The Voice: Was It Really Confucius Speaking?
Posted on 22 April 2013, 13:16
If I were to rank all the books I have read on paranormal subjects as to intrigue, first place would likely come down to three books – Psychic Adventures in New York, The Mystery of the Buried Crosses, and The Case of Patience Worth, not necessarily in that order. However, the first one is my favorite, even if easily the shortest of the three books. My more detailed account of the story appears in the current (May/June) issue of Atlantis Rising magazine, but there wasn’t space enough in that article to offer the fascinating dialogue that took place between Dr. Neville Whymant (below) and the “voice,” so I thought I would do it here.
Whymant, the author of the book, was a professor of Oriental literature and philosophy at the Universities of Tokyo and Peking and then a professor of linguistics at Oxford and London Universities. He served as Far East editor (1926-27) of the New International Encyclopedia (1926-27) and was on the editorial staff of the Encyclopedia Britannica (1927-29). He was also a foreign correspondent for the London Times (1929-31) and from 1947 to 1950 was an adviser to the embassy of the Republic of China in London.
He was said to be conversant in 30 languages, including several dialects of Chinese. Among his other books were Chinese and Greek Philosophical Parallels (1917) and , The Psychology of the Chinese Coolie (1920). He does appear to have been someone to put his scholarly reputation on the line with a story that most rational people would consider absurd
Whymant’s experience took place during October 1926 at the New York City Park Avenue home of Judge and Mrs. William Cannon with direct-voice medium George Valiantine. Whymant had come to the United States to study the languages of the American Indian when the Cannons invited him to their home. They explained that Valiantine had been giving sittings at their home for some time, but only recently a voice that sounded like Chinese was coming through. They hoped Whymant would be able to interpret. Whymant said he was highly skeptical and searched the room completely before the seance began. His skepticism began to erode when his deceased father-in-law came through and spoke to his wife in the same characteristic drawl, reminiscent of the West County of England. Whymant doubted that Valiantine could have researched his wife’s history and so accurately simulated her father’s accent. But the most intriguing voice was yet to come. At first it came through in an ancient Chinese dialect, which Whymant had difficulty understanding. He asked the voice if he could speak more modern Chinese. The following dialogue then took place in Mandarin, with Whymant keeping detailed notes.
The Voice: “Greetings, O son of learning and reader of strange books! This unworthy servant bows humbly before such excellence.”
Whymant: “Peace be upon thee, O illustrious one. This uncultured menial ventures to ask thy name and illustrious style.”
The Voice: “My name is K’ung, men call me Fu-Tsu, and my lowly style is Kiu.
(This was the given name of Confucius.) I wasted more than three score years and reached the end of no road. Peace upon thy house May I know thine honourable name and illustrious style?” (Whymant still wondered if this was some kind of prank, though he could not imagine any trickster knowing such perfect Chinese, especially the ancient dialect, which was known to very few people, but he decided to play along.)
Whymant: “My humble name is Wang, and men call me Wen-tsu. My despicable style is Wen-Tsu-Tsang. I have thrown away two score years in folly and I lack understanding. Will the Master teach me words of wisdom?”
The Voice: “Alas, my shade is that of a single hair and knowledge is not in me. What is the honourable question?”
Whymant: “This stupid one would know the correct reading of a verse in Shih King. It has been hidden from understanding for long centuries, and men look upon it with eyes that are blind. The passage begins thus: Ts’ai t’asi chuan erh….” (Whymant was unable to complete his question before The Voice responded.)
The Voice: “It should be read this way, O master of mysteries (The voice here intoned the poem throughout and on Whymant’s asking for it again, it was repeated.) Thus read, does not its meaning become plain?”
Whymant: “Indeed, O leader of the wise ones, it shines with a myriad lights. There are other things which I would ask of thy wisdom.”
The Voice: “Ask not of an empty barrel much fish, O wise one! Many things which are now dark shall be light to thee, but the time is not yet. They shall yield to thy touch in a time (day) which is not yet born.”
Whymant: “Shall I ask of one passage in the Master’s own writing? In Lun Yu, Hsia Pien, there is a passage which is wrongly written. Should it not read thus:...?” (As Whymant began to recite the passage, the voice again interrupted.)
The Voice: “That it may be understood by those who sincerely seek what is hidden in the symbols. It was a mistake of those who tried to see in darkness, and wrote that which they did not understand.”
Whymant: “There are many dark places, O leader of the thoughtful ones, and I fear they may not be made plain.”
The Voice: “Fear not. There are those who love learning, and they will not let the treasure lie hid. Even as thou hast done with Mongolian, so thou shalt do with the problems of my old home. Those old Mongols waited long for one such as thou art….”
Whymant: “Long years have I sought to give the message of the East to the West, but the clinking of money in the market and the clanking of wheels in the factories have driven away the poor sound of my croaking voice.”
The Voice: “There are those, O silver-tongued, who wait for instruction from thee. They will listen patiently and long, for they will love thy teaching.”
Whymant: “Where shall I find such, O wise one?”
The Voice: “They shall find thee! From long searching shall they come, having sought thee out. Rest, my son, and do not strive too eagerly.”
Whymant: “I will seek peace.”
The Voice: “I go, my son, but I shall return… Wouldst thou hear the melody of eternity? Keep then thine ears alert…”
Whymant attended 11 additional sittings at the Cannon home, conversing with spirits in Hindi, Persian, Basque, Sanskrit, Arabic, Portuguese, Italian, Yiddish, Hebrew, German and modern Greek. Upon returning to England, he told the story to Sir Oliver Lodge, a world-renowned physicist and psychical researcher, who then arranged to have Valiantine tested by the Society for Psychical Research (SPR). However, the SPR researchers heard only “whispers,” some of which sounded like Chinese to them but were unclear. When the SPR asked Whymant to listen to the gramophone recording of the voices, he couldn’t make them out, either. One SPR researcher, in her report, pointed out that there are many “Chinamen” living in America and Valiantine probably learned a little Chinese from them, enough to make Whymant think that he was hearing Chinese and he subconsciously filled in the blanks. It was an explanation suggesting that Whymant was a complete fool. It also suggested that Valiantine learned enough of 13 other languages spoken through Valiantine’s mediumship to further dupe Whymant and also that he memorized the poems of “Confucius,” or Whymant just imagined he heard the voice recite a lengthy poem and also imagined that “Confucius” explained the mistakes in one of them.
Valiantine was said to have had his good days and his bad days, the latter being the result of a lack of harmony or too much hostility by the sitters. Indications were that the SPR researchers were hostile toward Valiantine, thereby defeating good phenomena. While skeptics scoff at such an explanation as self-serving, such was found to have been the case by many more sympathetic researchers.
At the urging of Lodge, Whymant first told the story in the April 1928 issue of the Journal for The American Society for Psychical Research . He said that he tired of telling the story so many times and put it into a book so that he wouldn’t have to tell it again.
Valiantine’s reputation suffered a severe blow in 1931, when an attempt was made to fingerprint a spirit claiming to be the recently-deceased Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of the Sherlock Holmes series. As it turned out, however, the print obtained was that of Valiantine’s big toe. Valiantine claimed that he had no idea how his toe became imprinted in the plaster cast. It was surmised by Valiantine’s supporters that devious low-level spirits interfered and had a good laugh, but debunkers saw it as evidence that Valiantine was a fraud, even if the direct-voice phenomenon could not be so easily dismissed. If Valiantine was a fraud, could he have been so brilliant as to learn more than a dozen languages, including an ancient Chinese dialect, and to have memorized the poems of Confucius, yet so dumb as to think his toe print would match up with Doyle’s thumb print?
Many other people reported hearing from deceased loved ones through Valiantine’s mediumship and were convinced of the genuineness of it. British playwright H. Dennis Bradley, also very skeptical at first, told of a 1923 sitting with Valiantine in which he carried on a conversation with his deceased sister, Annie. Bradley prefaced his report by saying that his sister was a purist in her choice of words and spoke in an odd way. “When she addressed me after ten years of silence, she said sayings in her own characteristic manner,” Bradley reported. “Every syllable was perfectly enunciated and every little peculiarity of intonation was reproduced. We talked for fifteen minutes, and about such subjects as only she and I could have known.”
Lodge told Whymant that it was not necessary to assume that it was Confucius himself communicating with him. His research suggested that superior spirits, as Confucius may have been, have no need to be identified with their teachings delivered while on earth and are represented by “group souls” who take the famous name to appease us, as it is the teaching, not the teacher, that is important.
Psychic Adventures in New York has been republished by White Crow Books and is available at Amazon.com.
Michael recently gave an interview to Spirittoday.com and it can be found here.
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.
Next blog post: May 6.