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Spirit Communication issues as explained by Sir Oliver Lodge

Posted on 21 November 2022, 8:46

On October 18, 1929, Sir Oliver Lodge, (below) a distinguished British physicist and pioneering psychical researcher, delivered the first Frederic W. H. Myers Memorial Lecture to the Society for Psychical Research (SPR) in London.  Myers, one of the founders of the SPR, had died in January 1901. He and Lodge had become good friends.  The following is significantly abridged from that talk, as set forth in the November 1929 issue of “Psychic Research,” published by The American Society for Psychical Research. Some of the comments by Mary Lodge seem to lend themselves to the Group Soul concept.


…In the December of the same year – 1889 – I persuaded my wife rather against her will, to invite Mrs. [Leonora] Piper to stay a week at our house, in Liverpool. There I conducted a series of test sittings, introducing strangers, and made a report to the Society, which was published in its proceedings….The dawning certainty of survival, and the power of survivors to communicate under certain conditions began in my mind, and has never seriously receded since….

…The possibilities of the Universe are still largely a sealed book.  We must be unaware of a multitude of things going on all around us, just as we are unaware of the wireless waves passing through the hall at the present moment – waves which would bring us speech or music if we had suitable instruments…If only our eyes were open to see the whole of existence we should be dazzled, blinded – we could not stand it. They are mercifully screened from complete revelation, but we have inklings and suggestions and indications that we are thus screened, that the body isolates us, so as to enable us to act as individuals and to do our work here in the field of matter which we are occupied with for a few years…

I am sometimes asked whether I have had any communication with Myers since his death, or whether he has gone on to some higher grade of existence out of touch with earth.  My answer is that as far as I can judge, a man devoted as he was to the enlightenment of his generation in spiritual matter, is not likely to shirk his task merely because he has an opportunity of progressing.  He may progress, but it is possible for people from high to return on missionary enterprise.  The lower may have to bide their time before they can ascend to the higher, but I judge that the higher can always descend to help the lower.  I should have thought that that was the essence of the Christian faith, that the Higher did come to the help of the lower.  However that may be, I know for a fact that Myers’ influence and help are still with me, and that when I have questions to ask he is willing and ready to answer.  He does this often through his lieutenant, my son Raymond, sometimes coming himself, to give information of a more difficult character than Raymond could manage.  Most of this has to be done unfortunately through a more or less uneducated medium, and therefore is apt to be sophisticated and is never infallible.

I propose to limit myself to a few extracts [from my writing in the SPR Journal] bearing on the nature of [the spirit] control and the kind of dislocation or confusion that personality sometimes manifests when one and the same ostensible control tries to manifest through more than one medium. Feda, for example, talks mostly from Mrs. [Gladys Osborne] Leonard, but I have had a talk with Feda through another medium. It seems to be possible for a control habitually accustomed to work through one channel to attempt an occasional excursion through another. Feda is said to have spoken through other mediums. As for Raymond, he has no special habitual channel; he used to prefer members of his own family.

[On one occasion, involving an amateur medium, Feda] spoke about Mrs. Leonard and someone who was giving her trouble, and seeing that, she (Feda) was rather worried about it. She was worried about someone who wanted to take possession of the medium…Well, in May, a month later, we had a sitting with Mrs. Leonard.  After Myers and Raymond had finished speaking, Feda, now the normal control, said, “May I talk about something to do with myself? You know I have been down to your house, don’t you?” (Lodge replied in the affirmative and was then addressed as Solomon, the name Feda used for him.)  “Solomon, I do not think I have told you about this before, but there are times when Feda is not really communicating, but her shadow is.  (Feda often referred to herself in the third person.) Mr. Fred (that is Myers) can explain. Did you know what a thought form is, something that you might send a long way off and the thoughtform might even speak? When you go that way you get things you want to say mixed up with other things.” She then explained more clearly about Mrs. Leonard’s worry which she referred to through that other medium. It had to do with Mrs. Maconnell and her express desire that David Maconnell (her son) should take control (rather than having Feda relay messages from David.) Mrs. Leonard did not wish that, and Feda resented the attempt to displace herself.

Lodge: “Feda, I gather that when you came down to us in the country it was your etheric form that came and that it is not quite dependable in what it says.”

[Feda replied]: ‘No, it is like going in a dream. You get mixed up not with the mind, but with the subconscious mind of the medium.  When you dream, you dream about things that have been worrying you.”  She reported then that Mr. Fred (Myers) wanted to speak, and then Myers took up the thread – note the change of style – “You talk about secondary personalities when you are in the body. On our plane, in our condition, we have no secondary personality, or even a third. It is something that can be called to life by expectation. Supposing I make a strong mental impression on the mind of a psychically sensitive person while yet I am talking with someone else many miles away, that impression of myself which is Number Two, as I heard Feda remark just now, would not be in full consciousness with Number One. The normal image of myself would be left with Number One. The record once produced can be fixed on the medium’s mind again. It requires only a touch to get it going. I myself have often come into touch with a sensitive whom it has not been my intention to influence, but my proximity seemed to touch a spring in the medium.”

Then Feda takes up the thread again: “Mr. Fred is very interested in this?” I said. “Yes, what has been said is quite useful.” Then Myers broke in again, “Lodge, you know in dreams we are not at our best. I remember dreams in which I seemed to be all the time dodging responsibility, running away from responsibility. The elements of doubt and fear very often enter into the dream. That is apt to be the same in what Feda terms the shadow self.”

…My wife has gone over lately and joined the group. She had overcome her initial repugnance to the subject which she felt last century; she had become quite interested, and although she did not claim or admit that she knew very much about it, she was very sympathetic with bereaved people, often helping them, and was anxious to do something to help me when she got over to the other side. Recently I asked her one or two questions about the personality of the control. I instanced the well-known controls of one or two famous mediums with whom she had been acquainted by sittings held while she was here. One of them, John King (control for Eusapia Palladino and others), was more especially attracted by my wife. It has always been a puzzle to us in the SPR to know what personalities of this sort are. They are sometimes thought to be secondary personalities of the medium; by others they are thought to have an independent existence. I therefore wanted to ask what her experience of those was now on the other side. Her answers in May of this year, at a sitting with Mrs. Leonard, were given through Feda, who expressed amused interest as to what was thought about herself, among other controls. At this sitting, Raymond broke in and said, “Mother is awfully enthusiastic about all this, Father, I have had to hold her back.” I asked whether she could talk to Phinuit (Leonora Piper’s early control), whether this was a person one could talk to. The reply was, “Not very much.” At this point Feda chips in and says, “What a funny answer.” My wife continued: “Phinuit is not altogether through with me, Oliver. There is a condition that makes it more difficult to talk to one kind of entity than another. I could talk to Raymond very fully. I could talk to so many people, certain people who exist, well, they exist, but I do not understand everything about it yet. I understand that later on I shall be able to talk to Phinuit more easily.”  Then, I asked [if she had met John King]. “I have spoken to the person who calls himself John King. He presents different masks and calls them John King. Oliver, it is not always the soul that is the personality that communicates. I am beginning to understand it, and it does interest me”

…My wife went on: “There is one thing I wanted to explain to you. When people belong to each other through long association through love, through freshly relationship, there is no difficulty in contact between those people, either from one plane to the other, or between them when they have both reached the same plane. The links exist. But in the case of controls it is different. If we trace it back we shall find there has been a person, say, John King, and that it was necessary for him to do some good work with and through a certain instrument. That brings him in touch with other kids of controls, for one control cannot work in an isolated way. Demands are made of him and he may not wish to accede to those demands, and there you get what I call, Oliver, a mask.” (Sir Oliver asked if a mask was the same as a “personation” and Mary Lodge replied “yes.”)

….My wife continued: “As a rule, Oliver, when a conscientious guide knows that there is a mask being made of him he does his best to follow the mask to see that as much good and as little harm comes it as possible. It is like ensuring a good understudy, or a good locum tenens. Any conscientious guide who had the work at heart would do his best to be present and supervise the proceedings in which his name is being used, but he may never be personally so deeply in them as he was with the medium he himself chose.”

These masks occur mainly in physical phenomena. Raymond tells me how many people called to him and made a mask. He checked his first impression, but you cannot go on guaranteeing impressions and by the time it came to the sixth or seventh he said, “Oh, let them get on with it.  I cannot keep up with it all.” 

…Our sacred books have been subject to [many glosses and different interpretations], and scholars have had to decipher them as best as they can. If the higher powers have not thought it worth while to take precautions against garbling in respect of matters of the utmost importance and if humanity has had to use its judgment as the authenticity and validity of the Scriptures, it is quite unlikely that any of our trivial affairs shall be safeguarded against similar possibilities of mistake.  Therefore, all the communications I receive, I receive with caution, and with a consequent need for interpretation; but received in that spirit. I find them interesting and instructive. I only hope that when my time comes I shall be able to do as well. I am sure that communication is difficult, and I expect one will find oneself forgetting much that one had intended to say before entering the dim condition of faculties necessitated by even partial and occasional control.

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.
His latest book, No One Really Dies: 25 Reasons to Believe in an Afterlife is published by White Crow books.

Next blog post:  December 5







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When Tables Attacked People: A Life After Death Situation

Posted on 07 November 2022, 9:17

Some of the mediumistic phenomena of yesteryear were “absurd,” as Professor Charles Richet, the 1912 Nobel Prize winner in medicine, put it.  Nevertheless, he added, some were true, even if they were absurd.  Perhaps even more absurd than the many languages that came through the direct-voice mediumship of George Valiantine, as discussed in the prior blog here, is the phenomenon of tables attacking people, or, in some cases, just floating around the room.  One such phenomenon is reported by Sharon DeBartolo Carmack in her 2020 book, In Search of Maria B. Hayden, which is subtitled “The American Medium Who brought Spiritualism to the U.K.”

It was in October 1852 that Mrs. (later Dr.) Hayden first visited the Knebworth Park estate and house of the renowned British writer Sir Edward Bulwer Lytton, (below) the author who told the world that “the pen is mightier than the sword.”  Lytton accepted many of the dictates of Spiritualism and was very much interested in Hayden’s mediumship. Lytton’s son, Robert, apparently corresponded regularly with the famous American poet, Robert Browning, and in a letter of July 19, 1854, quoted in the book, Robert told Browning, “[My father] made some querulous & impatient observations derogatory to the character of the spirits (questioning, too, I believe, their existence as spirits) just as he was leaving the room, when suddenly the Table (near which no person was standing) of its own accord, as one says, sprang at him like a dog. The Medium was no less astonished than himself – & suggested that ‘the spirits’ were angry with his language about them. ‘Then’ said he laughing, ‘they’d better spring at me again, I think!’ And immediately the Table flew at him, knocked him against the wall, and pinned him there so close, that as it was a large table, he was in danger of being crusht [sic], after three or four minutes, the table moved slowly back (with a sort of revolving orbit-like movement) to the original position!”  Robert Lytton added that in addition to himself, Mrs. Hayden, and a lawyer friend were present, all at some distance from the table. 


On another visit. Sir Edward was speaking reproachfully to Mrs. Hayden, commenting that he was wasting his time and money in attending her séances “when a large table in the room gave a sudden leap toward him. Presently it leaped back again, and ended by moving round and round, first slowly and solemnly and then swiftly.” It was further explained that Sir Edward and Mrs. Hayden were standing at the fireplace, some distance from the table when it went into action. On another occasion, Sir Edward begged the spirits to make a large lamp on the table rock to and fro, and the spirits apparently complied. 

Even more “absurd,” extending to the point of being “ridiculous,” a phenomenon took place with the mediumship of Mina Crandon, aka “Margery,” during June 1923 at the Crandon home in Boston, Mass.  It was reported that the discarnate mother of Dr. Frederick Caldwell, one of the sitters, took possession of the table and caused it to lurch toward Caldwell, then pushed him out of the den, through the dark corridor, and into the Crandons’s bedroom, and then chased him down the stairs, all the while smashing walls and causing other damage. According to Dr. Mark Richardson, a Harvard University professor of medicine who was also present, he and others stopped the table from doing further damage.

Margery and Dr. Mark Richardson

In his 1917 book, On the Threshold of the Unseen, physicist Sir William Barrett recalled the sitting with Irish medium Kathleen Goligher, who was being studied then by Dr. William Crawford of Queen’s University.  The sitting involved a small family circle gathered in a room illuminated with a bright gas flame burning in a lantern.  “They sat round a small table with hands joined together, but no one touching the table,” Barrett explained.  “Very soon knocks came and messages were spelt out as one of us repeated the alphabet aloud.  Suddenly the knocks increased in violence, and being encouraged, a tremendous bang came which shook the room and resembled the blow of a sledge hammer on an anvil.  A tin trumpet which had been placed below the table now poked out its smaller end close under the top of the table near where I was sitting.  I was allowed to try and catch it, but it dodged all my attempts in the most amusing way, the medium on the opposite side sat perfectly still, while at my request all held up their joined hands so that I could see no one was touching the trumpet, as it played peep-boo with me.  Sounds like the sawing of wood, the bouncing of a ball, and other noises occurred, which were inexplicable.” 

The table then began to rise from the floor some 18 inches and remained suspended in the air.  “I was allowed to go up to the table and saw clearly no one was touching it, a clear space separating the sitters from the table,” Barrett continued the explanation.  “I tried to press the table down, and though I exerted all my strength could not do so; then I climbed up on the table and sat on it, my feet off the floor, when I was swayed to and fro and finally tipped off. The table of its own accord now turned upside down, no one touching it, and I tried to lift it off the ground, but it could not be stirred, it appeared screwed down to the floor.  At my request all the sitters’ clasped hands had been kept raised above their heads, and I could see that no one was touching the table.  When I desisted from trying to lift the inverted table from the floor, it righted itself again on its own accord, no one helping it.  Numerous sounds displaying an amused intelligence then came, and after each individual present had been greeted with some farewell raps the sitting ended.”
Barrett said that he could not imagine how the cleverest conjurer could have performed what he experienced, especially since it was clear to him that there was no elaborate apparatus in the room.  Moreover, Dr. Crawford had been observing the Goligher circle for six months or more before his observations.  “That there is an unseen intelligence behind these manifestations is all we can say, but that is a tremendous assertion, and if admitted destroys the whole basis of materialism,” Barrett added.

Back to 1852, Adin Ballou, a Unitarian minister who began investigating the strange phenomena a year or so earlier, wrote: “I have seen tables and lightstands of various sizes moved about in the most astonishing manner, by what purported to be the same invisible agency, with only the gentle and passive resting of the hands or fingerends of the Medium on one of their edges. Also, many distinct movings of such objects, by request without the touch of the medium at all. I have sat and conversed by the hour together with the authors of these sounds and motions, by means of signals first agreed on; asking questions and obtaining answers – receiving communications spelled out by the alphabet – discussing propositions sometimes made by them to me, and vice versa – all by a slow process, indeed, but with every possible demonstration of intelligence, though not without incidental misapprehension and mistakes.”

Judge John Edmonds, then chief justice of the New York Supreme Court, began his investigation of mediums about the same time as Ballou,  He wrote: “I have seen a chair run across the room, backward and forward, with no mortal hand touching it. I have seen tables rise from the floor and suspended in the air. I have seen them move when not touched.  I have known a small bell fly around the room over hour heads. I have known a table, at which I was sitting, turned upside down, then carried over my head, and put against the back of the sofa, and then replaced. I have seen a table lifted from the floor, when four able-bodied men were exerting their strength to hold it down….This is a very meager account of what only I have witnessed, aside from the countless incidents witnessed by others in different parts of the world. But here is enough to show that these manifestations were not made by mortals, but by a power which had all the attributes of the human mind and heart.”

Also during the early 1850s, Nathaniel P. Tallmadge, a lawyer who served as governor of the Territory of Wisconsin and as a U.S. senator for New York, upon hearing of Judge Edmonds’s experiences, undertook his own investigation. He reported a number of communication from his old friend John C. Calhoun, former vice-president of the United States who had died in 1850. When Tallmadge asked Calhoun the purpose of the communication, “My friend,” Calhoun replied, “the question is often put to you, ‘What good can result from these manifestations?’  I will answer it:  It is to draw mankind together in harmony, and convince skeptics of the immortality of the soul.”

Tallmadge explained “that these communications from Calhoun came through a large, heavy, round table, one at which 10-12 people could sit, by the tilting method (the alphabet recited by the sitters and the table would tilt at the correct letter). He observed the table move as much as three to four feet with nobody near it. During all these movements no person touched it, nor was any one near it,” Tallmadge explained.  After one sitting, he decided to see if he could move the table from a sitting position.  Applying as much force as possible, he was unable to budge it.  He then asked three women to assist him in moving the table.  “We lifted upon it until the leaf and top began to crack, and did not raise it a particle,” he continued. “We then desisted, fearing we should break it. I then said, ‘Will the spirits permit me to raise the table?’ I took hold alone, and raised it without difficulty!”

Tallmadge then asked the spirits if they could lift the table if he and the three ladies were sitting on it.  The spirits assented, but directed them to a square table in another room.  The four people climbed on to the table with Tallmadge in the middle.  “Two legs of it were then raised about six inches from the floor,” Tallmadge went on, “and then the other two legs were raised to a level of the first, so that the whole table was suspended in the air about six inches above the floor.  While thus seated on it, I could feel a gentle, vibratory motion, as if floating in the atmosphere.  After being thus suspended in the air for a few moments, the table was gently let down again to the floor.”

On May 9, 1874, Cambridge scholars Frederic W. H. Myers and Edmund Gurney     visited Anglican clergyman William Stainton Moses to observe his mediumship.  Myers reported that a table, untouched by human hands, rose from the floor and touched his throat and chest three times.  Then, he was raised to the table three times and twice levitated in the corner of the room.
Initially, Moses thought that his newfound “gift” was the work of the devil and wanted nothing to do with it, but communicating spirits informed him that the levitations and other physical phenomena were simply a way of making themselves known so that they could impart some higher teachings through him.  Moses developed into an automatic writing medium and over the next 20 years penned several books of profound wisdom from his spirit guides, much of it in conflict with his beliefs.

Charlton Templeman Speer, Moses’s biographer and friend, wrote that at least 10 different kinds of manifestations took place through Moses, including movements of heavy bodies, such as tables and chairs.  “Sometimes the table would be tilted up at a considerable angle; at other times the chairs of one or more of the sitters would be pushed more or less forcibly away from the table, until they touched the wall behind,” Speer wrote.  “Or the table would move away from the sitters on one side, and be propelled irresistibly against those on the other, compelling them to shift their chairs in order to avoid the advance of so heavy a piece of furniture.  The table in question, at which we usually sat, was an extremely weighty dining-table made of solid Honduras mahogany, but at times it was moved with much greater ease than the combined efforts of all the sitters could accomplish; and these combined efforts were powerless to prevent it moving in a certain direction, if the unseen force willed it to do so.  We frequently tested the strength of this force by trying to check the onward movement of the table, but without success.”

Were a famous British author, a respected Harvard professor of medicine, a renowned British physicist, a Unitarian minister, a chief justice of the New York Supreme Court, a
notable statesman, two illustrious Cambridge scholars, and an eminent Anglican priest all victims of hoaxes or were they hallucinating it all?  If we can’t believe them, who can we believe?

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.
His latest book, No One Really Dies: 25 Reasons to Believe in an Afterlife is published by White Crow books.

Next blog post: November 21


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Ukraine War: A Story of Survival, Sacrifice, and Service – If charitable service to those in need is the ultimate in spirituality here in the physical life, this book most certainly deals with spiritual matters. The author, Amber Poole, an American woman and her husband, Paul, from Scotland but with Polish roots, operated an educational center in Poland when the Russians attacked Ukraine in 2022. As many Ukrainians fled to Poland, they turned their center into a home for as many as 40 refugees. The author kept a very interesting “war diary” over the first 18 months of the war, discussing everything from the cultural adjustments required by both the Polish and the Ukrainians to her own reactions and adjustments, as well as philosophical concerns and conflicts that often surfaced. In spite of the adversity and distress, she embraced the adversity. Read here
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