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Sir William Barrett FRS - Proof of Supernormal Messages – Mrs. Holland's Scripts



Type of Spiritual Experience


Sir William Barrett FRS

Professor of Physics at the Royal College of Science for Dublin from 1873-1910 and one of the distinguished early psychical researchers. In fact, it was Barrett who first initiated the founding of both the American and British Society for Psychical Research.

A description of the experience

Proof of Supernormal Messages

- Sir William Barrett FRS -


Some of the most remarkable automatic scripts, - which have been discussed with critical acumen by the Research Officer of the S.P.R., - came to a lady of education and social position resident in India. This lady was not a spiritualist, and at the time had no acquaintance with the members of the Society for Psychical Research. As her family disliked the whole subject she prefers to be known under the pseudonym of "Mrs. Holland." Subsequently, on her return to England, she became personally known to and esteemed by many of the leaders and officials of the S.P.R. Her attention having been once casually drawn to the subject of automatic writing she tried the experiment and to her surprise found her hand, wrote both verse and prose without any volition on her part; the first messages were headed by the impromptu lines:

Believe in what thou canst not see,
Until the vision come to thee.

Mrs. Holland says she remains fully conscious during the writing, "but my hand moves so rapidly that I seldom know what I am writing." Her interest in the subject increased and she obtained and read Mr. Myers' monumental work Human Personality, which was published after Mr. Myers' death. Though she did not know the author, it was natural that much of her automatic script purported to be inspired by him. A careful study of the messages so inspired has compelled the belief that the spirit of Mr. Myers really did control some of these messages. Here for instance is a very characteristic communication purporting to come from Mr. Myers:

"To believe that the mere act of death enables a spirit to understand the whole mystery of death is as absurd as to imagine that the act of birth enables an infant to understand the whole mystery of life. I am still groping-surmising-conjecturing The experience is different for each one of us. . . One was here lately who could not believe he was dead; he accepted the new conditions as a certain stage in the treatment of his illness."

Then follows, not quite verbally correct, the first two lines of Mr. Myers' poem St. Paul - a poem which Mrs. Holland declares she had never read and of which she knew nothing whatever. Of course it is possible that she had somewhere seen these lines quoted, though she has no recollection of this. The automatic script is as follows:

"Yea, I am Christ's - and let the name suffice ye - E'en as for me He greatly bath sufficed.(1) If it were possible for the soul to die back into earth life again I should die from sheer yearning to reach you - to tell you all that we imagined is not half wonderful enough for the truth - that immortality, instead of being a beautiful dream, is the one, the only reality, the strong golden thread on which all the illusions of all the lives are strung. If I could only reach you - if I could only tell you - I long for power, and all that comes to me is an infinite yearning - an infinite pain. Does any of this reach you, reach anyone, or am I only wailing as the wind wails - wordless and unheeded?" - Proceedings S.P.R., Vol. XXI, P. 233.

(1) The actual lines in Mr. Myers' St. Paul are: Christ! I am Christ's! and let the name, suffice you, Ay, for me too He greatly hath sufficed."

On another occasion the Myers control wrote:

"It may be that those who die suddenly suffer no prolonged obscuration of consciousness, but for my own experience the unconsciousness was exceedingly prolonged."

And again,

"The reality is infinitely more wonderful than our most daring conjectures. Indeed, no conjecture is sufficiently daring."

The hypothesis that these messages are due to dramatic creations of Mrs. Holland's subliminal self becomes increasingly difficult to believe when we find other wholly different types of messages purporting to come from Mr. Ed. Gurney and the Hon. Roden Noel, who were also entirely unknown to Mrs. Holland. When they were on earth I knew these distinguished men personally, and was in frequent correspondence with each of them; hence from my own knowledge I can affirm that these communications are singularly characteristic of the respective and diverse temperaments of each.

But there was more than this, for not only was some very striking blank verse written, by the Roden Noel control, but mention is made of places and persons associated with Mr. Roden Noel that were unknown to Mrs. Holland. In fact the automatist did not know who was controlling her hand when it wrote:

"I was always a seeker, - until it seemed at times as if the quest was more to me than the prize, - only the attainments of my search were generally like rainbow gold, alway beyond and afar. . . I am not oppressed with the desire that animates some of us to share our knowledge or optimisms with you all before the time. The solution of the great Problem I could not give you - I am still very far away from it; the abiding knowledge of the inherent truth and beauty into which all the inevitable ugliness of existence finally resolve themselves will be yours in time."

Preceding this had come the following:

"This is for A.W., ask him what the date, May 26th, 1894, meant to him - to me - and to F.W.H. I do not think they will find it hard to recall, but, if so, let them ask Nora."

Here it is to be noted Mrs. Holland, who was in India, knew nothing of Dr. A. W. Verrall, whose name is suggested by the initials A.W., nor that Mrs. Sidgwick was called Nora (her Christian name being Eleanor) but the whole context eventually suggested to Miss Johnson (the Research Officer of the S.P.R.), to whom the script was sent, a message from Roden Noel, who was known both to Dr. Verrall, Mr. F. W. H. Myers, and Mrs. Sidgwick. Miss Johnson adds: "It was appropriate we should be told to ask Nora (Mrs. Sidgwick) if we could not find out for ourselves, since he (Roden Noel) was an intimate friend of Dr. Sidgwick." Now the date given was precisely that of the death of Roden Noel. Though Mrs. Holland thought she may have once seen some poems of Mr. Noel's, she knew nothing of him personally nor of the date of his death.

The fetish of subliminal or telepathic knowledge is here hard to invoke and becomes absurd when we find one of the earliest of Mrs. Holland's scripts, written in India and purporting to come from Mr. Myers, gives a minute and lengthy description of an elderly gentleman, which ends up as follows:

"It is like entrusting a message on which infinite importance depends to a sleeping person. Get a proof, - try for a proof if you feel this is a waste of time without. Send this to Mrs. Verrall, 5, Selwyn Gardens, Cambridge."

When this script was received by Miss Johnson she at once recognized the description as resembling Dr. Verrall, and Mrs. Verrall's address given was perfectly correct. Further, when the script was shown to Mrs. Verrall she said the whole description was remarkably good and characteristic of her husband, who was then living. Mrs. Verrall, who now alas! has also passed into the unseen, states that no portrait or description of her husband had ever been published, nor was her address given in "Human Personality," which, as stated, Mrs. Holland had read. On being questioned Mrs. Holland declared she had never seen, and had no conception of Mrs. Verrall's address. Of the good faith of Mrs. Holland there is no doubt whatever, and she herself was most anxious to find out whether any of her automatic writing came from her sub-conscious memory.

The source of the experience

Verrall, Margaret

Concepts, symbols and science items



Science Items

Activities and commonsteps



Automatic writing