The Defamation of Eusapia Palladino
Posted on 27 February 2017, 10:46
My good friend Michael Schmicker, the author of The Witch of Napoli, a somewhat fictionalized version of the story of Eusapia Palladino, an illiterate Italian medium (1854 – 1918), and I meet with other friends once a month or so over lunch in downtown Honolulu to discuss our projects. While Mike and I are of like-mind on most everything, there is one thing we don’t agree on – whether Eusapia cheated in producing some phenomena.
Mike accepts the historical accounts that say Eusapia was a genuine medium but that she cheated at times when her powers failed her, a theme which Mike advances in his book, now a best-seller at Amazon. I argue, however, that there is no solid evidence that the acts taken by researchers to be cheating were consciously carried out by Eusapia. I point to the research of those scientists and scholars who observed her the most and claim that the so-called cheating was not conscious on her part, therefore not cheating, per se. That is, she was in a trance state and controlled by spirit entities, who at times used her arms and legs to produce some phenomenon. At other times, ectoplasmic arms and legs were formed and observers assumed they were Eusapia’s limbs. Mike seems to agree that there were unconscious movements in the trance state, but he also believes that Eusapia consciously cheated at times when her powers failed her. I do not deny that possibility, but I do not accept it as fact, as Mike does.
Sir Oliver Lodge, a renowned British physicist and electricity pioneer, studied Eusapia with Dr. Charles Richet, the 1913 Nobel Prize winner in medicine, and two other researchers at Richet’s private retreat on Ribaud Island in the Mediterranean during 1894. He wrote that she resented the charges of fraud and that he was willing to give her the benefit or the doubt, so far as morals of deception were concerned, referring to her as a kindly soul with many of the instincts of a peasant. “She wanted us to understand that it was not conscious deception, but that her control (called John King) took whatever means available, and if he found an easy way of doing things, thus would it be done,” Lodge explained.
“Even if there were no other medium than Eusapia in the world, her manifestations would suffice to establish scientifically the reality of telekinesis and ectoplasmic forms,” wrote Richet, who had more than 200 sittings with Eusapia. He reported that ectoplasmic arms and hands emerged from the body of Eusapia and did what they wished, independent of Eusapia’s will, as she had vacated the body while in trance. While Richet refused to believe in spirits, at least publicly, he referred to a “quasi-identity” between the medium and the ectoplasm that might give “the push that he (King?) hopes will start the phenomena.”
Professor Filippo Bottazzi, who held the chair of physiology at the University of Naples, studied Eusapia on a number of occasions and concluded that “during our sessions neither fraud nor cheating ever occurred. I can affirm this with certainty, solemnly, also on behalf of other participants. Although we all differ with regard to studies, temperament, and age, nevertheless we all agreed and were convinced that the phenomena we had observed were never the product of fraud. They were true phenomena, however mysterious and elusive in their nature.” Bottazzi admitted that there were things happening outside the bounds of scientific observation and that some observers might have assumed that fraud was the only explanation, thereby giving rise to the claims that Eusapia sometimes cheated.
The subject came up again at our latest lunch and another friend joined in to support Mike, saying that he found it difficult to believe that the controlling spirits would be so devious as to make Eusapia appear to be a cheater. I countered that there is evidence suggesting that such spirits don’t fully grasp what is happening on our side of the veil. For example, the discarnate Frederic Myers communicated that he didn’t know how his thoughts were coming through the medium, whether by automatic writing or through her voice. All he knew was that he was projecting thoughts that somehow were turned into words as they passed through the medium to the sitter.
After my recent debate with Mike, I had a dream. The year was 2028, the location being the lower regions of Purgatory, otherwise known as “Stuporland.” Unlike souls below them who are completely earthbound and even unaware that they have “died,” souls in Stuporland drift in and out of consciousness, realizing at times they have died and at other times thinking they are still alive in the flesh. The soul known as Michael Schmicker while incarnate had recently arrived and had been floundering somewhat in a confused state. I had graduated some years before Mike and was there to greet him on his arrival. Here is the conversation that took place:
Mike S. “Who are you?”
Mike T. “Don’t you remember me, Mike? You knew me as Mike Tymn.”
Mike S. “But I thought you died five or six years ago. And you look so much younger than the Mike Tymn I knew.”
Mike T. “Yes, I ‘died,’ as you call it, and so have you. The reason I look younger is that I have evolved back to my prime years.”
Mike S. “Oh! I know we talked about that, but I guess I never really absorbed it. Wow! I’m really dead?”
Mike T. “Yes, you are. You died a few days ago and are still awakening.”
Mike S. “Wow! Wow!”
Mike T. “It’ll become clearer to you as you awaken.”
Mike S. “How long does that usually take?”
Mike T. “As we often discussed, Mike, time is different on this side, but in earth time it can be a few days or even years. I can see from your energy field that you lived a good life and that means you should fully awaken shortly. However, I do see a dark obstruction in your field that might delay things just a bit.”
Mike S. What’s that? You’re not talking about the library book I forgot to return, are you?”
Mike T. “No, I’m referring to your having called Eusapia a cheater. You announced it to the world in one of your books.”
Mike S. “Is that why I seem to be experiencing a nightmare here, continually hearing ‘Cheater! Cheater! Cheater!’ over and over again?”
Mike T. “Yes, as you drift in and out of consciousness, you sometimes take on the identity of Eusapia and are now experiencing the woe that she experienced from your libellous and slanderous remarks.”
Mike S. “But everything I read indicated that she did cheat.”
Mike T. “Don’t you remember that we discussed this at Murphy’s over lunch? I explained that the best observers questioned whether she was really cheating and believed that in the trance state the spirit controls were merely doing what was expected of them in carrying out certain phenomena. These were primarily low-level spirits and didn’t really realize that they were making her appear to be cheating.”
Mike S. “Are you telling me that is what actually happened?”
Mike T. “Yes, that is what I have verified as fact since being here.”
Mike S. “But how could you be so certain back then?”
Mike T. “I wasn’t certain then, but when we don’t know things for sure, we need to be open-minded and not make hasty judgments that defame a person. Like Lodge, Richet, Bottazzi, and even Professor James Hyslop, who probably understood the trance state better than anybody else, I gave her the benefit of the doubt. You sort of laughed it off and pretended to know more than the distinguished men who studied her under strictly controlled conditions.”
Mike S. “What’s the big deal? She was already dead when I called her a cheater.”
Mike T. “Death does not exist. She was very much alive and suffered greatly by your remarks and those of others. Defaming what you call a ‘dead’ person is no different than defaming what you call a ‘live’ person. The hurt is much the same. More than that, though, you misled others and retarded them in their attempts to understand.”
Mike S. “Oh, I didn’t realize that.”
Mike T. “I tried to get that over to you when you were in the unreal life, but pride and ego got in the way. They are now responsible for those bad dreams you are having in which you become Eusapia.”
Mike S. “Is there any way to stop them?”
Mike T. “I am going to try to persuade Eusapia to come down here so that you can apologize to her. I’ll be back.”
Mike S. “You mean she is still around?”
Mike T. “She’s at a much higher vibration than we are here, but she can drop down here for a short period. It’s sort of like trying to hold your breath under water when you were in the earth life. I don’t think she can stay long.”
Mike S. “At what level are you?”
Mike T. “Between this vibration and the one Eusapia is at. Because of that I can hold my breath down here somewhat longer than she can. Of course, I’m speaking metaphorically.”
Mike S. “You seemed to be a pretty righteous guy when I knew you. What kept you from advancing to Eusapia’s level?”
Mike T. “I rented a Blockbuster video one time and let a friend borrow it after I saw it. I cheated the system – two for the price of one. That cost me.”
Mike T. “Mike, I’m back.”
Mike S. “Great, but Eusapia has already paid me a visit and said she was not offended by my cheating allegations. We had a great talk.”
Mike T. “Sorry to inform you, Mike, but that was not Eusapia. That was an impostor spirit trying to mislead you into thinking what you did is OK. You know the old saying, ‘what goes around, comes around’.”
Mike S. “Really? So is the real Eusapia going to visit me?”
Mike T. “Not right now. The Chief says you still have some purging to do, but you can shorten your time in Stuporland by returning to the earth life and making it known to your readers that there was absolutely no good evidence that Eusapia was a cheater. That should get you up to Summerland by tomorrow.”
Mike S. “How can I possibly do that from here?”
Mike T. “As I said, Mike, time is different here, so it has been arranged for you to go back to 2017 and make it clear to your many fans that Eusapia was a good woman and not a cheater.”
At this point in my dream I woke up and so I don’t know what happened after that.
Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife, and Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I.
Next blog post: March 13
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