In my view, art is a psychic phenomenon, and the artist is a medium. Painting, for example, we can think of as a form of materialization. I have a feeling, an image, an idea; art is how I materialize my inner reality. How I make it public. Art translates the intangible and the invisible into something we can touch and see. To do this I need paint and canvas to materialize my idea or vision.
But I want to ask a strange question. What about the possibility of materializing the vision straight from the imagination? That would be something entirely different, a new type of artistic creativity. As it turns out, it is possible to make a case for materialization. There are mediums, saints, and yogis said to be able to perform such feats of metaphysical magic.
My favorite example is the story of the French medium, Martha Beraud (1886—1922), known in the annals of psychical research as Eva C. This painting is based on a photograph of Eva in which she materialized the little figure perched on her shoulder. The painting means to celebrate an extraordinary event. A woman goes into a special state of mind and her mental images become temporarily visible. And it becomes possible to photograph the effect.
I offer the painting as an icon of the impossible, a reminder that more things are possible in nature than we normally might suppose. For anybody interested in the psychical dimension of art, the story of Eva C. is of great interest. Eva’s career for four years was supported morally and financially by a highly artistic lady, Mme Bisson and her family.
During the same four years, Albert Schrenck Notzing also studied Eva, performing numerous experiments, and taking precautions against any conceivable deception of the medium’s part. The book by this researcher is called Phenomena of Materialization.(1920)
Eva C., unlike many mediums, had one supernormal ability. She was exceptional in her materialization talent. Oddly, what she materialized tended to look like a painting or sculptured relief. It was as though Eva was struggling to express the artist in herself. In fact, we can think of her talent for materializing her fantasies as a new art form.
A typical experiment would begin by Eva removing all her clothing and Mme Bisson making sure the medium was not concealing anything she might use to deceive the experimenters. Schrenck Notzing was quite fanatical and insensitive about making sure he was not tricked by Eva. Never once was she caught doing anything suspicious. Eva had the uncanny talent of materializing the images and feelings of her mind in the physical space around her body.
It only happened when she was in an altered state of consciousness. A white substance, a kind of plasma, mobile and elastic, would emerge from some part of her body. It would then assume a recognizable human form, sometimes only half-formed, as though the artist had only half-finished her painting.
Four years of tightly controlled experiments resulted in numerous photographs, ocular proof of materialization. The strange and neglected story of Eva C. is one of many reminders of the uncanny creative powers that may be waiting to be called forth from our hidden selves.
In a recent post, I wrote about mind bending metal. Now we seem to be talking about something a notch higher on the weirdness scale—not just bending matter out of shape—but creating matter apparently out of nothing. It may be a difficult lesson to learn. The more we peer into the depths of human nature, the more we see a whole spectrum of uncanny human abilities. Art is one way to approach the hidden powers within us.