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Remembering Professor Archie Roy (1924 – 2012)

Posted on 25 March 2013, 23:46

Every now and then some “know-it-all” who fancies himself a defender of science and a debunker of all things paranormal or supernatural will leave acerbic remarks in the comments section of this blog, stating how ridiculous it is to believe such blatant fraud, such ridiculous superstition, such utter folly.  Actually, you find them all over the Internet, trying to sabotage spiritual books by bringing down the ratings, scoffing in self-righteous indignation at anything spiritual and “unscientific,” and just generally showing their own stupidity and closed-mindedness. 

Most of them know little about the subject matter, except what they have heard from the professional debunkers.  They focus on the negative, completely disregarding the positive, while expecting various spiritual phenomena to neatly fit into some terrestrial mold that makes sense to them. Often, they lack the courage to give their real names, using a pseudonym or a variety of them.

As I have said before, most of them seem to be still wet behind the ears and fresh out of Biology 101, where they were suddenly enlightened by some materialistic biology professor.  Indications are that many of them were brought up in very religious homes and are rebelling against their parents by lashing out at their beliefs in public, not comprehending the difference between most of the subject matter discussed at this blog and religious dogma and doctrine.

I sometimes wonder if their mindsets would be any different if someone like Professor Archie E. Roy (below) had been their mentor rather than some reductionist biology teacher.  Dr. Roy was a professor emeritus of astronomy and honorary research fellow in the University of Glasgow, at the time he departed the material world, at age 88, on December 27, 2012.  A distinguished man of science, he clearly was able to fit spirituality into his worldview.

roy

After receiving his B.Sc. from Glasgow University in 1950, Roy earned his Ph.D. in 1954.  He joined the faculty of Glasgow University in 1958.  He was a fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, the Institute of Physics, the Royal Astronomical Society, the British Interplanetary Society, the Society for Psychical Research (of which he served as president for two years) and the Scottish Society for Psychical Research (of which he was the founder).  He was also a member of the International Astronomical Union, which honored him for his work in astronomy by naming an asteroid after him. During his professional career, Roy investigated many paranormal cases and authored three books on paranormal subjects –  A Sense of Something Strange (1990), The Archives of the Mind (1996) and The Eager Dead (2008).

“It was a few years [after joining the faculty of Glasgow University] when I received my ‘call up,’” Roy told me when I interviewed him in 2008, shortly after the release of his last book.  “I lost my way in the old university library and found shelves of books on spiritualism and psychical research.  My first ignorant reaction was ‘What is this rubbish doing in a university library?’ But curiosity made me open some of the books.  I was surprised to recognize some of the authors of this ‘rubbish,’ such as Sir Oliver Lodge, Professor William James, Professor Sir William Crookes, and so on.  My balloon of ignorance was punctured by the needle of my scientific curiosity and I found myself called up to a new career.”

The Eager Dead was about the famous cross-correspondences, considered by some to be the best evidence ever of the survival of human consciousness after death. Roy spent 10 years studying them before writing the book.  “Essentially, the cross-correspondences originated in a deceptively-simple idea,” he explained. “Someone who has died transmits to a number of mediums or automatists scattered round the world snippets of a theme dreamed up by him. The snippets received by any one automatist do not make any sense whatever to him or her. Only by bringing all the snippets together does the theme become clear. Moreover, that theme is characteristic of the intelligence and learning and personality of the sender who even, when he finds the group of investigators having serious difficulties in interpreting the collected snippets, speaks through the scripts directly to them, chiding and teasing them in the manner of a kindly teacher with an obtuse class.  He then gives hints to them to aid them in their interpretation of the scripts.”

The purpose of the cross-correspondences was to demonstrate that the messages were not telepathically received by the medium from one of the sitters or even from someone not present, or from some cosmic reservoir – theories suggested by various researchers to refute the survival hypothesis.  “The difficulties really begin to mount when we realize that the group of seven on the other side of death had a decidedly complicated agenda,” Roy went on.  “They continued to ‘dictate’ scripts for over thirty years.  They, especially [Frederic] Myers, (below) cleverly used levels of classical allusions and literary references that to very few modern people make any sense at all, so philistine have our educational standards become. Add to that the fact that there are many thousands of pages that anyone nowadays would have to study and so would require a very long time to do so. But the idea is a brilliant one and one might well ask if there is anything better in the history of psychical research.”

myers


I asked Professor Roy if he could go back in time and meet one of the people involved with the cross-correspondences who it would be.  “Inevitably, I choose Myers as the one,” he responded.  “Ever since I obtained many years ago a copy of the two-volume edition of his book Human Personality and its Survival of Bodily Death, I have placed him as the greatest, most talented pioneer of psychical research. His brilliant insight into the nature of human personality lifts him to the same elevated rung of the ladder of human genius as Copernicus, Newton, Darwin, Clerk Maxwell, Einstein and those others whose contributions to humanity have been gloriously illuminating beacons amid the darkness of unreason, prejudice, violence, cruelty and downright evil acts of our species.  What can I say about Myers that hasn’t already been said by those who knew him, admired him unreservedly and acknowledged his fabulous contribution to our subject?  Luminaries such as Charles Richet, William James, Theodor Flournoy, Oliver Lodge, William Barrett and many others then and since have testified to Myers’ many-faceted stature.  He was not valued by those who knew him solely because of his contributions to [psychical research] but also because of his loveable and endearing personality. I have said elsewhere that if William Wordsworth demonstrated that he was the psychical researcher of poets, Frederic Myers was the poet of psychical research.  To me Myers is one I would dearly love to meet, not because I could teach him anything but simply because I would enjoy the company and friendship of a superb, enormously-talented and loveable man, one of the three major founding fathers of psychical research.”

I asked Roy about his involvement in the famous Scole experiments of the 1990s.  “I played a very small part in the Scole experiment,” he answered.  “The principal researchers were Professor Arthur Ellison, Professor David Fontana and Montague Keen.  I was taken to the Scole site on one occasion, not because of a lack of interest on my part but purely because of distance. Nevertheless every time I met Monty he kept me informed about events at the circle.  On the evening I was present I sat where I could satisfactorily see and hear what was happening. The conversation between the experimenters and the mediums’ controls was fascinating. The proceedings became even more interesting to me when the ‘control’ known as the scientist spoke to me, welcoming me and saying that he had carried out some of the pioneering work of calculating periodic orbits of planets and satellites. He discussed with me some of the technicalities and difficulties he had experienced and referred to the fact that in his day there were no computers such as I could now use. Afterwards I realized that there were only about a score of people in the UK who would have been able to have a conversation with me at that level of expertise on that subject. And as far as I know, the mediums had not been given my identity and profession. I also realized that the scientist bore quite a resemblance to George Darwin, related to Charles Darwin, who had indeed carried out such pioneering calculations on periodic orbits. But again, as seems to happen to many circles that terminate unexpectedly, the Scole circle did likewise on the grounds that it had to cease because its operation was interfering with the ability of time-travelers to pass from one galaxy to another!  As we say laconically in Glasgow when our boggle-factor is surpassed: ‘Aye, that’ll be right.’”

Roy investigated many other cases during his long career in psychical research.  One case that stood out in his mind was that of Maxwell Park, which he investigated with Max Magee, chaplain of the student body of Starthclyde University.  “It was a powerful poltergeist case which had lasted half a year before I was called in,” he recalled. “The family members were terrified by the physical manifestations that tormented them.  When they fled to a relative’s house, the phenomena did likewise and even continued there,  after the family in despair returned to their own house, as though in some way the relative’s family had been infected. In time, some 50 people were witnesses, including cynical journalists, town councilors, doctors, policemen and others, turned from original scepticism to utter conviction that they had witnessed the paranormal. A police officer told me, ‘You know, I had to take some of my men off that case. They were turning in reports like ‘The bed was proceeding in a northerly direction.’”

While many modern day researchers sit on the fence when it comes to the survival issue, Roy had no reservations in expressing his view. “To me, at the present time, the evidence for the survival of bodily death is of such strength that it is the most parsimonious theory accounting for much more than any other,” he said.  “Even the file theory, which supposes that throughout a person’s life, a record of that person’s life from their point of view is made until their bodily death, is not so convincing. Certainly the file cannot be supposed to be physical, for long after the death of the brain, children recall the details of a previous life, accepting it as a former life they had, since memories of that life are recalled from the point of view of the former person. To me the researches of (Ian) Stevenson and (Erlendur) Haraldsson are convincing in this area that survival of death in some way takes place. Possession cases such as those of Lurancy Vennum, Uttara Huddar, Sumitra, Jasbir Lal Jat add strength to that concept.  Certain ‘drop in’ cases also strengthen the concept.  Indeed the wide variety of such cases are so evidentially strong that they support a challenge I made in print twelve years ago to any sceptic that if she or he believes no proof of a paranormal event has ever been produced they should submit in detail normal explanations for the long list of cases I gave. The silence from the sceptics has been deafening, a silence that reminds me of Sherlock Holmes chiding of Dr. Watson because of his non-appreciation of the significance of the dog that did not bark in the night. Or the trick of young children who, displeased with the real world, close their eyes and believe that by so doing, they have cancelled that displeasing world. Or the late Sam Goldwyn who allegedly shouted, “Don’t confuse me with facts! My mind is made up!”

How some pseudoskeptical “know-it-all,” such as mentioned in the first paragraph, can claim to be a better judge of paranormal matters than Professor Archie Roy, who spent more than 50 years studying and observing psychical matters, is beyond me. The “know-it-all” reads a few books by some debunker and he thinks he knows more than Roy learned over five decades. It took Roy 10 years to fully digest the cross-correspondences, but the “know-it-all” no doubt feels qualified to debunk it after a few hours of study.  What arrogance! 

Hopefully, by now, Archie Roy has had an opportunity to meet Frederic Myers.  They probably shook their heads in disgust while discussing such closed-minded hubris.

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:  April 8              


             

   

 

 


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A non-believer convinces another non-believer of life after death

Posted on 11 March 2013, 13:10

When he was alive in the flesh, George Pellew, an author, poet, and journalist, told Dr. Richard Hodgson, who was studying the mediumship of Leonora Piper, that he could not conceive of an afterlife but that if he died before Hodgson and found himself “still existing” he would attempt to let Hodgson know.

Hodgson (below) had been studying Mrs. Piper since 1887.  He would arrange for various people to anonymously sit with her, and then would observe and record the sessions. The usual procedure was for Mrs. Piper to go into a trance state and her body to be taken over by a spirit calling himself Dr. Phinuit, who, unlike Mrs. Piper, spoke in a gruff voice and with a French accent.  As it came to be understood by Hodgson and other researchers, very few spirits are capable of communicating directly and thus Phinuit would act as a medium on the Other Side, relaying messages from them to the sitters.

hodgson

Initially a skeptic, even a debunker, Hodgson had completely ruled out fraud on the part of Mrs. Piper but still questioned whether the voices coming through the young Boston medium in her trance state were voices of the dead or some secondary personality buried in her subconscious.  But since many of the sitters seemed to be receiving very evidential information from deceased loved ones and friends, the question remained as to how the secondary personality, if that is what it was, got the information. 

Hodgson, Professor William James, and other researchers were reluctant to accept the spirit hypothesis.  No evidence could be found that a Dr. Phinuit ever existed and they theorized that he was a secondary personality which was somehow able to telepathically tap into the mind of the sitter.  When information came through that was unknown to the sitter but later verified as correct, they further theorized that it was possible for Mrs. Piper’s secondary personality to read the mind of anybody in the world or to tap into some kind of cosmic reservoir in the ethers and extract information, then feed it back to the sitters.  As far fetched as that seemed, any explanation was preferable to spirits, as science, in the wake of Darwinism, was busy demonstrating that things spiritual were just so much superstition and folly.  The mere suggestion of spirits of the dead was cause for smirks, scoffs, and sneers among educated people. 

Hodgson’s confidence in his views was “shaken” after the accidental death of Pellew (below) on February 18, 1892, the result of falling down a flight of stairs.  At the time, Pellew, a Harvard graduate, was employed as an editorial writer for the New York Sun.

pellew

On March 22, a little over a month after Pellew’s death, Hodgson brought Pellew’s friend John Hart for a sitting with Mrs. Piper.  Early in the sitting, Dr. Phinuit (speaking through Mrs. Piper’s body) announced that “George” was there.  Phinuit then gave Pellew’s full name and the names of several close friends.  To give assurance that it was actually himself communicating through Phinuit, Pellew told Hart that the pair of studs he was wearing were once his and were given to Hart by his (Pellew’s) parents, which Hart confirmed as true.  Pellew then mentioned some mutual friends, Jim and Mary Howard, and asked Hart if he could get them to attend a sitting.  He also brought up a discussion he had had with Katharine, the Howard’s 15-year-old daughter, about God, space, and eternity.  As neither Hart nor Hodgson, who was also in attendance and taking notes, was aware of any such discussion with Katharine, this information, later confirmed by Katharine, fell outside the scope of simple telepathy.

Hodgson recorded that many personal references were made by Pellew, including one to a book he had not yet finished before his death, and that Hart was impressed, mentioning that various words of greetings and speech mannerisms were very characteristic of Pellew, even though the messages were relayed through Phinuit.  For privacy reasons, Hodgson called him George “Pelham” in the research records, or otherwise referred to him simply as “G.P.”

Some three weeks later, Jim and Mary Howard had a sitting with Mrs. Piper. They were somewhat reluctant to participate in such “occult activity,” but Hart’s account of what took place at his sitting made them curious. Hodgson did not tell Mrs. Piper their names or give her any clue as to their connection with G.P.  Yet, G.P. communicated.  However, rather than Phinuit speaking through Mrs. Piper and relaying messages from G.P., G.P. took over Mrs. Piper’s body and spoke directly to his friends:

G.P.:  “Jim, is that you?  Speak to me quick.  I am not dead.  Don’t think me dead.  I’m awfully glad to see you. Can’t you see me?  Don’t you hear me? Give my love to my father and tell him I want to see him.  I am happy here, and more so since I can communicate with you.  I pity those people who can’t speak…”

Jim Howard: “What do you do George, where you are?”

G.P.:  “I am scarcely able to do anything yet; I am just awakened to the reality of life after death.  It was like darkness.  I could not distinguish anything at first.  Darkest hours just before dawn, you know that, Jim.  I was puzzled, confused.  Shall have an occupation soon.  Now I can see you, my friends.  I can hear you speak. Your voice, Jim, I can distinguish with your accent and articulation, but it sounds like a big bass drum.  Mine would sound to you like the faintest whisper.”

Jim Howard: “Our conversation, then, is something like telephoning?”

G.P.: “Yes.”

Jim Howard: “By long distance telephone?”

G.P.: (Laughs)

Jim Howard: “Were you not surprised to find yourself living?”

G.P.:  “Greatly surprised.  I did not believe in a future life.  It was beyond my reasoning powers.  Now it is as clear to me as daylight.  We have an astral fac-simile of the material body…” 

The conversation continued.  G.P. mentioned that he had seen and talked with Martha Rogers, the deceased daughter of a mutual friend.  He said that she was still adjusting to her new environment. He also asked how Orenberg and Berwick, two other mutual friends, were doing, adding that Orenberg liked him but never understood him.  “We fellows who are eccentric are always misunderstood in life,” he said.  “I used to have fits of depression.  I have none now.  I am happy now.  I want my father to know about this.  We used to talk about spiritual things, but he will be hard to convince.  My mother will be easier…”

At a later sitting, the Howards brought their daughter, Katharine.  G. P. came through and asked Katharine about her violin lessons, commenting (apparently jesting) that her playing was “horrible.”  Not realizing the humor in it, Mary Howard spoke up to defend her daughter’s music, but G.P. then explained that he mentioned it because that is what he used to do when in the flesh. It was intended as verification of his identity.

Jim and Mary Howard returned again on December 19, 1892.  Mary Howard handed G.P. a letter from his father and asked him if he could read it.  G.P. said it did not sound like his father would talk to him when he was in the body, but that his father does believe that he still exists and is no longer in pain.  Mary Howard confirmed for Hodgson that this was the key message in the letter, which apparently was still in the envelope.  G.P. continued:

“That brings me nearer to my father; now give him my tenderest love and tell him that I am very near him, and see him almost every day, if I could go by days, but I can’t judge of that, because I have no idea of time; that is one thing I have lost, Hodgson…You of all others are the one that I want to be absolutely certain of my identity…Hodgson, I mean, and Jim, I want you both to feel I am no secondary personality of the medium’s…Now, about my theory of spirit life independent of the material substance.  I live, think, see, hear, know, and feel just as clearly as when I was in the material life, but it is not so easy to explain it to you as you would naturally suppose, especially when the thoughts have to be expressed through substance materially…Nevertheless, I am bound to do just all I can for you to prove to you that I do absolutely exist, independent of the material body which I inhabited…”

Jim Howard returned alone for a sitting three days later and asked G.P. to tell him something that only the two of them knew.  In fact, G.P. told Howard something so private and personal that Howard did not want it made part of the record, but he told Hodgson that he was perfectly satisfied with the information.  G.P. continued:

“Jim, I am dull in this sphere about some things, but you will forgive me, won’t you?...but like as when in the body sometimes we can’t always recall everything in a moment, can we, Jim, dear old fellow?...God bless you, Jim, and many thanks.  You often gave me courage when I used to get depressed.  You know how you especially used to fire at me sometimes, but I understood it all, did I not, old fellow?...and I used to get tremendously down at the heel sometimes, but I am all right now, and, Jim, you can never know how much I love you and how I delight in coming back and telling you all this…When I found I actually lived again, I jumped for joy, and my first thought was to find you and Mary.  And thank the Infinite here I am, old fellow, living and well…”

Over the period of time during which G.P. communicated, Hodgson brought 150 sitters, 30 of whom were known to G.P. when he was alive.  In each case, G.P. greeted them by name. The non-recognition of the other 120 was contrary to the telepathic and cosmic soul theories. That is, if G.P., or Mrs. Piper’s secondary personality, had been reading minds or searching in some cosmic computer, he (she) would have known the names of all of them. 

The emergence of G.P. moved Hodgson and other researchers to a belief that spirits of the dead were in fact communicating.  In effect, there was too much individuality, too much purpose and persistence, expressed by G.P. to attribute it to telepathy of a limited or expanded nature.  It was one thing for a medium to tap into another mind or cosmic reservoir for information, quite another for that other mind or reservoir to dialogue with the fullness of a personality rather than just fragmentary bits of information.

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 entry:  March 25


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“A Case to Consider” by Paul Beard – What is it possible to discover about the experiences we shall meet with after we die - if indeed existence does continue - and about how we can best prepare for them? Read here
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