When a Famous Scientist Discovered Spirits
Posted on 21 October 2013, 8:07
When Professor James Mapes, (below) a renowned inventor and analytical chemist, first heard about the phenomena of spiritualism, he thought it was so much bunk. He was a man of science and could only scoff and sneer at the stories he was hearing about spirits communicating and producing various phenomena. However, when, sometime during 1852, his wife and daughter began displaying mediumistic abilities, he was forced to investigate and reconsider.
Mapes’s wife, who had no apparent prior artistic ability, suddenly became a painting medium, producing art of the highest quality, while his daughter became an automatic writing medium. One day, his daughter claimed to be receiving a message from Mapes’s father. When Mapes asked for proof of identity, the daughter’s hand wrote, “You may recollect that I gave you, among other books, an encylopaedia. Look on page 120 of that book, and you will find my name written there, which you have never seen.” Mapes went to the warehouse where the books were stored, opened the crate, which had been unopened in 27 years, and found his father’s name written on page 120.
It was then time for Mapes, who is credited with inventions that revolutionized agriculture, to do a serious investigation. He sat with D. D. Home and witnessed physical phenomena that defied scientific laws. He began attending various mediumistic circles but observed nothing to convince him that spirits were involved until on one occasion he received a message about something known only to himself and the spirit communicator. He asked the spirit communicator how he could satisfy himself as to the truth of it all and was told to form a circle of 12 individuals, six positive and six negative, and to find the best medium he could, then to continue the sittings until he received something he could accept. Mapes asked for clarification relative to the positive and negative minds. He was then informed that the positive minds were those who thought independently, unconcerned with what others thought, while a negative mind was one who relies on his or her friends before making a decision.. “Both these classes of minds are necessary for an effective circle,” the communication came. “When you have met twenty nights, you will have no further difficulty in inducing your friends to continue their sittings.” He was further told that the positive minds should be non-believers.
Mapes had no difficulty finding the negative minds, but had a hard time persuading his non-believer friends to participate for 20 nights. “For the first eighteen nights, both questions and answers were extremely stupid,” Mapes recorded. “The only curious phenomenon was the raps, and with all the theories of snapping of toe and knee joints, rubbing the ball of the foot on the sole of the boot, electricity, and all the other theories which had been from time to time advanced, the six positive minds were divided; but with negatives it was affirmed that there was a marvelous fitness in many of the replies, although the positive minds would not admit it.”
On the 19th night, when the positives expressed relief that their commitment was nearing an end, names of deceased relatives and friends began coming through for the positives with pertinent questions and answers given. On the 20th night, they experienced physical phenomena, including a guitar and a harmonica playing with no hands holding them. “The room was well lighted with gas, and the hands of the circle were placed on the top of the table,” Mapes noted.
“Even the positive members agreed to continue their sittings and the same circle sat for more than four years, once each week.” They received much more dynamic manifestations during those four years.
In 1854, Mapes traveled to Buffalo, New York to observe and study the mediumship of 14-year-old Cora L. V. Scott (later Cora L. V. Richmond) . Beginning in 1851, at age 11, young Cora (below) would go into a trance and lecture on subjects far beyond her education, experience, and exposure. The subjects of her lectures included social, political, economic, and religious matters, even extending to the emancipation of slaves. Large crowds gathered to hear her lectures and word soon spread of this amazing girl. In addition to subjects selected by her spirit guides, Cora (or her guides) invited questions or subjects from the audience. Mapes asked her to speak on “primary rocks,” to which she (or the spirits) replied with a discourse on geology that left Mapes awestruck. “I am a college educated man, and have been all my long life an investigator of scientific subjects and associated with scientific men,” he reacted, “but I stand here this afternoon dumb before this young girl..”
In a later writing, Mapes stated: “She renders the most abstruse points perfectly understandable to the most common auditor. In close analysis of words she is not surpassed, and her knowledge of natural law seems to be an intuition amounting to almost a certainty. Her high-toned moral character has at all times defied the tongue of calumny. In metaphysics she shows a degree of erudition hitherto amongst the greatest scholars of the world.”
Mapes summed up his observations by writing: “The manifestations which are pertinent to the ends required are so conclusive in their character as to establish in my mind certain cardinal points. These are:
“First, that there is a future state of existence, which is but a continuation of our present state of being, devoid of such portions of our organism as are now denominated material.
“Second, that the great aim of nature, as shown through a great variety of spiritual existences, is progression, extending beyond the limits of this mundane sphere.
“Third, that spirits can and do communicate with mortals, and in all cases evince a desire to elevate and advance those they commune with.
“Fourth, that spirits have, in a vast number of well-attested instances, proved their will and ability to ward off dangers, cure sickness, prevent crimes, reform criminals, restore lost property, and communicate many useful, scientific, and some highly-occult and novel ideas to mankind.”
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: November 4
Do you have sources for the quotes you gave here?
Ben, Tue 31 Dec, 20:17
Good point, Mike, someone must have made sure they both started receiving messages at the same time.
Elene, Tue 5 Nov, 18:21
Thanks for this one; I hadn’t heard of him before.
“Amazing that both his wife and his daughter became mediums at the same time.”
This suggests that their awakening was instigated from the other end.
Leslie Harris, Tue 5 Nov, 05:33
These stories never cease to be fascinating! I can only begin to imagine what it was like for this gentleman to suddenly find powerful paranormal manifestations taking place in his very own home. Amazing that both his wife and his daughter became mediums at the same time. It seems like the universe enjoys playing with us sometimes.
For such strong phenomena to begin taking place in Mapes’ circle of sitters after less than 3 weeks, even with half the circle consisting of skeptics, was particularly amazing. If it were usual to obtain results so quickly, perhaps we might have more instances of physical mediumship today, in our short-attention-span world? Just musing….
Elene, Tue 22 Oct, 17:18
Mike continues to do a terrific job of identifying and describing fascinating topics in the Spiritual World ...
Thanks from me, for sure, and I suspect many others with an interest in such ...
Richard Brannon, Mon 21 Oct, 15:13
An amazing and very informative article. We can always count on you to provide the best information about these topics from the past.
Keep up the great work,
Yvonne, Mon 21 Oct, 12:43
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