By Michael Tymn
Pseudo skeptics and debunkers are usually quick to smirk and scoff at reports that spirits wear clothes. Indeed, it even exceeds the boggle threshold of many who believe in a spirit world.
‘When the soul leaves the body it is at the first moment quite unclothed as at birth,’ Julia Ames communicated to William T Stead, the prominent British journalist and automatist who went down with the Titanic, after her physical death. ‘I awoke standing by my dead body, thinking I was still alive and in my ordinary physical frame. It was only when I saw the corpse in the bed that I knew that something had happened. When the thought of nakedness crosses the spirit there comes the clothing which you need. The idea with us is creative. We think, and the thing is. I do not remember putting on any garments. There is just the sense of need, and the need is supplied.’
Julia went on to say that once the spirit has fully awakened and adapted to the new environment, it has the ability to make itself appear in different ways, e.g., to appear as a child to someone who knew the spirit, when in the flesh, only as a child. ‘We have no need to do so for our own purposes, but when a newcomer arrives, or when we have to manifest ourselves to you who are still in the body, then we need to use this thought-creation, and body forth the visual tangible appearances with which you are familiar.’
In effect, Julia said what many other spirits have communicated: that they project an image of themselves as they remember having looked in the flesh to the newcomer on that side as well as to the person still in the earthly life so that they are recognized.
Allan Kardec, the pioneering French investigator, asked a spirit if any of them have wings. ‘Spirits have not wings,’ the reply came. ‘They do not need them; for, they can, as spirits transport themselves everywhere. They appear according to the way in which they desire to affect the person to whom they show themselves. Some appear in ordinary costume, others enveloped in draperies; some with wings as attributes of the category of spirits they represent.’ However, the spirit added that many spirits are unenlightened and do not really understand the process. For them, it is more instinctive.
The communicating spirit went on to say that although the spirit has no corporeal infirmity, he might show himself disabled, lame, humpbacked, wounded, or with scars, whatever necessary for the incarnate person to recognize him. The spirit also said that spirits can make ethereal matter tangible to the touch, if necessary.
A spirit calling himself Johannes communicated through medium Hester Travers-Smith to H Dennis Bradley. ‘Now you ask me about clothes and appearance… Every soul has its own form. It has formed itself during the earth life, and it comes to us as it makes itself. We seem to each other to be men and women as you are; and as to our garments, we do wear garments which convey the same impression as yours. There are merely veils for the mental part, something that gives clothing and appearance to the mental form; but you need not believe that when you pass on you live so differently as you expect. These garments are not made in the market as yours are; the really proceed largely from the idea of the individual. They help to demonstrate the mind as yours do.’
Rev. C Drayton Thomas, a psychical researcher as well as a Wesleyan minister, communicated with his deceased sister Etta through the mediumship of Gladys Osborne Leonard, a renowned trance-voice medium. At one of the sittings, Thomas asked Etta if clothing are simply replicas of those used when on earth or if spirits produce them entirely new.
Etta replied: ‘In one sense the answer to your question must be ‘both ways.’ Let me use as illustration the fact that on earth an old garment can be unpicked and remade into an apparently new one. Now, our thought with regard to an object we have appreciated is so strong that it provides the pattern for a duplicate here. But the actual garment is reproduced by processes unique to this sphere. Thought plays a very important part in manufacturing here, but ours is not entirely a mental world. We can make things by other processes than thought, if we choose to do so…’
At a different sitting, Thomas was told that he often visits with deceased relatives when he is sleeping. His deceased father told him that he could see Drayton’s soul leaving the body from his solar plexus during sleep, although at death it would leave from the head. He would watch the soul come out and form a sort of clothing for itself. ‘That is because of one’s intuitive sense of the need of clothing, the soul naturally seeks to clothe its body (i.e., the spiritual or psychic body),’ it was explained.
Communicating through the hand of Elsa Barker, a renowned automatist of the early 20th century, David Patterson Hatch, a lawyer and judge when ‘alive,’ said it is easy to get the clothes one wants after passing. ‘I do not know how I became possessed of the garments which I wore on coming out, but when I began to take notice of such things I found myself dressed as usual. I am not yet sure whether I brought my clothes with me.’
Hatch said that after he had been on that side a short time, he encountered a woman dressed in a Greek costume. He asked her where got it. ‘Why, first I made a pattern in my mind, and then the thing became a garment,’ she replied. Hatch then decided to see if he could make a Roman toga for himself, ‘but for the life of me I could not remember what a Roman toga looked like.’
Similarly, a spirit once told Dr Charles Richet, the 1913 Nobel Prize winner in medicine, that he could not materialize and show himself because he could not remember what he looked like when alive.
The same principle of being able to visualize oneself in the flesh seems to apply to psychic photography. When a mother asked her discarnate son to explain just how he was able to appear on a photograph, he responded: ‘I went home and looked at all my pictures, especially the one in the living room, as I like that best of all. I tried to fix the image of that picture in my mind so that I might be able to impress it upon the ectoplasm.’
The boy went on to say that he followed his mother into the room where she was being photographed and while the photographer was preparing to snap the picture he practiced a hit. ‘Of course, I could not see myself but felt sure that I was pretty good. I was all ready but when the camera man flashed a light bulb I did not expect it and I guess my face slipped a little.’
A study of the history of spirit photography shows that many spirit photographs were supposedly debunked because the photographs resembled portraits of the person when alive, including the clothing worn in the photographs. It was assumed that the photographer somehow managed to obtain a portrait of the person. The possibility that the spirits were using their old portraits to remember what they looked like, focusing on the same clothes worn in the portrait, seems not to have been grasped by the debunkers.
The spirit communicating with Father Johannes Greber, a Catholic priest in Germany, during the 1920s, said that ‘if a disembodied spirit wants to appear to terrestrial eyes in such a guise that it will be taken for its terrestrial being, it must clothes its spirit-form and all the members thereof with a shell of matter, which it produces by means of the condensation of terrestrial od’ (ectoplasm).
The spirit went on to say that a complete materialization requires so much od that no one medium is capable of supplying it. ‘In such cases, therefore, part of the substance of the medium’s corporeal body must be dissolved and used for materializing the spirit. For this reason, in materializations of this nature, a medium surrenders a great part of his physical weight, which is restored to him in full when the materialization has come to an end.’
Experiments conducted by Dr William J Crawford in Ireland around 1915 fully confirmed the loss of weight with the medium. This also explains why so many materializations are of just arms or hands or faces.
A sitter at one of the séances of DD Home, the renowned medium of yesteryear, asked Home’s spirit control how spirits make themselves visible. ‘At times we make passes (augment the field of energy) over the individual to cause him to see us; sometimes we make the actual resemblance of our former clothing appear exactly as we were known to you on earth,’ came the reply. ‘Sometimes we project an image that you see; sometimes you see us as we are with a cloudlike aura of light around us.
After dying in the Titanic disaster of 1912, William T Stead (mentioned above) began communicating through several mediums. He explained that there were souls on his side who had the power of sensing people (mediums) who could be used for communication. One such soul helped him find mediums and showed him how to make his presence known. It was explained to him that he had to visualize himself among the people in the flesh and imagine that he was standing there in the flesh with a strong light thrown upon himself. ‘Hold the visualization very deliberately and in detail, and keep it fixed upon my mind, that at that moment I was there and they were conscious of it,’ Stead explained the process.
Stead added that the people at one sitting were able to see only his face because he had seen himself as only a face. ‘I imagined the part they would recognize me by.’ It was in the same way he was able to get a message through. He stood by the medium, concentrated his mind on a short sentence, and repeated it with much emphasis and deliberation until he could hear part of it spoken through the medium.
Father Junipero Serra, the early California missionary, is said to have communicated through the medium Violet Parent of Los Angeles during the early 1900s. At one sitting, Mrs. Parent asked Father Serra if she could photograph him with her cheap box camera. He consented. Father Serra apparently decided to pose with his mother. The photo shows his mother as about half his height, or perhaps three feet tall.
One’s first reaction is to dismiss it as a fake, but applying the thought-image explanation to the photo one came make sense out of it. That is, Father Serra simply projected an image of himself and his mother, fully dressed, of course, as he remembered her, and he saw himself as much taller than his mother. Moreover, his head is much too small relative to his body. This may be due to the fact that Serra could more easily visualize his garments than his face. While the photo resembled the only known painting of Father Serra, there were differences. Since Father Serra lived before photography and probably didn’t have many mirrors around the mission, one wonders if he really knew what he looked like. Perhaps a reflection in the nearest stream gave him his only image of himself.
Many spirit communicators have stated that spirits tend to move from traditional clothing in the lower realms to robes and gown in the higher realms. After transitioning to the spirit world, Monsignor Robert Hugh Benson began communicating through the hand of Anthony Borgia. He told of being able to visit one of the higher realms.
‘I observed that most of the people waiting in the gardens were not habited in their earth clothes,’ he communicated, ‘and I assumed that most of them had been in spirit for some considerable time. Such was not necessarily the case, Edwin (their guide) told us. They had the right to wear their spirit robes by virtue of the fact that they were inhabitants of this realm we were now in. And the robes they wore were eminently suited to both the place and the situation. It is difficult to describe this costume because so much rests in being able to give some comparison with a particular earthly fabric. Here we have no such materials, but by the kind and degree of light that is the essence of the spirit robe. Those that we now saw were in ‘flowing’ form and of full length, and the colours – blue and pink in varying degrees of intensity – seemed to interweave themselves throughout the whole substance of the robes.’
Benson went on to say that he and the two other visitors accompanying him were still in their earthly style of raiment. Edwin suggested that they might change the natural element in the matter of clothes, but Benson and the others wondered how they were to make the change.
‘What did take place was very simply this,’ Benson continued to communicate. ‘Immediately I had expressed the wish to follow Edwin’s suggestion of discarding my earthly style of clothes, those very clothes faded away – dissolved – and I was attired in my own particular spirit robe – of the same description as those I could see about me.’ However, Benson noted that his robe did not have the same brightness or color as Edwin’s robe, apparently due to the fact that Edwin was more advanced than he was.