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Musical Prodigies:  Spirit Guides, Genetics, or Both?

Posted on 06 October 2014, 9:16

Have you ever wondered about your guides in the spirit world?  Are they assigned to you at birth?  Do different guides come and go during your lifetime?  Do you have only one at a time?  Do they choose you or are you assigned to them by some higher authority?  In recently rereading William Stainton Moses’s 1879 book, Spirit Identity, I came upon some interesting information as set forth by Dr. Stanhope T. Speer, a British physician who regularly sat in the circle with Moses,  (below) one of the foremost mediums of the 19th Century.  (See my blog of February 10, 2014 for more about Moses). Speer asked the communicating spirit about his son’s spirit guide or guides. The son, Charlton Templeman Speer, had displayed remarkable musical ability at an early age and the father wanted to know if his guides were musically inclined.


Speer was informed that Charlton’s primary guide went by the name of James Nares when he lived on the earth plane and that he was an organist to the king and master of the royal choristers.  Speer did not mention if the name of the king was given, but based on other information provided, it would appear to have been George I (1714 – 1727) and/or George II (1727-1760).  Speer was told that Nares was born at Stanwell and that he was trained at first by Gates, master of the royal choristers, and then by Pepusch.  An internet search reveals that Johann Christoph Pepusch, a German composer who spent most of his life in England, lived from 1667 to 1752. 

Speer asked how Nares was attracted to his son.  The response came:  “Spirit guides are not always attracted.  Sometimes they are selected by their own fitness.  They are naturally apt to teach.  Sometimes they are sent with a special commission.  Sometimes they are picked out because they are able to supply that which is wanting in the character which they are to train.  Sometimes they themselves select a character which they wish to mould.  This is a great pleasure to the higher spirits.  Sometimes they desire, for their own spiritual progress, to be attached to a soul the training of which is irksome and difficult.  They toil upward along with the soul.  Sometimes they are attracted by pure affinity, or by remains of earth-love.  The guide in this case was appointed because he too on earth was an accomplished musician at an early age.  When organist at York, not yet twenty years old, he won a great renown.”

Several decades earlier, communicating spirits told French researcher Allan Kardec that spirits are inclined to influence those with whom they have a certain “affection.”

The spirit communicating through Moses further told Speer that Nares succeeded Dr. Green as organist to the king, and also filled the place of his old master, Gates.  “To him friend, you owe the first introduction of expressive melody into church music.”

When Speer asked if Nares was his son’s only guide, the response came, “No, there are others.  The Brothers Lawes…They were pupils of old Caperario; sons of a Vicar-Choral of Canterbury they were in earth-life.  William, the elder brother, was a friend of young King Charles I.  He composed fantasias for the viol, songs, and masques.  Henry, the younger, was a friend of Milton and Waller.  Milton wrote the ‘Comus’ for him, but the music was lost.”

When Speer told the communicating spirit that he had never heard of the Lawes brothers, he was informed that Henry passed to the spirit land in 1662 and William in 1645, information which Speer later verified as fact and which he was reasonably certain that Moses had no knowledge of. 

Speer was further informed that Benjamin Cooke was, at that time, greatly concerned with Charlton and was attracted to him by similar taste.  “He in the earth of life was early developed as a musical genius.  It was, I think, before he reached the age of fourteen years that he performed upon the organ of Westminster Abbey.”

Charlton Templeman Speer, later to become a member of the Royal Academy of Music as well as Moses’s biographer, was especially intrigued by the music produced during the sittings he, his parents, and several others had with Moses at the Speers’ home. He noted that Moses had no musical ability at all and that the sitters were all in a circle with their hands joined when the music came. There was music which obviously came from an instrument and music involving no instrument of any kind.  “These latter were, of course, by far the most wonderful,” he explained, pointing out that there were essentially four types.  “First, there were what we called ‘The Fairy Bells.’ These resembled the tones produced by striking musical glasses with a small hammer.  The sounds given forth were clear, crisp, and melodious.  No definite tune was every played, but the sounds were always harmonious, and at the request of myself, or any other member of the circle, the ‘bells’ would always run up or down a scale in perfect tune.  It was difficult to judge where the sound of these ‘fairy bells’ came from, but I often applied my ear to the top of the table, and the music seemed to be somehow in the wood – not underneath it, as on listening under the table the music would appear to be above.  Next we had quite a different sound – that of a stringed instrument, more nearly akin to a violoncello than anything else I have ever heard.  It was, however, more powerful and sonorous, and might perhaps be produced by placing a cello on the top of a drum, or anything else likely to increase the vibration This instrument was only heard in single notes, and was used only by one spirit, who employed it usually for answering questions – in the same way others did by raps.”

The third sound, Charlton explained, was an exact imitation of an ordinary handbell, which would be rung sharply to indicate the presence of the particular spirit with whom it was associated.  “We naturally took care to ascertain that there was no bell of any kind in the room at the time,” he continued. “Even if there had been, it would have been a matter of some difficulty to ring it all round the walls and even up to the ceiling, and this particular sound proceeded indifferently from all parts of the room.”

Charlton found it difficult to describe the fourth sound.  He likened it to the soft tone of a clarinet gradually increasing in intensity until it rivaled the sound of a trumpet, and then, by degrees, diminishing to the original subdued note of the clarinet until it eventually died away in a long drawn-out melancholy wail.  “This is a very inefficient description of this really extraordinary sound, but as I have in the whole course of my experience never heard anything else at all like it, it is impossible to give to those who have not heard it a more accurate idea of what it was like.”  Charlton added that there was absolutely nothing in the room which could in any way produce the various musical tones, and that the clarinet and trumpet sound was beyond imitation whatever materials a skeptic might suggest Moses smuggled in and out of the Speers’ home when they weren’t looking. 

On July 13, 1874, Dr. Speer recorded that they had an admirable specimen of zither playing.  The spirit musician performed a short unbarred composition called a free prelude.  “The whole thing was most marvelous, for there is no zither in our house, and it is an instrument that cannot be mistaken,” Speer wrote. 

The spirits explained that because Moses had no real musical ability or appreciation, they could not produce “proper” music through him. Whether they drew “power” from Charlton and others in the room was not made clear.  Other spirit communication has suggested that in physical mediumship, the spirits draw their power mostly from the medium, but they also draw from others in the room. 

It may be that child prodigies are a result of such spirit influence. Dr. Charles Richet, the 1913 Nobel Prize winner in medicine, reported on the strange case of Pepito Arriola,  (below) when, at age 3 years, 3 months, he performed at the Psychological Congress in Paris during 1900.  Richet stated that the boy played brilliantly on the piano. “He composed military or funeral marches, waltzes, habaneras, minuets, and played some twenty difficult pieces from memory,” Richet wrote.  “A hundred members of the Congress heard and applauded him.”


It was further reported that little Pepito’s hands could not stretch more than five notes, yet he appeared to sound full octaves.  Some onlookers said that his hands seemed to increase in size during the playing, and Rosalie Thompson, a clairvoyant, claimed that she saw the child dissolve into the figure of a man while at the piano.

Pepito’s mother claimed that she did not teach her son to play the piano. Her first awareness of the boy’s talent was when he was just 2 ½.  She heard one of her own difficult pieces being correctly played, entered the room, and found her son at the piano.

As Pepito’s mother and other family members were accomplished musicians, the explanation by mainstream psychology was that Pepito’s ability was purely hereditary, but the real explanation likely goes well beyond mainstream psychology.

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.

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Next blog post:  October 20


With all the speculation about Arriaga being Mozart reincarnated, you can say Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson were the reincarnations of Lincoln and Andrew Johnson. Arriaga Joseph&f=false

You can also say that Galileo was later reincarnated as Newton and Hawking.

Finally, you can say that Claire Ridgway is the reincarnation of Elizabeth of York as the former was born on the latter’s 505th birthday and just as Elizabeth of York loved her son Henry VIII very much, Claire Ridgway was obsessed with studying Henry VIII’s rule over England, his wives and their families such as the Boleyn family.

G, Sat 27 Nov, 10:42

Elene Gusch writ4es:

“Many times composers have reported that they felt they were simply writing down music they received from some higher source. That source doesn’t have to be a distinct spirit personality.”

Simply put, you are correct Ms. Gusch.

Imagination is the pathway, or channel, that conduits information from our Higher Mind (our True Self) to our limited, constrained physical mind. This is particularly accurate for those who are seeking their highest expressions of themselves, of their interests and passions, common among impresarios of music. Or art. Or science.

The Higher Mind steps in where the physical mind is incapable, directing it, using it to deliver the physical reality that the True Self wishes to experience.

Waller Joel, Sat 11 Oct, 14:27

Yes Loes,
In my next book I cover inspiration regarding scientists as well. I think that we are all subject to inspiration at times…..or we can be.

tricia, Wed 8 Oct, 12:57

Maybe the mechanics behind prodigy children can be varied. I remember several instances described in 19th century Dutch Spiritualist magazines about very young children playing the piano while they were overshadowed, literally and visibly (for a clayrvoyant)by an adult. In one case it was the mother, who died young and never managed to become the concert star she aspired to be. Her little daughter was forced to take her place to the cost of the kid’s health. The child was in a trancelike state every time she played.
In another case a little boy’s hands seemed to ‘grow’ to enable him to reach an octave, which is quite an accomplishment for a 3 year old.
There’s a lot of mystery around this subject.
Florizel von Reuter was a prodigy in many respects, and there’s this strange story of Hannen Swaffer in ‘My Greatest Story’ volume II, about Florizel and his mother who prayed to God and Paganini for her son (unborn still) to become a great violinist (and she also dictated his ‘godlike’ looks) She got what she wished for. Florizel was a prodigy and became famous, and he was ‘never alone’: Paganini was with him all te time.
And what to think of those remarkable blind children like ‘Blind Tom’ or, in our time, Derek Paravicini. Their amazing talents seem to come with a price. Some agreement reached in heaven ?
We simply don’t know. Or, like Tricia says, some children are open to inspiration from ‘somewhere’.
These things are really fascinating, and it’s not just musicians who wonder where their inspiration comes from, it happens in all arts and sciences too.

Loes Modderma, Wed 8 Oct, 10:04

I was going to bring up the idea of reincarnation, but Loes beat me to it.  While there may be cases of child prodigies where spirit communication is involved, it’s likely that more commonly we’re simply seeing abilities which were developed over a period of time by that person in the past, when he or she took other forms.

It is also possible that a prodigy is doing “open channeling”—receiving the musical or artistic material from Wherever artists get such things, a place we don’t really understand.  Many times composers have reported that they felt they were simply writing down music they received from some higher source. That source doesn’t have to be a distinct spirit personality.  After all, if we say that Nares, or whoever, is giving music to a person on Earth, then we still must explain where Nares is getting it himself.

I have often felt very strongly that in another life I was a far more developed musician than I am now, and at times I’ve been able to tap into that other personality and allow her to play a bit.  I also wonder if the study and practice I am doing year after year in this life may feed back into that life and others.

And finally there is a concept I find very appealing, that a composer’s fans, even centuries later, feed energy and enthusiasm back into that person’s work and help to create it in the first place.

Elene Gusch, Tue 7 Oct, 23:25

I have actually just written about similar matters in my next book. The average psychologist’s explanations fall very short of the mark. The word that they like to trot out…namely savant….does not cut it, as the necessary skills are in place. How else can a very small child immediately play an instrument, with no teaching whatsoever. And I am not just talking about Pepito as there are other cases where the parents have no musical training. However , I expect that those who do not want to address the facts in these matters will still bury their heads in the sand and pretend they are not there. I call it the Ostrich syndrome.

Tricia, Tue 7 Oct, 10:53

Wonderful piece, Mike.  Especially fascinated by:

“Rosalie Thompson, a clairvoyant, claimed that she saw the child dissolve into the figure of a man while at the piano.”

This sort of benevolent possession also explains how one-and-a-half-year-olds can speak ancient Greek or Hebrew.

Stafford Betty, Tue 7 Oct, 01:39

While reading your article, I was reminded that I had heard the “fairy bells” in my office. On a Friday afternoon, 10 days after my mother passed away, I had been asking my mother to let me know she was okay. The “fairy bells” started playing, as I was with a client, I pretended not to hear it. Then my client asked if I could hear the “bells.” We hunted for a “phone” in my office, but I knew the sound was from my mother! Thank you for the wonderful reminder!

Holly Klein LSCSW, Tue 7 Oct, 01:21

It all sounds entirely rational to me, and we have experienced equally fascinating pleasures during seance sessions of the Kingsclere Group. These have included ‘singing’ during seance by one on a distant planet, with unbelievable medium’s larynx manipulation ... all recorded.

George E Moss, Mon 6 Oct, 14:39

How about Juan Arriaga, the Baskian Spanish composer,prodigy, born EXACTLY (!!!) 50 years after Mozart (January 27 1806), same Christian names, died young in 1826, feverishly productive like Mozart and writing music almost indistinguishable from his illustrous predecessor. Did Mozart come back as Arriaga to finish where he left off? They even look alike!

Loes Modderman, Mon 6 Oct, 11:39

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The Orpheus Motif in North America: The Comanche tradition – To give the reader a general idea of the form taken by the Orpheus tradition in North America, I reproduce the version of the Comanche Indians, here published for the first time. It was communicated to me orally by the late Dr Ralph Linton, who noted it down in the course of his field-studies among the Comanche (1933). Particular interest attaches to the Comanche narrative, for it is the first recorded Orpheus tradition from the more easterly Shoshonean groups. No account is given of it in Wallace and Hoebel’s Comanche monograph, which is otherwise a valuable source for the religion and folklore of this tribe. Read here
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