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A More Comprehensive Look at Trance Medium, Leonora Piper

Posted on 18 July 2022, 7:18

In my 2013 book, Resurrecting Leonora Piper, I attempted to make a case for the spirit and survival hypothesis, i.e., that consciousness survives death in another realm of existence sometimes called the spirit world, by offering some of the best “hits” coming through the trance-mediumship of Leonora Piper, (below) while pretty much ignoring the “misses,” what Professor William James called the “bosh” material. I assumed that most readers would recognize that “her” hits went well beyond chance guessing, coincidence, or deception of some kind. As stated in the book’s introduction, I tried to approach it as a lawyer making a case for his or her client in a courtroom.  As I also mentioned, if I were to make a case for Babe Ruth being one of the greatest, if not the greatest, baseball player ever, I would focus on his game-winning hits, not his many strikeouts and other “outs.” The fact is that Ruth’s “misses” far outnumbered his hits, just as Piper’s did.


As I saw it then, the researchers were not offering their reports in layperson’s language and that was the primary reason their findings were not better known and appreciated.  Some of their paragraphs extended to two pages and their attempts to remain scientifically objective often obscured their reports. As a journalist of sorts, I saw a challenge in attempting to convert academic writing to something the layperson might better understand.

Dr. Alan Gauld, no doubt the dean of psychical research worldwide, then and now, and most likely the world’s foremost authority on Mrs. Piper’s mediumship, gave my book a mostly positive review in the Journal of the Society for Psychical Research. He pointed out that I was not trying to write a biography or a scientific treatise,  and, quoting my own words, said that the book “is simply an attempt to explain the dynamics of [Mrs. Piper’s] mediumship, including the difficulties associated with it, and to offer some of the best evidence for survival after death that came from it.”  But Gauld went on to conclude that I was too enthusiastic in endorsing the spirit and survival hypothesis and that I approached the issues from a position at or near that of a “whole-hearted Spiritualist.”

Two of Dr. Gauld’s earlier books were among the references in my book. Before the book was published, I exchanged several emails with him. The only thing I now recall from those references is that he saw the “controls” of Mrs. Piper (Phinuit, George Pellew, Imperator,  etc.) more likely as “secondary personalities” of the medium rather than as spirits of dead and said something to the effect that most researchers agree with that position.  I inferred from that, as well as from his books, that he was a fence-sitter relative to the survival hypothesis, even though a belief that the controls were secondary personalities does not necessarily mean the person has rejected the survivalist view.  I was not then (and am not now) qualified to debate with him, but I do recall noting in our exchanges that the four researchers who spent the most time with Mrs. Piper – Dr. Richard Hodgson, Sir Oliver Lodge, Frederic W. H. Myers, and Dr. James Hyslop – all appeared to accept both the spirit and survival hypotheses while also rejecting the secondary personality aspect of the medium’s control.    “…if you assume the control is a spirit, as is more evidently the case for all who have intelligently investigated the problem, you have another mind beside that of the medium with which to deal in the problem,” Hyslop wrote.

In his recently released book, The Heyday of Mental Mediumship: 1880s – 1930s, published by White Crow Books, Dr. Gauld offers a much more balanced account of the Piper mediumship than I did in my book.  He discusses many of Piper’s misses, and there is considerably more detail about several of the key cases, including many facts about some of the sitters with Mrs. Piper that I did not encounter in my research of her. He uses the actual names of the sitters rather than the pseudonyms used in the initial reports by the researchers and in my book.  However, saying that Gauld’s account is “more balanced” is not to suggest that he debunks Mrs. Piper.  In fact, she survives his analyses as a genuine medium and seemingly remains as renowned in the field of mediumship as Babe Ruth does in the baseball arena. 

One of the more interesting chapters of Gauld’s book has to do with Tom and Lilla Perry, referred to as Jim and Mary Howard in Hodgson’s initial reports and in my book.  George Pellew (G.P.), before his death in 1892, had been close friends with the Perrys.  Tom had been one of his instructors at Harvard and the two men formed a close bond. In fact, Pellew lived with the Perrys between 1880 and 1883 and apparently was very attached to Lilla, who, 11-years-older, seems to have been like a big sister to him. Indications are that Tom was well aware of the attachment and did not see it as a threat to his marriage. 

Gauld provides quite a bit of background information on the Perrys. Besides teaching English at Harvard, Tom tutored in French and German and “was reckoned the best-read man of his time.”  Lilla, the daughter of Dr. Samuel Cabot and a descendant of Benjamin Franklin, was an accomplished musician and linguist. She published several books on poetry and became a world-famous painter, regarded as a pioneer in bringing impressionist influences to the United States. 

Gauld adds to the mystery of Pellew’s death at age 32.  The first account I read many years ago was that he fell off a horse.  Then, a subsequent report had him falling down a flight of stairs at his apartment house early in the morning. A third report had him tripping over a step or two at the entry way to his Manhattan apartment. Gauld states that his body was found in evening dress, lying in the areaway of 70 West 35th Street in the early morning of February 18, 1892, indicating that he had fallen from the area steps, breaking his neck. However, his brother, Charles, is said have identified the body in front of a cigar store that was in fact a gambling establishment. The suspicion seems to be that his parents, very prominent in New York, tried to make his death a respectable one. Whatever the cause of death, a photo of Lilla Perry was found on Pellew’s body.

John Heard (given the pseudonym John Hart in the records), was a friend of both Pellew and the Perrys.  He sat with Piper on March 22, 1892, a little over a month after Pellew’s (below) death.  Phinuit, then Piper’s control, correctly identified Heard’s father and uncle by name (both named George) as well as the nickname of another uncle named Albert, then asked, “Who is Thom-s…Thomas…Tom?” Heard replied that he is Tom Perry, who is not dead.  Phinuit responded, “There is another George who wants to speak to you. How many Georges are there about you anyway?”


Heard placed the photo of Lilla Perry taken from Pellew’s body in Mrs. Piper’s hand.  Phinuit then spelled out “ILA, EILA, LILA, LILLA,” then PELLIN and PELLEW, before Pellew broke in, saying “I want to see her awfully.  Tell her I am not dead.” (It is not clear, but apparently Pellew spoke directly to Heard using Mrs. Piper’s voice mechanism, not finding it necessary to use Phinuit as a go-between.) Either Phinuit or Pellew spelled out TOM and THOMAS again and also asked about “Mucer” which was changed to “Mercer.” Pellew mentioned that he had lent a book to Mercer.
After some muddled messages, Pellew said, “I want to see Lilla – That’s where the music is. John, if that is you, speak to me! Tell Tom I want to see him. He will hardly believe me…I want him to know where I am – O good fellow!” 

Pellew went on to say that another friend, Howells, has a book of his and he wanted Lilla Perry to have it.  It was a book of poems by Pellew that he had given to Howells for publication.  “I want him to give it to Lilla. I will it to her. Sing. She’ll play for me. She’ll play…” (Lilla was a talented pianist.)  The demand was again made at subsequent sittings. 

A pair of studs was placed in Piper’s hand and Heard asked who gave them to him. Phinuit, replying for Pellew, said they were his and that he gave them to Heard. However, he corrected himself and said that his mother had given them to Heard, then, again corrected himself and said it was his father who gave them to Heard,.  He changed again and said it was his father and mother together that gave the studs to Heard as a keepsake.  It was determined that Pellew’s stepmother took the studs from Pellew’s body and his father had sent them to Heard as a keepsake.

Near the end of the sitting, Pellew said (again through Piper’s voice mechanism), “My love to Lilla. What’s Marguerite? Tell her: she’ll know. I will solve the problems, Margaret.”  Marguerite/Margaret (referred to as Katharine in the transcript) was the Perry’s eldest daughter with whom Pellew had had frequent talks about philosophical matters.  Upon hearing from Heard about the sitting, Tom Perry was much impressed and mentioned that Pellew had once told Margaret that he would “solve the problems” and let her know. After hearing from Heard of his experience with Mrs. Piper, Tom and Lilla arranged for a sitting with her. The first of many took place on April 11, 1892.

In that first sitting, Phinuit opened, but the French accent faded away as Pellew took over and spoke directly, at times writing through Piper’s hand. Pellew asked if Howells had given Lilla the book of poems yet.  Lilla replied that Pellew’s father and his brother, Charlie, did not want her to have it. “Strange they should say that,” Pellew said. “That is one of the things we can’t understand here.”

Pellew went on to mention friends Welling and Opdycke, adding that Opdycke was always very fond of him, “though he understood me least of all my friends.”  Gauld states that Hodgson confirmed all the references by Pellew to persons, incidents, characters, etc.  There is considerably more about the Perrys and Pellew reported by Gauld, much of it veridical, including a sitting in which Lilla brought a lamp to the sitting so that she could better take notes.  Pellew apparently recognized it as a lamp he had given Lilla as a gift.  In another sitting, Edith Perry, another daughter, was present when Pellew mentioned a book he had given to her in which he had written her name and also commented that she was weak in mathematics.  Both were confirmed as fact. 

Gauld states that it is clear “that both Perrys – not just the emotionally involved Lilla, but also Tom, whose mind-set had long been that of an eighteenth-century rationalist – were soon disposed to accept the identity of the G.P. communicator with the George they had known.”

Gauld, now 90, devotes about two-thirds of his 324-page book to the study of Mrs. Piper,  including, as stated above, many of her misses.  I was reminded of much and learned much.  I haven’t yet had the opportunity to read the last one-third of the book, but I look forward to it. It includes discussions of “Mrs. Smead,” “Mrs. Soule,” Gladys Osborne Leonard, and other credible mediums of the 1880-1930 period.

The impression I got from reading Dr. Gauld’s earlier books and reports was that he was securely perched on the fence, his more materialistic hand holding tight to that fence while he was looking partly yonder in the spiritualistic direction.  After reading what he has to say in this book, I now see him partly dismounted from the fence, one leg still hooked over it and the other leg touching down on the survivalist side while more enthusiastically looking yonder in the survivalist direction.  He concludes the book with a comment that he agrees with fellow researcher Stephen Braude that with some cases it “would be not just very difficult but perhaps (in some sense hard to define) illogical to reject the survivalist hypothesis out of hand or at least to fail to give it due consideration.”  He adds that a survivalist could justifiably ask an opponent, “What more do you want, what more can you sensibly ask for?”

Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife, and Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I.
His latest book, No One Really Dies: 25 Reasons to Believe in an Afterlife is published by White Crow books.

The Heyday of Mental Mediumship: 1880s – 1930s: Investigators, Mediums and Communicators by Alan Gauld is available from Amazon.

Next blog post:  August 1  


Well, I am impressed. I often wondered why I liked Paul by now it makes sense that he was great in marketing. I enjoyed your explanation and it makes sense. Your AJD connection and my Marcellus connection also makes sense. This quote is from First Spiritualist Church website:
We are very proud to say that Marcellus S. Ayer, founder of the First Spiritual Temple, was a dear friend of Andrew Jackson Davis ( The pieces of puzzles are not always seen until the pieces start to fit. If you want more details I am on Researchgate under cybersecurity.
Cybersecurity is like marketing as we use fear, greed and sex to exploit situations.
The shedding of layers which allow different aspects of personality to emerge fits nicely with the spirit communications. My own view is that there is a core set of personality traits which are overlayed by the incarnation on earth traits.

As we move to the afterlife the transient earth traits change to become of lesser importance.
I liked the moral specific gravity concept and AJD explained this well.

The concept of morals is important to all religions and often researchers in to the After Life had high morals taught by these religions.
I always liked Swedenborg and was invited in to The New Church as I could understand their teachings.

Bruce Williams, Mon 1 Aug, 01:28

According to my present imperfect understanding, there are at least two basic realities that apply here.

1.  Most of the time, most of us exist in a condition George Gurdjieff called “sleep,” Seth “ego bound.”  (Colin Wilson was well aware of this and wrote of it frequently.) 

Seth (in the first chapter of _Seth Speaks_): “Most of my readers are familiar with the term, ‘muscle bound.’ As a species you have grown ‘ego bound’ instead, held in a spiritual rigidity, with the intuitive portions of the self either denied or distorted beyond any recognition.”

2. A kind of reversal takes place some time after death. I’m not familiar with everything that has come to us through endless mediums and trance communicators on this topic, however imperfectly,  but if you read Seth’s take on this, other descriptions begin to make more sense.

See Session 242. in Book 6. of _The Early Sessions_. You can find parts of it by using the search engine at .

(Seth spoke through Jane Roberts from 1963 to her death in 1984—there is a huge amount of material. The relationship between Seth and Jane was not the same as the usual discarnate/medium relationship—her husband Rob was part of what was a threesome and both Jane and Rob were intimately connected with Seth, inwardly—the material would not exist without this relationship.  It doesn’t mean the material is the “final authority” on anything or that it is perfect—nothing of this nature can be—but it is one reason why the material is of such consistently high quality.)

Session 242. begins with:

“Now: As I have told you in the past, the individual does indeed survive physical death, but there is a reorganization of psychological elements that compose the personality. The personality, even as you know it, is never static, always changing, and even the ego is not the same from one day to the next.

The child’s ego is not the adult’s ego. As a rule you perceive the similarity, and overlook the differences of psychological patterns of this sort. The ego is not the most powerful or the most knowledgeable portion of the self. It is simply a well-specialized portion of the personality, well equipped to operate under certain circumstances.

When these circumstances no longer exist, then other layers of the self take over the dominant position, and the personality realigns its psychological components. The ego does not disappear, however. It merely takes a back seat in some respects, as your own subconscious does during physical existence.”

(The rest of the session includes material that is highly relevant to communication between the dead to the living.)

This is also relevant to the unexpected communication I mentioned in a previous comment that I received from Andrew Jackson Davis after first receiving: “You have an inner connection with Andrew Jackson Davis” not too long ago.

During odd moments I’ve been both reading Davis’ first autobiography, published in 1857 when he was only 31, and beginning to explore trance.

Background:  For some years, I’ve been experimenting with focusing on my two upper “chakras” in meditation, in an attempt to achieve results similar to those obtained by the methods Seth briefly mentioned in this statement (note that Seth never mentioned chakras, although he did refer to the locations on the body of the brow and crown chakras in an exercise for locating “coordination points”—a feature of physical reality remotely connected to things like “ley lines.” Jane only mentioned her “third eye” once, while in trance. Seth did speak briefly of the pineal gland.  Both the third eye and the pineal gland are associated with the “brow chakra,” located between and above our physical eyes):

“His message will be that of the individual in relation to All That Is. He will clearly state methods by which each individual can attain a state of intimate contact with his own entity; the entity to some extent being man’s mediator with All That Is.”  (From Session 586. in _Seth Speaks_.)

“He” is an incarnation of Saul of Tarsus—known to Christians as Saint Paul. Seth calls Tarsus the third personality of “the Christ Entity.”  The other two are Yeshua and John the Baptizer.

(Bruce has mentioned marketing recently. Tarsus is one of the most persuasive marketing guys in history, in my estimation.)

It would be great if Seth’s prediction came true and we could try out these methods; unfortunately, all of us are likely to be dead by the time the new version of Tarsus clearly states them.

This is why I’ve attempted to come up with my own improvised or homemade versions.  I’ve met with only limited success but my efforts, requiring persistence, have born interesting fruit—including the “message” concerning Davis and one brief initial communication with him.

(I’m just beginning to fathom my connection with Davis—this involves so called “past lives”—but I’m straying from the topic at hand.)

Davis didn’t become “The Poughkeepsie Seer” until he entered trance after being “mesmerized.” (Edgar Cayce didn’t become “The Sleeping Prophet” until after he’d entered a trance while hypnotized.)

Davis’ “clairvoyance” was associated with his brow or “third eye” chakra…

I suggest that speculating about the nature of the afterlife and how the thoughts and beliefs we hold when alive (actions being beliefs in motion) impact our experience in the afterlife is fairly useless so long as we are in an “ego bound” state.

It _seems_ to me that whether we are alive or no longer so, our thoughts and beliefs will enable a greater understanding, a less ego bound and more expansive condition, or not.  Those are the two possible directions.  (If our thoughts and beliefs lead to a continued and/or even more restricted ego bound state, we will be heading towards darkness, ignorance, etc.)

As experiences in expansive states suggest we are all connected, inwardly—not the entirely separate, delineated by our physical bodies, idea current in many places—“other” is really self, consistent with the concept of “All That Is” (as opposed to patriarchal anthropomorphic god concepts)—why mistreat an “other” when that other is really self? (Everyone and everything is, by definition, part of All That Is.)  Further, violating others, creating trauma, etc., strikes me as _not_ heading in the direction of a more expansive consciousness but in exactly the opposite direction.

We can’t operate here, in physical reality, without an “outer ego” or “outer personality”—we need this component of self; it is not something to attempt to eliminate, if that were possible.

Yet we are probably lost if collectively we don’t learn to rise above a severely restrictive ego bound consciousness even if only occasionally, for brief moments.

Bill Ingle, Sat 30 Jul, 18:42

Dear all,
Given my Spiritualist background, the concept of Summerland is based on Andrew Jackson Davis writings in 1845 (I know that Bill would be better in this area than I). It was the concept that in Death and the After Life p20 the “moral status determines your position and gravitation in the Summer-Land”. This ties in nicely with our discussions here. AJD gave eight lectures on the Summer-Land (Internet Archive has a copy).
“The Summer-Land is vastly more beautiful than the most beautiful landscape of earth”.
It was the equivalent of Heaven without Jesus. The Spiritualist Churches did divide on Christian theology. Marcellus Ayers First Spiritualist Church stayed Christian as the church was inspired by his conversation with an angel. This was a dividing point. His Church would not join the united Spiritualist Churches.
All these churches were created as a home for spiritual seekers.
There are various descriptions from NDEs of the lower levels but the point was that “moral darkness” was the problem and that this life should have effective moral choices.
I think we like our White Crow investigators to be of high moral standing. I suspect that this group is of that ilk (I will blame Eric for this choice of word).

Bruce Williams, Sat 30 Jul, 02:38

An on-topic (mostly) book recommendation…

Back in the mid to late 1970’s, a fellow named James Merrill (of the Merrill-Lynch Merrill’s) penned a series of three very long poems, mostly in blank verse. Those three poems were combined into one epic work, and published in 1980 as “The Changing Light at Sandover” with an expanded version published in 2006. A copy of that work has been sitting in my library for years (just gathering dust, as I’m not a particular fan of poetry).

For some reason, I picked it up and began delving into it several weeks ago. I should have done so sooner—although in the circumstances, it’s probably better that I had a chance to develop a bit of a knowledge base in our subject area here before doing so. From what I’ve seen so far (I’m only about a third of the way through it), if you’re a reader who’s not afraid of a long and particularly challenging read, you may find this of some significant value.

Merrill’s work is comprised of a long series of essentially autobiographically-based musings—intellectual, creative, or both. Those musings all relate to, and were stimulated by, a decades long set of ouija-board sittings which began in 1955. Those sittings resulted in a continuing stream of communications from a number of spirits, some notable, some anonymous. While some degree of allowance obviously has to be made for creative (poetic) license, it appears that much of this material consists of verbatim reports of the actual communications. While I still have many pages to go (it’s an over 600-page work) what I’ve read so far has provided some most interesting insights into the nature of the spirit-world—including a few that I hadn’t really seen before. I commend it to the attention of anyone interested…

Don Porteous, Fri 29 Jul, 16:24

Dear all,

Surely, the answer to Bill Ingle’s points of a couple of days ago is that there is a moral, or ethical, oversight of the whole of what is. If that All-Being were not perfectly ethical He/She would (speaking in time’s language about Eternity) have been eroded by His/Her own imperfection by now if it were not so. In other words the Great All Who contains all is Him/Herself a supremely ethical being, and quite rightly expects the conscious self-aware beings within His/Her Wholeness to have and exercise each his/her own moral sense, just as Don Porteous is repeatedly and rightly reminding us. Accordingly, and it is quite logical, as well as ethically right, for it to be so, we each find ourselves in that ‘world’ to which we have fitted ourselves, ethically, by behaving either well or not so well. Yahshua is recorded as having uttered a parable or two on this very theme, is he not? And other leaders of thought, in other traditions, have said similar things in support of good behaviour. After all, we even take the understanding of what is good or bad behaviour as more or less recognised by everyone, whether him/herself choose to be of good or bad character. The goodness/badness distinction is more or less axiomatic. Even thieves KNOW they are thieves. We must live by guiding ourselves, and choosing our actions, ethically, so that we arrive somewhere higher than Summerland.

Eric Franklin

Eric Franklin, Fri 29 Jul, 09:41

In my books I call ‘the summerland’ ‘the empire or realm of the rainbow’ (it is rather difficult to translate the dutch word ‘rijk’). It is mindblowing beautiful, made of light and illusive.
The way to get people so far to think about the afterlife, is to let them read fairy tailes , fables or parables. Didn’t Jesus used parables? Maybe that’s the best way to improve the morality of humanity. I suppose that is the reason that I got a ‘fable dream’ that led to the writing of my books.

Chris, Fri 29 Jul, 06:35


I didn’t mean to suggest that “moral specific gravity” was the “place” we go to after death, but the condition that determines the place.  And, yes, Summerland, seems to have been a good “place” to begin with, but I think it was mostly taken to be the third sphere, above the second (Shadowland) and below the fourth (no name that I recall).  Heaven was the name of the seventh sphere. Summerland is in the lower realms of what might be called Purgatory.

Sorry, I don’t know happened to Hodgson’s diaries. They may still be with the ASPR, which, I gather is pretty much closed, or not open to the public these days.

Michael Tymn, Fri 29 Jul, 06:10

Amos, I’ve never had an NDE, at least any that I can remember.  I do recall that at about age 4, before I learned how to swim, almost drowning as I stepped from a shallow point to a drop off to deeper water.  I bobbed up and down twice and I recall a serene feeling.  My father got to me as I was about to go down for the third time. But no OBE that I can recall.  I consider myself a “vicarious experiencer.”

Michael Tymn, Fri 29 Jul, 06:00

Many people who have had an NDE have that conviction you speak of.  They have moved beyond belief to knowing that an after life exists and no longer fear transitioning into it.  Perhaps conviction only comes through experience.

There is indeed a difference between belief and conviction. - AOD

Amos Oliver Doyle, Thu 28 Jul, 13:53

We cannot market Professor Hare’s “Moral Specific Gravity”. The spiritualist churches needed another term for Heaven. There were Christian spiritualist and non-Christian churches, so marketing came up with Summerland. (I was pleased to see this term so widely mentioned - the names sells itself).
After Life is a bit flat as a benefit sell. I like the term progression. You do good here and they like that in the After Life. Progressionville?

While I have the attention of so many learned people, does anyone know where they stored the Dr Richard Hodgson diaries. He did have secretarial support. William James would have taken possession and my thinking are that they reside with his papers.

I was looking for enlightenment from Imperator to Richard regarding the Light used for communication.

MSG (Moral Specific Gravity) is not easy to market. Hare today, dead tomorrow no not working.
Ticket sales to Summerland available on website. One way tickets only at this stage. Summerland - you only need a smile.

Bruce Williams, Thu 28 Jul, 10:39

Newton, I agree with you, but the problem, as I see it, is that “belief” is not enough. The bar must be raised to “conviction.”  There is a big difference between belief and conviction. I believe that all crop circles are not man made, but I am not concerned about it enough to dig into it and move from belief to conviction. 

Once a person has the conviction, he or she (I refuse to say “they” as the new English dictates)can move on to the nature of the afterlife, although conviction might not come until the person can be convinced that the afterlife is not all angels with harps singing praise to God 24-7 for eternity. Also, I prefer Professor Hare’s “Moral Specific Gravity” as the term to describe our initial place in the afterlife environment.

Michael Tymn, Wed 27 Jul, 21:43


Your point is spot-on…And is the most fundamental underlying reason why I ultimately decided to go ahead and publish my book. Of all of the input that we’ve received from the wide range of commentators from the spirit-world, the one point that probably has the most unanimous agreement is that our place on the other side will not be determined by any type of “judgment”—but will be strictly a matter of “cause and effect” with our allocation to a “summerland” or a “hell-hole” or anything in-between being the result of nothing more than the nature of our behavior here on earth. Like-begets-like (call it karma if you wish)—and the more those whose behavior is detrimental to the welfare of us all could be made aware of the effect their behavior will have upon their own “future” welfare—perhaps we might begin to see at least some small amount of change. Human nature being what it is though, I wouldn’t bet the farm on it…

Don Porteous, Wed 27 Jul, 17:00

Newton:  “I propose that believing in an afterlife is not the critical thing but rather what this afterlife will entail, especially with regard to how it will be impacted by how we live THIS life.”

Newton:  I’m a bit puzzled by this. How do you imagine how the afterlife “will be impacted by how we live THIS life?”

If you believe in an afterlife then the usual, contemporary beliefs of who and what we are cannot be accurate.  We must be non-physical beings, temporarily physically embodied; this calls into question contemporary beliefs regarding the nature of physical reality, as well. (This view is not the same as, say, ancient Egyptian or medieval Catholic views, either.)

Rephrasing my question:  How would our actions, while temporarily physically embodied, effect us once we cease to be physically embodied?

I happen to believe in the value of exploring the nature of self as a non-physical being temporarily physically embodied, with related and nearly endless implications.  I don’t believe holding this belief makes me complacent.

Bill Ingle, Wed 27 Jul, 14:39

I think I agree with you.  The reason we are all here is to live this life, not to dreamily sit at the window wishing we were ‘home’ in another realm.  Life here and now is an opportunity to experience relationships, beauty, emotions and creativity; to incorporate those things into our being, our soul, We are given the gift of time to learn and to grow; a time to help others to do that too.

A return to the simple things in life, to the old teachings may not be the worst thing that we could do.  Dr. Keith Parsons produced a very unassuming video which is one of my favorites called “This Life, This Life” about The Golden Rule. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”  It is as simple as that!  It doesn’t require a lot of thinking, teaching or conjecturing.  Just be kind to others and all living things. Maybe just following that philosophy will get one where one eventually wants to go.  - AOD

Amos Oliver Doyle, Wed 27 Jul, 13:40

Dear Newton,

Your latest comment describes very well precisely the ethical responsibility we have to the Great All-Being that is almost never addressed in any of our comments - which is precisely WHY it has to become our foremost concern if we are ever to rise spiritually rather than remain at the level (as I once put it) of Geley’s wet and smelly dogs.

Eric Franklin

Eric Franklin, Wed 27 Jul, 09:33

I propose that believing in an afterlife is not the critical thing but rather what this afterlife will entail, especially with regard to how it will be impacted by how we live THIS life. A free ticket to Summerland may be consoling, but it won’t do much IMHO for elevating ourselves or our societies. It might even make us more complacent. Perhaps we should be focusing more on traditional religious teachings like the Sermon on the Mount, or on the profound life changes brought about, almost compelled some would say, by NDEs.

Newton Finn, Tue 26 Jul, 17:10


So many books; so little time.

(Have you read Gary Lachman’s _Beyond the Robot:  The Life and Work of Colin Wilson? I believe it’s the only biography of Wilson. Lachman once played the bass for Blondie, which was once a “garage band.” I’d forgotten _The Psychic Detectives_—read it in 1990.)

You ask: “...what is needed now for After Life?” in a marketing context—in other words, what would be required to convince people to believe in an after life?

Probably nothing.  Per a 2017 survey, most Americans already believe in an after life (similar situations likely exist in many other countries).

Of course there’s a difference between what ordinary people taking surveys may believe and what people in official positions of all kinds say they believe.

(I must focus on business again. I’ll try to get back to this later.)

Bill Ingle, Tue 26 Jul, 14:57

Crossing the Chasm was our government’s textbook for understanding high growth companies. Regis McKenna (the author) was ex Apple marketing. I was advising our high technology companies of how to cross the chasms in New Product development. I dealt with product evangelists (still do). This was the same term as the marketing of religion, hence my thinking today. Satisfy the spiritual needs and wants of people.
As you point out cults spring up and grow exponentially. Bands tap in to (hidden) needs and wants and become successful.
So back to Mrs Piper. The need was to find a White Crow (note good spot for product placement). There were many SPR investigated mediums but White Crows are hard to find. I suppose that the Spiritualist movement was big in certain periods (WW1 etc) but what is needed now for After Life?
Do we see any new White Crows forming? Will they come from television astute mediums?
I was reading The Psychic Detectives by Colin Wilson and on p106 “The irony is that the very nature of the “proof” seems to support William James remark that perhaps the creator intended the question of life after death to remain unproven.”
In my mind how would we market Mrs Piper now?
I think her continued success resides in the linkages with James and Hodgson.

Bruce Williams, Tue 26 Jul, 01:10


Thanks for providing lots of food for thought!

I’m still dealing with “high technology marketing” and in fact really should be focusing on a particular bit of it right now, ahead of a conference call.  Please bear with me; I’m not sure when I’ll be able to give proper attention to your comment and craft a suitable reply.

Even so, lots of thoughts are swirling around. 

Have you considered how local cults may morph into world religions with millions or billions of adherents, endless splinters and branches, and, often, hierarchical power structures?

Of endless garage bands, why do some become amazingly successful?

I assume the book you referenced (and I’m reminded of _Crossing the Chasm__) explores some of this, but probably not as applied to religions and Spiritualism.

I doubt there is any “Afterlife Inc.”—certainly there would be no corporate form in the next world, focused on “shareholder value,” but, maybe, there _is_ something somewhat analogous to it.

I think of the odd prediction of Seth’s (he ridiculed the idea of predictions owing to the existence of probable realities yet did make one prediction, nevertheless) in _Seth Speaks_ regarding the re-incarnation of Saul of Tarsus and what he would accomplish.

More later.

Bill Ingle, Mon 25 Jul, 13:45

Thanks for the detailed reply. I was in high technology marketing and dealt with VPs from many US companies.
In my other role I came through the Spiritualist Church which was often attacked under the Fraudulent Mediums Act. Cayce details his own experience and many Churches switched to flower reading. Again it was seen as strange place to be.
Nice people would not be seen there. Still not great for your resume.
The trouble was you needed a good/great medium (usually trance) who wanted and could run a church. Proof of survival was the key. Proof was the number of things you could deliver, names starting with S or P did not cut it. Son Steven died of car crash about ten years ago was the proof that was needed.

There were different approaches to such Churches. Marcellus Ayers First Spritualist Temple Boston kept independent from other Spiritualist Churches.
FST was a trance church with lots of money which was a good combination.

The intersection of mediums with people of influence and/or money is like innovation and high technology startups. I studied how these spiritual startups became well known - Hits.

William James (a man of influence given his father was Henry James) is Piper’s product champion. Inflence seems to have lasted given these great books written on Mrs Piper.

To create spiritual success take one medium, add money/influence and you have a hit, simple.
There is a book written How Hits Happen Winslow Farrell (available at This link is about Andy Grove Intel explanation of a $475 million write off caused by the wildfire spread of a minor fault.
Minor medium hits the big time after wildfire stories spread, sounds familiar.

So back to Boston. We would look at the environment where a little known medium Mrs Piper gets the hit. Dr Phinuit appears claiming to be a French physician who died 25 years earlier.
We then see the Imperator management team swing in to action. Why the stepping stones?

Now here is where I draw together these strange thoughts. If you are on the Board of After Life Inc and you want more After Life market presence, where would you invest your time? Create more mediums (remember they need to be good) or work on the linkages of mediums and product champions?
How Hits Happen look at the strategic levers (linkages). Andy ran across a linkage, ignored it and it cost him lots of money.

Back to Boston, money, influence, mediums (I liked your term scads - even Eric would be impressed by its use). In Australia we had a situation similar to Boston, second Prime Minister was Alfred Deakin a Spiritualist, friends with Thomas Welton Stanford (who was based in Australia) who then gives money to Stanford University for psychic research. They don’t want to lose prestige so they are very quiet about this start and about his collection of apports etc.

Also wanted to ask you about your views on book Ascendant Thought - A new Seth book and Kryon. From my viewpoint, is this another hit using the same formula? The guys over at After Life Inc need to know how spiritual hits happen. Would appreciate any success formulae.

Bruce Williams, Mon 25 Jul, 09:21

“Does Boston still have any spiritual firepower?”


The intersection of Spiritualism and scientific interest at a time when the discipline of psychology was newly emerging is, as far as I can tell, Michael’s primary focus area in this blog.

Clearly those who sat for sessions with Ms. Piper weren’t too far removed in a social sense from those who had serious scientific interest like William Jamess; James taught at Harvard in Cambridge, too, just across the Charles River from Boston.

Needless to say, Boston (and Cambridge) are very different today, as is the discipline of psychology, even as the overall “belief environment” within which Spiritualism still exists is very changed, especially when it comes to “officially accepted” beliefs.  Most today consider Spiritualism to be on “the fringe.”

Even so, as I posted, scads of mediums and readers do exist today in the greater Boston area, particularly on the North Shore (Cape Ann, Beverly, Salem, Swampscott, possibly Marblehead, etc.)

I don’t really know what is happening in Boston proper today when it comes to mediumship.

All of Eastern Massachusetts has become very expensive to live in, with very high rents and real estate prices, especially in Boston (with its 300,000 college students who must live somewhere) but also anywhere near the ocean, with its “ocean views!”  (I’m fortunate in this regard; although I live within sight of the ocean, the small apartment I’ve lived in since 1988 is far below current market prices in terms of rent.)

Spiritualism and mediumship are not generally favored or even acceptable to many who can afford to live in Boston today and who may belong to scientific, academic, financial, or tech business elites, with of course some exceptions. (I seriously doubt there’s any modern day equivalent at, say, MIT, to William James.)

On the other hand, there’s a major difference between “official” beliefs and what ordinary people may believe, while all kinds of interesting activities—encouraged by Internet interaction—are taking place in fringe areas.

So No: There probably is little “firepower” in Boston these days, but a serious investigator would have no difficulty finding any number of mediums not far from “beantown.”

Bill Ingle, Sat 23 Jul, 19:07

You have opened up a whole new discussion in which    
one could spend hours commenting.  I did look at the link you provided and although I have an advanced degree in biology, I will have to read the research many times before I will even begin to understand it.  The issue really isn’t about minuscule animals (fruit fly) versus huge animals as discussed in the link but, for example, in humans, what is it that causes the liver say, that is the one major organ that can regenerate itself even after 70% is removed, what causes it to start and stop regenerating and to assume a certain form that is recognized as a liver?  It doesn’t regrow and continue into a large blob of liver cells. It assumes the form of a liver.  There probably is a scientific explanation for this but even so, isn’t it a curious phenomenon that except in plasmodium and some other fungi, cells in animals just don’t continue to naturally proliferate willy-nilly forever, on-and-on.  To me there seems to be some inherent purpose in that intelligent design plan. Think what life would be like if humans never stopped growing or we were just a undying blob of undifferentiated cells.

I believe it was Alfred Russel Wallace who thought that the world was created just for the benefit for mankind.  I think that that idea is worth considering.  I have always been impressed with the fact that the size of humans is such that they are not too small and not too large to enjoy and utilize all that the planet Earth provides.  Man is able to conquer distances on Earth and utilize Earth’s bounty because of his relative size.  It didn’t have to be that way.  Intelligence could have developed in an animal too small to benefit in the way humans do on Earth.  Just like Goldilocks and the three bears, things seem to be ‘just right’ for humans to flourish on planet earth.

Interestingly, clouds exist on earth but on at least two planets that we extensively know about, Mars and the Moon, there are no humans there and there are no clouds or anything else.  It is as if it is human consciousness as a fragment of God that fabricates its own environment on Earth for its own use and enjoyment. I have often thought that humans see Mars as a sterile planet but maybe we just are not able to see what another consciousness has created using a different set of vibrations there for their enjoyment and use.  We just are not able to see it.

Thanks for the comment, Lee.  It keeps the conversation going.  - AOD

Amos Oliver Doyle, Fri 22 Jul, 18:36


Even if humans didn’t exist there would still be clouds so I do not see a connection between the beauty of clouds and there there needing to be an intelligent designer.

Here is a scientific explanation for why organs stop growing:

lee, Fri 22 Jul, 13:12

Dear Mike (Tymn),

Yes, indeed. I greatly respect Alfred Russel Wallace and believe he has much to contribute to the discussions we enjoy under your “presidency”.

Eric Franklin

Eric Franklin, Fri 22 Jul, 11:11

Dear all,
My Avast software spotted an infection on the inspiremore video link. It picked up a threat warning and aborted. I have various programs that are very sensitive to threats but thought i would mention it to the group.

Enjoying reading the discussions. I like Bill’s Boston hotspot observations. I know that Mrs Piper was active in giving readings to usually a dozen friends in Boston in the winter of 1884-5 a few months before William James became interested. In May 1887 Dr Richard Hodgson was introduced to Mrs Piper. The mechanism of this discovery always seemed to me to be more than chance.

As Bill says he has met others who have not had the attention of SPR. Why Boston? Marcellus Ayers was a strong player yet often overlooked apart from some of us.

Does Boston still have any spiritual firepower?
I was also very interested in Gauld’s new book as his writings are excellent.

Bruce Williams, Fri 22 Jul, 10:14

Eric, and as Alfred Russel Wallace asked: how is it that all these secondary personalities from different continents suddenly decided during the late 1800s to represent themselves as spirits of the dead? How did they all collaborate in the worldwide scheme? What was the objective?

Michael Tymn, Thu 21 Jul, 05:34

We have to question not only the survivalist hypothesis, but whether it has ever been truly established (ie not simply assumed) that secondary personalities exist in a manner that PROVES that the phenomenon we call a ‘secondary personality’ is real and that such a secondary personality is truly DISTINGUISHABLE FROM a surviving spirit. By what differences would that be established or shown by lack of differences AND POSITIVE EVIDENCE to be probably illusory? (Even if there were NO differences in observable phenomena that fact would NOT PROVE the notion of surviving spirits incorrect.)

If communication reaching us through mediums is from ANOTHER UNIVERSE across to us, alive in ours, it would be a thing to be wondered at if that communication were ever perfect, not the reverse. The apparent imperfections of transmission to us from that other universe would surely be evidence of the probability of the utterances being from, and made by, surviving spirits WHO COULD NOT BRIDGE THE COMMUNICATION GAP PERFECTLY. If the utterances came from secondary personalities WITHIN BEINGS IN OUR FAMILIAR UNIVERSE, they would surely be near perfect, not garbled. Sure enough, we see IMperfect communication, in other words, we see sense plus James’s ‘bosh’. I believe that is evidence for the survival hypothesis, and against the secondary personality hypothesis.

Eric Franklin

Eric Franklin, Wed 20 Jul, 11:17

Amos, in the advice to “row, row, row the boat,” I would add at that at some point one has to “row the boat ashore.”  See

Michael Tymn, Wed 20 Jul, 08:50

Amos, pure poetry! Splendid. And yes, you can explain with science how a rainbow is created, but not why it is ,like it is. If you go on with the question why ,you end up with a divine principle of pure being, I think.

Chris, Wed 20 Jul, 07:36

I dont believe in a cosmic reservoir. In good mediumship the information is so very personal.I cannot see why a reservoir would have emotion

Tricia, Tue 19 Jul, 20:35

After reading, studying and ruminating over the many books, articles and reports for many years about intimations of immortality from a spirit world, all by serious, educated well-intentioned people, I have come to the point in my life when I think I have some advice to give to young men of today.

No, don’t roll your eyes but here is my best advice as an ‘Elder of the Tribe’ for consideration:

Row, row, row your boat
Gently down the stream;
Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily,
Life is but a dream!

See this man’s interpretation of this ditty. Click on his video.

-  AOD

Amos Oliver Doyle, Tue 19 Jul, 19:03

Newton, you paraphrased a comment by astrophysicist Richard Conn Henry, author of the essay “The Mental Universe,” that the strongest hope for an afterlife lies in the utterly extraordinary nature of this one, that a second miracle easily makes sense after a first one.

Most people miss this observation, Newton.

Just yesterday I was driving home from work and on the horizon were cumulous summer white clouds billowing in the distance, floating majestically and silently against an iridescent blue sky, reflecting the glorious rays of the sun and tinged with pearlescent yellow, orange and pink colors.  My question is: Why? Why is it this way?  Why is water vapor congealed in space in a multitudinous array of colors, forms and shapes to decorate the sky, seemingly for our pleasure and enjoyment, or to warn us of a coming storm.  What other reason would there be for it to be this way.  What set this all in motion so that clouds would appear.  Now, I actually know why according to science but was it only the nature of thermodynamics that formed clouds or was there a plan, an intelligent designer who decided that clouds would be a pleasant addition to the earth environment for man and arranged for the rules of physics to be set in motion.

Maybe what I am thinking is all meaningless and I am just a dithering old coot but, in a way, heaven is all around us, every day. Everything is a miracle in itself.  I thought the other day (I won’t tell you why) but the kidneys are a marvel of creation.  Did they appear by chance to perform the miracle of detoxifying the body of impurities?  And why doesn’t urine just run out of the body in a continuous stream as perhaps in infants.  Why did natural selection, survival of the fittest and evolution give us control over that function (at least for most of us).  I could go on and on about the appearance and need for specific body parts in the evolution of living beings.

(I have always wondered why organs of the body reach a certain size and then stop growing.  For example, the liver can regenerate itself so why doesn’t it just keep growing instead of limiting its growth.  What tells it to stop growing?  Is it following a plan?)

But the miracles of intelligent design and function are too numerous to count. Most of us fail to see the miracles around us in everyday life.  And, if we really understood reality, we would know that where we are now is actually perhaps only one of the many mansions that Jesus mentioned were part of his Father’s house. - AOD

Amos Oliver Doyle, Tue 19 Jul, 18:43

Good observations!

Amos Oliver Doyle, Tue 19 Jul, 17:48


The approach that you favor—the “intuitive” approach—is certainly just as valid, and probably has just as many adherents, as the “logical” approach. Personally, I favor the logical approach—-attempting to see how far a close examination of the actual empirical evidence that’s available to us can take us in our attempt to understand these matters—before letting the innate sense of “awe” take over. Ultimately, I suspect they’ll both take us to the same place; and based on the apparent shifting of attitude on the part of some of the more devout partisans of the “super-psi” interpretation (Dr. Braude, etc.) the sands appear to be shifting, if ever so slowly, in favor of the “spirit” hypothesis. We’ll all find out soon enough…

Don Porteous, Tue 19 Jul, 16:05

Who was Leonora Piper?  What Boston area milieu did she exist within?

Her Wikipedia entry is sparse in this regard, focusing primarily on the efforts of the various learned professors who investigated her mediumship, the various disputes and so on.

(And Wikipedia is notorious for its very obvious and annoying skeptical bias when it comes to the topic of mediumship or spiritualism or any other nearby topic.)

Yet Boston (and Cambridge) at that time wasn’t just about Harvard and professor James, various renowned other investigators from the Society for Psychical Research, and their critics.

Andrew Jackson Davis was living in Boston and had an office there. Marcellus Ayer’s huge temple was active. Its worship area would not be leased out and become known as the Exeter Street Theater until 1914.

The Boston area had featured the transcendentalists some decades prior to Ms. Piper’s activity, while Mary Baker Eddy, founder of Christian Science, was active at the same time as Ms. Piper.

Boston had, to an extent, moved beyond its Puritan roots, even if books were still banned from time to time (making them best sellers elsewhere).

Not too many years ago I could find classes in mediumship taught in Beverly, on Boston’s North Shore, using the meetup website.  Attending these, I soon realized that a large network of mediums and readers exists throughout the area, with pockets of concentration in places such as Salem, notorious for its colonial era witchcraft trials. 

A number of active Spiritualist churches exist today in the greater Boston area.

Like Ms. Piper, my teacher grew up in New Hampshire; unlike Ms. Piper, no famous investigators tested her and their theories.

I wonder how unique Ms. Piper was in that time and place.

I’m no expert but it begins to look as though mediumship has consistently flourished in greater Boston since her time, with various ups and downs along the way.

Psychology has moved on since then—I doubt Professor James’ textbook is currently used at Harvard—while official beliefs in general, not just psychology, have moved away in an era that, in my youth, was termed “The Space Age.” (I see that Ms. Piper died in 1950, after the Cold War had commenced.)

Despite all of the mediumship from her era to ours, as far as I can determine we, collectively, seem to lack “spiritual illumination.”

Maybe, someday, this will change.

Bill Ingle, Tue 19 Jul, 13:32


Good point! I think James Hyslop said much the same thing, although it wasn’t called superpsi then.  It was the “cosmic reservoir.”

Michael Tymn, Tue 19 Jul, 09:37

Let’s say (which I personally do not say) that all of these paranormal manifestations, comprehensively described in Michael’s series of books and in Don’s new volume, are finally found to be attributable to some sort of superpsi—that they all emanate not from human beings situated in the next world but from human beings situated in this one. Would it not follow that if this life were that magnificently mysterious, that magical and miraculous, then the existence of an afterlife could be anticipated almost as a matter of course?

The astrophysicist Richard Conn Henry, author of the must-read essay “The Mental Universe,” once said something that has stuck with me, something to the effect that the strongest hope for an afterlife lies in the utterly extraordinary nature of this one, that a second miracle easily makes sense after a first one. Shouldn’t everything paranormal, whatever its origin, merely bolster a belief already rooted in the immeasurably deep and rich soil of everyday experience?

Newton Finn, Mon 18 Jul, 22:55

Thanks Jon,
I see now on some other Amazon sites they include a “Look Inside” feature which allows viewing of the Table of Contents and sample pages.  The Amazon site I looked at this morning did not include that feature.  - AOD

Amos Oliver Doyle, Mon 18 Jul, 19:32


You can find the contents and some endorsements on this website.

Here’s the link:

Jon, Mon 18 Jul, 17:20

Jon Beecher,
Is there any way you could get Amazon to include a table of contents for Gauld’s book?  Some excerpts would be helpful too. - AOD

Amos Oliver Doyle, Mon 18 Jul, 15:54

I entirely agree with you Michael. I noticed that quite recently, 5 years or so,he seemed, for want of a better word, (embarrassed) by his earlier work on drop -in communicators. Almost like, ‘I don’t want to talk about it.’ I am glad that he has regained confidence in a survival hypotheses. V

Tricia robertson, Mon 18 Jul, 09:16

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The Only Planet of Choice: Visitations – Many people use the word ‘Alien’ to describe a visitor from outer space. Extra terrestrial is another word, which is rather more user friendly. For the sake of the question and answer format, the word used by the questioner has been left, though even Tom questions our use of‘Alien’. Should we wish to foster openess between all beings of the Universe perhaps we should also look at our vocabulary? In a discussion between Andrew and Tom many years earlier, Andrew had asked Tom about UFOs and whether they were created manifestations. Tom had replied: “Many of the flying things that you call UFOs come from our place, but they come from other places also, and they do come in physical form. But many of them are not physical. They are like your movie screen”. Read here
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