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Famous Physicist Explains Spirit Communication Difficulties

Posted on 24 June 2019, 8:47

On October 18, 1929, Sir Oliver Lodge, a renowned British physicist, delivered the first Frederic W. H. Myers Memorial Lecture to the Society for Psychical Research (SPR) in London.  Myers, one of the founders of the SPR, had died in January 1901. Lodge, a pioneer in electricity, radio, and the spark plug, and former president of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, had befriended Myers in 1884 and joined him in 1889 for the SPR’s investigation of American trance medium Leonora Piper, who had been invited to England by the SPR.

Like so many other scientists caught up in the wake of Darwinism, Lodge (below) had become a materialist, not believing in anything spiritual.  However, he remained open-minded on the subject and was intrigued by the idea that one person could read another’s mind, something he had observed around 1883 in a stage performer called Irving Bishop.  “The verification of the fact of telepathy, indicating obscurely a kind of dislocation between mind and body, was undoubtedly impressive, so that it began to seem probable, especially under Myers’s tuition, that the two – mind and body – were not inseparably connected, as I had been led by my previous studies under Clifford, Tyndall, and Huxley to believe they were,” Lodge explained his change of mind.  “I began to feel that there was a possibility of the survival of personality.”

Lodge’s carried out 83 experiments with Mrs. Piper during her visit to England in 1889.  “Detailed knowledge of my relations was shown, and in particular an aunt of mine, to whom I have been indebted, either directly or indirectly, for much of my post-school education, ostensibly came and delivered messages,” he told the audience during that 1929 lecture. “My aunt reminded me that she had promised to come and report if she found it possible after her death, but she was a religious woman, with an orthodox faith in survival, though with no knowledge of the psychic side or the possibility of communication.”  Especially convincing to Lodge was the fact that his aunt took possession of Piper for a short period and spoke to him in her well-remembered voice. Over those 83 sittings, Lodge gradually came to accept that he was in touch with the departed and further that it went well beyond mental telepathy. (Much more about Lodge and his study of Mrs. Piper can be found in my book, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife)

“I am sometimes asked whether I have had any communication with Myers since his death, or whether he has gone on to some higher grade of existence out of touch with earth,” Lodge continued his lecture.  “My answer is that as far as I can judge, a man devoted as he was to the enlightenment of his generation in spiritual matter, is not likely to shirk his task merely because he has an opportunity of progressing.  He may progress, but it is possible for people from high to return on missionary enterprise.  The lower may have to bide their time before they can ascend to the higher, but I judge that the higher can always descend to help the lower.  I should have thought that that was the essence of the Christian faith, that the Higher did come to the help of the lower.  However that may be, I know for a fact that Myers’ influence and help are still with me, and that when I have questions to ask he is willing and ready to answer.  He does this often through his lieutenant, my son Raymond, sometimes coming himself, to give information of a more difficult character than Raymond could manage.  Most of this has to be done unfortunately through a more or less uneducated medium…” (Raymond Lodge was killed in battle during the Great War.)

Much of the communication from Myers (below) and Raymond Lodge came through the mediumship of British trance medium Gladys Osborne Leonard, following Raymond’s death in 1915.  When Leonard entered the trance state, her spirit control, named Feda, began using her voice mechanism and communicated in a voice significantly different from that of Mrs. Leonard. It was from Feda that Lodge learned of some of the difficulties spirits had in communicating. He recalled one sitting in which both Myers and Raymond had communicated before Feda again took control of Leonard. “I do not think I have to told you about this before, but there are times when Feda is not really communicating, but her shadow is,” Lodge quoted Feda, who usually referred to herself in the third person.


“Mr. Fred (Myers) can explain,” Feda continued, her grammar often faulty.  “Did you know what a thought-form is, something that you might send a long way off and the thought-form might even speak?  When you go that way you get things you want to say mixed up with other things.”  Lodge asked Feda if she was saying that what she tells him is not quite dependable.

“No, it is like going in a dream,” Feda replied. “You get mixed up not with the mind, but with the subconscious mind of the medium.  When you dream, you dream about things that have been worrying you.” Feda then said that Myers wanted to take over and further explain.

“You talk about secondary personalities when you are in the body,” Lodge quoted Myers for the audience, pointing out that Myers came through in a different style than Feda.  “On our plane, in our condition, we have no secondary personalities, but when once we have established communication with your side and got a mental image of ourselves in your conditions, we may have a secondary personality,  or even a third. It is something that can be called to life by expectation.  Supposing I make a strong mental impression on the mind of a psychically sensitive person while yet I am talking with someone many mile away, that impression of myself which is Number Two, as I heard Feda remark just now, would not be in full consciousness with Number One.  The normal image of myself would be left with Number One.  The record once produced can be fixed on the medium’s mind again.  It requires only a touch to get it going.  I myself have often come into touch with a sensitive whom it has not been my intention to influence, but my proximity seemed to touch a spring in the medium.”

Feda came back briefly, commenting, “Mr. Fred is very interested in this.” But Myers spoke up immediately:  “Lodge, you know in dreams we are not at our best.  I remember dreams in which I seemed to be all the time dodging responsibility, running away from responsibility.  The elements of doubt and fear often enter into dreams. That is apt to be the same in what Feda terms the shadow self.”

Lodge told the audience that his wife, Mary, had recently transitioned and had joined the group with Myers.  He explained that she had overcome her initial repugnance to the subject long before her death.  When she communicated through Mrs. Leonard, he asked her about the so-called secondary personalities of the mediums.  Before she could respond, Raymond broke in and said, “Mother is awfully enthusiastic about all this, Father. I have had to hold her back.”  Sir Oliver asked Mary if she could talk with Phinuit, who had been Mrs. Piper’s spirit control when he first experimented with her in 1889.  “Not very much,” Mary replied.  To which Feda said, “What a funny answer.”  Mary Lodge continued: “Phinuit is not altogether through with me, Oliver.  There is a condition that makes it more difficult to talk to one kind of entity than another.  I could talk to Raymond very fully. I could talk to so many people, but certain people who exist, well they exist, but I do not understand everything about it yet. I understand that later on I shall be able to talk to Phinuit more easily.”

Sir Oliver then asked Mary if she had met John King, who had been the spirit control for Florence Cook,  Eusapia Palladino, and others.  “Yes, very much in the same way,” Mary answered. “I have spoken to the person who calls himself John King.  He presents different masks and calls them John King. Oliver, it is not always the soul that is the personality that communicates. I am beginning to understand it, and it does interest me.”  Sir Oliver commented that there is something odd about the personalities like John King and Phinuit, to which Feda reacted by asking if she (Feda) was odd.  Sir Oliver answered that his wife had not yet discussed her.

“There is one thing I want to explain to you,” Mary Lodge continued. “When people belong to each other through long association through love, through fleshly relationship, there is no difficulty in contact between those people, either from one plane to the other, or between them when they have both reached the same plane. The links exist.  But in the case of controls it is different. If we trace it back we shall find there has been a person, say, John King, and that it was necessary for him to do some good work for people on earth as a kind of compensation for his shortcoming while in the body. He probably chose to work with and through a certain instrument. That brings him in touch with other kinds of controls, for one control cannot work in an isolated way.  Demands are made on him and he may not wish to accede to those demands, and there you get what I call, Oliver, a mask.” 

Sir Oliver asked if by a mask she meant a “personation,” as when actors would wear masks to cloak their own personalities and take on the character of the people they portray. That is, the mask was, so to speak, an impersonation.  Mary replied “yes,” and went on, “As a rule, Oliver, when a conscientious guide knows that there is a mask being made of him he does his best to follow the mask to see that as much good and as little harm comes from it as possible. It is like ensuring a good understudy, or a good locum tenens.”

While the veridical information coming through various mediums convinced Sir Oliver of survival, the “mask” issue, along with the problems of subconscious coloring of messages by the medium, distortions and misinterpretations arising out of the filtering process as the messages passed from communicator to control to medium to himself, not to mention interference from earthbound spirits and the reality of mental telepathy, he remained cautious in everything he received from the spirit world. “…all the communication I receive, I receive with caution,” he concluded the lecture, “and with a consequent need for interpretation; but received in that spirit, I find them interesting and instructive.  I only hope that when my time comes I shall be able to do as well.  I am sure that communication is difficult, and I expect one will find oneself forgetting much that one had intended to say before entering into the dim condition of faculties necessitated by even partial and occasional control.”

Next blog post:  July 8

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.




Stafford Betty, I think it all depends on how we approach communication with people who are now in the etheric wavelengths. If we start by singing hymns and praying we automatically tune into the religious part of the spiritual universe. At the Rita Goold experiment, that Professor Archie Roy and I witnessed, there was nothing whatsoever connected with religion. We tuned straight into the part of the universe where Arthur Findlay, Crookes and Lodge are now living.

Michael Roll, Tue 27 Aug, 10:52

At a materialisation experiment all five senses are working. This type of medium gives the proof of survival. At The experiment that I witnessed in 1983.Helen Duncan materialised at every experiment. The journalist Alan Cleaver carried out the excellent scientific experiment of reuniting Helen Duncan with her daughter Gena Brealey. Mother and daughter spoke to each other for over an hour. This is where I was reunited with my “dead” father.

Michael Roll, Mon 26 Aug, 18:11

Ann, please be careful of the propaganda. Spiritualism is an officially recognised one-god religion. Their first principle is “The fatherhood of God.”
As Crookes and Lodge make very clear, the subject of life after death is a scientific fact, a branch of physics, natural and normal forces in the universe. Us secular atheists, just the same as religionists, all have a soul that separates from the dead physical body.

Michael Roll, Thu 22 Aug, 10:50

Stafford Betty, thanks for your kind words. Yes, this is the trouble. The Bristol Post gave a huge feature about the censored scientific discoveries of Crookes and Lodge. Most of my golf club saw the feature in The Bristol Post. This only scratched the surface. Not one of them did what you have done - look at my website:

Michael Roll, Wed 21 Aug, 11:09

I emphatically agree with Stafford Betty’s comment, just above. While I completely believe in life after bodily death, and in the reality of communications between the worlds, nevertheless we must not accept as fact everything that comes across the veil. There can be communication problems by the spirit person, reception problems and coloring by the earthly medium, the spirit could be deceiving, or the spirit could be just plain wrong. We don’t believe that any living person is omniscient: why should we apply a different standard to the deceased?

James McArthur, Thu 15 Aug, 05:09

I want to thank Michael Roll for his eye-opening comment about Lodge, Crookes, Einstein, and other great scientists. Those of you who didn’t read it might be curious to discover why Michael thinks that Einstein set the world back 100 years with his materialist theories. Be sure to read the links he provides.

Stafford Betty, Wed 26 Jun, 19:03

Very interesting, Mike—thanks.  The process of communicating from the spirit world seems fraught with cross wires that only muddy the waters and strengthen the hand of materialists.  I’ve been captivated lately by Helen Greaves and her “Testimony of Light.”  It’s such a compelling account of the afterlife that I keep rereading it.  The message I’ve accumulated over time and quite a few books by now is that reality, including the afterlife, is far more complicated than we can imagine with layers upon layers of back and forth evolution and regression spanning eternity.  Very interesting, indeed….

David Daughters, Wed 26 Jun, 01:05

Sir Oliver Lodge was being very non-committal when he said about spirit communications, “I find them interesting and instructive.”  I don’t know how much more bland one could be when commenting about spirit communications especially when those communications were purported to be from one’s wife and adult son. There doesn’t seem to be a very strong belief in that comment by Lodge.  (Actually it sounds like something I would say as I am no where near a 98.8% belief in an afterlife as is Michael Tymn. )

As I read between the lines of what Mary Lodge, ‘Feda’ and Myers said I think that the concept they were trying to get across is one of just what is it that survives after relinquishing a physical form.  Is it the personality of that form, or is it something else, something larger than the personality—-something like a ‘soul’  that perhaps survives to reincarnate in another physical form with another personality? When the soul attempts to communicate with those who knew the physical form and its personality, the soul would have to remember what that personality was like and conjure up something similar so that that personality would be recognized .  Feda is quoted by Lodge as saying “...but there are times when Feda is not really communicating, but her shadow is.”  I think Feda was talking about communicating as a personality , a “shadow"form in her words, and not communicating with her greater identity, i.e., her soul.

Myers tries to explain when he says,” “On our plane, in our condition, we have no secondary personalities[ he is a soul] but when once we have established communication with your side and got a mental image of ourselves in your conditions, [the personality in that lifetime] we may have a secondary personality,  or even a third [in multiple lifetimes].”  He goes on to say, “It is something that can be called to life by expectation.”  meaning, I think, that it is a mental exercise recalling the appropriate personality with which to communicate.  He talks about that “impression of himself” as “number two” meaning of course that there is a number one, the soul or true entity and that his true self remains with number one, the soul.

Therefore all of the spirits who communicate e.g., John King, Mary Lodge, Feda, Myers, are shadow forms or personalities of a past lifetime.  Hence, Mary Lodge’s problem of communicating with the personality Phinuit when she hints at the difficulty of differentiating between personalities and souls and says, “There is a condition that makes it more difficult to talk to one kind of entity than another.  I could talk to Raymond [a personality] very fully [as they both were personalities within one lifetime]. I could talk to so many people, but certain people who exist, well they exist [as souls] but I do not understand everything about it yet. I understand that later on I shall be able to talk to Phinuit more easily.” She says that, “I have spoken to the person [soul] who calls himself John King [a personality].  He presents different masks and calls them John King .  .  .  it is not always the soul that is the personality that communicates.”

Lodge asked Mary if she meant by a mask a “personation” to which Mary responded “Yes!”

There is a lot to be learned in this interaction between Sir Oliver Lodge and his wife Mary, Feda and Myers provided that one understands that an individual lifetime expresses a personality which is diminished somewhat after the soul leaves a physical form.  It is the soul that survives perhaps to live again incarnated in another form with another personality and previous personalities become ‘masks’ which the soul can put on at various times as required.  - AOD

Amos Oliver Doyle, Tue 25 Jun, 22:30

Mike, many thanks for giving Sir Oliver Lodge a plug. He is hated in England where the Church and the state are still established because of this 1933 lecture. He linked the study of survival after death with physics, natural and normal forces in the universe:

Sir Oliver Lodge invented the radio, but he has been written out of our corrupt history books. My webmaster came all the way from Germany just to take a photograph of the plaque at the Museum Lecture Theatre at Oxford University. It is on the very spot where Sir Oliver sent the first radio signal in 1894. This photograph is now on the front page of my website:

Michael Roll

Michael Roll, Tue 25 Jun, 18:24

Here is the takeaway I get from this article: We should practice the same caution when we listen to messages from the world of spirit that Oliver Lodge practiced. A helpful warning to us all. But nothing about these messages persuades me to doubt the reality of the afterworld—only the presumed accuracy of everything that reaches us from that world.

Stafford Betty, Mon 24 Jun, 20:31

This is so interesting. I attended Spiritualist churches when I used to visit my mother in England . Unfortunately there are no convenient ones in the area of New Hampshire where I reside, Thanks for all the wonderful articles. Ann McGarity

Ann McGarity, Mon 24 Jun, 15:06

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