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Kluski, Philip, Kardec, and the Scientific Conundrum

Posted on 18 May 2015, 15:23

In the annals of psychical research, Daniel Dunglas Home (1833 – 1886) is sometimes referred to as the greatest medium ever, at least the greatest medium producing physical phenomena.  He is to mediumship what Babe Ruth is to baseball, a legend whose feats stand above all others.  However, after reading Other Realities? The Enigma of Franek Kluski’s Mediumship by Zofia Weaver, I’m not sure I would rank Home over Franek Kluski (below) of Poland.

 Kluski

Kluski’s mediumship included full and partial materializations of both dead and living humans, animal materializations, levitations, apports, communicating raps, paraffin molds of hands and feet of the materialized entities, mystical lights around the room, and automatic writing.  I had read about Kluski before, primarily in Dr. Gustave Geley’s book, Clairvoyance and Materialization, but Geley focused more on the hand molds supposedly produced by “phantoms” dipping their hands into paraffin wax in his laboratory than on anything else. (See my blog of July 25, 2011)  Dr. Weaver’s book goes well beyond the material offered by Geley.  She draws primarily from a 1926 book, Reminiscences of Séances with the Medium Franek Kluski, written in Polish by Colonel Norbert Okolowicz, who was present at most of Kluski’s séances in Poland. Weaver has translated Okolowicz’s 586-page book, offering the highlights along with commentary.

Kluski was not a paid medium.  In fact, he was a somewhat reluctant one, believing his Catholic faith was in conflict with it.  He wanted no publicity, thus used Kluski as a pseudonym, his real name being Teofil Modrzejewski.  However, he consented to be tested for whatever scientific value it might offer.  Most of the experiments with him were behind locked doors.  He was searched before entering the room, and on one occasion agreed to sit naked, his hands and feet being controlled by those sitting next to him. Even though they were certain that Kluski had no way to smuggle his own paraffin wax into the room, Geley and Charles Richet, a Nobel Prize winner in medicine, secretly added a bluish coloring agent to the paraffin to rule out the claim that Kluski was bringing his own molds into the room.  As it turned out, the molds were produced with the same bluish tint.

The strict controls applied by a number of distinguished scientists rule out fraud as much as reasonably possible, leaving three alternatives for the phenomena:  1) They were all produced by “spirits” of the dead, or discarnates; 2) They were all products of Kluski’s subconscious, while the sitters may have contributed to the manifestations with subconscious or conscious creations of their own in what is called a “group mind”;  3) They were a mixture or combination of the first two alternatives. 

Like many parapsychologists, Weaver seems reluctant to use words like “spirits,” “discarnates,” or anything else that might sound unscientific in her efforts to evaluate the Kluski phenomena in the final chapter of the book.  Thus, as she does her best to not impeach herself in the eyes of her peers by directly addressing the spirit hypothesis, she seems to opt for the second alternative before hinting at an “other worldly” explanation that exceeds the boggle threshold, thereby suggesting that she secretly accepts the third alternative. I suspect that many readers will scratch their heads in bewilderment as to how Weaver views the phenomena, but some will realize that such is the dilemma of the professional who dares wade into spiritual waters.   

Weaver mentions the case of “Philip the imaginary ghost,” which was supposedly created by a group of Canadian researchers during the 1970s.  Many parapsychologists have concluded from this and other similar experiments that spirits of the dead, discarnates, whatever name be given them, are not involved.  The phenomena, they believe, are all manifestations of the minds of the living humans present.  Allan Kardec’s explanation more than a hundred years before Philip was “created” is not even considered.

Kardec, a pioneering French psychical researcher, discussed the Philip-type situation in his 1874 book, The Book of Mediums.  He explained that mischievous (i.e., earthbound)  spirits are responsible.  “These light spirits multiply around us and seize every occasion to mingle in the communication,” he wrote. “Truth is the least of their care; this is why they take a roguish pleasure in mystifying those who are weak, and who sometimes presume to believe their word.  Persons who take pleasure in such communication naturally give access to light and deceiving spirits.” 

Kardec asked a seemingly advanced spirit if animals can communicate.  The spirit responded that they can’t.  Kardec pointed out that there had been some purported communication from animals.  The spirit replied:

“Invoke a stone and it will answer you.  There is always a crowd of spirits ready to speak for anything.” 

Kardec further explained his understanding of the matter: “Just the same if you invoke a myth, or an allegorical personage, it will answer; that is, it will be answered for, and the spirit who would present himself would take its character and appearance. One day, a person took a fancy to invoke Tartufe, and Tartufe came immediately; still more, he talked of Orgon, of Elmire, of Damis, and of Valire, of whom he gave news; as to himself, he counterfeited the hypocrite with as much art as if Tartufe had been a real personage. Afterward, he said he was the spirit of an actor who had played that character.”

Kardec continued:  “Trifling spirits always profit by the inexperience of interrogators, but they take good care never to address those who they know are enlightened enough to discover their imposturer, and who would give no credit to their stories. It is the same among men.”

Another interesting communication came through the hand of medium Elsa Barker from Judge David Patterson Hatch, as set forth in Letters from a Living Dead Man:  “The ‘deceitful spirits,’ of which the frequenters of séance rooms so often make complaint, are these astral actors, who may even come to take a certain pride in the cleverness of their art,” Hatch communicated after explaining that there are many “actors” in the lower realms. “Be not too sure that the spirit who claims to be your deceased grandfather is that estimable old man himself.  He may be merely an actor playing a part, for his own entertainment and yours.” 

But if a parapsychologist were to give any recognition to Kardec’s explanation and that of Judge Hatch, he or she would invite scoffs and sneers from peers, as it would be most unscientific.  To put it all on the “group mind” sounds so much more scientific, although the scientific fundamentalist would laugh at that as well.  Is it any wonder that psychical research and parapsychology have made no progress relative to the survival hypothesis during the last hundred years?  If spirit life is not even considered as an alternative, the parapsychologist is left with a never-ending conundrum.

All that is not to suggest that the subconscious does not play a part in the phenomena.  It seems clear that the subconscious of the medium can color or totally distort some spirit communication and that even the minds of the sitters can telepathically affect the phenomena.  The problem is that because the parapsychologist is unwilling to consider spirit life or afraid that doing so will damage his or her reputation, the third alternative above is rarely addressed.

In earlier chapters in the book, Weaver mentions phenomena which seem to clearly point to spirits of the dead materializing and communicating, including Okolowicz having reported that 84 persons confirmed recognition of 88 phantoms of deceased persons known to them.  Also, about 25 percent of the messages coming through Kluski’s automatic writing were recognized as the handwriting of deceased persons known to the sitter but not to Kluski.  Moreover, there were evidential messages that gave information apparently outside the knowledge of the sitter or Kluski.  But Weaver does not deal with these in the concluding chapter, focusing more on the “group mind” idea, the one that appeals more to the “intelligent” mind.   

The questions I have yet to see addressed by any parapsychologist have to do with the possible motivation of the subconscious “other personality” – that part of the subconscious pretending to be a deceased human being. 

How is it that so many alter egos want to play this game of leading people to believe they are deceased loved ones and friends?  And how do all these alter egos conspire in this worldwide and never-ending deception? 

Because the researcher is faced with such a stigma in discussing the spirit hypothesis, it does not seem likely that science will provide any definite answers to such phenomena as that produced through Kluski.  As Judge Hatch suggested through Elsa Barker, the individual must decide for him - or herself based on “an instinct in the human heart which will never deceive us, if we without fear or bias will yield ourselves to its decision.”

Other Realities? The Enigma of Franek Kluski’s Mediumship by Zofia Weaver is published by White Crow Books and is available from Amazon and all good online bookstores.

Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die is published by White Crow Books. His latest book, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife is now available on Amazon and other online book stores.
His latest book Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I is published by White Crow Books.


Next blog post:  June 1


Comments

There are parallels or similarities between the discarnate entities and our own carnate ones. In your article, some of the discarnates are referred to as “mischievous spirits”; our equivalent, in Internet communications, we would call “trolls”!

Adeimantus, Sun 14 Jun, 15:30

It seems to me that just as you can never motivate people to, say, go to the gym regularly, you cannot motivate people toward “truth”. For those who truly search, they will find. But such conditions also apply to those in spirit. We can’t push them to truth and goodness anymore than we can the embodied.
In addition,everyone seems to have forgotten, or not known, of the concept of ontological truth as against communally-based described or defined truth.
The ontological stands the test of individual differences in perception. That should be the standard of researchers. Thanks.

paul biscop, Sat 23 May, 16:55

As usual, good work, Mike. A number of years ago I went to see a psychic-medium who often gave me good information. However, this time he made an assertion that I knew was not true. I commented on this falsehood, and he apologized to me, saying that he had begun the session without setting parameters, that is, declaring to the spirit world who was allowed to take part in this and who was not. He said that, in the absence of his usual controls, mischievous spirits had injected themselves to spoil the message. W.

Wayne Becker, Thu 21 May, 04:17

Thanks to everyone for the comments. 

I have come across a couple of things to add to the discussion.  In rereading part of “The Voices” by W. Usborne Moore, there is a report by Sir William Barrett, a physics professor who cofounded the Society for Psychical Research, on page 87.  Referring to medium Etta Wriedt,  Barrett states: “Like nearly all mediums through whom physical phenomena are manifested, she may, consciously or unconsciously, sometimes be obsessed with a spirit of stupid trickery, which, in several cases that I have known, appears like the projection of the fixed ideas of hostile sitters among those present.  If fact, all of us project our thoughts into the unseen, and more often than we know they come pback to us a objective realities…”

Also, in the July 2014 issue of the SPR Journal, Carlos Alvarado offers an interesting summary of the research of psychologist Theodore Flournoy (1854-1920).  Flournoy believed that all “spirit” phenomena was a result of that “secondary pesonality” buried in the subconscious.  I asked why so many secondary personalities are intent on pretending to be spirits of the dead.  Apparently, Flournoy also wondered about this, at least in the case of Helene Smith.  He concluded that the “survival instict” in Smith prompted it.  That sounds like a real stretch to me and I find it much easier to accept the spirit hypothesis, but to each his own.

Michael Tymn, Thu 21 May, 03:00

Mike, excellent article!
I believe what you quoted below is key:
“As Judge Hatch suggested through Elsa Barker, the individual must decide for him - or herself based on “an instinct in the human heart which will never deceive us, if we without fear or bias will yield ourselves to its decision.”
Each person is at a different intellectual, moral and spiritual level. Each person (and scientist) must decide for him or herself the conclusions
drawn from their research.
More and more of the general public believe that spirits and the afterlife exist, in spite of the scientists. Spirit influence and manifestations are universal.  People speak of their own experiences more now than ever before.
I believe Spiritual Truths will only be accepted gradually as mankind progresses (and is less dogmatic and materialistic) and when it becomes
more spiritually enlightened to accept them. Progress is slow,but TRUTH is always gradually revealed.

Yvonne Limoges
Spiritist medium

Yvonne Limoges, Tue 19 May, 16:28

Thanks Mike. I appreciate your amazing working through the mazes of mediumship and mind. One thing is certain. In the midst of centuries of visions,voices, communication from beyond this veil,etc. there exists a reality that pales reason, logic and scientific proof and a reality that can enrich, ennoble and enhance life here and now.

Richard Batzler, Tue 19 May, 04:30

Bravo, Mike, your article is very enlightening! The question about “evil” or ” mischievous” spirits brings back to the Bible when it’s said that we must divide the spirits as well as a tree, according to the fruits they yield. No hints about the reasons that push these ones on faking, impersonate other spirits, may be the eternity is very boring to them…or not?

CLAUDIO, Mon 18 May, 18:39

This review provides a fascinating insight into the difficulties of providing information about the spirit world.  Some day, I hope the difficulties will disappear.

Paul Hauser, Mon 18 May, 17:55


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