Originally published by Ives Washburn, New York, 1944; Published in Great Britain by Neville Spearman Ltd., 1968; Reprinted in the United States by Angriff Press, Los Angeles, 1973
(C)1994 Brotherhood of Life, Inc., 110 Dartmouth, SE, Albuquerque, New Mexico 87106 USA
New Typeset Edition - First printing, 1994, Reprinted 1996
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IT WAS during a period when he was most busily occupied with his experiments with high-frequency and high-potential currents, from 1892 to 1894, that Tesla had found time to give serious thought to yet another type of problem, matter and energy; and from it he derived what he described as a new physical principle. This he developed to the point at which he was able to propound a new dynamic theory of gravity.
While this principle guided much of his thinking, he did not make any announcements concerning it until close to the end of his life. Such disclosures as have been made, however, leave this much obvious: Tesla considered his theory wholly inconsistent with the theory of relativity, and with the modern theory concerning the structure of the atom and the mutual interconversion of matter and energy. Tesla continuously attacked the validity of Einstein's work; and until two or three years before his death, he ridiculed the belief that energy could be obtained from matter.
These antagonisms were most unfortunate, as they placed Tesla in conXict with modern experimental physics. This was totally unnecessary, for Tesla could undoubtedly have adhered to his principle and interpreted it so that it was not inconsistent with the modern theories. The antagonism was probably attributable to psychological factors rather than scientiWc inconsistencies.
The only statement Tesla has made concerning his principle and his theory is that contained in the lecture he prepared for delivery before the Institute of Immigrant Welfare (May 12, 1938). In this he stated:
During the succeeding two years [1893 and 1894] of intense concentration I was fortunate enough to make two far reaching discoveries. The Wrst was a dynamic theory of gravity, which I have worked out in all details and hope to give to the world very soon. It explains the causes of this force and the motions of heavenly bodies under its inXuence so satisfactorily that it will put an end to idle speculation and false conceptions, as that of curved space. . . .
Only the existence of a Weld of force can account for the motions of the bodies as observed, and its assumption dispenses with space curvature. All literature on this subject is futile and destined to oblivion. So are all attempts to explain the workings of the universe without recognizing the existence of the ether and the indispensable function it plays in the phenomena.
My second discovery was of a physical truth of the greatest importance. As I have searched the entire scientiWc records in more than a half dozen languages for a long time without Wnding the least anticipation, I consider myself the original discoverer of this truth, which can be expressed by the statement: There is no energy in matter other than that received from the environment.
On my 79th birthday I made a brief reference to it, but its meaning and signiWcance have become clearer to me since then. It applies rigorously to molecules and atoms as well as to the largest heavenly bodies, and to all matter in the universe in any phase of its existence from its very formation to its ultimate disintegration
Tesla's mind was inXexible in the matter of his attitude toward relativity and the modern theories. Had he published his principle and theory of gravity at the beginning of the century it would, without doubt, have then received very serious consideration and perhaps general acceptance, although it is diYcult to make an intelligent surmise without knowledge of his postulates. If published, it might have had some inXuence on Einstein's thinking. The Weld of force which Tesla mentions as being necessary to explain the movements of the planets might have been his contribution to eliminating the need for the ether which was accomplished by Einstein's theory. The two theories might have been merged, in which case there probably would have resulted a harmonious development of the thinking of the two geniuses.
In this latter case Tesla could very well have shaped his thinking to see a consistency between his theory that there is no energy in matter other than that received from its environment, and the modern viewpoint that all matter consists of energy into which it is convertible; for when matter is converted to energy, the energy returns to the environment from whence it came when the particles were formed.
There appears to be a frustration involved in Tesla's attitude which could have been resolved by early publication of his theory. If this had taken place, Tesla's powerful intellect and his strange ability to solve problems would have been brought to bear on the problems of atomic physics and he, in turn, would have received tremendous beneWts from the application of the newer knowledge in the Welds in which he was supreme.
Tesla's ability to generate tremendously high voltages would have been of great assistance in the task of ``smashing the atom.'' Other scientists, even today, are struggling to produce currents with a potential of 5,000,000 volts, whereas Tesla, forty years ago, had generated potentials of 135,000,000 volts.
The inconsistency between Tesla's principle and the picture of the atom consisting of a small complex nucleus surrounded by planetary electrons--which inconsistency was more existent in Tesla's mind than in Nature--caused him to develop an antagonism to all scientiWc developments which called for a picture that diVered from the billiard-ball type of atom in vogue in the eighteen-eighties. To him, a smashed atom was like a smashed billiard ball.
The electron, however, had a real existence to Tesla. He accepted it as a kind of sub-atom, a fourth state of matter, as described by Sir William Crookes, who discovered it. Tesla visualized it as associated with but not a part of the atom. The electric charge it carried was entirely distinct from the electron. Electricity, to him, was a Xuid much more highly attenuated than any known form of matter, and with highly speciWc properties of its own for which it was not dependent upon matter. The charge on the electron was due to a surface layer of electricity covering it, and it could receive many layers, giving it multiple charges, all of which could be dissipated. These statements were similar to those which he had published a half-century before.
According to the modern theory, on the other hand, the electrical nature of the electron, described as its charge, is a characteristic inherent in the nature of the energy crystallized about a point which gives the electron its existence, and the electron is one of the particles, or units of energy, of which the atom is composed.
In discussing articles by scientists in the Weld of atomic physics, Tesla would register his protests that their theories were untenable and the claims unfounded; and he was particularly emphatic when experiments in which energy emissions from atoms were recorded.
``Atomic power is an illusion,'' he frequently declared. He furnished several written statements in which he said that with his currents of several million volts he had, countless times, smashed uncounted billions of atoms--and he knew that no emission of energy accompanied the process.
On one occasion Tesla took me to task rather severely for my failure to publish his statements. I replied: ``I withheld them in order to protect your reputation. You are making too great a virtue of consistency. It is not necessary that you adhere to the theories you held as a youth, and I am convinced that deep down in your heart you hold newer theories that are in harmony with scientiWc developments in other Welds, but because you have disagreed with, and attacked some modern theories, you feel you must be consistent and attack them all. I am convinced that in the development of your death-ray device your thinking was along the lines of the modern theory of the structure of the atom and the nature of matter and energy.''
Tesla thereupon let me know in no uncertain terms that he held very deWnite ideas concerning eVorts on the part of others to do his thinking for him. This conversation took place about 1935; and I did not hear from him for many months. I observed, however, that in his later conversations he was much less dogmatic concerning modern theories, and a few years later he stated that he was planning an apparatus which would make possible a deWnite testing of the modern theory of atomic structure, with the expectation that his new power system and energy beam would release atomic energy more eVectively than any device then in use by physicists.
Having endorsed, Wnally, the belief that man will be able to smash, transmute, create or destroy atoms, and control vast amounts of energy, he waxed poetic on the subject. He extended man's control over atoms and energy to a cosmic scale, and saw him shaping the universe according to our desires. In an unpublished article, entitled ``Man's Greatest Achievement,'' he wrote:
There manifests itself in the fully developed being--Man--a desire mysterious, inscrutable and irresistible: to imitate nature, to create, to work himself the wonders he perceives. Inspired to this task he searches, discovers and invents, designs and constructs, and covers with monuments of beauty, grandeur and awe, the star of his birth. He descends into the bowels of the globe to bring forth its hidden treasures and to unlock its immense imprisoned energies for his use. He invades the dark depths of the ocean and the azure regions of the sky. He peers into the innermost nooks and recesses of molecular structure and lays bare to his gaze worlds inWnitely remote. He subdues and puts to his service the Werce, devastating spark of Prometheus, the titanic forces of the waterfall, the wind and the tide. He tames the thundering bolt of Jove and annihilates time and space. He makes the great Sun itself his obedient toiling slave. Such is his power and might that the heavens reverberate and the whole earth trembles by the mere sound of his voice.
What has the future in store for this strange being, born of a breath, of perishable tissue, yet immortal, with his powers fearful and divine? What magic will be wrought by him in the end? What is to be his greatest deed, his crowning achievement?
Long ago he recognized that all perceptible matter comes from a primary substance, or a tenuity beyond conception, Wlling all space, the Akasa or luminiferous ether, which is acted upon by the life-giving Prana or creative force, calling into existence, in never ending cycles, all things and phenomena. The primary substance, thrown into inWnitesimal whirls of prodigious velocity, becomes gross matter; the force subsiding, the motion ceases and matter disappears, reverting to the primary substance.
Can Man control this grandest, most awe-inspiring of all processes in nature? Can he harness her inexhaustible energies to perform all their functions at his bidding, more still cause them to operate simply by the force of his will?
If he could do this, he would have powers almost unlimited and supernatural. At his command, with but a slight eVort on his part, old worlds would disappear and new ones of his planning would spring into being. He could Wx, solidify and preserve the ethereal shapes of his imagining, the Xeeting visions of his dreams. He could express all the creations of his mind on any scale, in forms concrete and imperishable. He could alter the size of this planet, control its seasons, guide it along any path he might choose through the depths of the Universe. He could cause planets to collide and produce his suns and stars, his heat and light. He could originate and develop life in all its inWnite forms.
To create and to annihilate material substance, cause it to aggregate in forms according to his desire, would be the supreme manifestation of the power of Man's mind, his most complete triumph over the physical world, his crowning achievement, which would place him beside his Creator, make him fulWll his ultimate destiny.
Tesla, in his eighties, was still manifesting the superman complex, and on even more elaborate a scale than when in his twenties. In his earlier dreams his visions were terrestrial, but in later life they were extended to embrace the entire universe.
Even on the cosmic scale, however, Tesla spoke in terms of matter and energy. These two entities, according to his reasoning, were suYcient to explain all observed phenomena, a situation which militated against the discovery of any new agencies.
The civilizations of the ancient world knew nothing of electricity and magnetism; the controlled manifestations of these two phases of a single force-entity have provided us with a new civilization and a new cultural outlook on life, as well as broadened horizons within the life sphere. There is no reason why we should not look forward to the discovery of new forces which are as diVerent from electricity as electricity is from the winds of the air and the waves of the ocean. If inadequate explanations of vital phenomena are accepted as satisfactory, embracing extravagant extensions of known forces, the way is closed to the discovery of unknown forces and the opening of any new realms of knowledge. This was the limitation which the science of the last quarter of the past century placed upon itself; and Tesla's philosophy was a product of that period. It was diYcult for him to reshape it in his later years.
The memory departments of most individuals' brains are like oYce Wling systems, an excellent dumping ground for everything that comes along--but try to Wnd a Wled item later. Tesla's powers of memorizing were prodigious. A quick reading of a page gave him a permanent record of it; he could always recall before his eyes a photographic record of it to be read, and could study at his convenience. Study, for Tesla, was a far diVerent process than for the average person. He had no need for a reference library; he could consult in his mind any page of any textbook he had read, any formula, equation, or item in a table of logarithms, and it would Xash before his eyes. He could recite scores of books, complete from memory. The saving in time which this made possible in research work was tremendous.
This strange faculty of vision was supernormal but entirely natural and was due, probably, to a structural characteristic in his brain which provided a direct channel between the memory and the visual areas of his cerebral hemispheres. It provided him with a very useful new sense.
The human brain is made up of two sections, the right and left sides, each of which, in some of its phases, is a complete brain; and both halves function together as a single unit. There are many layers in the brain parallel with its surface, each connected to the others by complex nerve Wbers, like threads sewing together the layers of an onion. The outer layer seems to be directly associated with our consciousness. The surface is divided into specialized areas, There is a band across the mid-section of each hemisphere from ear to ear over the top of the brain, devoted to the senses, and here are separate areas for the sensory faculties--sight, hearing, taste, smell--while near by are regions for the motor or muscular activities of the various parts of the body. The back lobe of the brain appears to be the home of the memory and the front lobe of some higher faculties of integration, the nature of which we do not as yet understand.
In normal processes of seeing, the eye forms a picture of an object on the retina, a screen on the back of the eyeball. The retina is supplied with thousands of nerve endings all packed together like stalks of asparagus in a bunch. The tip ends are provided with photosensitive processes, and when light strikes any one of them it transmits over the optic nerve a signal to the brain which is recorded as a visual response in the sight area of each half of the brain. By cooperation of all the nerve endings, the complete picture seen is transmitted. The actual seeing, then, is done in the brain and not in the eye. When an object is seen by the brain, a record of that visual experience is transmitted from the sight area of the brain to the memory center in the back part of the brain; and similar records are sent by all other sensory centers. Ordinarily this is a one-way process, the stimuli going in the direction of the memory and nothing coming back to the sensory area. If this were not so, our sense areas of the brain would be continuously reenacting old experiences and mixing them with the new, incoming experiences, causing annoying confusion.
The memory area contains a complete record of all sensory experiences we have had. In our thinking processes we use some little-understood mechanism for connecting together items stored in the memory area to produce useful combinations or relationships, or, in other words, new ideas. The memory appears to function on a subconscious level but we seem to be able to activate Wbers that reach down to the desired strata at the right point to connect the memory level with the consciousness level. In this way we can recall experiences, but this experience of memory is far diVerent from the original experience of sight out of which the original memory record was made.
If, however, in this process of recollection, the nerve Wber linking the sight area of the brain and the memory area were to be activated, then we would see again by the sharp processes of vision the object which caused the memory record we are trying to recollect.
The act of creative thinking seems to consist of assembling two or more memory records of sensory experiences into a combination which possesses entirely new characteristics that were not apparent in the component parts. If the nerve linkage just referred to were to operate in a two-way process with the visual area, then we would be able to see the new creation as if it were a really existing object seen by the eye, although the whole operation was limited to the brain.
This process is hypothetically the one which took place in Tesla's brain and gave him tremendously greater powers of creative work than are possible to the ordinary individual. Was this conceivably a new in-vention made by Mother Nature and tried out by her on Tesla?
Tesla himself never understood the neurological, or physiological, processes underlying this strange faculty. To him it was an absolutely real experience to see in front of him as solid objects the subjects of his creative thoughts. He believed that the image of the thing he saw was sent back from the brain along the optic nerve to the eye, and that it existed as a picture on the retina where, by some suitable means, it could be seen by others--or that by means of adequate amplifying devices, such as are used in television, it could be projected on a screen. He even proposed such devices. (The apparent Xaw in his reasoning followed on his mistake in thinking that he was doing this supernormal seeing with his eye, whereas the process was conWned to his brain; and the reXex action from the memory centers stopped at the visual centers instead of, as he believed, being continued forward through the optical nerve to the retina.)
Tesla described his experience with this strange faculty in an interview with M. K. Wisehart, published under the title ``Making Your Imagination Work for You'' in the American Magazine, April, 1921. He stated:
During my boyhood I had suVered from a peculiar aZiction due to the appearance of images, which were often accompanied by strong Xashes of light. When a word was spoken, the image of the object designated would present itself so vividly to my vision that I could not tell whether what I saw was real or not. . . . Even though I reached out and passed my hand through it, the image would remain Wxed in space.
In trying to free myself from these tormenting appearances, I tried to concentrate my thoughts on some peaceful, quieting scene I had witnessed. This would give me momentary relief; but when I had done it two or three times the remedy would begin to lose its force. Then I began to take mental excursions beyond the small world of my actual knowledge. Day and night, in imagination, I went on journeys--saw new places, cities, countries, and all the time I tried hard to make these imaginary things very sharp and clear in my mind. I imagined myself living in countries I had never seen, and I made imaginary friends, who were very dear to me and really seemed alive.
This I did constantly until I was seventeen, when my thoughts turned seriously to invention. Then, to my delight, I found I could visualize with the greatest facility. I needed no models, drawings, or experiments. I could picture them all in my mind. . . .
By that faculty of visualizing, which I learned in my boyish eVorts to rid myself of annoying images, I have evolved what is, I believe, a new method of materializing inventive ideas and conceptions. It is a method which may be of great usefulness to any imaginative man, whether he is an inventor, businessman or artist.
Some people, the moment they have a device to construct or any piece of work to perform, rush at it without adequate preparation, and immediately become engrossed in details, instead of the central idea. They may get results, but they sacriWce quality.
Here, in brief, is my own method: After experiencing a desire to invent a particular thing, I may go on for months or years with the idea in the back of my head. Whenever I feel like it, I roam around in my imagination and think about the problem without any deliberate concentration. This is a period of incubation.
Then follows a period of direct eVort. I choose carefully the possible solutions of the problem. I am considering, and gradually center my mind on a narrowed Weld of investigation. Now, when I am deliberately thinking of the problem in its speciWc features, I may begin to feel that I am going to get the solution. And the wonderful thing is, that if I do feel this way, then I know I have really solved the problem and shall get what I am after.
The feeling is as convincing to me as though I already had solved it. I have come to the conclusion that at this stage the actual solution is in my mind subconsciously, though it may be a long time before I am aware of it consciously.
Before I put a sketch on paper, the whole idea is worked out mentally. In my mind I change the construction, make improvements, and even operate the device. Without ever having drawn a sketch I can give the measurements of all parts to workmen, and when completed all these parts will Wt, just as certainly as though I had made the actual drawings. It is immaterial to me whether I run my machine in my mind or test it in my shop.
The inventions I have conceived in this way have always worked. In thirty years there has not been a single exception. My Wrst electric motor, the vacuum tube wireless light, my turbine engine and many other devices have all been developed in exactly this way.
That Tesla believed his mental visualizations brought images from his brain to the back of his eye is indicated by some statements he made in his famous lecture before the National Electric Light Association convention at St. Louis, in March, 1893, when announcing his discovery of radio. These statements about vision had no relationship to the subject of the lecture, and the fact that he interjected them indicated that his experiences with this strange power had a powerful inXuence on his inventive thinking. He said:
It can be taken as a fact, which the theory of the action of the eye implies, that for each external impression, that is for each image produced on the retina, the ends of the visual nerves, concerned in the conveyance of the impressions to the mind, must be under a peculiar stress or in a vibratory state. It now does not seem improbable that, when by the power of thought an image is evoked, a distinct reXex action, no matter how weak, is exerted upon certain ends of the visual nerves, and therefore upon the retina. Will it ever be within human power to analyze the condition of the retina, when disturbed by thought or reXex action, by the help of some optical or other means of such sensitiveness that a clear idea of its state might be obtained? If this were possible, then the problem of reading one's thoughts with precision, like the characters of an open book, might be much easier to solve than many problems belonging to the domain of positive physical science, in the solution of which many, if not the majority, of scientiWc men implicitly believe.
Helmholtz has shown that the fundi of the eye are themselves luminous, and he was able to see in total darkness the movements of his arm by the light of his own eyes. This is one of the most remarkable experiments recorded in the history of science, and probably only a few men could satisfactorily repeat it, for it is very likely that the luminosity of the eyes is associated with uncommon activity of the brain and great imaginative power. It is Xuorescence of brain action, as it were.
Another fact having a bearing on this subject, which has probably been noted by many, since it is stated in popular expressions, but which I cannot recollect to have found chronicled as a positive result of observation is that, at times, when a sudden idea or image presents itself to the intellect, there is a painful sensation of luminosity produced in the eye observed even in broad daylight.
Forty years later Tesla was still interested in the possibility of capturing a photographic record of thoughts. He stated in interviews that if his theory were correct--that thoughts are recorded on the retina--it should be possible to photograph what is revealed on this screen in the eye, and project enlarged images of it.
There is nothing illogical about Tesla's reasoning concerning his strange faculty of visualizing and the possibility of Wnding a corresponding image on the retina. There is a bare possibility that in an extreme case, as was his, a reXex arc may have extended from the brain to the retina; but the probability that it did not is stronger. If he had possessed the ability to take others into his conWdence in his experiments, he would have been able to stage some simple tests in the laboratory of an ophthalmologist which would have given him some deWnite experimental evidence to support or dispose of his theories, as far as photographic thought images were concerned.
About 1920 tesla had prepared, although he never published, an announcement of what he declared was ``An Astounding Discovery.'' It involved factors which he called ``cosmic''; but it likewise presented situations which the practicers of voodoo in Haiti, and other intellectually unveneered portions of the human race, would receive with perfect understanding. Since Tesla, one of the most highly civilized individuals, could evolve this conception, it is probable that other supercultured individuals or groups could Wnd it in harmony with their ideas and experiences.
It involves, however, a situation in which the soulless ``matter and energy'' automaton (to which status we have seen Tesla relegate human beings) is able to judge ethical values, and, like a pontiV presiding over a court of morals, inXict punishment for transgressions.
Here is Tesla's description of his ``astounding discovery'':
While I have failed to obtain any evidence in support of the contentions of psychologists and spiritualists, I have proved to my complete satisfaction the automatism of life, not only through continuous observation of individual actions, but even more conclusively, through certain generalizations. These amount to a discovery which I consider of the greatest moment to human society and on which I shall brieXy dwell.
I got the Wrst inkling of this astounding truth when I was still a very young man, but for many years I interpreted what I noted simply as coincidences. Namely, whenever either myself or a person to whom I was attached, or a cause to which I was devoted, was hurt by others in a particular way, which might be best popularly characterized as the most unfair imaginable, I experienced a singular and undeWnable pain which, for want of a better term, I have qualiWed as ``cosmic,'' and shortly thereafter, and invariably, those who have inXicted it came to grief. After many such cases I conWded this to a number of friends, who had the opportunity to convince themselves of the truth of the theory which I have gradually formulated and which may be stated in the following words.
Our bodies are of similar construction and exposed to the same external inXuences. This results in likeness of response and concordance of the general activities on which all our social and other rules and laws are based. We are automata entirely controlled by the forces of the medium, being tossed about like corks on the surface of the water, but mistaking the resultant of the impulses from the outside for free will.
The movements and other actions we perform are always life-preservative and though seemingly quite independent from one another, we are connected by invisible links. So long as the organism is in perfect order it responds accurately to the agents that prompt it, but the moment there is some derangement in any individual, his self-preservative power is impaired.
Everybody understands, of course, that if one becomes deaf, has his eyesight weakened, or his limbs injured, the chances for his continued existence are lessened. But this is also true, and perhaps more so, of certain defects in the brain which deprive the automaton, more or less, of that vital quality and cause it to rush into destruction.
A very sensitive and observant being, with his highly developed mechanism all intact, and acting with precision in obedience to the changing conditions of the environment, is endowed with a transcending mechanical sense, enabling him to evade perils too subtle to be directly perceived. When he comes in contact with others whose controlling organs are radically faulty, the sense asserts itself and he feels the ``cosmic'' pain.
The truth of this has been borne out in hundreds of instances and I am inviting other students of nature to devote attention to this subject, believing that, through combined and systematic eVort, results of incalculable value to the world will be attained.
Tesla's uncommunicative nature concerning his own intimate experiences has undoubtedly deprived the world of many interesting stories. He was unquestionably an abnormal individual, and of a type that does have what are known as ``psychic experiences.'' He was emphatic in his denial that he ever had experiences of that sort; yet he has related incidents that clearly belong in the psychic category. He seemed to be fearful that an admission of psychic experiences would cause him to be misunderstood as supporting spiritualism, or theories that something operates in life other than matter and energy.
Whenever he was asked for his philosophy of life, he would elaborate a theory that the human body is a meat machine which responds to external forces.
One evening in New York, as Tesla and the author sat in the lobby of the Hotel Governor Clinton, the inventor discussed his meat-machine theory. It was a materialistic philosophy typical of the Victorian era. We are, he held, composed of only those things which are identiWed in the test tube and weighed in the balance. We have only those properties which we receive from the atoms of which our bodies are constructed. Our experiences, which we call life, are a complex mixture of the responses of our component atoms to the external forces of our environment.
Such a philosophy has the virtue of simplicity and brevity of presentation; and it lends itself readily to being propounded with a positiveness that reacts on the propounder, and transforms his attitude into one of dogmatism in which emphatically expressed opinion is often confused with and substituted for factual evidence.
``I don't believe a word of your theory,'' I replied to Tesla's exposition, ``and, thank God, I am convinced you don't believe a word of it either. The strongest proof I have that your theory is totally inadequate is that Tesla exists. Under your theory we could not have a Tesla. Tesla possesses a creative mind and, in his accomplishments, stands high above all other men. If your theory were correct, we would either all be geniuses like Tesla or we would all be mental mediocrities living in these meat machines you describe, all responding in the same way to the uniform, inanimate and uncreative external forces.''
``But we are all meat machines,'' replied Tesla, ``and it happens that I am a much more sensitive machine than other people and I receive impressions to which they are inert, and I can both understand and interpret these impressions. I am simply a Wner automaton than others,'' he insisted.
``This diVerence, which you admit between yourself and others, Dr. Tesla, completely disproves your theory, from my viewpoint,'' I responded. ``Your sensitiveness would be a purely random incident. In the integration of this randomness, with respect to all individuals, all of us would probably once, possibly very much more frequently, rise to the height of manifesting genius as you have done all your life. Even though the strokes of genius would manifest intermittently, all such individuals would receive the permanent rating as geniuses. Genius does not manifest, even intermittently, in all of us, so your meat-machine theory appears, to me, untenable, If you were really frank with me, you would tell me of many experiences you have had, strange experiences, that you could not explain, that do not Wt into your meat-machine theory, and which you have been afraid to discuss with anyone for fear they would misunderstand you and perhaps ridicule you. I, however, will not Wnd these experiences strange and beyond understanding, and one of these days you will open up and tell me about them.''
As happened whenever I disagreed with him, after that evening I did not see Tesla for a while. In due time, however, I had a great many telephone conversations with him. Our discussion seemed to have brought about a change in his attitude toward me; and the next time I saw him he conWded, ``Mr. O'Neill, you understand me better than anyone else in the world.'' I mention this to indicate the correctness of my belief that there was another Tesla hidden within that synthetic individual, the superman, which Tesla sought to pass oV on the public as his real self.
I did not, at this time, know about Tesla's ``astounding discovery,'' or of some of his experiences about which I later learned. Had I known of these, my discussion with him could have been more speciWc.
ALTHOUGH Tesla thoroughly disbelieved in psychical phenomena, as previously indicated, he had many experiences which belong in this category; and he neither discredited nor disavowed their reality. Such paradoxes were common in all matters concerning him.
Tesla, for example, completely rejected telepathy as a phase of psychical phenomena, but he was Wrmly convinced that mind could communicate directly with mind. When asked about his belief in telepathy by a newspaper reporter in the early nineties, Tesla replied: ``What is usually taken as evidence of the existence of telepathy is mere coincidence. But the working of the human mind through observation and reason interests and amazes me. And then he added the paradoxical statement: ``Suppose I make up my mind to murder you. In an instant you would know it. Now, isn't that wonderful enough? By what process does the mind get at all this?''
Reduced to its simplest terms, this interview states: Psychical telepathy does not exist as a reality; but the transmission of thought from mind directly to mind is a wonderful phenomenon, worthy of scientiWc study.
The paradox here is due to the fact that, at the period in which Tesla was speaking, all psychical phenomena were supposed to be mediated by the intervention of spirits, or souls of the departed. Such a theory had no place in Tesla's philosophy, since he did not believe in immortality and felt that he could explain all phenomena in terms of matter and energy; and the spirit was supposed to lie beyond both of these categories. Thinking, however, was, according to Tesla's theories, something which resulted from the interaction of matter and energy in the brain; and as this process probably produced waves in the ether, there was no reason why the waves sent out by one mind should not be received by another, with resulting transfer of thought.
Tesla would not discuss anything bordering on psychical experiences outside the circle of his relatives, however. On one occasion, though, he probably saved the lives of three of his friends through a premonition; and he related the incident to his nephew, Sava N. Kosanovich, who thus retells it:
``I heard from Tesla that he had premonitions. He explained his in a mechanical way, saying he was a sensitive receiver that registers any disturbance. He declared that each man is like an automaton which reacts to external impressions.
``He told me of one instance in which he had held a big party here in New York for some of his friends who planned to take a certain train for Philadelphia. He felt a powerful urge not to let the friends depart as planned and forcibly detained them so that they missed the train on which they had planned to travel. This train met with an accident in which there were a large number of casualties. This happened sometime in the 90's.
``When his sister Angelina was ill, and died, he sent a telegram in which he said: ``I had a vision that Angelina was arising and disappearing. I sensed all is not well.''
Tesla himself tells a most remarkable story of two supernormal events, in an unpublished manuscript. It records a situation in which, owing to overwork, his strange phenomenon of visualization disappeared, or died, and was reborn. In coming back, it grew up quickly by repeating the visualization of events of earliest childhood and successively re-enacting later events, until it brought him to the actual moment and capped the climax by then presenting a visualization of an event that had not yet taken place.
The story of this experience, as told by Tesla:
I will tell of an extraordinary experience which may be of interest to students of psychology. I had produced a striking phenomenon with my grounded transmitter and was endeavoring to ascertain its true signiWcance in relation to the currents propagated through the earth. It seemed a hopeless undertaking and for more than a year I worked unremittingly but in vain. This profound study so entirely absorbed me that I became forgetful of everything else, even of my undermined health. At last, as I was on the point of breaking down, nature applied the preservative, inducing lethal sleep.
Regaining my senses, I realized with consternation that I was unable to visualize scenes from my life except those of infancy, the very Wrst ones that had entered my consciousness. Curiously enough, these appeared before my vision with startling distinctness and aVorded me welcome relief. Night after night, when retiring, I would think of them and more and more of my previous existence was revealed. The image of my mother was always the principal Wgure in the spectacle that slowly unfolded, and a consuming desire to see her again gradually took possession of me.
This feeling grew so strong that I resolved to drop all work and satisfy my longing. But I found it too hard to break away from the laboratory and several months elapsed during which I succeeded in reviving all the impressions of my past life up to the spring of 1892.
In the next picture that came out of the mist of oblivion, I saw myself at the Hotel de la Paix in Paris just coming to from one of my peculiar sleeping spells caused by prolonged exertion of the brain. Imagine the pain and distress I felt when it Xashed upon my mind that a dispatch was handed to me at that very moment bearing the sad news that my mother was dying.
It was especially remarkable that all during this period of partially obliterated memory I was fully alive to everything touching on the subject of my research. I could recall the smallest details and the least insigniWcant observations in my experiments and even recite pages of texts and complex mathematical formulæ.
This was a prevision of the event which took place immediately after his Paris lecture, as described in an earlier chapter, in which he rushed home in time to see his mother just before she died.
The second incident also concerns the death of his mother, and is told in another connection in the same manuscript. He states:
For many years I have endeavored to solve the enigma of death and watched eagerly for every kind of spiritual indication. But only once in the course of my existence have I had an experience which, momentarily, impressed me as supernatural. It was at the time of my mother's death.
I had become completely exhausted by pain and long vigilance and one night was carried to a building about two blocks from our home. As I lay helpless there, I thought that if my mother died while I was away from her bedside she would surely give me a sign.
Two or three months before I was in London in company with my late friend, Sir William Crookes, when spiritualism was discussed and I was under full sway of these thoughts. I might not have paid attention to other men but was susceptible to his arguments as it was his epochal work on radiant matter, which I had read as a student, that made me embrace the electrical career.
I reXected that the conditions for a look into the beyond were most favorable, for my mother was a woman of genius and particularly excelling in the powers of intuition. During the whole night every Wber of my brain was strained in expectancy, but nothing happened until early in the morning when I fell into a sleep or perhaps a swoon, and saw a cloud carrying angelic Wgures of marvelous beauty, one of whom gazed upon me lovingly and gradually assumed the features of my mother. The apparition slowly Xoated across the room and vanished and I was awakened by an indescribably sweet song of many voices. In that instant a certitude, which no words can express, came upon me that my mother had just died. And that was true.
I was unable to understand the tremendous weight of the painful knowledge I received in advance and wrote a letter to Sir William Crookes while still under the domination of these impressions and in poor bodily health.
When I recovered I sought for a long time the external cause of this strange manifestation and to my great relief, I succeeded after many months of fruitless eVort. I had seen the painting of a celebrated artist, representing allegorically one of the seasons in the form of a cloud with a group of angels which seem to actually Xoat in the air, and this had struck me forcibly. It was exactly the same that appeared in my dream with the exception of my mother's likeness. The music came from the choir in the church nearby at the early mass of Easter morning, explaining everything satisfactorily in conformity to scientiWc facts.
This ``scientiWc'' explanation by Tesla is, of course, totally unscientiWc. It ignores the three principal facts: one, that he had what he identiWed at the time as a supernormal experience that brought with it a certitude that words could not describe; two, that this experience conveyed a revelation of his mother's death, which he understood as such; and, three, that the event took place at the exact time of her death. The mechanism by which the phenomenon was produced utilized the memories stored in Tesla's mind (of the painting, for example) as the vehicle by which the information could be presented to him in understandable, though symbolic, form. In addition, there was the premonition given several months previously as the climax of an extended phenomenon involving his mother.
Tesla's eVorts to explain away ``scientiWcally'' everything of a psychical or spiritual nature, and the inadequate explanations which were satisfactory to him for this purpose, are an indication of a conXict that was taking place within him in an eVort to reconcile the purely materialistic ``matter and energy'' superman, into which he fashioned himself, with the underlying individual into which was born a great capacity for manifesting a deep spiritual insight into life, but which he suppressed.
One of the strangest luncheon parties Tesla ever staged was that given by him to a prize Wghter, Fritzie Zivic. It was served in one of the private dining rooms of the Hotel New Yorker in 1940. Fritzie Zivic was scheduled to take part in a prize Wght at Madison Square Garden for the welterweight championship, and the luncheon was held at noon on the day of the battle.
Fritzie was one of six brothers, all of whom were either professional prize Wghters or wrestlers. They lived at Pittsburgh where their father conducted a beer saloon. They were all born in Pittsburgh, but were the sons of parents, natives of Yugoslavia, whose diYcult-to-pronounce Slavonic name was shortened to Zivic by the brothers for their professional activities.
Tesla had all six of the brothers as his guests. The only other guests were William L. Laurence, science writer of the New York Times, and the author.
Three very diVerent types of individuals were gathered around the table. The six Wghting brothers were all Wne physical specimens. They averaged medium height but their powerful, chunky bodies, deep chests and broad shoulders made them seem rather short. All were clear eyed, had clear complexions and clean-cut features, were conservatively dressed in sack suits, and wore white linen collars. The two newspapermen presented an appearance in strong contrast with the Wghters, and in contrast with all the others was Tesla. Laurence, with his great mop of jet black hair combed straight back, looked more like a musician.
Tesla was seated at the head of the table. At his right sat Fritzie and next to him ranged three of his brothers. Opposite them sat two other brothers and Mr. Laurence. The author sat at the far end of the table.
Tesla did not arrange one of his famous duck dinners for this occasion--he had other plans. As soon as the party was seated, Tesla stood up. The broad, stocky Fritzie looked like a pygmy by comparison. Tesla was attired in a light-weight, tight-Wtting, black, single-breasted sack suit which made him look more slender than usual. He had lost considerable weight in the preceding year, and this accentuated the sharp, bony contour which his face had taken on in his latter years. His face, of the ascetic type, now was crowned with thinning locks of silvery white hair. His long slender hands, delicately shaped, started to wave over the seated prize Wghter, who smiled up at the strange Wgure towering above him.
``I am ordering for you a nice thick beefsteak, two inches thick, so that you will have plenty of strength tonight to win the championship by a . . . ``
The Wghter had both hands up, trying to interrupt the gesticulating Wgure of the scientist.
``No,'' protested Fritzie, ``I am in training and I cannot eat a steak today.''
``You listen to me,'' shouted the insistent voice of Tesla, whose swinging arms and swaying body made him appear to be going through the antics of a cheer leader at a football game. ``I'll tell you how to train. You will train on beefsteak. I am going to get you a beefsteak two inches thick and dripping with blood so that you will be able to . . .''
The Wve brothers now joined Fritzie in his protest.
``He can't eat beefsteak today. He would lose the Wght, Dr. Tesla,'' they chorused.
``No, he won't lose the Wght,'' shot back Tesla. ``You must think of the heroes of our national Serbian poetry. They were redblooded men and mighty Wghters. You too must Wght for the glory of Serbia, and you need beefsteak dripping in blood to do it!''
Tesla had worked himself into a Wne frenzy and was waving his arms and punching his palms as if he were at the ringside at an exciting moment in the battle. His frenzy was lost on Fritzie and his brother pugilists. They were unmoved. Fritzie replied:
``I will win, Dr. Tesla. I will Wght for the glory of Yugoslavia and when the referee gives me the decision and I speak into the microphone I will also say I fought for Dr. Tesla--but no beefsteak today, Dr. Tesla, please.''
``All right, Fritzie, you can have whatever you want,'' Tesla agreed, ``but your brothers will have their beefsteak.''
``No, Dr. Tesla,'' replied the eldest brother, ``if Fritzie cannot have beefsteak neither will we. We will eat whatever he eats.''
Fritzie ordered scrambled eggs on toast, with bacon, and a glass of milk. The Wve brothers gave duplicate orders and the two newspapermen did likewise.
Tesla laughed heartily. ``So that is what you do your Wghting on today,'' he said between chuckles.
For himself, the blood-thirsty 83-year-old scientist ordered ``A dish of hot milk''; and on this diet he managed to summon a tremendous amount of energy during the meal which he directed toward urging Fritzie to give his opponent ``everything you've got'' and ``make it a knockout in the Wrst round.''
It was a strange dinner. Despite the greatly outnumbering pugilists with their hard set faces and chunky powerful bodies, the thin, bony faced, sharp featured, almost emaciated scientist with his sunken eyes, and his thin, silky silver hair, easily dominated the scene. Everyone was at ease despite the brothers' anticipation of Fritzie's impending battle and Tesla's enthusiasm. Yet, in spite of the fact that everyone was relaxed, there was an eerie kind of tenseness linking the peculiar assemblage. Once I became conscious of the situation, I watched developments with interest. I had experienced such conditions previously but never under such circumstances as these.
Mr. Laurence, of the Times, was seated at my right. He began to act a bit restless while only halfway through the meal. Several times he looked under the table. He in turn rubbed his ankle, his knee, his calf. He shifted his position. He rubbed his elbow and later his forearm. I managed to catch his eye.
``Anything bothering you, Bill?'' I asked, knowing full well what was happening.
``There is something strange going on here,'' he replied.
A couple of minutes later he again reached, and looked under the table.
``Feel anything?'' I asked.
``Yes,'' he replied, seemingly a bit worried. ``Something hot is touching me at diVerent spots. I can feel the heat but I can't see anything that is doing it. Do you feel it, too?'' he asked.
``Don't worry about it,'' I assured him. ``I know what it is, and will tell you all about it later. Just make as close observations as you can now.''
The phenomenon continued until the party broke up. On our way back to our oYces, I explained to Mr. Laurence.
``You have often laughed at me for my gullibility in accepting the reality of the so-called psychic experiences,'' I said. ``Now you have had one. As soon as that luncheon got well under way, after Dr. Tesla's Wery outburst had quieted down, I sensed a peculiar tenseness in the air around me. At times the atmosphere seemed webby to my face and hands, so I suspected something unusual might happen.
``That gathering was a perfect set-up for a psychic séance, and if it was held in the dark there is no telling what we might have observed. Here were six powerfully built men, closely in rapport with each other, all Wlled to the bursting point with vital energy waiting for an event that would release an emotional outburst. In addition, we had Dr. Tesla staging an emotional outburst the like of which he probably never before exhibited throughout his life. He was supercharged with a diVerent kind of vital energy. Just visualize Dr. Tesla as a medium acting as a co-ordinator, in some unknown way, to release these pent-up stores of vital energy which, again in an unknown manner, organized channels of conduction through which this energy was transferred from levels of high potential to levels of lower potential.
``In this case we were the levels of lower potential, for I had exactly the same experiences you had, with these energy-transfer channels in space making contact with various parts of my body and producing areas in which I, too, experienced a sensation of intense heat.
``You have read reports of séances in which the sitters reported that they experienced cool breezes. In these situations the action is the reverse of what we experienced, for in the séances energy was being drawn from the sitters to be organized by the so-called medium for the production of phenomena.
``Some kind of highly attenuated energy-bearing Xuid was, in our experience today, drawn from the bodies of the Wghters and fed into our bodies--and in the séances it is drawn from the bodies of the sitters and fed into that of the medium, or to a central collecting point. In a report which I have written on my séance observations, I have called this substance psynovial Xuid, which is merely a convenient abbreviation for new psychic Xuid.
``Now that you have had today's experience, you will understand why a few years ago I risked having Dr. Tesla Wguratively massacre me when I told him he was using his meat-machine philosophy of human life to cover up a lot of strange experiences he has had, and about which he was afraid to talk. . . .''
Another strange supernormal experience came to Tesla a few days
before he died, but he was probably totally unaware that the situation had any unusual aspects.
Early one morning he called his favorite messenger boy, Kerrigan, gave him a sealed envelope, and ordered him to deliver it as quickly as possible. It was addressed to ``Mr. Samuel Clemens, 35 South Fifth Ave., New York City.''
Kerrigan returned in a short time with the statement that he could not deliver the message because the address was incorrect. There is no such street as South Fifth Ave., the boy reported; and in the neighborhood of that number on Fifth Ave. no one by the name of Clemens could be located.
Tesla became annoyed. He told Kerrigan: ``Mr. Clemens is a very famous author who writes under the name Mark Twain, and you should have no trouble locating him at the address I gave you. He lives there.''
Kerrigan reported to the manager of his oYce and told him of his diYculty. The manager told him: ``Of course you couldn't Wnd South Fifth Avenue. Its name was changed to West Broadway years ago, and you won't be able to deliver a message to Mark Twain because he has been dead for twenty-Wve years.''
Armed with this information, Kerrigan returned to Tesla, and the reception accorded his announcements left him still further confused.
``Don't you dare to tell me that Mark Twain is dead,'' said Tesla. ``He was in my room, here, last night. He sat in that chair and talked to me for an hour. He is having Wnancial diYculties and needs my help. So you go right back to that address and deliver that envelope--and don't come back until you have done so.'' (The address to which he sent the messenger was that of Tesla's Wrst laboratory!)
Kerrigan returned to his oYce. The envelope, not too well sealed, was opened in the hope it would give some clue as to how the message could be delivered, The envelope contained a blank sheet of paper wrapped around twenty $5 bills! When Kerrigan tried to return the money, Tesla told him, with great annoyance, either to deliver the money or keep it.
The last two decades of Tesla's life were Wlled with many embarrassing situations concerning unpaid hotel bills, and it would seem that by some process of transference this situation was shifted to his perception of Mark Twain.
In view of Tesla's highly intensiWed abilities to see the subjects of his thoughts as materialized objects, the simpler theory would be that by his usual process he had summoned the vision of Mark Twain, Tesla and Mark Twain were very good friends, and the inventor had every reason for knowing that the heavy-thinking humorist was dead, Such being the case, how was he able to forget his death? An objective theory can be oVered which may, or may not, contain the correct explanation.
Tesla's memory was Wlled with many recollections of Mark Twain, dating back to his early youth when he credited the reading of one of the humorist's books with having brought him out of a critical illness. Twenty years later, when Tesla related this incident, the humorist was so deeply aVected he wept. A close friendship followed, Wlled with many pleasant incidents. Every incident concerning Mark Twain was laid down in Tesla's memory. How these records are Wled in the brain we do not know, but we might assume, for the moment, that the arrangement is orderly enough, with the system based on a time sequence in which each successive incident is Wled on an earlier one, the latest ones being on top. When Tesla started the process of visualizing Mark Twain in his room (and it probably operated on a subconscious level), he penetrated through the stack of memory records until he reached one that was satisfactory, and then concentrated so heavy a Xow of vital energy in carrying this to the visualization center of his brain that it burned out, and destroyed, or narcotized, all later memory records that lay above it. As a result, after the visualization process was over, there was no record in Tesla's memory Wles of anything that happened in his relations with Mark Twain, following the pleasant record he had so strangely relived. All subsequent memory records were wiped out, including his memory of Mark Twain's death. It would then be perfectly logical for him to reach the conclusion that Mark Twain was still alive!
Several versions of this story are in circulation. They all have in common Tesla's belief that Mark Twain was still alive; that he himself had very recently been in communication with him, and sought to send him money to meet a diYcult situation.
Pirated, lied about, ignored, (Dr. W. H. Eccles concludes an obituary memorial, in Nature (London), February 13, 1943:--``Throughout his long life of 85 years Tesla seldom directed attention to his own successes, never wrote up again his old work, and rarely claimed priority though continually pirated. Such reserve is particularly striking in a mind so rich in creative thought, so competent in practical achievement.'') Tesla carried on his work during the latter decades, always hoping that he would be able to arrange matters so that he would be able to Wnance all the inventions he was treasuring in his mind. His pride would not permit him to admit Wnancial embarrassment. He was forced frequently to leave hotels because of unpaid bills. His friend, B. A. Behrend, author of the book, The Induction Motor, which had clariWed Tesla's theory for engineers, when visiting New York and Wnding the inventor moved from the hotel where he last found him, in each instance paid his bills, and caused Tesla's held baggage to be forwarded to him.
In the early thirties, when it seemed as if Wnancial discouragements would ``have him down,'' Tesla, however, appeared as optimistic as ever. He declared: ``It is impossible for anyone to gain any idea of the inspiration I gain from my applied inventions which have become a matter of history, and of the force it supplies to urge me forward to greater achievements. I continually experience an inexpressible satisfaction from the knowledge that my polyphase system is used throughout the world to lighten the burdens of mankind and increase comfort and happiness, and that my wireless system, in all of its essential features, is employed to render a service to and bring pleasure to people in all parts of the earth.''
When his wireless-power system was mentioned, he exhibited no sign of resentment over the collapse of his project but replied philosophically: ``Perhaps I was a little premature. We can get along without it as long as my polyphase system continues to meet our needs. Just as soon as the need arises, however, I have the system ready to be used with complete success.''
On his eightieth birthday he was asked if he expected actually to construct and operate his recently announced inventions, and in reply he quoted, in German, a stanza from Goethe's Faust:The God that in my bosom lives Can move my deepest inmost soul, Power to all my thought he gives But outside he has no control.
It had been Tesla's intention to write his autobiography. He desired to have the story of his work recorded with a most meticulous regard for accuracy; and this, he felt, no one but himself could bring to it. He declared that he had no intention of starting work on this project until he had accomplished the application of all of his major discoveries. Several persons who proposed writing his biography received only a refusal of the requested co-operation. Kenneth Swezey, a writer on scientiWc subjects, maintained close contact with Tesla for a number of years, and it was expected that Tesla would co-operate with him in such a project. Swezey assembled seventy letters from leading scientists and engineers in all parts of the world as a surprise for Tesla on his seventy-Wfth birthday, at which time the letters, bound in a memorial volume, were presented to him. These letters, reprinted in Yugoslavia, led to the establishment of the Tesla Institute in that country. Swezey was engaged in war work and expected, at the time of Tesla's death, to enter the Navy; otherwise he might have undertaken the task of writing Tesla's biography. Tesla, even up to his eighty-fourth year, expected to recover more robust health and to live beyond the century mark. It is probable, therefore, that he had not started work on his autobiography. Whether or not any parts of it have been written is impossible to ascertain at the present time. All Tesla's records were sealed by the Custodian of Alien Property, although Tesla was a citizen of the United States.
During the last half-dozen years of his life, Tesla, happily, was supplied with enough money to meet his immediate needs, thanks to the payment to him of an honorarium of $7,200 a year, by the Yugoslav government, as patron of the Tesla Institute, established in Belgrade. (The Society for the Foundation of the Tesla Institute at Belgrade was organized as Tesla neared his eightieth year. It enlisted support from the scholars, the government, commercial interests and the people as a whole. From the government and private sources an endowment was subscribed which was adequate to erect and equip a research laboratory and maintain it in operation as an institute. The Institute was opened in 1936, in commemoration of Tesla's eightieth anniversary. A week of observance was held throughout Yugoslavia and formal celebrations were held at Belgrade on May 26, 27 and 28, at Zagreb on May 30, and at his native village, Smiljan, on June 2 and also on July 12.) Even with this income, however, and with a very limited range of activity (being conWned largely to his room), during the last two years Tesla still managed to fall behind in his hotel bill. This was owing to his unlimited generosity. He was very generous in bestowing tips on all who performed the slightest service for him, and in responding to the slightest suggestion that anyone was in need of assistance.
During the latter part of 1942 he spent most of the time in bed, mentally active but physically weak. He permitted no visitors to come to his room, not even close associates of earlier years. He insisted to hotel employees that he was not ill and refused to listen to questions that he have a doctor visit him. He gave orders that even hotel employees were not to enter his room unless he summoned them.
On January 5, Tuesday morning, he permitted the maid to come to his room, and then gave orders to guard his room closely so that he would not be disturbed. This was done. It was not unusual for Tesla to give orders that he was not to be disturbed for protracted periods. Early Friday morning (January 8) a maid with a premonition, risking his displeasure, entered Tesla's room and found him dead. He looked peaceful, as if resting, with a suggestion of a smile on his gaunt bony face. The superman died as he had lived--alone.
The police were notiWed that Tesla had died alone and without medical attendance. The coroner declared his death due to natural causes incident to senility; and that he had died on the night of Thursday, January 7, 1943, some hours before the maid entered the room. Operatives from the Federal Bureau of Investigation came and opened the safe in his room and took the papers it contained, to examine them for a reported important secret invention of possible use in the war. The body was removed to Campbell's Funeral Parlors at Madison Avenue and 81st Street.
Funeral services were held at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, on Tuesday, January 12, at 4 pm. Bishop Manning oVered the opening sentences of the Burial OYce and Final Prayer. Following the services, the body was removed to FerncliV Cemetery at Ardsley, N. Y., and was later cremated.