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Do Famous “Dead” People Communicate?

Posted on 14 November 2011, 14:28

I believe in spirits and spirit communication through mediums.  What I struggle with, however, is communication purportedly coming from famous people or more current celebrities of one kind or another.  I am highly skeptical when the spirit communicator claims to be Jesus, St. Michael, Socrates, Plato, St. Augustine, or some other historical figure held in high regard by many. 

Then again, I wonder if I am being too hasty in dismissing such communicators.  Why wouldn’t they communicate?  If the unknowns of the spirit world can communicate, why shouldn’t those well-known in their earth lives come through now and then as well?  If we are to believe that Jesus was concerned with the welfare of humankind when alive, why wouldn’t he still be concerned and continue with his teachings?  Of course, the religious skeptic would say that if Jesus wanted to communicate he would certainly be able to do a much better job and be more convincing than he has been in those cases in which he has supposedly communicated in recent years.  But the student of mediumship comes to understand that inter-dimensional communication has many obstacles and that the obstacles for superior spirits are greater than those facing lower spirits. 

If the seemingly credible spirits can be believed, the superior spirits have a much more difficult time communicating than those at lower levels because they are existing at such a high rate of vibration relative to the earth vibration.  These superior spirits, we are told, have to use spirits at lower levels of vibration to relay their messages to humans and these messages are sometimes distorted in the process, especially when they are filtered through the medium’s mind.     

During the early 1850s, Victor Hugo, the renowned French author, was supposedly receiving messages from Socrates, Moses, Jesus, Mohammed, Martin Luther, Galileo, and others.  One communicating spirit identified “itself” to Hugo as “Death,” another as “Angel of Light,” and still another as the “Shadow of the Sepulcher.” It was the “Shadow” who first communicated by means of table raps after Léopoldine, Hugo’s deceased daughter, came through, informing Hugo and the others sitting in a circle with the medium that “death is the balloon that takes the soul to heaven,” “infinity is an emptiness packed full,” and “use your body to search out your soul.”  Initially, Hugo was very skeptical, wondering if the table acted through their thoughts. 

Although he soon came to believe that spirits of the dead were communicating, he then wondered if these were devious spirits posing as wise men, as religious leaders claimed, especially when what they had to say conflicted with established dogma and doctrine.  But Hugo apparently had also heard that the “essence” of advanced souls can come down through lower spirits and that “group souls” can take on a fictitious identity for want of a specific identity. Whatever the explanation, Hugo was intrigued, impressed, and inspired by much of what the superior spirits had to say.

During the 1870s, William Stainton Moses, an Anglican priest, was said to be controlled by a band of 49 spirits under the direction of a spirit called Imperator. Some of Imperator’s subordinates had names like Rector, Mentor, and Doctor. Apparently, Imperator was too far advanced and had to relay messages through some of the 49, who were closer in vibration to the earth vibration.  When Imperator was asked about his name and the other strange names in his band of 49 spirits, he replied:  “These names are but convenient symbols for influences brought to bear upon you.  In some cases the influence is not centralized; it is impersonal, as you would say. 

In many cases the messages given you are not the product of any one mind, but are the collective influence of a number.  Many who have been concerned with you are but the vehicles to you of a yet higher influence which is obliged to reach you in that way.  We deliberate, we consult, and in many instances you receive the impression of our united thought.”

Allan Kardec, the pioneering French researcher, purportedly received messages from John the Evangelist, St. Augustine, St. Vincent De Paul, St. Louis, “The Spirit of Truth,” Socrates, Plato, Fénélon, Franklin, and Swedenborg.  They answered questions on every conceivable subject, including God, pantheism, universal space, biblical accounts of creation, reincarnation, relationships beyond the grave, possession, the fate of children beyond the grave, spirit influence, war, capital punishment, slavery, dreams, free will, suicide, and fear of death, to name just some.

A few years before Hugo and Kardec began their investigations of mediumship, John Edmonds, Chief Justice of the New York State Supreme Court, and George T. Dexter, a New York physician, received numerous profound messages from Swedenborg, the brilliant 18th Century scientist, and Lord Francis Bacon, the 17th Century British philosopher. 

As Kardec came to understand, superior spirits, while preserving their individuality, have no need to be identified with their teachings delivered while on earth, but because humans seem to need an identity in order to fix their ideas, superior spirits who identify with the teachings of the famous personage and belong to the same “family” or “collective whole” may take that famous name to appease us, as it is the teaching, not the signature, that is important.

“In proportion as spirits are purified and elevated in the hierarchy, the distinctive characters of their personalities are, in some sort, obliterated in the uniformity of perfection, and yet they do not the less preserve their individuality: this is the case with the superior and pure spirits,” Kardec related what he had come to understand.  “In this condition, the name they had on earth, in one of their thousand ephemeral corporeal existences, is quite an insignificant thing.  Let us remark again that spirits are attracted to each other by the similarity of their qualities, and that they thus form sympathetic groups or families…but as names are necessary to us to fix our ideas, they can take that of any known personage whose nature is best identified with their own…It thus follows that if a person’s guardian angel gives his name as St. Peter, for instance, there is no actual proof that it is the apostle of that name; it may be he, or it may be an entirely unknown spirit belonging to the family of spirits of which St. Peter makes a part; it also follows that under whatever name the guardian angel is invoked, he comes to the call that is made, because he is attracted by the thought, and the name is indifferent to him.”

Kardec asked if taking the name of a famous person would not be fraud. “It would be fraud on the part of a bad spirit who might want to deceive,” came the answer, “but when it is for good, God permits it to be so among spirits of the same order, because there is among them a solidarity and similarity of thought.”

Kardec had earlier been warned that inferior spirits frequently borrow respectable names in order to give credence to their words.  Moreover, some spirits report themselves as fictional characters.  “There is always a crowd of spirits ready to speak for anything,” Kardec wrote, mentioning that one day a person took a fancy to invoke Tartufe, a fictitious character from a French play.  Tartufe came immediately and talked of Orgon, of Elmire, of Damis, and of Valire, other fictitious characters in the play.  “As to himself, he counterfeited the hypocrite with as much art as if Tartufe had been a real personage.  Afterward, he said he was the spirit of an actor who had played that character.”

The superior spirits, Kardec was informed, “have a language always worthy, noble, elevated, with not the least tincture of triviality.  They say everything with simplicity and modesty, never boast, never make a parade of their knowledge or their position among others.  That of the inferior or ordinary spirit has always some reflex human passion; every expression that savors of vulgarity, self-sufficiency, arrogance, boasting, acrimony, is a characteristic indication of inferiority, or of treachery if the spirit presents himself under a respected and venerated name.”
Kardec asked why inferior spirits were permitted to interfere in the first place.  Couldn’t God or the superior spirits prevent it?  “God permits it to be so to make trial of your perseverance and your judgment, and to teach you to distinguish truth from error; if you do not, it is that you are not sufficiently elevated, and still need the lessons of experience,” came the reply.

Robert Hare, a distinguished professor of chemistry at the University of Pennsylvania and one of the pioneers of psychical research, began his investigations assuming that he would debunk mediums, but after several months of investigation he became a believer and began recording messages from spirits.  He asked them what the various mediumship phenomena were all about and was told that they were “a deliberate effort on the part of the inhabitants of the higher spheres to break through the partition which has interfered with the attainment, by mortals, of a correct idea of their destiny after death.”  To carry out this intention, he was told, a delegation of advanced spirits has been appointed.  He was further informed that lower spirits were allowed to take part in the undertaking because they were better able to make mechanical movements and loud rappings than those on the higher realms.

Imperator told Stainton Moses that they (the superior spirits) overestimated their ability to communicate.  “It is true that Benjamin Franklin did discover means of communication by raps, and that he was greatly aided by Swedenborg in awakening interest among spirits in the subject,” Imperator communicated.  “At the time of the discovery it was believed that all denizens of both worlds would be brought into ready communion. But, both on account of the obstinate ignorance of man, and of the extent to which the privilege was abused by spirits who assumed well-known names and personated them and so deceived men, that privilege has been greatly narrowed.”

Those who wonder why the mediumship of old was so much more dynamic and offered so much more wisdom than that of today may want to ponder on Imperator’s words. 

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.


Thank you so much for a detailed article. On one occasion when Rudolf Steiner spoke with our seance group, I asked him about his teaching establishment near the Swiss border. I asked if he enjoyed seeing from spirit, the building being rebuilt after his death. He replied: “Oh the Goethenum!” I was not aware at the time that he admired Wolfgang Goethe so much that he had named the (original) building after him. So I feel that to be good evidence of spirit identity. All recorded and transcribed.
Sincerely ... George E Moss.

George E Moss, Fri 23 Aug, 17:00

I observed your blog using google and I must say, this is most likely one of the greatest nicely ready articles I have come across in a long time. I’ve bookmarked your site for more posts.

Paul Sanchez, Tue 6 Dec, 23:54

I very much appreciate your thoughtful research and writing on this subject, Mike. (I would appreciate your including the specific citations, too!) Since I write and speak of highly evidential ADCs I’ve received in order to help other people in grief, this topic is of great interest to me. Your discussion here clears the way for others to accept the healing value of their ADCs from loved ones while at the same time being mindful of distinctions, fabrications, and varieties of other ostensible after-death communications from famous people reported in the media. Thanks so much for addressing this confusing area. 
Very best wishes,
Jane Katra

Jane Katra, Tue 29 Nov, 05:38

Much informative and useful article¡­ I like it personally¡­ 
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Flying simulator games, Thu 24 Nov, 04:42

I have been reading Michael Tymn’s blogs on James Beichler, and “Do Famous ‘Dead’ People Communicate with interest, especially relating the spiritual group as well as the individual communicator.  Our personal experiences do lead us to try and describe reality in differing ways. On the one hand, there is strong evidence that our individual consciences and points of view survive death of the body. On the other hand, there is strong evidence that we are all connected to each other in the network of the whole in an infinity of ways. So yes, psi and superpsi. Beichler must be right.  And that makes a slippery place when trying to define things.  There is always “on the one hand.. and then the other.”  On the one hand, from a mass of interlocking linguistic, historical, and personal evidence,  the people talking to Stephen the Martyr were sure we were talking to this “Famous ‘Dead’ Person”. We were impressed with his humility, wisdom.. and love. But on the other hand Stephen was insisting that he and we are all each other, and all others, all manifestations of the Source of all things, that he was reminding us of the knowledge we had before we entered our present incarnations.  More narrowly though, he said he was talking with us as fellow members of a like minded spiritual group. And yes, on the one hand individual spirits are at all stages of development, and there are destructive spirits;  yet on the other hand developed and undeveloped are together in a synchronistic whole.

Michael Cocks, Thu 17 Nov, 14:26

I am sorry to learn of Joe Fisher’s suicide in 2001, as I would be to hear of any suicide. However, to reify suicide by reference to “angry spirits” as the publishers of Hungy Ghosts have done, is akin to a recent Polish psychiatrist’s claim that homosexuality is the result of spirit
posession by a low level spirit of the opposite sex. Such explanations are ignorant not only of the cross cultural literature on spirit possession
phenonmena but also of the cross-cultural variants
in sex, gender and sexuality.  Evil spirits don’t
cause suicide, any more than they cause homosexuality. But such claims may sell a lot of books. My own mediumistic experience of both altered states of consciousness as well as of spirit communication is mediated also by my background as a cultural anthropologist (Ph.D.) and a Registered Art Therapist (ATR, BCATR) as well as by critical thinking and a little groundedness. Paul D. Biscop, Nanaimo, BC

paul biscop, Thu 17 Nov, 01:56

For Spiritists, the spirit message is the most important thing as we strive to receive instructrive communications for our own moral betterment and about life in the spirit world. Discernment is extremely important.
Besides, we believe in reincarnation, and many of the people who have been considered important from the past may have already reincarnated

Yvonne Limoges, Wed 16 Nov, 15:40


It would make sense that if there are communicators pretending to be someone else, there are also genuine communicators. I have had plenty of information given to me via mediums over the years, and none of it has ever been negative, however it seems, the author, Joe Fisher found a lot of negativity, and unfortunately ended up committing suicide in 2001.

Here is the statement from his publishers website.

Troubled by personal problems - as well as by the spirits he claimed to have angered in writing the Siren Call of Hungry Ghosts - Joe Fisher took his own life on May 9, 2001. That he would do so is all the more surprising considering what he had written earlier in The Case for Reincarnation: “As much as the suicidal personality feels able to escape the world by getting rid of the body, reincarnation’s revolving door ensures that all hope (of escape) is short lived. Those who learn that they have killed themselves in past lives are quickly brought to the realization that suicide, far from being an answer to life’s problems is (instead) the violent breaking of the lifeline. If the (suicide) could only realize the resulting intensification of difficulty which must enter the life to come, (suicide) would never be (attempted).”

Jon, Wed 16 Nov, 15:03

One of the difficulties in verifying “channeling” as against evidential mediumship is apparently revealed in Fisher’s book, yes. But note he has used only a small fraction of all the channeling that has gone on over the decades. From a technical point of view, it is Fisher who is serving his own ends ([publication, income, ego, etc)by his reasearch,whatever they might be. One simply can’t dismiss many thousands of other channelers on the basis of four. It is also, however, a note of caution to the unwary: make sure there is reliability through hard core evidential mediumship before accepting
channeling as factual.

paul biscop, Wed 16 Nov, 01:23

Hey Mike- an interesting and thoughtful treatment
of the problem.  One thing I have noticed over the years, however, is that sometimes in a reading
a “Higher Level” spirit might come through w/o any
identity. For example, I recently did a private reading for a newcomer to our Two Worlds Spiritualist Centre here in Nanaimo. While the reading was very evidential throughout and all were recognized by the sitter, toward the end a very powerful presence made itself felt and conveyed a message. I recognize the vibration, so to speak, which does not happen very often any way, but it seems an identity might take away from
the qulaity of the message, just as an earthly
communication from a person of high status can get
missed because of the status of the person. Sometimes the message is more important than the communicator. Cheers.

Paul Biscop, Tue 15 Nov, 06:46

I’ve just finished a book by Joe Fisher entitled ‘Hungry Ghosts’ - an investigation into channelling and the spirit world. Its a fascinating book, especially his conclusion that virtually all communications come from Earthbound souls who are self-serving, manipulative liars seeking to exploit the living for their own ends.  Much of the book is concerned with Fisher obtaining details of the Earth lives - including their names - of so-called ‘guides’ and ‘soul mates’ before they passed into spirit and checking out the truth of their statements by travelling from Canada to England and Greece to check the archives and localities they claimed to live in . He found that every one of them (four) had lied and when they were subsequently challenged over these results they dissembled and were very clever in side-stepping the accusations. Its true that some facts they gave were correct but crucial personal details were not,  It follows that their spiritual messages and wisdom was therefore suspect also. Fisher owned to developing mental instability and exhaustion as a result of the influence of these channelled spirits, but he recuperated when he stopped communicating with them. This he found communicating with them had been devastating because one of the guides also claimed to be his soul mate in a previous life in 18th century Greece. Having made his investigations he felt the lessons he learned of their treachery were profound and important for us all. Also he felt that these spirits were phenomenally bad for the mediums themselves.

One of the most important examples of a benign spirit doing good works was Dr Lang, famous for his psychic surgery and healing through George Chapman who died a few years ago. But having interviewed both Dr Lang and Chapman, Fisher concluded that even Lang was suspect - having an ulterior motive - using chapman’s body for promoting his own glory.  I’m not sure I agree with Fisher about this. But as Fisher points out, so many mediums and channellers suffer bad health, and he believes this is because of the negative influence of gardian angels, guides, doorkeepers - call them what you will - upon the medium.  Until now I have tended to think of wise spirits and earthbound lost souls communicating with theliving (as in Thirty Years Among the Dead). Fisher’s book has set me thinking all over again about this complex issue.

Keith P in UK, Tue 15 Nov, 00:53

One of your best pieces, Mike.  It clarifies what for me has been a baffling question for some time.

Stafford Betty, Tue 15 Nov, 00:21

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