Joan of Arc - Maid of Heaven

The Maid of France
Being The Story Of The Life And Death of Jeanne d'Arc (Joan Of Arc)


ABOUT the visions and Voices we learn nothing when we are told that they " were an illusion of her heart." That phrase adds nothing to knowledge.1

On this topic I had written a long chapter, but came to recognise that my psychical lore and my inferences might seem as prolix and futile as the "celestial science" of the Doctors in Jeanne's own day. Nobody now asserts that her psychical experiences were feigned by her ; nobody denies that she had the experiences ; nobody ascribes them, like the learned of Paris University, to " Satan, Belial, and Behemoth."

The most recent scientific utterance on the psychology of Jeanne dArc is that of Dr. Georges Dumas, Professor in the Sorbonne, an eminent neuropathologist. Practically, and in the right scientific spirit, Dr. Dumas shrinks from the task of "a posthumous diagnosis." If the visions and Voices always appeared at one side (which, we have seen was not the case, the light was often all round), then Charcot would have regarded Jeanne as hysterical, and subject to " unilateral hallucinations." But it is not known that she was hysterical, or suffered from hdmianesttesie (absence of sensation on one side).

Moreover, "contemporary neurologists attach less importance than Charcot did to unilateral hallucinations in the diagnosis of hysteria."

1 France, vol. i. p. Ixv. 327

DAulon repeated in 1456 the remarks of some women, who did not know/ by observation, that the Maid was subject to the periodical infirmity of her sex. 1 If she was not, she had " an insufficient physical development found among many nervous patients." But Quicherat regarded the evidence as valueless : and shows that there is just as good testimony to prove that Jeanne was exempt from other necessities of nature. 2 She had " un art merveilleux et en mime temps une force inouie de pudeur" Thus there is no proof of inadequate physical development in a girl of unexampled physical strength and endurance.

Her visions and Voices, says Dr. Dumas, arose in her "un- conscious thought" (pensee obscure), and were often at variance with her "conscious thought" (pensie claire). Her experiences seemed objective, certain, and this "makes us think again of hysteria." But it is needless to say that hallucinations occurring once or twice in a lifetime, are by no means uncommon in the experiences of people perfectly free from hysteria. 3

These hallucinations, I can aver from three experiences, are not to be distinguished, except by later evidence,--say, to the actual absence of the person apparently seen,--from normal perceptions.

Dr. Dumas ends : " If hysteria had any part in Jeanne, it was only by way of permitting her unconscious thought ('les senti- ments les plus secrets de son cceur ') to become objective in the form of heavenly Voices and visions ; it was only the open gate by which the divine--or what she conceived to be the divine-- entered into her life, fortified her faith, and consecrated her mission. But as regards her intelligence, and her will, Jeanne remained sane and upright. Nervous pathology can scarcely throw a feeble glimmer of light on a part of this soul . . ."4

1 Proces, vol. iii. p. 219.
2 Apercus Nouveatcx, pp. 59, 60. Beaucroix, in Prods, vol. iii. p. 118.
3 William James, Principles of Psychology, vol. ii. pp. 114-131.
4 Dumas in Anatole France, vol. ii. pp. 459-465.

In these conclusions I entirely agree with Dr. Dumas. He has been unable to discover evidence for nervous disturbances in Jeanne (at least he only states the hypothesis of hysteria as conditional), and he admits the chief point, that her normal will, and her normal intelligence, were thoroughly sane and straight. Her visions and Voices were (in modern phrase) " automatisms," expressions by which were made manifest to her the monitions of her unconscious thought. Any one interested in this obscure problem may study a modern case, that of Helene Smith, as observed by Professor Flournoy of Geneva, in his book, Des Indes a la Planete Mars. Helene saw no Saints, but an imaginary "control" named Leopold, who gave her advice, usually good, though conveyed in an eccentric way. She believed in the objective existence of Leopold. She exhibited "dissociation"-- was more or less distraught and unconscious of her actual surroundings--when Leopold appeared; differing on this point from Jeanne dArc. Her experiences followed on trances into which she fell at spiritualistic stances, not attended by Jeanne !

But what do we mean by " unconscious thinking " ? To answer this question appears to me, for the present, to be beyond the power of psychological science. We may, if we choose, study the treatise of Mr. F. W. H. Myers, Human Personality, and make what we can of his theory of the " Subliminal Self." With Mr. Myers it is, in certain of its aspects, all-conscious mind, in itself free from conditions of space and time ; and with that Self the human agent is occasionally in touch more or less imperfect. The results are among others, moments of " telepathy," " precogni- tion," and " clairvoyance."

Of these faculties, in Jeanne's case, Quicherat, a free-thinker, chose three examples : her knowledge of the King's secret ; her foreknowledge of the arrow wound, not mortal, at Orleans ; her discovery of the buried sword at Fierbois. These, he says, " rest on bases of evidence so solid, that we cannot reject them without rejecting the very foundation of the history."l "I have no conclusion to draw," he says. " Whether science can find her account in the facts or not, the visions must be admitted, and the strange spiritual perceptions that issued from the visions These peculiarities in the life of Jeanne seem to pass beyond the circle of human power." x

1 A permits Nouveaux, pp. 61-66.

At this point Mr. Myers takes up the subject, produces an immense mass of modern (evidence to prove that such faculties are within the circle of/ human powers, and presents, what Quicherat does not offer, a theory of their origin in the " Subliminal Self." In his first volume Mr. Myers regards Jeanne's monitions as arising from her " unaided " subliminal self. In his second volume he classes her as an ecstatic, and, in his definition of ecstasy, admits the intervention of extraneous spirits. Here he is at one with Chanoine Dunand, in his vast volume, Les Voir et les Visions de Jeanne d'Arc. Mr. Myers, unhappily, did not live to give the final revision to his Human Personality, and was not minutely familiar with the history of the Maid.

Here, then, I leave the matter, not from lack of interest in it, but because to discuss it is impossible in an historical treatise. My own bias is obvious enough. I incline to think that in a sense not easily defined, Jeanne was "inspired," and I am convinced that she was a person of the highest genius, of the noblest character. Without her genius and her character, her glimpses of hidden things (supposing them to have occurred) would have been of no avail in the great task of redeeming France. Another might have heard Voices offering the monitions; but no other could have displayed her dauntless courage and gift of encourage- ment ; her sweetness of soul ; and her marvellous and victorious tenacity of will.

1 Aperfus Nouveaux, p. 46.


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