevertheless, as before remarked, the fact remains that each of these systems effects some most wonderful results in the way of curing certain diseases.

What is true of the phenomena embraced under the general head of mental therapeutics is also true of the whole range of psychological phenomena; namely, the want of a working hypothesis which shall apply to all the facts that have been observed and authenticated.

No successful attempt has heretofore been made to supply this want; nor has success been possible until within a very recent period, for the simple reason that previous to the discovery of certain facts in psychological science, the scientific world was without the necessary data from which a correct hypothesis could be formulated. The researches of Professor Liébault in the domain of hypnotism, seconded by those of his pupil, Professor Bernheim, have resulted in discoveries which throw a flood of light upon the whole field of psychological investigation. Their field of observation being confined to hypnotism, and chiefly to its employment as a therapeutic agent, it is not probable that either of those eminent scientists realized the transcendent importance of their principal discovery, or perceived that it is applicable to psychological phenomena outside the domain of their special studies. The discovery is this: that hypnotic subjects are constantly amenable to the power of suggestion; that suggestion is the all-potent factor in the production of all hypnotic phenomena. This proposition has been demonstrated to be true beyond the possibility of a reasonable doubt. In subsequent chapters of this book it will be shown that this fact supplies the missing link in the chain of propositions necessary for a complete working hypothesis for the subject under consideration.

The general propositions applicable to all phases of psychological phenomena are here only briefly stated, leaving the minor, or subsidiary, propositions necessary for the elucidation of particular classes and sub-classes of phenomena to be stated under their appropriate heads.

The first proposition relates to the dual character of man's mental organization. That is to say, man has, or appears to have, two minds, each endowed with separate and distinct attributes and powers; each capable, under certain conditions, of independent action. It should be clearly understood at the outset that for the purpose of arriving at a correct conclusion it is a matter of indifference whether we consider that man is endowed with two distinct minds, or that his one mind possesses certain attributes and powers under some conditions, and certain other attributes and powers under other conditions. It is sufficient to know that everything happens just as though he were endowed with a dual mental organization.

Under the rules of correct reasoning, therefore, I have a right to assume that MAN HAS TWO MINDS; and the assumption is so stated, in its broadest terms, as the first proposition of my hypothesis. For convenience I shall designate the one as the objective mind, and the other as the subjective mind. These terms will be more fully explained at the proper time.


The third, or subsidiary, proposition is, that THE SUBJECTIVE MIND IS INCAPABLE OF INDUCTIVE REASONING.

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Thomson Jay Hudson Biography