The Mystery of Materialization
It’s a philosophical virtue--knowing what you don’t know. The opposite vice would be to passionately believe in your own BS. A perfect example would be the QAnon crowd. Capitalist advertising would be another example, diametrically opposed to philosophical wonder.
Einstein wrote how the mysteries of nature inspired his theoretical imagination. Something that is truly mysterious excites the imagination, but also stimulates the intellect. I don’t at all mind admitting I don’t know something. There are times when we need to call attention to a mystery. For example, it’s a mystery why there’s anything at all rather than nothing. Perhaps the greatest mystery is also the most obvious: our consciousness, that radically irreducible fact that constitutes our very existence. It’s a complete mystery to science.
Now, if our common human consciousness is a mystery to scientists, there are other mysteries associated with altered states of consciousness. For example, the altered state we call ecstasy is associated with phenomena like precognition, levitation, and instantaneous healing. These are all matters that point to powers and abilities that currently transcend the grasp of mainstream science.
Consider the story of Martha Beraud, a young French physical medium closely studied by scientists in the early 20th century. Martha in the literature goes by Eva C.; her strange gift was a form of materialization. She was able to produce from her body a substance known as ectoplasm. This had plastic properties in which images, mostly of faces, would crystallize out of the initially amorphous ectoplasm. The faces and figures would remain visible and clear long enough to be photographed by the experimenters. The images would then dematerialize and disappear back into the body of the medium.
Her leading investigators , Mme Bisson, the medium’s sponsor and the physician and scientist, Baron Von Schrenck Notzing, and many other witnesses, were in total control of the experiments with Eva C. They were careful to rule out the possibility of fraud. So careful were they, the medium had to get out of her clothes into a special costume without pockets or room for any trickery; she also, before every experiment, had to submit to a probing body search, including all her orifices.
The experiments took place in the Baron’s private laboratory. Bisson and the Baron worked with this medium for four years. The experiments consisted of Eva C. getting into an altered state of consciousness, sometimes with the assistance of a hypnotist. On average the medium produced tangible, visible substance from some part of her body, often her mouth, about fifty percent of the actual experiments. It was not a mechanical process; but more like the creative inspiration of the artist than a guaranteed chemical interaction. And, as Schrenck Notzing observed, Eva had the temperamental traits of the artist in spades. In fact, Mme Bisson, was an artist herself, and saw the artist in Eva’s psychical temperament, which was emotionally suggestible and imaginative.
The psychologist Gustave Gely experimented with Eva C., and writes in italics to emphasize that these “representations have grown under my own eyes from the beginning to the end of the phenomena.” He gives an example from his notes: “From Eva’s mouth a band of white substance about two fingers breadth slowly descends to her knees. This ribbon takes varied form under our eyes: it spreads as a large, perforated, membranous tissue, with local swellings and vacant spaces; gathers itself together and retracts repeatedly.” He then describes how at first pseudo-pods emerge that turn into fingers and whole hands. He notes how he feels a skull and hair. Sometimes forms only partially materialize, and then they vanish. So here we have a fantastic phenomenon that many critically-minded witnessed for years. And we have hundreds of photographs of the phenomenon.
These photos are evidence of a completely mystifying phenomenon. But they are also works of art, and in a category curiously unique. They are portraits of a woman in the torturous act of creating a miracle, creating out of her own body a new body. The attached painting is one of a series I’ve done of Eva C.’s photographs, which strike me as images of the creative process. My painting is a materialization of Eva’s materialization, and paint is my ectoplasm. All this is part of my exploration of the link between painting and the paranormal.