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Rolf Explains How Trance Mediumship Works

Posted on 25 August 2014, 12:00

The best explanation that I have read as to how trance mediumship works came from Rolf Little (below) as communicated through the trance mediumship of Gladys Osborne Leonard to his mother, Nelly Little, after his death during World War I. 


As psychical researchers came to understand, very few spirits have the ability to communicate directly through a trance medium.  Thus, a medium, called a “control,” is required on their side as well in order to facilitate the communication.  Mrs. Leonard’s control was called “Feda” for short, said to be Leonard’s great-great grandmother, who had died around 1800.  She would take over Leonard’s entranced body and relay the message from the spirit communicator to the sitter, in this case, Nelly.  In effect, there were four parties to the communication – Rolf and Feda in the spirit world and Gladys Osborne Leonard (below) and Nelly Little on this side.  Rolf would telepathically communicate a message to Feda, who would interpret what he had to say, then relay it through Leonard’s vocal cords to Nelly Little.  Rolf likened the control to a typist and the brain of the medium to a keyboard.


“Now, you’ll ask, ‘In what way is the brain like a keyboard for the control?’ Rolf continued.  “It’s different in this way.  Instead of representing separate letters, it represents words – whole words – ideas – different emotions – in fact, you can run the whole gamut of human experience and sensation upon it…Here we have the medium’s brain and we have the control hovering over the medium, the communicating spirit adjacent. Now, the control knows that there is a spirit there, wishing to send messages through her.  She thereupon brings her power to take control over the medium’s consciousness – the medium having prepared herself by becoming as passive as possible.”

When Nelly asked for further clarification, Rolf told her that it might take five minutes or 20 minutes for the medium to achieve trance and for the control’s spirit to be drawn into the physical organism of the medium.  When it is drawn in, the medium’s spirit is temporarily ejected, although still connected by the vital cord.  “Her spirit may travel and have some wonderful experiences of its own on the spirit planes, or it may hover two or three yards away from her body,” Rolf explained. “This medium’s spirit, I have noticed, is usually close, about two or three yards roughly…It looks very much like her own body, only not so solid, because it is still connected by the vital cord, and a certain amount of the power is running away from the spirit through the cord into the body. If the spirit were disconnected by death, it would become more solid, that is, more tangible, because it would not need to put the life force into the body but would keep it with itself.”

Leonard was able to achieve the trance state within a matter of minutes on most occasions, but there were times when she failed completely and no phenomena resulted. Her failures were apparently the result of her not feeling well, having too much stress, or antagonistic forces being present.  Complete harmony and passivity were required for good results.   

“[As] the spirit oozes out of the medium’s body, the control’s spirit is drawn in,” Rolf continued. “By being drawn in, I do not mean that all the spirit body of the control is drawn in contained within the stomach and chest of the medium, because that is where it would have to be, but it may be partly outside her form, looking like an outer covering or husk.  But as spirit can penetrate though matter, part of the spirit may penetrate the actual flesh, and by this contact, the mind of the controlling spirit may become aware of any physical disturbance in the body of the medium – and it is a very good thing that it is so sometimes, because it helps the control to receive impressions from the communicating spirit, and it helps the communicating spirit to register such useful evidence as the manner of his passing over, or anything that might have happened to him in the physical life which would be a good test of identity.”

Rolf gave an example of a spirit trying to communicate that he once broke his arm when in the physical life. “...the communicating spirit would think of it strongly enough to give the impression of the broken arm in the arm of the medium…We find it much easier to give the feeling of it first to the medium’s body, because directly the control feels that; she understands that it is something sent by the communicating spirit, and that can be done in one second.  The nerve thrill is sent at once to give the pain.  This is felt at once by the control, whereas you know the difficulty there often is in getting through some specified word. This is very important. I should think of arm, broken arm. Now the control would hear me say, ‘broken arm,’ but the difficulty is that the control, by being in the body of the medium, is to a certain extent limited, because she is in a condition which is not her own natural one.  She certainly does not hear what the communicating spirit says as clearly as if she were outside the medium’s organism. But we’ll say, for the sake of argument, that she has heard me say, ‘I once broke my arm.’  Her task is now to say that through the [medium’s] body.

“Now, it may be that the medium’s vocabulary does not contain certain words and expressions that the spirit would use, or it may be that the medium would be in the habit of expressing herself quite differently – do you see?  So that if the medium would not use those words – ‘I once broke my arm,’ for example, the control would have to find the nearest expression to it. and at the same time, would find some word suggesting ‘broken,’ and would perhaps not get the idea of ‘arm’ at all at first, but merely ‘limb,’ possibly getting ‘arm’ a little later.

“It is a strange thing that the nearer the first word found on the keyboard to the desired one, the more quickly will the desired one be found. For instance, the control might get ‘shoulder’ or ‘hand’ – that would quickly suggest ‘arm,’ because the control is, so to speak, feeling her way step by step…Now, the more used a control becomes to a particular medium’s organism, the more proficient will she become in quickly and correctly finding the desire word on the keyboard – just as an expert typist quickly finds the signs and letters on the typewriter, whilst an inexperienced operator is floundering about.”

Rolf went on to tell his mother that it isn’t so much that they look for it, as that they feel for it.  Can you imagine typewriting in the dark?  An expert typist could type even in the dark. He further explained that a control can work well with one medium, but may experience much difficulty working with another medium.  Feda agreed and said she couldn’t get through Mary Harris, another medium visited by Nelly, at all, after which Rolf said that Mrs. Harris’s guides were unable to use Mrs. Leonard’s power.

“Now, Feda very often hears the word or name from the communicating spirit, but only when she is not striving unnaturally for it.  The difficulty is so much less apparent when I come prepared with certain things to say, which I can pour through in a quiet and steady stream, than if you suddenly held me up and said, ‘Do you remember your mother’s name?’  Of course, I remember it, but directly you ask for the special word, which, mind, must be one word, and no other out of the thousands it might be, you make the control anxious, and a kind of strained effect occurs in the medium’s brain.”

Rolf explained that it is much like the earth life in that when a person is striving and anxious to find a name, it won’t pop into his or her mind.  But later, when not under pressure to remember it, the name will suddenly come to mind. “The control then would possibly get a name, or perhaps an initial, which would be the same, or very like the one required. Do you remember, Feda apparently, was not sure if my brother’s name was Alan or Alec, but she kept getting Ala, Ala in the first sitting you had with her?

“You see what I mean – the control would be lucky if she found the right name, if you were pushing her and straining her. It seems to me that the power produces better results when it’s all poured through from our side, not being continually stopped and dammed…I think I said before that we might speak to the control in two ways – one, by thought or telepathy; two, by actual words; but in many cases, communication is given much more quickly by thought. For instance, if I were describing a house with a certain room in it, how much more quickly and thoroughly could I give it to the control in a series of quick pictures than by saying word for word what the house looked like, and the details of the rooms, because, as I told you the other day, the control may not be able to hear my spirit voice clearly, whilst she is in the physical body…

“You notice that sometimes Feda is very successful in spelling specified words or names, by drawing them letter by letter in the air – that is, tracing them with the medium’s finger.  That is a third method, but Feda told me that she had been controlling her medium three or four years before she was able to attempt this third method.

“You might ask me, how I show the control these pictures, as I call them, and what is the difficulty of showing them.  Why does she get them wrong as so often happens?  Now, you know that if you in the physical body have some particular object presented to your sight, the impression of that thing has to be photographed on your brain before you will be conscious what it is you are looking at.  Your eyes may be looking at a thing, but unless your brain takes up the consciousness of it, you don’t see it, proving that one must become conscious of everything in one’s brain before one perceives it, through sight, or touch, or any other sense…The control’s difficulty is the same. She has to use the brain of the medium to perceive the pictures that I show, and if the brain of the mediums does not become conscious of them, the control herself does not know, do you see, because the control is not looking at me through the medium’s eyes, or through her own eyes, but with consciousness first.  So you see the reason why it is easier to give an impression or mental picture of a certain place is because one can suggest it, if you understand, to the mind of the medium, and then the control becomes conscious of it.”

Rolf had much more to tell his mother about how things work on his side of the veil.  Rolf’s story is abridged in Chapter 5 of my recently-released book, Dead Men Talking.

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.
His latest book Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I is published by White Crow Books.

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Next blog post: September 8



Yvonne, I envy you your gift…in a good way.
Would you share more insights with us?
Or would you be so kind to pm me?
Thanks in advance.

Jo, Wed 10 Sep, 20:16

My late friend Natalie Blakeslee, (Medium) told me that getting messages from spirits it’s like to be a kind of human “modem”. She received a lot of “packets” of infos and she had to decode them.
Unluckily, not always the decode action works well!

CLAUDIO, Mon 1 Sep, 21:50

I am a seeing, hearing and trance medium well over 30 years.
Before I go into trance, I have a specific spirit guide who communicates first to state that it is now opening my mediumship for the start of the session. Then the different spirits communicate.
These spirits are: of family and friends, spirits brought by our groups’ spirit guides to provide moral education and consolation, spirits who wish to share their story (of how the lived their material life now affects their situation in the spirit world - many a cautionary tale), and then various troubled spirits (full of either guilt, anger, remorse, jealousy, pain that are stuck in a spiritual “hell” of their own making and brought to us to help them. We have a “director of the mediums’ session” there in charge and trained to speak to all the spirits that communicate, each according to what is necessary in each case. 
As the spirits communicate, I do not know what is being said. I have to ask afterwards what spirits came through and what was said. 
At times, towards the beginning of the spirit communications, I may catch a quick glimpse of a translucent overlay of a particular (spirit’s)  face over my face, right before my spirit basically, for lack of a better word, disappears.
I do not have any memory of my experiences during the period while my body is being used by the spirits.
We had one medium who while in trance could remember walking around the room while we were having our session and was able to listen to what was going on and see spirits in attendance. They made their transition already into the spirit world and have communicated frequently with us. 
Getting back to my own situation, after the trance mediumship part of my mediumship work is completed, I then “see” visions of a general and specific nature, either for our group as a whole or for specific persons. I also “see” different spirits standing beside people at our meeting. Some spirits give me specific verbal messages to relay to them. 
When all this is completed, my spirit guide will again communicate through trance, to say that it is closing my mediumship “until the next time.”

Yvonne Limoges, Wed 27 Aug, 18:00

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The Only Planet of Choice: Visitations – Many people use the word ‘Alien’ to describe a visitor from outer space. Extra terrestrial is another word, which is rather more user friendly. For the sake of the question and answer format, the word used by the questioner has been left, though even Tom questions our use of‘Alien’. Should we wish to foster openess between all beings of the Universe perhaps we should also look at our vocabulary? In a discussion between Andrew and Tom many years earlier, Andrew had asked Tom about UFOs and whether they were created manifestations. Tom had replied: “Many of the flying things that you call UFOs come from our place, but they come from other places also, and they do come in physical form. But many of them are not physical. They are like your movie screen”. Read here
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