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The Nature of Mediumship by Lord Dowding

NOW I must devote a little space to an explanation of mediumship, or rather of some of its commonest forms.

The phenomena of mediumship fall into two broad classes: (a) where direct contact is made with the sense recording sections of the medium’s brain, those controlling sight, hearing and muscular reactions; and (b) where an artificial and temporary structure of tangible matter is built up from normally intangible ingredients, and communication is effected through that structure.

Under (a) are included seeing or clairvoyance, hearing or clairaudience, automatic writing, trance mediumship, etc., and under (b) materialisation, the direct voice, the levitation of inanimate objects, table-rapping, etc.

This list is in no sense comprehensive. There are many other manifestations of mediumship such as apports (transported matter), spirit photography, inspirational drawing and painting, the production of lights, sounds and perfumes perceptible by non-psychic sitters, and the malicious and destructive manifestations of degraded spirits known as poltergeists, but I cannot deal with all these in the space at my disposal. The point which I want to make is that the phenomena under (b) are the most impressive to the sceptic since they do not (apparently) depend upon the personality of the medium nor are they susceptible to influence by the medium’s mentality.

On the other hand these methods are (with the exception of the direct voice) not suitable for the methodical transmission of educational messages, the great bulk of which come through some of the methods mentioned under (a), and so are liable to be tinged by the medium’s mentality.

The direct voice is a comparatively rare phenomenon, and, when it does occur, complete darkness is usually necessary for its production. While, therefore, it is technically an admirable method for the transmission of educational material (being free from liability to contamination by the medium’s personality), it requires the services of an amanuensis who can keep an accurate record in total darkness.

Some of my own feeble efforts have convinced me how difficult that is. Exceptionally gifted and developed mediums can produce the direct voice in ordinary light, but these are very rare.

(This was written before the tape recorder became generally available).

There is, perhaps, on our part a tendency to overlook the difficulties in communication which exist on the other side. It is comparatively easy for recently departed souls to communicate with earth, since they are still on a wavelength close to ours. Hence the great preponderance of trifling or uninformed messages. But when people who really know the conditions which exist beyond the layers closest to earth wish to speak to us, they may have to “step their communications down” through one or more stages unless they can obtain access to an exceptionally highly developed medium on earth.

You may think that we have enough troubles of our own without worrying about the troubles of those who are trying to communicate with us, but the honest student of the subject will be impressed with the amount of inaccurate information which reaches us from the other side, and will wish to know as much as possible about the technique so as to be able to form a considered opinion on the validity of any particular message.

The slap-dash and lazy-minded student ignores all the difficulties, and attributes every error to dishonesty on the part of the medium—a grossly unfair attitude of mind.

Personally I regard mediums as a much abused class.

They have a great gift to offer to humanity, if humanity were only capable of recognising the fact. If they use their gifts to earn a livelihood they are called avaricious money-grubbers by censorious Pharisees who trade their own gifts for ten times the price. They are accused of fraud without evidence, and subjected to humiliating and sometimes hurtful restrictions by those whom they are trying to serve.

And yet they continue—Nevertheless, although the overwhelming majority of mediums are thoroughly honest and desire only to give selfless service, they are not always correct in what is transmitted through them—not by any means.

One of the difficulties in the study of the occult is that it is not what we should call an “exact science”. That is to say, its phenomena do not lend themselves to precise and tidy classification in accordance with simple rules which we can master with but slight mental effort. As soon as one commits oneself to a generalisation or to the crystallisation of a rule, a great obtrusive exception comes along to reprove our presumption.

There is a comfortable idea that every medium has a doorkeeper, a sort of intangible commissionaire, who vets the list of intending communicators, and chokes off imposters and other undesirables. This may be a general rule for all I know, but if so, it is a rule with many exceptions, or else the commissionaires are not a uniformly competent body of people.

It is no good blinking this fact or pretending that it does not exist. Absolute mental integrity and honesty is essential in these matters. If you are going deliberately to deceive yourself and to push inconvenient facts into the background, as a lazy housemaid sweeps the dust under the hearth rug, you may just as well go back and vegetate in one of the varieties of dogmatic Christianity from which I assume that you are trying to break free, or you wouldn’t be reading this book.

On page 124 of my book, Lychgate, I stated that at the time of writing, I had had about three dozen letters from relatives of men reported “killed” or “missing, believed killed” telling me that they had had messages through mediums to the effect that their sons or husbands were alive. There was an astonishing similarity in the wording of these messages; once I had started to read one I could almost finish it with my eyes shut.

“Your son is not here, they would say, “he is suffering from head-injuries and has lost his memory. He is being cared for by peasants (or fishermen or monks or whatnot) and he will return safe to you before the roses bloom.” Well, by now I have had another couple of dozen of these missives. Some of them may be true; I hope they are, though not one such case has been reported to me; some I know to be false because we happen ourselves to have made contact with the man concerned. Broadly speaking, I believe that they are all false.

Now remember that these messages do not come only from amateur and inexperienced mediums; some of them come through quite well-known people, the average accuracy of whose work is widely accepted.

They do a good deal of harm because, apart from the unnecessary pain which they cause by keeping alive the dying hope of the relatives, they are widely circulated in the first false flush of renewed hope and, when they prove to be false, they are on record as awful warnings against Spiritualism and are generally ascribed to “fraud” on the part of the medium.

Remember, too, that if I personally have come across about sixty of these messages, their total number probably reaches into thousands, and so the matter is not one that can be brushed aside as being of no importance.
In Lychgate I offered three possible reasons which might account for the facts: (a) The idea in the medium’s subconscious mind that if she could not contact the missing man it was an indication that he must still be on earth; (b) Some form of thought-transference from the mind of the sitter, desperately anxious that the boy must be alive; and (c) The action of irresponsible personating spirits.

You may perhaps wonder why a circle which believes itself to be in contact with wise and experienced entities should ever be in doubt on a matter of this sort. You might reasonably suppose that any such question had only to be formulated and an immediate answer would be forthcoming.

But that is not the way things happen, at any rate with us.

Things are not made too easy, we have to do the spade work, to ponder and read and reason, and then perhaps we get a little flash of illumination to light us on our way.

Such a hint was given to me in this connection. I was told that the confusion was not always due to “those mischievous ones” but sometimes to desperately lonely souls who will take any chance of making contact with earth where they may be received in a friendly atmosphere. Well, that makes a (d) to add to my (a), (b) and (c), but I don’t know that it exhausts the possibilities.

It did help me, however, in another case where a lady wrote to me from America saying that Leslie Howard had sent me a message in cipher (which she enclosed). I replied that Howard was a gentleman when alive and wouldn’t have been so uncivil as to send me a lot of gibberish and leave me to try to decipher it. I didn’t suppose that he had ceased to be a gentleman because he was dead. I asked her to challenge the communicator in accordance with St. John’s formula, “Try the spirits, etc., etc.” and see if she couldn’t help him to rise superior to such a disreputable occupation.

Some time later I heard that the communicator had survived this test (a point worthy of notice) but had betrayed himself in another way. The self-styled Leslie said that he would bring Raymond Lodge to speak, which he did with apparent success. Unfortunately, “Raymond” in the course of conversion evinced knowledge of something that was known only to “Leslie.” Tackled on this point, he broke down and confessed that he was an impostor. “I did it to make you like me,” he said.

Readers of Lychgate may remember the account on pp. 118 and 119 of the message from an entity claiming to be the first Duke of Wellington, but who had in fact been an Irish dock-labourer.

(I feel a little apologetic for thus referring to my own previous writings, but the alternative is to repeat a good deal of the subject matter of one book in another—a practice which always leaves me with a mild sense of grievance when it is adopted by another author).

I don’t want to over-emphasise this question of false messages and impersonating spirits. If I have stressed it at all unduly it is because other writers have sometimes omitted to deal with it altogether; and the result of this is that many inquirers, after a promising start, recoil from the whole subject when they strike one of these “snags.” As I have said before, discarnate communication is one of the most valuable methods by which we may attain to hidden truths. If there were some form of celestial censorship which would automatically prevent anything but universal truth from coming over the line, that would be very nice and convenient and would make everything very simple and easy. But there is no guarantee of any such censorship. One of the first truths to be discovered is that nothing should be taken as necessarily true just because it comes from spirit sources. That truth, if assimilated and digested, will form an invaluable starting point in your search for further truth.

“The Nature of Mediumship” is an extract from God’s Magic by Lord Dowding, published by White Crow Books.

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