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The Many Barriers to Spirit Communication

Posted on 30 April 2012, 13:30

Before the Society for Psychical Research (SPR) was organized in 1882, some very distinguished scholars and scientists investigated the phenomena of what came to be called Spiritualism – communication with the spirit world.

Many of them were told by spirits about the difficulties they encountered in attempting to communicate with the physical world, but the researchers who formed the SPR apparently wanted to start from scratch and for the most part gave little recognition to the findings of the real pioneers.

My latest book, The Afterlife Explorers, published by White Crow Books, discusses the research of the real pioneers – Emanuel Swedenborg, Judge John Edmonds, Governor Nathaniel Tallmadge, Professor Robert Hare, Victor Hugo, Allen Kardec, Alfred Russel Wallace, and Sir William Crookes, as well as the mediumship of several of the best mediums of the era – Andrew Jackson Davis, Dr. George T. Dexter, Daniel Dunglas Home, and the Rev. William Stainton Moses.

In my last blog entry, I discussed some of the obstacles to spirit communication as set forth by the SPR researchers in their investigations of mediums.  But the pioneers had already been told of various difficulties that must be overcome. “I know of no mode of spiritual intercourse that is exempt from a moral taint – no kind of mediumship where the communication may not be affected by the mind of the instrument,” Edmonds offered in an 1853 book. the “instrument” being the medium.  .

Edmonds, (below) who served as Chief Justice of the New York State Supreme Court, is believed to have been the first true psychical researcher.  Beginning in 1851, he spent 23 months investigating mediums, witnessing several hundred manifestations in various forms and keeping detailed records of them. “There are false communications which are not intentionally so,” Edmonds explained, “some arising from a mistake of the spirit who is communicating, and some from the error of the medium who has not yet so studied himself as to be able to distinguish the innate action of his own mind from the impress of spirit influence.”  Edmonds went on to say that “sometimes timidity and diffidence will color and sometimes vanity and fanaticism distort the teachings of the spirits.”


The spirits who communicated, Edmonds pointed out, were not on equal footing. They varied significantly in advancement.  “Some are more, and some less, ignorant than others; some more prudent and careful; some more zealous and inconsiderate; some impulsive and rapid, and some calm and deliberate; in fine, with every conceivable variety of attribute and faculty.  Of necessity, the communication from each of these must be affected, as all human intercourse is, by the peculiar characteristics of each individual.”  In effect, Edmonds stressed, those receiving the messages must discern the messages. 

Hare, a renowned inventor and professor of chemistry at the University of Pennsylvania, set out to debunk mediums during the early 1850s, but soon became a believer. In fact, he developed mediumship abilities of his own. He came to understand that the spirits themselves did not understand the communication process and concluded that for the most part the communication was beyond human comprehension. “As there are no words in the human language in which spiritual ideas may be embodied so as to convey their literal and exact signification, we are obliged oftimes to have recourse to the use of analogisms and metaphorical modes of expression,” Hare was told by his discarnate father.  “In our communication with you we have to comply with the peculiar structure and rules of your language; but the genius of our language is such that we can impart more ideas to each other in a single word than you can possibly convey in a hundred.”

Initially, Kardec, a French educator, was bothered by the conflicting answers he received from spirits, but, like Edmonds, he concluded that this was because spirits differ in knowledge as much as humans. “Spirits differing very widely from one another as regards their knowledge and morality, it is evident that the same question may receive from them very different answers, according to the rank at which they have arrived, exactly as would be the case if it were propounded alternately to a man of science, an ignoramus, and a mischievous wag.”

Kardec was further informed that spirits speak only by thought and have no articulate language. “The foreign spirit doubtless understands all languages, as languages are the expression of thought, and as the spirit understands by thought; but to render this thought he needs an instrument; this instrument is the medium,” Kardec recorded. “The soul of the medium who receives the foreign communication can transmit it only by the organs of his body; and these organs cannot have the same flexibility for an unknown language which they have for the one familiar to them.  A medium who knows only French might, incidentally, give an answer in English, for instance, should it please the spirit to do so; but spirits, who already find the human language too slow, considering the rapidity of thought, though they abridge as much as they can, are impatient of the mechanical resistance they experience; this is why they don’t always do it.  This is also the reason a novice medium, who writes laboriously and slowly, even in his own language, usually obtains but very brief and undeveloped answers; so the spirits recommend that only simple questions be asked through him. For those of higher bearing it needs a formed medium, who offers no mechanical difficulty to the spirit.”

Wallace, co-originator with Charles Darwin of the natural selection theory of evolution, concluded that harmony was a major factor in successful spirit communication.  Other researchers have come to the same conclusion, understanding that antagonism or negativity on the part of the researcher often defeats any phenomenon, thus leading them to believe that it is all bunk.

Communicating through the trance mediumship of D. D. Home, (below) considered by some the greatest medium of the 19th Century, a spirit communicated:  “You do not know the difficulties that have to be overcome in communicating with you.  Supposing now we want to make manifestations, four spirits would perhaps take possession of the four corners of the room, and would begin, as it were, to throw across to each other, and weave together their harmonizing influence, so as to get everything equalized and prepared for the adoption of whatever they want to do.  One spirit will remain in the midst who will manage and direct all that is to be said – of course, if one of the other spirits wishes to communicate he would let him do so, they are not selfish, but one must have the direction of the manifestations to ensure unity of purpose.  That is why it is so bad to wish for the presence of any particular spirit; that spirit might come, and the others not being selfish would admit him into the circle, and he not being in harmony with the others, would destroy the whole thing.”

At a sitting at the home of Sir William Crookes, one of the world’s leading scientists of the era, Home went into a trance state and a voice began speaking through him. One of Crookes’ guests asked who was speaking.  “It is not spirit in particular,” came the reply through Home.  “It is a general influence.  It requires two or three spirits to get complete control over Dan. 

The conditions are not very good tonight.”  This “general influence” then went on to explain there are comparatively few spirits who are able to communicate at all.  The likened getting a message through the medium to trying to get a wayward child to do what one wishes and said that there was much experimentation taking place on their side of the veil.

“We can only dimly symbolize truths which one day your unclouded eye will see in their full splendor,” an apparently high spirit or “group soul”  (a number of spirits or general spirit influence) called “Imperator” communicated through Stainton Moses.  “We cannot speak with clearness when the spirit of our medium is troubled, when his body is racked with pain, or his mental state vitiated by disease.  Nay, even a lowering atmosphere or electric disturbance, or the neighborhood of unsympathetic and unfavourable human influence, may colour a communication, or prevent it from being clear and complete.” 

Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After we Die, Transcending the Titanic, and The Afterlife Explorers Volume 1., published by White
Crow Books and available from Amazon and all good online bookstores.

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Next blog post:  May 14



You made some Good points there. I did a search on the topic and found most people will agree with

best forex, Mon 11 Feb, 09:18

It’s my understanding that what we call ‘spirits’ are around us all of the time, merely at a different vibratory rate. This is the only explanation for ‘stage’ mediums being able to pick up communications from a plethora of friends/family members to one random audience member after another.

I once went to a medium with no intention of contacting any of my departed friends/family, and just as soon as I’d been seated, the medium described in great detail a young friend who’d recently passed. He couldn’t have been just hanging around the ‘other side of the veil’ (oh, that phrase) could he?

I firmly believe quantum mechanics and how our universe/s work will ultimately reveal all. And do away with all this ‘airy fairy speak.’

PS I dislike EVP but have been impressed by the work of Dr Anabela Carodoso who has been working through radio waves with a group calling themselves the Rio Do Tempo, who in turn, are working on improving communicating with us’. Makes sense considering much communicating concerns electricity. She has a downloadable pdf and her book (all 5 stars on Amazon) has an entire cd attached.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be able to speak by ‘phone/computer. And no misrepresentations from human mediums either.

tamsin, Mon 13 Aug, 10:11

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drisuaccadrak, Thu 28 Jun, 12:22

Mike, I found this article particularly helpful.  It will help me deal with the many skeptics on my university campus.  Thanks.

Stafford Betty, Fri 4 May, 06:26

Mike, there is great truth in your article.
Our group prepares for spirit communication sessions by doing the following:
1) There should be seriousness and sincerity of thought, and, unity and harmony of purpose by the ALL participants.
2) The mediums should have the proper education, orientation and practice, and experience and discipline.    They should strive to be as moral a person as possible in their daily life and prepare that week, and day, to receive spirit
communications through prayer, solitude and/or meditation. 
3)  A sincere request to our spirit guides so that they prepare the spiritual ambience for the meeting at the place
    where the session is about to be conducted (I myself start a week ahead of time), and it is best if the session be held at the same
    place and time on a regular basis.
4) The spirits do the rest, using imperfect instruments (us humans) to communicate with us. We try to merit the assistance and
    guidance of the good spirits.
    We have been doing this as a group since 1978.

Yvonne Limoges, Thu 3 May, 03:47

“...the genius of our language is such that we can impart more ideas to each other in a single word than you can possibly convey in a hundred.”

It has often seemed to me that a great deal is said in the very few words that I receive, so that I learn more and more from the message as time goes on, unwinding more layers of it.

Elene Gusch, Wed 2 May, 10:15

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“Life After Death – The Communicator” by Paul Beard – If the telephone rings, naturally the caller is expected to identify himself. In post-mortem communication, necessitating something far more complex than a telephone, it is not enough to seek the speakers identity. One needs to estimate also as far as is possible his present status and stature. This involves a number of factors, overlapping and hard to keep separate, each bringing its own kind of difficulty. Four such factors can readily be named. Read here
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